LNW – Thomas Manton & Andrew Bonar Comparison

Thomas Manton & Andrew Bonar Comparison

BY

LateNightWatch

External links are for reader convenience only. Be Berean (Acts 17:11) – Use the Internet with discernment.

As you compare Thomas Manton’s Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 2, and Andrew Bonar’s commentary on Development of Antichrist, you will notice a vast difference between each view as to the Pope and the Roman Catholic church as they relate each to Apostasy, the Apostate church, and the Antichrist.

Thomas Manton (1620-1677) was writing shortly after the Reformation brought about by Martin Luther in the late 1500’s when the Pope and Roman Catholic church were greatly seen in an Antichrist light; whereas Andrew Bonar (1810-1892) wrote approximately 300 years after the Reformation period with a keen insight as to the role democracy was to play in the latter days (thanks to the recent (1776) formation of the United States of America – the only then current experiment in true democracy (iron and clay) at that time).

Thomas Manton provides a very good view of Popery and Papal practices and the current methodology of Roman Catholicism which seems to have changed little over the centuries; but also has a tendency to spiritualize key scriptures in order to meet his view of the Pope being the Antichrist – something that was blatant up through the 1700’s, Matthew Henry has this bias at times in his commentaries as well.

This is not to say that such commentators as Thomas Manton from that period in history are faulty in their overall theology.  Quite to the contrary, they are quite sound in their theology; it is their eschatology that errs as they try to force a point of view that the scriptures do not support as Andrew Bonar points out so well.

Using the tools of hermeneutics and systematic theology, Andrew Bonar takes a less “spiritualized” and more genuine “complete” prophetic analysis view of the scriptures to arrive at his assessment coupled with keen spiritual insights.

Andrew Bonar frequently mentions the necessity of paying attention to prophecy as a light shining in a dark place. We too need to keep this in mind as these last days unfold upon us. Truly, I believe that we are “that” generation which shall not pass away until “all these things” are accomplished. Remember that our Lord told us to watch and pray. Read the Word carefully and thoughtfully (meditating) and ask the Holy Spirit to help your understanding as you read.

A few key things both men seem to miss bringing into focus are, 1) the False Prophet (Revelation 13.11) who arises apparently after the rise of 2) the Antichrist (Revelation 13.1), and 3) the whore (Revelation 17.3, 4; 18.12, 16) on the scarlet beast.

Hermeneutics is required to better understand the differing viewpoints of Thomas Manton & Andrew Bonar, as well current events surrounding these last days and more specifically the ecumenical movement towards Apostasy as seen through the Roman Catholic church.

Hermeneutics as presented by Walter Martin will greatly assist your understanding the Scriptures in general.

Free downloads of Walter Martin’s Hermeneutics series are available at the following web site: http://www.blueletterbible.org/audio_video/comm_topic.cfm?AuthorID=35&commInfo=62&GroupID=0

Walter Martin was the original Bible AnswerMan of the 1970’s & 1980’s.  Walter Martin went to be with the Lord in 1989.  His Daughter has many of his tapes digitized and for sale at a modest price on a web site at http://users.datarealm.com/rini/cart/perlshop.cgi. You can listen on-line free at http://www.waltermartin.com/realaudio.html. You will need Realplayer installed to listen to on-line content. A link for Realplayer is provided on the web site.

Some additional commentaries from Dr. Walter Martin that might assist you are listed below. These can be purchased from the above web site:

Spiritual Warfare

Faulty Theology

The Tribulation and the Church

Cult of Liberalism

Cult of Liberal Theology

Inspiration of Scripture

Neutering the Bible

Catholicism – Justification by Faith, Purgatory

Catholicism – Mary, Penance

Catholicism – Peter the Rock, Church Tradition

AW Pink (1886-1952) – The Sovereignty of God (Chapter 9)

The Sovereignty of God

by

AW Pink (1886-1952)

Copyright: Public Domain

External links are for reader convenience only, neither the linked web sites, its advertising content or its comments are endorsed by Late Night Watch. Be Berean (Acts 17:11) – Use the Internet with discernment.

LNW Note: To get the most out of Commentaries that incorporate the Hebrew and Greek spellings, use an interlinear Bible.

Chapter Nine

God’s Sovereignty and Prayer

If we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us” (1 John 5:14).

Throughout this book it has been our chief aim to exalt the Creator and abase the creature. The well-nigh universal tendency now, is to magnify man and dishonour and degrade God. On every hand it will be found that, when spiritual things are under discussion, the human side and element is pressed and stressed, and the Divine side, if not altogether ignored, is relegated to the background. This holds true of very much of the modern teaching about prayer. In the great majority of the books written and in the sermons preached upon prayer the human element fills the scene almost entirely: it is the conditions which we must meet, the promises we must “claim,” the things we must do in order to get our requests granted; and God’s claims, God’s rights, God’s glory are disregarded.

As a fair example of what is being given out today we subjoin a brief editorial which appeared recently in one of the leading religious weeklies entitled “Prayer, or Fate?”

“God in His Sovereignty has ordained that human destinies may be changed and moulded by the will of man. This is at the heart of the truth that prayer changes things, meaning that God changes things when men pray. Someone has strikingly expressed it this way: ‘There are certain things that will happen in a man’s life whether he prays or not. There are other things that will happen if he prays; and will not happen if he does not pray.’ A Christian worker was impressed by these sentences as he entered a business office and he prayed that the Lord would open the way to speak to some one about Christ, reflecting that things would be changed because he prayed. Then his mind turned to other things and the prayer was forgotten. The opportunity came to speak to the business man upon whom he was calling, but he did not grasp it, and was on his way out when he remembered his prayer of a half hour before, and God’s answer. He promptly returned and had a talk with the business man, who, though a church-member, had never in his life been asked whether he was saved. Let us give ourselves to prayer, and open the way for God to change things. Let us beware lest we become virtual fatalists by failing to exercise our God-given wills in praying.”

The above illustrates what is being taught on the subject of prayer, and the deplorable thing is that scarcely a voice is lifted in protest. To say that “human destinies may be changed and moulded by the will of man” is rank infidelity-that is the only proper term for it. Should any one challenge this classification, we would ask them whether they can find an infidel anywhere who would dissent from such a statement, and we are confident that such an one could not be found. To say that “God has ordained that human destinies may be changed and moulded by the will of man” is absolutely untrue. “Human destiny” is settled not by the will of man, but by the will of God. That which determines human destiny is whether or not a man has been born again, for it is written, “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” And as to whose will, whether God’s or man’s, is responsible for the new birth is settled, unequivocally, by John 1:13-“Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but OF GOD.” To say that “human destiny” may be changed by the will of man is to make the creature’s will supreme, and that is, virtually, to dethrone God. But what saith the Scriptures? Let the Book answer: “The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: He bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich: He bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory” (1 Sam. 2:6-8).

Turning back to the Editorial here under review, we are next told, “This is at the heart of the truth that prayer changes things, meaning that God changes things when men pray.” Almost everywhere we go today one comes across a motto-card bearing the inscription “Prayer Changes Things.” As to what these words are designed to signify is evident from the current literature on prayer-we are to persuade God to change His purpose. Concerning this we shall have more to say below.

Again, the Editor tells us, “Some one has strikingly expressed it this way: ‘There are certain things that will happen in a man’s life whether he prays or not. There are other things that will happen if he prays, and will not happen if he does not pray.'” That things happen whether a man prays or not is exemplified daily in the lives of the unregenerate, most of whom never pray at all. That ‘other things will happen if he prays’ is in need of qualification. If a believer prays in faith and asks for those things which are according to God’s will he will most certainly obtain that for which he has asked. Again, that other things will happen if he prays is also true in respect to the subjective benefits derived from prayer: God will become more real to him and His promises more precious. That other things ‘will not happen if he does not pray’ is true so far as his own life is concerned-a prayerless life means a life lived out of communion with God and all that is involved by this. But to affirm that God will not and cannot bring to pass His eternal purpose unless we pray is utterly erroneous, for the same God who has decreed the end has also decreed that His end shall be reached through His appointed means, and One of these is prayer. The God who has determined to grant a blessing also gives a spirit of supplication which first seeks the blessing.

The example cited in the above Editorial of the Christian worker and the business man is a very unhappy one to say the least, for according to the terms of the illustration the Christian worker’s prayer was not answered by God at all, inasmuch as, apparently, the way was not opened to speak to the business man about his soul. But on leaving the office and recalling his prayer the Christian worker (perhaps in the energy of the flesh) determined to answer the prayer for himself, and instead of leaving the Lord to “open the way” for him, took matters into his own hand.

We quote next from one of the latest books issued on Prayer. In it the author says, “The possibilities and necessity of prayer, its power and results, are manifested in arresting and changing the purposes of God and in relieving the stroke of His power.” Such an assertion as this is a horrible reflection upon the character of the Most High God, who “doeth according to His will in the army of Heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou?” (Dan. 4: 35). There is no need whatever for God to change His designs or alter His purpose for the all-sufficient reason that these were framed under the influence of perfect goodness and unerring wisdom. Men may have occasion to alter their purposes, for in their short-sightedness they are frequently unable to anticipate what may arise after their plans are formed. But not so with God, for He knows the end from the beginning. To affirm God changes His purpose is either to impugn His goodness or to deny His eternal wisdom.

In the same book we are told, “The prayers of God’s saints are the capital stock in Heaven by which Christ carries on His great work upon earth. The great throes and mighty convulsions on earth are the results of these prayers. Earth is changed, revolutionised, angels move on more powerful, more rapid wing, and God’s policy is shaped as the prayers are more numerous, more efficient.” If possible, this is even worse, and we have no hesitation in denominating it as blasphemy. In the first place, it flatly denies Ephesians 3:11 which speaks of God’s having an “eternal purpose.” If God’s purpose is an eternal one then His “policy” is not being “shaped” today. In the second place, it contradicts Ephesians 1:11 which expressly declares that God “worketh all things after the counsel of His own will,” therefore it follows that, “God’s policy” is not being “shaped” by man’s prayers. In the third place, such a statement as the above makes the will of the creature supreme, for if our prayers shape God’s policy then is the Most High subordinate to worms of the earth. Well might the Holy Spirit ask through the Apostle, “For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been His counsellor?” (Rom. 11:34).

Such thoughts on prayer as we have been citing are due to low and inadequate conceptions of God Himself. It ought to be apparent that there could be little or no comfort in praying to a God that was like the chameleon, which changes its colour every day. What encouragement is there to lift up our hearts to One who is in one mind yesterday and another today? What would be the use of petitioning an earthly monarch if we knew he was so mutable as to grant a petition one day and deny it another? Is it not the very unchangeableness of God which is our greatest encouragement to pray? It is because He is “without variableness or shadow of turning” we are assured that if we ask anything according to His will we are most certain of being heard. Well did Luther remark, “Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance, but laying hold of His willingness.”

And this leads us to offer a few remarks concerning the design of prayer. Why has God appointed that we should pray? The vast majority of people would reply, In order that we may obtain from God the things which we need. While this is one of the purposes of prayer it is by no means the chief one. Moreover, it considers prayer only from the human side, and prayer sadly needs to be viewed from the Divine side. Let us look, then, at some of the reasons why God has bidden us to pray.

First and foremost, prayer has been appointed that the Lord God Himself should be honoured. God requires we should recognise that He is, indeed, “the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity” (Isa. 57:15). God requires that we shall own His universal dominion: in petitioning God for rain Elijah did but confess His control over the elements; in praying to God to deliver a poor sinner from the wrath to come we acknowledge that “salvation is of the LORD” (Jonah 2:9); in supplicating His blessing on the Gospel unto the uttermost parts of the earth we declare His rulership over the whole world.

Again; God requires that we shall worship Him, and prayer, real prayer, is an act of worship. Prayer is an act of worship inasmuch as it is the prostrating of the soul before Him; inasmuch as it is a calling upon His great and holy name; inasmuch as it is the owning of His goodness, His power, His immutability, His grace, and inasmuch as it is the recognition of His Sovereignty, owned by a submission to His will. It is highly significant to notice in this connection that the Temple wasn’t termed by Christ the House of Sacrifice, but instead, the House of Prayer.

Again; prayer redounds to God’s glory, for in prayer we do but acknowledge dependency upon Him. When we humbly supplicate the Divine Being we cast ourselves upon His power and mercy. In seeking blessings from God we own that He is the Author and Fountain of every good and perfect gift. That prayer brings glory to God is further seen from the fact that prayer calls faith into exercise, and nothing from us is so honouring and pleasing to Him as the confidence of our hearts.

In the second place, prayer is appointed by God for our spiritual blessing, as a means for our growth in grace. When seeking to learn the design of prayer, this should ever occupy us before we regard prayer as a means for obtaining the supply of our need. Prayer is designed by God for our humbling. Prayer, real prayer, is a coming into the Presence of God, and a sense of His awful majesty produces a realisation of our nothingness and unworthiness. Again; prayer is designed by God for the exercise of our faith. Faith is begotten in the Word (Rom. 10:8), but it is exercised in prayer; hence, we read of “the prayer of faith.” Again; prayer calls love into action. Concerning the hypocrite the question is asked, “Will he delight himself in the Almighty? Will he always call upon God?” (Job 27:10). But they that love the Lord cannot be long away from Him, for they delight in unburdening themselves to Him. Not only does prayer call love into action but through the direct answers vouchsafed to our prayers our love to God is increased-“I love the LORD, because He hath heard my voice and my supplications” (Psa. 116:1). Again; prayer is designed by God to teach us the value of the blessings we have sought from Him, and it causes us to rejoice the more when He has bestowed upon us that for which we supplicate Him.

Third, prayer is appointed by God for our seeking from Him the things which we are in need of. But here a difficulty may present itself to those who have read carefully the previous chapters of this book. If God has foreordained, before the foundation of the world, everything which happens in time, what is the use of prayer? If it is true that “of Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Rom. 11:30), then why pray? Ere replying directly to these queries it should be pointed out how that there is just as much reason to ask, What is the use of me coming to God and telling Him what He already knows? Wherein is the use of me spreading before Him my need, seeing He is already acquainted with it? as there is to object, What is the use of praying for anything when everything has been ordained beforehand by God? Prayer is not for the purpose of informing God, as if He were ignorant (the Saviour expressly declared “for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him”-Matt. 6:8), but it is to acknowledge He does know what we are in need of. Prayer is not appointed for the furnishing of God with the knowledge of what we need, but is designed as a confession to Him of our sense of need. In this, as in everything, God’s thoughts are not as ours. God requires that His gifts should be sought for. He designs to be honoured by our asking, just as He is to be thanked by us after He has bestowed His blessing.

However, the question still returns on us, If God be the Predestinator of everything that comes to pass, and the Regulator of all events, then is not prayer a profitless exercise? A sufficient answer to these questions is that God bids us to pray, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). And again, “men ought always to pray” (Luke 18:1). And further: Scripture declares that “the prayer of faith shall save the sick,” and “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:15, 16); while the Lord Jesus Christ, our perfect Example in all things, was pre-eminently a Man of Prayer. Thus, it is evident, that prayer is neither meaningless nor valueless. But still this does not remove the difficulty nor answer the question with which we started out. What then is the relationship between God’s Sovereignty and Christian prayer?

First of all, we would say with emphasis, that prayer is not intended to change God’s purpose, nor is it to move Him to form fresh purposes. God has decreed that certain events shall come to pass through the means He has appointed for their accomplishment. God has elected certain ones to be saved, but He has also decreed that these shall be saved through the preaching the Gospel. The Gospel, then, is one of the appointed means for the working out of the eternal counsel of the Lord; and prayer is another. God has decreed the means as well as the end, and among the means is prayer. Even the prayers of His people are included in His eternal decrees. Therefore, instead of prayers being in vain they are among the means through which God exercises His decrees. “If indeed all things happen by a blind chance, or a fatal necessity prayers in that case could be of no moral efficacy, and of no use; but since they are regulated by the direction of Divine wisdom, prayers have a place in the order of events” (Haldane).

That prayers for the execution of the very things decreed by God are not meaningless is clearly taught in the Scriptures. Elijah knew that God was about to give rain, but that did not prevent him from at once betaking himself to prayer (James 5:17, 18). Daniel “understood” by the writings of the prophets that the captivity was to last but seventy years, yet when these seventy years were almost ended we are told that he set his face “unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes” (Dan. 9:2, 3). God told the prophet Jeremiah “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end”; but instead of adding, there is, therefore, no need for you to supplicate Me for these things, He said, “Then shall ye call upon Me, and ye shall go and pray unto Me, and I will hearken unto you” (Jer. 29:11, 12).

Here then is the design of prayer: not that God’s will may be altered, but that it may be accomplished in His own good time and way. It is because God has promised certain things that we can ask for them with the full assurance of faith. It is God’s purpose that His will shall be brought about by His own appointed means, and that He may do His people good upon His own terms, and that is, by the ‘means’ and ‘terms’ of entreaty and supplication. Did not the Son of God know for certain that after His death and resurrection He would be exalted by the Father. Assuredly He did. Yet we find Him asking for this very thing: “O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine Own Self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was” (John 17:5)! Did not He know that none of His people could perish? yet He besought the Father to “keep” them (John 17:11)!

