Scripture Notes.


Jeremiah 23:9-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10-11.

These scriptures bring before us in a most striking manner the contrast between the ministry of law and that of grace. Jeremiah was continually confronted, in his service, with false prophets, who contradicted his message, and denied that he was sent of the Lord. This was his perpetual difficulty, and one which he felt most of all, because of the state of heart which they thereby displayed. He accordingly says, "My heart within me is broken because of the prophets." Moreover, he says, "All my bones shake." And let the reader carefully note that it was because he thought of the coming judgment. He thus proceeds, "I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine hath overcome, because of the Lord, and because of the words of His holiness. For the land is full of adulterers … both prophet and priest are profane," etc. He mourned over their condition, and he saw no escape for them, because of Jehovah and the words of His holiness. In other words, under a ministry of law the message he had to proclaim for these sinners was necessarily one of unmitigated judgment. (See vv. 12-40.) Turning now to the apostle Paul, we shall see that he also has the influence of the holiness of God upon his soul. "We must all appear," he says, "before the judgment-seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." And what is the effect upon him of the prospect of standing face to face with God's holiness? (for that will be the standard of that judgment-seat). For himself, as for other believers, he knew that there would be there no question of sin or guilt; for by the one offering of Christ he and they alike had been perfected for ever as to the conscience. But he also knew that there were those who were ignorant, through unbelief, of the efficacy of the blood of Christ. It is of them he thinks, as he remembers, even as Jeremiah did, how utterly unable they were to stand such a test. But instead of denouncing judgment, as the prophet did according to his dispensation, he writes as being in the day of grace - "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men." The prospect of the application of holiness in the judgment of sinners in the future becomes an urgent motive in his soul for the proclamation of grace, for busying himself with that blessed "ministry of reconciliation" with which he had been entrusted. He sought thus to persuade men, as he cried, "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech by us: we pray [men] in Christ's stead, Be ye reconciled to God. For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." God is perfect in all His ways; but we can praise Him that our lot has fallen upon this accepted time, and this day of salvation.


Luke 17:5-6.

The connection and meaning of this passage are very interesting. The Lord had just been teaching the solemnity of being a cause of stumbling to one of His "little ones," and that, to avoid this, we must take heed to ourselves, so that we may never be weary of forgiving our brother if he trespass against us. Rebuke him we may, and should; but if he repent, he is instantly to be forgiven; and if he trespass against us seven times a day, and says on each occasion, "I repent," forgiveness is never to be wanting. This is grace. God never wearies in forgiving us when we confess our sins, and we, as exponents of His heart, are to exhibit the same readiness to forgive the sins of our brother. (Compare Matt. 18:21-22.) The apostles evidently failed to comprehend the far-reaching character of this instruction, and yet as evidently felt their need of something more than they had hitherto received if they were to carry it out in practice. They thus interposed with the prayer, "Lord, increase our faith." In answer to this, the Lord, while graciously recognizing the need that turned to Him, reminds them that it is not so much a question of the increase of their faith, as the exercise of what they already possessed.* "If," He says, "ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you." Now a mustard seed is the "least of all seeds" (Matt. 13:32); and consequently our Lord teaches that all the power of God is linked with the exercise of the smallest degree of faith; that faith, be it small or be it great, takes hold upon omnipotent power; and hence it is that "all things are possible to him that believeth." The father, for example, who cried, "Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief," received the answer in the healing of his child, equally with the centurion whose faith surpassed that of any in Israel. (Mark 9:24; Luke 7:7-9.) E. D.

*The corrected reading, as given by the Revised Version, is, "If ye have [not had] faith," etc.