Writings Vol. Three
"REMEMBER YOUR GUIDES."
A MEMORIAL OF THE MINISTRY OF F. W. GRANT.
"Remember your leaders who have spoken to you the word
of God; and considering the issue of their conversation, imitate their faith.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to-day, and to the ages to come. Be not
carried away with various and strange doctrines, for it is good that the heart
be confirmed with grace, not meats; those who have walked in which have not
been profited by them" Heb. xiii. 7-9. J. N. Darby's Version.
THE theme of the Epistle to the Hebrews is the pre-eminence of Christ in all things. Written to those who were by birth and inheritance disposed to set a value upon the external, apart from the saving grace of God, it came in direct opposition to all fleshly pride and carnal religion. In fact, it did not so much set aside abuses of the law, as our Lord in dealing with the self-righteous, hypocritical Pharisees, as it showed that all ceremonial religion, though given by God Himself, was but temporary. The law had but "a shadow of good things to come." Beautiful shadows indeed, and most helpful in illustrating divine truth, and yet never for a moment to be confounded with the substance - Christ Himself.
Thus Christ is seen pre-eminent over and displacing all things which the Hebrews were tempted to hold to and to substitute for Him. We see Him as Son of God, pre-eminent over the angels, and setting them aside; as the faithful Son over God's house, displacing Moses, the faithful servant in his own day; as the true High Priest, who abides forever, displacing Aaron and his sons, whom death was constantly removing; as the Mediator of the new covenant, sealed with His own blood, therefore an "everlasting" covenant; as the one perfect Sacrifice by which we are sanctified -"perfected forever"- and have boldness to enter into the holiest "by the blood of Jesus," displacing forever "the blood of bulls and goats." We see Him as "the leader and perfecter of faith," who, having victoriously run His course, has sat down upon the throne of God, the object of ex-ultant faith and love and hope, as we speed on our way, laying aside every weight, and turning from all that would distract.
Jesus only, and always, is then the theme, and again and again is He put before the Hebrew Christians, with every warning and entreaty to hold fast the confession of their faith without wavering. No ordinance, no matter how holy; no man, no matter how venerated, could for one moment dispute the place which He alone could occupy.
And surely if the Hebrews needed such an admonition, we living in these last days need also to be ever recalled to "the Son." If we are not tempted to turn to Judaism in name, there is the pronounced tendency to take up a ritual which ministers to the flesh in the same way. Rome has multitudes of votaries not called by her name; while other multitudes are turning to "divers and strange doctrines " which exalt man and degrade the Christ of God. We need, perhaps as never before, to hear the Shepherd's voice, to be turned back to Christ alone.
We all recognize, too, the tendency to make much of man, and unknowingly to fall into idolatry by giving glory to some instrument whom in His grace God has seen fit to use, rather than to Himself. We lean unduly upon the hand which would point us to Christ, anct too often make priests of those who are reminding us that we are all priests. We close our lips in presence of the ministry of those who are telling us, "Ye may all prophesy." Thus we abuse the very gifts given by our glorified Head, and one lesson at least which we may learn from the removal of beloved and honoured servants of Christ is not to make too much of these - to "cease from man "- to cleave more simply to Christ alone. Thus will we honour the servant by turning to the Master, and be kept from the shame of idolatry.
And yet - returning to the Epistle to the Hebrews - we find a whole chapter devoted to human examples of faith. A great cloud of witnesses look down upon us in the eleventh chapter, and in the closing one of the book thrice does the writer (who, though doubtless Paul, veils himself that Christ alone may claim the eye,) speak of their "guides," or "leaders." They were to remember those who had passed away, and imitate their faith; they were to obey those who remained, realizing that they were charged with weighty responsibilities, and were to salute them in all honour and affection.
Scripture, then, not only warrants but commands the remembrance of those whom God has given as leaders of His people. To forget them means, too often, to forget the truth they brought, and paves the way for that "building the sepulchres of the prophets" by a godless posterity who are indifferent to every warning spoken by those prophets. There is a sober, discriminating way of dwelling upon the ministry of faithful servants which encourages our own faith, quickens conscience, and stirs afresh to follow them as they followed Christ.
