Miscellaneous Papers

Table of Contents

1. Preface
2. Grace and Glory
3. Latter Times and Last Day
4. Signs, and Waiting for the Son From Heaven
5. Matthew 24, 25
6. Nebuchadnezzar
7. A Fair Show in the Flesh
8. Extracts From Correspondence 1
9. Extracts From Correspondence 2
10. The Lord Jesus in John 11, 12
11. The Parable of the Cedar and the Two Eagles
12. That Fox
13. The Redemption of the Purchased Possession
14. Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
15. Brief Remarks on the Preceding Paper
16. Isaiah 66
17. Christ Our Prophet
18. Man
19. Confusion and Order
20. Strangership and Citizenship
21. The Heir of All Things
22. God Entering His Temples
23. The Translation of Elijah
24. A Brief Word on the Epistle to the Galatians
25. Paul at Miletus
26. God's Call out of the Earth
27. God's Claim of the Earth
28. Jacob in Egypt
29. The Pilgrim Fathers
30. Rahab
31. Grace
32. John, the Penman of the Apocalypse
33. Thoughts on 2 Corinthians


The Volume before the reader consists of a collection of brief articles by a beloved Brother now with the Lord, which appeared in the Prospect and the Bible Treasury. Refreshing and redolent of Christ, they are now reproduced in a form more convenient; and it is hoped that they may thus be a help and comfort to many more.

Grace and Glory

It is commonly apprehended among us, and very justly, that grace is the thing exhibited in David, and glory in Solomon. Grace had a very full exhibition in David. It raised its objects from degradation to honor, it comforted and sustained him in sorrow, restored him from wandering, and kept him to the end in safety. But when the time came for glory to shine forth, grace having thus displayed itself to the full, David delivers the throne into the hand of Solomon.
Each of these, grace and glory, has its own peculiar method. It is this which just at the present has drawn and fixed my thoughts a little. Grace only divides the scene with other principles, glory forms it all alone. Grace meets David in either his degradation, sorrow, or defilement, and brings honor, comfort, or restoration, leaving the struggle between the former and the latter things in measure to the end, and the whole a divided empire. But glory holds the entire scene at its disposal, and leaves the trace or reflection of itself on everything. It is not God bringing out His resources to mingle themselves with man’s circumstances; but it is the supreme presence of the Lord forming the whole sphere of the action according to itself. This appears in this chapter. There is no darkness at all upon the scene abroad, nor working of nature in the heart within—no trace of man, or of his passions, or his miseries; the finger of God and the Spirit of God delineate and animate the whole picture.
The queen of Sheba is the witness of this. Her consciousness of what she saw tells us of glory being everywhere in the regions of the king of Israel—the stirrings of her own heart tell us of the absence of all the ways and principles of nature. There was nothing minute under her eye that did not to that eye reflect the glory. As the stars of the heaven differ in their glories, but each of them is glorious; and lends something to the common magnificence, so here. There is the house of the king, and his ascent up to the house of God; but there is also the meat of his table, and the apparel of his servants; and the latter are glorious like the former—in other measures, it may be, but still equally parts and parcels of the glory. The glory was leaving its reflection on all she saw. It might be small in the great account, but still it was glorious. And because it was small, it was only the worthier of the notice of the Spirit-led soul, that delights to put honor on the uncomely member, and enable her the more fully to testify to us that glory was everywhere, even, so to speak, on the kitchen furniture —”the sitting of the servants.” Just as another voice of the same Spirit, anticipating the sanctity or cleanness of these same days, tells us of “Holiness unto the Lord” being now upon “the bells of the horses,” and “of every pot in the Lord’s house being like the bowls before the altar.” For the glory had taken the whole scene into its hand, and there was nothing hid from the reach of its beams. It was a morning without clouds—there was no shadow anywhere. All was in the light. The very equipage of the attendants and their sittings reflected it. All was delivered into the liberty of the glory, and fashioned by the power of it.
But the kingdom within was as excellent in its way. If the day dawned around, the daystar had risen in the heart. There was no blemish of nature or of the flesh in her spirit, as there was no dimness or uncertainty in the scene around her. She was small in comparison with the king in Zion, but there was full delight and no grudging because of this. She trafficked for wisdom, and esteemed the merchandise of it above gold or rubies. The best of her land she offered to King Solomon, doing all she could to beautify the house of God’s glory. Nothing that she had, could she esteem too good for him. O the blessedness of all this within and abroad! Glory abroad, leaving its memorial everywhere, the beauty of the Spirit’s mind within, ordering the whole conversation of the soul, without touch or soil of nature! “Scenes surpassing fable, and yet true!” Scenes to be realized to the enjoyment of our hearts and eyes, and to the glory of our Lord, in the days of the kingdom!
Well is it that grace now divides the scene with nature’s misery and defilement; and still well is that glory then will know nothing but its own, creation, for light and its principles will be triumphant. The light which God has as yet brought in shines, it is most true, but shines in a dark place; the light that He will bring in by and bye, will be light everywhere, the day-dawn around, and the daystar within (2 Peter 1:19). It is now the valley of Baca with wells of water, by and bye it will be the dwelling of praise still, unbroken, undivided praise (Psa. 84).
“The Lord will give grace and glory.”

Latter Times and Last Day

It is sorrowful to have to look at departures from God and His truth. It has been said of the Lord, that His soul tasted some of its bitterest grief when He looked on the treachery of Judas; and ours should be thus affected when we think of the corruptions of Christendom, which are as the kiss and the treason of that apostle again.
“The mystery of iniquity” had begun to work, we know, in the times of the apostles. And as the small seed cast into the ground carries with it the form and character of all that which the harvest is afterward to manifest and yield, so the leaven that was working secretly then, to the keen eye of the Spirit in the apostles, had in it the varied evils which, in the progress of corruptions, were to be manifested in Christendom: so that Paul guards Timothy, even then, against the pravities of both “the latter times” and “the last days,” as though Timothy himself were in the midst of them.
But these pravities are different. In “the latter times,” there was to be a departure from the Word of God, or from the religion of “the truth,” which alone is “godliness.” Consequently, there would be the giving heed to something beside the word or the truth, to “seducing spirits,” and to “doctrines of devils” or demons. Then there would be speaking lies “in hypocrisy,” making an exhibition of religion; and all this, man’s religion, or what man has got up, would “sear the conscience,” deaden it to God’s religion, or the religion of “the truth,” fortified, as it would be, by man’s forbiddings and “abstinences,” which must be complied with and practiced, though so contrary to the thoughts and gifts of God. (See 1 Tim. 4.)
“The last days,” on the other hand, were not to be religious, but infidel. Superstitious vanities were to yield to man’s will and independency. He was to be a lover of “himself”—and in the train of that “heady,” “high-minded,” “disobedient to parents,” “covetous,” and such like—all qualities and characters making him as one who had broken the bands, and cast away the cords; not religious, but willful. And in the midst of all this, there was to be “the form of godliness”— the appearing to return to that from which “the latter times” had departed, “godliness,” or the religion of “the truth”; but when looked at a little within, no “power” would be found, though so much “form” (2 Tim. 3).
Now, here we see a great moral reaction. All the cords and bands of the latter times cast away, and man indulging and admiring himself—religious vanities gone, but human independency asserted.
And these things have had their day. In the two great characteristic eras in the history of Christendom we get them—in the times before and since the Reformation. In the times before, there was man’s religion, opposing itself to “the truth,” and having its own vanities; in the times since, there has been Irian’ s pride, asserting his independency and breaking off all bands. These have been the characters of the two eras. Of course, something of the second was known during the time of the first, and much of the first still lives in the second; but these different pravities are the characteristics of the two eras.
And what is a very solemn truth, I judge that the history of corrupted Christianity will close by a kind of coalition between the two pravities. And of such a state of things we get the pattern in the time of our blessed Lord, when there was both man’s religion, and man’s independency combined against Him—the unclean spirit who had gone out, having himself returned and brought with him other spirits more wicked than himself. There was Jewish religion, which would not let its votaries go into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; and there was Jewish infidelity, which could say: “We have no king but Caesar.”
This is a solemn, fearful prospect. Surely, there is real godliness in the midst of it all, but the sight is dreadful.
And there was the counterpart of what I have been here tracing in the wilderness. There was, first, the calf, and then the captain—the two ensigns of Israel’s departure from God during their journey from Egypt to Canaan, the two distinct standards of rebellion, set up at different eras.
The calf was the ensign of man’s religion. Man had his own gods then, and in eating and drinking, and rising up to play, man exhibited his religion, spake “lies in hypocrisy.” The captain was the ensign of man’s infidelity. Man was his own god then, setting up himself to be his own leader, as though answerable to none, breaking all bands, “heady, high-minded.”
Thus, by either the calf or the captain, man is ever working against God and his truth. It is either false religion or a spirit of independency that is moving him. And reaction is always to be dreaded, even by the true worshippers and saints of God, as is also the spirit of the times in which they live. Both of these must be watched against. If the present time exhibit much of the spirit of human pride and independency, of course the saint has to guard against his being drawn into the stream, and carried along the current which has set in around him. But he has also to guard against reaction. He has to watch and pray, that he may not, through dread and hatred of the present form of evil, look for relief by a return to the previous form of evil. I believe there is very much of both of these at present. I see people who should have stood only in godliness, dropping into the current of these times; and in the revival of high church principles, and return to ecclesiastical ceremonies and observances of human imposition, there is evident unhealthy reaction among men of a sensitive righteous order of mind, who have marked the evil that is now predominant, and have sought relief from it, but have been turned back by Satan to the religiousness of man, and away from “godliness” or the religion of “the truth.” In avoiding the evil of the last days, they have returned to that of the “latter times,” at least in measure.
In the midst of all this condition of things, I believe the poor saint of God, “who walks in the truth,” as John speaks, may now see himself. His path is narrow. Errors on both sides threaten and attract him. The calf and the captain are erected as the standards of rival parties. The word alone is to work his passage through both, and the Spirit to lead them along it; he is to “purify himself by obeying the truth through the Spirit.” He has been baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and his soul is to know its living communion according to this. He has to continue in the things that he has learned, knowing the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make a child, a fool in this world’s wisdom, wise unto salvation, through faith in Christ Jesus. He is to know that, as a sinner, he is cast only upon God—as a sinner, God, and not man, has to do with him—and taking his sin, yea, and his sins too, into the presence of God, he is to see them there, by faith, washed away by the precious blood of a precious, Sacrifice. He has to keep his conscience unclouded, so that his living communion with the Father and the Son, in the life of the Holy Spirit, be not broken, and to walk in the love of the Spirit with all who are Christ’s, and in the charities of the Gospel with all men—doing withal what service among the saints he may be fitted to do by gift of the Spirit, and what service to others he may have opportunity or power to fulfill—waiting daily for the Son from heaven, who, he is to know, has delivered him from the wrath to come.

Signs, and Waiting for the Son From Heaven

In the calculations of men, events unfold themselves as the effects of causes which are known to be operating. But, while this has its truth, to faith it is God who, in His supremacy, holds a seal in His hand, to stamp each day with its character or sign.
This gives the soul a fresh interest in the passing moments. Some of them may be more impressively stamped than others, but all are in progress, and each hour is contributing to the unfolding of the coming era. Like the seasons of the year, or the advances of day and night. Some moments in such progresses may be more strongly marked than others. But all are in advance. Every stage of Israel’s journey through the desert was bringing them nearer to Canaan, though some stages were tame and ordinary, while others were full of incident. And so, all the present age is accomplishing the advance of the promised kingdom, though some periods of it have greater importance than others.
These “signs of the times,” or sealings of God’s Land upon the passing hour, it is the duty of faith to discern. Because they are always according to the premonitions of Scripture. Indeed, current events are only “signs,” as they are according to, or in fulfillment of, such previous notices.
The words of the prophets made the doings of Jesus, in the days of His flesh, the signs of those days (Matt. 12:22-23). And have we not words in the New Testament which, in like manner, make all around us at this moment, or in every century of the dispensation, significant? Have not words, which we find there, abundantly forecast the characters of such dispensation, and given beforehand the forms of those corruptions that were to work in Christendom? They have told us what now our eyes have seen. They told us of the field of wheat and tares—of the mustard seed which became a lodging place for the fowl of the air—of “the unmerciful servant,” or of the Gentile, not “continuing in God’s goodness”—of the great house, with its vessels unto honor and dishonor, and of other like things. They told us of “the latter times,” and of “the last days,” and they still tell the deadly character which that hour is to bear that is to usher forth the man of sin, and ripen iniquity for the brightness and the power of the day of the Lord.
All this is so. And let me ask, if every hour be, after this manner, bearing its character, or wearing its sign, what mark are we, individually, helping to put upon this our day? Is the purpose and way of the Lord ripening into blessedness, at all reflected in us? or, are we, in any measure, aiding to unfold that form of evil which is to bring down the judgment? If the times were to be known and described according to our way, what character would they bear; what sign would distinguish them?
These are inquiries for the conscience of each of us. We cannot be neuter in this matter. We cannot be idle in this market place. It may be but in comparative feebleness, but still, each of us, within the range of the action of Christendom, is either helping to disclose God’s way, or to ripen the vine of the earth for the winepress of wrath.
The Lord tells us that the sign on which our faith must rest is that of a humbled Christ, such a sign as that of Jonah the prophet. Our faith deals with such a sign, because our need as sinners casts us on a Savior, or a humbled Christ. But hope may feed on a thousand signs. Our expectations are nourished by a sight of the operations of the divine hand displaying every hour the ripening of the divine counsels and promises, in spite of the world, and in the very face of increasing human energies.
These signs may be watched, but watched by the saint already in the place and attitude assigned him by the Spirit. They are not to determine what is his place, but they may exercise him in it. His place and attitude is beforehand and independently determined for him—waiting for the Son of God from heaven.
This posture the Thessalonian saints assumed on their believing the gospel (1 Thess. 1:9-10). The apostle seems afterward to strengthen them in that posture, by telling them that from it they were to be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:17). And again afterward, he seems to guard them against being disturbed in that attitude, against being tempted to give it up, by further telling them, that that place of expectation should be exchanged for the place of meeting before the day of the Lord fell in its terrors on the world and the wicked (2 Thess. 2:1). And still further. This very posture of waiting for the Son from heaven had induced a certain evil. The Thessalonian saints were neglecting present handiworks. The apostle does not in any wise seek to change their posture, but admonishes them to hold it in company with diligence and watchfulness, that, while their eye was gazing, their hand might be working (2 Thess. 3).
Other New Testament Scriptures seem also to assume the fact, that faith had given all the saints this same attitude of soul; or, that the things taught them were fitted to do so. (See 1 Cor. 1:7; 15:23; Phil. 3:20; Titus 2:13; Heb. 9:28.)
Admonitions and encouragements of the like tendency, that is, to strengthen us in this place and posture of heart, the Lord Himself seems to me to give, just at the bright and blessed close of the volume.
“I come quickly” is announced by Him three times in the twenty-second of Revelation—words directly suited to keep the heart that listens to them believingly, in the attitude of which I am speaking. But different words of warning and encouragement accompany this voice.
“Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book” (Rev 22:7). This warns us, that while we are waiting for Him, we must do so with watchful, obedient, observant minds, heedful of His words.
“Behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give every one according as his work shall be” (Rev. 22:12). This encourages to diligence, telling us, that by the occupation of our talents now during His absence, on the promised and expected return He will have honors to impart to us.
“Surely, I come quickly,” is again the word (Rev. 22:20). This is a simple promise. It is neither a warning nor an encouragement. Nothing accompanies the announcement, as in the other cases. It is, as it were, simply a promise to bring Himself with Him on His coming again. But it is the highest thing, the dearest thing. The heart may be silent before a warning and before an encouragement. Such words may get their audience in secret from the conscience. But this promise of the simple personal return of Christ gets its answer from the saints. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”
Thus the Lord, after this various and beautiful manner, does the business of the Spirit in the apostles. His own voice, in these different and striking announcements, encourages the saints to maintain the attitude of waiting for Him.
Great things are a doing. The Church, the Jew and the Gentile, are all in characteristic activity, each full of preparation and expectancy. But faith, waits for that which comes not with such things. The rapture of the saints is part of a mystery, a part of “the hidden wisdom.” The coming of the Son of God from heaven is a fact, as I judge, apart altogether from the history or the condition of the world around.

Matthew 24, 25

Our Lord had withdrawn from Jerusalem, and is followed to the Mount of Olives by His disciples, where this discourse takes place. They began the conversation by asking Him certain questions, which admitted the truth of a sentence He had just pronounced on the stones of the temple, though they themselves the moment before had been vainly admiring those stones.
It is interesting to see this. They looked on the temple now as a doomed and not a dedicated spot, and they desire to know when this doom should be accomplished, and what should signify to them the end of the world, and His return.
There was, therefore, in their minds a very simple faith. They admitted His truth, and their inquiries arose from thence. An end and a change were now looked for, because He had pronounced judgment on the present existing things of Israel. Still, however, there was a vast distance between the state of His mind at this moment and theirs. His was full of divine truth. He knew all the results of this needed end and change, and of Israel’s present judgment. But we are to be calm, and stay our minds on this: How far had the time come for unfolding to them all these results, in the full knowledge of which He was?
Now, we, too, are in the knowledge of these results in our way and measure; for the Spirit of truth has been given, and we know the things of the Father and of Christ, and heavenly mysteries consequent on Israel’s rejection, as Jesus then did. But we are to remember that the Lord was in converse then with those unto whom He says, on another (and I believe a deeper) occasion than the present: “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.”
I must hold myself, therefore, in the remembrance that the parties in this discourse were thus widely different as to their then attainments, and in remembrance also of what their subject was.
I judge, then, that Matthew 24:4-14 forms one part of this discourse. I am sure that the Lord looked on His disciples as Christians, or believers in Him. And I am free to admit that these verses may be, read as a general account of things in Christendom as we speak, or of things that were to be known and experienced in that portion of the world that was thereafter to adopt the name of Christian, and that, therefore, we have in them the general external history of our dispensation. But I believe, in a special sense, these verses will find their accomplishment when Israel becomes again the scene of divine notice, or in that part of the reserved week of Daniel which is to precede the abominable desolator in the holy place, which is the action of Anti-Christ in Jerusalem bye and bye. (I see those signs, as I judge, in the first five seals in Revelation 6, and I suppose they will there be understood as belonging to actions in days not yet come.)
Then Matthew 24:15-28 give us another period, a period following the exaltation of the great apostate in Jerusalem, and preceding the appearing of the Son of Man. But here the disciples are addressed as being only in that devoted land and city, and they are commanded to leave them for the mountains, and not be seduced therefrom by any promises that Christ and deliverance had come either in the open desert or in the secret chamber.
Matthew 24:29-31 constitute another portion, giving us the appearing of Christ with its precursors and results.
Then Matthew 24:32-35 impress on the souls of the disciples the duty of watching the things or signs now given, assuring them that none can possibly fail.
Matthew 36-44 tell them the moral state of things immediately on the appearing of the Son of Man, and of the discerning or separating power of that day, and enforces watchfulness upon them.
I pause here for the present. For the remainder may, without injury to what we have now gone through, be postponed.
I ask, then, how far does the Lord in this great discourse contemplate the heavenly destiny of the saints, and the fact and the time of their rapture?
It is judged that He gives two distinct notices of this mystery of the rapture of the saints into the air, in verse 31 and in verse 40. I desire grace to consider these verses, therefore, and to love the truth of God, or the mind of Christ, above all my own thoughts.
In the first place, then, let us consider Matthew 24:31.
In verse 22, I find “the elect” spoken of, and spoken of as part of “all flesh,” and of the divine purpose of saving them as flesh, or in the flesh.
Now, I confess this is the strongest intimation to me, that the Lord was not contemplating His heavenly, but His earthly people. When by His Spirit, in the apostles afterward, He comes to speak of His heavenly ones, He distinctly tells us that the saving of the flesh was, and could be, of no account; for that flesh and blood could never inherit the heavens. Saved flesh must be for the inheritance of the earth. The elect of this verse are, I surely conclude, the Lord’s earthly remnant.
The elect are again spoken of in verse 24. And there they are presented as being preserved from the deceits of false Christs. I do not say that such words respecting them would necessarily determine them to be an earthly people. No. I believe, from Revelation 13, there will be many heavenly men exposed to deceits in that day, and in like manner preserved from being deceived. But having already established “the elect” of this chapter to be earthly, it is natural to continue in the one thought about them. And beside, the character of deceit here, signs and wonders connected with the assertion of Christ being in the desert and in the chambers, seems to address itself more plausibly, if not exclusively, to a remnant preparing for the earthly places.
Well then, “the elect” are again found in verse 31. They are spoken of, and not to, in the three places, and precisely under the same words, τούς ἐκλετοὺς. Is there, then, any reason to see another people here? My clear present assurance is, that there is none.
I believe the blessed Lord is here graciously closing the history of those whom. He had before been looking at. He looked at them, in verse 22, as the dear objects of His care, when perhaps they knew Him—not, as in the counsels of His electing love; in verse 24, He looked at them as preserved by His truth and Spirit in the midst of deceit and corruption; in verse 31, He takes a last look at them, gathered into the kingdom, or to their loved Zion, from all places of their dispersion.
There is a natural unforced character in this interpretation of “the elect” of this chapter, which, I feel, commends it. But it has more to rest on than that.
In verses 29-30, the Lord had passed rapidly through the scene of judgments or the return of the Son of Man. Its precursors—the darkening, and falling, and shaking of the powers and ordinances of heaven, and the mourning of the tribes of the earth. Its execution—the well-known figure of “coming in the clouds” (Matt. 26:64; Rev. 1:7). And now its results—the gathering of the elect, His mind stretching out to that feature of these results, for the comfort of those whom, in their trials and in other parts of their history, as we saw, He had been previously looking at.
But beside, a “great trumpet” had been foretold by the prophet, as the instrument of gathering the scattered election home to the land (Isa. 27:12-13 Sept.). and, to a great extent, the very language of the Lord here seems taken from that of the prophet Zechariah. (See Zech. 2:6 Sept.) And as Moses and the prophets had spoken of the dispersion of Israel for their sins in all parts of the earth, or to the four winds, it is natural that Jesus should speak of their restoration in the same or commensurate terms (Deut. 28:64; Isa. 11:12; Ezek. 17:21). And further, the Lord had often desired their gathering, as He tells us (see Matt. 23:37), and now He anticipates that gathering with assurance.
Besides, there is not a thought of resurrection here; and we know that those that are alive of the heavenly family shall not come without those that sleep. And their coming will not be the fruit of any “mission” (“he shall send his angels”), but in a moment, being changed or raised, they ascend on the Lord reaching the air from heaven with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God. And I do not believe the mention of “angels” interferes with this, because of the extended use, not only of those creatures or servants themselves in the accomplishing of divine purposes, but in the extended use of the term in a figurative or secondary sense. And angels (Isa. 18:2) are expressly used in relation to the gathering of Israel.
Well, then, I surely believe that it is far more easy and natural, and according to all scriptural analogy, to interpret this verse of the same elect ones as had been spoken of in verse 22. I do not force this conclusion on another. No. In this department of truth there are many things hard to be understood, and we should have at this day among us, I am thoroughly assured, the materials and the spirit of purer and more heavenly communion, had we been more modest and less urgent on those “doubtful disputations.” I can quite believe that the perfect wisdom of the Spirit has judged it well to leave a certain indistinctness upon those distant details, valuing, as He surely and blessedly does, something far more than our mere agreement in opinion upon them. O that the Lord may shed among us the spirit of a more intimate and personal communion with Himself and each other! But in its place and measure, I am ready to welcome knowledge of these things and inquiry into them, and, therefore, go on to look at verse 40.
The taking and the leaving, whatever precise or prophetic sense may belong to these words or acts, morally convey the great and serious truth, that this day, the day of the Son of Man, will be a discerning day, a day of separation between the righteous and the evil. And the chief value, the great moral power, of the teaching lies in that, and in that we are, of course, agreed.
But I do further believe, that supposing the “taking” refer to the righteous, it is the righteous ones who, like Noah and Lot, are secured only for the earthly places. Noah entered the ark, and Lot was borne away from Sodom, I grant, before the judgments came. They were taken and the rest left for destruction. But they were earthly ones. I think, however, beyond this, that the passage affords evidence that the “taking” intimates judgment and not security, and the “leaving” intimates outliving and not destruction. Luke has the word “escape” and “stand” (Luke 21:36), and that simply and naturally conveys to me that those who are left are a people that have escaped the operation of this terrible day, and still stand as in their place, unmoved before the Son of Man. And the figures employed intimate strongly that the taking is a judicial or hostile act. The figure of an eagle coming upon a carcass—the figure of a thief coming into a house—the figure of a snare catching a man—the type of the flood coming to bear away the old world: all these intimate to me strongly that our blessed Master had judgment rather than security in His mind when He spoke of “taking.”
One objection is made to this, which appears strong, that the verb is changed; that in verse 39 it is αἴρω and in verse 40 παραλαμβάνω. But I find the very same thing in John 19:15-16. There the Jews call on Pilate to take away Jesus — αἴρω —but the moment he allows them to do their pleasure, and act towards Him just as they wished, they παρέλαβον Jesus. This is surely at the very least enough to check confidence on this point.
My own conviction is this, though I am no critical scholar at all, that the quality of the act, signified by the verb παραλαμβάνω, is to be determined simply by the quality of the agent. It means (does it not?) assuming or taking to one’s self. When the Lord Jesus descends to receive His saints to Himself (παραλαμβάνω, John 14:3), that taking or receiving is surely unto joy and glory; but when the judicial Son of Man comes to take, it is, I believe, to carry off in vengeance.
These are my thoughts on the force of this verse. I am ready to say, as I did upon verse 31, I press nothing. I admit that some indistinctness may advisedly be left on this subject, for it is morally healthful for our souls, both to be in daily desire and expectation of Jesus, and yet armed with the daily mind of those who are ready to suffer death at the hand of any enemy of His name. My grief is, that saints are sedulously schooled or tortured into conclusions, that necessity is laid on them to make up their minds on these things, and that that zeal which works division is put forth in the service of peculiar opinions. “In many things we offend all.”
I paused at verse 44, for I judge that from Matthew 24:45 to 25:30 we have only beautiful and striking illustrations of the great moral principles which had been previously enforced, such as watching, because ignorant of the time.
In Matthew 24:31-40, however, the Lord appears to me to resume the scene. In Matthew 24:31, He had spoken of a “gathering,” having brought down His teaching to the gathering or assembling of the scattered Israel. Now He resumes the scene, and exhibits the gathering of the Gentiles, or settling the nations in the kingdom. I believe there is no resurrection here, as there had been none in Matthew 24:31. I believe it is impossible to say that the goats or the reprobate will rise into the air to meet the descending Lord, and there be judged. I believe it is impossible to say that the throne of the King, before which a mixed multitude are to be brought at one and the same time, can be till the Lord have actually returned and been seated on the earth again. The judgment between “cattle and cattle” is on earth (Ezek. 34). There was much in this to sustain the disciples, His believing people, to whom the Lord was speaking. There was sure promise of His return with His rewards as the Master, and with Himself as the Bridegroom. But I do not find, in the whole of this discourse, that which necessarily instructed them in heavenly glories, or necessarily intimated their rapture into the heavens. In John, as they are retiring from the supper, He speaks still more fully, and plainly tells them of mansions in heavenly places. But there He originated the discourse, and in spirit was in heaven; here they originate the discourse, and in spirit, in thought, in intelligence and associations, were on earth.
If the mind hold these or any other thoughts of God and His counsels before it, may the spirit within ponder them, and turn them to godly exercise of heart and conscience! May they not float before the mind’s eye, beloved, as ideas or images, but dwell within the seeing and hearing of the soul with power! Amen.