Finally, it should be said that God’s will is immutable, and cannot be altered by our cryings. When the mind of God is not toward a people to do them good, it cannot be turned to them by the most fervent and importunate prayer of those who have the greatest interest in Him: “Then said the LORD unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before Me, yet My mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of My sight, and let them go forth” (Jer. 15:1). The prayers of Moses to enter the promised land is a parallel case.

Our views respecting prayer need to be revised and brought into harmony with the teaching of Scripture on the subject. The prevailing idea seems to be that I come to God and ask Him for something that I want, and that I expect Him to give me that which I have asked. But this is a most dishonouring and degrading conception. The popular belief reduces God to a servant, our servant: doing our bidding, performing our pleasure, granting our desires. No; prayer is a coming to God, telling Him my need, committing my way unto the Lord, and leaving Him to deal with it as seemeth Him best. This makes my will subject to His, instead of, as in the former case, seeking to bring His will into subjection to mine. No prayer is pleasing to God unless the spirit actuating it is “not my will, but Thine be done.” “When God bestows blessings on a praying people, it is not for the sake of their prayers, as if He was inclined and turned by them; but it is for His own sake, and of His own Sovereign will and pleasure. Should it be said, to what purpose then is prayer? it is answered, This is the way and means God has appointed for the communication of the blessing of His goodness to His people. For though He has purposed, provided, and promised them, yet He will be sought unto, to give them, and it is a duty and privilege to ask. When they are blessed with a spirit of prayer it forebodes well, and looks as if God intended to bestow the good things asked, which should be asked always with submission to the will of God, saying, Not my will but Thine be done” (John Gill).

The distinction just noted above is of great practical importance for our peace of heart. Perhaps the one thing that exercises Christians as much as anything else is that of unanswered prayers. They have asked God for something: so far as they are able to judge they have asked in faith believing they would receive that for which they had supplicated the Lord: and they have asked earnestly and repeatedly, but the answer has not come. The result is that, in many cases, faith in the efficacy of prayer becomes weakened, until hope gives way to despair and the closet is altogether neglected. Is it not so?

Now will it surprise our readers when we say that every real prayer of faith that has ever been offered to God has been answered? Yet we unhesitatingly affirm it. But in saying this we must refer back to our definition of prayer. Let us repeat it. Prayer is a coming to God, telling Him my need (or the need of others), committing my way unto the Lord, and then leaving Him to deal with the case as seemeth Him best. This leaves God to answer the prayer in whatever way He sees fit, and often, His answer may be the very opposite of what would be most acceptable to the flesh; yet, if we have really LEFT our need in His hands it will be His answer, nevertheless. Let us look at two examples.

In John 11 we read of the sickness of Lazarus. The Lord “loved” him, but He was absent from Bethany. The sisters sent a messenger unto the Lord acquainting Him of their brother’s condition. And note particularly how their appeal was worded-“Lord, behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick.” That was all. They did not ask Him to heal Lazarus. They did not request Him to hasten at once to Bethany. They simply spread their need before Him, committed the case into His hands, and left Him to act as He deemed best! And what was our Lord’s reply? Did He respond to their appeal and answer their mute request? Certainly He did, though not, perhaps, in the way they had hoped. He answered by abiding “two days still in the same place where He was” (John 11:6), and allowing Lazarus to die! But in this instance that was not all. Later, He journeyed to Bethany and raised Lazarus from the dead. Our purpose in referring here to this case is to illustrate the proper attitude for the believer to take before God in the hour of need. The next example will emphasise rather, God’s method of responding to His needy child.

Turn to 2 Corinthians 12. The Apostle Paul had been accorded an unheard-of privilege. He had been transported into Paradise. His ears had listened to and his eyes had gazed upon that which no other mortal had heard or seen this side of death. The wondrous revelation was more than the Apostle could endure. He was in danger of becoming “puffed up” by his extraordinary experience. Therefore, a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan, was sent to buffet him lest he be exalted above measure. And the Apostle spreads his need before the Lord; he thrice beseeches Him that this thorn in the flesh should be removed. Was his prayer answered? Assuredly, though not in the manner he had desired. The “thorn” was not removed but grace was given to bear it. The burden was not lifted but strength was vouchsafed to carry it.

Does someone object that it is our privilege to do more than spread our need before God? Are we reminded that God has, as it were, given us a blank check and invited us to fill it in? Is it said that the promises of God are all-inclusive, and that we may ask God for what we will? If so, we must call attention to the fact that it is necessary to compare Scripture with Scripture if we are to learn the full mind of God on any subject, and that as this is done we discover God has qualified the promises given to praying souls by saying “If ye ask anything according to His will He heareth us” (1 John 5:14). Real prayer is communion with God so that there will be common thoughts between His mind and ours. What is needed is for Him to fill our hearts with His thoughts and then His desires will become our desires flowing back to Him. Here then is the meeting-place between God’s Sovereignty and Christian prayer: If we ask anything according to His will He heareth us, and if we do not so ask He does not hear us; as saith the Apostle James, “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” or desires (4:3).

But did not the Lord Jesus tell His disciples, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it you” (John 16:23)? He did; but this promise does not give praying souls carte blanche. These words of our Lord are in perfect accord with those of the Apostle John: “If ye ask anything according to His will He heareth us.” What is it to ask “in the name of Christ”? Surely it is very much more than a prayer formula, the mere concluding of our supplications with the words “in the name of Christ.” To apply to God for anything in the name of Christ, it must needs be in keeping with what Christ is! To ask God in the name of Christ is as though Christ Himself were the suppliant. We can only ask God for what Christ would ask. To ask in the name of Christ is therefore to set aside our own wills, accepting God’s!

Let us now amplify our definition of prayer. What is prayer? Prayer is not so much an act as it is an attitude-an attitude of dependency, dependency upon God. Prayer is a confession of creature weakness, yea, of helplessness. Prayer is the acknowledgement of our need and the spreading of it before God. We do not say that this is all there is in prayer, it is not: but it is the essential, the primary element in prayer. We freely admit that we are quite unable to give a complete definition of prayer within the compass of a brief sentence, or in any number of words. Prayer is both an attitude and an act, an human act, and yet there is the Divine element in it too, and it is this which makes an exhaustive analysis impossible as well as impious to attempt. But admitting this, we do insist again that prayer is fundamentally an attitude of dependency upon God. Therefore, prayer is the very opposite of dictating to God. Because prayer is an attitude of dependency, the one who really prays is submissive, submissive to the Divine will; and submission to the Divine will means that we are content for the Lord to supply our need according to the dictates of His own Sovereign pleasure. And hence it is that we say every prayer that is offered to God in this spirit is sure of meeting with an answer or response from Him.

Here then is the reply to our opening question, and the scriptural solution to the seeming difficulty. Prayer is not the requesting of God to alter His purpose or for Him to form a new one. Prayer is the taking of an attitude of dependency upon God, the spreading of our need before Him, the asking for those things which are in accordance with His will, and therefore there is nothing whatever inconsistent between Divine Sovereignty and Christian prayer.

In closing this chapter we would utter a word of caution to safeguard the reader against drawing a false conclusion from what has been said. We have not here sought to epitomize the whole teaching of Scripture on the subject of prayer, nor have we even attempted to discuss in general the problem of prayer; instead, we have confined ourselves, more or less, to a consideration of the relationship between God’s Sovereignty and Christian prayer. What we have written is intended chiefly as a protest against much of the modern teaching, which so stresses the human element in prayer that the Divine side is almost entirely lost sight of.

In Jeremiah 10:23 we are told “It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (cf. Prov. 16:9); and yet in many of his prayers man impulse presumes to direct the Lord as to His way, and as to what He ought to do: even implying that if only he had the direction of the affairs of the world and of the church he would soon have things very different from what they are. This cannot be denied: for anyone with any spiritual discernment at all could not fail to detect this spirit in many of our modern prayer-meetings where the flesh holds sway. How slow we all are to learn the lesson that the haughty creature needs to be brought down to his knees and humbled into the dust. And this is where the very act of prayer is intended to put us. But man (in his usual perversity) turns the footstool into a throne from whence he would fain direct the Almighty as to what He ought to do! giving the onlooker the impression that if God had half the compassion that those who pray (?) have, all would quickly be right! Such is the arrogance of the old nature even in a child of God.

Our main purpose in this chapter has been to emphasise the need for submitting, in prayer, our wills to God’s. But it must also be added that prayer is much more than a pious exercise, and far otherwise than a mechanical performance. Prayer is, indeed, a Divinely appointed means whereby we may obtain from God the things we ask, providing we ask for those things which are in accord with His will. These pages will have been penned in vain unless they lead both writer and reader to cry with a deeper earnestness than heretofore, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).

JC Ryle (1816-1900) – Coming Events and Present Duties: Being Miscellaneous Sermons on Prophetical Subjects (1867)

Coming Events and Present Duties: Being Miscellaneous Sermons on

Prophetical Subjects (1867)

by

JC Ryle (1816-1900)

Copyright: Public Domain

External links are for reader convenience only, neither the linked web sites, its advertising content or its comments are endorsed by Late Night Watch. Be Berean (Acts 17:11) – Use the Internet with discernment.

LNW Note: To get the most out of Commentaries that incorporate the Hebrew and Greek spellings, use an interlinear Bible.

Sermon 4: Idolatry to be Destroyed at Christ’s Coming

“The idols He shall utterly abolish.” Isaiah 2:18

The time here spoken of will be plain to all who take the prophecy of Isaiah in its literal meaning. It is the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ the day when “He arises to shake terribly the earth.” The event is part of that mighty purification which will then take place in His professing Church the abolishing of all idols; and the principal subject which claims your consideration in the text is idolatry.

Without further preface, I desire to ask your attention to the four following points:

1. The definition of idolatry. WHAT IS IT?

2. The cause of idolatry. WHENCE COMES IT?

3. The form idolatry assumes in the visible Church of Christ. WHERE IS IT?

4. The ultimate abolition of idolatry. WHAT WILL END IT?

I feel that the subject is encompassed with many difficulties. Our lot is cast in an age when truth is constantly in danger of being sacrificed to toleration, charity, and peace falsely so called. Nevertheless, I cannot forget that I am a minister of a Church which has given no uncertain sound on the subject of idolatry; and, unless I am greatly mistaken, truth about idolatry is, in the highest sense, truth for the times.

Let me, then, first of all set before you the definition of idolatry. Let me show you WHAT IT IS.

It is of the utmost importance that you should understand this. Unless I make this clear, I can do nothing with the text. Vagueness and indistinctness prevail upon this point, as upon almost every other in religion. The Christian that would not be continually running aground in his spiritual voyage must have his channel well buoyed, his mind well stored with clear definitions.

I say then, that “idolatry is a worship, in which the honor due to God in Trinity, and to Him only, is given to some of His creatures, or some invention of His creatures.” It may vary exceedingly. It may assume exceedingly different forms, according to the ignorance or the knowledge the civilization or the barbarism, of those who offer it. It may be grossly absurd and ludicrous, or it may closely border on truth and admit of being most speciously defended. But whether in the adoration of the idol of Juggernaut or in the adoration of the host in St. Peter’s at Rome, the idolatrous principle is in reality the same. In either case the honor due to God is turned aside from Him and bestowed on that which is not God. And whenever this is done, whether in heathen temples or in professedly Christian Churches, there is an act of idolatry.

You must bear in mind that it is not necessary for a man formally to deny God and Christ in order to be an idolater. Far from it. Professed reverence for the God of the Bible and actual idolatry are perfectly compatible. They have often gone side-by-side, and they still do so. The children of Israel never thought of renouncing God when they persuaded Aaron to make the golden calf. “These be thy gods (thy Elohim),” they said, “which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” And the feast in honor of the calf was kept as a “feast unto the Lord (Jehovah)” (Ex. 32:4,5). Jeroboam, again, never pretended to ask the ten tribes to cast off their allegiance to the God of David and Solomon. When he set up the calves of Gold in Dan and Bethel, he only said, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Behold thy Gods (thy Elohim), O Israel , which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt” (1 Kings 12:28). In both instances, you will observe the idol was not set up as a rival to God but under the pretense of being a help a stepping stone to His service. But in both instances, you know well, a great sin was committed. The honor due to God was given to a visible representation of Him. The majesty of Jehovah was offended. The second commandment was broken. There was, in the eyes of God, a flagrant act of idolatry.

I ask you to mark this, my brethren. I ask you to dismiss from your minds those loose ideas about idolatry which are common in this day. Think not, as many do, that there are only two sorts of idolatry the spiritual idolatry of the man who loves his wife or child or money more than God, and the open, gross idolatry of the man who bows down to an image of wood or metal or stone because he knows no better. Depend upon it, idolatry is a sin that occupies a far, far wider field than this. It is not merely a thing in Hindostan that you may hear of and pity at missionary meetings. Nor yet is it a thing confined to your own heart, that you may confess before the mercy seat upon your knees. It is a pestilence that walks in the Church of Christ to a much greater extent than many of you suppose. It is an evil that, like the Man sin, “sits in the very temple of God” (2 Thess. 2:4). It is a sin that we all need to watch and pray against continually. It creeps into our religious worship insensibly and is upon us before we are aware. Those are tremendous words which Isaiah spoke to the formal Jew not to the worshipper of Baal, remember, but to the man who actually came to the temple (Isa. 66:3): “He who kills an ox is as if he slew a man; he who sacrifices a lamb as if he cut off a dog’s neck; he who offers an oblation as if he offered swine’s blood; he who burns incense as if he blessed an idol.”

This is that sin, remember, which God has especially denounced in His Word. One commandment out of ten is devoted to the prohibition of it. None of all the ten contain such a solemn declaration of His character and of His judgments against the disobedient: “I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me” (Ex. 20:5). None, perhaps, of all the ten is so emphatically repeated and amplified, and especially in the fourth chapter of the book of Deuteronomy.

This is the sin of all others which has brought down the heaviest judgments on the visible Church. It brought on Israel the armies of Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon. It scattered the ten tribes, burned up Jerusalem, and carried Judah and Benjamin into captivity. It brought on the Eastern Churches, in later days, the overwhelming flood of the Saracenic invasion, and turned many a spiritual garden into a wilderness. The desolation which reigns where Cyprian and Augustine once preached the living death in which the Churches of Asia Minor and Syria are buried are all attributable to this sin. All testify to the same great truth which the Lord proclaims in Isaiah, “My glory will I not give to another” (Isa.

42:8).

Gather up these things in your mind, beloved brethren. Be very sure that idolatry is a subject, which in every Church of Christ that would keep herself pure, should be thoroughly examined, understood, and known.

Let me show you, in the second place, the cause to which idolatry may be traced. WHENCE COMES IT?

To the man who takes an extravagant and exalted view of human intellect and reason, idolatry may seem absurd. He fancies it too irrational for any but weak minds to be endangered by it.

To a mere superficial thinker about Christianity, the peril of idolatry may seem very small. Whatever commandments are broken, such a man will tell us, professing Christians are not very likely to transgress the second.

Now, both these persons betray a woeful ignorance of human nature. They do not see that there are secret roots of idolatry within us all. The prevalence of idolatry in all ages among the heathen must necessarily puzzle the one, and the warnings of Protestant ministers against idolatry in the Church must necessarily appear uncalled for to the other, since both are alike blind to its cause.

The cause of all idolatry is the natural corruption of man’s heart. That great family disease, with which all the children of Adam are born, shows itself in this as it does in a thousand other ways. Out of the same fountain from which “proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit,” and the like (Mark 7:21,22),out of that same fountain arise false views of God and false views of the worship due to Him; and, therefore, when the Apostle Paul tells the Galatians (Gal. 5:20) what are the “works of the flesh,” he places prominently among them “idolatry.”

Man will have a religion of some kind. God has not left Himself without a witness in us all, fallen as we are. Like old inscriptions hidden under mounds of rubbish, like the almost obliterated underwriting of Palimpsest manuscripts, even so there is a dim something engraven at the bottom of man’s heart, however faint and half erased a something which makes him feel he must have a religion and a worship of some kind. The proof of this is to be found in the history of voyages and travels in every part of the globe. The exceptions to the rule are so few, if indeed there are any, that they only confirm its truth. Man’s worship in some dark corner of the earth may rise no higher than a vague fear of an evil spirit and a desire to propitiate him, but a worship of some kind man will have.

But then comes in the effect of the fall. Ignorance of God, carnal and low conceptions of His nature and attributes, earthly and sensual notions of the service which is acceptable to Him, all characterize the religion of the natural man. There is a craving in his mind after something he can see and feel and touch in his Divinity. He would fain bring His God down to his own crawling level. He would make his religion a thing of sense and sight. He has no idea of faith and spirit. In short, just as he is willing to live on God’s earth, but until renewed by grace, a fallen and degraded life, so he has no objection to worship after a fashion; but, until renewed by the Holy Ghost, it is always with a fallen worship. In one word, idolatry is a natural product of man’s heart. It is a weed, which like the earth uncultivated, the heart is always ready to bring forth.