Most biographies are written from a human standpoint; the man is before us rather than his message. Such biographies are not helpful; but who has not been stimulated by the narratives of devotion, self-denial, unresting toil of faithful men at home or abroad We realize on either hand that they were men "of like passions with ourselves," and that a Power wrought in and with them which is for us too.
The passage we have quoted at the beginning shows us how we can properly "remember our guides." First of all, what makes their remembrance profitable is that they spoke to us the word of God. It was not for special personal excellence of character, either natural or gracious; nor for great activities and results in the Lord's work - considered in themselves. What gives value to the remembrance of the leader is the word of God with which he was identified, the message he brought.
We read of one of David's mighty men, Eleazar the son of Dodo, that he stood alone against a great host of Philistines when "the men of Israel had gone away." He smote them "till his hand was weary and his hand clave unto the sword; and the Lord wrought a great victory" (a Sam. xxiii. 9, io). His very name, "God is help," turns from the man to God. What could he do single-handed against the host of the enemy? His arm grows weary, but the weary hand cleaves to the good sword, and we see no longer the feeble arm of man, but the power of God behind that weary arm, hewing out victory with that sword. The man has become identified with the sword, and God can use such an one.
So are all God's mighty men; feeble, and with weary arms, they cling to that "sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Their very weariness and feebleness makes them cling (like Jacob who, his thigh out of joint, can no more wrestle, but cling). Such men God can use, for they are identified with their sword,- with the word of God. To remember such is to remember the sword - the Word which they brought. There can be no higher honour to a servant of Christ than to merge him, as it were, in the truth he ministered; in thinking of him, to think of the sword he held in his feebleness. The world may honor its soldiers, its men of wealth, its benefactors, and build them monuments. They are its departed great men. Believers recall the memory of those who have left their greatness in our hands - the Word of God. To do this is simply to have mind refreshed and heart stirred by that which abides forever.
We are also to consider the issue, or outcome, of their walk. What has their life ended in? It has now ceased. A rich man's life ends, so far as what he leaves behind is concerned, in wealth; a statesman's, in power and influence. In what shall we say the life of Christ's servant has ended? What has he left as the sum of that life? Is it not suggestive that the very next clause gives what is really the answer, while closely connected, as we shall see, with the following clause? "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever." The issue of their life is the abiding Christ. They have passed off the scene, but Christ, the object of their ministry, abides. With Paul they could say, "To me, to live is Christ." Christ is the end, the goal of their life. To depart and be with Him is far better. Happy indeed are those who are called to lay down their burden and enter into His rest. They loved and served Him here; they enjoy unclouded peace and rest as they wait with Him there. The outcome, the end, of all their life-work, toil, testimony, is Christ. They enjoy Him to the full now; they have, as it were, left Him as a priceless legacy to us here.
And their life was a life of faith - the refusal at once both of creature righteousness and creature strength. They had learned to "rejoice in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh." We are not called to do, in detail, their work. God calls and fits each of His servants for some special work, peculiarly suited to the special gift with which he is endowed. We are not to be imitators of one another, but ever to be imitators of the faith that casts the feeble upon the Mighty.
Lastly, we note the warning not to be "carried about with divers and strange doctrines." The servant of Christ ever stands for His truth against all opposition of error. His ministry, in so far as it was under the guidance and in the power of the Holy Spirit, brought home to heart and conscience the truth of God and the Person of the Lord. Do we not need, as has already been said, to be specially on our guard in these days against the subtle inroads of error? The Person of the Son of God, His atoning work, His Church, the destiny of man - are all objects of the enemy's attacks. Let us hold fast the truth, and Him who is the truth, and. His Word of truth. We have, then, four characteristics of a proper memorial of departed leaders-
(i) The word of God ministered by them;
(2) The outcome or issue of their life, Christ for them and for us ever the same;
(3) The faith which occupied them with this blessed Person; and
(4) The warning against error. If we ever have these features before us, there will be only profit in remembering those who have gone on before us.