There is much interest attaching to the person of this great Gentile. The place he occupies in the progress of the divine dispensations, the circumstances which connect him with the saints of God, and his own personal history—all contribute to give him a place in our recollections, and to read us some holy and important lessons.
He was the man in whom God set up the Gentiles. The house of David, the throne of Judah, had corrupted itself; the measure of the people’s iniquity was full, and the term of the Divine long-suffering was spent in Nebuchadnezzar’s day; and he is used by the Lord to be the rod of His indignation against Jerusalem, and the hand to take from Him the sword of rule and judgment in the earth.
The glory had departed. It had left the earth. The prophet had seen it in its gradual and reluctant, but sure and judicial, flight on the cherubim and the wheels, as far as the mountains, on its way to heaven. But though “the glory is departed” might have been written on Jerusalem, “the glory is here” could not have been correspondingly written on any seat, or city of the nations.
This Chaldean, however, this Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, is set up by the Lord, and the sword is committed to him. Power in the earth, for the punishment of evil-doers and for the praise of them that do well, is put into his hand, formally put there, by God, on the glory forsaking the earth, or the Lord, for the present, refusing to take His place as King of Israel.
This is Nebuchadnezzar’s connection with the dispensational purposes of God. He was glad, of course, to extend his dominions, and to let his conquests be known far and wide, and Jerusalem is welcome plunder to him; but all the while he was filling out the purposes of God. At length his sword is in its sheath, and we see him, not in connection with the purposes, but with the saints of God; and then we get a more personal sight of him, and a subject of still holier interest and meaning. For then we see the man under Divine operation, and not merely the power under divine commission and appointment. And it is this sight which Daniel gives of him in these chapters.
The tumult of war being over, and the sword, as I said, in its sheath again, the king is seen in his place at Babylon. His royal estate he purposes to set off to all advantage. Elegancies and accomplishments, and provisions of all sorts, shall fill his court. Both his greatness and his pleasures shall be served by all that conquered lands can furnish, and the ancient land of the glory is now only one of them. Babylon, famed for its wisdom in its astrologers and soothsayers, shall be set off by some of the captive youths of Judah, distinguished for their understanding science, and skilfulness in knowledge. This is the first chapter.
As it often happens, the Lord comes to disturb him. His heart is moved, if not his estate and condition in the world. Ere he went to sleep, one much-to-be-remembered night, he is thinking on what was to be thereafter. He then sleeps and dreams, and the dream being all about what was to be thereafter, shows that the hand of God was in the whole scene. The king, however, does not understand anything of all this. Even the dream itself goes from him. He has no remembrance of it. It leaves uneasiness behind it, but that is all. Often it is thus with the soul. There is a disturbance, but no intelligence. A restlessness has been awakened; but whence it came is not known, or whither it goes (what is its purpose) is not conjectured. And it is too high for man. It is the hand of God, and mere man cannot reach it. All the wisdom of Babylon is at fault. The dream, the departed dream, which had left only its shadow to scare the heart of the king, is beyond all Chaldean art. This is beautifully significant. We live amid these wonderful shakings, these hidden operations of God with the hearts of the children of men. And when it is with the elect, the work thus begun is conducted to a blessed issue. The man of God, however, gets into the secret. The saint is made to know the mind of God in this great operation of His hand. Daniel tells it all to the king.
Nebuchadnezzar is, naturally, moved to wondering admiration. The knowledge of the prophet is marvelous in his eyes, and all that he can do for him he is ready to do. The wisdom of the God of Daniel he also religiously acknowledges, and, under the excitement, even delights in it. This is the second chapter.
But with all this he is but Nebuchadnezzar still, a mere child of nature, the sport of human passions, and of the devil’s wiles. Vanity seems to feed on the communications which the prophet of God had delivered. Wonderful, but natural! These communications had dealt with solemn truths—that an image was to be broken in pieces, and made like the chaff of the summer threshing floor. But this is all passed by the heart of the king, and that lie himself is the head of this image, the golden head of it, is all that practically works on him His pride can get food out of that; but the rest may remain for a future day, however awful it may be.
Accordingly, he sets up a golden image for all to worship. All orders and estates of men are summoned, by musical instruments of all sorts, to own the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Marvelous that our hearts can so deal with God’s revelations! God had spoken of an image being broken to pieces, and scattered like the chaff before the wind. Nebuchadnezzar can set up an image to be honored with divine honors by all the world. How falsely the heart traffics with divine truth! We turn to the present account of our own vanity what connects itself with the most solemn realities. Admiration of God’s wisdom will not do. Nebuchadnezzar had that. But with that he was a self-worshipper, and to himself he can sacrifice everything. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, the very instruments or vessels for awaking that admiration, shall burn in the fiery furnace if they consent not to fall down before this image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Wonderful infatuation! God, however, is but again displayed. If wisdom belong to Him, so does power. If He can reveal secrets and make known the thoughts of the head upon the bed of the children of men, He can quench the violence of fire and save every hair of the head from perishing, though in a burning fiery furnace. The king is again moved; and he does more than before. He had honored the servants of the God of wisdom already; now he is for honoring the God of power Himself, establishing His name in the land, and making reverence of Him a part of the business of the state, a standing ordinance of the realm. This is the third chapter.
But what of this? He is as before, only Nebuchadnezzar still—the haughty, self-pleased, self-pleasing child of the dust-man, who, like Adam of old, would be as God. For, after these witnesses of divine wisdom and power, and after the motions which his heart and conscience had passed through, he was, as in earlier days, “at rest in his house and flourishing in his palace” (Daniel 4:4). He was the same self-pleased, self-pleasing, important king of Babylon.
Nature outlives a thousand checks and improvements. The new wine poured into the old bottle is but spilled. “We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.” The various melody of the dispensations of God is lost on the dull ear of man. But the Lord is not weary. He can still sit at the well and talk with the sinner. He shakes the heart of this king with another dream, and Daniel again interprets it. It is still, however, the new wine in the old bottle, and it is spilled as ever. Twelve months after this solemn visitation, the king walks in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon, and his poor proud heart, after all this, can say: “Is not this great Babylon, that I have builded for the house of the kingdom, by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30).
Here, surely, is old Nebuchadnezzar still, the “old man” of nature. The divine revelations are spent on him in vain. All the goodly emotions are but as the morning cloud and early dew. The new wine to be preserved, must be put into new bottles. And so, at last, it is. Nebuchadnezzar is made a new bottle. Deeply and solemnly is this process conducted, or this work accomplished. The sentence of death is lawfully laid on him. The case is one of great character; and it might well be so, because, as we have seen, the light of the wisdom of God, and the hand of the power of God, had already addressed this man; and the further care and diligence of the Lord had been, in the recent dream, also bestowed upon him; but all to no real purpose. The new wine had been spilled again and again. Nebuchadnezzar is the same man still, and the old bottle is now to be cast away. The former vessel having been marred on the wheel, the lump is now taken into the potter’s hand, to fashion it another vessel, a new vessel, as it pleases Him. The story of this operation, as I said, is solemn beyond expression. “Man that is in honor and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish.” In honor, indeed, Nebuchadnezzar had been; but he had not understood, and now he becomes as a beast. “He was driven from men and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like bird’s claws.” Thus is he made to know himself, and to learn the lesson that he was, in all his honor, as brutish as the cattle of the field, having no understanding. The occasion was special, and the display of the operation of God signal, almost without parallel. But if he learn that he “has destroyed himself,” he shall learn also that there is One that lifts up even from dunghills, and under the further working of His gracious as well as mighty hand, Nebuchadnezzar revives; he becomes a risen man in due season. The field and the oxen are left, his understanding returns to him, his kingdom and its glory, his honor and its brightness, his nobles and his counselors, all return to him, and even excellent majesty is added to him. And then, as one of understanding indeed, who had come to the knowledge of God and himself, he no longer thinks of honoring God by state decrees only, ordinances of his realm, but bows before Him as a sovereign Lord in `heaven and on earth, and publishes His doings. He is no longer the king, but the dependent. The old thing has passed away, and all is become new.

A Fair Show in the Flesh

“The truth,” or the doctrine of the Son, as the Lord Himself teaches us (John 8:32-36), sets free all those who receive it. It is the “law of liberty” (James 1-2); it is “mercy rejoicing over judgment” ; for judgment has been duly and fully marked against us as guilty, but through the blood of sprinkling mercy is secured, and by the gospel that mercy is published; so that the truth —the doctrine of the Son, the gospel, or the law of liberty, which are all titles of the same revelation of God—sets the sinner free. In this precious liberty is included freedom from sin, from the law, and from the flesh. This is the excellent and wondrous teaching of Rom. 6- 8. Sin had been a master. But the believer in Jesus is dead in Jesus; and death being the end or wages of sin, sin is gone. “He that is dead is freed (justified) from sin.” Sin has no claim on him. He is no longer to be its servant; for by death the entire connection between him and sin is dissolved. So is the believer freed from the law; for the law addresses itself only to living man. It is the husband only of such, by its energies working on the flesh. But the believer being not a living, but a dead and risen, man—a man in union with a dead and risen Christ—the law is of necessity discharged as an old husband, and the believer is acted upon by the virtues of the risen Christ, the new husband. So also is the believer out of the flesh. The flesh is the living man, man in his nature, as derived from corrupted Adam. But the believer is not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, and the Spirit of God dwells in him (Rom. 8). He is in the new man, in the second Adam; he is in Christ, and being one with Him, he is spirit—for he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit (1 Cor. 6:17).
These are the three blessed characteristics of the believer’s liberty, as we are taught in these three glorious chapters. This is the standing of the “man in Christ.” The truth has made him free, the Son has made him free; and this has been accomplished by taking him out of himself, and planting him, through faith, in the dead and risen Christ of God. Sin has no claim to his service, as a lord; the law has no power over him, as a husband; nor is the flesh the condition in which he is.
But this doctrine, which is Christianity, does not suit the legal, fleshly mind of man. Above all the difficulty which Paul had to meet in his care of the churches, that which arose from our diposedness to return to the law, or to “confidence in the flesh,” was the most frequent and the greatest.
In Galatia he found this abundantly. The church there had been eminent for attachment to him, because of the gospel which was preached. They had received him as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus, and would have plucked out their eyes for him They had been in a particularly blessed state of soul; they had begun in the “Spirit,” in the doctrine of faith; and this devotedness of heart to the apostle who had brought them that doctrine, was the fruit of it. But they had been “bewitched.” They had been drawn back from their place in Christ, and were in bondage again. Instead of being dead to the old husband, they had re-embraced him, and were deriving influence out of him once more. Not that they had formally renounced Christ, as Jews or Pagans. They still professed Christ, but together with Him, they were insisting on, and trusting in, “days, and months, and times, and years.” They were teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. They were reenacting ordinances; they were turning again to beggarly elements. A life of simple faith in the Son of God, as the one who had loved them and given Himself for them, was defiled; and they were living to the law, putting themselves under observances, as under so many tutors and governors. They were servants and not sons—in bondage, and not in liberty; they had gone back to the school-master, which they could not do without leaving the Father’s house.
All this must have been connected with an increasing show of religion among them. This necessarily was the case; for “days and months” were so increasingly observed, the bonds of the law and of carnal ordinances were so multiplied, that to an eye not instructed by the Spirit, they must have had a great “name to live.” But Paul speaks of all this as “leaven,” threatening to corrupt the whole mass. In his view it was the symptom of death, and not of life. “A fair show” it was; but it was a fair show “in the flesh.” Thus, under his eye, it was the garnishing of a sepulcher, and his energy is employed in re-quickening them. He travails in birth again with them, if haply they might be raised out of this sepulcher, or place of death, and brought forth, as Isaac from Sarah’s dead womb, by the precious ministry of the truth—that is, the doctrine of the Son taught by the Spirit.
This epistle is a word of solemn admonition. It shows us that the most promising may be beguiled, so that all have to watch. We may have the blessed assurance of our holy keeping; but we none of us keep the book of life. Therefore we can only say of one another, “if ye continue in the faith, grounded and settled.” And this epistle shows that we may be disappointed even in the most promising—in a Galatian-disciple; but it also shows us that the Spirit of God is alive, most sensitively alive, to the least infraction of the truth, or “the law of liberty.” He speaks of it as He speaks of some of the foulest moral stains that could defile the garments of the saints: both are the leaven that leavens the whole lump (1 Cor. 5:6; Gal. 5:9).
But it is to be observed still further, as to the nature of this leaven that was working in Galatia, that it was not the revival of a hope, under what is termed the moral law of the ten commandments, as though by strict moral obedience, a righteousness could be produced. This was not the gross thought of the disciples there; but they were returning to observances and ordinances. It was a more refined and religious confidence in the flesh, but still it was confidence in the flesh. They had begun in the Spirit, with Christ’s sufficiency; but now they were looking for perfection from and in the flesh. It was a departure from the liberty in which Christ, by His death and resurrection, had put them; and the apostle clearly treats them as a people whose condition made him to stand in doubt of them, and to feel towards them as though he must begin his toil among them afresh, and travail in birth again till Christ be formed in them, till all fleshly confidence should depart from their hearts, and Christ and His liberty—Christ and the virtue of His death and resurrection, Christ and His completeness for the poor sinner—be welcomed and received there alone.
All at Galatia was as death while the flesh, and its observances, and its righteousness, were thus confided in. A sepulcher it was, garnished by much religious drapery; but the apostle was not to be deceived by such fair show; he lays it bare; he takes off the trappings to exhibit the corruption that was under them: for it was the flesh that was under them, and the flesh is a dead thing. They might ornament the flesh, but it is all uncleanness; and deck it out as we may, it is the flesh still, in which there dwelleth “no good thing.” The days, the months, and times, and years, religiously enforced as they were, and fitted to give their votaries a name to live with those who judge after the flesh, were but a painted sepulcher to the eye of Paul.
Indeed God is not truly known where such things are trusted. If the living, blessed God be really before the soul, He is known as one who quickens the dead; but confidence in the flesh, such as existed among the Galatians, gives up God. Thus the apostle has to say, “howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service to them which by nature are no gods; but now after that ye have known God (or rather are known of God), how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, wherein ye desire again to be in bondage?” For, indeed, as we may infer from what he says in Galalatians 2:19, the only way to be alive to God is to be dead to the law. Truly blessed this is. As long as the soul is alive to the law—as long as it derives the motions and sanctions which influence it from the law, it is dead to God. For self is its end and object: to take care of one’s self, of one’s own interest and safety is its purpose. God is not lived for; His glory and service are not the aim of the soul; that cannot be because the law is set up, and the law puts us upon caring for ourselves—upon the anxious, uneasy, servile question of our own interest and safety. This is shown in the person of the unprofitable servant. He was under the law. All that he cared about was to come off well in the day of reckoning. He treated the Lord as an austere man who must be satisfied. He feared Him, not having learned that way of “perfect love” which is His, and which casts our fear; and thus he was alive to the law, but dead to God. Paul, however, stood in another mind “I,” he says, “through the law, am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.” But from this life the Galatians had now been “bewitched.” They had begun it, but they were now deserting it, and no time was to be lost, if haply the apostle might now call them back to Christ, or to that “faith” which works by love, setting the heart and conscience at liberty before God, so that He may be loved. They had to be taught again that nothing availed but “a new creature” (Gal. 6); that before God the flesh is gone, sin judged, and the law taken out of the way; that the old master of Romans 6 is no longer in power, and that we are become dead to the old husband of Romans 7; but that by faith in a dead and risen Christ, we have escaped from these bonds and penalties, to find our liberty in the fullness of Christ.
But if the standing in the “righteousness by faith” be given up, and “confidence in the flesh” be adopted, then there is both a fall from grace, and debtorship to do the whole law (Gal. 5:1-5). Christ will not share the confidence of our souls with the law. He is a jealous husband, even as God is a jealous God. And we may bless Him that He is; we may bless Him that He will have us as a chaste virgin, with mind kept uncorrupted in His simplicity. If we return to the law, whether ceremonial or moral, we are debtors to the whole of it. We are to glory in the cross of Christ, whereby the world is crucified unto us, and we unto the world (Gal. 6:14). We are not, by subjection to ordinances, to manifest that we are still living in the world (Col. 2:20). The cross has met everything for us. It has honored the rights and demands of God. It has answered and silenced the malice of the enemy. And in spirit we have been carried on high, in and with Jesus, beyond the voice of the law; for that spoke for God on earth and we are above the earth, in the heavens, with the ascended Christ (Eph. 2:6). This being so, we are called to leave the world, and all thoughts of sanctification in the flesh, remembering that it is with nothing else than with the “increase of God” that we are nourished (Col. 2:19). What words! But not too great; for our life is hid in God, and therefore partakes of its proper, divine nourishment. It is not we that live, but Christ that lives in us. All this truth was so precious to Paul, that the teaching of those who were reviving the law, or bondage to ordinances, was especially his sorrow; and as such had leavened the churches in Galatia more than any other, his most aggrieved letter is to them. It was the jealous care of the apostle to keep the doctrines of unsullied Christianity in full purity, and to spread the savor of them through the hearts of the elect. And this doctrine of Christ tells us that man is utterly worthless—that he has been touched again and again by the finger of God, and been found to be an instrument entirely out of tune, having no music for Him at all. Man is, accordingly, in the boundlessness of divine grace, laid aside, and Christ is taken up, risen from the dead, as the head of a new creation. Believers are God’s workmanship in Christ Jesus. Christ is formed in them. They are born of God, and His seed remains in them—that incorruptible seed of the word of the gospel. They are a new creation, of which Christ is both the head and the character. He is in them, and they are in Him. It is not they who live, but Christ liveth in them. They are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, as has been before said, but to write again these precious truths is safe and pleasant. The believer is in Christ, and not in himself, and thus he has done with condemnation as much as Christ has. Christ was once condemned; He died unto sin once; but now He dieth no more, death has no more dominion over Him. And so with the believer who is in Him: “There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.”
All this is for the effectual relief of the conscience, to give it perfect rest. But in the doctrine of Christ there is much more. It may be expressed thus, in mind, body, and ESTATE, believers are one with Jesus. How divine the love that could take such a counsel! The poor soul that believes is one with Christ in spirit now, and is to be one with Him in body and in inheritance by and bye. He that is joined to the Lord is already “one spirit” with Him; and the present vile body is to be hereafter changed into the likeness of “His glorious body”; and further still, we are “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ”; for in Him and with Him we have obtained an inheritance. Thus are believers “conformed to the image of the Son.” In mind, body, and estate they are one with Him Great features of the precious mystery of Christ these are; and, shall I say, still more marvelous is it, that the same love which rests on the Son rests on them (John 17:23).
Thoughts quite beyond any but the mind of the Spirit open to us in all this. But while tracing the mystic oneness of Christ, we are to remember the teaching of Scripture, that Jesus is the Sanctifier, and believers but the sanctified (Heb. 2). And this shows that notwithstanding the existence of this oneness, yet the proper personal distance between Him and us originally was as great as light from darkness, as heaven from hell, as God Himself from sin. And we are also to remember that by His blood alone are we called into this condition. The blood is our only title, though the things to which it entitles us are thus immeasurable. Now all this glorious mystery is soiled and clouded by those who taught circumcision or the law of commandments contained in ordinances. No wonder, then, that our apostle so withstood them; for such doctrine revives the flesh—revives man in himself; and that is destructive of the first element in pure, unmixed Christianity. It builds again that which has been destroyed; it rakes among old ruins; it seeks the living among the dead; it busies itself in clothing a carcass; it is not in any wise a fellow-laborer with the Spirit, for it is dealing with man and not with Christ; it is of the world; for the apostle, in the strong language already conferred to in Colossians 2:20, challenges subjection to ordinances as a living in the world, and as unsuited to one that is dead and risen with Christ.
No wonder, then, that the apostle sets himself so zealously to the service of teaching the saints the great mystery, so bright and full as it is of the glory of God; and also to the service of gainsaying the leaven of the “teachers of the law,” so destructive is it of glory. If he prized the grace of God in its purity and fullness, if he prized the liberty of the souls of the saints, if he valued the blood and work of Jesus, he must set himself to these services; he must withstand the pretensions of the flesh, wherever he met them, and spread among the saints the light and savor of this mystery of Christ. And so we find he did according to the working of God which wrought in him effectually. It was his jealousy lest that doctrine should be tainted; it was his delight and desire that that doctrine should be known. For the flesh, with all that it had, and all it could glory in, whether its wisdom, strength, or religion, he had left to perish in its own corruption.
And in closing, let us ask, what will commonly be found in this enacting of days, and months, and times, and years—in this reviving of ordinances, and of the rudiments of the world? In those who impose them, there has been of old the design of fastening their own bonds round the hearts of their votaries; in those who adopt them, there is generally the blindness of the mere natural mind: but at times these things are the fruit of growing wordliness in professors. This “doing, doing,” in religious observances is the miserable substitute for the walk of faith and communion with God in the Spirit. The world that crucified Jesus is not heartily renounced, nor is Jesus Himself heartily embraced. The sweet savor of His name is departing, the freshness of His presence is fading, and the conscience, unsettled by this, seeks relief in the increased religiousness of the fleshly mind. The dark, cold heart, as it recedes from Christ, loses the vigorous, happy, genial sense, and puts on ornaments to hide from itself the growing feebleness of old age. It is well if they do not prove the very funeral trappings of a dead body. The heart knows its own wretched ways and deceits too well not to be able to speak of these things. Would that we were more simple concerning such evil. But Christ in His sufficiency is only the more prized and the more clung to as either one’s soul is tempted this way, or as one’s eye and ear understand that this way is growing in a generation of large and corrupted profession.

Extracts From Correspondence 1

The moral activities that are abroad are surely immense, and the pressure upon the social system of influences full of deceivableness, I suppose, is beyond all precedent. It is desirable to keep the soul increasingly alive to the fact that the path of the Church is a narrow and peculiar one. Even her virtues must have a peculiar material in them. Her common honesty, her good deeds, too, her secular labors, her fruitfulness, purity, and the like, are to be peculiar in their functions and their springs. Her discipline does not act after the pattern of the mere moral sense of man. Society, as another has observed, would disclaim the offense contemplated in 1 Corinthians 5; but society would never deal with it as the Church is there called to deal with it. Society, for instance, would never put covetousness or extortion in company with it, but the saint is instructed to do so. The moral sense of man would there make distinctions, when the pure element of the house of God resents all alike as unworthy of it.
This is “fine gold” dear brother—gold refined again and again. Even the morals of the Church are to be of another quality from those of men. What sanctions are brought in in 1 Corinthians 5-6 as to the common matters of life. If the saint be to abstain from fornication, it is because his body is a temple: if he be to refuse the judgment of others in the affairs of this life, in their most ordinary ways of right and wrong, of debit and credit, it is because he himself is destined to be a judge in the seat of the world to come, even from a throne of glory. Is not this “fine gold?” Does not such sanction make morals divine? What, in the world’s morality, is like this? And I ask further, is not the need of this divine or peculiar agency to the effecting any moral results intimated in Luke 11:21-27? If it be not the stronger man possessing himself of the house, is anything done for God? If it be merely the unclean spirit going out, the end of the history of the house is, that it becomes more fitted for deeper evil. The emptied state, even accompanied by sweeping and ornamenting, is only a preparation for a worse condition, and nothing is done for God but when the stronger enters the house. No instrument of garnishing according to God, but Christ. And in the remembrance of these verses, dear brother, ask yourself what is doing in and for the house of Christendom at this moment. Is not many a broom, many a brush sweeping it and painting it? Is this making it God’s house, or getting it ready to be the house of the full energy—the sevenfold energy—of the enemy?