And now does it surprise you when you read of the constantly recurring idolatries of the Old Testament Church of Peor, and Baal, and Moloch, and Chemosh, and Ashtoreth, of high places and hill altars, and groves and images and this in the full light of the Mosaic ceremonial? Cease to be surprised. It can be accounted for. There is a cause.

Does it surprise you when you read in history how idolatry crept in by degrees into the Church of Christ, how little-by-little it thrust out Gospel truth until, in Canterbury, men offered more at the shrine of Thomas á Becket than they did at that of the Virgin Mary, and more at that of the Virgin Mary than at that of Christ? Cease to be surprised. It is all intelligible. There is a cause.

Does it surprise you when you hear of men going over from Protestant Churches to the Church of Rome in the present day? Do you think it unaccountable and feel as if you yourself could never forsake a pure form of worship for one like that of the Pope? Cease to be surprised. There is a solution for the problem. There is a cause.

That cause is nothing else but the deep corruption of man’s heart. There is a natural proneness and tendency in us all to give God a sensual, carnal worship and not that which is commanded in His Word. We are ever ready to frame for our sloth and unbelief visible helps and steppingstones in our approaches to Him, and ultimately to give these inventions of our own the honor due to Him. In fact, idolatry is all natural, downhill easy, like the broad way. Spiritual worship is all of grace, all uphill and all against the grain. Any worship whatsoever is more pleasing to the natural heart than worshipping God in the way our Lord Christ describes” in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23).

I for one am not surprised at the quantity of idolatry existing both in the world and in the visible Church. I believe it perfectly possible that we may live to see more of it yet than some have ever dreamed of. It would never surprise me if some mighty personal Antichrist were to arise before the end mighty in intellect, mighty in talents for government, yes, and mighty perhaps in miraculous gifts too. It would never surprise me to see such a one as him setting up himself in opposition to Christ and making an Infidel combination against the Gospel. I believe that many would rejoice to do him honor, who now glory in saying, “We will not have this Christ to reign over us.” I believe that many would make a god of him and reverence him as an incarnation of truth, and concentrate their idea of hero-worship on his person. I advance it as a possibility and no more. But of this at least I am certain, that no man is less safe from danger of idolatry than the man who now sneers at every form of religion, and that from Infidelity to credulity, from Atheism to the grossest idolatry, there is but a single step. Think not, at all events, beloved brethren, that idolatry is an old fashioned sin into which you are never likely to fall. “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” Look into your own hearts. The seeds of idolatry are all there.

Let me show you, in the third place, the forms which idolatry has assumed and does assume in the visible Church. WHERE IS IT?

I believe there never was a more baseless fabric than the theory which obtains favor with many, that the promises of perpetuity and preservation from apostasy belong to the visible Church of Christ. It is a theory supported neither by Scripture nor by facts. The Church against which the gates of hell shall never prevail is not the visible Church but the whole body of the elect the company of true believers out of every nation and people. The greater part of the visible Church has frequently maintained gross heresies. The particular branches of it are never secure against deadly error, both of faith and practice. A departure from the faith a falling away a leaving of first love in any branch of the visible Church need never surprise a careful reader of the New Testament.

That idolatry would arise seems to have been the expectation of the Apostles, even before the canon of the New Testament was closed. It is remarkable to observe how St. Paul dwells on this subject in his Epistle to the Corinthians. If any Corinthian who was called a brother was an idolater, with such a one the members of the Church were not to eat (1 Cor. 5:11). “Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of our fathers” (1 Cor. 10:7). He says again, “My dearly beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Cor. 10:14). When he writes to the Colossians, he warns them against “worshipping of angels” (Col. 2:18). And St. John closes his first Epistle with the solemn injunction, “little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). It is impossible not to feel that all these passages imply an expectation that idolatry would arise among professing Christians, and that soon.

The famous prophecy in the fourth chapter of the first Epistle to Timothy contains a passage which is even more directly to the point: “The Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (1 Tim. 4:1). I will not detain you with any lengthy discussion of that remarkable expression “doctrines of devils.” It may be sufficient to say that our excellent translators are considered for once to have missed the full meaning of the Apostle in their rendering of the word translated as “devils” in our version, and that the true meaning of the expression is “doctrines about departed spirits.” And in this view, which I may as well say is maintained by all those who have the best right to be heard on such a question, the passage becomes a direct prediction of the rise of that most specious form of idolatry, the worship of dead saints.

The last passage I will call your attention to is the conclusion of the ninth chapter of Revelation. We there read, at the twentieth verse, “The rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils” (mark, this is the same word as that in the Epistle to Timothy, just quoted), “and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk.” Now, I am not going to offer any comment on the chapter in which this verse occurs. I know well there is a difference of opinion as to the true interpretation of the plagues predicted in it. One thing I venture to assert that it is the highest probability these plagues are to fall upon the visible Church of Christ, and the highest improbability that St. John was here prophesying about the heathen who never heard the Gospel. And this once conceded, the fact that idolatry is a predicted sin of the visible Church does seem most conclusively and forever established.

And now, if we turn from the Bible to facts, what do we see? I reply unhesitatingly, that there is unmistakable proof that Scripture warnings and predictions were not spoken without cause, and that idolatry has actually arisen in the visible Church of Christ, and does still exist.

The rise and progress of the evil in former days you will find well summed up in the admirable Homily of our own Church on Peril of Idolatry. To that Homily I beg to refer you, reminding you once for all that in the judgment of your own Thirty-nine Articles, the Book of Homilies “contains a godly and wholesome doctrine and necessary for these times.” There you will read how, even in the fourth century, Jerome complains “that the errors of images have come in and passed to the Christians from the Gentiles.” And Eusebius says, “We do see now that images of Peter and Paul, and of our Saviour himself be made, and tables be painted, which I think to have been derived and kept indifferently by a heathenish custom.” There you will read how “Pontius Paulinus, Bishop of Nola, in the fifth century, caused the walls of the temples to be painted with stories taken out of the Old Testament; that the people beholding and considering these pictures might the better abstain from too much surfeiting and riot. But from learning by painted stories, it came by little and little to idolatry.” There you will read how Gregory the First, Bishop of Rome, in the beginning of the seventh century did allow the free having of images in churches. There you will read how Irene, mother of Constantine the Sixth, in the eighth century assembled a council at Nicea and procured a decree that “images should be put up in all the churches of Greece, and that honor and worship should be given to the said images.” And there you will read the conclusion with which the Homily winds up its historical summary” that laity and clergy, learned and unlearned, all ages, sorts, and degrees of men, women, and children of whole Christendom, have been at once drowned in abominable idolatry, of all other vices most detested of God and most damnable to man, and that by the space of 800 years and more.”

This is a mournful account, beloved brethren, but it is only too true. There can be little doubt the evil began even before the time just mentioned by the Homily writers. No man, I think, need wonder at the vice of idolatry in the primitive Church who considers calmly the excessive reverence which it paid, from the very first, to the visible parts of religion. I believe that no impartial man can read the language used by nearly all the Fathers about the Church, the bishops, the ministry, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the martyrs, the dead saints generally no man can read it without being struck with the wide difference between their language and the language of Scripture on such subjects. You seem at once to be in a new atmosphere. You feel that you are no longer treading on holy ground. You find things which in the Bible are evidently of second-rate importance and here made of first-rate importance. You find the things of sense and sight exalted to a position in which Paul, Peter, James, and John, speaking by the Holy Ghost, never for a moment placed them. It is not merely the weakness of uninspired writings that you have to complain of; it is something worse it is a new system. And what is the explanation of all this? It is, in one word, that you have gotten into a region where the malaria of idolatry has begun to arise. You perceive the first workings of the mystery of iniquity. You detect the buds of that huge system of idolatry which, as the Homily describes, was afterwards formally acknowledged and ultimately blossomed so luxuriantly in every part of Christendom.

But let us now turn from the past to the present. Let us examine the question which most concerns ourselves. Let us consider in what form idolatry presents itself to us as a sin of the visible Church of Christ in our own time.

I find no difficulty in answering this question. I feel no hesitation in affirming that idolatry never yet assumed a more glaring form than it does in the Church of Rome at this very day.

And here I come to a subject on which it is hard to speak because of the times we live in. But the whole truth ought to be spoken by ministers of Christ without respect of times and prejudices. And I should not lie down in peace, after preaching on idolatry, if I did not declare my solemn conviction that idolatry is one of the crying sins of which the Church of Rome is guilty. I say this in all sadness. I say it acknowledging fully that we have our faults in our own Church, and practically, perhaps, in some quarters not a little idolatry. But formal, recognized, systematic idolatry I believe we are free from at all events. While, as for the Church of Rome, if there is not in her worship an enormous quantity of systematic, organized idolatry, I frankly confess I do not know what idolatry is.

To my mind, it is idolatry to have images and pictures of saints in churches and to give them a reverence for which there is no warrant or precedent in Scripture. And if this be so, I say there is idolatry in the Church of Rome.

To my mind, it is idolatry to invoke the Virgin Mary and the saints in glory and to address them in language never addressed in Scripture except to the Holy Trinity. And if this be so, I say there is idolatry in the Church of Rome.

To my mind, it is idolatry to bow down to mere material things and attribute to them a power and sanctity far exceeding that attached to the ark or altar of the Old Testament dispensation, and a power and sanctity too for which there is not a tittle of foundation in the Word of God. And if this be so, with the holy coat of Treves and the wonderfully multiplied wood of the true cross and a thousand other so called relics in my mind’s eye, I say there is idolatry in the Church of Rome.

To my mind, it is idolatry to worship that which man’s hands have made to call it God and adore it when lifted up before our eyes. And if this be so, with the doctrine of transubstantiation and the elevation of the host in my recollection, I say there is idolatry in the Church of Rome.

To my mind, it is idolatry to make ordained men mediators between ourselves and God, robbing, as it were, our Lord Christ of His office and giving them an honor which even Apostles and angels in Scripture flatly repudiate. And if this be so, with the honor paid to Popes and priests before my eyes, I say there is idolatry in the Church of Rome.

I know well that language like this jars the minds of many. Men love to shut their eyes against evils which it is disagreeable to allow. They will not see things which involve unpleasant consequences. That the Church of Rome is an erring Church they will acknowledge. That she is idolatrous they will deny.

They tell us that the reverence which the Romish Church gives to saints and images does not amount to idolatry. They inform us that there are distinctions between “latria” and “dulia,” between a mediation of redemption and a mediation of intercession, which clear her of the charge. My answer is, that the Bible knows nothing of such distinctions; and that, in the actual practice of the great bulk of Roman Catholics, they have no existence at all.

They tell us that it is a mistake to suppose that Roman Catholics really worship the images and pictures before which they perform acts of adoration; that they only use them as helps to devotion and in reality look far beyond them. My answer is, that many a heathen could say just as much for his idolatry; that it is notorious, in former days, they did say so; and that in Hindostan many idol worshippers do say so at the present day. But the apology [excuse/justification] does not avail. The terms of the second commandment are too stringent. It prohibits bowing down as well as worshipping. And the very anxiety which the Church of Rome has often displayed to exclude that second commandment from her catechisms is of itself a great fact which speaks volumes to a candid observer.

They tell us that we have no evidence for the assertions we make on this subject; that we found [establish] our charges on the abuses which prevail among the ignorant members of the Romish communion; and that it is absurd to say that a Church containing so many wise and learned men is guilty of idolatry. My answer is, that the devotional books in common use among Roman Catholics supply us with unmistakable evidence. Let anyone examine that notorious book “The Garden of the Soul,” if he doubts my assertion, and read the language there addressed to the Virgin Mary. Let him remember that this language is addressed to a woman who, though highly favored and the mother of our Lord, was yet one of our fellow sinners to a woman who actually confessed her need of a Savior for herself. She says, “My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior” (Luke 1:47). Let him examine this language in the light of the New Testament and then let him tell us fairly whether the charge of idolatry is not fully made out. But I answer, besides this, that we want no better evidence than that which is supplied in the city of Rome itself. What do men and women do under the light of the Pope’s own countenance? What is the religion that prevails around St. Peter’s and under the walls of the Vatican? What is Romanism at Rome, unfettered, unshackled, and free to develop itself in full perfection? Let a man honestly answer these questions, and I ask no more. Let him read such a book as Seymour’s “Pilgrimage to Rome” or Alford’s Letter and ask any visitor to Rome if the picture is too highly colored. Let him do this, I say, and I believe he cannot avoid this conclusion that Romanism in perfection is a gigantic system of Mary-worship, saint-worship, image-worship, relic-worship, and priest-worship; that it is, in one word, a huge organized idolatry.

Brethren, I know not how these things sound to your ears. To me it is no pleasure to dwell on the shortcomings of any who profess and call themselves Christians. I can say truly that I have said what I have said with pain and sorrow.

I draw a wide distinction between the Church of Rome and the private opinions of many of her members. I believe and hope that many a Roman Catholic is in heart inconsistent with his profession and is better than the Church to which he belongs. I cannot forget the Jansenists, and Quesnel, and Martin Boos. I believe that many a poor Italian at this day is worshipping with an idolatrous worship simply because he knows no better. He has no Bible to instruct him. He has no faithful minister to teach him. He has the fear of the priest before his eyes if he dares to think for himself. He has no money to enable him to get away from the bondage he lives under, even if he feels a desire. I remember all this, and I say that the Italian eminently deserves our sympathy and compassion. But all this must not prevent my saying that the Church of Rome is an idolatrous Church.

I should not be faithful if I said less. The Church of which I am a minister has spoken out most strongly on the subject. The Homily on Peril of Idolatry, and the solemn protest following the Rubrics at the end of our Communion Service, which denounces the adoration of the sacramental bread and wine as “idolatry to be abhorred of all faithful Christians,” are plain evidence that I have told you no more than the mind of my own Church. And in a day like this, when some are disposed to secede to the Church of Rome and many are shutting their eyes to her real character and wanting us to be reunited to her–in a day like this, my own conscience would rebuke me if I did not warn men plainly that the Church of Rome is an idolatrous Church, and that if they will join her they are “joining themselves to idols.”

But I may not dwell longer on this part of my subject. The main point I wish to impress on your minds is this that idolatry has decidedly manifested itself in the visible Church of Christ, and nowhere so decidedly as in the Church of Rome.

And now let me show you, in the last place, the ultimate abolition of all idolatry. WHAT WILL END IT?

I consider that man’s soul must be in an unhealthy state if he does not long for the time when idolatry shall be no more. That heart can hardly be right with God which can think of the millions who are sunk in heathenism, or honor the false prophet Mahomet, or daily invoke the Virgin Mary and not cry “O my God, what shall be the end of these things? How long, O Lord! How long?”

Here, as in other subjects, the sure word of prophecy comes to our aid. The end of all idolatry shall one day come. Its doom is fixed. Its overthrow is certain. Whether in heathen temples or in so called Christian Churches, idolatry shall be destroyed at the second coming of our Lord Christ.

Then shall be fulfilled the prophecy of our text, “The idols He shall utterly abolish.” So also the prophecy of Micah (5:13): “Their graven images also will I cut off, and their standing images out of the midst of thee, and thou shalt no more worship the work of thine hands.” So also the prophecy of Zephaniah (2:11): “The Lord will be terrible unto them, for He will famish all the gods of the earth; and men shall worship Him, everyone from his place, even all the isles of the heathen.” So also the prophecy of Zechariah (13:2): “It shall come to pass at that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered.” In a word, the 97th Psalm shall then receive its full accomplishment: “The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof. Clouds and darkness are found about Him; righteousness and judgment are the habitation of His throne. A fire goes before Him, and burns up His enemies round about. His lightnings enlighten the world; the earth saw and trembled. The hills melted like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. The heavens declare His righteousness, and all the people see His glory. Confounded be all they who serve graven images, who boast themselves of idols. Worship Him, all ye gods.”

Brethren, the coming and kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ is that blessed hope which should ever comfort the children of God under the present dispensation. It is the polestar by which we must journey. It is the one point on which all our expectations should be concentrated. “Yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry.” Our David shall no longer dwell in Adullam, followed by a despised few and rejected by the many. He shall take to Himself His great power and reign, and cause every knee to bow before Him.

Till then our redemption is not perfectly enjoyed. As Paul tells the Ephesians, “We are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30). Our salvation is not completed. As Peter says, “We are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet. 1:5). Our knowledge is still defective. As Paul tells the Corinthians, “Now we see through a glass darkly; but then face-to-face. Now I know in part; then shall I know even also as I am known” (1 Cor. 13:12). In short, our best things are yet to come.

But in the day of our Lord’s return, every desire shall receive its full accomplishment. We shall no more be pressed down and worn out with the sense of constant failure, feebleness, and disappointment. In His presence we shall find there is a fullness of joy, if nowhere else; and when we awaken after [according to] His likeness, we shall be satisfied, if we never were before.

