"Finally, Brethren, Farewell"

After twenty-three years' service in connection with this magazine the Lord, who gave the work into our hands, now permits us to lay it down. We are devoutly grateful for the privilege so long enjoyed, and for the unspeakable grace which has sustained us through so long a period. The Lord alone knows how many mistakes and failures have been made, but, manifold as these have been, He has borne with us in His infinite patience, longsuffering, and tenderness; and we may, perhaps, be allowed to say that His love has covered them all. Even more than this, He has condescended to use the feeble testimony rendered in these pages to Him and to His truth far and wide. Evidences of this have reached us from many parts of the world, and never more abundantly than during the present year. Bonds have thus been formed between us and many of His people in many lands; and the spiritual ties which knit our hearts together in this way will endure for eternity. The brethren to whose unstinted fellowship we have been indebted, month after month, for their written ministry will share in this blessedness. To them, for all their kindness and consideration, as well as to our readers, who have so often written to tell of blessing received, we desire to express our grateful thanks. But most of all we render our thanksgiving and praise to Him from whom we received the mission, and whose all-sufficient grace has enabled us, however feebly and imperfectly, to fulfil it. If any succeed us in this field of labour, may they be used a thousand-fold more than we have been, to the exaltation of our adorable Lord, and to the building up of His beloved people.

In writing these farewell words, in adopting the apostolic sentence - "Finally, brethren, farewell" - we may proceed to call attention to his desires - the desires of the Lord's own heart expressed through the apostle  - in connection with it. The first is, "Be perfect." This is not, we apprehend, an exhortation addressed to the individual believer; it is rather to the assembly of God at Corinth. The very word used shows this, as it is not the word, so often found, meaning "full age," that is, maturity in the Christian life, but one which has the significance of mending so as to make a complete whole, in which every part should have its own place. It is the word used, for example, in Matthew 4:21 for mending nets. What the apostle urged, then, upon these Corinthian believers was, that amongst themselves no breaches or discords should be tolerated, that, if such existed, they should seek in grace and brotherly love to remove them, so that they might all act in harmony, through the power of the Holy Ghost, as members of the body of Christ, and members one of another, and thus be compacted by that which every joint should supply, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, and make increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. They much needed the exhortation, as we learn from the first epistle. And what of ourselves, beloved readers?

The next thing is, "Be of good comfort," or "Be encouraged." At the commencement of the epistle Paul had written that God was the God of all comfort, or encouragement; and, having thus revealed to the Corinthian saints the source of it all, he might well urge upon them to be encouraged or comforted. Whichever meaning of the word be adopted, there is nothing that we more greatly need. Often in heaviness through manifold trials and sorrows, and as frequently depressed, and in the Christian life, through weakness or failure, we require both the one and the other - the comfort and the encouragement. It is an immense thing, therefore, to know where to turn, and this has been shown us by the very titles the apostle gives to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort - all comfort. Nowhere else must it then be looked for, as it is to be found alone in God, and in Him there is enough to meet the utmost necessities of His people. They that wait upon Him for it will therefore never be confounded. He may, and will, minister it to us, in whatever way He may choose. It may be, as in Paul's own case, by the coming of a Titus (chap. 7:6), but minister it He surely will, when we are able to receive it. We may then be abundantly encouraged.

"Be of one mind," the apostle proceeds to say; and who can over-estimate the importance of it? It was, and is, the Lord's own desire for His people - "that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us," and this desire is reiterated again and again through His servants. (See, for example, Philippians 1:27, 2:2, 3:16, 4:2.) How feebly we have all responded to this desire of the Lord's own heart we all know and lament; but, owning it, we should surely judge ourselves, and seek grace that we may henceforward use all diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. For it is not too much to say that all blessing depends upon the realisation of our unity. If there be discords, strifes, envies in any assembly of saints, there the Spirit of God is grieved, and His mighty operations for blessing His people are hindered. Let us lay it well to heart, and seek earnestly night and day, whether by prayer or by service, to promote the unity of the saints. The servant who is enabled by the power of God to labour in these days for the manifestation of the unity of His people, in the sense of this scripture, will raise a greater testimony to our blessed Lord and Saviour than in any other way. For He Himself has said, "By this shall men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another."

Peace follows - "live in peace"; but on this we need not dwell, because where unity is sought and maintained everyone will feel the responsibility of living in peace with all. Mark, however, the promise connected with the state which these injunctions will infallibly produce: "And the God of love and peace shall be with you." God is love, and love is of God, as John teaches, and here it is that He is the God of love, as also of peace. What untold blessing lies in such a promise - the promise of the known presence of the God of love and peace! Let it be, however, distinctly observed that His presence thus is conditional, conditional upon our carrying out these precepts. We must not think for one moment that we can claim His presence apart from the condition, but, if the condition be ever so feebly observed, God will show that, as the God of love and peace, He is with us beyond all our thoughts.

We have finished. Through the grace of God we can say that these divine desires are our desires for his beloved people, and hence we can repeat, FINALLY, BRETHREN, FAREWELL.