Perhaps there is less temptation to do anything else in the case of the beloved brother whose memory we are seeking to recall. His claim for a permanent place in the hearts of the saints rests - as it really does with any, but more ostensibly than with most - in his identification with the word of God. Unknown to many in the flesh, who have profited by his ministry, with little of what may be called popularity, or the magnetism supposed to be so essential in a leader, he is lost sight of in the precious truth which it was his joy to unfold. Those who knew him personally loved him for the worth and Christian nobility of his character, the fruit of God's grace; for that wondrous mind received from Him, and for the simplicity and dignity of a true Christian man. But it is not of these things that we speak, while we would ever seek to walk in the steps of piety and faith wherever seen. We turn rather to that Word to which he held fast, and, in conscious feebleness and dependence, used so constantly. What views of the Word did he give us! What thoughts of Christ! What truths under the guidance of the Holy Spirit!
If a heathen poet, who has left behind some beautiful specimens of human wisdom and human art, could say, "I have builded a monument more enduring than brass," can we not with greater propriety apply these words to one whose one aim it was to build only the pure Word in all his ministry? That Word endures, "when all that seems shall suffer shock."What higher honour can there be for any of us than to be associated, to be identified with that Word?
In taking up, then, his ministry, and seeking to analyze it, to understand its prominent features, it is with the prayer that Christ may be glorified, not His servant; that the truths of God's word may be brought afresh to mind and conscience, and thus we may be stirred to take fresh hold of Christ and His truth. This, we are sure, would be the only way in which our beloved brother would have us speak of him at all. For him, as for every one who loves the Lord, it can only be, "Not I, but Christ."
The truth of God is one and self-consistent, and yet it is many-sided. There are special beauties connected with every view of it, and much to be learned from the manner of presenting it by each servant who is gqided by the Spirit.
We will speak first of his ministry of the gospel. Every one who loves Christ, loves the gospel. It is a sure sign of spiritual coldness when one loses taste for the simplest truths of salvation. Our brother was no evangelist, deeply as.he sympathized with every winner of souls, and longed for a wider, fuller and more constant work in evangelization. In his gospel addresses we do not find much of that ardent insistence which is often seen in the gospel preacher. One word characterized his preaching-thought. Appeals to the will, touching narratives, denunciations,- all proper when one is led of the Spirit, - were not there.
But there was a rich and tender unfolding of divine grace and love. Man's sin was brought into the presence of infinite holiness, a divine compassion and a perfect redemption. Sin was seen to be sin, not so much in its effects, or in its just recompense, as in the light of the Man who sat at the well of Sychar, or who dealt with the poor child of sin and shame in the Pharisee's house. In his book of gospel addresses many examples of this can be found. Read again the "Gospel in the Genealogy," and see how grace is magnified in Christ's association with the sin of His people - blessed be God, Himself all pure and undefiled by the contact of all human wretchedness. The same can be seen in "A Brand from the Burning," and other addresses in the same book.
How sweet it is, dear brethren, to have these precious truths recalled to our minds! Our brother was not alone in these precious truths. He had received them from others who, like himself, had found rest and peace at the feet of Jesus. He longed for a revival of gospel work among us. Shall we not be stirred afresh by the love of Christ to tell to the perishing the news of that grace which reaches the lowest, - which has reached us?
But it was as a teacher, an unfolder of the word of God for His people, that our brother will be best remembered. We may say at the outset here that he had received and assimilated the ministry of our beloved J. N. D., whom he recognized as specially called of God, raised up to give to the Church in freshness and clearness the priceless heritage of truth so long hidden from God's people. None prized more highly or more constantly made use of the "Synopsis" and collected writings of Mr. D. than our brother. Their gifts were distinct. The elder had, perhaps more clearly than any since the days of the apostles, a clearly defined outline of revealed truth. Whether in the exposition of a single verse, a chapter, a book, or a section of Scripture, he grasped the salient features, and set them before his hearers in a few pregnant sentences. His eye swept the heavens at a glance; he caught the current of divine thought, and followed obediently its leadings. We shall follow the characteristics of our brother's ministry as we go on. We cannot refrain from saying that it will be a sad day for the Assembly when the writings of J. N. D. are neglected or ignored.