There are many abominations now in the visible Church over which we can only sign and cry, like the faithful in Ezekiel’s day (Ezek. 9:4). We cannot remove them. But a day comes when Jesus shall once more purify His temple and cast forth everything that defiles. He shall do that work of which the doings of Hezekiah and Josiah were a faint type long ago. He shall cast forth the images and purge out idolatry in every shape.

Who is there among you that longs for the conversion of the heathen world? You will not see it in its fullness until the Lord’s appearing. Then, and not till then, will that often misapplied text be fulfilled: “A man shall cast his idols of silver and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats” (Isa. 2:20).

Who is there among you that longs for the redemption of Israel? You will never see it in its perfection till the Redeemer comes to Zion. Idolatry in the professing Church of Christ has been one of the mightiest stumbling blocks in the Jew’s way. When it begins to fall, the veil over the heart of Israel shall begin to be taken away (Ps. 102:16).

Who is there among you that longs for the fall of Antichrist and the purification of the Church of Rome? I believe that will never be until the winding up of this dispensation. That vast system of idolatry may be consumed and wasted by the spirit of the Lord’s mouth, but it shall never be destroyed except by the brightness of His coming (2 Thess. 2:8).

Who is there among you that longs for a perfect Church a Church in which there shall not be the slightest taint of idolatry? You must wait for the Lord’s return. Then, and not till then, shall we see a perfect Church a Church having neither spot nor wrinkle, nor any such thing (Eph. 5:27), a Church of which all the members shall be regenerate and everyone a child of God.

Brethren, if these things be so, you will not wonder that we urge on you the study of prophecy, and that we charge you above all to grasp firmly the glorious doctrine of Christ’s second appearing and kingdom. This is the light shining in a dark place to which you will do well to take heed. Let others indulge their imagination, if they will, with an imaginary “Church of the future.” Let the children of this world dream of some “coming man” who is to understand everything and set everything right. They are only sowing to themselves bitter disappointment. They will awake to find their visions baseless and empty as a dream. It is to such as these that the Prophet’s words may be well applied: “Behold all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks. Walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of Mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow” (Isa. 1:11).

But let your eyes look right onward to the day of Christ’s second advent. That is the only day when every abuse shall be rectified and every corruption and source of sorrow completely purged away. Waiting for that day, let us each work on and serve our generation, not in idleness as if nothing could be done to check evil yet not disheartened because we see not yet all things put under our Lord. After all, the night is far spent, and the day is at hand. Let us wait, I say, on the Lord.

And surely, if these things be so, you will not wonder that we warn you to beware of all leanings towards the Church of Rome. Surely, when the mind of God about idolatry is so plainly revealed to us in His Word, it seems the height of infatuation in anyone to join a Church so steeped in idolatries as the Church of Rome. To enter into communion with her when God is saying “Come out of her, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and receive not of her plagues” (Rev. 18:4), to seek her when the Lord is warning us to leave her, to become her subjects when the Lord’s voice is crying “Escape for thy life, flee from the wrath to come,” all this is mental blindness indeed; a blindness like that of him who, though forewarned, embarks in a sinking ship; a blindness that would be almost incredible if our own eyes did not see examples of it continually.

We must all be on our guard. We must take nothing for granted. We must not hastily suppose that we are too wise to be ensnared, and say, like Hazael, “Is Thy servant a dog, that he should do this thing?”

We who preach must cry aloud and spare not, and allow no false tenderness to make us hold our peace about the heresies of the day. You who hear must have your loins girt about with truth and your minds stored with clear prophetical views of the end to which all idol worshippers must come. Let us all try to realize that the latter ends of the world are upon us and that the abolition of all idolatry is hastening on. Is this a time for a man to draw nearer to Rome? Is it not rather a time to draw further back and stand clear, lest we be involved in her downfall? Is this a time to extenuate and palliate Rome’s manifold corruptions and refuse to see the reality of her sins? Surely we ought rather to be doubly jealous of everything of a Romish tendency in religion doubly careful that we do not connive at any treason against our Lord Christ and doubly ready to protest against unscriptural worship of every description. Once more, then, I say, remember that the destruction of all idolatry is certain; and remembering that, beware of the Church of Rome.

And now it only remains for me to conclude what I have been saying by mentioning some safeguards for your own souls. You live in a time when the Church of Rome is walking amongst us with renewed strength, and loudly boasting that she will soon win back the ground that she has lost. False doctrines of every kind are continually set before you in the most subtle and specious forms. It cannot be thought unseasonable if I offer you some practical safeguards against idolatry. What it is, whence it comes, where it is, what will end it all this you have heard. Let me point out how you may be safe from it, and I will say no more.

1. Arm yourselves, then, for one thing, with a thorough knowledge of the Word of God. Read it more diligently than ever. Become familiar with every part of it. Let it dwell in you richly. Beware of anything which would make you give less time and less heart to the perusal of its sacred pages. The Bible is the sword of the Spirit; let it never be laid aside. The Bible is the true lantern for a dark and cloudy time; beware of traveling without its light. I strongly suspect, if we did but know the secret history of those secessions from our Church to that of Rome, which we deplore, that in almost every case one of the most important steps in the downward road would be found to have been a neglected Bible more attention to forms, sacraments, daily services, primitive Christianity, and so forth, and diminished attention to the written Word of God. The Bible is the King’s highway. Once leave that for any bypath, however beautiful and old and frequented it may seem, and never be surprised if you end with worshipping images and relics.

2. Arm yourselves, in the second place, with a godly jealousy about the least portion of the Gospel. Beware of sanctioning the slightest attempt to keep back any jot or tittle of it, or to throw any part of it into the shade by exalting subordinate matters in religion. It seemed a small thing that Peter did when he withdrew himself from eating with the Gentiles, but Paul tells the Galatians, “I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed” (Gal. 2:11). Count nothing little that concerns your soul. Be very particular whom you hear, where you go, and what you do in all the matters of your own particular worship. Care nothing for the imputation of squeamishness and excessive scrupulosity. You live in days when great principles are involved in little acts, and things in religion which fifty years ago were utterly indifferent are now by circumstances rendered indifferent no longer. Beware of tampering with anything of a Romanizing tendency. It is foolishness to play with fire. I believe that many of our seceders began with thinking there could be no mighty harm in attaching a little more importance to certain outward things than they once did. But once launched on the downward course, they went on from one thing to another. They provoked God, and He left them to themselves. They tempted the devil, and he came to them. They started with trifles, as many foolishly call them. They have ended with downright idolatry.

3. Arm yourselves, last of all and above all, with clear sound views of our Lord Jesus Christ and of the salvation that is in Him. He is the image of the invisible God the express image of His person and the true preservative against all idolatry when truly known. Build yourselves deep down on the strong foundation of His finished work upon the cross. Settle it firmly in your mind that Christ Jesus has done everything needful in order to present you without spot before the throne of God, and that simple childlike faith on your part is the only thing required to give you an entire interest in the work of Christ. Settle it firmly in your mind that having this faith, you are completely justified in the sight of God will never be more justified if you live to the age of Methuselah and do the works of the Apostle Paul and can add nothing to that complete justification by any acts, deeds, works, performances, fastings, prayers, alms deeds, attendance on ordinances, or anything else of your own.

And keep up, keep up, I beseech you, continual communion with the person of the Lord Jesus. Abide in Him daily, feed on Him daily, look to Him daily, lean on Him daily, live upon Him daily, draw from His fullness daily. Realize this, and the idea of other mediators, other comforters, other intercessors will seem utterly absurd. “What need is there?” you will reply; “I have Christ, and in Him I have all.”

Brethren, let the Lord Christ have His rightful place in your heart, and all other things in your religion will soon fall into their right places also Church, ministers, sacraments, ordinances all will go down and take the second place.

Except Christ sits as Priest and King upon the throne of your heart, that little kingdom within will be in perpetual confusion. But only let Him be all in all there, and I have no fear for you. Before Him every idol, every Dagon shall fall down.

This lecture was one of a course delivered during Lent, 1851, at St. George’s, Bloomsbury.

JC Ryle (1816-1900) – Coming Events and Present Duties: Being Miscellaneous Sermons on Prophetical Subjects (1867)

Coming Events and Present Duties: Being Miscellaneous Sermons on

Prophetical Subjects (1867)

by

JC Ryle (1816-1900)

Copyright: Public Domain

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Sermon 5: Scattered Israel to be Gathered

 

“Hear the Word of the Lord, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He who scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd does his flock.” Jer. 31:10.

The text which heads this page is singularly full and comprehensive. It contains both history and prophecy. It speaks of the scattering of Israel; this is history. It speak of the gathering of Israel; this is prophecy. It demands the attention both of the Jew and the Gentile. To the Jew it holds out a hope” Israel,” it says, “shall be gathered.” On the Gentile it lays a command “Hear the Word of the Lord,” it says, “O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, He who scattered Israel will gather him.”

Reader, the whole body of Gentile Christendom is specially addressed in this text. There is no evading this conclusion on any fair interpretation of Scripture. We ourselves are among the “nations” to whom Jeremiah speaks. Upon us devolves a portion of the duty which he here sets forth. The text is the Lord’s voice to all the Churches of Christ among the Gentiles. It is a voice to the Churches of England, Scotland, and Ireland. It is a voice to the Churches of Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Holland, Denmark, and America. It is a voice to all Christendom. And what does the voice say? It bids us proclaim far and wide the will of God concerning the Jewish nation. It bids us keep one another in memory of God’s past and future dealings with Israel. “He who scattered Israel will gather him.”

Reader, I ask your serious attention for a few minutes while I try to place the Jewish subject before you in a connected and condensed form. I propose in this address to show you from Scripture the past, the present, and the future of Israel. I know few texts in the Bible which contain such a complete summary of the subject as the one before you. This text I shall endeavor to unfold.

I entreat you not to dismiss the subject as speculative, fanciful, and unprofitable. The world is growing old. The last days are come upon us. The foundations of the earth are out of course. The ancient institutions of society are wearing out and going to pieces. The end of all things is at hand. Surely it becomes a wise man, at a time like this, to turn to the pages of prophecy and to inquire what is yet to come. At a time like this the declarations of God concerning His people Israel ought to be carefully weighed and examined. “At the time of the end,” says Daniel, “the wise shall understand” (Dan. 12:10).

There are four points on which I purpose to dwell in considering the words of Jeremiah which stand at the head of this address.

1. The meaning of the word “Israel,” both here and elsewhere in Scripture.

2. The present condition of Israel.

3. The future prospects of Israel.

4. The duty which Gentile Churches owe to Israel.

The meaning of the word “Israel.”

The definition of terms is of first importance in theology. Unless we explain the meaning of the words we use in our religious statements, our arguments are often wasted, and we seem like men beating the air.

The word “Israel” is used nearly seven hundred times in the Bible. I can only discover three senses in which it is used. First, it is one of the names of Jacob, the father of the twelve tribes; a name specially given to him by God. Second, it is a name given to the ten tribes which separated from Judah and Benjamin in the days of Rehoboam and became a distinct kingdom. This kingdom is often called Israel in contradistinction to the kingdom of Judah. Thirdly and lastly, it is a name given to the whole Jewish nation, to all members of the twelve tribes which sprang from Jacob and were brought out of Egypt into the land of Canaan. This is by far the most common signification of the word in the Bible. It is the only signification in which I can find the word “Israel” used through the whole New Testament. It is the same in which the word is used in the text which I am considering this day. That Israel, which God has scattered and will yet gather again, is the whole Jewish nation.

Now, why do I dwell upon this point? To some readers it may appear mere waste of time and words to say so much about it. The things I have been saying sound to them like truisms. That Israel means Israel is a matter on which they never felt a doubt. If this be the mind of any into whose hands this address has fallen, I am thankful for it. But unhappily there are many Christians who do not see the subject with your eyes. For their sakes I must dwell on this point a little longer.

For many centuries there has prevailed in the Churches of Christ a strange, and to my mind, an unwarrantable mode of dealing with this word “Israel.” It has been interpreted in many passages of the Psalms and Prophets as if it meant nothing more than Christian believers. Have promises been held out to Israel? Men have been told continually that they are addressed to Gentile saints. Have glorious things been described as laid up in store for Israel? Men have been incessantly told that they describe the victories and triumphs of the Gospel in Christian Churches. The proofs of these things are too many to require quotation. No man can read the immense majority of commentaries and popular hymns without seeing this system of interpretation to which I now refer. Against that system I have long protested, and I hope I shall always protest as long as I live.

I do not deny that Israel was a peculiar typical people, and that God’s relations to Israel were meant to be a type of His relations to His believing people all over the world.

I do not forget that it is written, “As face answers to face, so does the heart of man to man” (Prov. 27:19), and that whatever spiritual truths are taught in prophecy concerning Israelitish hearts are applicable to the hearts of Gentiles.

I would have it most distinctly understood that God’s dealings with individual Jews and Gentiles are precisely one and the same. Without repentance, faith in Christ, and holiness of heart, no individual Jew or Gentile shall ever be saved.

What I protest against is the habit of allegorizing plain sayings of the Word of God concerning the future history of the nation Israel and explaining away the fullness of their contents in order to accommodate them to the Gentile Church. I believe the habit to be unwarranted by anything in Scripture, and to draw after it a long train of evil consequences.

Where, I would venture to ask, in the whole New Testament shall we find any plain authority for applying the word “Israel” to any one but the nation Israel? I can find none. On the contrary, I observe that when the Apostle Paul quotes Old Testament prophecies about the privileges of the Gentiles in Gospel times, he is careful to quote texts which specially mention the “Gentiles” by name. The fifteenth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans is a striking illustration of what I mean. We are often told in the New Testament that under the Gospel believing Gentiles are “fellow-heirs and partakers of the same hope” with believing Jews (Eph. 3:6). But that believing Gentiles may be called “Israelites,” I cannot see anywhere at all.

To what may we attribute that loose system of interpreting the language of the Psalms and Prophets, and the extravagant expectations of universal conversion of the world by the preaching of the Gospel, which may be observed in many Christian writers? To nothing so much, I believe, as to the habit of inaccurately interpreting the word “Israel,” and to the consequent application of promises to the Gentile Churches with which they have nothing to do. The least errors in theology always bear fruit. Never does man take up an incorrect principle of interpreting Scripture without that principle entailing awkward consequences and coloring the whole tone of his religion.

Reader, I leave this part of my subject here. I am sure that its importance cannot be overrated. In fact, a right understanding of it lies at the very root of the whole Jewish subject, and of the prophecies concerning the Jews. The duty which Christians owe to Israel, as a nation, will never be clearly understood until Christians clearly see the place that Israel occupies in Scripture.

Before going any further, I will ask all readers of this address one plain practical question. I ask you to calmly consider — What sense do you put on such words as “Israel,” “Jacob,” and the like when you meet with them in the Psalms and Prophecies of the Old Testament? We live in a day when there are many Bible readers. There are many who search the Scriptures regularly and read through the Psalms and the Prophets once, if not twice, every year they live. Of course you attach some meaning to the words I have just referred to. You place some sense upon them. Now what is that sense? What is that meaning? Take heed that it is the right one.

Reader, accept a friendly exhortation this day. Cleave to the literal sense of Bible words and beware of departing from it, except in cases of absolute necessity. Beware of that system of allegorizing and spiritualizing and accommodating, which the school of Origen first brought in, and which has found such an unfortunate degree of favor in the Church. In reading the authorized version of the English Bible, do not put too much confidence in the “headings” of pages and “tables of contents” at beginnings of chapters, which I take leave to consider a most unhappy accompaniment of that admirable translation. Remember that those headings and tables of contents were drawn up by uninspired hands. In reading the Prophets, they are sometimes not helps but real hindrances and less likely to assist a reader than to lead him astray. Settle it in your mind, in the reading the Psalms and Prophets, that Israel means Israel and Zion Zion and Jerusalem Jerusalem. And, finally, whatever edification you derive from applying to your own soul the words which God addresses to His ancient people, never lose sight of the primary sense of the text.

The second point in the text on which I proposed to dwell, is the present condition of Israel.

The expression used by Jeremiah describes exactly the state in which the Jews are at this day, and have been for nearly eighteen hundred years. They are a “scattered” people. The armies of Assyria, Babylon, and Rome have, one after another, swept over the land of Israel and carried its inhabitants into captivity. Few, if any, of the ten tribes appear to have returned from the Assyrian captivity. Not fifty thousand of Judah and Benjamin came back from the captivity of Babylon. From the last and worst captivity, when the temple was burned and Jerusalem destroyed, there has been no return at all. For eighteen hundred years Israel has been dispersed over the four quarters of the globe. Like the wreck of some goodly ship, the Jews have been tossed to and fro on all waters and stranded in broken pieces on every shore.