Extracts From Correspondence 2

Plenty of error is abroad, I doubt not, and that of all sorts, doing all kinds of mischief. May our hearts be pained when we think of it. But it is not for all of us at least to meddle with it in the way of exposure. To separate “the good into vessels,” the precious from the unclean mass, and nourish it with divine provisions may be a happier business.
I think we may learn that all forms of error will have something of full-grown representatives in these last days. The infidel leaven will (2 Peter 3:3 and so forth); the loose, the morally relaxed condition of evangelical profession will (2 Peter 2 and Jude); religiousness, which leaves the soul exposed to the “deceivableness of unrighteousness” (2 Thess. 2). These, and others, will be in full strength, in the last days that the judgment of God may meet them, as has been the way of divine judgments, in their day of full-blown fruits. In a general way I would put brethren in Christ in mind of all this, that they may keep themselves pure. But it is endless to follow the mind of man, as it is in this day of its peculiar activity, filling the scene with its fruit.
Ranke’s history of the Popes of the 16th and 17th centuries is a remarkable witness (though perhaps not fully so intended to be by its author) of the present movement. We are witnessing a second regeneration of Catholicism, as Ranke says the close of the 16th century did. And this revival is destined, I judge, to set the woman on the beast, till the beast and his kings dethrone her to perfect their own form of apostacy, which the just Lord who judgeth righteously will visit in His day.
Great principles such as these are to be put before the saints that their minds may be delivered from the perverted expectations of this generation. But this is to be done rather incidentally, more for the sake of the kingdom that lies beyond all this, than with the intent of acquainting the mind with these evils and apostate reprobate things themselves. A rejected Jesus is to be presented to the affections of the saints, and the coming glory is to be shown as that which suits Him as such a rejected One.

The Lord Jesus in John 11, 12

These chapters show us in what different channels the Lord’s thoughts flowed from those of the heart of man. His ideas, so to speak, of misery and of happiness, were so different from what man’s naturally are.
The eleventh chapter opens with a scene of human misery. The dear family at Bethany are visited with sickness, and the voice of health and thanksgiving in their dwelling has to yield to mourning, lamentation, and woe. But He, who of all had the largest and tenderest sympathies, is the calmest among them; for He carried with Him that foresight of resurrection, which made Him overlook the chamber of sickness, and the grave of death.
When Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, He abode two days longer in the place where He was. But when that sickness ends in death, He begins His journey in the full and bright prospect of resurrection. And this makes His journey steady and undisturbed. And, as He approaches the scene of sorrow, His action is still the same. He replies again and again to the passion of Martha’s soul, from that place where the knowledge of a power that was beyond that of death had, in all serenity, seated Him. And though He have to move still onward, there is no haste. For on Mary’s arrival, He is still in the same place where Martha had met Him. And the issue, as I need not say, comes in due season to vindicate this stillness of His heart, and this apparent tardiness of His journey.
Thus was it with Jesus here. The path of Jesus was His own. When man was bowed down in sorrow at the thought of death, He was lifted up in the sunshine of resurrection. ‘
But the sense of resurrection, though it gave this peculiar current to the thoughts of Jesus, left His heart still alive to the sorrows of others. For His was not indifference, but elevation. And such is the way of faith always. Jesus weeps with the weeping of Mary and her company. His whole soul was in the sunshine of those deathless regions which lay far away from the tomb of Bethany; but it could visit the valley of tears, and weep there with those that wept.
But again.—When man was lifted up in the expectation of something good and brilliant in the earth, His soul was full of the holy certainty that death awaits all here, however promising or pleasurable; and that honor and prosperity must be hoped for only in other and higher regions. The twelfth chapter shows us this.
When they heard of the raising of Lazarus, much people flocked together from Bethany to Jerusalem, and at once hailed Him as the King of Israel. They would fain go up with Him to the Feast of Tabernacles, and antedate the age of glory, seating Him in the honors and joys of the kingdom. The Greeks also take their place with Israel in such an hour. Through Philip, as taking hold of the skirt of a Jew (Zech. 8), they would see Jesus and worship. But in the midst of all this Jesus Himself sits solitary. He knows that earth is not the place for all this festivation and keeping of holy day. His spirit muses on death, while their thoughts were full of a kingdom with its attendant honors and pleasures. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone.”
Such was the peculiar path of the spirit of Jesus. Resurrection was everything to Him. It was His relief amid the sorrows of life, and His object amid the promises and prospects of the world. It gave His soul a calm sunshine, when dark and heavy clouds had gathered over Bethany; it moderated and separated His affections, when the brilliant glare of a festive day was lighting up the way from thence to Jerusalem. The thought of it sanctified His mind equally amid grief and enjoyments around. Resurrection was everything to Him. It made Him a perfect pattern of that fine principle of the Spirit of God: “Let him that weepeth be as if he wept not, and he that rejoiceth as though he rejoiced not.”
O for a little more of the same mind in us, beloved!—a little more of this elevation above the passing conditions and circumstances of life!
May the faith and hope of the gospel, through the working of the indwelling Spirit, form the happiness and prospects of our hearts!

The Parable of the Cedar and the Two Eagles

Discipline preserves us for future blessing, but it does not exalt us in this present world. Connected with this thought, let us read this parable.
This cedar is Judah, or the house of David; the two eagles are the king of Babylon and the king of Egypt. This cedar had incurred the discipline of the Lord, and the Lord used the king of Babylon, one of the eagles, as the rod of His hand, for correction. Under this rod, the house of David would be humbled, but preserved—for correction is for purifying, not for destruction. Discipline plants us in “a fruitful field,” and by “great waters”; but we grow there, for the present, only as “a willow tree,” as “a spreading vine of low stature,” as this parable has it; “base,” but kept and sheltered (Ezek. 17:5-6,14).
Jehoiachin, who was of this cedar, found this to be so. He humbled himself under this eagle, the king of Babylon, the Lord’s rod for correction, and he was preserved, though “base,” for a season. For thirty-six years he was hid in Babylon; but he was then exalted, proving that he had been planted in “a fruitful field,” though, for so long a season, he was but “a willow tree.” (See 2 Kings 24-25.)
But another eagle comes near this cedar; and this cedar, the house of David, in the person of Zedekiah, who succeeded Jehoiachin, solicits him, “ bends her roots towards him, and shoots forth her branches towards him, that he might water it by the furrows of her plantation.” (See Ezek. 17:7).
Zedekiah seeks the king of Egypt, “that he might give him horses and much people” (verse 15), might flourish again under his shadow, refusing to be any longer “a willow tree.” But this was rebellion against the Lord’s rod, and the Lord revisits it as rebellion against Himself; and He inquires, shall such a cedar prosper? and He answers, he shall not prosper. Zedekiah shall know not merely the discipline but the judgment of the Lord (Ezek. 17:19-20). What a picture this is what a moral may be read in it
Happy is it when the soul bows to the hand of God, accepting the punishment of our sins. It is the place of blessing. Israel’s blessing began there. When they stripped off their ornaments, and sought the Lord outside the camp, they were in the way to a blessing (Ex. 33). And so, after they had failed in the kingdom, as they had failed in the wilderness, their blessing lay in Babylon as before it lay outside the camp. They must accept the punishment of their sins and go there.
It is thus with us individually. We must be broken in order to be blest. Discipline will keep us for future exaltation, but leaves us “base” in this world. It is a “fruitful field” to the soul. But these are terms we do not particularly like. We would rather “bend our roots” towards that which may help us in the world. But that way, which is our own way, will end, as with Zedekiah, in shame and ruin. (See 2 Kings 25.) Accepting the judgment of God, submitting under his mighty hand, will end, as with Jehoiachin, in blessing and exaltation.
Such is the parable of the cedar and the two eagles in Ezekiel 1:7. But the close of that chapter, after the parable, must also be looked at. (See Ezek. 17:22,24.)
The prophet here looks forward to the Lord Jesus, the Messiah, the cedar of this parable in his day, the heir of the house of David; and this passage presents Him as taking His place as humbled and broken with the nation of Israel or the throne of David, and from thence, according to God, receiving His exaltation and kingdom.
But though broken, this was neither in conscience nor in relationship. He could not have been humbled, or broken, or convicted in conscience (as we are to be), for He was stainless and spotless, with neither corruption within, nor blemish without. He could not have been broken in relationship, as the house of David was, because he was no more federally represented by that fallen house, than as Son of Man He was federally represented or headed in Adam. But He was broken in circumstances—for the ends of the glory of God, and the blessing of His people, the Lord Jesus was, by His own will, broken in circumstances. The heir of the throne was a carpenter. The Lord of the earth and its fullness had not where to lay His head. He was “a tender twig,” a “low tree,” a “dry tree.” This is the Jesus of Isaiah 53, of whom it is said, “He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, as a root out of a dry ground; He hath no form or comeliness, and when we shall see Him there is no beauty that we should desire Him.” But this “tender twig” shall, in due season, be planted, as this passage tells us, “upon an high mountain and eminent.” It shall “bring forth boughs and bear fruit, and be a goodly cedar, and under it shall dwell all fowls of every wing, in the shadow of the branches thereof shall they dwell.”
And this is the millennial Jesus, as the other was the Nazarene Jesus. The “tender twig” of our prophet is the Nazarene Jesus; the “goodly cedar” with its boughs and fruit is the millennial Jesus. But it is the same Jesus who thus vindicates, and illustrates, and glorifies all the thoughts and principles, and truth of God. As the prophet closes this chapter, giving us the moral of the whole action: “And all the trees of the field shall know that I the Lord have brought down the high tree, have exalted the low tree, have dried up the green tree, and have made the dry tree to flourish: I the Lord have spoken and have done it.”
And surely this is very much the common moral of all God’s dealings with us in this scene of proud revolt. And I may say again, as at the beginning, His discipline preserves us for a future blessing and exaltation, but it does not make us great in this present world.
“Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” But in contrast with this, just for another moment look at the history of another famous tree that was once set in the soil of this world. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, whom we have seen in this parable as one of the two eagles, was also a celebrated tree. His branch spread in its day, as the branch of this millennial Jesus will do by and bye in “the world to come.” (See Dan. 4.) But Nebuchadnezzar had not previously been “a tender twig,” a “low tree” and a “dry tree.” Accordingly, he exalts himself and meets the judgment of God. His leaves are scattered, his fruit shaken off, his branches cut down. He is left as “a stump in the earth.” And then, being broken and humbled under God’s mighty hand, God blesses and exalts him, in His own way, at the latter end—that we may again learn God’s way, to make us “tender twigs” ere we become “goodly cedars.”

That Fox

The Herodians sought to entangle Jesus, leading Him to commit Himself to the power of the state, then in the hand of the Romans, whose creature Herod, the patron of their party, was. They did this stealthily. They affected to know Him as One that regarded not the person of man, and they put a question to Him about which conscience might be uneasy, the conscience of a Jew, as though they craved instruction and guidance. (See Matt. 22.) This was hypocrisy; and so the Lord calls it.
The question was such as might easily lead to a perplexity. “Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not?” There was great confusion in the land at that time; Caesar’s power was in the place and among the people that belonged to God. The question intimated that, and that was confusion. That was not as it ought to have been, or as it would have been, had God’s people been true to Him.
Jesus, however, did not reason upon this confusion, or contend with it; He taught, rather, that it was to be yielded to by the people; for Israel’s duty, taught them of old by His Spirit in their prophets, and now by His lips in the midst of them, in a day of bondage or captivity, is to accept the punishment of their sins; and if this present confusion in the land, Caesar’s power in God’s place, was, as it must have been, the fruit of their sin, they must now accept that state as their punishment, bow to it, and not resist it, or struggle with it. He only guards the application of this principle by a rehearsing of God’s claims also. “Render unto Caesar,” says the Lord, “the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things which are God’s.”
This reminds me of Numbers 14. If Israel have brought forty years’ pilgrimage upon themselves, it is not for them to seek to have it otherwise by a desperate effort on their own behalf, or a struggle to free themselves of the wages or penalty of their transgression. Let them rather bow their heads, and begin their pilgrimage humbled, and not go up the hill and seek to force the enemy.
Thus, on this occasion of the Herodians in Matthew 22, the Lord answers them, and the words of His lips now are in beautiful concord with the words of His Spirit in His prophets of old.
But here let me add, Jesus did not fear Herod. His enemies thought that He must either speak or act unworthy of Himself, by fearing Herod, or else commit Himself to Herod’s power by defying him. But He does neither the one nor the other. The snare is broken, as it had been in John 8. There, Jesus neither impugned the Law nor condemned the guilty. The snare was broken.
But Jesus, again I say, did not fear Herod. His words in Luke 13 let us know this, if we need a witness. Then He calls him “a fox,” a fitting title for him, as we read in Lamentations 5:18, “Because of the mountain of Zion which is desolate, the foxes walk upon it.” Herod was one who had taken advantage of Zion’s sorrow. Israel was dethroned. Her enemies had got the upper hand; and Herod, the creature of the enemy, the ally and flatterer of Caesar, had made his gains by her misery. He was walking upon the mountain, or in the high places, of Zion, because of her desolations. He had played the fox, instead of mourning over the wastes of Israel: he had made his own gain out of their poverty.
The Lord did not fear him. He exposes him in the due time and place. But all with Him was beautiful in its season. He will own ‘Caesar’s place in the land, and Herod’s as under Cesar, in the day of Matthew 22; but if threatened, as by Herod’s name or power in Luke 13, He can and will let it be known, that He did not fear him.
But further as to Herod. He was at that moment also playing the fox; for, according to this same scripture, Luke 13, Jesus as the Heir would have gathered Israel; and Herod, seeking the death of such an One, may surely and rightly be named a fox.
Jesus was the feeder of the flock of slaughter; Herod a possessor, a slayer, a salesmaster, a shepherd that did not pity—in the language of another prophet, who thus strikingly, under the Holy Spirit, anticipated these days of Jesus and of Herod. (See Zech. 11:4-5.)

The Redemption of the Purchased Possession

The earth is the subject of redemption as well as man. It is already purchased, and by and bye, in due season, it shall be rescued or delivered. That is, it is the subject of the two-fold redemption known in scripture, redemption by price, and redemption by power.
The blood of the cross has already reconciled or purchased it. As we read, “and having made peace by the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself, by Him, I say, whether they be things on earth or things in heaven” (Col. 1).
This gives the inheritance the title of “the purchased possession.”
But though purchased, it is not yet delivered. It is still under “the bondage of corruption” (Rom. 8). It is redeemed by purchase, but not as yet by power. We therefore wait for the “redemption” of that which is already a “purchased possession.”
This bright and happy truth, this mystery found among the mysteries of God, has had its pledges and foreshadowings, as well as others.
The ordinance of the Jubilee seems to set forth this two-fold redemption—by price and by power. (See Lev. 25.) For that chapter teaches us that at any time during forty-nine years, the alienated possession of an Israelite might have been purchased by the kinsman of the heir, and thus redeemed or brought back to the family to which, under God, it had belonged; but if that were not done, it would return to the heir in the fiftieth year, or the Jubilee, without purchase.
These two ordinances, again, I say, seem to set forth the mystery I am speaking of—redemption by money and redemption by power. The kinsman might redeem with money, the Jubilee would redeem without money, by virtue of its own title, by virtue of that force or authority imparted to it by Him who was the God of Israel and the Lord of the soil. We ourselves wait to be redeemed by power. Resurrection will do that.
Again, Jeremiah the prophet was commanded to purchase the field of Hanameel, his uncle’s son. He did so, in the spirit and obedience of faith, though at that moment the Chaldean army was in the land, and was under commission from the Lord to tread it down, and waste it, or possess themselves of it. But when Jeremiah made inquiry respecting this strange thing, that he should be asked to lay out his money upon a piece of land thus devoted to the sword of an invader, the Lord tells him that a day of power was to come, and that in that land there should be redemption, and that the Lord’s own people should possess it again, brought back out of the hand of every spoiler. This was the Lord’s answer to His servant. And thus Jeremiah had reason to know that the purchase now made by good money of the merchant, should be made good in a coming day of power. (See Jer. 32.)
And let me add one other notice of this distinguished case, the purchase of Hanameel’s field, for it has interested me. “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” is the Lord’s challenge of Jeremiah on this occasion, as it is of Sarah in Genesis 18. Sarah did not know how she, whose body was then dead, could have a child, for she knew not the resurrection-strength of God. Jeremiah did not know how he, who was laying out his money on a piece of ground which was then in the hand of the enemy, could get its value back again; fop, like Sarah, he knew not the resurrection-strength of God.
That strength makes all simple. The victory of Christ, the resurrection of Jesus, gives us to our inheritance sure rights under the seal of a title-deed easy to be read.

Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth

The Second Epistle to Timothy is not only specially important to us in this day of corrupted Christianity, but it has its own peculiar force and attraction in the general moral character of it. It shows the Apostle Paul to us in a very affecting light—holding on in service, though in the midst of hardships, desertion, and disappointment, under scorn and all contradiction from without, and amid the ruin, likewise, of the Church-condition.
At the opening of it, the apostle is very personal and affectionate—a style which was natural in one who found himself in the midst of sore disappointments; for if, at such a time, there was one, a single friend, who did not join in aggravating this disappointment, such an one would naturally, nay, necessarily, have a large measure of the remembrances of the poor tried and broken heart.
And such a one, I believe, Timothy was to Paul, at the time of this epistle.
But looking at this in another light, I might say, what a victory, in the heart of the apostle, all this expresses! “Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold”—a common, natural experience. The heart has been disappointed in the scene around it, and from which it had promised itself much, and in other days had gathered something, and its tendency would be to shut itself up. But so was it not with Paul. His heart was as large, and earnest, and loving as ever; and if it cannot go forth and spread itself over a wider surface, it will return and spend its fervors over a little that remains to it.
This is an affecting sight we get of the apostle. And if Paul, in spirit, had gained such a victory as this in his own heart, he would have Timothy, “his dearly beloved son,” gain another.
In days of corruption there is a temptation to throw up all as lost, to look on all as hopeless. It was thus in Jeremiah’s day: and the day contemplated in 2 Timothy is like Jeremiah’s, a day of moral relaxation and general corruption, in the very place where truth and righteousness should have flourished. But Paul cannot let Timothy yield to this temptation. He calls on him to stir up the gift of God that was in him. However hopeless the scene of labor might be, still there was a gift of God in Timothy, and that gift was to be used.
Jeremiah had to struggle in the strength and title of such a gift, in the midst of such another scene of corruption and disappointment. And he did struggle—it may be with some infirmity, but still honestly and successfully to the end. And Paul would have his Timothy do likewise.
He arms him, however, for this struggle. He exhorts him to be “strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus.” And he reads out to him his title to be thus strong. He tells him that he had not received from God a spirit of fear, but of love, and of power; that God had already saved him; that by the appearing of Jesus death had been abolished, and life and immortality brought to light; and that the One whom he believed was able to keep all that was committed to Him, so that nothing should be lost, but all should be found in the forthcoming day of His power and glory (2 Tim. 1).
Here was title, indeed, to be “strong in the grace” of God. Timothy, like David (though in a day like the day of the capture of Ziklag), might well “encourage himself in God” (See 1 Sam. 30.)
But with this exhortation to be strong in grace, the apostle further exhorts him “to endure hardness,” and he intimates that this exhortation was the more needful, because some were teaching that “the resurrection was past already” (2 Tim. 2).
Such a doctrine overthrows faith, as the apostle here says. It is destructive of the Church’s place and calling; for she is not as yet the witness of a risen but of a rejected Christ, as far as her connection with the earth or the world goes; Christ, who is her head, being still a rejected Christ here. She knows Him in His poverty and humiliation. And this calls on His witnesses to endure hardness, to fight as those who entangle not themselves with the affairs of this life, to labor as those who are not to reap till they have labored; to remember “the seed of David” who died ere He rose, all which things the apostle here speaks of to Timothy. The word of Hymenaeus and Philetus was destructive, morally destructive of all this. They taught that “the resurrection was past already.” They encouraged the thought that the fellowship of the Church is now no longer to be with a rejected Head; and this thought has so worked (finding natural alliance with the heart of man), that the “great house,” as Paul here speaks, has been generated. Christendom (the mustard seed become a great tree) has sprung from this root, in this soil. The corrupted church has assumed the world, as though the kingdom had come.
According to all this, Timothy is here told of a house that he has to leave, and not (as the first epistle had told him) of a house in the midst of which he was to “behave” himself. That is, this epistle contemplates a time of victorious corruption, such as Christendom now is. We are, therefore, to purge ourselves from it and not strive to purge it. It is too late to attempt it. We cannot purge out leaven in a day of victorious corruption. It waits the judgment of God.
Now, it is in the midst of all this that the apostle thus addresses Timothy, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” A most necessary word, for Hymenaeus and Philetus were at that very time doing the very contrary. They, as the apostle says of them, “concerning the truth had erred.” They said, in a general way, “the resurrection is past already.” As a universal proposition, a doctrine to be taken in all its applicability, it is false, in special application most true. But these men who were overthrowing the faith of some, did not heed this right division of the truth. But truth itself depended on this right division of it. We are, in the perfect grace of God, to know the resurrection as past, when we think of sin and judgment. We are to know it in our conscience. We are to be free there, to have “the answer of a good conscience towards God,” because of “the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” We are to know Him as delivered for our sins, and raised again for our justification.
So, as to our affections, as well as to our conscience, we are to be risen or heavenly, because Christ is seated at the right hand of God. We are surely to have our objects and our hopes with Him that is risen.
As, however, to our circumstances, or in our relation to the world, we are to be the witnesses of a rejected, and not of a risen, glorified Christ.
In the world Jesus has, as yet, no place. It has cast Him out, and He has disowned it.
But this division of the word of truth Hymenaeus and Philetus would not know. They taught, as a truth of universal present application, that the resurrection was already past. And what a canker has their word proved to be. It has generated “the great house,” Christendom, where a worldly and not a rejected Christ is seen, derives itself out of this error. It makes the little seed (the smallest of all herbs) a great tree, like the king of Babylon of old, where the fowls of the air lodge. It has given us Babylon instead of Jerusalem. It has given us Babylon, where we should have had Jerusalem. It has built Babylon in the land of Israel.

Brief Remarks on the Preceding Paper

Allow me to make a remark on ‘Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth,’ the first article in your number for May. In the general principles and spirit of the article I cordially agree, and judge it to be most timely. But the path of wisdom is a narrow one—one which the vulture’s eye has not seen. And there is a point in the paper in which the word does not seem to me to be rightly divided, or rather, that is attributed to the passage (2 Tim. 2:15) which is not in it.
It involves, I am satisfied, very important consequences in spiritual judgment, or I should not perhaps have noticed it. I am not aware that I differ from the writer in general practical result. It is a point which has been a good while on my mind; and while hesitating whether it was God’s will that I should formally notice it, the article of which I speak gives, by its statement, direct occasion to do so. The point I refer to is in the following passage:—“According to all this Timothy is here told of a house that he has to leave, and not (as the first epistle had told him) of a house in the midst of which he was to ‘behave’ himself.” I find no direction whatever in the passage to leave the house—no trace of such a thought, but other directions given which exclude the thought. And this is evident in the change of language which the article introduces into the scriptural phrase. We are, therefore, to purge ourselves from it, and not strive to purge it. ‘Now the passage does not tell us either to purge it or to purge ourselves from it. I admit that the thought of purging it is wholly foreign to the passage. No such thought is presented to the believer to guide his conduct. But he is not told to purge himself from it, but to purge himself from the vessels to dishonor.’ If a man shall purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel made to honor, fit for the master’s use.’ A vessel where? The master of what? The foundation of God standeth sure. The Lord knoweth them that are his.’ No matter what the confusion and evil, there is divine security; and let every one that names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.’ There is the unchangeable character of human responsibility, whatever state the nominal or real church may be in. But there is no direction to depart from the house. It is not said that we are to purge ourselves from it, but from the vessels to dishonor, which are not it. If Christ be the master of the house—whatever vessels are in it—how can we? Whatever consequences may be drawn, the first and essential point is to hold fast the word itself. I am satisfied the point is not an unimportant one, and that the truth gives more true separation and departure from iniquity than any misapprehension of the word of God can, however upright in purpose it may be.
Faithfully yours,

Isaiah 66

In the last days, when the things of Israel become the subject of divine notice again, we know that two objects will present themselves—the nation in a state of apostacy, and the remnant in the midst of them. It will be like the two at one mill, or in one bed, between whom the day of the Lord is to make solemn discernment. But as this will be so in the time of the Jewish nation by and bye, so is this the style very commonly in the Jewish prophets now, anticipating that time and action. The Spirit in them passes from the one of those objects to the other, in rapid and broken style, and this, also, often in the very same strain or discourse. And this we shall find in the closing chapter of the prophet Isaiah.
Isaiah 66:1-2. In these verses the Lord, by the prophet, looks at the true Israel, the faithful remnant. He sees them, however, only in one character, but that of the deepest and most affectionate interest to Himself, as a humble and broken-hearted people. It is not what they have heard from Him, done to Him, or suffered for Him, that the Lord here notices, but simply the fragments of their broken, and therefore affectionate, hearts. This is the ornament which with Him is of great price. He knows how to value it. It is that which draws His eye beyond all the bright and wondrous works of His hands, though they be, as we know, His delight and glory. But that which sympathizes with our mind ‘ or taste is really nearer to us than that which serves our interests. We know this among ourselves. The one who abroad in the affairs of life will promote our good in the world, is of course valued by us; but the one who can sit with us, and enter into the senses and enjoyments of the heart and mind, is still nearer, and more prized: and so with our God. That which serves His glory is not so near as the poor broken-hearted sinner, or the meek or quiet spirit, for there the deepest sympathies of the divine mind meet their object; and in a character like this the remnant are here under the eye of the Lord.
Isaiah 66:3-4. The other thing is then looked at in these next verses—the nation in their abominations, and in their own ways, and in their apostate work, and reprobate mind, bring a visitation from the Lord, and a day of judgment from their God.
Isaiah 66:5. The Spirit returns to the true Israel with a word of comfort, and they are invited to listen to a promise that the Lord would appear, to their joy and to the confusion of all that hate them.
Isaiah 66:6. Here this matured confusion is executed and brought on the wicked, all of a sudden. It is, as the Lord Himself says, like the lightning which cometh out of the east, and shineth unto the west; so rapid, so much as in the twinkling of an eye, is this judgment from the Lord, rendering recompense to His enemies.
Isaiah 66:7-14. Such was the doom of the wicked under the glance of the Lord. But these verses tell us that there is another scene of rapid action. For if the judgment, as of lightning, have removed the wicked, the presence of the Lord has adopted and filled Jerusalem, and seated her in her millennial place, as the mother of children on the right hand and on the left. For “the Lord is there.” The new covenant is the mystic free-woman or Sarah, the mother of the children, and it will have its blood and its priest in these days of the kingdom at Jerusalem, when the wicked have been removed. Jesus, now hid in the heavens, in the Jerusalem above, is there ministering this new covenant (Gal. 4), but then He will have come to Zion as the Deliverer, to turn away ungodliness from Jacob; and Zion will then be the mother, the Zion of the land of Israel, as the “Jerusalem above” is now the mother; and the ancient pain art penalty will be taken off. It will not be said to her, “in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children,” but “as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.” Because the Lord is there, in His own proper energy. “Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth, saith the Lord?” “I will come, and Sarah shall have a son.” This explains to us this birth without the ancient penalty. And when she has thus brought forth her children, this mother will nurture and cherish them; she will satisfy them from her breasts, and nurse them on her knees; the children of the kingdom shall feed’ on the choice provisions of Zion, and then keep their holidays to the Lord, delighting themselves with the abundance of her glory. All the people shall have the thoughts of children towards Zion. Zion shall be their center, and their source; and from the east and the west, the north and the south, their streams and their flocks shall ebb and flow there. And their “bones shall flourish like an herb”—they shall be, as it were, young again. For as sorrow makes the bones old (Psa. 32), joy, as it were, makes them young. The lame shall dance, and the dumb shall sing, and the eye shall see out of obscurity. Their flesh shall come to them as the flesh of a little child after the leprosy, and the vigor of the preserved Israel shall be like the greenness or springtime of the herb: it will be a season of resurrection to them.
Isaiah 66:15-18. Again the prophet returns to the scene of judgment, in which he here lets us know that the Gentile nations will be involved together with the apostate Israel. All shall be gathered then as to “the valley of decision,” where the Lord will display Himself in the glory of righteous, omnipotent, irresistible judgment. (See Joel 3.)
Isaiah 66:19-20. But in the midst of this tremendous day of His anger on the nations, the prophet here intimates that the Lord will give some sign, at which, it may be, there will be repentance and return of heart, and then an escape out of this day of wrath. This is striking. This is a remnant from the nations brought to the Lord, as at the eleventh hour. Zechariah intimates the same thing (Zech. 14:14). Only Isaiah teaches the additional fact that this repentance has arisen from taking heed to some sign given by the Lord in the midst of that terrible day. And Zechariah tells us that this preserved Gentile people shall wait on the Lord’s feast year by year and Isaiah here tells us that they shall be engaged both in publishing the glory to their distant fellow Gentiles, and aid in gathering home the still dispersed ones of Israel to Judah, then to be taken as ministers of the Lord’s sanctuary in the holy mountain Jerusalem.
Isaiah 66:22-24. In these closing verses the kingdom, to which all the previous action was preparatory, is understood to have come, and the Lord looks at Israel, the nations, and the scene of the recent judgment. Israel He promises shall remain before Him as sure as the new heavens and the new earth, of which we know it will not be said, as of the present heavens and earth, that they shall pass away; all flesh around His Israel, He then graciously declares, shall hold their new moons and sabbaths to the Lord in Zion, and as they do so, they shall witness the end of transgressions in the undying worm and unquenchable fire of the Lord’s righteous anger; as Sodom is set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. And of all this Zechariah is again another witness, for he in like manner talks of the horrible spectacle which judgment will in that day make of the invaders of Jerusalem, and he also speaks of the nations from year to year holding their feast of tabernacles in Zion to the Lord (Zech. 14:12-16).