As has been said, our brother had assimilated the teachings of Mr. D. Hence he had a clearly defined outline of Scripture truth, into which he could bring the "things new and old" which he gathered from his own study of the Word. Those who have read his "Lessons of the Ages," and his "Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven," will see how clearly he grasped and presented the great outline features of dispensational truth. While holding in the main with those who had gone before him the great salient features of prophetic and dispensational truth, our brother has presented them in a way both fresh and helpful, quite peculiar to himself. His book on Revelation illustrates this on many a page of most profitable prophetic study. Similarly he took up great doctrines of the word of God and exhibited them in their beauty and power. His work on "The Atonement" is a Scriptural examination into that blessed doctrine. He traces from the beginning the great truth of salvation as seen typically in the earlier books; prophetically, in the Psalms and Prophets; as actually accomplished, in the Gospels, and doctrinally unfolded in the epistles of Paul and the other apostles and Revelation. One rises from the study of this book with a deeper conviction than ever of the cardinal place in God's plan of the truth of Atonement, and a clearer realization of the divine wisdom, love and skill unfolded throughout the pages of the word of God. The "scarlet line" is traced throughout, and we see how Christ and His work were ever present in the mind of God.
We may link with this book the other one, on the Person of our Lord, "The Crowned Christ." No one who is sound upon the work of Christ is likely to hold wrong views as to His Person. So in this work we will find a reverent, but thorough, inquiry as to what the word of God teaches regarding the Son of His love. Our brother did not believe in passing over truth with a few vague and glittering generalities. By habit and by faith he was a painstaking inquirer into minute points which would escape the attention of the casual observer. He therefore deals with the Deity and the Humanity of our Lord - Son of God in a twofold way, Son of Man as well; Divine Creator on the one hand; obedient, sinless, deathless Man, on the other. The analogies between the first man, first Adam, and the Second Man, the last Adam, are carefully noted. Distinction is made between first begotten - suggesting other children - and only begotten - excluding all others. In short, our brother seeks to point out the "many crowns" upon the head of Him whom faith loves to follow in every character He wears - and worships Him in each - the Word, God over all, the Man of sorrows, the Son, the King - Blessed be He forevermore, and let all His saints say Amen!
Passing next to a book more widely known, perhaps, than any other of his separate works, we will glance at his "Facts and Theories as to a Future State." Of the need for such a work there was, and is, sad evidence, not only among the open deniers of the word of God, but with those who claim to bow to Scripture, and who quote it in proof of their position. Time was, when to be a "Universalist" was, like a "Unitarian," to be one who would not be held within the limits of Scripture statement. But during the time of the revival of the truth of the Lord's coming, and the accurate study of Scripture, there have arisen various schools of thought, all professedly bowing to Scripture, in which the solemn reality of eternal punishment, conscious and unchanging, was denied. It seems as though Satan were, as he no doubt is, seeking to lay parallel teachings to those being brought before the Church of God. In this way he would discredit the real truth, and create a revulsion in the minds of many against all Scripture, and at the same time instil into the minds of others the deadly poison There are many kinds of mind among men, and for each class Satan will have that special form of error which he knows will be most likely to attract. Thus there is "the larger hope" of those whose sen-sibilities will not allow them to entertain the thought of what the Son of God so plainly calls "everlasting fire." This hope of ultimate salvation for all has various forms in which it clothes itself - all included under the general head of Restorationalism.
Directly opposite to this - alas, not opposed, for error is many-sided, but united in its hatred of truth - is the grossly materialistic teaching of Annihilation, in its varied forms; while between the two are many individual forms of error, partaking of the character of one or both of these main systems.
Nor let it be supposed that these errors obtained only among some peculiar or obscure sect, as "Christadelphianism." Begin where they might, they worked their way with satanic persistence into the fibre of the professing church, until at present they are to be found, more or less openly advocated, in many of the evangelical denominations.
The enemy had come in like a flood, and the Spirit of God, as ever, in faithfulness lifted up a standard against it. The task before our brother was an arduous and difficult one. It would not do to write in generalities; mere denunciation, no matter how much deserved, would be out of place. To fall into a passion, if we may use such language, with the enemy would be but to play into his hands by an exhibition of the weakness which he would say was inherent in the orthodox view.