But though Israel has been “scattered,” Israel has not been destroyed. For eighteen hundred years the Jews have continued a separate people, without a king, without a land, without a territory, but never lost, never absorbed among other nations. They have been often trampled underfoot, but never shaken from the faith of their fathers. They have been often persecuted, but never destroyed. At this very moment they are as distinct and peculiar a people as any people upon earth an unanswerable argument in the way of the infidel, a puzzling difficulty in the way of politicians, a standing lesson to all the world. Romans, Danes, Saxons, Normans, Belgians, French, Germans have all in turn settled on English soil. All have in turn lost their national distinctiveness. All have in turn become part and parcel of the English nation, after the lapse of a few hundred years. But it has never been so with the Jews. Dispersed as they are, there is a principle of cohesion among them which no circumstances have been able to melt. Scattered as they are, there is a national vitality among them which is stronger than that of any nation on earth. Go where you will, you always find them. Settle where you please, in hot countries or in cold, you will find the Jews. But go where you will and settle where you please, this wonderful people is always the same. Scattered as they are, few in number compared to those among whom they live, the Jews are always the Jews. Three thousand years ago Balaam said, “The people shall dwell alone, and not be reckoned among the nations.” Eighteen hundred years ago our Lord said, “This generation shall not pass away till all be fulfilled.” We see these words made good before our eyes (Num. 23:9; Luke 21:32).

But by whose hands was this scattering of Israel wrought? The text before us today declares expressly that it was the hand of God. It was not the armies of Tiglath Pileser or Shalmanezer, of Nebuchadnezzar or of Titus. They were only instruments in the hand of a far higher power. It was that God who orders all things in heaven and earth who dispersed the twelve tribes over the face of the earth. It was the same God who brought Israel out of Egypt with a high hand and mighty arm and planted them in Canaan, who plucked them up by the roots and made them “wanderers among the nations” (Hos. 9:17).

And why did God send this heavy judgment upon Israel? To what are we to attribute this marvelous [surprising] dispersion of a people so highly favored? The inquiry is a very useful one. Let us mark well the answer.

The Jews are a “scattered” people because of their many sins. Their hardness and stiff-neckedness, their impenitence and unbelief, their abuse of privileges and neglect of gifts, their rejection of prophets and messengers from heaven, and finally their refusal to receive the Lord Jesus Christ, the King’s own Son, these were the things which called down God’s wrath upon them. These were the causes of their present dispersion. The vine which was brought out of Egypt bore wild grapes. The husbandman to whom the vineyard was let out rendered not of the fruit to the Lord of the vineyard. The people that were brought out of the house of bondage rebelled against Him by whom they were set free. Hence the wrath of God rose until there was no remedy. Thus He says, “You only have I known among the inhabitants of the earth, therefore I will punish you, because of your iniquities” (Amos 3:2). “They killed the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, they persecuted the apostles, they pleased not God, they were contrary to all men, they forbade us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved; and therefore the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost” (1 Thess. 2:15,16).

Israel was “scattered” to be a perpetual warning to the Gentile Churches of Christ. The Jews are God’s beacon or pillar of salt to all Christendom and a silent standing lesson which all who profess to know God ought never to forget. They proclaim to all Christians God’s hatred of spiritual pride and self righteousness, God’s high displeasure with those who exalt the traditions of men and depart from the Word, God’s hatred of formality and ceremonialism. If any man desires to know how much God hates these things, he has only to look at the present condition of the Jews. For eighteen hundred years God has held them up before the eyes of the world, and written His abhorrence of their sins in letters which he who runs may read.

I cannot pass away from this part of my subject without entreating all who read this address to learn a practical lesson from the scattering of Israel. I entreat you to remember the causes which led to their dispersion, and to beware of the slightest approach to their peculiar sins. I am sure the warning is needed in these latter days. I am sure that the opinions which are boldly broached and openly maintained by many religious teachers in all Churches of Christendom call loudly on all Christians to stand on their guard. It is not without good reason that our Lord said, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Sadducees and Pharisees” (Matt. 16:6). Look to your own heart. Beware of tampering with false doctrines. Churches are never safe unless their members know their individual responsibility. Let us each look to ourselves and take heed to our own souls. The same God lives who scattered Israel because of Israel’s sins. And what says He to the Churches of Christ this day? He says, “Be not high-minded, but fear. If God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest He also spare not thee” (Rom. 11:20,21).

The third part of the text on which I propose to dwell is the future prospects of Israel.

In taking up this branch of my subject, I feel that I am entering on the region of unfulfilled prophecy. I desire to do so with all reverence, and with a deep sense of the many difficulties surrounding this department of theology and the many diversities of opinion which prevail upon it. But the servant of God must call no man master on earth. Truth is never likely to be attained unless all ministers of Christ speak out their opinions fully, freely, and unreservedly, and give men an opportunity of weighing what they teach.

Reader, however great the difficulties surrounding many parts of unfulfilled prophecy, two points appear to my own mind to stand out as plainly as if written by a sunbeam. One of these points is the second personal advent of our Lord Jesus Christ before the Millennium. The other of these points is the future literal gathering of the Jewish nation and their restoration to their own land. I tell no man that these two truths are essential to salvation and that he cannot be saved except he sees them with my eyes. But I tell any man that these truths appear to me distinctly set down in holy Scripture, and that the denial of them is as astonishing and incomprehensible to my own mind as the denial of the divinity of Christ.

Now what says our text about the future prospects of the Jews? It says, “He who scattered Israel will gather him.” That gathering is an event which plainly is yet to come. It could not apply in any sense to the ten tribes of Israel. They have never been gathered in any way. Their scattering has never come to an end. It cannot be applied to the return of the remnant of Judah and Benjamin from the Babylonian captivity. The language of the text makes such an application impossible. The text is addressed to the Gentiles, “the nations.” The declaration they are commanded to make is, “to the isles of the sea.” In the days of the Babylonian captivity, the “nations” of the earth knew nothing of the Word of the Lord. They were sunk in darkness and had not even heard the Lord’s name. If Jeremiah had told them to proclaim the return of the Jews from Babylon under such circumstances, it would have been useless and absurd. There is but one fair and legitimate interpretation of the promise of the text. The event it declares is yet future. The “gathering” spoken of is a gathering which is yet to come.

Reader, I believe that the interpretation I have just given is in entire harmony with many other plain prophecies of Scripture. Time would fail me if I were to quote a tenth part of the texts which teach the same truth. Out of the sixteen prophets of the Old Testament, there are at least ten in which the gathering and restoration of the Jews in the latter days are expressly mentioned. From each of these ten I will take one testimony. I say “one” testimony deliberately. I am anxious not to overload the subject with evidence. I would only remind the reader that the texts I am about to quote are only a small portion of the evidence that might be brought forward.

1. Hear what Isaiah says: “It shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And He shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth” (Isa. 11:11,12).

2. Hear what Ezekiel says: “Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land” (Ezek. 37:21).

3. Hear what Hosea says: “Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land; for great shall be the day of Jezreel” (Hos. 1:11). “For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim. Afterward shall the children of Israel return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days” (Hos. 3:4,5).

4. Hear what Joel says: “But Judah shall dwell forever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation” (Joel 3:20).

5. Hear what Amos says: “And I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel, and they shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens and the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God” (Amos 9:14,15).

6. Hear what Obadiah says: “But upon Mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions” (Obad. 1:17).

7. Hear what Micah says: “In that day, saith the Lord, will I assemble her that halts, and I will gather her that is driven out, and her that I have afflicted; and I will make her that halts a remnant, and her that was cast far off a strong nation; and the Lord shall reign over them in Mount Zion from henceforth, even forever” (Micah 4:6,7).

8. Hear what Zephaniah says: “Sing, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. The Lord has taken away thy judgments, He has cast out thine enemy. The King of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst of thee; thou shalt not see evil any more. In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not; and to Zion, Let not thine hands be slack. The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy, He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing. I will gather them that are sorrowful for the solemn assembly, who are of thee, to whom the reproach of it was a burden. Behold, at that time I will undo all that afflicts thee; and I will save her that halts and gather her that was driven out; and I will get them praise and fame in every land where they have been put to shame. At that time will I bring you again, even in the time that I gather you; for I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth, when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the Lord” (Zeph. 3:1420).

9. Hear what Zechariah says: “And I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph. I will bring them again to place them, for I have mercy upon them. They shall be as though I had not cast them off; for I am the Lord their God, and will hear them. And they of Ephraim shall be like a mighty man, and their heart shall rejoice as through wine. Yes, their children shall see it and be glad; their heart shall rejoice in the Lord. I will hiss for them and gather them, for I have redeemed them; and they shall increase as they have increased. And I will sow them among the people, and they shall remember me in far countries; they shall live with their children and turn again. I will bring them again also out of the land of Egypt, and gather them out of Assyria. I will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon, and place shall not be found for them” (Zech. 10:610).

10. Hear, lastly, what Jeremiah says: “For behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the Lord. And I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it” (Jer. 30:3). “For I am with thee, saith the Lord, to save thee; though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee. But I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished” (Jer. 30:11).

Reader, I place these texts before you without note or comment. I only wish that they may be weighed and examined, and the several chapters from which they are taken read carefully. I believe there is one common remark that applies to them all. They all point to a time which is yet future. They all predict the final gathering of the Jewish nation from the four quarters of the globe and their restoration to their own land.

I must ask you to believe that the subject admits of being drawn out at far greater length than the limits of this address allow. I am resolved, however, not to encumber it by entering on topics of comparatively subordinate importance. I will not complicate it by dwelling on the manner in which Israel shall be gathered, and the particular events which shall accompany the gathering. I might show you by Scriptural evidence that the Jews will probably first be gathered in an unconverted state, though humbled; and will afterwards be taught to look to Him whom they have pierced, through much tribulation. I might speak of the future glory of Jerusalem, after the Jews are restored, and the last siege which it shall endure, as described by Zechariah and by our Lord Jesus Christ. But I forbear. I will not travel beyond the bounds of my text. I think it better to present its weighty promise to you in its naked simplicity. “Israel scattered shall yet be gathered.” This is the future prospect of the Jew.

Now is there anything contrary to this gathering in the New Testament? I cannot find a single word. So far from this being the case, I find a chapter in the Epistle to the Romans where the subject is fully discussed. An inspired Apostle speaks there of Israel being once more “received” into God’s favor, “grafted in,” and “saved.” (See Rom. 11:1532.)

Is there anything impossible in this gathering of Israel? Who talks of impossibilities? If an infidel, let him explain the present condition and past history of Israel, if he can. And when he has solved that mighty problem, we may listen to him. If a Christian, let him think again before he talks of anything being impossible with God. Let him read the vision of the dry bones in Ezekiel and mark to whom that vision applies. Let him look to his own conversion and resurrection from the death of trespasses and sins and recall the unworthy thought that anything is too hard for the Lord.

Is there anything inconsistent with God’s former dealings in the gathering of Israel? Is there any extravagance in expecting such an event? Why should we say so? Reasoning from analogy, I can see no ground for refusing to believe that God may yet do wonderful things for the Jewish people. It would not be more marvelous to see them gathered once more into Palestine than it was to see them brought from Egypt into the promised land. What God has done once, He may surely do again.

Is there anything improbable in the gathering of Israel? Alas! reader, we are poor judges of probabilities. God’s ways of carrying into effect His own purposes are not to be judged by man’s standard, or measured by the line and plummet of what man calls probable. In the day when the children of Israel went forth from Egypt, would anyone have said it was probable that such a nation of serfs would ever produce a book that should turn the world upside down? Yet that nation has done it. From that nation has come the Bible. Four thousand years ago, would anyone have said it was probable that God’s Son would come to earth and suffer in the flesh on a cross before He came to earth in glory to reign? Yet so it has been. Christ has lived, and Christ has suffered, and Christ has died. Away with this talk about improbabilities! The ways of God are not our ways.

Finally, is there anything fanatical or enthusiastic in this expectation that Israel shall be gathered? Why should men say so? Your own eyes tell you that the present order of things will never convert the world. There is not a church, or a parish, or a congregation where the converted are more than a little flock. There is not a faithful minister on earth, and never has been, who has ever seen more than the “taking out of a people” to serve Christ. A change must come before the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord. A new order of teachers must be raised up and a new dispensation ushered in. These teachers, I firmly believe, shall be converted Jews. And then shall be seen the fulfillment of the remarkable words, “If the casting of them away be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be but life from the dead?” (Romans 11:15.)

I may not dwell longer on this branch of my subject. I leave it with one general remark, which may sound to some readers like a bald truism. Whether it be a truism or not, I believe the remark to be of vital importance, and I heartily wish that it was more deeply impressed on all our minds.

I ask you, then, to settle it firmly in your mind that when God says a thing shall be done, we ought to believe it. We have no right to begin talking of probable and improbable, likely and unlikely, possible and impossible, reasonable and unreasonable. What is all this but veiled skepticism and infidelity in disguise? What has the Lord said? What has the Lord spoken? What says the Scriptures? What is written in the Word? These are the only questions we have a right to ask; and when the answer to them is plain, we have nothing to do but believe. Our reason may rebel. Our preconceived ideas of what God ought to do may receive a rude shock. Our private systems of prophetical interpretation may be shattered to pieces. Our secret prejudices may be grievously offended. But what are we to do? We must abide by Scripture, or be of all men most miserable. At any cost let us cling to the Word. “Let God be true and every man a liar.”

In all matters of unfulfilled prophecy, I desire, for my own part, to fall back on this principle. I see many things I cannot explain. I find many difficulties I cannot solve. But I dare not give up my principle. I am determined to believe everything that God says. I know it will all prove true at the last day. I read that He says in the text before us this day, “He who scattered Israel shall gather him.” It must be true, I feel, whatever be the difficulties. That Israel shall be gathered I steadfastly believe.

The last point on which I propose to dwell is one purely practical. It is the duty which Gentile Churches owe to Israel.

Reader, in touching on this point, I would not have you for a moment suppose that the future gathering of Israel depends on anything that man can do. God’s counsels and purposes are independent of human strength. The sun will set tonight at its appointed hour, and neither Queen, Lords nor Commons, Pope, President, nor Emperors can hasten, prevent, or put off its setting. The tides of the sea will ebb and flow this week in their regular course, and no scientific decree nor engineering skill can interfere with their motion. And just in like manner the promises of God concerning Israel will all be fulfilled in due season, whether we will hear or whether we will forbear. When the “times and seasons” arrive which God has “put in His own power,” Israel will be gathered; and all the alliances and combinations of statesmen, and all the persecution and unbelief of apostate Churches shall not be able to prevent it.

But seeing that we look for such things, it becomes us all to be found in the path of duty. It behooves us to consider gravely the solemn question, What manner of persons ought we to be? and in what way can we testify our full assent to God’s purposes about the Jews? Can we in no sense be fellow workers with God? Should we not remember that remarkable saying of St Paul” Through your mercy they shall obtain mercy” (Rom. 11:31). This is the question to which I now desire briefly to supply a practical answer.

1. I believe, then, for one thing, that it is a duty incumbent on all Gentile Christians to take a special interest in the spiritual condition of the Jewish nation, and to give their conversion a special place in our prayers. I say, advisedly, their spiritual condition. I leave alone their civil and political position. I speak, exclusively, of our duty to Jewish souls. I say that we owe them a special debt, and that this debt ought to be carefully paid.

We prize our Bibles, and we are right to do so. A heaven without a sun would not be more blank than a world without a Bible. But do we ever reflect that every page in that blessed book was written under God’s inspiration by Israelitish hands? Remember that every chapter and verse you read in our Bible you owe under God to Israel. There is not a religious society that meets in London in the month of May which is not constantly working with Israelitish tools.

We prize the glorious Gospel of the grace of God, and we are right to do so. A land without the Gospel, like Tartary and China, is nothing better than a moral wilderness. See the vast difference between Europe and America with the Gospel, notwithstanding all their vices, and Africa and Asia without it. But do we ever reflect that the first preachers of that Gospel were all Jews? The men who, at cost of their lives, first carried from town to town the blessed tidings of Christ crucified were not Gentiles. The first to take up the lamp of truth, which was passed from hand to hand till it reached our heathen forefathers, were all men of Israel.

We rejoice in Christ Jesus and glory in His person and work. Well may we do so! Without a living Savior and the blood of His atonement once made on the cross, we should indeed be miserable. But do we ever reflect that when that Savior became a man, in order that as man’s substitute He might live, and suffer and die, He was born of a Jewish woman? Yes, let that never be forgotten! When “God was manifest in the flesh” and was “born of a woman,” that woman was a virgin of the house of David. When the promised Savior took flesh and blood that He might bruise the serpent’s head and redeem man, He took not flesh and blood of any royal house among the Gentiles, but of one of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Reader, I know well that these are ancient things. They have been often urged, often alleged, often pressed on the attention of the Churches. I am not ashamed to bring them forward again. I say, that if there be such a thing as gratitude in the heart of man, it is the duty of all Gentile Christians to take special interest in the work of doing good to the Jews.

2. I believer, furthermore, that it is a duty incumbent on all Gentile Christians to be specially careful that they take up stumbling blocks out of the way of Israel, and too that they do nothing to disgust them with Christianity or hinder their conversion. This is a matter which is expressly mentioned in Scripture. There we find Isaiah bidding us, “Take up the stumbling blocks out of the way of God’s people” (Isa. 57:14). Truly the Prophet might well speak of this. No man can look round the Gentile Churches and fail to see that he had cause.