Christ Our Prophet

In John 3 the Lord speaks of earthly and heavenly things (John 3:12). He puts the doctrine of the new birth among the earthly things, but quite owns that without it there is no entrance for any soul into God’s kingdom at all, whether in its earthly or heavenly places. But still that doctrine was earthly, inasmuch as it was common, in this way, to all, and not needed only for the heavenly people.
There are, however, heavenly things in distinction from earthly, and He speaks of Himself as the prophet or revealer of such (John 3:13), in which character John also speaks of Him, contrasting Him with the former prophets of Israel. “He that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth; He that cometh from heaven is above all, and what He hath seen and heard that He testifieth” (John 3:31-32).
In this way, both the Lord and the Baptist, in this chapter, distinguish between things earthly and heavenly, and speak of Jesus as the great distinct prophet of the things heavenly. So that we are by this prepared for two conclusions, that in the old prophets we must expect to find earthly things, and in the teaching of Jesus to His apostles, heavenly things. There may be notices of the heavenly things scattered, or shining, through the prophets—there may be also, notices of earthly or Jewish hopes and calling in the apostles—but the main purpose of the Spirit by the prophets is to tell of the earth’s interests, and the main purpose of the same Spirit by the apostles is to tell of the Church’s heavenly interests.
Moses was the type of our Lord as our prophet, or the prophet of heavenly things. (See Deut. 18:15; 34:10). He was distinguished from the ordinary prophets. For God speaks to them by visions and dreams, but to Moses “face to face,” or apparently Moses had access to all God’s house. His place was in the holiest, as well as in the courts of the tabernacle (Num. 12).
So the Son. He has access to all that is of God, according to Moses who was His type. He has fellowship with God Himself, being the brightness of His glory, the express image of His person.
And He has fellowship with Him in all His works and counsels, His ways which were before the world and His ways which will be after the world, His ways in all ages or dispensations or worlds, His ways in providence or in upholding of all things, and His thoughts and counsels at the two extreme points, the cross of Calvary, when He purged our sins, and the right hand of highest majesty, where He is now sitting down (Heb. 1:1-3).
Thus as Moses had access to all God’s house and was spoken to “face to face,” so the Son is in the fullest and deepest intimacies with all of God, His glory, His person, His counsels, and ways, and works at all times and in all places.
And our interests flow from this, in contrast with the interests of the fathers. For the fathers were spoken to by the prophets, by those who had but visions and dreams. We are now spoken to by the Son, by Him who sees face to face, who has access to all that is of God. And this lets us into heavenly things as well as earthly. This discloses the holiest to our view as well as the courts, because our prophet is there, while the prophets of the fathers were more in the distance, in the place of visions and dreams.


The incorrigibleness of man under all persuasions becomes the ground of the necessity, and the vindication of the righteousness, of God’s judgment.
Isaiah says, “Why should ye be stricken any more? Ye will revolt more and more.” And Jeremiah had to say of the generation in his day, “Thou has stricken them, but they have not grieved”; and again, “I hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright: no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done?” Are we then to wonder that the sword of the Chaldean entered the land?
The generation in the day of Christ was tested in every way. John mourned, the Son of man piped; but there was neither lamentation nor dancing. In His own person, the Lord assayed Israel in every way, according to their own prophets. He came as the Bethlehemite, according to Micah, but they sought His life (Matt. 2).
He came as the light from the land of Zebulon and Naphtali, according to Isaiah; but He was challenged instead of followed (Matt. 4). He came as the King, meek and lowly, according to Zechariah, but they received Him not (Matt. 21).
Then in the three parables, which the Lord delivers at the close of these testings of Israel (see Matt. 21-22), I mean those of the two sons, the husbandman of the vineyard, and the marriage of the king’s son, He convicts His people under the law, under the ministry of John Baptist, and under grace.
Are we not, therefore, prepared to see the Master rise up to shut to the door? The need of sovereign grace, as well as the vindication of judgment, is made to appear. “Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma.” Man is past moral correction. He is incorrigible and incurable.
It has been said of him, “Man is prone to evil, and this arises from the impotency of the will, which, when it turns to evil, is rather passive than active. Through the grace of Christ alone is it free.” Very just. Not only has man fallen from God, and become a sinner, but he is the bondman of sin. Having been overcome of Satan, he has been brought into bondage to him (2 Peter 2). He is “sold under sin” (Rom. 7).
And this state of incurableness and incorrigibleness has had a constant illustration in the Book of God, from the beginning to the end. Man has shown himself to be in full bondage to sin, so that he will go in the way of it, in defiance of every argument and every influence which may be used with him.
It is solemn to look at this; but it has its profit for us to do so. We can be at no difficulty to trace a line of these illustrations all through Scripture.
Cain went on with the desperate purpose of his heart, though the Lord came and personally pleaded with him, to turn him from his purpose (Gen. 4).
Nimrod made Babel the center of his empire, though God’s judgment had just before so awfully signalized that place (Gen. 10).
Pharaoh repented not to yield himself under God’s hand, though that hand had given witness after witness of its supremacy, and that it was vain to kick against the pricks (Ex. 1-14).
Amalek fought with Israel, though the glory in the pillar and the water from the rock werebefore him, the witnesses of God’s wondrous majesty and power (Ex. 17).
Israel murmured and rebelled again and again, in the midst of divine marvels and mercies, which spoke to them of love and almightiness (Numbers).
Nebuchadnezzar, exalted himself after so many witnesses of God’s power and so many gracious, softened movements of his own heart (Dan. 4:30).
Judas betrayed the Lord after years of converse with him (Matt. 26).
The High Priest invented a lie, in the face of a rent vail; the Roman soldiers consented to that lie, in the face of a rent tomb (Matt. 28).
The Jews stoned Stephen, though his face was shining, under their eye, like the face of an angel (Acts 7).
These are among the samples or instances of the fact that man, by nature, is under bondage to sin, and that no moral influence is powerful enough to work his deliverance. The creature that has proved itself able to withstand such arguments and persuasives as these cases exhibit, has proved itself to be beyond the reach of all moral influence. Hell itself would not cure him or deter, him Man is incorrigible and incurable. Again, we may say with Isaiah, “Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more.” Sovereign grace and power must come in. If God have not a seed it will all be Sodom.
The Apocalypse, closing the Book of God, closes also this testimony against man. There, in the face of the most awful judgments, executed again and again, man refuses to repent, going on the rather to ripen his iniquity, like Pharaoh of old, upon whom plague after plague spent themselves all in vain. And thus, we may my, this book of the Apocalypse (which is eminently a book of divine judgments, judgments not on Israel only, but on the whole world) is the vindication or justification, as well as the history, of judgment. We read there of judgments; but we learn, at the same time, the necessity and demand for judgment. For the incorrigibleness of man, the desperate hardness of the heart, is fully exposed again. It is Pharaoh refusing to repent, Amalek defying and insulting the glory, or man as well as Israel saying, “Where is the God of judgment?” Man is found to be the same from first to last. The Ethiopian has not changed his skin nor the leopard his spots.
Are we then, I still ask, to wonder that the Lord’s hand is still stretched out? That vials, trumpets, and seals have still to usher forth the judgments of God, and that the sword of Him who sits upon the white horse has still to do its work of death?
Judgment is God’s strange work, but it is His needed work likewise. “Is there not a cause?” we may surely say, when we have looked at these cases and read the history of the trial of man’s heart from the beginning to the end of it. And I am sure it is well for the soul to hold this fact, this truth about man and his incorrigibleness, in remembrance; for, as I have been observing, it so justifies the thought of divine judgment, and so tells us of the necessity of sovereign grace and the interference of divine power.
Judgments are to introduce the kingdom. The earth is to be conducted into a scene of glory by the taking out of it all that offends and does iniquity. For as grace has been despised, and the Lord who made the world has been disowned and cast out of the world, judgment must clear it ere it can be the scene of His glory and joy. But “the Lord is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

Confusion and Order

The Lord found a state of sad and humbling and various confusion in the land that He walked through day by day. But it only gave occasion to His path to shine the brighter—for it was light and only light undimmed by the darkness, and unbroken by the confusion, that was all around.
The state of politics and of religion in that day exhibited this confusion. The authority of the Roman was there where Jehovah should have been supreme; Canal’s image was circulating in Immanuel’s land. And He had to do with Herodians, Sadducees, and Pharisees, with His own kinsfolk according to the flesh in their ignorance, with doctors and scribes in their pride and pretensions, with the multitudes in their self-seeking and fickleness, and with the low condition of His own disciples.
He had to walk through such regions as Galilee, Judea, and Samaria—diverse, I mean, not in place or situation, but in character. For Samaria was the defiled, Galilee the rational, Judea the religious. This we see in. John 4-5.
Galilee would receive Him, because they had seen the miracles which He had wrought; but without signs and wonders they would not believe. Like Christendom, and her walk every day, Galilee gave Him historical faith and acceptance. They believed on competent testimony; but there was no exercise of soul, nor awakening of conscience.
Judea or Jerusalem was occupied with its temple and its sabbath. Religion, or the observance of ordinances, the maintenance of what honored themselves in their own place as the house or center of the nation’s worship, was chief with them, and prevailed to blind them to the doings of the Son of God.
(A great multitude of impotent folk were lingering over Bethesda, though the Son of God was going about healing all manner of diseases, doing the work of Bethesda in a far better way than Bethesda.)
Samaria was unclean. It had no character to maintain, no religious honor to vindicate and uphold. But there, the conscience was stirred. No miracle had been witnessed there, but no miracle was sought for. Jesus was received there, because his words had reached their souls.
This was Galilee, and this was Judea, and this Samaria; Galilee the rational, Judea the religious, and Samaria the defiled. But all such various confusion only glorified the path of Him who knew how to answer every man. Herodians and Sadducees and Pharisees, His kinsfolk and His disciples, the doctors, the scribes, and the multitudes, Galilee, Judea, and Samaria, all in their way and season got their answer from Him. He would not resist, but yet He would escape the snare. His voice should not be heard in the streets, and yet He would leave them unable to answer Him a word. He did not cure the confusion, but He passed through it, only glorifying God the more by reason of it.
And it is our comfort to see this. It tells us that the scenes in which we find ourselves involved day by day are nothing new, and need not be a surprise to us. They may exercise us, and we may fail under them, and to our humbling, but they need neither amaze nor dishearten us. We need not hope to cure it; but, like the Master, we have to pass through it. Judgment will do its work in its season, and confusion shall cease. But the time of judgment is not yet fully come. Jesus was ever judging the sinner’s enemy, but never His own. He contended for us against Satan, but never for His own rights against either the Roman or the Jew. Such was the combination of weakness and strength in Him; ever passing by His own wrongs, but judging all the power of the sinner’s enemy, destroying the works of the devil.
And order shall succeed judgment, as judgment succeeds long-suffering. In its time, this shall surely be, as now confusion surely is. His hand will form and mold a scene of order in the days of the coming kingdom. And of this order He has already, by His Spirit, again and again, in the progress of His grace and wisdom, given pledges and samples. And as we look at this for a little, we shall have to say, How beautifully things take their proper place, when the Spirit of God comes to regulate them! And this is done, as I may say, noiselessly—as creation of old assumed all its order under the same Spirit.
We see a sample of this in Genesis 18. The, Lord had taken counsel with Himself, that He would reveal a matter to Abraham. Upon that, the two angels who had attended Him to Mamre, pass on, while Abraham, on the other hand, draws near. How simple, and yet how beautiful that was! The scene, as without noise or effort, takes its due form. The objects which fill it fall into their right places—the angels leaving the place in the possession of those who had a secret between them, while they themselves, left alone, draw nearer to each other.
So Abraham again in Genesis 21. He had just been distinguished by divine favor. He had got Isaac, and his house was established by the Lord. The Gentile comes to seek his friendship. Abraham accords it to him heartily—but on the occasion he assumes the place of the better, while Abimelech, though a king, and Phichol his chief captain, who accompanied his master, without grudging, took the place of the less.
This was another witness of souls finding their right relationship to each other under the hand or Spirit of God, all between them being in the order and harmony of “a noiseless sphere.”
The same is seen, and that, too, in a larger field of vision, in Exodus 18. The ransomed tribes of Israel meet Jethro at the mount of God. Aaron is there, and Moses is there, heads of Israel, priestly and royal heads. But Jethro, nevertheless, takes the place of the better. He was but a stranger, visiting, in company with Moses’ Gentile bride, the Israel of God. But he was heavenly—his person and his place tell us that—and he assumes at once, without asking leave and yet without wrong, the rights of the heavenly; and Moses and Aaron as instinctively and at once yield the place of the better to him, both in the sanctuary and on the throne.
O, when the Spirit works, what an end of strife, and emulation, and self-seeking there is! And what relief to the heart such an anticipation brings with it!
The interview of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba shows the same. John and Peter, in the presence of the Lord, take their relations to each other in the same spirit in John 13.
Peter in the distance beckons to John, and John at that beckoning, being near, presses the bosom of his Lord afresh; and thus together they get out the secret of that bosom. There is no jealousy, no provoking here. One scarcely knows in which to delight the more, the beckoning of Peter to John, or the pressure of John upon the bosom of Jesus, Peter using his brother, or John using his Lord. It is an exquisite sight—lovely to behold, happy to anticipate—to think of communion after such a pattern, when no envyings or provokings will soil the interchanges of heart with heart when “which of them shall be the greatest” will be heard no more, the confusion which passions and tempers bring forth gone forever.
And to these few instances of the beautiful, regulating power of the Spirit I must add that of our Lord and the two disciples going to Emmaus, in Luke 24.
Jesus, a stranger, had joined Himself to them on the road, and helped their thoughts, and in that way relieved their hearts. The road was common property. But when they reach their home, the stranger will not intrude. He may join them on the King’s highway, but their house is their castle. They, however, cannot allow this. They are too much His debtors to let Him pass on so soon, and they constrain Him to enter. But upon this, when faith has its desires towards Him, if not as yet its knowledge of Him, He at once takes His proper place. He becomes the host rather than the guest, the Lord of the feast dispensing its best provisions, while they, in the fullness of their hearts, awakened to know Him, thankful and happy, own His title.
All is in its due order. From the beginning to the end this was so. The scene on the common highway, the scene at the gate of the dwelling, and then the scene inside the house—all is order.
And surely I may say all these are passing shadows, whether in patriarchal or evangelical days, of happy days to come, when, again, in “a noiseless sphere,” harmonies, not unisons, shall strike and move the joys of thousands of hearts together. For at the end, as at the beginning, in the scene of redemption at last, as in that of creation at first, all shall be in order both in heaven and on earth, under the power of the Word and Spirit of God. On earth Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the ass and the ox shall plow together. The nations shall delight to own the glories of Zion and minister to her, as best they may, Geba and Sheba, Nebaioth and Kedar. And in the heavens all shall be compacted and joined together, as in the mystery of one body; principalities and powers, and dominions and thrones may be diverse, but still consistent and harmonious, dignities.
Thus, in the places of the coming kingdom, whether earthly or heavenly, things will be in beauty and order—moral as well as natural order. The two sticks shall be one. Judah and Israel shall dwell together under the same vine and the same fig-tree, and the nations will take the second place, the place of “the less,” and take it joyfully.
“There all the millions of His saints
Shall in one song unite,
And each the bliss of all shall view
With infinite delight.”
The Queen of Sheba was too happy at the sight of Solomon’s glory to envy him the possession of it. And Peter, on the holy mount, was so satisfied in the power of that place, that he would count it his happy business to serve those who were above him.
What a relief such a prospect gives! It is high time to be wearied and ashamed of all the vanity, the envying, and the strife, which we are sensible of within and around. The Syrophenician breathed the happier spirit of the coming kingdom, when she was so heartily willing to be second to Israel, thankful to receive the portion of dogs under the table where the children were feasted.
“Blessed are the people that are in such a case!” Blessed to anticipate a state of order, moral, holy, gracious order, kept in the power of the presence of God, such order as these scriptures both pledge and foreshadow. And well it is for us, beloved, if we can, until this age of order come, pass on through the confusion, which is now around us, in something of the light and purity of the mind of Christ.

Strangership and Citizenship

Strangership and citizenship, as I may express it, have been, each of them, again and again, the character of the standing of the people of God in this world. But each of them, in its season, was to be; simply because of God’s own relationship to the world at the time. For it is not law or commandment only which makes a thing right or wrong: consistency with God is the highest rule of righteousness and holiness. The call of God is not only from Him, but to Him. He calls, not simply as One that has authority and looks for obedience, but as One that seeks for fellowship and consistency with Himself, in the place where He is, when He calls.
Adam, at his creation, was a citizen in the earth, because God had a place in the earth. The works of His hands had been His delight and His glory. He found a place of rest in the Garden of Eden. (See Note on p. 128.)
He could walk there; and, on account of all this, Adam’s citizenship in the earth, and enjoyment of Eden as his home, was holy; it put Adam where God already was, and that is the holiness of every position.
Sin, however, quickly defiled the earth, and God was thereby estranged from it. If Adam preserve his holiness, he must become a stranger with God in the world; and so he does. By listening to the story of the bruised and bruising seed of the woman (that is, the gospel of a crucified and risen victorious Christ), Adam is redeemed; and, as a sinner saved, he returns to God from the covert and distance where guilt had put him; but after that he is never seen as seeking citizenship in the earth outside the Garden of Eden. We do not find him with Cain and his family, and his worldly progeny, in the city Enoch, in the midst of its traffic and pleasures, but with Seth and that household who call upon the name of the Lord, and have no memorial in the earth but their sepulcher. For the Lord God had now no works of His hands to be His delight and glory, as once He had.
He had soon to repent that He had made man on the earth; and being a stranger in the world
His hands had made, Adam is a stranger with Him; and this was again his holiness.
In the progress of the divine ways, however, judgment enters. The earth continues in its corruption for an age, and violence fills it, till God removes it by the waters of the flood, and through that judgment renews it. He then takes a place and a kingdom in it again. His fresh and pure handiwork had given Him a place in the earth at the beginning; and now, in the day of Noah, His cleansing judgments give Him a place in it a second time; and then man, elect man, at once becomes a citizen here again: Noah is made such. He is called of God to be such. He is commanded to replenish the earth (as Adam, at the beginning, had been); to order and govern it; to exercise his religious services and maintain his testimony to God in it. Government is his, and that too in company with priesthood. And this was holiness in Noah. God owned the earth as the scene of His presence again, and Noah had to use it, to order it, and to enjoy it, not only under Him, but with Him Citizenship in it was consistency with God, and thus it was Noah’s holinesss.
But the apostacy after the flood—the apostacy of Genesis 11—estranges the Lord from the earth again. It must be so, except He judge it, and purge it by judgment: for God cannot own a defiled thing left in its defilement. He can make a defiled thing His, by purifying; but if He leave it in its pollution, He must leave it Himself.
The Lord does not judge this post-diluvian apostacy as He had the former. He scatters the people, and confounds their language. But He does not clear the earth of them. He rather spreads them all abroad, so as not to leave one single clean, undefiled, separated place for Himself in it. He cannot but be a stranger in such a condition of things. And He is a stranger; and as a stranger in the earth, He calls to Abraham from heaven. It was the voice of “the God of glory” that addressed itself to Abraham. The call was from heaven and to heaven; and it made Abraham a stranger with God in this world; and it bespeaks its heavenly character very earnestly, for Abraham, in obedience to it, has to come away from country, kindred, and father’s house; and that, too, to a land that was only to be shown to him, but not given. He was to be a stranger in the place he was to reach, as well as to the place he left and lost. All this strongly marks the heavenliness of this call of the God of glory, and the strangership of the elect ones in the earth. It separated Abraham from what flesh and earth had for him—from what was humanly right, but what at present could not mark Divine holiness; for God had been estranged from the earth.
And thus it continues with Isaac and Jacob. Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob alike dwell in tents. This is their memorial, and this is the symbol of strangership in the earth. Isaac and Jacob, in their generations, continue to be strangers, as Abraham had been called to be one, because a state of unjudged corruption continues: and such a state, as we have said, makes the blessed God Himself a stranger. The earth must be clean, either in its original order and state as the Garden of Eden was, or it must be made clean by judgment, as in the time of Noah, or God cannot find a dwelling in it. He may visit it with blessing for His elect; but He cannot take up with it as His dwelling-place.
The earth, however, in due time, is again to tell of God, and His presence here. The children of Abraham, no longer a family merely, as in the generations of Isaac and Jacob, but grown into a nation, numerous as the stars of heaven and many as the sands upon the sea-shore, shall have a land prepared for them, a clean land, where God Himself will dwell again. Accordingly, Canaan is got ready for Jehovah, the Lord, and Israel, His people. The sword of Joshua clears it, and ordinances of holiness sanctify all that is in it. It is but a narrow place, a spot like the Garden of Eden, in the midst of a surrounding creation. But it is chosen, and the Lord God can dwell there. The God of glory is not again calling from heaven as in the day of Abraham, but seats Himself in His sanctuary, in the land of Israel. And there He sets His people in the midst of all that, out of which He had called Abraham. Family, national, human, earthly associations are all to be there, and enjoyed there; home, country, kindred, and father’s house —the very scenes and relationships from which their fathers had been separated. The cloudy pillar, as I may say, where the glory dwelt, took them right back to all the old things from which the same glory had, of old, withdrawn the patriarchs; so strongly are the divers mysteries of strangership and citizenship, in their several seasons, marked under the pleasure and under the sealing of the will of God. But we have to go beyond this.
The nation of Israel was no more true to Canaan than Adam had been true to the Garden, or Noah (and those who came after him) to the new world —the world after the flood. The earth was again corrupted under the inhabitants thereof.
The story of the Lord’s long-suffering with Israel during their years of decline and backsliding, and of the many ways which His hand and His Spirit took with them, is spread before us in a great part of the Old Scriptures; and a fruitful page it is, reading out lessons of God and lessons of man, for our learning. But we are not to trace it here. But on reaching the end of it we see the nation—that is Israel, the children of Abraham—filling up their full measure, and casting out the Heir of the Vineyard from His own inheritance.
The Gentiles took their part in this: the Gentiles, with Pilate, the Jews, with Herod, were alike in this deed. (See Acts 4:27.) Nay, the world was the guilty one. The world, that was made by Him, knew Him not. It saw and hated both Christ and His Father. If He had not done the work He did, and spoken the words He did, they had not had sin; but now their sin was full. And forth from this state—this condition of perfected and universal apostacy, the God of glory has now again called from heaven and to heaven; and the Church is that elect one who, like Abraham of old, has heard the call and come out from the world—from the Gentiles and the Jews.
This gives the Church strangership in the world, all through this age; and that too on the highest of all reasons and sanctions. For now it is not merely that the earth has been soiled, and thus made unfit for the sole of the foot of the God of glory, but, in rebellion, Israel has refused her Lord; and in infidel, atheistic blindness of heart the world has disowned its Maker. God has been personally here, in the Son of Man, and personally He has been disowned and rejected.
This exceedeth; but nothing can this exceed. Jesus is with the Father, and the Church is the honored witness and companion of His poverty and humiliation in the world, during this age of His rejection and absence.
But, being separated from the world, the saints are surely separated from its judgments; and being separated to Christ, they are separated to His glories; they will, therefore, appear with Him in the day of His glories. He is to break the enemy like a potter’s vessel; the saints are to do the same (Psa. 2:9; Rev. 2:27). He is there to take His throne of peaceful glory, and of universal dominion; and they are then to sit on their thrones, in the same times of “the regeneration,” and have their several authorities over the cities of the kingdom (Matt. 20:28).
And for these ends they will have risen and met Him. For as they are to come back with Him to the earth, in the day of His power, in judgment, so must they have gone before, to be with Him in the heavens. Is it too much to say this? We meet Him as He comes from heaven to the air; we are with Him when He returns to the earth (1 Thess. 4).
Our attitude is, therefore, defined for us, and very simple it is. We are the present companions of a rejected, absent, unworldly Christ. We recognize the world around us (which has seen and hated both Him and His Father, as the Lord Himself says) as morally incurable, awaiting the judgment of His coming day. We look to meet Him in the air, when the hour of His good pleasure to that end shall come; and when that is to be we know not. And we reckon upon returning with Him, first to the execution of judgment; and then to the sharing with Him, in manifestation, the glory of His dominion in the world to come, or the millennial age.
These things form “and define the proper attitude of the saints of this dispensation. It is easy to apprehend this; but to realize it we need simple, energetic faith in the power of the Holy Spirit—the faith that cherishes single-heartedness to Christ, and the love for Himself which ever keeps a welcome for Him in the heart.
[Note. The Editor thinks it due to truth here to explain that Scripture intimates no dwelling or resting of God on earth till after redemption, whether in type or in reality. Hence Exodus, not Genesis, first speaks of a dwelling of God with man.]