What was needed was a temperate, thorough analysis of every false view, the examination of every passage of Scripture used in support of error, and a thorough exhibition of the untruth being taught. But mere destruction was not enough. Every scripture must be put in its true light - the doctrine of the word of God fully brought out, so that the reader would be left, not merely with errors refuted, but with a solid foundation of divine truth beneath his feet. Incidentally, many crudities and misconceptions among the orthodox had to be set right.
It is the united judgment of many leaders of Christian thought, not merely those who might be thought to be favourably disposed, that in "Facts and Theories" the Spirit of God has provided a wealth of truth with which to meet error. We would earnestly exhort the saints, particularly those who may be in any way thrown with various forms of this error, to arm themselves with the weapons found here.
In this book there will be found considerable of what may be called psychological study of Scripture. Our brother did not hesitate to enter into every field of knowledge. He believed that all truth is one, and that if faith does not cultivate a field, Satan will. He was a profound student of what is called nature, reading from both the friends and enemies of revealed truth. Thus he not only studied the works of God in plant and animal life, but examined the teachings of such leaders in error as Darwin and his disciples. For him "Evolution" had neither attractions nor terrors, as, with keen mind and childlike faith, with Bible in hand, he tested all by the light of divine truth. Unlike a brilliant but misguided leader, of whom we would fain hope the best, spite of the errors taught by him, our brother was unmoved from the solid rock of divine truth. He made the infidel investigators of natural phenomena "hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of God." He plucked their own weapons out of their hands, and used them against them. Here, again, he was no mere destructive critic, but a builder of truth. It was a favourite remark of his that nature taught not merely of God, but of Christ, and that we would find the atonement and other great truths in the book of God spread abroad in field and forest and starry heavens as well as in the pages of Scripture. He delighted in all books which soberly presented the typical truths of nature, and in his "Spiritual Law in the Natural World" has presented a most attractive line of truth, to kindle further desire for divine knowledge.
It was his great wish to write another work upon the book of Genesis, in which these truths should have their full treatment. Alas, he has been taken, and the work is not done. Who is there who will take it up with the same faith, and deliver these fields of truth from the enemy's hand, and put them at the disposition of the saints? The time is ripe for it; is anyone doing the work? The Lord stir the hearts of those to whom He has given the key of knowledge, that they may use it to open the door to His treasures!
It is right, also, to make another remark in this connection. Men have come to nature first, as though they could get to God in that way. But we must ever remember that man is a sinner, "alienated from the life of God " There is but one Way - Christ Himself, and "no man cometh unto the Father but by Me." If we are to know God in any true sense, we must know Him through Christ, and through His Word. We must not expect nature to interpret the Bible, but the reverse. We must use the word of God as a lamp to correct our natural thoughts. "The world by wisdom knew not God." Our brother ever stood for the primacy of Scripture. He denied the common statement that the Bible was not meant to teach science. He declared the Bible was meant to teach whatever came before it - history, facts of nature, or any other matter. It did not use the language of modern science - it used the every-day speech of those to whom it was given, but none the less is it divinely accurate. We do well to remember this, and not to yield to the wiles of the enemy, who, under specious pleas, would rob us of the absolute infallibility of the word of God.
And this brings us to consider that which may be truly called our brother's life-work. He had for years been impressed with the absolute perfection of the Scriptures to its least "jot and tittle "- a truth we all accept. But with him it became the one absorbing thought of his life, and he put it to the test to the full extent of his powers. If the Bible is absolutely inerrant, then not only are its doctrines perfectly true, its narratives perfectly accurate, but its very words are divinely chosen.
He found, as others before him had done, that Scripture itself drops many a hint, gives many an example of the way in which the Spirit of God would have us use it. Simple quotations of law or prophets, allusions to sacrifices or customs, allegorization of Old Testament facts, stress upon the significance of names, the juxtaposition of words - all these he found in Scripture itself. Space here forbids our going into anything beyond the barest mention. It will be sufficient to refer to the narrative of Hagar and Sarah, in Gal. iv., for an example of how Scripture uses Old Testament narrative; to the priesthood of Meichisedec, in Heb. vii., as showing the use of the interpretation of names and their relation one to another; to the whole Epistle to the Hebrews as a divine commentary upon Old Testament ritual. He also found that our Lord's use of the parable to teach was not a mere casual method, but one of the usual methods of the Spirit of God throughout Scripture. Not every parable was interpreted. A few were explained, not as though to limit further investigation, but to give the key to it. "Know ye not this parable? How, then, will ye know all parables?" The word of God is not merely a revelation; it is a book to exercise every faculty of the renewed man. To know it in any full measure is to have in the highest sense a liberal education. It offers little to idleness; but to the prayerful seeker it is, like its divine Author, "a rewarder of them that diligently seek" it.