What shall we say of the glaring unholiness and neglect of God’s Ten Commandments which prevail so widely in Christendom? What shall we say of the open unblushing idolatry which offends the eye in all Roman Catholic Churches? What shall we say of the widespread habit of Sabbath-breaking which is eating like a cancer into the heart of the Protestant Churches? What shall we say of the rationalistic mode of interpreting Old Testament history, which has crept so extensively into modern commentaries the system of regarding the histories of Abraham, Jacob, Joseph and the like as so many myths or ingenious fable but not as narratives of facts which really took place? What shall we say of the traditional mode of interpreting Old Testament prophecies, in which so many Christians indulge the system of appropriating all the blessings to the Church of Christ and handing over all the bitter things to poor despised Israel; the system of interpreting all prophecies about Christ’s first advent literally and all prophecies about His second advent figuratively; requiring the Jew to believe the first in the letter and refusing in turn to believe the second, except in what is called (by a sad misnomer) a spiritual sense? What shall we say of all these things but that they are stumbling blocks great stumbling blocks in the way of the conversion of the Jews? What are they all but great barriers between the Jew and Christ, and barriers cast up by Christian hands?

Reader, we must all do our part in aiding to take these stumbling blocks away. Here at least all may help. Here, at any rate, every Gentile Christian can aid the Jewish cause. The more pure and lovely we can make our holy faith, the more we are likely to recommend it to Israel. The more we can check the progress of the Roman apostasy and protest against its idolatries and corruptions, the more likely is the Jew to believe there is something in Christianity. The more we can promote the habit of taking all Scripture in its plain literal sense, the more we are likely to remove prejudices in the minds of honest inquirers in Israel and to make them ready to hear what we have to say.

3. Finally, I believe it is a duty incumbent on all Gentile Christians to use special efforts in order to promote the conversion of the Jews. I say special efforts advisedly. The Jews are a peculiar people and must be approached in a peculiar way.

They are peculiar in their state of mind. They require an entirely different treatment from the heathen. Their objections are not the heathen man’s objections. Their difficulties are not the heathen man’s difficulties. They believe many things which the heathen man never heard of. They have a standard of right and wrong with which the heathen man is utterly unacquainted. Like the heathen they need to be converted. Like the heathen they need to be brought to Christ. But the lines of argument to be pursued with the Jew and the heathen are widely dissimilar. A faithful missionary might do admirably well among the heathen who might find it difficult to reason with a Jew.

They are peculiar in their position in the world. They are not to be found all assembled together, like the Africans at Sierra Leone, or the Hindoos, or New Zealanders, or Chinese. They are emphatically a scattered people, a few in one country and a few in another. An effort to get at them must aim at nothing short of sending missionaries in search of them all over the world.

Circumstances like these appear to me to point out clearly that nothing less than a special effort will ever enable Christians to discharge their debt to Israel. There must be a division of labor in the missionary field. There must be a special concentration of preaching, praying, and loving intercourse on the Jewish people, or the Church of the Gentiles can never expect to do them much spiritual good. Without such special effort the cause of Israel will inevitably be lost sight of in the cause of the whole heathen world. Without such special effort I cannot see how the command of the text can be rightly obeyed.

I leave the whole subject with three remarks, which I pray God to impress on the minds of all into whose hands this address may fall.

1. For one thing, I charge every reader of this address to remember the special blessing which God has promised to all who care for Israel. Whatever a sneering world may say, the Jews are a people “beloved for their fathers’ sake.” Of Jerusalem it is written, “They shall prosper who love thee” (Ps. 122:6). Of Israel it is written, “Blessed is he who blesses thee, and cursed is he who curses thee” (Num. 24:9). These promises are not yet exhausted. We see their fulfillment in the blessing granted to the Church of England since the day when the Jewish cause was first taken up. We see their fulfillment in the peculiar honor which God has put from time to time on individual Christians who have labored especially for the Jewish cause. Charles Simeon, Edward Bickersteth, Robert M’Cheyne, Haldane Stewart, and Dr. Marsh are striking examples of what I mean. Is there anyone that desires God’s special blessing? Then let him labor in the cause of Israel, and he shall not fail to find it.

2. For another thing, I charge every reader of this address never to forget the close connection which Scripture reveals between the time of Israel’s gathering and the time of Christ’s second advent to the world. In one Psalm it is expressly declared, “When the Lord shall build up Zion, He shall appear in His glory” (Ps. 102:16). Where is the true believer who does not long for that blessed day? Where is the true Christian who does not cry from the bottom of his heart, “Thy kingdom come”? Let all such work and give and pray, so that the Gospel may have free course in Israel. The time to favor Zion is closely bound up with the restitution of all things. Blessed indeed, is that work of which the completion shall usher in the second coming of the Lord!

3. Finally, I charge every reader of this address to make sure work of his own salvation. Rest not in mere head-knowledge of prophetical subjects. Be not content with intellectual soundness in the faith. Give diligence to make your own calling and election sure. Seek to know that your repentance and faith are genuine and true. Seek to feel that you are one with Christ and Christ in you, and that you are washed, sanctified, and justified. Then, whether the completion of God’s promises to Israel be near or far off, your own portion will be sure. You will “stand in your lot” safely when the kingdoms of this world are passing away. You will meet Christ without fear when He comes the second time to Zion. You will join boldly in the song, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” You will sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God and go out no more.

The substance of this Address was originally preached as the Annual Sermon on behalf of the London Society for promoting Christianity among the Jews, at the Rectory Church, Marylebone, in May, 1858.

JC Ryle (1816-1900) – Coming Events and Present Duties: Being Miscellaneous Sermons on Prophetical Subjects (1867)

Coming Events and Present Duties: Being Miscellaneous Sermons on

Prophetical Subjects (1867)

by

JC Ryle (1816-1900)

Copyright: Public Domain

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Sermon 6: The Reading Which is Blessed

 

“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servant ­­things which must shortly take place.  And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw.  Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.”  (Rev. 1:1­3)

We live in “troublous” and “perilous” times.  It is many years since there has been so much in the aspect of public affairs to raise anxious thoughts as there is in the present day.

We are always apt to exaggerate the importance of events that happen in our own days.  I do not forget that.  But I cannot retract what I have just written.  I look around me at the things now going on in the Church and in the world.  I look forward to the possible future.  And as I look, I feel that I am justified in speaking of our times as “perilous” and “troublous.”  I appeal to the judgment of all who observe the history of their own times.  “Is there not a cause?”

There are three heavy judgments which God can send upon a nation, ­­the sword, the pestilence, and the famine.  All these three have fallen heavily upon our country within the last few years.  The Irish famine, the Russian war, the cholera, the cattle plague, have left marks on this country which cannot be erased.  Surely these signs of the times deserve no common notice.  They should make us say with Habakkuk, “I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon my tower, and will watch to see what He will say unto me” (Hab. 2:1).  They should make us cry with Daniel, “O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things?” (Dan. 12:8.)

But one thing, at all events, is clear­­ and that is the duty incumbent on Christians to search more diligently than ever the prophetical Scriptures.  Let us not be, like the Jews at the first advent, blind to the hand of God and the fulfillment of His purposes in all that is going on in the world.  Let us rather remember that the word of prophecy is given to be “a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day­star arise” (2 Pet. 1:19).  Let us walk much in that light.  Let us search “what and what manner of time the Spirit of Christ in the Prophets did signify, when He testified before the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow” (1 Pet. 1:11).  Let us compare prophecies fulfilled with prophecies unfulfilled and endeavor to make the one illustrate the other.  Let us strive, above all, to obtain clear views of the things yet to be expected, both in the church and the world, before the end comes and time shall be no more.

With such feelings I now invite you to enter on the consideration of the verses of Scripture which stand at the head of this address.  Those verses, I need hardly remind you, are the preface or opening words of the Book of Revelation.  May the blessing which is specially promised to the readers and hearers of this book be with all into whose hands this address may fall!

Reader, there are three points to which I desire to call your attention:

1.  The general character of the Book of Revelation.

2.  The arguments commonly used to deter men from reading it.

3.  The many useful lessons which the study of it is calculated to teach.

The general character of the Book of Revelation.

The Book of Revelation differs widely from any other book of the Old or New Testaments.  In many respects it is thoroughly unlike the rest of the Bible.  There is a solemn and majestic peculiarity about it. It stands alone.

It is peculiar in the dignity with which it begins.  The very first verse prepares the reader for something extraordinary,­­ for a book even more directly from God, if possible, than one written under the plenary inspiration of the Holy Ghost.  It is called, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass; and He sent and signified it by His angel unto His servant John.”

It is peculiar in the subject matter which it contains.  It contains less of doctrinal and practical Christianity, in proportion to its length, than any book of the New Testament.  With few exceptions its pages are filled with prophecies­­, prophecies of the widest range, extending, it seems to me, from the time of John to the very end of the world; prophecies embracing a vast number of events, spreading over the whole “times of the Gentiles” and covering the mighty interval between the destruction of the first Jerusalem and the descent of the new Jerusalem from heaven; prophecies of universal importance to all mankind, having reference not only to the condition and prospects of the believing Church but also of the unconverted world.

It is peculiar in the style and dress in which its subject matter is clothed.  With the exception of the 2nd and 3rd chapters, the greater part of the book is composed of visions which the Apostle John saw in the Spirit.  In these visions the vast range of the Church’s history was revealed to him under emblems, figures, allegories, symbols, and similitudes.  The meaning of the great majority of these symbols and emblems is not explained.  The general characteristics of these visions are much alike.  All are marked by a vastness, a grandeur, a majesty, a life, a force, a boldness, a sublimity entirely unparalleled in any human writings.  The door opened in heaven, ­­the voice like a trumpet speaking­­, the sea of glass like crystal, ­­the seven seals, he seven trumpets, the seven vials­­, the four angels holding the four winds, ­­the mighty angel with a face like the sun, his right foot on the sea, his left on the earth ­­the woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet, ­­the great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, ­­the beast that rose out of the sea, ­­the mighty earthquake,­­ the destruction of Babylon ­­the summoning of the fowls of heaven to the supper of the great God, the bind, the description of the glorious city,­­ who can read such things without being struck by them?  Who can study them and avoid the conclusion, “This is written with the finger of God?”

Such is the general character of the Book of Revelation.  Such is the book which you are emphatically told it is “blessed” to read.  I will only offer two general remarks on the symbolical style in which the book is composed and then pass on.

One remark is, that you must not regard the use of symbolical language as entirely peculiar to the Book of Revelation.  You will find it in other parts of Scripture.  The very emblems and figures of the Apocalypse, whose meaning seems so obscure, are often employed by the Holy Ghost in the Old Testament.  You read, for example, of four living creatures in the fourth chapter.  You read of four also in Ezekiel (1:5).  You read of horses in the vision of the four first seals.  You read of horses also in the vision of Zechariah (6:2,3).  You read of a sealed company in the seventh chapter.  You read also of a sealed and marked people in the vision of Ezekiel (chap. 9).  You read of a plague of locusts under the fifth trumpet.  You read of locusts also in the prophecy of Joel (chap. 2).  You read of John eating the little book in the tenth chapter.  You read also of Ezekiel eating the roll in his vision (chap. 3).  You read of olive trees and candlesticks in the vision of the two witnesses.  You read of the same emblems in the prophecy of Zechariah (chap. 4).  You read of a beast having seven heads and ten horns in the thirteenth chapter.  You read of a similar beast in the Book of Daniel (chap. 7).  You read of a wondrous celestial city in the twenty­first chapter.  You have the description of a city scarcely less mysterious, though different, at the end of Ezekiel (chap. 40 &c.)  These things are worthy of remark.  They show us that we must not be stumbled by the symbols of Revelation, as if they were altogether a new and strange thing.  We must remember they are used in the Old Testament as well as here, though far more sparingly, in communicating the mind of God to man.  The peculiarity of the Apocalypse is not so much the use of symbols and emblems as the profuse abundance of them.

My other remark is, that a symbolical style of composition will always seem more strange to us than it does to Oriental nations.1  Figures, parables, illustrations, and similitudes are infinitely better known in the countries round the Holy Land than they are among ourselves.  The hieroglyphic inscriptions, for example, which abound in Egypt and elsewhere in the East, are nothing more than symbolical writings. Who does not know that at first sight these hieroglyphics seem uncouth, meaningless, dark, and obscure?  The first step the student of them must take is to become familiar with their appearance.  By and by he may hope to become acquainted with the key to their meaning.  Ultimately, that key being found, these very hieroglyphics are found full of interesting matter.  It is much the same with the Book of Revelation.  It is a book of sacred hieroglyphics.  Its very style is one to which our matter ­of ­fact northern mind is utterly unaccustomed.  To us, therefore, its visions seem doubly strange; strange because we are not familiar with such a mode of conveying our ideas ­­stranger still, because in many cases we have no clue to their meaning.  Our first step must be to read them and study them much, so as to become familiar with their outward garb,­­ with the style of composition in which they are clothed. So studying in a prayerful spirit, we may hope that the meaning of their inward contents will be gradually made more plain to our minds.

One thing let us always remember in reading the visions of the Apocalypse.  Whether we understand little or much, let us settle it in our minds as a fixed principle that every vision in the book has a real definite meaning.

The time is short.  We hasten on towards a day when every page shall be unfolded and unsealed.  Every knot shall be untied.  Every hard question shall be solved.  Then shall we see that the Revelation, like every other part of the inspired volume, was all “very good.”

Then shall we find that the blessing pronounced on its students was not given in vain, and that those readers whom God blesses are blessed indeed.

Let us consider, in the next place, the arguments commonly used to deter men from studying the Book of Revelation.

There never have been wanting good men who have cried down the study of Revelation as unprofitable.  They have spoken of it as a book too dark and mysterious for use.  They have bid men respect it as inspired, but not touch it ­­reverence it at a distance, as part of the Bible, but not draw near to it or handle its contents.  To this prejudice we probably owe the unhappy omission of the book from the daily calendar of lessons in the Liturgy of the Church of England.  It is deeply to be regretted that in the last arrangement of that calendar, the Apocryphal story of Bel and the Dragon should have been thrust in and the Revelation of John the Divine should have been shut out.  Room was made for an entirely uninspired composition.  No place was found for a book to the reading of which a special blessing is promised.  Truly we may say in this case, “Great men are not always wise, neither do the aged understand judgment” (Job 32:9).2

Reader, when such prejudices have existed against the study of the Book of Revelation among good men, you will not wonder that the children of the world should have gone further.  Men, more witty than wise, have launched sharp sayings, jests, and jibes at its students.  They have not been ashamed to find a mark for witticism in its solemn and mysterious visions.  Even a man like Scaliger declared that one of Calvin’s wisest acts was his abstaining from writing a commentary on the book.  Dr. South, a clever writer, though an unsound theologian, said, that the study of Revelation either “found a man mad or made him so.”3

But, after all, what is the real worth of the objections commonly made to the study of Revelation?  Let us weigh them in the balances and see to what they amount.  To my own mind they appear neither so serious nor so unanswerable as is commonly supposed.

One class of objectors dislike the book because it seems to point to a coming state of things in the world, which, to their minds, is monstrous, incredible, and improbable.

That God should send plagues and judgments upon the nations of the earth because of their sins against Him, that the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the captains, and the rich, and the mighty, and the bond, and the free, should really flee to hide themselves from the wrath of the Lamb,­­ that the kingdoms of this world should really become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ,­­ that the saints of the Lord Jesus should ever reign upon the earth and everything that defiles be cast out,­­ all this is to their minds almost absurd.  “It is contrary to their common sense,” they tell us.  “It is a mark of a weak mind to believe it.  It is extravagance.  It is raving.  It is enthusiasm.  It is going back to the ranting of fifth ­monarchy­ men in the Commonwealth.  It cannot be.  We cannot show them the details of the mode in which all these things shall come to pass.  They will not believe them.  A book from which we draw such strange fanatical opinions can never be a profitable one to study.”

I am not careful as to the answer to be given to such objectors.  They would do well to remember that the great leading events yet to come, to which Revelation points, are in no wise more wonderful than many which have already taken place in the world.  The destruction of the old world by the flood,­­ the wasting of Babylon, Nineveh, Tyre, and Egypt,­­ the scattering of the Jews, and their perpetual preservation, notwithstanding, as a separate people,­­ all these were things utterly improbable at the time when they were foretold.  But we know that they all came to pass.  And as it has been in days gone by, so it shall be in days to come.  Men, in their pride of heart, forget that in the eyes of an Eternal God the movements of the nations of the earth are but as the struggles of a few ephemeral insects.  Yet a little time, and despotic and constitutional governments, liberal and conservative parties, all, all shall be swept away.  God has said it, and with Him nothing is impossible.

