If the Beatitudes present to us the main features of the Saviour's character, and consequently that which ought to characterize every Christian, Romans 12 presents the same divine life in its many streams of patient, gracious, loving ministry to all around us. The following papers, reprinted from "Things New and Old," are now presented in a more convenient form for the reader. Surely no subjects could more sacredly demand our prayerful study. We are not aware that in our extensive pamphlet or small-book literature there is a single paper on either of these portions of the word of God. We now look for the Lord's blessing to rest on, and accompany, this Meditation for His own glory and the blessing of many, many souls.
London January, 1878
While many in the present day are teaching and writing much on the important subjects of consecration, devotedness, and holiness of heart and life: and while many are more or less affected by the general interest which these inquiries are creating; it may be well for thee, my soul, to retire for a little into the sanctuary of thy Lord's presence, and there learn what has been long written on these and kindred subjects. Be assured there is nothing new under the sun. These various aspects of christian character, with the motives and objects by which they are created and sustained, are fully revealed in the word of God. The true ground also on which they rest, thou wilt find there. Oneness with Christ as the last Adam, the exalted Man in the glory, must be thy standpoint, otherwise thou wilt "see men as trees walking" - thou wilt be confounding that which has its roots in nature with that which is of the grace of God in truth.
Know then, and assuredly believe, O my soul, that thou art one with Him who bore thy sins on the cross, who is now on the throne, and who is coming again to take thee up to be with Himself in His home of love and glory. Wrong ground - a mistaken point of view - leads to great confusion and self-contradiction, to the mixing up of law and gospel, faith and experience, self and Christ. No matter how good our eyesight may be, we cannot see without light. Thou must be in the sunlight of thy Lord's presence to see the true foundation and the divine course of all things. And there, O wondrous truth! O privilege infinite! O blessedness unspeakable! Thou art at home - at home, as thou art nowhere else - in the concentrated light of heaven's noonday brightness. He is thy righteousness, absolute and complete, in the presence of God; He is thy eternal life, thy peace, thy joy, thy rest, thy glory. Thus arrayed in the moral glories of thy Lord, and basking in the beams of His complaisant love, what hast thou to fear? And know also, O my soul, that all this is true now - true to faith, though not to experience, and always true in the sight of God.
In proof of this, take the two highest notes in the New Testament as to the Christian's position. One is sounded by the apostle Paul and the other by the apostle John. 1. "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Here pause for a moment and meditate, not only on thy place in Christ, but on the "rich mercy" and the "great love" of God, which set thee there. What can be sweeter to thy thoughts than this precious truth? And there it is, believe it fully. 2. "Herein is our love [or love with us] made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as he is, so are we in this world." This is a plain statement and must be received in the simplicity of faith. It surely means, that as He - Christ - is, in God's sight, so are we, though still in this world and encompassed with many infirmities. And this should teach thee never to look to self or experience if thou wouldst know thy place and acceptance in the presence of God; but always to Christ as the measure and expression of thy portion there. There is only one other passage that I will bring before thee at present, and this we will call, the dowry of the bride. "But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." Here thou wilt see, that by the will and wondrous grace of God, Christ Jesus is made unto the Christian - every Christian - wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
Surely this is a rich inheritance for the individual Christian, the church of God, the bride of the Lamb! And forget not, I pray thee, that these blessings are thine now in Christ Jesus, Head of the new creation, and of the church, which is His body and His bride. Ephesians 2:4-6 ; 1 John 4:17; 1 Corinthians 1:30.
We will now turn to our beautiful chapter, where we shall meet with similar truths, though not in the character of a distinct subject, but as the native result of our union with Christ, and of looking to Him as our one and only object in our journey through this world.