Let this great truth lay hold of our hearts as through grace it laid hold of him, and a boundless field will be found at our very door in which to find food and sustenance to the delight of our soul. How his heart well-nigh broke at the indifference, the unbelief, the lethargy that hung like a pall upon most of the beloved people of God! How he yearned over them! Were his removal to stimulate others to shake themselves from the dust, we could indeed bless God.
But we must trace out a little further the way in which the Spirit of God led this humble student of the Word. If Scripture not only gave examples of interpretation, but encouragement and commands to continue on in what it opened up, then he would go on. If Scripture gave the significance of the names of persons and places - here and there - he would everywhere seek that significance. If it "spiritualized" a narrative, he would catch at the key, and use it throughout the Word. Every portion of Genesis should be as the account of Hagar and Sarah and Meichisedec. Exodus and Numbers should be as Leviticus. Samuel and the Kings would be found to be no exception to the word that "all Scripture is profitable."
He had for years been a diligent student of the book of Psalms. Not only did their contents attract, but the form in which they were written - their divisions into a pentateuch, the acrostic form of a number of them, their evident relation one to another in various groups-all these things impressed him with the fact that God had written them upon a distinct plan in which the numerical significance of psalm and group and book had a clearly marked and important place. But if the Psalms were written thus, why not all Scripture? So he went on, till he found the same divine harmony throughout the inspired Word. results, in a most engaging little book, "The Numerical Structure of Scripture," a work which will be a revelation to those who have not yet read it.
But to the thoughtful mind such a handling of Scripture will seem, to say the least, hazardous. And so it is. So it seemed to our brother. He shrank from the fancies and imaginations of the mind of man. Various books illustrated only too sadly the dangers of this method, when undertaken apart from the Spirit of God. He feared, he was cautious, he was prayerful, but he did not draw back. The Spirit of God thus, doubtless, put him on his guard against the use of the imagination; so he went on carefully, slowly - testing each step. The result - a most rich and beautiful exhibition of the treasures of the Word of God.
Time will not permit us to enter into details here. The "Numerical Bible" is in our hands, and will speak for itself to the thoughtful student. It must suffice here to point out the application of those principles to which we have already alluded.
All Scripture is written according to a well defined plan, in which each book has its definite place, which corresponds, in spiritual meaning, with the number of that place. Thus the first book of a group (as the first group also) will have a meaning suggested by number one; and so with the second, third, etc. The scriptural significance of these numbers was found in the Word itself, and justified by many a text. The Pentateuch of Moses was found to be the basis, the plan, upon which the entire Scripture was written. Thus there is a historical Pentateuch, a Prophetic, and a Poetic one - as well as one for the New Testament.
Each of these pentateuchs he found to correspond, book by book, with the Mosaic one. Thus a third book had a Levitical significance, or at least a significance corresponding with the number. Incidentally, what a proof we have here of the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch- books, no more and no less, forming a complete, symmetrical whole! The same structure was found to exist in each separate book. Each division and minor section was found to correspond in meaning with its numerical place. Thus a fourth division of a book would have the characteristics of number, a second section in that would give some thought connected with number 2, and so on. These divisions are noted down to portions as small as the chapters in our ordinary Version, and in some cases to portions the length of only a verse or two. In the Psalms each verse has its numerical place. Thus, instead of the arbitrary divisions into chapters and verses, of no help save for purposes of reference, we have a structure exhibited, every part of which has divine meaning. Far be it from us to suggest that perfect accuracy has been reached in noting these divisions. Others may, here and there, find more simple and well defined marks; but in the main they are seen by the thoughtful mind to be the true divisions.
And what a witness to the perfection of the Word of God they are! An answer to the wretched infidel work of "Higher Criticism," and most helpful, too, in getting and holding the contents of any book of the Bible.