As to the manner in which the great events predicted in Revelation shall be brought about, we do not pretend to explain it.  There are many things which we accept as facts and yet should find it impossible to explain.  We believe the creation of all things out of nothing.  We believe the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity.  We believe the fact of the Incarnation.  But who would dare to offer an explanation of any of these great mysteries?  We have a right to regard unfulfilled prophecy in the same light.  We claim belief for its facts though the mode of their accomplishment be at present hid from our eyes.

I leave this first class of objectors here.  I fear the secret spring of their arguments, in too many cases, is the dislike of the natural heart to spiritual things.  The heart not taught by the Holy Ghost rebels against the idea of severe judgments against sin,­­ a kingdom of Christ,­­ a reign of the saints.  And why? The plain truth is, that it is not so much the Book of Revelation that such a heart really objects to, as the whole Gospel of Christ and all the counsel of God.

Another class of objectors must next be noticed.  These are they who deprecate the study of Revelation because of the wide differences which prevail in the interpretation of its contents, and the notorious mistakes into which interpreters have fallen.

I do not for a moment pretend to deny the existence of these differences and mistakes.  Some good men tell us confidently that the whole book is entirely unfulfilled.  They look for an accomplishment of its visions so clear and unmistakable that there shall be no room left for doubt.  Other good men assure us, with no less confidence, that the whole book is fulfilled, with the exception of a small portion at the end.  A third school of expositors maintains that the Revelation is partly fulfilled and partly unfulfilled. As to the details of the book, the meaning and application of the several visions it contains, the fulfillment of times and seasons, time would fail if I were to recount the various interpretations that have been put forth and the errors that have been committed.

Now, what shall we say to these things?  What can the advocate for Apocalyptic study reply to these undeniable facts?

My reply is, that the variations and mistakes in the views of interpreters constitute no argument against the study of the book itself.  Because others have missed the road in searching for truth, you and I are not to give up the search altogether and sit down in contented ignorance.  Who has not heard of the extravagant and contradictory theories which astronomers, geologists, and physicians have occasionally propounded in their respective sciences?  Yet who would think of giving up astronomy, geology, or medicine in despair because of the conflicting tenets and avowed mistakes of their professors?  Luther and Zwingle differed widely about the Lord’s Supper.  Cranmer and Hooper differed widely about vestments.  Wesley and Toplady differed widely on predestination.  Yet no one in his senses would think of giving up the study of the Christian system because these good men could not agree.

My answer furthermore is, that the very mistakes and differences of Apocalyptic interpreters are not without their use.  They have cleared the field in many a direction and shown us what the Revelation does not mean.  Expositors have shown in many cases the weakness of other men’s interpretation, if they have not succeeded in establishing their own.  To know what an unfulfilled Scriptural prediction does not mean is one step towards knowing what it does mean.  When Napoleon was overtaken by the rising tide in a dark evening on the sandy shore of the Red sea, he is said to have ordered his attendants to disperse and ride in different directions, charging each one to report as he proceeded whether the water grew shallower or deeper.  There was great wisdom in that order.  Each man’s report was useful.  The report of him who found the water deepening was in its way as useful as the report of the successful finder of the right path.  It is much the same with the widely varying expositions of Revelation.  It is evident that many of them must be wrong.  But all in their way have done good. There is hardly one, perhaps, which has not contributed some sparks of light.4

My answer beside this is, that the differences of Apocalyptic interpreters, great as they undoubtedly are, are often magnified and absurdly exaggerated.  The common points of agreement among expositors are more in number and greater in importance than men commonly suppose.  Whether the seals, trumpets, and vials are fulfilled or not, all students of the Revelation agree that there are judgments predicted in it on the unconverted and unbelieving.  Whether days mean literal days, as some say, or years, as others say, all are agreed that the time of the wicked triumphing is defined, limited, and fixed by the counsels of God.  Whether the beast with horns like a lamb be the Papal power or not, nearly all are agreed that Romish apostasy is foretold in the book, and doomed.  Whether Christ shall come and reign visibly on earth or not, for 1000 or 365,000 years, all are agreed that He shall come again with power and great glory, that the kingdoms of this world shall sooner or later become the kingdoms of our God, and of His Christ, and that all believers should look and long for their Lord’s return.  I doubt much whether this is as much considered by the opponents of Apocalyptic study as it deserves.

I grant them freely that the divergences and contrarieties of the paths drawn out by the expositors of the book are very many and very great.  But, I bid them remember that the great terminus towards which all their lines lead is always one and the same.  Oh, that men would remember that mighty terminus, and realize the tremendous importance of the end and breaking up of all things towards which they hasten!  Then would they be more anxious to study any book which handles matters like those contained in Revelation.  Then would they be less ready to catch at any excuse for declining Apocalyptic study.

The only remaining objection to the study of Revelation which I shall notice is that which is drawn from the mysterious character of a large portion of the book.

That the Revelation is full of dark and difficult things it is of course impossible to deny.  Some of its symbols and emblems the Spirit of God has thought good to interpret and explain.  The seven stars, the seven candlesticks, the incense, the fine linen, the waters on which the woman sat, the woman herself­­ all these and a few more are expounded, perhaps as a specimen of the kind of meaning which should be attached to the symbols of the book generally.  But, after every deduction, there remain a very large number of visions and emblems which the Spirit has not thought fit to interpret.  These symbols are unquestionably dark and mysterious.  It is not, perhaps, saying too much to admit that after all the attempts of commentators, ancient and modern, preterist and futurist, there are many visions and symbols of Revelation which, we must confess, we do not understand.  I do not say that elaborate and learned expositions of them have not been offered, but not expositions so manifestly satisfactory that we can demand a reader’s assent to them.  If truth be spoken, we must allow that all the expositions of some parts of the Revelation are nothing better than ingenious conjectures.  We admire them as we read.  We are not prepared to say that they are not true, or to furnish a reason for refusing our assent. But still they fail to carry conviction with them.  We somehow feel the mark is not yet hit, the spring of the lock is not yet touched, the whole truth is not yet discovered.

But I appeal to the common sense of men and their sense of fairness, and I ask them whether they have  right to expect that such a book as the book of Revelation can in the very nature of things be anything but dark and mysterious.

Here is a prophetical book which spans the mighty gulf between the end of the first century and the day of judgment, a book which was given to show God’s dealings with the Church and the world during a space of well night 2000 years, a book which points to the rise and fall of empires and kingdoms with all the attendant wars and tumults over a third part of the habitable globe, a book, above all, which does not tell its story in simple, plain matter of fact narration but clothes it in majestic visions, symbols, emblems, figures, and similitudes.

Here are we reading this book during a life of three score and ten years at most,­­ with all the cares and anxieties of this world pressing upon us,­­ with an understanding partaking in the corruption of the fall,-­­with a heart naturally earthly and sensual, and, even after conversion, weak and deceitful,­­ knowing little of ourselves, ­­knowing little of contemporary history,­­ finding constantly how hard it is to discover the real truth about events happening in our own day.  Is it likely, I ask, is it probable, is it agreeable to common sense that such students, coming to such a book, should find it anything but mysterious and hard to understand?  Can anyone doubt as to the reply?

The plain truth is that we are like children watching some mighty building in process of erection.  They see a thousand operations which they are utterly unable to comprehend or explain.  They see scaffolding and stones, and iron and brick, and mortar and timber, and rubbish.  They hear noise, and hammering, and cutting, and chipping.  It seems to their eyes a vast scene of hopeless confusion.  And yet to the eye of the architect all is order, system, and progress.  He sees the end from the beginning. He knows exactly what is going on.

It is much the same with us in trying to pass a judgment on the application of many of the Apocalyptic visions.  We are like those who stand on the outward surface of a sphere.  The range of our mental vision is exceedingly limited.  We know so little and see so little beyond our own circle,­­ the very pages of history are so often full of inaccuracies and lies that we are really very poor judges of the question whether such and such visions have been fulfilled or no.  More light, I firmly believe, may yet be expected before the end come.  Much may probably be yet unfolded and unsealed.  But as to any certainty about the meaning of all parts of the Apocalypse, when I see how little certainty there is about anything 1000 miles from us in distance, or 100 years in time, I own I do not look for it until the Lord comes.

And here let me turn for a moment to those who secretly wonder why the Book of Revelation was not written more plainly, and why things of such vast interest to the Church have been purposely clothed in the mysterious garb of symbol, allegory, and vision.

I might easily remind such persons of Bishop Sherlock’s remark on this very point: “To inquire why the ancient prophecies are not clearer is like inquiring why God has not given us more reason or made us as wise as the angels.”  But I have no wish to leave them there.  I would rather use an argument which has often proved satisfactory to my own mind, and silenced the speculative questionings of a curious spirit.

I ask you then, whether you cannot see wisdom and mercy in the darkness which it has pleased God to throw around the prophetical history of His Church?  You wonder in your own heart why the things to come were not more clearly revealed.  But, consider for a moment how fearfully deadening and depressing it would have been to the early Christians if they had clearly seen the long ages of darkness and corruption which were to elapse before the Lord returned.  Reflect for a moment how much unhappiness primitive believers were spared by not knowing for certain the events which were to take place.  If humble saints in the days of imperial persecution could have dreamed of the eighteen weary centuries during which the saints were yet to wait for their Lord from heaven, they might almost have sat down in flat despair.  If Polycarp had foreseen the present state of Asia Minor, or Ignatius that of Syria, or Chrysostom that of Constantinople, or Irenaeus that of France, or Athanasius that of Egypt, or Augustine that of Africa, their hands might well have trembled and their knees waxed faint.

Count up, I say, the dark and painful pages of which there are so many in the annals of Church history. Set down in order the heresies, and false doctrines, and apostasies of which there has been such a rank growth,­­ Arianism and Romanism and Socinianism and Neologianism and their kindred errors.  Place before your mind’s eye the centuries of ignorance and superstition before the Reformation, and of coldness and formality since Luther’s generation passed away.  Count up the crimes which have been perpetrated in the name of Christianity, ­­the massacres, the burnings, the persecutions within the Church,­­ not forgetting the Vallenses, the Albigenses, the Spanish Inquisition, the slaughter of the Huguenots, and the fires of Smithfield.  Do all this faithfully and I think you will hardly avoid the conclusion that it was wise mercy which drew so thick a veil over things to come.  Wise mercy showed the early Christians a light in the distance but did not tell them how far it was away.  Wise mercy pointed out the far off harbor lights but not the miles of stormy sea between.  Wise mercy revealed enough to make them work, and hope, and wait.  But wise mercy did not tell all that was yet to be fulfilled before the end.

Who thinks of telling his little children, in their early years, every trial and pain and misery which they may have to go through before they die?  Who thinks of filling their tender ears with the particulars of every bodily disease they may have to endure, and every struggle for success in life in which they may have to engage?  Who thinks of harrowing up their young souls by describing every bereavement they may have to submit to, or dilating [speaking at length] on every deathbed they may have to watch? We do not do it because they could not understand our meaning, and could not bear the thought of it if they did.  And just so, it seems to me, does the Lord Jesus deal with His people in the Apocalyptic vision.  He keeps back the full revelation of all the way they must go through till the time when He sees they can bear it.  He considers our frame.  He teaches and reveals as we are able to bear.

In reply to those who object to the study of Revelation, there is, after all, no argument so powerful as the simple promise of the Word of God.  The predictions of Revelation may seem to many improbable and absurd.  The differences and mistakes of interpreters may fill others with disgust and dislike to the very name of Apocalyptic study.  The acknowledged mysteriousness and confessed difficulties of the book may incline many to shrink from perusing it.  But there the book stands­­ part of those Scriptures which are all given by inspiration and all profitable.  And there on the forefront of the book stands a promise and an encouragement to the reader and hearer: “Blessed is he who reads, and they who  hear.”  These words, no doubt, were spoken in foresight of the objections that men would raise against the study of the book.  Give these words their full weight.  Fall back on them when all other arguments fail.  They are a reserve which will never give way.  God has said it and will make it good.  “Blessed is he who reads, and they who hear the words of the prophecy of this book.”

The third and last thing which I now wish to consider is, the number of useful lessons which the Book of Revelation is calculated to teach.

I am anxious to impress this point on your attention.  I want you to establish it in your mind as a settled thing that the Book of Revelation is an eminently profitable book for every reader of the Bible to study.  It is a fountain to which the poorest and most unlearned shall never go in vain.

I say, then, that there are many blessed and comfortable truths scattered up and down, all over the Book of Revelation, which are intelligible to the simplest comprehension and yet full of food for the most spiritual mind.  God has mercifully so ordered the composition of the book that there is hardly a chapter from which a man may not draw some striking and edifying thought.  He may be unskilled in the interpretation of visions.  He may have no idea of the meaning of seals, or trumpets, or vials,­­ of the two witnesses,­­ of the woman fleeing into the wilderness, ­­of the first or second beasts.  But still, if he perseveres in humble, prayerful study of the whole book, he shall find in almost every page verses which shall richly repay his pains.  They shall shine out on him like stars in the dark vault of heaven in a moonless night.  They shall refresh him like an Oasis in the wilderness and make it impossible for him to say, “All is barren.”  They shall sparkle like precious stones on the shore as he walks by the deep waters of the mysterious book, and make him feel that his journey in search of treasure is not in vain. 5

Let me select a few examples in order to show what I mean.

There is much about the Lord Jesus Christ in Revelation.  There are names, and titles, and expressions about Him there which we find nowhere else.  There is new light thrown on His offices, His power, His care for His people.  Surely this alone is no small matter.  To know Jesus is life eternal.  To abide in Jesus is to be fruitful.  If we are indeed born of the Spirit, we can never hear too much about our Savior, our Shepherd, our High Priest and Physician.  If our hearts are right in the sight of God, we can never hear too much about our King.  Like snow in summer and good news from a far country, so are any fresh tidings about Christ.

There is much about the desperate corruption of human nature in Revelation.  There is evidence on this subject in the Epistles to the Seven Churches and the repeated accounts of the incorrigibleness and impenitence of the nations of the earth under judgments, which we shall all do well to lay to heart.  We can never be too well acquainted with our own sinfulness and weakness.  The spring of all humility, thankfulness, grateful love to Christ, and close walk with God is real, thorough, scriptural knowledge of the wickedness of our own hearts.  None will ever build high who does not begin low.  The soul that loves much is the soul that feels its debt is great and that much has been forgiven.

There is much about hell in Revelation.  There are many fearful expressions which show its reality, its misery, its eternity, its certainty.  How deeply important is it to have clear views on this solemn subject in the present day!  A disposition appears in some quarters to shrink from asserting the eternity of punishment.  A flood of that miserable heresy ­­universalism ­­seems coming in upon us.  Amiable and well­ meaning enthusiasts are speaking smooth things about the love of God being lower than hell, and the mercy of God excluding the exercise of all His other attributes of justice and holiness.  Tender­ hearted women and intellectual men are catching at the theory that, after all, there is hope in the far distance for everybody, and that Satan’s old assertion deserves credit, “Ye shall not surely die.”  Oh, reader, beware of this delusion!  Be not wise above that which is written.  Believe me, it is a great thing to believe in the reality of hell.  Study the Apocalyptic visions well and you will find it hard to disbelieve it.

There is much about heaven in Revelation.  I speak of heaven in the common acceptation of the word. I mean the future abode of the saints and people of God.  And I say that no book in God’s Word tells us so much about heaven as the Apocalypse.  If there was nothing else to be learned from the book beside this, we ought to be most thankful.  Where is there a believer in the Lord Jesus who does not frequently think on the world to come and the resurrection state?  Who that has lost a dear friend or relative, who died in the Lord, can abstain from meditating on the life of glory and the place of meeting?  Who among the people of God does not frequently reach forward in imagination into that unknown and unvisited abode and strive to picture to his mind’s eye the manner of the place and its employments?  It is mysterious, no doubt.  But nowhere is the veil so much lifted up as it is in the Book of Revelation.

There is much about the prospects of the Church of Christ in the Revelation.  When I speak of the Church, I mean the Church of the elect, the living body of Christ, whose members are all holy.  The pages of the Apocalypse show plainly that the triumphs, and rest, and ease, and peace of that Church are not in this world.  Its members must make up their minds to battles and fightings, to trial and persecution, to cross and affliction.  They must be content to be a little flock, a poor and despised people, until the advent of Christ.  Their good things are yet to come.  Well would it be for believers if they would learn from Revelation to moderate their expectations from missions, schools, and all other ecclesiastical machinery.  Then should we not hear, as we now often do, of disappointments and despondency and depression among true Christians, and especially among ministers.  We live in the time when God is taking out a people.  These are the days of election, but not of universal conversion. We are yet in the wilderness.  The bridegroom is not yet with us.  The days of absence and mourning and separation are not yet past and gone.

There is much in Revelation to show the folly of depending entirely on the powers of this world for the advancement of true religion.  There is much to show that believers should not look to kings, and princes, and rich men, and great men for the bringing in and support of the kingdom of Christ.  The times are not yet come when kings shall literally be “the nursing fathers” of the Churches.  It is striking to observe how often the Apocalypse speaks of them as the enemies of God’s cause, and not the friends. We need this lesson here in England.  With a settled conviction that the principle of an Established Church is scriptural and sound, I still feel we need reminding that alliance with the powers that be has its disadvantages as well as its advantages to the visible Church of Christ.  It is apt to engender indolence, apathy, and formality among professing Christians.  I firmly believe that the Church of England would have exerted itself more and done more for the world if its members had been more familiar with the Book of Revelation, and learned from it to expect little from the State.

