or, How Victory and Enjoyment are Secured.

H. C. Anstey.

Christian Friend vol. 14, 1887, p. 253.

However much man may fail, yet with God there is infallibility, and it is for us. There is one infallible rule, one unfailing principle, which will safely guide the Christian in every exigency and intricacy of his path through this world. Oh, that we all had a more distinct grasp of it in our inmost souls, and, flowing thence, a more distinct manifestation in our walk that we are being guided by its maxims, that so we may enjoy this new life which we possess!

Let no one suppose for a moment that the word "rule" here connected with a Christian savours of legality. The delight and joy of the new nature are to "obey," and our unhappiness is to be traced (may we not say invariably?) to disobedience. Our Lord's path was marked by this very principle of obedience all along His earthly course. At its beginning we read, "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God!" And as He trod onward in that dark, that solitary path - a path illumined by no earthly light, and cheered by no human sympathy - it was still the path of obedience. He "became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." Darker and darker it became, as it led Him onward, down, down to death, yet He never swerved from it, and in perfect obedience even there He still says, "O My Father, if this cup may not pass from Me, except I drink it, Thy will be done."

Volumes might be written, and whole addresses and sermons delivered, all devoted to one object; viz., the restoration of the Christian when he has failed or turned aside out of God's path. We may write and we may read no end of such works, and every word written and read may be God's truth for the soul in that condition. But had the principle we are speaking of in this paper been maintained in all its authority in the soul, there had been no need of restoration. The path of obedience bears on it, distinctly and divinely stamped, the word preservation; and if preserved in the path, I do not need to be restored to it. This is God's desire for us, to preserve us, and to feed us, in the place in which His grace has set us; and may the means, the rule, the principle, He uses to this end, occupy more distinctly our souls as we pass along.

It has been remarked that the book of Joshua and the Epistle to the Ephesians correspond in a remarkable way to each other. In the one we see the accomplishment of God's purposes for His earthly, as in the other for the heavenly, people. In each He has them in the place which His own heart designed for them, where He can commune with them, and where He has fitted them to enter into and to enjoy that communion. (Eph. 1:4; 1 John 1:3.) It is not heaven, but it is a condition which is ours on earth, and which will be fully known and enjoyed in heaven; and it is a condition, a communion, a joy, which God desires us to possess on earth, in the place of conflict and opposition, but which obedience is the sure and only way into. May we ponder it more! May its reality be more distinctly seen, enjoyed, and displayed by us!

But though His people are all thus seen in the place God's heart designed for them, the old or evil nature remains, and it will remain in each of them until they leave this world. We have said that there is a new nature also which delights to obey, but it finds the members of the body (Rom. 6:13-22), yea, the whole man, under the influence of Satan, and all our members active in the service of sin, his power in us as the old master. Satan is moreover the enemy that holds possession, not only of our members, but also of the place which God has brought us into; that is, he holds us back from enjoying what is really ours, our own, as the gift to us of God's infinite grace, all secured to us by the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is, then, this double power of the enemy - first, holding its; and, second, holding the place that belongs to us. Obedience, simple obedience, can wrest both from his grasp, and enable the Christian to pass into the enjoyment of what is, through grace, his own. There is no other way to dispossess the enemy. He is not readily going to give up possession either of us or of what is ours. It is bit by bit that he yields, a hand to hand struggle, yet it is only obedience on our part that is necessary, and with this he can neither hold us nor it.

If we read Joshua 6 and Ephesians 6:10-18 the truth is before us. They are simply to obey, to walk round about Jericho, in patience, the complete seven days. Not a blow were they to strike, and the result would be that the walls of Jericho, that which the enemy held in power and in pride against them, would fall down flat, "and the people shall ascend up, every man straight before him." And thus it came to pass. The key to the whole of Joshua 6 and Ephesians 6:10-18 is the word obedience.

Let us pause a moment here to enquire if Christians generally are found, through obedience, enjoying what is really theirs - a happiness which this world can neither give nor take away from them, as the calm and settled portion of the soul; daily feeding on the old corn of the land, the grapes (of which Eshcol gave a sample), the pomegranates, the figs; the soul dwelling in that land wherein they "eat bread without scarceness," yea, in the Lord's land, "flowing with milk and honey," on which "the eyes of the Lord rest from the beginning of the year to the end thereof." God "hath blessed us" (all Christians) "with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ." And He would have us to be consciously enjoying them day by day.

If we are not enjoying them, it is because the enemy is still holding us back from the enjoyment. One cannot say for another what the walls of Jericho are to him; for they may differ in each individual instance. I cannot tell what they are for you, nor you for me; yet one principle applies to them all. It is only by walking in obedience that they will fall down. The whole point of the apostle's exhortation (Eph. 6:10-18) is obedience to the word of God. The first force of the armour is "the loins girt about with truth," and the last is "the sword of the Spirit," which is again the word of God. The power for you and for me to enter into the enjoyment of these heavenly things, which are all ours in title, is found only as we walk in obedience. The power is not in me, and it only connects itself with me as I walk in obedience. The power is in the "man with the drawn sword," in Joshua 5; so all our strength is in "the Lord and the power of His might," in Ephesians. (Eph. 6:10.)

Oh, may we remember it! No effort of yours or mine will put us in possession, or drive out the enemy. Obedience will do both. May the words of Samuel to Saul fix themselves indelibly in the heart of every Christian reader of these lines: "Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubborness is as iniquity and idolatry."

It is well to know our weak point, so that not on human, but on the authority of God, we have what is hindering us exposed to us. Who can estimate the mighty power of the church of God, were each member of the body of Christ walking in simple obedience to the written Word? What union together, what grace, what joy, what communion with God would flow thence! But when there is failure in this respect in the company, the individual is called on to hear what the Spirit says to those who have failed" He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." (Rev. 2:11.) "If any man hear my voice," is the Lord's word to you and to me.

My reader, I have done. If anything herein should draw your feet more distinctly and firmly and patiently to tread the path of obedience, I am already rewarded. Sure I am, however feebly I have spoken of it or trodden it, that it is the only path wherein blessing can be found today; and equally sure that you will reap true lasting, yea, eternal joy in it. I close these few remarks with the words of a familiar scripture, which has often cheered and encouraged me (Psalm 81), commending it also to your solemn consideration. But let me first add one word more. Are you conscious of having left the path of obedience in any one point? If so, let me beseech you in self-judgment immediately to return. Do not hesitate a moment as to consequences; leave all that with your God. Nothing, nothing but trouble and sorrow are before you, as long as you refuse His path for you. "Oh that My people had hearkened unto Me, and Israel had walked in My ways! I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned My hand against their adversaries. The haters of the Lord should have submitted themselves unto Him: but their time should have endured for ever." Then immediately, the enemy being subdued, "He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat: and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee." May my reader know, and infinitely more than the writer, the satisfying power of this heavenly food, through walking in the path of obedience, on earth, and today, for Christ's sake! H. C. A.

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The order of God for Christians is, not obedience upon blessing, but blessing on obedience; not to wait for blessing in order to obey, but to act on the command, and the blessing follows. And this is faith; for there would be no faith if the blessing came first.

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The Scripture is plain that obedience is the way of blessing; and that we are not to wait for power to obey a command, but to obey it that we may find power. The Lord did not restore the hand that He might stretch it out and show it, but ordered the man to stretch it out, that it might be restored.