The Heir of All Things

There is a great secret in Hebrews 1-2. “The Son” being appointed “Heir of all things,” takes His appointed inheritance as a Redeemer.
The inheritance had become lost to man by sin. Adam forfeited it; and it was itself corrupted, and under the burthen of sin. If it be again inherited, it must be taken with this burthen upon it, as others have long since expressed it. The Son, appointed Heir, is therefore to take ‘it as a Redeemer, or as One that relieves it of its burthen.
This secret or mystery is suggested in Psalm 8, cited in Hebrews 2. There, the Lord Jesus, the Son of Man (who is “the Son,” the “appointed Heir,” of Hebrews 1), is seen with all things put in subjection under Him; but He is seen also to have reached such lordship as One, who, by the grace of God, had tasted death for the inheritance. He is therefore a Redeemer-Inheritor, and not a simple Inheritor.
Therefore, we may say to His praise, He will enter the kingdom as a Redeemer-Inheritor, while the inheritance itself will appear there as a redeemed thing. And in this manner, He alone will be glorified there, while all around Him or under Him will be in blessing and security. And let me add, this mystery of the redemption of the inheritance is set forth in Colossians 1:20, where Christ is declared to be the Reconciler of all things in heaven and on earth, through the blood of His cross. And the cross itself bore witness to the same mystery, or His lordship of the world by reason of His death; for His royalty, with which His dominion and inheritance are linked, was there inscribed (and inscribed not to be erased), in all the languages of the nations. There it was made known, therefore, that the crucified One was the King, that the cross was His way and title to the crown. (See John 19:19-22.)
All this makes “the world to come,” or this inheritance of Christ, a new creation, that is, creation under new conditions. In the old creation, all things were “of God,” it is true; but they were of God who created them. But in the new, all things are “of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 5). All these will witness redemption; the blood of the Lamb of God, and not simply the power of the hand of God, will be traced there.
And this distinguishes the dominions of the Second Man from those of the first, or Christ from Adam. Adam received lordship of the creatures from the hand of God at once: Christ, the Son, the Man of Psalm 8 takes it, after having been made lower than the angels, that, as man, or in manhood, He might taste death for it.
But there is more in this mystery. The redemption of the inheritance by blood, as we have been speaking, is to be made good by power. Power will have to reduce or rescue the inheritance; or, in other words, to clothe the title of Christ with possession. This action is given to us in the Apocalypse; and it is an action, consequently, conducted by strength on the ground of purchase; that is, conducted by Him who is “the Lion of the tribe of Judah,” and who had already been “the Lamb that was slain” (Rev. 5). This is to be noticed. And thus it is, by the action of that Book, that “all things” are actually “put in subjection” to Christ. As to “the Son,” therefore, the “appointed Heir of all things,” the Man of Psalm 8, the Lord of “the world to come,” we see these things.
The decree which puts all things under Him is recorded in Psalm 8. That decree, commented on in Hebrews 2, is declared to be not as yet made good to Him. The action by which this is accomplished (the manner in which all things are made subject to Christ), is given to us in the Book of the Apocalypse; and then, the results of that action are displayed to us in the pages of prophets and apostles; for there we see “the world to come,” or “the kingdom,” or “the inheritance of all things,” is in the hand of “the Son.”
Thus, “the Son” is the “Heir of all things,” and after this manner, and in this due time, the inheritance will be His, brought into actual possession.
But, in the riches of His grace, He will have heirs of this inheritance together with Himself—as we read of the saints, “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ.” Or, as we read in our epistle (Heb. 2:10), as the Captain of salvation He leads the sons to the glory; and as these Heirs had redemption by blood, as the inheritance itself has, this Captain of salvation is also a “Sanctifier,” as our chapter goes on to teach us (vs. 11). For if He takes us up, He must take us up with all our burthens likewise. He must charge Himself with us, from the place of our ruins to the place of His glories. And this is just what He has done, as we still further read in Hebrews 2:16, “For verily He took not on Him the nature of angels, but He took on Him the seed of Abraham.” He laid not hold of angels, as the meaning is, but He laid hold of the seed of Abraham. That is, the Son, who is the Christ, made the interests of elect sinners (here called “the seed of Abraham”). His care, charging Himself with their blessing, and having respect to them in all His ways and doings, till He takes them into the glory, or into the inheritance of all things with Himself. In all the successive parts of His history, from the first to the last, He never lets them go. They are always seen with Him.
This, I judge, is the force of those words, “He took on him the seed of Abraham.” And this is necessary to that great mystery, the Sanctifier making the sanctified joint-heirs with Himself of the appointed inheritance—and this we find to be so, as we read Hebrews 1-2 throughout. For we there find, that we never lose sight of ourselves while we are tracing Him from the beginning to the end of His blessed, mysterious journey. And surely this is a great and precious truth. I would notice this, as these two chapters give it to us.
1st. His incarnation.
This, of course, was the beginning of His path. But this we here learn took place, because of us. Because we, the children, were partakers of flesh and blood, He likewise Himself took part of the same (2:14).
2nd. His life of suffering temptation.
This, as I may say, followed immediately upon His incarnation. But all His life He went through, because of us. It was, that He might succor us in our temptations (Heb. 2:18).
3rd. His victorious death.
This closed, as we know, His life of suffering temptation. But this death was likewise for us. It was, that He might deliver, us who, through fear of death, were all our life-time subject to bondage (Heb. 2:14- 15).
4th. His ascension.
This gloriously succeeded His death and resurrection. But in this He appears also for us. For He took His seat on high as the Purger of our sins (Heb. 1:3; 2:9).
5th. His present priesthood in heaven.
His ascension led Him to this service and dignity. But it is all exercised for us. He makes intercession in the tabernacle for us according to our need (Heb. 2:17).
6th. His future coming and kingdom.
This will be in due season, after the present service on high is over. But on this great occasion, and in this age of the glory, He will still appear for us. As the Captain of salvation, He will lead us to this glory, that we may sit with Himself in the sovereignty of all things in the world to come (Heb. 2:10).
And thus we see ourselves with Him, throughout all this wondrous journey, from the womb of the virgin to the throne of the kingdom. We see ourselves interested in every character which He bears, and in every action or suffering that He fulfills. He is the Incarnate One, the Tempted One, the Dead One, the Risen and Ascended One, the Priest in the heavens, and the Captain of salvation entering the world to come, where the glory is, but in each and all He is either with us or for us. We are never allowed to lose sight of ourselves or of our interests for a single moment, while tracking His path from the beginning to the end of it. He is “Heir of all things,” but we are joint-heirs with Him, having been made meet to be so by Himself in the earlier parts of His ways.
We have a fuller, brighter view of all this mystery now, in the light of the day of Hebrews 2, than they could have had who walked in the light of the 8th Psalm only. But this of grace and of God also. The light shines brighter and brighter, as we pass on, through the oracles of God. And the day is still to come, when, with an emphasis beyond even this, it shall be said, “O LORD, our Lord, how exalted is Thy name in all the earth.”

God Entering His Temples

A solemn, holy subject, which the heart would reverence, while the pen traces it for a little through Scripture.
Scripture abounds with evidences of the intimacy which God has sought with the works of His hands. He has always been making a habitation for Himself, in some form or another, among His creatures.
At the beginning, as Creator, He formed His works, so that He Himself might rest in them. He saw everything which He had made, that it was very good; and all furnished Him with a desired habitation. (See Note on God’s dwelling, at conclusion of Paper on “Strangership and Citizenship.”)
The Sabbath at the end of creation-work tells us this. Whatever measure of happiness was provided for man in the arrangements of creation (and that measure was indeed complete), still the Lord God was to have a place in the garden. He walked there in the cool of the day, seeking the presence of Adam.
Thus was it at the first, when the earth was in her virgin purity. She is quickly changed, but this purpose of God does not change.
The creation denies the Lord God a rest or a habitation, by reason of sin that defiled. He must arise and depart. It could not be His rest, for it was polluted. We therefore at once see Him as a stranger in the world His hands have made. This was not His place of abiding. He visits His elect that are in it, but He does not make it a home in patriarchal days, as of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He communicates with them in marked, personal intimacy, but He seeks no place on the earth. Still, however, He has a dwelling place here, in counsel and in prospect.
The seed of Abraham are redeemed from Egypt, and brought into the wilderness. Egypt was as the world, the polluted creation; the wilderness was as a spot outside of it, and there, in the midst of His people again, He finds for Himself a “holy habitation.” (Ex. 15:13). The tabernacle is reared to be His dwelling, and He enters it.
But how, I ask, did He enter it? He had of old with evident delight taken His creation, as we saw; but now, the earth being defiled, and a wilderness around Him, and before Him, and under Him, after what manner does He take His place and enter His dwelling, in the midst of His people? Just with equal delight as at the beginning He enters the tabernacle reared in the wilderness of Sinai, as with His whole heart and His whole soul. The cloud abides on the outside or top of it, and the glory goes within—but goes there with an expression of earnest, delighted satisfaction. Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Ex. 40:35). God, as it were, would have the whole of it for Himself—at least for a season—as at creation. He enjoyed the work of His hands, hallowed the seventh day and rested, ere He shared His rest and His enjoyment with Adam.
This is full of blessing. It is an expression of the early desire of God to find a place among His creatures. If pollution separates Him from the earth in its common, general condition, it cannot separate Him from this purpose of His heart. He will purify a people that He may still dwell among His creatures. He will give them His Sabbaths, sanctify them as He did the seventh day, and dwell in the midst of them, as in a garden of Eden.
There can be no more happy thought than this that the Lord God purposes to be thus near to His creatures and intimate with them. And it is a thought, as we shall find from this meditation that the heart is never for one moment called to part with. As we travel through the Book of God, we take it up at the beginning, we carry it along with us on our journey, and find it full and fresh at the end. It accompanies us all the way, and is to be realized forever.
Israel has to change their condition. They cease to be a traveling, and become a settled people. They leave the tents of the desert for the cities and villages of the land. The glory, according to this, has to go from the tabernacle to the temple. There may be all these changes in circumstances, but there is no change in affection, no abatement in the fervency and desire of the Lord of Israel towards His people.
A great interval also took place, and fresh provocations were given. As soon as the ark, the witness of the divine presence, had entered the land, the sword of Joshua began the work of conquest to prepare a “mountain,” a kingdom, for the Lord. But Israel was untrue to Jehovah, and all through the times of the Judges and of Saul, there is confusion and defilement, and the restlessness of iniquity. The sword of David has, therefore, after so long a time, to finish what the sword of Joshua had begun, till at length there is rest—no evil or enemy occurrent—and the peaceful throne of Solomon, the throne of the Lord, is set in the land and over the people. And then the temple is built, and the ark leaves the tabernacle of the wilderness (or the tent which David had prepared for it, in principle I may say the same thing) for the house of the kingdom.
This long delay—this delay of many centuries, during which the Lord of Israel was kept out of His rest, and that, too, through the faithlessness of His people—works no change. The glory enters the temple exactly as it had afore entered the tabernacle. The priests cannot stand in the temple, just as Moses had been unable to stand in the tabernacle—the glory had again so filled the house of God 2 Chron. 5). And this was the Lord again seating Himself in the midst of His people, or entering His habitation there as with His whole heart and His whole soul.
In Eden He found His rest, because all there was “very good”—now He finds His rest in the temple, because “he is good and his mercy endureth forever.” This difference we see (Gen. 1:31; 2 Chron. 5:13); but still He takes His place, and enters His dwelling with the like earnest affection and delight.
After this He still goes on, and we still trace the same mind in Him. The fullness of time arrives, and God is to be manifest in the flesh. This great mystery bespeaks itself in Luke 1:2. But what fervor is there seen and felt to wait upon it! What joy in heaven among the angels, what joy on earth in the vessels filled by the Spirit! The fields of Bethlehem witness this. Elizabeth, and Mary, and Zechariah, and the shepherds, Simeon and Anna, witness this. God assuming the manhood, manifesting Himself in flesh, entering the temple of the human body, shall be, in its generation, like the glory entering the tabernacle or the temple. It shall be a moment of rapture. The Holy Spirit Himself, the angels that are in God’s presence on high, and the elect that are visited and quickened by Him here below, shall all be made to tell of the divine joy of that moment. It was no exile from the higher regions that we see in the glorious, eternal Son of the Father, “made of a woman,” and taking flesh and blood. Unspeakable riches of grace indeed it was; but Luke 1-2 forbids us to say that it was an exile that was then entering a foreign land, or the place of banishment. There is no finer glow of joy expressed in the whole of Scripture than in these chapters, which thus usher in and reveal and celebrate the Incarnation. If ever the Lord God entered His temple with desire and joy, it was then; but this, as we have seen, He has always done.
Wondrous and precious beyond all thought, had we hearts to enjoy it! But is there still more of this? Is this same story, full of blessedness as it is, able and prepared to tell itself out in still further numbers?
See the house of God, again and after this, in Acts 2. That may give us our answer.
The house is then finished, as the heavens and earth of old were, on the sixth day. The vacant, forfeited apostleship is filled, and the day of Pentecost has fully come. The glory again enters. The Holy Spirit comes into His temple now, as the Son, in the day of Luke 2, had come into His. The temples are different, but the joy in which God enters them is the same.
The living house of God, then raised and completed in Jerusalem, is filled with the Spirit; and like cloven tongues of fire, He sits upon each of the assembled saints. This was a new form, but it was as when the cloud covered the house, and the glory entered it, in the times of Exodus 40 and 2 Chronicles 5.
But how was this entrance made? Like “a rushing mighty wind” the Holy Spirit came; and this style of covering, this expression of it, bespeaks the delight and fullness with which it was done. The full glory was there. The Spirit Himself, in His proper personality, in fullness and power, entered. And the fruit of this is shown all around, as we saw in the day of the Incarnation. The wonderful works of God were rehearsed at once, by the baptized body. They were glad, and praised God. They were delivered from themselves, both dwelling together, and sharing with one another all they had. Moreover, they gave witness, and that too with great power, to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.
Surely, we may again say, if the Son entered His tabernacle of flesh, the temple of His body, in divine fullness and glory, so did the Spirit now enter and fill His house in like affection. Intense personality is here again witnessed. God is again near and intimate. He finds His habitation here in the midst of us, as with His whole heart and His whole soul—as the prophet speaks (Jer. 32:41). The dispensation may change, the tabernacle may have to give place to the temple, or one temple to yield to another—the temple of a human body may be prepared for the Son, the temple of living stones for the Spirit; but the fervor and intimacy with which God or the glory enters each of those in its day is alike throughout.
Further, however, still—for it is thus to the end and at the end—there is one other form which this same mystery is to take; but it takes it in the same manner, as from the beginning hitherto.
In Revelation 21, the millennial city, or, if you please, the eternal city, descends in full form and solemnity. It is a finished thing, perfect in all its beauty, ere it appears in sight. It has been built in heaven. The marriage of the Lamb was celebrated there, and there the bride had made herself ready. She is now seen in all her costliness and perfection, the habitation of the glory, as once the tabernacle of the wilderness, and then the temple of the kingdom, had been; the habitation of God through the glory, as I may express it, as once the Church on earth had been the habitation of God through the Spirit (Eph. 2:22).
This city is now seen as “a bride adorned for her husband”—a figure which needs no comment to tell its deep meaning.
A great voice accompanies it in its descent; and the voice cries, “Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God.”
This introduces or waits upon the vision which is given John of the holy city.
As the cloud of old filled the courts when the glory entered the tabernacle and the temple—as the angels rehearsed the joy of heaven when the Son entered the flesh and blood of humanity, making it His temple—as the Holy Spirit entered His living temple with like witness of His presence in its fullness; so now, the millennial, eternal dwelling-place of God in the midst of men is shown as with kindred witness of the divine delight, and of the rapture of heaven. At the beginning the Lord God had rested in His creation, and walked with man; and now at the end, He rests in His own accomplished redemption, and pitches His tabernacle in the midst of men again.
Surely all this tells us of the delight which He takes in the works of His hands, in His presence with His creatures, and in His nearness to them.
We may draw some happy moral from this holy and very blessed fact—the way in which God has ever entered His temples in this world of ours. If it has been thus with Him, how may we entirely trust Him for the forgiveness of our sins, and for our blessings in grace! He would not thus delight in His communion with us, and in His nearness to us, did He not also delight in the mercy He has shown us, and in our believing and ready and assured acceptance of peace at His hand in Jesus. The reasoning of Manoah’s wife with her husband applies to this—and sweet comfort there is in that artless, but unanswerable argument of faith (Judg. 13:23).
Can I, I may ask myself, see the delight of the Lord God in His creation, and then in coming
near to man and talking with him—the fervency and freedom in which the glory first entered its tent and then its house of hewn stone—the joyous solemnity that accompanied the Son from the eternal bosom, as He came and entered the body prepared for Him—the earnestness and fullness of the Spirit filling His living temple—and then the decided and happy witness that was borne to the day on which the Lord God removed. His tabernacle from heaven to dwell among men again—can I, I ask, survey these wondrous things, as they pass in succession before me, and doubt His delight in mercy? Can I question my welcome to that mercy, and the provisions it has made for me a sinner, in Jesus? Among a thousand answers to this, let this meditation give one—there is hindrance and dimness and cloud, I know; but they are in our eyes.
The difficulties the soul knows in living the life of faith may well introduce that life to us afresh, as being from God. Revolted, tainted nature ought to calculate on finding that which comes from such an One altogether contrary to itself. It is hard for a selfish nature to believe in self-sacrificing love. God takes such an attitude in the gospel as man never put himself in. It is more than strange or wonderful; it is absurd; it is not to be credited. A man would be beside himself to act as God in the gospel acts. But what is all this but God’s glory? The Son of God has loved me, and given Himself for me. For whom? A creature that had rebelled against Him, insulted Him, believed the lie that had deeply, deeply slandered Him, done all he could to dishonor Him Is it to be believed? How can a selfish nature accept such a fact?
But all this turns to a testimony. It receives a seal from the very fact that man rejects it. It is from God, one may say, just because it does not suit itself to man. What a witness for it!
The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, has to give it place in us. But He does so. In some, the love of God is “shed abroad,” as the apostle speaks, so blessedly, that the soul is always breathing a free and gladdening element. In some, there is such a deep “rooting and grounding” in love, as he always says, that the sense of it constitutes the sure foundation on which the soul rests (Rom. 5; Eph. 3). But what a privilege is it, that we are thus taught and encouraged to rest in the ground of love, and to breathe the atmosphere of love—and that love, God’s! The poor, cold heart of some of us knows all this after its own poor measure. But it is in ourselves, and not in the love, we are straitened. And each of us conscious of being quickened of God, is taught to know that our condition, as thus quickened, comes from the great love wherewith we are loved (Eph. 2:4-5).