We have been speaking only of the text of Scripture and its divisions. When we come to the "Notes," which form quite a full commentary upon the text, we find not only the use of the divisions, but a most lucid and profound exposition of the Word of God. The scope of each book, its theme and main divisions, are stated in a few paragraphs. Then each portion is gone into with careful detail, and the results spread before the reader, opening up the entire passage. All is treated, as we have been saying, from a spiritual point of view. Every word has meaning, every allusion had a purpose in the mind of the Spirit. Thus the types of Exodus and Leviticus are handled with reverent particularity, and the whole book becomes luminous with divine meaning.
There is little or none of the spirit of dogmatism in these notes. We are simply able to accompany the writer, and see upon what scriptural grounds he has reached his conclusions. Thus we are unhampered, and, instead of listening to man's word, have been pointed to the Word of God.
We must also refer to the treatment of the last half of the book of Joshua. Here, most commentators had been able simply to grope among the names and point out here and there a place identified by its modern Arabic name, or by some more or less obscure historic allusion. Our brother, on the contrary - looking upon this as the description of God's inheritance for His earthly people, and spiritually for ourselves - found in each tribe, with its boundaries, some features of divine truth; in the name of each spring and hill and valley and town some spiritual blessing in Christ. A map of our spiritual inheritance could almost have been constructed. Thus in an apparently barren and meaningless desert of names, the Spirit made to blossom beautiful and precious fruits for the saints.
The labour in all this was arduous, and necessarily progress was slow. But the Lord enabled His servant, in weak and failing health, to go from Genesis to 2 Samuel in a thorough and orderly way; to devote a volume to the whole book of Psalms, and to complete the entire New Testament. This last was scarcely more than half accomplished when his life was despaired of, but, in answer to fervent prayer, he was raised up and enabled to complete that portion.. Then, turning back to the Old Testament, he had well-nigh finished the prophet Ezekiel when the weary servant was called into the rest of God.
As we think of what has been accomplished, we bless God. As we think of what remains, we mourn. But we have learned in vain from our brother if we think that his work is unfinished, or that the word of God is bound. When apparently near to death he uttered a significant sentence in prayer: "We fail and are set aside, all human strength passes, but Thou abidest, Thy Spirit abides, Thy Word abides." Yes, beloved, we have the abiding Word, the abiding Spirit; and when all else fails, they remain - the Author and His Word. The work of our brother may never be carried on as he began it - but the Spirit of God will still lead faith on into the unsearchable riches of Christ. There are other features of his ministry we may profitably dwell upon for a moment, to recall the precious truths made more clearly known to many of us through his instrumentality.
A small but most helpful pamphlet upon "Deliverance" has been used for the emancipation of how many! The subject of sanctification has been more misunderstood, perhaps, than any other doctrine in the word of God. On the one hand it has been taught that the believer can experience such a change that his sinful nature is eliminated, and he can live in "perfect love;" on the other, it is claimed that we must go through life groaning under the bondage of indwelling sin. Both views are clearly unscriptural and injurious. The one fosters spiritual pride, and the other makes provision for the flesh. In the pamphlet referred to the subject is treated most lucidly. The seventh chapter of Romans is expounded-the bondage of the saved man seeking fruitfulness by the law, the increasing load and hopeless entanglement until, in utter self-despair, the soul cries out, "0 wretched man that I am!" The author then passes on to show the true deliverance through Jesus Christ.
Unlike many, he does not close his theme with the seventh chapter, but passes on to the first few verses of the eighth. Thus the believer is not seen at the close with a twofold service of the law of God and the law of sin - but a very different law, a law of emancipation from the bondage of sin -"The Spirit's law, of life in Christ Jesus."
Who that has groped his way through the awful experiences of that seventh chapter, and beat his wings against the iron bars of his cage, till, bruised and helpless, and well-nigh hopeless, he reached the end of self - who, we say, can forget the relief, the peace and joy that came when this commanding truth entered the soul? We were free - not only from guilt, and the external bondage of sin, but, best of all, free from self.
