The Eternal Life and Fellowship.

1 John 1.

P. A. H.

Christian Friend, vol. 13, 1886, p. 33.

It is a wonderful way in which the apostle speaks here. He brings down to us the reality of "that eternal life which was with the Father," and manifested here in this world, that life "which was from the beginning," and the greatness of His love, His interests, what God has before Himself with regard to His people. You may say, "We do not see the energy of the Spirit." One indeed told me lately he believed the epistle to the Ephesians was written to the Ephesians only, and that the day for it had gone by, that it was impossible nowadays to understand it, or put its precepts into practice. Are we to lower the standard because of the failure? Do you believe His love to you is, that you are to be like Christ in glory? That is God's purpose, and His fulfilment too. We shall be with Him, and like Him. Unattainable for us so long as we are in the body, but sure and certain prospect; and, by the grace of God, we are striving after it. It is what we are going to be, in all the blessed fulness and reality of it, one day. How soon may that not be!

The apostle speaks of "that which we have handled of the word of life," actually handled and declared unto us, that our joy may be full; brought so near, made so manifest to us! The Spirit of God remains to make all this good to us. I was struck with one thing as to the remnant of Israel. They say, "I will wait upon him that hides his face from the house of Jacob." What God is doing now is, He is exercising our faith in Himself, He is exercising our souls in His grace, blessed be His name. He is not making much of us, but He is making much of Christ. He is exercising our faith in Himself, whether we really have confidence in Him to put into practice that which He has given us, that which remains to the end. The same Holy Spirit remains - outraged, ignored, thought to be a mere influence, His personality denied; still that same Holy Spirit, before whom Ananias fell down dead, that same Spirit remains, the same truth of God remains. Are our souls in the enjoyment of it? Our hearts? Feeble we may be; feebleness is no sin. Thinking we have strength may lead to sin. I don't think any of us can say weakness is a hindrance. What is the hindrance is being a little off dependence upon Him.

Notice the word "fellowship" in this chapter. We talk of fellowship so often on a lower platform altogether than what God speaks of. God knows no fellowship out of the light. He recognizes no such thing as fellowship which is not in the light. "These things write we unto you, that your joy may be full "that the heart and soul may be fed and nourished with what God alone, in the power of His Spirit, can impart and enable us to receive, "that your joy may be full." If we look around, what is it characterizes the people of God generally? A poor joyless set! Occupied with the sorrows and trials and difficulties of the way, instead of with the grace of God. Not only being at the Fountainhead, but not drinking into what He could give and does give, and what, by His grace, He means us to receive. He goes on to the most wonderful statement as to us: "If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin." One can never read that verse without wondering at the little apprehension we have of how "He is in the light." If it speaks of God Himself, "He dwells in the light to which no man can approach." If it speaks of the Lord Jesus, He is at the right hand of God in heaven. Well, there is nothing dark there! nothing covered up, nothing concealed, nothing but what is wholly to His mind and heart, according to what God is in Himself. "If we walk in the light, as He is in the light" - that is the place in which fellowship exists, according to God. We may try to get up a sort of fellowship among ourselves, but it is a poor spurious thing. God knows no fellowship but "in the light, as He is in the light." No reserve there at all, no keeping things back, no hiding up things, but being in our own souls in the light - simple, transparent, cloudless. We cannot be that, if we have not in our own souls the apprehension of what He is in grace. "We have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin" - that is the blessed remedy for everything the light makes manifest. It will make manifest all kinds of things, but the blood answers to and blots out everything that the light makes manifest.

God gave His Son. I am brought back again, not to the forgiveness of sins - blessed reality as that is - but, when brought back to "God gave His Son," I have come to the ground on which I can look up to God, and delight in Him. I do not fear the light. To a soul that has apprehended this, it becomes a pain and a grief to excuse anything that the light makes manifest. The light manifests it, to have it removed between the soul and God; and the soul goes out in all the blessed light of His presence towards Him, and towards one another down here. I do not know any word in the word of God, as to the walk of His people down here, that conveys to my own soul such a solemn and blessed reality as "fellowship." It is "in the light, as He is in the light." This is where it exists, where we learn all about it, where we enter into and enjoy it. We speak of this or that person's temper, or peculiarities, or shortcomings, etc.; but the question is, Does the person apprehend the light so far as to judge what the light discovers? for that is what the light does - it "makes manifest." It is not the light you have got, or I have got; it is that we are set in the light. It is our place, in which we are set before God Himself. What he speaks of here is the place in which God has set us before Himself. God is light. It is a wonderful place to be set in. That is what God speaks of as fellowship - "Fellowship with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ."