The Translation of Elijah

We might read these two chapters in connection with this event, though it is only in the second of them we have it recorded.
Ahaziah, of the house of Omri, and the successor of his father Ahab on the throne of Israel, appears before us here, as in deep apostacy from the God of Israel. He was sick—and in his sickness he seeks to a god of the nations; and being withstood because of this by the servant of the God of Israel, he sends officers to take him.
This was a full expression of apostacy. And, accordingly, his death is to be read as condign, specific judgment. It was a judicial death, and so was that of his captains and their fifties, who had entered into the spirit of their master, and were the representatives and executors of his iniquity. (The third chapter may be received as a repentant remnant saved in the day of judgment.)
This was all in righteousness. The king of Israel had perfected sin, and judgment was executed upon him.
In Luke 9 this is referred to. When the Lord Jesus was refused entrance into a Samaritan village, His disciples would fain have acted the part of Elijah upon Ahaziah’s captains, but the Lord forbad them. They did not know what spirit they were of; that is, they did not discern the time; they did not understand the Lord and His business in this world. They mistook the dispensation, and would have treated it as a time, of judgment. It was in intelligence—in that light which distinguishes things that differ—that they were wanting. Their affections were right; their purpose and design will be answered in due season, when the day of vengeance comes. So that it was not in affection that they erred, but in dispensational knowledge; and thus, in true holiness, or in the holiness of the truth. Their Lord had come to save, not to kill. He was here among men to bless them, not to judge them.
This is important, for it tells us, as many other witnesses do, that true holiness is conduct according to light or truth, according to the way and place of God at the given time. “Everything is beautiful in its season.” That which is holy in divine seasonableness, is unholy when found elsewhere.
This may surely instruct us; but the scene in 2 Kings 1 has but little relief in it. We are in the next place, however, introduced to a very different thing (2 Kings 2).
We are encouraged to enter upon it with the brightest expectations, being set on the eve of the translation of Elijah: for the time, we are told, had come “when the Lord would take up Elijah to heaven by a whirlwind.” But there is much incidental instruction here.
At an earlier moment Elisha had forfeited, as I may express it, the mantle of his master. He had not proved himself to be fully up to the possession of it; his heart had not been thoroughly single, and from that moment to the time of this chapter we had not seen him in company with his master. (See 1 Kings 19:19-21). This subjects him to a fresh proof; and Elijah himself, and the sons of the prophets, are made the instruments for conducting the process under the hand of God.
Elijah tells him again and again to go back, as he himself was pursuing the stages of his journey from Gilgal to the eastern side of the Jordan. And the sons of the prophets, whether at Bethel or at Jericho, come forth again and again to exercise his spirit, and try the earnestness and stability of his faith, by casting a shadow across his path, and thus bring his soul into perplexity and doubt.
This is a common case. The Lord, at times, with some of His choicest servants, will enter upon severe processes of purifying. He purges the vessels of His house, that they may be fitted for the Master’s use. And in doing this He will use different instruments, as He pleases, in His wisdom. It may be the direct action of His own word and Spirit; it may be more immediately through His saints, or through the people of the world. Here He exercises Elisha by the word of Elijah—His own word, I may say, expressed through His prophet. He will prove, after this manner, by the patient, successive stages of a long journey, whether Elisha’s heart were indeed now freed (as once it had not been), from the entanglements of mere human influences, from the honey of home and kindred associations. And He also allows him to be exercised by the ways of those who were not in his elevation, a generation of saints who were not standing in the light and certainty of his own spirit, and who, therefore, by their communications, were well fitted to cast a shadow across his path, or introduce some perplexity into his soul. But he stands these tests, and pursues his way, in full and close company with his master, the prophet of God, who was about to be translated to heaven. He has his answers ready, whether for Elijah or for the sons of the prophets; and we find him calm, decided, patient, undistracted all along the way from Gilgal to Bethel, from Bethel to Jericho, from Jericho to Jordan, and then across the river, to wherever, in short (for he knew not the way any more than Abraham of old), Elijah, that is, the hand of God, the God of glory, might be pleased to call him or to draw him.
Surely this was recovery. There was no longer a going back to kiss father or mother, but a single heart that made the Lord and His presence its place, the Lord and His pleasure its business.
The sons of the prophets at length retire. They stand to view afar off, while Elijah, with a stroke of his mantle, divides the waters of Jordan, making a passage for himself (and for Elisha, too, if he should have courage to follow on in such a wondrous, perilous path) to cross the river. And he does so. Then Elijah himself also closes the severe and heated trial through which he had been putting his friend and minister. For when they together reach the opposite side of the river, he says to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee.” For every testing time shall end—every process for purging shall have its measure. Men’s iniquities against the Lord shall close in the judgment of righteousness; God’s discipline of His saints shall close in the possession of glory. Elijah yields; and Elisha has to write his own story for the future. “Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee.”
This reminds me of Solomon in 2 Chronicles 1; for after he had approved himself as taking his throne in right spirit, God appears to him and says to him, “Ask what I shall give thee.” And Elisha’s answer to Elijah is as Solomon’s answer to God. Solomon does not ask for the life of his enemies, nor for riches and honors for himself, but for wisdom to execute the service appointed him over the Lord’s people. So Elisha here simply replies to Elijah, “Let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.”
This was beautiful. This was aiming high; this was proposing great things; this was asking as for the right hand and the left hand place in the kingdom. “Are ye able to drink of my cup and to be baptized with the baptism wherewith I am baptized,” we might say, would be the spirit of the answer. And Elijah accordingly says to him, “Thou hast asked a hard thing; nevertheless if thou see me, when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so.”
The single eye is the secret of pure spiritual energy. “If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.” These were the terms then, and these are the terms now. It is not a question of life, but of strength in the Spirit. Elisha must stand it—and through grace he does. They still go on together, he and Elijah; and as they walk, they talk. But all the time the eyes of Elisha were open. His heart was upon the word of his master. He had hid the promise there; and though he may be still passing on, there is no distraction, and so with us it ought to be. We may take up one circumstance after another, and converse with them too, like Elisha here; but what is the heart affecting, where is the eye directed? Is it like this dear man’s, in the right place? The walk and the talk, the circumstances of the journey, had not disturbed his spirit, nor diverted his eye; so that at the moment when the horses and chariot appeared, and Elijah was about to be carried up to heaven, Elisha’s eye was upon them. He saw his ascending master, and got the mantle.
This is certainly beautiful to be walking and talking still, still occupied with the circumstances around us, but all the time the eye kept towards the object which God had proposed to it. It is like Abraham again, whose ear was so attempered to the voice of the Lord, that the moment that voice called him, he had only to say, “Here am I.”
Elisha at once used what he so prized. He took up the mantle of his master, and with it, after the manner of his master, divided the waters of the Jordan, and returned to Jericho. Here, however, I would pause to notice a matter. It is in the name of the Lord God of his ascended master, and not in that master’s own name, that Elisha does this. This is so; but this is not so in the case of the apostles and their ascended master. Peter preaches that it was his ascended Lord who had sent down the Spirit; that it was His name which carried salvation with it; that it was in His name in which sinners were to be baptized for the remission of sins; that it was His name which had made the lame man to walk (Acts 2-5). The name of Jesus of Nazareth is to them what the name, not of Elijah, but of the Lord God of Elijah, was to Elisha.
And further. The ascending Lord needed not a convoy, as did the prophet. He who had, afore His death, said of Himself and of His body, “destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up,” now, after His resurrection, “not needing (as another has expressed it) the cleansing of that fiery baptism, nor requiring a commissioned chariot to bear Him up, did, in the far sublimer calmness of His own indwelling power, rise from the earth, and with His human body pass into the heavenly places.”
This is so; and this way of distinguishing the Lord Jesus is to be seen elsewhere. As when Joshua commands the sun and the moon to stand still, much is made of it, and that day is declared to have had none like it; but when the Lord Jesus did like things, things which showed His sovereignty over the forces and the course of nature, it is treated as no wonder at all (Josh. 10). But then, as to the great fact of this chapter (the translation of Elijah), it has, I believe, its own place character. In my sight (may I so speak?) it stands in company with the translation of Enoch in patriarchal days, and with the death and burial of Moses on Mount Pisgah, in the stricter days of Israel and the law. It took place in the later times of the prophets, as we know.
In the progress of other ages or dispensations, earlier times and seasons, times of the fathers, of Moses and the prophets, it has been the way of the wisdom of God to give forth certain notices of His future purposes. The coming kingdom, when the Son of Man shall take His lordship, and the Son of David His throne, has been the subject not only of prophecy, but of types and shadows. There have been historic pledges of it, and the faint foreshadowing of it in certain distinguished eras in the course of Old Testament times. But so also as to the deeper mysteries of the call of the Gentiles and of the heavenly calling, yea, indeed, of the mystery of the Church. And so, too, of the glorified “children of the resurrection.”
And I read the story of Enoch in the days of Genesis; the story of Moses with the Lord on Mount Pisgah; and this story of the translation of Elijah in the later days of the prophets, as witnessing that mystery in three distinct successive eras in the Old Testament times. Moses and Elijah, as we know, appear in glory on the Mount of Transfiguration. The shadowy pledges which God gave by them of old were then, in the days of the gospel, redeemed and substantiated. Moses represents the dead and risen portion of the glorified saints; Enoch and Elijah those who shall still be alive, and those translated in the day of 1 Corinthians 15, or at “the coming of Christ.” This has its deep interest for us.
Soon after this, the sons of the prophets betray the low, uncertain state of their souls. They are saints, but not in Elisha’s elevation; and they propose to search for his master, though they reverently acknowledge him. They, as it were, go to the empty sepulcher, and have to return rebuked and confounded. “Why seek ye the living among the dead?” Why search on the mountain or in the valleys for one that has gone to heaven? But the grace that is to be seen (and some of us have good reason to appreciate it) in thus delineating various measures and different elevations among the people of God, may be deeply and thankfully owned by us. “Some thirty, some sixty, some a hundredfold.”
The lessons of this scripture are surely various, and each of them healthful for the soul. “Thy testimonies are wonderful: therefore doth my soul keep them. The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.”

A Brief Word on the Epistle to the Galatians

I believe that we might shortly describe this epistle as thus—the “scriptures” by the ministry of Paul now, as once by the voice of Sarah, casting the bondwoman and her son out of the house of Abraham.
The apostle, in order to this, first proves his warrant. And this he does to perfection in Galatians 1-2—showing that he received his gospel, purely and immediately, from God Himself, in a way that admitted of no human admixture whatever; and that, under the full conscious authority of a gospel so received, he had already met the bondwoman and her ways in the person of the Apostle Peter at Antioch, and withstood her—thus making proof of his present ministry on a small scale, so to speak; or, like Samson slaying the lion on his way to this Philistine den in Galatia, when he was to meet a host of them.
And beside this, he makes the experience of their own souls, and the voices of Scripture touching Abraham and the law, his further witnesses. He makes them, as it were seal his authority to do this great work in the name of the Lord (Gal. 3). And further, he shows that the time was now fully come, when the Lord had ripened all His dispensational actings up to this very point of casting out the bondwoman and her son (Gal. 4:1-7).
Nothing could be more perfect than a warrant thus delivered, thus verified, thus sealed, and thus countenanced, if I may so speak, by God’s own acts. The apostle, therefore, with full ease, and conscious authority, finds himself in company with Sarah in Genesis 21. As she then knew her right, without leave from her husband or apology to anyone, summarily to demand the expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael from the house, so does Paul here. He shows what the modern or mystic Hagar is—that it is the religiousness of mere nature, or a system of observances and ordinances, either imposed or revived by man in the churches of the saints—that formality of days, and months, and times, and years, which genders the spirit of bondage, and hinders the formation of Christ in the soul, and that spirit of liberty which He ever brings with Him. And the expulsion of this Hagar, this bondwoman from the house of Abraham, or the churches of the saints, he demands with as full, unsparing decision as ever Sarah demanded the casting out of Hagar the Egyptian and her mocking child (Gal. 4:8; 5:12).
But, if I may so speak, the energy of the apostle even exceeds that of Sarah. And this is but right. It is right that, as we advance in the unfolded ways and thoughts of God, and get from the time of Genesis 21 to the time of Galalatians 5, we should find the energies and demands of the Spirit still more wide and more intense also. We often see this. It was written of old, “Thou shalt not forswear thyself”; but it is written at a later period, “Swear not at all.” So here, the demands of Paul are somewhat larger and more intense than those of Sarah had been. She was satisfied with the dismissal of Hagar and the child, but Paul calls together with that for the removal out of the house of all that belonged to them. He will do what he can to get every vestige of their former residence there effaced. He would fain obliterate every remembrance of them—the very customs they once observed there, their habits and modes of living, and the spirit and tempers which they were nourishing and practicing, all these he would have to be gone, as well as themselves. He would even purify the place of the very air their breath and presence had diffused. Not merely the religiousness of the flesh would he peremptorily expel the house, the miserable and beggarly eletnents which kept the soul in bondage, but the works of the flesh also, its moral ways, its boastings and energies. Yea, and its conceits and highmindedness too—its despite of a poor overtaken soul, through the vain thought of its own security. Against all this, and more than this, he lifts up his more-than-Sarah voice, knowing no stint to the demand, that the bondwoman, with all that belongs to her, as well as her child, shall be turned out of the churches of the saints, or the modern mystic house of Abraham. And even in addition to this, he would have that house learn and practice the very opposite and contradictory habits—the ways of the Spirit and not of the flesh, the things that become the new creature in Christ, and not what was found inseparable from the flesh (Gal. 5:13; 6:10).
He then gives us another witness of the importance he attached to all this truth, writing this epistle with his own hand. (See Rom. 16:22.) For the defense of it demands more vigor than its publication (Gal 6:11).
He, in the next place, exposes the moral or the interested purposes of those who were leading them back to circumcision or religiousness, and is bold to present himself as one that knew the power of the opposite principle (see chap. 1:4; 6:14), with all authority, too, as from God, speaking peace to all who clung to that principle (Gal. 6:12-17).
And he closes by a suited valediction. For it is their spirit he commends to the grace of the Lord (Gal. 6:18).
Such I judge to be the principal details of this epistle. And generally, I may say, there is a tone of peculiar decision and fervency in it. The apostle felt as though the citadel itself were in danger. A standard-bearer at Antioch had already well-nigh fainted. He had come, as it were, fresh from that sight, and he must grasp the banner of the gospel with fresh vigor because of it, and to step into the breach like a man.
It was a moment of deep interest, and he cannot but be alive to it. And though we are not in commission exactly as he was, entrusted with the truth of the dispensation in a special way (1 Cor. 9:17), yet we are, as in the train of this great ambassador, to be of one mind with him, and give place by subjection, no, not for an hour, if the mine have been laid again that threatens the citadel.
Paul’s General Epistles
In the Acts we read the labors of an Evangelist; in the epistles, the instructions of a Teacher, addressed to those who have already been brought in by the evangelist.
I say this, as being the characteristic difference of the two writings; and very suitably, therefore, the Acts of the Apostles comes before, or takes precedence of, the epistles of the Apostles.
But then again, the epistles have their own distinction, each one of them. And in a general way, it is easy to perceive this, and as far as Paul’s epistles to different churches go, this I would now do, though very briefly.
In that to the Romans we get a full and orderly writing upon the gospel, that most precious mystery or counsel and way of God, by which He has provided for wretched, self-ruined sinners, displaying His own glory, securing holiness, and excluding boasting, while putting the sinner who believes in Jesus into the highest and dearest relationship to Himself. This is done in Romans 1-8. Then, in Romans 9-11, we have a wondrous volume on prophetic or dispensational truths; and then, to the end, moral exhortations to the saints, addressing them personally and relatively very largely.
Very suitably does this first of the epistles thus fulfill the office of a teacher. To the quickened ones already brought in, the Spirit, by Paul in this epistle, teaches the way of God more perfectly. This is the Epistle to the Romans.
In the epistles to the Corinthians, which follow, we are introduced to corruptions in the saints, and to the reproofs, rebukes, and corrections of the Spirit in the apostle.
The Corinthians were a scholastic, reasoning people, more Sadducean than Pharisaic (if I may thus speak of Gentiles in the language of the Jews) in the tendencies of their mind. They were tempted to take advantage of the gifts they enjoyed; by them to exalt themselves, rather than to minister to the edification of their brethren. They had got into a sad state of moral relaxation and speculative discussion of doctrines, rapidly tending to ruin; and had been beguiled by some one who had advantages in the flesh, in his worldly circumstances and conditions, and who was withdrawing their regards away from Paul to himself.
This state of things may be discovered in the two epistles to them. And the meeting of this state of things, and the answering of certain questions which they had sent to him (in the curiosity, it would almost seem, of a Corinthian intellect), form the materials of these epistles.
But corruption works variously. The man of God has to look forth from many a watch tower, if he would know, as he ought to do, all the approaches of the enemy. Therefore, in Galatia we see a very different form of corruption from that which we have thus seen at Corinth. There was no Judaizing at Corinth—none of the leaven of the Pharisee, as I hinted, but much of that of the Sadducee; yea, and of Herod too, which is worldliness. But among the brethren in Galatia, on the other hand, it was the leaven of the Pharisee that was working, and working powerfully.
The religion of ordinances had been revived among them. The law, in some of its subtle forms, was returned to. A fair show in the flesh was sought. Having begun in the Spirit, they would now be made perfect in the flesh. They were observing days, and months, and times, and years—the rudiments of the world, the elements of the legal economy; and the apostle is afraid of them. He has to labor again for them, that Christ may afresh be everything to them, “formed in them”; and that they may escape from the fascinations and entanglements of a carnal, worldly sanctuary.
In the Epistle to the Ephesians we have another condition of things, quite another. It is not a state of things of comparative ignorance which needed orderly instruction, as we got in the Romans; nor is it a state of moral relaxation, as is contemplated in the Epistle to the Corinthians; nor a state of doctrinal error approaching dereliction of Christ, as in Galatia. All is right, and calm, and undistracted at Ephesus, as far as the epistle assumes; and, consequently, the apostle is free to unfold further and higher truths to the saints there. And this he does. He opens the prerogatives of our calling in Christ, unfolding the mystery of the Church, and addressing the saints as to their duties, and services, and virtue according to that calling, and their relationship one to another in it.
In this epistle, therefore, we rather see the prophet, the one who, under the Holy Spirit, discloses the deep things of God, and takes this place and measure amid the gifts; as we read, “And he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” It was surely all inspiration, but it takes, in this epistle, the form of a prophet.
In the Epistle to the Philippians we get the pastor in Paul. There was a very loving personal link between him and them. Personally, I believe, the Philippians were the nearest to him of any, as John had been to the Lord. Above all others, they had communicated with him, from first to last, during his preaching abroad, and now in his bonds. His heart was very tenderly affected towards them. But he had reason to fear that some breaches had begun amongst them, some personal jealousies, and reserves, and distances (alas, too common to this day!); and he writes to them a pastoral letter with this apprehension on his heart. But, because of his intimacy with them, and the closeness of their fellowship; because of the love that he had to them, and the grace that was in them, he writes to them with marked tenderness and consideration. In no epistle is there such fervent expression of personal attachment.
And being pastoral rather than instructive, there is no order of doctrinal thought in this epistle. It is written after a freer method.
In the Epistle to the Colossians, who come next, we see a people who had been, like the Galatians (in measure, at least), ensnared by Judaizing principles. But with them this was not in so gross a form as with the Galatians. These principles had been withdrawing the saints in Galatia from that simple faith in the Lord Jesus, which as sinners we must have in Him; these same principles were withdrawing the saints at Colosse from using Christ, and going on with Christ in such ways as saints are to do. The apostle, therefore, very seasonably, instructs them in the fullness of Christ; warning them (as was needed), but likewise teaching them their perfection in Him, that they wanted nothing but what they could get in Him; and that, having begun with Him, they ought to go on with Him; being rooted in Him, so ought they to be built up in Him.
This is the pastor and the teacher together (under full inspiration of the Holy Spirit), both warning and instructing. What variety! Surely these Epistles to the Romans, the Corinthians, the Galatians, the Ephesians, the Philippians, and the Colossians, let us learn how various the need of saints may be, how deep the subtleties of their enemy, and how many the watch-towers the Spirit has graciously erected for our use, that we may mount them, and get on vantage ground in the face of the approaches of our adversary! And they further let us learn, that if the Spirit of God be as an evangelist in the Acts, He variously imparts Himself, or fills His vessels in the epistles, as a Prophet, a Teacher, or a Pastor, according to the necessities of the saints.
We have still, however the Epistles to the Thessalonians to consider. They stand the last in the series or succession of these general epistles of Paul, or his epistles to churches, and they have their own character, like each of the others.
In the people to whom they are addressed, we see an eminent, distinguished faith—a faith which had been tested by sufferings for the truth’s sake beyond any. Accordingly, they are very encouraging. The apostle, characteristically, is an exhorter as I may call him, and in these epistles (as Romans 12 speaks) “waits on exhortation.” He encourages the suffering Church of the Thessalonians by speaking very much to them of the coming of the Lord, which is the due, appropriate comfort of those who suffer with Him and for His sake in this evil, revolted world. There is, accordingly, no doctrinal method in these two epistles. They are written chiefly in the spirit of sympathy, according to the grace of one who was exhorting or encouraging a tried and suffering people. But they convey instruction on this great truth of the coming of the Lord beyond what the Thessalonians had already reached; instruction, too, most fitted to carry on the comforting, sympathizing ministry of an exhorter, such as the apostle is in these epistles.
He has, however, in the midst of all this, to erect a new watch-tower. He has to warn his honored Thessalonians against allowing “the blessed hope” (the coming of the Lord) to be corrupted or abused among them. For true it is, and no uncommon thing, that the very best things, as well as the very best people (I speak as a man), are still in danger. There were no companies of saints more fresh and promising, and abundant in blessedness, than those in Galatia. They would have plucked out their eyes for Paul. But when he wrote to them, he had to rebuke them sharply, and to tell them to their face that he stood in doubt of them. So, there is no truth more precious for the saint than that which the Thessalonians held, the prospect of the Lord’s coming, and the soul’s longing for it. But even that was in danger, lest the flesh should take advantage of it and corrupt it, and the saints who held it and loved it become idle, and careless as to present duty and honest, needed industry. So that here, again I say, we have another watchtower erected, and another warning-voice raised in the midst of corruptions by the Shepherd of Israel, who never slumbers nor sleeps, but eyes His flock night and day.
I have thus taken upon me to look rather rapidly at Paul’s general epistles: I mean his epistles to congregations or churches of saints, and not to individuals, as Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. Each of them, I may say again upon this review of them, serves a distinct purpose; but the man of God wants them all, living, as he is to do, by every word that has proceeded out of the mouth of God.
The personality of the writer of these Epistles is apparent in each of them, the attitude of his soul, as I may speak, formed no doubt by the condition of the Church he was addressing. He is occupying the chair of a master, while writing to the Romans. He is the aggrieved spiritual father, as he addresses himself to the Corinthians. He is the heated, and zealous, and indignant reprover, as he writes to the Galatians, rescuing and defending a prized and precious treasure, which he saw was in danger from them who should have kept and guarded it. He is on high, seated in a world of glories, gazing at it and thinking of the love that brought him there, while he writes to the Ephesians. He is the earnest-hearted lover of the Philippians, fearful of the least thing that threatened to soil or disturb so loved a people. He is the anxious watchman in the midst of the Colossians. And he is the deeply-interested, sympathizing counselor and comforter, as he is writing his letters to the Thessalonians.
The style and spirit that would suit these different characters, or these different attitudes of soul, may be discovered in the apostle as he thus writes. And all this surely tells us that, through the Spirit, he was alive to his subject, as well as master of it—not a mere penman, but a living one. And this casts me upon the recollection of the words of another which I have greatly enjoyed before now. Speaking of the different scribes, from Moses to John, employed by the Spirit of God for the writing of the Scriptures, he says, “We are far from being unmindful of these human features throughout impressed on the sacred writings. It is with profound gratitude and ever-increasing admiration that we regard this living, actual, dramatic, philanthropic character which shines with so much power and beauty throughout the Book of God. We have the uncultivated and sublime simplicity of John—the affecting, elliptical, soul-stirring, and argumentative energy of Paul—the fervor and solemnity of Peter—the poetic grandeur of Isaiah—the lyre of David—the ingenuous and majestic narratives of Moses—the sententious and royal wisdom of Solomon. Yes, it is all this. It was Peter, Isaiah, Matthew, John or Moses, but it was God. It is God who speaks to us; but cast in earthly mold, it is also man. It is man, but it is God also. How greatly does this abounding humanity, and all this personality with which the divinity of Scripture is invested, charm us, reminding us that the Savior of our souls, whose touching voice they are, Himself bears a human heart on the throne of God, although seated on high where angels serve and forever adore Him.” And he adds, “Such ought to be the word of God; like Emmanuel; full of grace and truth; at once in the bosom of God, and in the heart of man; powerful and sympathizing; celestial and human; exalted yet humble; imposing and familiar; God and man.”
I much enjoy this, I own. But I will now add only one other thing, at the close of this short word on Paul’s epistles to the churches.
It is after the pattern of divine grace from the very beginning, to wait in patience upon man. These epistles are a fuller witness of this. The Spirit of God is waiting on the churches found, as they were, in different forms of error and danger, and seeking to recover, correct, and restore them: just as the hand of God was doing in the earlier days of Israel, as we see in the book of Judges, and again (with the house of David) in 2 Chronicles; and also, as the Lord Jesus Himself had been doing with His generation in the Gospel by Matthew, waiting in patient ministry on the worship of the Lord. And thus it is in these epistles. Evil and error are in the churches; but the Spirit by the apostle admonishes, rebukes, instructs, if haply He may restore. The digging and the dunging again goes on. But there is measure even in the patience of God. Righteousness demands this; and so, in the Second Epistle to Timothy, we may see the house, the great house (in some sense the house of God), a ruined and disowned thing. But “the counsel of the Lord standeth forever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.” The vessel is marred on the wheel in the hand of the Potter; but the Potter, in His sovereign right over the clay, makes another vessel as it hath pleased Him.
NOTE: Let me add, lest I should be misunderstood, that when I speak of the apostle being in one epistle as a teacher, in another as a pastor, in another as a prophet, and the like, I merely mean that the inspiration, which filled and guided him in every thought and word, gave him that character on each occasion as was suited to it. He wrote, not as a gifted one merely, but as inspired. That I surely know and own.