But this truth is only the doorway into the opened heavens where Christ can be seen in all His peerless beauty as the object of the soul. Sanctification comes through occupation with Himself. Just as self-occupation, whether it be good or bad self, is defiling, so occupation with a glorified Christ transforms into His image. These truths are brought out in the pamphlet referred to above, and in "Christian Holiness: its Roots and Fruits"; "Some Thoughts on Job's Ditch," etc. Others have written helpfully upon these themes, but we mention these features as distinctively characteristic of our brother's ministry. He ministered Christ to the soul. He fed the lambs and sheep with the tender grass of divine grace and love.
No earnest soul can pass through this world without being called upon to contend earnestly for the faith. Some are more distinctively warriors than others, but all who would be loyal to our Lord must expect to endure hardness for Him. We are not ashamed, therefore, to speak of our brother as a controversialist. This occupied but a small part of his life, but was a season of intense exercise while it lasted. He did not seek controversy, but when he felt the truth of God was involved he did not shrink from declaring what he believed to be the Scripture doctrine, and holding to it at all cost.
Sad as have been the trials of these times, many can bless God for a clearer apprehension of His truth through them. The truths of eternal life, the portion of every believer; of sealing with the Spirit not being dependent upon the amount of knowledge possessed, but upon faith in the person of Christ - have come with relief to those who were in danger of bondage and self-occupation. His "Facts and Theories" is a controversial work most needful and helpful, as we have seen. Any notice of our brother's ministry would be incomplete without reference to his ecclesiastical views and position. Of these he made no secret, not flaunting them defiantly, but stedfastly maintaining them. He believed in the sufficiency of the name of Christ and the person of the Lord as a centre of gathering for His saints, instead of the manifold divisions and sects of Christendom, over which he mourned. He believed in the presence and competence of the Holy Spirit to order and control the Assembly of God without the intervention of human officialism or unscriptural ordination. Above all, he believed that a right attitude of heart toward the Lord was indispensable, without which all else was as "sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal."
His "Present Things" is a searching presentation of the epistles to the seven churches, in which he falls into the current of the Spirit's teaching upon the Church as a vessel of testimony for Christ.
On the other hand he was not indifferent to the dangers of a place of separation. He has traced with a hand of sorrow in "A Divine Movement" the dangers that menace those who have come, outwardly at least, "outside the camp." He did not shrink from the path, but warned against either an unscriptural narrowness or an equally unscriptural indifference to what be believed concerned the Lord's honour.
He was persuaded that a true basis of fellowship could only be had in accepting and acting upon all the doctrines of the word of God. He did not believe that a true fellowship could be secured by ignoring questions of doctrine or discipline upon which saints had formed different judgments.
With a largeness of heart to go out, as he did, in love to saints of God of whatever name, he felt and expressed the need of the greatest care in maintaining scriptural order, according to the truths of the unity of the Spirit.
One matter weighed greatly upon him. He felt and deplored the tendency to leave all ministry in the hands of the few. His address upon "Prophecy"is but one of many testimonies regarding this. He maintained from Scripture that "ye may all prophesy" is not to be a dead letter; that every brother, according to the measure of the gift of Christ, was responsible to use that gift. It was not that he held any different view upon this than what is common to the saints, but he felt most deeply about it. He feared the danger of things crystalizing into form, and warned again and again as to it. May every one harken to his admonition.
But we must close. What, it may be asked, is the object of this memorial of our brother's ministry? Is it to glorify the man? God forbid. We with him would ascribe the glory to Christ alone. "Not I, but Christ." As John the Baptist said, "He must increase, but I must decrease."
No, beloved brethren, our object has been to make Christ more precious, to make His Word more loved, more read, more studied. This was the passion of our brother's life, the desire that consumed him. He made a significant utterance shortly before his departure. Sitting propped in his chair, with the word of God open before him, as was his custom through the days of weary, helpless waiting, he turned to the writer of these lines, and with a depth of pathos, glancing at his Bible, said, "Oh, the Book, the Book, the Book!" It seemed as though he said, "What a fulness there; how little I have grasped it; how feebly expressed its thoughts." May these words from the dying servant of Christ lay hold of many a heart. Is it the Book with us? the one Book, always that? Oh, beloved, he speaks to us all still, and says, Make everything of the Book! S.R.
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