Now look at a verse lower down - "If we confess our sins." Look at this word "confession." There is a great deal of difference between confessing and asking for forgiveness. In confession we do not excuse ourselves. In asking for forgiveness we may say, and think too, things might have been different, and if they had been we should not have fallen in this way into the sin. Now the first thought in the soul of the one that is confessing is not the thought of forgiveness. Forgiveness comes to the one who confesses; but we have to do with the Father Himself, with the One against whom we have sinned, and we have sinned in spite of the grace that would have kept us. The first thought is, "I have sinned - sinned in spite of the grace, the blessed grace, that would have kept me from it." It is deeper, far deeper, than merely asking forgiveness. Grace would keep us. If we were always dependent on His grace, we should never sin; grace would keep us. But if we have sinned, what are we to do? "If we confess our sins" come before Him without making any excuse whatever, the soul laying itself before Him in all the blessed realization of what His love is, His grace is - acknowledging His grace would have kept us; but we have sinned. Well, I can come and tell Him all that without any thought that anything can change His love to me, and I do thus tell it all out to Him. This is confession, and far deeper and more searching than merely seeking forgiveness. Indeed, not to tell it is a pain, a sorrow, a burden.

I think what we have to look for is more individual walking in that way with Himself. It is very individual here, "If we confess our sins." It is the individual walk that is lacking so in each one of us; in the secret of our souls we know something of that. It is the being before Him according to His grace. You see people so often measure the grace by the way in which their needs have been met. We must surely know, and do know, how they have been met - this is how we first learn grace - but to stop there is not stepping over the threshold as it were. In Timothy we have: "Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus" - in Him, not in what you have experienced. That will never fail. You and I may fail to understand it. There may be trials of all kinds for His people while here in the body; but, no matter how great the difficulty, His grace is sufficient. Look at the wonderful way He helps as to the grace! Look at the thorn in the flesh Paul had! People tell you, "My grace is sufficient for thee" means that the grace of the Lord was sufficient to enable Paul to bear the thorn in the flesh. Why, beloved brethren, the thorn in the flesh was grace; it was the Lord enabling him, helping him, to keep the old man in its right place, to walk according to the grace He had set him in - His own nothingness. He begins to say, "I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." We are set in the light, not according to our measure of light, to have every single bit about us made manifest - a poor, hell-deserving sinner, as to the old man, with the grace and the power of Christ upon us - His grace toward us, His power upon us, and His grace sufficient for us to help us to be here for Him, to His honour and glory.

It is that He may fill our hearts with joy; out of such hearts as ours produce heavenly music that He delights to hear. He can bring us, even at the very last, in spite of all our failures - nay, through them - to delight in His grace, which is sufficient. We need to be broken for this, to be emptied and searched out; and to find our thoughts even are no good at all. You may say, perhaps, "I do not see this or that;" then you are going wrong. You see something that hinders you from seeing what He puts before you. Here, in the light of His presence, all is transparent, "if we walk in the light." May God in His mercy give us to understand it better, and to learn what the greatness of His love is, the greatness of His interest in us, His sympathy with us in all our trials and sorrows, all His wonderful interest in us. We go on handling things so often in our own strength, then we give it up because we make such a dreadful mess of it - we do not know at all what to do - and then we find He is there, and He has been waiting for us.

Well indeed may we all thank God. If we look up to Him, there is no difficulty, no trial, no hindrance there. People say, "Oh, but then you must look at the consequences" Consequences! I have nothing to do with them, they are His care, and He alone can manage them. I believe it is one of the devil's choicest weapons to hinder souls from acting for Christ by occupying them with the consequences. I have nothing to do with the consequences. I am responsible for this one thing - to be subject to Christ and to the Spirit, to be by His grace true to Him; He will settle the consequences. May we all be, according to His grace, and by His grace, open-hearted with Him, and subject to Him. P. A. H.