Paul at Miletus

We have, in the progress of Scripture, several instances of dying saints and servants of God taking leave of the scene here, and of their ministry in it. Jacob does so, and so Moses, and Joshua, and David. And among them Samuel also, in a very affecting scene recorded in 1 Samuel 12.
In this chapter, the Apostle Paul is in the like conditions. He is taking leave of his ministry on the shore at Miletus, in the presences of the Ephesian elders.
Paul’s story, in the book of the Acts, consists of two parts—his service and his sufferings. In the one we see Paul, the servant of Jesus; in the other, Paul the prisoner.
The first part ends with Acts 20, having begun, I may say, with Acts 13:1. The second ends with the book itself, having begun with Acts 21.
That, however, which attracts me at this time, is Paul, in Acts 20, in contrast with the Lord Jesus in like conditions in John. For there the Lord is taking leave of His ministry in the presence of the twelve, as here the apostle is doing the same in the presence of the bishops of the church in Ephesus.
There are points of contrast very vividly presented to us, and the human, in its vast conditions, stands beside that which was divine as well as human, and the distinctions are finally maintained and expressed.
But this is only what we would have reckoned upon. We are instinctively conscious that Paul, the brightest, highest sample of a vessel of God anointed and filled by the Spirit, stands before the affections and recollections of the heart very differently from the Lord. Our love to him is that which we give to a fellow-creature, and that only; the love which we give to the Lord Jesus is a worshipping love. This we feel instinctively; we need not to be taught. We know it, and thus we carry, in the sensibilities of our renewed mind, the witness of that which Scripture tells us, that Jesus was God as well as man, and that the most gifted vessel in God’s house, though he be also the most self-surrendering saint, is still but a fellow-creature.
The contrast which these scriptures afford (the Lord in a parting hour, and Paul in a parting hour), gives us a sample and illustration of all this, and reveals the conclusions of our souls already reached and rested in, as I have said, instinctively.
The points of contrast may be thus noticed:—
1. The apostle submits his ministry to the judgment of his brethren. He tells them of the humility and tears with which he had conducted it; and then of his diligence in it, how he had taught them publicly and from house to house; and in his preaching how he had embraced both Jew and Gentile. And all this is sweet in him and well becomes him. He treats them as fellows in the service of God, and submits his own peculiar measure and manner of service to them; as they might do with him.
But, I ask, is this the style of the Lord Jesus? Does He, after this manner, submit His work to the approval of man? In the chapter I have referred to, we do not see Him doing this even with His Father. He is then rather delivering up His ministry as now accomplished. “I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do,” is His language, while His eyes are toward heaven, and His voice is addressed to the Father there. He delivers up an accomplished work, a work which He knew Himself was all perfect. This was His glory, as a minister, His glory in His ministry. In the stead of submitting it to—the approval of His apostles, He rather; as I have said, delivers it up to His Father, as that which had been accomplished to perfection. (So, in due time, He “delivers up the kingdom” (1 Cor. 15:24); now, having served as a witness; by and bye, when He shall have served as a king: still He is perfect in each. He delivers up His stewardship as One that had been faithful.)
2. Paul tells the Ephesian elders, that he was going On his way, bound in spirit, to Jerusalem, but that he did not know what was to happen to him; beyond what the Holy Spirit had witnessed, that bonds and imprisonment awaited him.
Was this the Lord, again, I ask? The very opposite shows itself in Him. When He was taking leave of His ministry and of His servants, He lets them know that He knew all things, things near and things afar off, things in heaven and things on earth. The story of the world’s enmity, and of the sufferings of the righteous in it, and the story of eternity itself; for He tells them also, that He will return to take His people home with Him to be in the Father’s house, there to abide forever. Surely this is the glory of the Lord again; and bearing witness of the One with whom we are conversing, in John 13-17.
3. Again the apostle tells his companions that, however largely and intimately he may have been with them hitherto, he was now about to leave them, and that they would see him no more.
But what says the Lord in contrast with this? Paul could say nothing more, I grant. He, as a man, a fellow-creature, about speedily to close his career, and his service here by death, had but to say, “You will see my face no more.” But again, I ask, does the Lord say this? Quite the contrary. He lets His servants know, that He would never cease to see them, and they should never cease to see Him. “Because I live, ye shall live also,” He says to them. “The world seeth Me no more, but ye see Me,” and so should it be forever. He would return to them and for them. They should see Him in spirit till that time came, and then in glory, as with Him in the Father’s house forever.
What outshining is here! Paul could not speak in loftier language than he did; the Lord could not speak in lower strain than He did. It is the creature and God: it is the sweet, attractive, loving form of human companionship—it is the irradiation of personal, divine glory.
4. Then, again, we listen to the apostle caring not for prison or for death; and fine this is. It may humble us to find such a self-sacrificing faith in another. Paul laid his life on the altar, and was ready to have it offered up. But when we listen, in His turn, to the Lord Jesus, we hear the language of One who was going, as He knew, back to the Father in glory, because He had now glorified God and the Father on earth. Paul would blessedly brace himself for that which remained of the conflict and the journey; but the Lord was at the end of it in the conscious perfection of One who had so glorified God in the world here, as gave Him His place and His title of being glorified with God in the heavens.
5. And we further find the apostle giving counsel to his brethren; and seasonable and right counsel it was. It could not be more just and fit, we may say. It was this—to serve God in His Church, and to look to themselves, for dangers were at hand.
But what do we find in Christ corresponding to this? He counsels His apostles, too, and various are His words to them. But among them, He tells them that they shall bear witness to Him And He tells them that the Holy Spirit, who is about to come from heaven, shall also bear witness to Him, and serve the glory of His name by taking of His things and showing them to them.
What infinite and yet due distance is there here? Could Paul tell the Ephesian elders anything like this? Could he, would he, dare he, make himself their object, or the subject of their ministry, as soon as he had left them? He tells them, and rightly so, to serve God and look to themselves. But without robbery, Jesus put Himself in company with God, making Himself together with the Father the object of the Holy Spirit’s testimony and of the apostle’s ministry.
Surely in each and every feature of this contrast, the glory of One who was infinitely above the first of the mere children of men, shines out. It all confirms the instructive impressions of our own souls, telling us that with Jesus, but with Jesus alone, of all the sons of men, we are in conscious converse with the living God Himself, with One whom we worship as well as love.
6. Still, however, there is more of this. Paul commits his brethren and companions to God and to the word of His grace. What more could he do? But what does the Lord do, in like conditions, leaving behind Him His apostles and saints, as Paul was leaving behind him his companions and brethren? Variously, and all-gloriously, does He act, indeed. He leaves His peace with them. He washes their feet, so that they might appear before God “clean every whit.” He promises them the Spirit to be their light and comfort, and He commits them to the Father, that the Father might continue to do for them in His absence, what He Himself had been doing for them while He was with them. What outbreakings of divine glory! And He undertakes to give them His care and thought and service, till He have perfected their condition, and that forever, in the house of the Father.
If Paul, as a man, could do nothing more than he did, Jesus is here doing what none less than Jehovah’s fellow could have done, or dared to have attempted.
7. And, once more, in tracing this wondrous subject: Paul submits his conduct to the judgment of his brethren. “I have coveted no man’s silver or gold or apparel; yea, ye yourselves know that these hands have ministered to my necessities, and to them that were with me.” He stands before them in the testimony of a good conscience. I do not blame him, or seek to depreciate him for this, though on another occasion he could say, it was a very small thing with him to be judged of man’s judgment (1 Cor. 4:3), and would own that he was a fool in glorying (2 Cor. 11-12). But, again, I say, I do not blame or depreciate him for this. But I ask, Is this the Lord Jesus? Does He submit His conduct to the judgment of men any more than His ministry? No, indeed. He rather asserts three grand and glorious moral facts connected with Himself, and His way and life and behavior in the world. He tells His apostles that He had glorified God in the earth; He tells the Father that He had glorified Him in His ministry to the elect; and He says of Himself, “the prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in Me.”
What conscious moral elevation expresses itself here! It is moral glory of a quality necessarily, essentially divine. This was a life and conduct that God manifest in the flesh alone could exhibit. We dare not seek the like of it anywhere but in Jesus. It is our joy to know that it could not be found elsewhere in heaven or on earth, among angels or, men; that none but the Son of the bosom, who was also the Son of Man, could have rendered such a living sacrifice of pure incense and sweet savor; a sacrifice more acceptable to the blessed God than the obedience of a whole creation, could have been.
Thus have we looked at the glory that excelleth. Sweet moral beauty there was in Paul indeed. We may be humbled in ourselves as we look at or think of such a man. But our own souls tell themselves, and the histories tell us in like manner, that it is all of another kind and quality, differing in material and in temperament altogether from that which shows itself to is in the Lord Jesus. In Him it was divinely moral beauty. It was the gold wire worked in the ephod (Ex. 39:3). And let me just further ask, Is there not the expression of humanity in the scene, as it closes, which we could not get in the kindred scene between the Lord and His apostles? “Paul kneeled down and prayed with them all; and they all wept sore, and fell on his neck and kissed him.” Precious to the heart this is. We long to have more of it and to see more of it. We are straitened and cold. The heart has but little capacity to let itself out after this manner. But could this have been the way between the Lord Jesus and His apostles? What say our renewed instincts, our apprehensions and sensibilities in the new creature? And what says the history? Jesus prayed as Paul did—but it “was not with them all,” as Paul prayed. It was turning His eyes to heaven and addressing His Father on the ground and title of His accomplished obedience, and then uttering His will and desire touching His saints. The disciples were sorrowful, as Paul’s companions were; very sorrowful. Sorrow had filled their hearts because they were about to lose Him, as they judged. But they well knew that He was more and other to them than Paul was to his brethren. They would hardly, in human, affectionate, warm-hearted intimacy, fall on the neck of One who had so lately, in divine grace, washed their feet, giving them title to appear before God their Father without a spot upon them.
Surely these distinctions are full of meaning, and perfect in beauty. And, again, I say, for it is a happy thought to me, our instincts as saints would have suggested these very contrasts which we here find in these two sacred histories.

God's Call out of the Earth

In the midst of the increased and still growing corruption of the whole scene around us, and of the threatened dissolving of all things, it is much laid upon the mind to consider with simplicity and clearness the character of our calling.
The call of God out of the earth, and God’s assertion of title to the earth, are things that greatly differ, and should be morally and practically distinguished by the saints.
The call of God proceeds on the principle that God Himself is outside the earth, and that He is not seeking it, but seeking a people to be His in His place outside and above it. The earth, therefore, by this call, is left just as it was. For it is a stranger to the purpose of God.
This call of God out of the earth was exhibited in the family of Seth, before the flood. Cain’s house was in possession of the earth, and Seth does not interfere with them. Not at all. All he and his generation have to do with the earth is to call on the name of the Lord while they are on it (not to engrave, like Cain, their own name there—Gen. 4:17), and then to lay their dead bodies in it.
So was it exhibited afterward in Abraham. He is called of God. But such call leaves the Canaanites without a rival. He does not contend with the potsherds of the earth. He does not dispute their right as lords of the soil. He desires only to pitch his wandering tent upon the face of it, or to lay his bones in the bowels of it.
And so the Church or heavenly family of this dispensation. Their call leaves the Gentiles in power. The Church has nothing to say to “the powers that be,” but either to obey unreluctantly, or to suffer patiently, according as the demand made by the powers be such or not as involves their subjection to Christ.
This determines at once our duties. We render to the powers ordained of God their dues, without in any wise seeking to disturb them, knowing also that even if they behave themselves unrighteously, we are not constituted their judges.
But the character of our service is likewise determined by this call of God. Service to God is wanting in its true character, if it do not intimate that He is not now reasserting His title to the earth; or, in other words, our service to Christ must be to Him as the rejected Christ. For He is such a One all the time He remains in the “far country.” The cry has followed Him there from the earth, “We will not have this man to reign over us.” And is that cry to be answered by the servants who occupy their talents during His absence? (See Luke 19.) Surely not. They serve Him in the patient sense of His rejection all the time, and “they are not ashamed of his chain.”
In like manner, moreover, this determines what our habits should be. Our habits should tell that the earth is not our place, as our services should tell that it is not our Lord’s place.
This affords a holy and serious admonition to our souls.
Our call does not connect us with the earth. Our necessities do so, it is true. We need the fruit of the ground, the toil of the hand, and the skill of the heart, to provide things needful for the body. Our necessities, thus, connect us with the earth, and we may attend to it for the supply of such necessities. But our call does not connect us with it, but rather separates us from it.
To link the Church and the earth is acting at once on apostate principles. To aim at changing the character or condition of Christ in the world, or to serve Him save as the rejected One, is not service rendered in spiritual discernment.
These things we may know well and admit easily. But if we refuse to link the Church with the world, are we daily watching to refuse to link the heart with it, the hopes with it, the calculations of the mind with it? If it be easy to see the Church now on the eve of losing the world, and to see this without regret, is it alike easy to see our interests losing it, our name and distinction losing it? Such a one was Paul. He would not reign as a king yet; but he had learned how to have and how to want, how to abound and how to suffer need.
In God’s dealing by Israel, there was an assertion of title to the earth. Joshua went into “the possession of the Gentiles” and took with him “the ark of the Lord of all the earth,” that his sword might make it the possession of the Lord and His people. But Paul went into the possessions of Jews and Gentiles, not to disturb their tenure of anything there, but to take out of them a people unto God, to link souls with the disallowed Stone, and to teach them that their blessings were spiritual and heavenly.
So, according to the Lord’s teaching. See the two parables in Luke 19-20. In settling Israel, the Lord gave them a vineyard, a portion, of the earth, and told them to till it for Him, rendering Him dues as the Lord of the soil. In settling the saints of this age, He gave them talents, such gifts and opportunities of service as were suited to the fact of His absence and rejection by the world, having no estate or kingdom here till He should return.
Practically to forget such distinctions, or to act on the principle that the Church is God’s instrument for asserting His claim to the earth, is apostacy from her calling of God.
In His ministry the Lord was judging Satan, but refusing to judge the sinner. And, according to this, at the end of His ministry, He tells Peter to put up the sword, and Pilate, that His servants could not fight.
The way of His saints is to be according to all this. They are to judge morally or spiritually (that is, defilements within themselves), but not contend about the interests of the world. The apostle condemns them for not doing the one and for doing the other (see 1 Cor. 5-6), with this difference however—their duty in the first matter is peremptory (1 Cor. 5), their way in the second is left more and more to their measure of grace (1 Cor. 6). And, according to this also the apostle tells us that our weapons are not carnal but spiritual, our warfare not with flesh and blood, but with spiritual wickedness (2 Cor. 10; Eph. 6). We are really or spiritually defeated, when we fight carnally: for the devil has raised in us that temper which has sent us forth to the carnal fight.

God's Claim of the Earth

God’s assertion of His title to the earth is one thing, as I have observed in the preceding paper, and God’s call out of the earth is another. Both have been again and again exhibited in the progress of the divine dispensations.
Our history, I may say, began with the first of these. Adam in the garden was required to own the rights and sovereignty of God, by constant obedience, touching the Tree of Knowledge.
Again, this was exhibited in Noah. In him the Lord was reasserting His own rights and inheritance in the earth, and taking up the earth again, as He had done at creation, as the scene of blessing.
And, again, in further process of time, this was exhibited in Israel. The Lord was then becoming the sovereign of the soil again, and in His elect nation witnessing His claims to the earth.
And the same will He do by Israel the second time, when, in millennial days, as the prophet speaks, the king of Israel will be the God of the whole earth. “Then the earth recommences anew, under the authority of God delegated to Jesus,” as another has strikingly expressed it.
In one sense, of course, God has ever asserted His sovereignty in the earth, because it is always true: “The powers that be are ordained of God.” But at times, His assertion of His place and title in the earth forms the character of the dispensation, and at other times His call of His people out of it forms the character of the dispensation. This is what I mean:—the sword went to the Gentiles, when Israel lost themselves; but the glory did not go with it.
Now we may observe, that whenever God arises, as in a form of dispensational action, to assert title to the earth, He begins by judging the scene. This, of course; because the place of His purposed power and glory having corrupted itself, He must take the offense away and purify it. His presence could not brook iniquity. His call is not accompanied by such judgments; because all the connection which it takes with the earth, or the scene here, is to draw the elect out of it.
Noah’s lordship of the earth was accordingly preceded by the flood, which carried away the world of the ungodly. Israel’s inheritance of Canaan’ was attended by the judgment of the Amorites, and, the sword of Joshua executed the commission of the Lord. The Coming kingdom of the Lord and His Christ will be prepared, as all Scripture verifies, with a like clearing out of all that offends.
Beside, however, this prefatory or cleansing judgment, there has a law been delivered, suited to this assertion of God’s title to the earth and to the maintenance of His name and right in it.
When Noah was set up, like Adam; as the representative of God’s claim and power on the earth, a law was given to him, as to Adam, for his guidance in his place: more complex, necessarily; because the condition of things had become so. Sin had entered, and sin had to be restrained or punished; as redemption, which had become God’s principle, or the principle of divine religion among men, had to be testified and celebrated. With Adam all that was needful was the one command, just sufficient to maintain the witness of God’s supremacy in the midst of man’s lordship and enjoyment of the garden and the creatures, that all might be in right moral order. But in Noah, when God’s rights in the earth come again to be asserted, sin having entered, other things were required, and laws for the government of such a place, as well as ordinances for the maintenance of religion in so changed a scene, have to be instituted. These we accordingly find in Genesis 9:1-6.
The pursuit of this line of thought I feel has its interest for us.
In the progress of the ages, I will, therefore, go on to observe, when Israel becomes God’s witness on the earth, as I have already noticed, an economy of laws, statutes, and ordinances, both civil and religious, is established. A nation had now been taken up. The legislator had to contemplate manifold relationships, and as manifold contingencies, with all the variety of private and public rights and injuries, together with the maintenance of divine religion and worship. It had been a much simpler thing, as Noah came forth from the ark with his family, and a much simpler thing still, when Adam was set alone in Eden, than now it could be, when the host of Israel (say 600,000 strong) crossed the Jordan into their inheritance.
Accordingly, the statute-book is longer. Fitting it is that we should find it so. And so we do. Exodus 21-23, gives us the statutes which, at the beginning, and before they entered on their possession, had been decreed for the ruling of this elect and redeemed nation, in their civil relationships, and in their national religion. Ordinances of divine service pointing to “good things to come” accompany this economy or covenant. But these chapters are the statute-book, the book that was sprinkled with blood in the day of the covenant between the God of Israel and His people (Ex. 24:7).
Between this day and the day of Deuteronomy, Moses had had all the experience of the wilderness. We may well expect him to give a parting word after such experience. He does so. But the book of Deuteronomy is not to be read as a second or enlarged edition of the statute-book. It may rehearse, in its own style, many of the earlier provisions, and give new enactments and ordinances. But still it is not, merely or properly, an enlarged edition of the former book. It is rather a discourse by the legislator, in the assembly and audience of the nation, as well as upon their past history, such as their travels, fortunes, and conduct, as upon their laws, ordinances, and hopes—a word full of affectionate appeal, of earnest encouragement, and of holy, serious admonition; the father rather than the law-giver being heard to speak, soliciting as well as directing the people in the way of obedience and blessing.
Thus was it as with Moses and Israel.
Between the times of Moses and Solomon, many changes had passed. As to my present purpose, I may say that the principal of them was this—that the nation had become a kingdom. The promised land had been gained-reached and conquered. The Lord had been found faithful to all His covenant engagements, and Israel rebellious again and again. Terrible evils had been committed, and sorrowful discipline endured under the judges and King Saul. But in season the Lord arose, in the riches of His grace and the might of His Spirit, and in David righteousness prevails, and in Solomon peace follows it.
The book of the law goes up to the throne with Solomon, according to the ordinance (Deut. 17); and necessarily so. For the throne in Israel being for the Lord, the law of the Lord must be owned there. The scepter rules in His name, and must, therefore, rule according to His mind. Solomon, therefore, is not a law-giver. He is not a second Moses, though he is “king in Jeshurun.” In the throne God is greater than he. God’s law was to go up to the throne with him, that he, even there, might be God’s liege subject. And the law with him on the throne was like the command to Adam in the garden. Each of these ordinances spake this word or uttered this voice, that there was One higher than the highest; and any attempt to give the law a lower place than the throne itself would have been, in its way, a taking again of that tree, of the which the Lord God had said, “Thou shalt not eat.”
Solomon, therefore, was properly no law-giver like Moses in the book of Exodus. Neither does he discourse on the laws, enlarging them or their sanctions, like Moses in the book of Deuteronomy. He does not, after such manners, “sit in Moses’ seat.” But he may, like him, be the father of his people. He is their teacher in the rules of wisdom. He has them before him, that he may discourse to them on the conditions of the earth, where they had their citizenship or conversation. He tells them of human life, its duties, trials, labors, and vicissitudes in its manifold enjoyments and connections. He unfolds to them the springs of human action, the thoughts and tempers of men; and warns against the snares and principles of the world. After such an order as this, is the wisdom which King Solomon delivers to his people who stand before him. The same Spirit, who, in Moses, dictated the rules of civil life, and gave laws to a nation, with statutes, judgments, and ordinances, through Solomon, can comment on the whole scene around, that they who have their citizenship in the earth may be ordered there in righteousness, equity, and truth. The law of God is with him and over him on the throne, but he comes down from thence into the midst of his people and their ten thousand relationships on the footstool, and there, in the Spirit of God, reads lessons of righteousness and instructions of wisdom touching all that he surveys.
Such I believe to be the book of Proverbs.

Jacob in Egypt

In conflicts, as one has said, not only is Satan defeated, but the tried saint learns fresh secrets about his own feebleness and the resources and grace of God. So, I may add, in the wanderings of the heart, in departure from the power of faith and hope, not only is the soul chastened and exercised, but it learns, to God’s glory, that it must come back to that posture in which the Lord first set it.
These thoughts may introduce us to the closing period of Jacob’s history.
At the beginning Jacob had a title to the inheritance in the grace and sovereignty of God. “The elder shall serve the younger” had pronounced the decree of God in his favor. The rights of nature in the person of Esau were not allowed to stand in his way. The purpose of the grace of God secured everything to him, his only but all-sufficient title, as it is ours. From simple confidence in this he departed. He sought to get his brother’s seal to this title (Gen. 25:31), and then, in guile, to get his father’s also (Gen. 27).
This was a fraud; and twenty years’ exile, endured in the midst of wrongs and oppressions, was the divine discipline.
But this was also “confidence in the flesh.” It was Galatianism—a seeking to get our title to blessing, or to birthright, or to inheritance from God, sealed by some other hand than His.
In the end, however, his soul is found in the exercise of the simplest confidence. He is about to die, and the sons of Joseph, which he had by the Egyptian, are brought before him He at once adopts them. They had no title—at least none to the rights of the firstborn; but Jacob adopts them and puts them in the place of the firstborn, giving them a double portion, treating them as though they had been Reuben and Simeon.
In all this there was the stern refusal to confer with flesh and blood. His own bowels might have pleaded for his own firstborn. But no: Reuben must give place to Joseph, who, in his sons Ephraim and Manasseh, shall have one portion above his brethren. Grace shall prevail. Faith shall read its title to birthright, blessing, divine inheritance, and all things, to the full gainsaying of the claims of flesh and blood, or rights of nature.
But further, Manasseh the elder shall yield to Ephraim the younger, as Reuben the firstborn has been made to yield to Joseph the eleventh, and this, too, in despite of the most affecting pleadings and struggles of nature. In the bowels of a father, Joseph contends for the rights of Manasseh Jacob feels for him in those yearnings. In answer to them he says, “I know it, my son, I know it.” But he must pass on till he get beyond the hearing of the cry of nature, and publish the purpose of God and the title of grace, setting Ephraim above Manasseh (Gen. 48).
Thus is he brought to occupy the very ground where the hand of God had set him at the beginning, and from which, through confidence in the flesh, he departed. He now learns that those whom God blesses shall be blest, that His grace needs not the help of flesh, nor His promise the seal of man. Nay, but that rather, in spite of flesh, and in independence of man, God will make it good. Had it been needful, to the securing of the divine inheritance to him, to procure his dying father’s blessing, Jacob now sees in his setting Ephraim above Manasseh, in spite of Joseph, that God could and would have brought it about. He had desired Jacob’s own seal to his title under God; but now he learns that God can vindicate the title He confers, and make good the undertakings and promises of His grace, in spite, as it were, of even earth and hell, the reluctance of nature, or all the struggles of flesh and blood.
This was a striking witness of his soul recovering its early and right condition. But there are others.
The call of God was to a resurrection-hope, or to an inheritance in the heavenly country. The patriarchs so apprehended it (Heb. 11:13-16).
Abraham testified to this hope through his life and ways, failing though he did in some incidental matters, as in the denial of his wife before Pharaoh and Abimelech, and in the taking of Hagar.
So did Isaac, though failing also and betraying the ways of nature.
Jacob, likewise, testified to it, dwelling with Abraham and Isaac in tents, as heirs of the same promises (Heb. 11:9). But he departed more directly from this faith than they had. He built a house at Succoth—he trafficked in land with the Shechemites—he carelessly allowed his sons to join in affinity with the daughters of Canaan: all these things betraying the departure of his heart from the call of God, and the resurrection-hope in which his fathers had walked. The present world, in its possessions, occupations, and alliances, seems to have become an object with him (Gen. 33:17-20; 34).
But in the end we have the witness of a beautiful recovery in his soul in this particular also.
This begins to manifest itself at Beersheba (Gen. 46:1-4). He pauses there, on his journey from Mamre, afraid to approach Egypt, as mindful of Abram in Genesis 12, and of Isaac in Genesis 26:2-3. This was beautiful. It showed the sensitiveness of a freshly quickened soul, of one that was learning the lessons of God under a fresh impression of His Spirit. And the Lord immediately honors this by a visitation of His servant, such as he had not had since the day of Bethel in Genesis 35:9.
And this recovery of his soul is again manifested when he reaches Egypt, in his fine confession before the king. He talks of his pilgrimage, and yet, in blessing the king, assumes to be the better or superior (Heb. 7:7). And all this tells us that his soul was exactly in the consciousness and element which the call of God had set it in—that he regarded himself as having nothing “in this present evil world” but a stranger’s tent and a pilgrim’s fare, but that he was anointed of God to a better inheritance than even that of the kings of the earth (Gen. 47:7-10).
This is a beautiful witness of the health of the soul of this pilgrim-father. But the same is still further declared. He lives for seventeen years in Egypt, but there is nothing of building or trafficking there, as before at Succoth and at Shechem. And at last, in his dying hour, with great zeal he testifies his resurrection-hope according to the call of God. He requires a promise from Joseph that he would not bury him in Egypt, but take his body to the burying-place of his fathers in the land of Canaan. He makes him swear to this; and again charges all his sons to do the same with him, describing to them particularly the very spot in Canaan where his bones were to lie, “as in sure and certain hope” (Gen. 48-49). His whole soul seems engaged in this, that he might tell it out, that all his expectations were linked with the promise of God, with the hope of his fathers, with the objects and inheritance of faith, with the portion to which the call of God summons the soul—the heavenly country beyond the grave.
These are different manifestations of the recovered and healthful condition of the patriarch’s soul. I will, however, notice another.
In earlier days he had been careless as to the ways of his children. When Reuben defiled his bed, no grief or shame on his part is recorded. When Levi and Simeon shed the blood of the Shechemites, it is only a sorrow to him, as it endangered him with the people of the land (Gen. 34-35). But, at the end, a very different mind expresses itself in him.
In the course of his prophetic words upon his sons, now and again his own heart is allowed to utter itself, and such utterances are full of spiritual affection, expressing, as we may see, a very improved condition of soul. Thus, Reuben’s history is, it is most true, drawn by the hand of the Spirit, but in the midst of it the patriarch utters the horror of his own soul over the remembrance of Reuben’s iniquity. While awarding their several destinies to Simeon and Levi, his heart in like manner is given space to declare its abhorrence and full rejection of their sin and blood-guiltiness.
And so, in earlier days, lie had been careless of the apostate ways of his children, marrying the daughters of Canaan; but now, in the course of the same prophetic words, contemplating the apostacy of Dan, in sickness of soul over such a sight, he breathes out a longing after the promise —“I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord” (Gen. 49).
This, among the other witnesses, tells of the recovered, healthful, spiritual condition of the soul of Jacob while in Egypt, or in the closing period of his checkered and eventful life. Breaches which the world or the flesh had made are repaired, and by the hand of his shepherd is he surely led in paths of righteousness.