REFLECTIONS ON PRACTICAL CHRISTIANITY
We may search all the books of the most admired writers in the world; we may examine every code of morals, ancient and modern; but where shall we find such maxims as have just been the theme of our meditations? How unlike all human thoughts, laws, and systems! And even where the letter of the human law may correspond with the divine, the grand motive to its observance is wanting. The men of the world could not possibly understand the motives by which these duties of love are enjoined; such speak of what are called the laws of honour. The Christian may forget - alas! The great majority seem to have forgotten altogether-that these precepts of love naturally flow from the great doctrine of salvation by grace, and that he is thereby created in Christ Jesus unto good works, and ought to be their living expression. We may be very self-complacent over some small matter in which we made a fair show of returning good for evil, or at least in ceasing to quarrel with our fellow- Christian; but did we "put on, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering. Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye." (Col.3:12, 13.) It is natural to be well pleased with ourselves when we have taken no active part in the dispute, but mere negatives are infinitely below the sublime thought of the position and aggressive love of Christ in His disciples. "He that saith he abideth in him, ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked." (1 John 2:6) This is the Christian's standard, and God will never lower it to suit the selfishness of man.
The harmony between the Old and the New Testament on this great subject of christian morals is perfect. Love in all ages must be the same as to its nature; it is too expressive in its character to be satisfied with mere negatives, or bare desires. The natural man would as soon think of cutting off his right hand as stretching it out to feed an enemy in distress; but not so the true disciple of Jesus, who died for His enemies.
We have a fine instance of this divine love in operation in the prophet Elisha; 2 Kings 6:21, 22. The Syrians, who had been smitten with blindness were led by the prophet into the midst of Samaria. The king of Israel, judging this to be a favourable opportunity to be revenged on his enemies, exclaimed, "My father, shall I smite them, shall I smite them?" And he answered, "Thou shalt not smite them: wouldest thou smite those whom thou hast taken captive with thy sword and with thy bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink, and go to their master. And he made greet provision for them; and when they had eaten and drunk he sent them away, and they went to their master. So the bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel." This was God-like; this was divine; but most foreign to every thought of the king of Israel. "Shall I smite them, shall I smite them?" being repeated, argues a readiness to shed blood on the part of the king. "Never," says Bishop Hall, in his Contemplations on this passage, "Never did the kings of Israel see a more pleasing sight than so many Syrian throats at his mercy. .... But the charitable prophet soon gives an angry prohibition of slaughter. Thou shalt not smite them. ... If it be victory thou aimest at, overcome them with kindness. Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink.
"Oh, noble revenge of Elisha, to feast his persecutors! To provide a table for those who had provided a grave for him! These Syrians came to Dothan full of bloody purposes to Elisha: he sends them to Samaria full of good cheer and jollity. Thus, should a prophet, punish his pursuers. No vengeance; but this is heroical, and fit for christian imitation. The king of Israel hath done that by his feast which he could not have done by his sword. The bands of Syria will no more come by way of ambush or incursion into the bounds of Israel."
We have another equally noble example of the power of love in the most degenerate times of Judah. 2 Chronicles 28:1-15. The prophet, Oded, met the children of Israel carrying into captivity two hundred thousand of their brethren, the children of Judah and Jerusalem, including women, sons, and daughters. But in place of slavery, through the touching appeals of the Lord's prophet, they were all set at liberty, and not only at liberty, but with every mark of tender affection. "And the men which were expressed by name rose up, and took the captives, and with the spoil clothed all that were naked among them, and arrayed them, and shed them, and gave them to eat and to drink, and anointed them, and carried all the feeble of them upon asses, and brought them to Jericho, the city of palm-trees, to their brethren; then they returned to Samaria."
We will only notice one other passage in the Old Testament, the one from which the apostle quotes, shewing clearly that both were inspired by the same Spirit, and that the one stamps the other with divine authority. "If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink; for thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord shall reward thee." (Prov.25:21, 22) Having dwelt at some length on the general bearing of this text, we would now conclude our reflections by earnestly entreating all our readers not to entertain the thought, so common, that all these precepts are impractible; that they are only ideal, something to be admired, but never to be actually practised. This is unbelief, the suggestion of Satan, the language of the world and of our own corrupt hearts. Rather let us adopt the language of the apostle, and say, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me;" and surely this among the rest. May the Lord Himself give us to drink deeply into His blessed Spirit, so that the duty which now appears to be an impossible task, a heavy cross, may become our pleasure, our delight, our willing service. Philippians 4:13; 1 Peter 3:8, 9
Home | Links | Writings | Biography