The Principles Displayed in the Ways of God Compared With His Ultimate Dealings: Part 2

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The testimony of the Holy Ghost, in patience, called them who had put Him to death to repentance, but the call was unheeded and the guilt remained upon them. And thus closed all God's dealings with the earth, as presenting means of blessing to their acceptance, and Christ the Lord, the Son of man, must return, sent by the Ancient of days, before the principles of blessing held out, and the revealed means of relationship with God, could be made good in power and available in blessing.
In all this it will be evident that the church of God does not at all enter. The scene had for the time 1 closed, in which these various principles were developed on earth, to be resumed in power when Christ returns there, to whom all the title and blessing belongs. Meanwhile He is hid in heaven, and unites to Himself a heavenly people outside all these ministrations, to be associated with Himself, as a better Eve, when He shall take the inheritance and accomplish all that God has held out to man.
Yet in one point evidently there is connection, that is, in Abraham. Although there be higher principles of blessing which have formed the subject of promise, such as being united to the Christ, members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones, yet Christians do come in under Abraham as heirs of promise, as strangers and pilgrims on the earth, walking by faith, called out of the world. Thus they fill up the gap during the power of the Gentiles, guilty of rejecting the Lord, and the setting aside of the Jews for their despisal of Messiah, until called to take their place in the heavens with the Lord. In Christ we are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to promise, though God has reserved some better thing for us. But as the church, she is entirely outside all this, unknown and a mystery, till the time Israel was set aside, and there was nothing but what unknown and sovereign counsels might introduce, under God to keep Israel again for repentance and blessing.
This very plainly shows the distinction of the church from all earthly position and promise though manifested there until God shall again begin to act from the throne on the nations, and take up again His questions with the earth then in judgment, as heretofore in grace. But to His judgment men will be as callous as they have been to grace, till it assumes a character which there is no escaping, and when despair will be as complete as revolt and self-will were before. It does not enter into the subject of this paper to treat of the details of that day. The judgments on the Gentiles are the subject of the Apocalypse; the state of the Jews, of the Old Testament prophecies chiefly. After a moral preparation in the hearts of the Jews, the presence of the Lord Jesus will at once bring in the accomplishment, not only of promises made to them, but the concentration in His person and kingdom in the power conferred on Him, of all the scattered elements of the Divine ways previously revealed.
It may be remarked, that I have left prophecy out of the list I have given of manifestations of Divine intervention. The omission was not forgetfulness. A prophet was one by whom God sovereignly maintained His relationship and connection with Israel, and even in a measure with the world, when there was entire failure. It took place in every dispensation, and was not properly one, but ran through all, though God acted by it in emergencies. It revealed God and foretold Christ, but evidently was to cease when the things it spoke of were accomplished, for then it had no place. Its character was the sovereign intervention of God, not the development of His ways. Therefore as we see, it was in exercise at all times, when, as regards those ways, man had failed. It showed and reproved the failure, and encouraged the faith of the Jew, faithful among the faithless, in the enduring fidelity of the Lord, pointing out with an increasing fullness the intervention of God in power, when the faith that made its way through the power of evil would be no longer needed, because that evil would be set aside by power. Hence we find it in Enoch before the flood, in Noah, in the patriarchs, and, in a particular manner, in Samuel, when Israel had failed under the theocracy, and in Israel departed from God, and in Judah become unfaithful in her kings.
I do not touch here on the character of prophecy in the church, as spoken of in the Epistles. The church was based, as we have seen, on the failure of everything; and to it, and in it, the mind of God was specially communicated. To that which takes a definitely prophetic form the above remarks, however, fully apply in principle. Only the church counted faithful is made the depositary. We have prophecies in Thessalonians, Timothy, Jude, and Revelation. In the latter case, the part fully and properly prophetic treats of the world and the apostasy, or of the Jews; so that it takes a distinctly prophetic character, and returns to the principles2 stated above. The prophetic character was accomplished in the Lord at His first coming, as far as regards His person.
The priesthood does not enter either in its Aaronic character into the ways of God with man. It was the means of approach of man to God, and subsisted in connection with the existence of His people without a king and under the kings. It supposed an accepted earthly people, so far as it was in daily exercise, though there might be particular failure. So far as the acceptance of the people was in question, it was hidden within the veil. In this character it is Christ's present position as regards Israel, for we know the acceptance (the veil being rent). It existed under different dealings of God to maintain individuals in their position, and was not positively itself one.
J. N. D.