The Pilgrim Fathers

What is declared in these verses of the Epistle to the Hebrews of the fathers in the book of Genesis, is beautifully exhibited, and thereby fully verified by their histories. I feel anxious to consider this a little carefully, the Lord leading the heart (as through circumstances I trust He graciously has done lately) a little more vividly beyond the grave.
1. “These all died in faith.” The history strikingly illustrates this. They valued their dead bodies and the burying places which held them. While they lived, they were content to sojourn in Canaan without having so much as to set their foot on. But “they died in faith.” The promise of God had made over that land, that very land, to them, though they themselves were to be gathered to their fathers (Gen. 15); and this was the warrant for their dying in faith, in the sure and certain hope of a resurrection unto the enjoyment of it. They would link their dead, though not their living, bodies with that land. Their care in securing the field of Ephron, the cave of Machpelah, for a burying-place, tells us this; and so the jealousy with which those of them who died in Egypt secured the carriage of their bones over to the promised land. All this verifies that “they died in faith.” Whether their bodies lay in Machpelah or Sychem mattered not, for their bones would, in either case, be equally linked with the promised land. Stephen tells us that all the fathers were animated with this same faith (Acts 7:13). And I quite agree with those who say that this solves that difficult verse (Acts 7:16). Stephen shortly tells us that all were carried over from Egypt to Canaan, but whether to the ground which Abraham bought of Ephron, or that which Jacob bought of Hamor, it mattered not, for both equally linked their hopes with the promised inheritance. By faith they “gave commandment concerning their bones” (Heb. 11:22).
2. “They saw the promises afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them.” As they died in faith of the promises, so did they live in the full persuasion of them, though still distant. Their history, in like manner, gives beautiful witness of this.
Abraham lived in tents with Isaac and Jacob. That was so indeed. But, then, they were heirs together of the promise. Of this they were, in the midst of their pilgrim-days, fully persuaded. And, therefore, on fitting occasions, they can act upon that full persuasion, in a way which nothing but such persuasion can account for, assuming the dignities and places which the promise warranted. Their “name was to be great” “and the land was to be theirs,” and they would, if the moment called them, act in such character without thinking it robbery. See some instances of this.
Abimelech the king of Gerar courts the friendship of Abraham. Abraham at once allows the vail to drop, and puts off the pilgrim-girdle that hid or bound up his royal apparel, and takes headship of the Philistine king (Gen. 21).
Isaac, in his day, does the same. Another Abimelech, king of Gerar, with the high estates of his kingdom, waits on Isaac, and Isaac accepts his person, grants his requests, prepares a feast, and then (instead of being sent away by Abimelech as before, in the day of humiliation) sends Abimelech away as in a day of power and majesty. His state is kingly. The great man of the earth, and the heavenly pilgrim, for— a mystic hour have exchanged places; or, if not quite that, the pilgrim has become “king of kings” (Gen. 26).
And so Jacob. He blesses Pharaoh, taking to him without reserve the place of “the better.” For “without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better.” The confessed pilgrim assumes, for a moment, a dignity beyond that of the chief man of the earth in that day, the Pharaoh of Egypt (Gen. 47).
Delightful scriptures, indeed, these are. Without reserve or apology, the heavenly strangers assume the station which will be theirs under promise of God in its season. And such an act tells us that, though as yet they “had not received the promises,” yet were they “persuaded of them, and embraced them.” They could, in the faith and spirit of their Lord, ascend the mount of transfiguration, on a due occasion.
3. “They confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” This was literally so, in the progress of their journeys along the stream of time. By word of mouth they declared this of themselves (Gen. 23:4; 28:4; 47:9).
Their actions, also, were according to this. The moral principles on which they carried themselves spoke the same language.
They lived in tents, signifying plainly that they were not taking up any certain settlement in the earth. They surrendered their rights in the world. Abraham, for instance, gave up the choice of the land to his younger brother, leaving it with him to appoint him whatever portion he pleased (Gen. 13).
And Isaac does the same. The instance is very striking. The Lord so signally blesses him, there was so much of the divine presence manifestly with him, that his company becomes oppressive to the world, and the men of Gerar require him to withdraw from them. He yields at once. But the blessing follows him. His servants dig a well, and the Lord fills it. And then the uncircumcised seek his wells, and he yields again.
This was a pilgrim’s practical life. He would put up with either insult or injury, with an affront to his name, or damage to his estate. This was moral power—the principle of a pilgrim’s life. This was conduct becoming his confession, that he was a stranger on the earth. “Let the potsherds strive with the potsherds of the earth.” It is natural they should. But neither Abraham nor Isaac are potsherds of the earth, but heavenly strangers.
Thus was their confession verified by their ways. They acted, and in their behavior bore witness that they were pilgrims here.
4. “If they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to return.”
The history very largely warrants this thought concerning the pilgrim fathers; a thought which tells us that their sense of strangership on earth did not arise from regrets, but from hopes. They were dissatisfied with the present thing, not because of that which was past but of that which was to come. The scene around was a wilderness by reason of the power over them of the scene before and not of that behind them.
They might easily have retraced the road to Padanaram-Eliezer did so. They had not forgotten the way, for he did not mistake a step nor had to inquire it. And as easy would it have been for Abraham or for Isaac to have taken that journey as for Eliezer. But Eliezer went there only to do a certain business and to return. In a moral sense, his visit to the land from whence his master, Abraham, had come out, was no return to it. He did not linger there beyond the term of the appointed service. “Send me away unto my master,” was his word then, and no entreaties or kindnesses could change it (Gen. 24).
And Rebecca’s mind was the same. “I will go” was her immediate decision, when the matter was referred to her. All this being according to the purposes and thoughts of the great patriarch himself. For on sending Eliezer away, he had taken an oath of him that he would, on no pretense whatever, take his son back to that land of his kindred. Let consequences be what they may, that was never to be done.
Jacob, too, however to appearance it may be otherwise, acts exactly in the same spirit and on the same principles. His wrong way brings him under divine chastening, and he has to seek the distant land of his forefathers. But he is there as an exile rather than as at home. He is there actually because of God’s discipline, but not there morally, because of the desire of his own heart. He remains there, it is true, a far longer time than Eliezer had; as many years, perhaps, as the other had hours. But still, all the time, he is there in the spirit of Eliezer. For, like him, as soon as the business was done, as soon as the purpose or hand of the Lord gives him his dismissal, he leaves it—leaves it, too, I may add, though Laban’s contract and God’s blessing were making it profitable for him to remain; and though Esau’s enmity, he might well judge, awaited him if he dared to return. But so it was. With loss behind and danger before him, he leaves it. Indeed, such had been his purpose throughout, from beginning to end. As he was setting out, he talks, with all desire, of his return. As soon as Joseph is born, his hopes are all alive that the time of his banishment is over. And he remains after that only under God’s sanction, and departs as soon as God’s word allows him (Gen. 28:21; 30:25; 31:3-13). All this surely telling us that morally, or in the spirit of his mind, he had no more returned to that land than Abraham or Isaac.
This mind not to go back to the place from which they had been called was, therefore, the mind which strongly impregnated the whole ‘pilgrim family. It was so much the air they breathed, that even the Syrian servant inhaled it, and lived by it, and the elect bride felt the virtue of it at once. The language of their walk concerning their native land, was what ours should be concerning “this present evil world.”
“‘Tweer easy, did we choose,
Again to reach the shore;
But this is what our souls refuse:
We’ll never touch it more.”


What an instance does the case of Rahab afford us of the long-suffering of God being salvation, as Peter speaks!
The camp of Israel had accomplished their journey, a journey of forty years. At the beginning of it, a mixed multitude followed them out of Egypt. Very soon after they had entered on it, and were clean delivered from Egypt, Hohab, the Midianite, joined them. But now, at the very end of it, yea, something even beyond that, when the desert had been fully traversed, and the appointed or penal term of forty years was fully spent, in an interval of delay or long-suffering, the ransomed of the Lord lingering on the confines of the desert and the land, this harlot of Jericho joins them.
This is full of meaning. The entrance of Israel into Canaan was to be the judgment of that people. But the moment is delayed. Was it that the Lord was slack concerning His promise that the inheritance of that land was to be made sure to the children of the Genesis-fathers? No; but this delay was salvation. God delayed the day of visitation on the peoples, that He might call His elect to repentance.
This history is a vivid expression of that great principle. Joshua, however, does not appear to have been in the secret of God’s grace; as Peter was not in the secret of His grace to the Gentiles, nor Paul in the secret of His grace to Europe (Acts 10-16). It is to spy out the land Joshua sends these two men. No mission of mercy to the people seems to animate his action or guide his thoughts. But the grace of God, in a way unlooked for by His people, worked then and works still. It passed over to the Gentiles before Peter did; it passed over to Macedonia before Paul did; and it now crosses the Jordan before Joshua.
But further. If Joshua be not in the secret of God’s grace, the spies whom he sends cannot be in the commission of it. They are, however, prepared for such a service. This is truly blessed. They were not entrusted with such a business, or under orders concerning it; but they fulfill it at once without reserve, without suspicion as to their title to do so, and in all possible confidence and decision. Precious beyond thought this is! They heard nothing from their captain about such a thing, but they pledge deliverance to Rahab, and make the security of that Canaanite as ample and as perfect as that of any Israelite in the camp, as rich and full even as their own. God was their title, though uncommissioned by Joshua; for, in His eyes, the feet of the publishers of grace on the mountains, even on defiled Canaan, are beautiful. (See Rom. 10.)
Who can tell the gospel-comfort of this? But again. The spies themselves, in a day or two afterward, enter the land in quite another character. They were now going there at the peril of their lives: in a day or two they would go under the conduct of the ark and in company with the glory. They were now going as the witness and the channel of blessing to a poor sinner of the place; in a day or two they would go to execute the judgment of the Lord and to share the spoils and the inheritance. They were now in weakness and danger, thankful for the shelter of some stalks of flax to hide them from the pursuer: but they were speedily to be in victory and honor in the same place. (What a sample, I may say, we get of the same mysteries in the apostle, who was let down the wall of Damascus in a basket, and yet in a rapture taken up to the third heaven!)
Wonderful in its value to us is all this, in its consolations and encouragements.
Further, however, as to Rahab. Let the glory thus enter the land, and the judgments conduct their solemn work, she is safe. She had believed the word of the spies about the scarlet line, and been faithful to them in the hour of their weakness and degradation.
This is to be much observed. She had not uttered their business, and she is, therefore, as safe as they are; that is, she had been faithful to them in their time of weakness and danger and degradation; and now, in the day of their victory and strength, when all things are changed, she is as they are, their victory is her victory, their security is her security, their inheritance her inheritance.
“Our life for yours,” say the spies to Rahab, “if ye utter not this our business.” How strikingly the great principle of the gospel expresses itself there! For faith was demanded by that word of the spies, as faith is that which is true to Christ’s humiliation, and weakness, and sorrow. It is faith which understands that precious gospel mystery. It is faith which holds to Jesus in the hour of His cross. Christ crucified is faith’s secret. The abandoning of that secret would be death. “If ye continue in the faith,” says the apostle. To give up the hour of the Lord’s weakness—for “He was crucified through weakness”—is to forfeit everything. But faith is true to that mystery, as Rahab uttered not the business of the spies, nor betrayed them in the hour of their degradation, weakness, and peril.
This, surely, is full of meaning for us.
And again. Her pledge was in the midst of the scene of judgment, but it had been appointed by the executors of judgment. It was they who had passed it to her. No necessity could be higher. As in the paschal night of Egypt, the sword is borne by the hand of Him who had ordained the blood on the lintel. No security could surpass that. But such as it, and equal to it, is the security for a sinner by the gospel. As it is written, “herein is love made perfect that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, because, as He is, so are we in this world.” We are in the world, the place of judgment, and Jesus is on high; nevertheless His safety is ours: “As He is, so are we in this world.”


When we think of grace, we think of our interests in Christ; when we think of glory, we think of our interests with Christ. The first subject is really the deeper, the more personal and affectionate. It takes us to the heart of the Lord; the second takes us to His circumstances.
And yet, it may be a symptom of weakness, if we too fondly and too exclusively hang over the subject of grace. And it is a symptom of strength and simplicity, if we find ourselves attracted by the thought of glory, and feel ourselves at home in it. Because, if we can, in such a spirit, deal with glory, and ponder it with ease and delight, it shows that our souls have already dealt with grace and are established therein.
These are true notices of the state of the soul, I judge. Still, however, as I said, grace is really a deeper, more wondrous subject than glory. When the glory is reached, it will be the grace that will be abstracted, and be the animating subject of everlasting songs and recollections. And so even now. The soul that makes glory its theme without affectionate glances at grace will but weary us; while he who can affectionately triumph in grace, and makes that his theme; unequal perhaps to go beyond it, will still be grateful to the heart. Thoughts of grace may dwell alone in the soul, but thoughts of glory may not. (Moses and the congregation in their song triumph in both grace and glory. Miriam and her maidens echo the thought of grace only. And yet Miriam’s gentler strain is very welcome to the ear. (See Ex. 15.))
The strongest, richest, happiest condition, is when the soul can use all the arguments, all the incentives, all the attractions which grace and glory alike minister to it. This is Paul’s state, characteristically I may say, in 2 Timothy. He urges his dear son to “be strong in the grace,” disclosing some of the riches of it, and also holds out to him “the crown of righteousness.” And this 2 Timothy was Paul’s last word, his “swan’s song.”
Those histories in the Old Testament which illustrated grace are more our constant delight than such as exhibit glory, though this, in its measure, will depend on the state of the soul, and in some cases, as I said, may betray our weakness.
One is too disposed to walk in company with the watchful spirit, the self-judging spirit, the spirit which is full of care that a good conscience be kept. But our company should also be the recollection of the boundless grace of God. That should rise and gladden the heart abidingly. Our journey to glory should be taken in the sunshine that the conscious grace of God imparts to the way-faring man.
It is then we honor Him, and answer the expectations of His heart, and the purpose of His plans and counsels. For nothing can He value like His grace. Why does He promise that His eye and His heart shall be in the temple perpetually? (See 2 Chron. 7) Is it not because in the temple there was the witness of His grace? The place of angels did not afford His eye that object. And yet angels as creatures were more beautiful, and heaven as a place far more magnificent, than the priests and the temple at Jerusalem. But angels and heaven did not tell Him of His grace in the way that the temple did. And there lay the attraction. That was the secret why His eye and His heart affected that spot so intently.
The revelation of this grace of God, the style of the revelation of it, is as wonderful and different from all beside, just as is the grace itself.
The love of God disclosed in the gospel is a love which passes knowledge. And yet the story of it is told without glowing expressions to give it effect, or any help, as from language or description, to set it off to the heart.
This is a wondrous thing. Attempts are not made in Scripture to carry the sense of this love to the soul beyond the simple telling of the tale of it. It is told, but told artlessly. This is the style, the general style or method, of the Book of God.
Take one instance of this, from the house of God to which I have already referred. Take Exodus 28, where we get the dress of the servants of that house. These garments of the high priest, who was the mystic Christ, the Son of God serving in the sanctuary, are full of deep and precious mysteries. They express to the intelligence of faith a love that passes knowledge. And yet, throughout the chapter, there is not the slightest effort to produce an impression correspondent with that—none whatever. The dress of Aaron is simply hung up before our eye, without any description to attract attention to it or command the heart.
Is this human? Indeed it is not. This style is as much above man’s, as the grace it unfolds.
And this grace in the sanctuary of old was the very way of Christ in the day of His personal ministry. He never used language, if I may so speak. His style had nothing of a glowing, eloquent declaration of His love about it. There was nothing of ardor either in manner or word to enforce on the disciples the conviction of His affection. But there was ample material for the heart to assure itself of that precious truth. All His way (passed in calmness, and, as far as could be, in silence) was a material which one, who could appreciate it, would have used for the demonstration of a love that thoroughly passed all description. Wondrous method of the God of all grace and all perfections! It is the office, the covenant business of the Holy Spirit, to interpret all this mysterious love. It is for Him to take Jesus and show Him unto us. Christ made no effort to persuade us of His love. That was not His way. The Lord of the old sanctuary, as we have also seen, made no such effort. Each of these passed before the eye of faith calmly, and, as it were, silently, but the Spirit and the renewed mind find ample matter to discover, and to feed upon a love that passes all knowledge.
And happy and profitable it is to have it vividly impressed on the soul, that it is in company with the God of grace we pursue our journey day by day, or take its successive and changeful stages. The 23rd Psalm would witness this. There the saint addresses himself to his journey, not knowing what may betide him, but in the assurance of this, that, be it what it may—want, sorrow, failure in righteousness, or conflict, nay, death-like circumstances and conditions-still God in grace is ever near to supply the strength, the comfort, or the restoration.
We get the same doctrinally, or as taught us by the apostle. Being justified by His death, we shall be saved by His life (Rom. 5). It is not merely the grace of God at the cross that is to be remembered, but the grace of God in Christ’s life in heaven that is to be used and enjoyed every day. The life of Christ in heaven for us measures and accompanies the life of a needy and defiled saint on earth. (The hidden thing is as real as manifested; the doings of the Lord in discipline of us are open; His pleadings for us are secret; one on earth, the other in heaven-but both equally real.)
So in Hebrews 4. If the two-edged sword make inquiry and disclose the corruption in us, the high priesthood of Jesus is ever at hand to answer for them. As under the law, the ashes of the heifer were laid up in a clean place, outside the camp, for the constant use of the one defiled by the touch of death. The relief was ever at hand, relief provided by grace. Let what judge or accuser may raise his voice to condemn, he is always met by the intercession of Him who is seated at the right hand of God (Rom. 8). The accuser is heard, comparatively, at a distance, but the Intercessor is seated in the place of dearest intimacy and highest dignity. And thus, in another form, grace displays itself, and accompanies us all along the way.
Here, however, I am drawn aside a little. I have just said that the voice of the accuser or judge is heard comparatively at a distance, and not from that place of nearness and dignity from whence the voice of the Intercessor comes. But I do not, when I say this, forget that the accuser of the brethren is in heaven. I know it; but still I say he is at a comparative distance. The vision of the Messiah in 1 Kings 22, the opening scenes in Job, the Lord’s word in Luke 10:18, the teaching of the apostle in Ephesians 6, and the action in Revelations 12, all tell us that our adversary, our accuser, is in the heavenly places; but those heavens are a lower heavens than His Father’s house, or the place of the excellent glory. There is a region to which the prince of the power of the air has title and access now, as of old he had title of access to the garden of Eden; to carry on his accusings there, as once he conducted his temptations in the garden. This region is called heaven, or the heavenly places, where spiritual wickednesses are (Eph. 6).
This, however, is a lower heaven. This is not the Father’s house. This is not the residence of the excellent glory. It may be the seat of power or of government, but it is not the place of the excellent glory.
And I understand this to be the place to which the holy Jerusalem descends, to take her connection with, and government of, the millennial earth. (See Rev. 21.)
She had, however, descended ere she reached that spot, a witness that she belonged to a higher place, and so she does. She is more properly or personally an inmate of the Father’s house, which is in higher regions, for the place of the family is higher than that of the government.
The marriage of the Lamb takes place in the Father’s house (Rev. 19). A marriage is a family action, and suits a family dwelling. But when the marriage is celebrated there, the Bride is introduced to the place of dominion, which is a lower place, because she is seen as descending to it.
Now it is this lower place, this lower place of government, or of connection with the earth, this region occupied by the Lamb’s wife in the day of her manifested glory, which constitutes the heaven or the heavenly places of the principalities and powers of darkness in the present time. From that heaven they will be cast down: and then, in due season at last, that place will be occupied by the redeemed and glorified Church, the Lamb’s wife, which is to have the government of “the world to come.”
And I may add, the scene eyed by Peter, James, and John on the holy hill, was a scene laid rather in that place of power or of government than in the Father’s house. And this I say for two reasons. First, the excellent glory or the place of the Father was separated from that hill (see 2 Peter 1:17); secondly, the place of that scene was within the ken or vision of the earthly people, and so will the place of the holy Jerusalem or the Church in government be, but so will not be the Father’s house, or “the excellent glory.”
All this has value for us. It witnesses to us that the family scene is above the courtly scene, that the place of affection is higher than the place of power. But all is grace.
“Join thou, my soul! for thou canst tell
How sovereign grace broke up thy cell,
And burst thy native chains:
And from that dear and happy day
How oft by grace constrained to say
That grace triumphant reigns!”
Grace, like everything of freedom, delights to use its freedom. This we may see in such a scene as that of the eunuch in Acts 8 Grace also delights in displaying the variousness of its ways: this we may see in such a history as that of David. The soul that is established in grace, as another once said, will be found rather reasoning from what God is, than from what we ourselves are. O precious occupation of the heart, to be going over and over again the grace and glory we receive from Him!

John, the Penman of the Apocalypse

In the progress of this book we see John moved by different affections. He trembles in Revelation 1:17; he weeps in Revelation 5:4; he wonders with great admiration in Reveation 17:6; he loses himself in worshipping delight in Revelation 19:10 and 22:8.
That is, he trembles in the presence of the judicial glory of the Son of Man; he weeps at the sight of a sealed book, which, had it been unsealed, would have told secrets about Jesus; he marvels at the sight of Christendom’s apostacy; he loses himself in joy when he hears of the marriage of the Lamb, and when he sees the Bride of the Lamb.
What suited affections! What creations of the Holy Spirit in the soul of a saint He never trembles, after the One who was alive tells him not to fear. He that had the keys of death and lades encourages him and that, surely, is enough for us.

Thoughts on 2 Corinthians

In the midst of the fears and warnings of the Spirit concerning the churches, we may observe that He is alarmed for them on several and different grounds, as expressed in different epistles and by different apostles.
1. He specially warns them respecting Judaizing, i.e., religiousness, or the observance of rites and ordinances. This fear is expressed in the letters to Galatia, Colosse, and Philippi.
2. He fears for them respecting the working of an infidel mind, the mind which, corrupted by reasoning, denies mysteries. This is seen in 1 John 4; 1 Peter 3:3-4.
3. He fears for them also on the ground of abusing grace, or licentiousness, the practical denial of godliness while boasting in grace and liberty. This is seen in 2 Peter 2 and in Jude.
4. He fears also worldliness.
It is this last feature of fear filling the mind of the Spirit about the saints or churches, and shaping apostolic ministry, which has just struck me in connection with 2 Corinthians.
This is a distinct character of fear. It is not an apprehension of religiousness, or infidelity, or licentiousness corrupting the churches; it is formally distinct from each of these. The Grecian style may have exposed the Corinthians specially to a simple worldly attraction, to the pretensions of a man of refinement and station and independence, who had much in the flesh; that is, from nature and from circumstances, that was attractive and showy. This was worldliness.
The fear about Corinth was not respecting religious or Judaizing influence. Neither was it (at least in the second epistle) from the working of an infidel mind, or from the sports of an unclean and lustful nature, but “the god of this world” was feared by the apostle.
A certain man appears to have gained attention, who had much more both from nature and from circumstances than the apostle; and the saints at Corinth were moved by this. He was, I believe, as modern language speaks, a gentleman. He had a fine person and an independent fortune. He had many advantages of that kind; and the Corinthians were under that evil influence—to some extent they had been beguiled. They were looking on things after the outward appearance. They were suffering a man vaunting of himself, and lording it over them, and taking occasion by some low and worldly advantages he possessed from nature and from circumstances to be somebody.
Such a bad condition the apostle has to contend with. Affection and confidence toward himself had been withdrawn in measure, because he had no such advantages to boast. And surely he was fully purposed not to affect such things at all. It is true, he would be independent as well as the other, but it should arise from his working with his own hand, not from advantages of fortune, as we say. And though he had certain things of which he might boast in the flesh, he would glory rather in his infirmities. He would be “weak in Christ,” that is, in fellowship with Him who was “crucified in weakness,” that all his strength might be spiritual, or resurrection-strength.
The natural advantages which this man had he used, taking to himself the importance and value which attach to such things in the world. And some of the saints were corrupted. But against such association he protests in chapter 4, “Be ye not unequally yoked,” he says. And the manner of this man he exposes more fully, setting his own way forth as contrary to it, in chapters 10-12.
And in doing this, in offering himself as a practical witness of a way different from this man of the world, we may notice these particulars:
1. The apostle refuses to know himself, or to be known by the saints, save according to his measure in the Spirit, and not as he was by nature or in the flesh.
2. He glories only in either his infirmities or in such dignities as separated him from all worldly estimation, as his rapture into paradise; for the world would not understand such honor.
Such a one does the apostle present himself in contradiction of the man who gloried in the flesh. We may know how hard it is to follow him in such a path, in a willingness to be weak that we may be strong; in his decision to know Christ in the weakness of His cross, so that whatever strength he knew might be as of resurrection (2 Cor. 13:4).
I dare say some were tempted to undervalue the office or apostleship of Paul, because he had not the advantage in the flesh of other apostles.
He had not companied with the Lord in the days of His flesh; and in his own flesh he had a thorn. This may further have exposed him to observation by those who judged after the flesh. But the apostle was willing that his ministry or office should remain unrecommended by anything the world could appreciate. He valued only that power of God, that power in the Spirit which accompanied his ministry, and which was fitted to tell on hearts and consciences, power which linked him with the Lord in life or resurrection. These features in Paul’s ministry show how the flesh is now excluded, and all its advantages, from the divine idea of ministry.
Every symptom of weakness in man’s account gathered round the blessed Lord in the day of His crucifixion: desertion and denial by those who should have stood with Him, the enmity of man in every form in which it could have expressed itself, the forsaking of God, all the malice and purpose of Satan. This was the full exhibition of all that was weak, miserable, and despised in the world’s account. None were for Jesus, all was against Him, and even nature seemed to join. But Paul was willing that his ministry should be in moral sympathy with His.
Generally, as to this epistle, I would say, it might distribute itself as follows:
2 Corinthians 1-2:13. In this portion the apostle speaks of his trials in the gospel, and answers objections made to him because of his not having visited Corinth a second time.
2 Corinthians 2:14-7:4. This is a parenthesis. The apostle presents his ministry in several characteristics of it.
2 Corinthians 7:5-16. Here the apostle resumes and pursues the point from which he had departed at 2 Corinthians 2:13. He expresses his joy in the Corinthians, and in the grace that was in them.
2 Corinthians 8- 9. This is quite incidental.
2 Corinthians 10-13. The great and leading purpose of the epistle occupies these chapters. The apostle contemplates the way of a certain injurious teacher who had acquired influence at Corinth, and he intimates the fruit of that influence; largely, also, exhibiting his own way as a teacher in contradiction of him who was then corrupting the saints.
This may be read as a general analysis of the epistle, I believe.
I might observe, that the apostle’s commendation of the Corinthians in chapter 7— previous to his large and fervent rebuke of them in chapters 10-13, may remind us of the way of the Spirit in His addresses to the seven churches in the Revelation; for in each of them there is a beginning with a commendation, and then (when called for) an enlarging in the way of rebuke and condemnation.
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