There is much in Revelation to show the painful childishness of the vast majority of true Christians all over the world.  Here we are, the greater part of us, scrambling and wrangling about the merest trifles,­­ contending about forms, and ceremonies, and outward matters of man’s devising as if they were the essentials of Christianity, ­­talking of order, and precedent, and custom, and routine while millions of heathen are perishing for lack of knowledge, and myriads of our countrymen are dying, as ignorant as the heathen around our own doors.  And all this time the eternal purposes of God are rolling on to fulfillment the kingdoms of this world are on the brink of dissolution ­­the day of judgment is at hand, and an hour draws nigh when Episcopacy, Presbyterianism, Congregationalism, Establishments, and voluntary Churches shall be clean swept out of the way, and nothing but grace, faith, and heart-­holiness shall abide and stand the fire.  Never, never do I, for one, read the Apocalypse without feeling the excessive littleness of Christians.  We are like children busy with our little houses of sand at low water by the seaside.  The tide is rising.  Our houses will soon be gone.  Happy shall we be if we ourselves escape with our lives!

There is much, in the last place, in Revelation to show the safety of all true believers in Christ, whatever may come upon the world.  Awful as are the woes of which the Apocalypse speaks, there is not a syllable to show that a hair shall fall from the head of any one of God’s children.  Hid, like Noah, in the ark ­­plucked, like Lot, from the fiery judgment­­ withdrawn, like Elijah, from the reach of their enemies ­­rescued, like Rahab, from the ruin of all around­­ they at least may read the Revelation without being afraid.  The book that looks dark and threatening to the world speaks no terrors to them. Like the wondrous pillar of cloud at Pi­hahiroth (Exod. 14), it may fill the mind of an ungodly man with gloom, but, like the same cloud, it shall give light by night to the people of God.

Reader, what shall we say to these things?  I have mentioned eight things which stand forth plainly and unmistakably in the Book of Revelation.  There is no mystery about them.  They require no deep learning to understand.  A humble mind and a prayerful heart will not fail to discover them.

These are the kind of things which we can never know too well.  The offices of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the corruption of man, the reality of hell, the nature of heaven, the prospects of the Church, the folly of trusting in princes, the childishness of God’s people, the safety of believers in the day of wrath ­­these are the kind of subjects with which we cannot be too familiar.  These are the plain lessons which, with all its many difficulties, Revelation will unfold.  Truly if these things are engraved deeply on our minds, our reading the Apocalypse will be blessed indeed!

These are the kind of things which Satan labors hard to keep us from.  Well may that old enemy fill men’s minds with prejudice against Apocalyptic study.  Well may he suggest the evil thought, “it is all mysterious, it is all too deep, we need not read it.”  Let us resist him in this matter.  Let us cleave to Revelation more closely every year.  Let us never doubt that it is a profitable study for our souls.

It only remains now to conclude this address with three practical remarks.

1.  For one thing, let us thank God that the things needful to salvation are all clear, plain, and devoid of mystery to a humble mind.  Whatever difficulties there may be in the visions of the Apocalypse, the most unlearned reader of the Bible shall never miss the way to heaven if he seek to find it in a childlike and prayerful spirit.

The guilt, and corruption, and weakness of man is not a hidden thing, like a seal, a trumpet, or a vial.

Christ’s power and willingness to save, and justification by faith in Him, are not a dark thing, like the number 666.

The absolute necessity of a new birth and a thorough change of heart is not an uncertainty, like the meaning of the two witnesses.

The impossibility of salvation without meetness for heaven is not a mystery, like the interpretation of the vision of the four living creatures.

But, reader, remember while you thank God for this clear teaching in the things essential to salvation, that this very clearness increases your personal responsibility.  Take heed, lest an open door being set before you, any of you should fail to enter in by it and be saved.

Hearken, everyone into whose hands this address may come, and understand.  I give you a plain warning this day.  Do not forget it.  You may reach heaven without knowing much about the deep things of the Apocalypse, but you will never get their without the saving knowledge of Christ and a new heart.  You must be born again.  You must renounce your own righteousness and acknowledge yourself a sinner.  You must wash in the fountain of Christ’s blood.  You must be clothed in the garment of Christ’s righteousness.  You must take up the cross of Christ and follow Him.

These are the things absolutely needful.  These are the things without which no man, learned or unlearned, high or low, can ever be saved.

Rest not, rest not till you know these things by experience.  Without them you may know the whole list of Apocalyptic commentaries, ­­be familiar with all that Mede, Brightman, Cressener, Daubuz, Durham, Cuninghame, Woodhouse, Elliot, Alford, and Garratt have written on the subject, and yet rise at the last day a lost soul ­­knowing much intellectually, like the devils, but, like the devils, ruined forever.

2.  For another thing, let me entreat all students of the Book of Revelation to beware of dogmatism and positiveness in expressing and maintaining their views of the meaning of its more mysterious portions.

Nothing, I firmly believe, has brought more discredit on the study of prophecy than the excessive rashness and overweening confidence with which many of its advocates have asserted the correctness of their own interpretations and impugned the expositions of others.  Too many have written and talked as if they had a special revelation from heaven, and as if it was impossible for anyone to maintain a character for common sense if he did not see with their eyes.6

Let us all watch our hearts and be on our guard against this spirit.  Dogmatism is a great trap which Satan lays in men’s way when he cannot prevent them studying the Apocalypse.  Let us not fall into it. Let us rather pray for a spirit of modesty and humility in offering our solutions of the deep things of symbolical prediction.  Let us allow that we may possibly be wrong, and that others may possibly be right.  Believe me, we all need this caution.  We are unhappily prone to be most positive when we have least warrant for our assertions, simply because our pride whispers that our credit for discernment is at stake, and that having made statements mainly on the authority of our own judgment, we are specially bound to defend them.

Happy is that student of prophecy who is willing to confess that there are many things of which he is yet ignorant.  Happier still, and more uncommon too, is he who is able to use those three hardest words in the English language, “I was mistaken.”

3.  Finally, let all believers take comfort in the thought that the end to which all things are coming is clear, plain, and unmistakable.  There may yet be judgments in store for the world of which we know nothing.  There may be “distress of nations with perplexity” far exceeding anything we have yet heard of, read, or seen.  There may be more grievous wars, and famines, and pestilences, and persecutions yet to come.

But the end is sure.  Yet a little while and He who shall come, will come, and will not tarry.  The kings of the earth may struggle and contend for their own worldly interests; but sooner or later the kingdoms of their world shall become the kingdoms of our God, and of His Christ.  There shall be an eternal peace.  He shall come and take possession “whose right it is.”  The dominion and power shall be given to the saints of the Most High, and of the increase of their peace shall be no end.

Oh, that we may all remember this!  In patience let us possess our souls, and in every trying time do as Luther did­­ repeat the forty-­sixth Psalm:

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, through the mountains shake with its swelling.  Selah.

There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.  God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.  The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted.  The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.  Selah.

Some, behold the works of the LORD, who has made desolations in the earth.  He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire.  Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!  The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.  Selah.”

1 “The Symbolical or Hieroglyphical character is an art of communicating the conceptions of the mind by visible figures, which having a metaphorical relation or similitude, or at least affinity to the conceptions, excite in others the same conceptions.”–Daubuz on Revelation, p. 6. 1720. “The Hieroglyphical characters are like all kinds of animals and members of men, and working tools, especially those of carpenters. For their writing does not show the discourse about the subject matter by the composition of syllables, but by the emphasis of the figures.”–Diodorus Sicubus, quoted by Daubuz, p. 8. “From this way of writing arose a symbolical way of speaking too; the symbolical characters, which they were so conversant with, furnishing them continually with metaphors and other tropes, first in their mysterious or religious speeches and from them easily passing on to the vulgar matters. Which kind of speech set up the priests and wiser sort of men above the level of the vulgar, because such figurative and florid kind of speech and notions seemed to add great beauty to their thoughts, and distinguished that of wise men from the plain style of the rest. Thence it comes that most of the Oriental languages, especially that of the poets, affect this way.”–Daubuz, p. 8.

2 It is a curious fact that the fourth council of Toledo, held about the year 640, made the following decree: “Because there are many that do not receive the book of Apocalypse as authentic, and scorn to read it in the Church of God, if anyone for the future shall refuse to receive it, or to read it in the Church, in the time of Mass, from Easter to Whitsuntide, he shall be excommunicated.”–Cressener on Revelation. 1690.

3 Voltaire was pleased to say that Sir Isaac Newton wrote his comment on the Revelation to console mankind for the great superiority he had over them in other respects. But Voltaire, though a very agreeable, is yet a very superficial writer, and often mistaken in his judgment of men and things.”–Bishop Newton on Prophecy. 1754.

4 Among the interpreters of Revelation in the last ages, there is scarce one of note who has not made some discovery worth knowing.”–Sir Isaac Newton on the Apocalypse. Chap. I, p. 253.

5 “It is true, many things in the Book of Revelation are obscure, and it is likely that the full clearing of them is not to be expected till God in some singular way shall open them up. Yet there are many clear, edifying, and comfortable passages of God’s mind in it, the Holy Ghost mixing them in to be fed upon, to sweeten those passages that are more obscure, and to encourage the reader to search for the meaning of them.”–Durham on Revelation. 1658.

6 Joseph Mede, the most learned and able interpreter of prophecy that this country can name among its divines, was remarkable for his modesty and humility. In a letter of his to Dr. Twiss, speaking of the leisurely and deliberate progress he made in his exposition of Apocalypse, chap. 14, he adds these words, ‘I am by nature dilatory in all things, but in this let no man blame me if I take more pause than ordinary; for it has sunk deeply into my mind, that rashly to be the author of a false interpretation of Scripture is to take God’s name in vain in a high degree.'”–Mede’s Works, 1672.

JC Ryle (1816-1900) – Coming Events and Present Duties: Being Miscellaneous Sermons on Prophetical Subjects (1867)

Coming Events and Present Duties: Being Miscellaneous Sermons on

Prophetical Subjects (1867)

by

JC Ryle (1816-1900)

Copyright: Public Domain

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Sermon 7: And So All Israel Shall Be Saved

 

And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob (Rom. 11:26).

This is one of the great unfulfilled prophecies of Scripture. More than eighteen centuries have rolled round since St. Paul wrote these words. During that period many marvelous and unexpected events have taken place. The world has often been convulsed and turned upside down. Empires and kingdoms have risen and fallen. Nations and peoples have decayed and passed away. Visible Churches have disappeared, and their candlestick been removed. But up to this hour St. Paul’s prediction awaits it accomplishment. “All Israel shall be saved” remains yet unfulfilled.

To a plain man, untrammeled by traditional interpretation, the words of this prophecy appear very simple. It is not like the temple which Ezekiel saw in a vision: a dark and obscure thing, of which we may say as Daniel said of another vision, “I heard, but understood not.” It is not presented to us under the veil of emblems, like the seals, trumpets, vials, and beasts in Revelation, about which we will probably never be of one mind till the Lord comes, and the wisest commentator can only conjecture. Nothing of the kind! The sentence before us is a simple categorical proposition, and I firmly believe it means exactly what it appears to mean. Let us analyze it.

“And so,” that means, as Parkhurst says, “and then, then at length.” It is an expression of time, rather than manner. It is like Acts 7:8, “And so Abraham begat Isaac;“ and 1 Thess. 4:17, “And so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

“Israel shall be saved,” that means the Jewish nation and people. It cannot possibly mean the Gentiles, because they are mentioned in the verse which directly precedes our text, in distinct contrast to the Jews. “Blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in” (Rom. 11:25).

“All Israel,” that means the whole people or nation of the Jews. It cannot possibly mean a small elect remnant. In this very chapter the Israelitish nation and the election out of Israel are mentioned in contradistinction to one another. “Israel has not obtained that which he seeks for; but the election has obtained it, and the rest were blinded” (Rom. 11:7).

“Shall be saved [future tense],” that means, shall be redeemed from their present unbelief, and have their eyes opened to see and believe the true Messiah, shall be delivered from their low estate and restored to the favor of God, and shall become a holy nation and a blessing to the world.

So much for the interpretation of our text. I shall now proceed to invite the attention of my readers to four points respecting Israel, which every friend of the “Jews” should endeavor to keep always fresh and green before his mind. Trite and familiar as they may seem to some, they are overlooked and forgotten by others. But I do not hesitate to say that a firm grasp of these four points is the foundation of any real and abiding interest in the Jewish subject and cause.

1. I ask you then, in the first place, to consider the very peculiar past history of this Israel, which is one day “to be saved.”

For the facts of that history I shall simply refer you to the Bible. Whatever modern skepticism may be pleased to say, the story of Israel which that venerable old Book records is as trustworthy as the story of any ancient nation in the world. We have no more warrant for disputing its accuracy than for disputing the accounts of Egypt, Assyria, Persia, and Greece, related by Herodotus. On the contrary, there is continually accumulating evidence that the Old Testament memoirs of the Jewish people are thoroughly trustworthy and true.

Israel, then, we find for nearly 1,500 years was more favored and privileged by God than any nation in the world. David might well say, “What one nation in the earth is like Your people Israel, whom God went to redeem for a people to Himself?” (2 Sam. 7:23). It was the only nation in the earth to which God was pleased to reveal Himself. “To them were committed the oracles of God.” (Rom. 3:2). While all other nations were suffered to walk in their own ways, and to live in moral and spiritual darkness, the Jews alone enjoyed an immense amount of light and knowledge. The humblest priest in Solomon’s temple was a far better theologian than Homer. Daniel, and Ezra and Nehemiah knew more about God than Socrates, Plato, Pythagoras, and Cicero, all put together.

The Jews were brought out of Egypt by miraculous interposition, planted in Palestine, one of the choicest corners of the earth, and fenced off and separated from other nations by peculiar customs and ceremonies. They were supplied with a moral law from heaven so perfect, that even to this day nothing can be added to it or taken from it. They were taught to worship God with ceremonial rites and ordinances, which, however burdensome they may seem to us, were admirably adapted to human nature at that early stage of man’s history, and calculated to train them for a higher dispensation. They were constantly warned and instructed by prophets, and protected and defended by miracles. In short, if mercies and kindnesses alone could make people good, no nation on earth should have been so good as Israel. While Egypt, and Babylon, and Greece worshipped the works of their own hands, the Jew alone was a worshipper of the one true God.

But Israel, unhappily, we find, were a people always prone to backsliding and falling away from God. Again and again they fell into idolatry and wickedness, and forsook the Lord God of their fathers. Again and again they were chastised for their sins and delivered into the hands of the nations around them. Midianites, Philistines, Ammonites, Syrians, Assyrians, Babylonians were rods by which they were repeatedly scourged. From the time of the Judges down to the end of Chronicles, we see a sorrowful record of constantly recurring rebellions against God, and constantly recurring punishments. Never, apparently, was there a nation so stubborn and obstinate, and so ready to forget instruction, so mercifully dealt with and yet so impenitent and unbelieving.

Finally, we find Israel at the end of 1,500 years given up by God to a fearful punishment, and allowed to reap the consequences of their own sins. After repeatedly rejecting God’s prophets, they headed up their wickedness by rejecting God’s only begotten Son. They refused their true King, the Son of David, and would have no king but Caesar. Then at last the cup of their iniquity was full. Jerusalem was given up to the Romans. The holy and beautiful temple was burned. The Mosaic services were brought to an end. The Jews themselves were deprived of their land and scattered all over the earth.

The whole history is wonderful, peculiar, and unlike anything else that is recorded and known by man. Never was a people so peculiarly favored and so peculiarly punished. Never did any nation at one time rise so high and at another fall so low. Never was there such a tremendous proof given to the world of the depravity of human nature, and the incessant tendency of man to moral and spiritual decay. Those who are fond of telling us in modern times that kindness and love are sufficient to regenerate man and keep man good, are always forgetting the mighty lesson that is taught us by the history of the Jews. The corruption of man is a far worse disease that your modern philosophers suppose. Israel was surrounded by mercies and loving‐kindnesses: yet Israel fell. Let that never be forgotten.

2. I shall now ask you in the second place to consider the very peculiar position which Israel as a nation occupies at the present day.

In handling this point I shall first simply refer to facts which are open to the observation of every intelligent and well informed man upon earth, whether believer or unbeliever. I will allow such a man to shut up my Bible for a moment, and I will not ask him to listen to texts. I will only appeal to facts, and I challenge him to deny them if he can.

I assert then that the Jews are at this moment a peculiar people, and utterly separate from all other people on the face of the earth. They fulfill the prophecy of Hosea: “The children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice” (Hosea 3:4). For 1,800 years they have been scattered over the globe, without a country, without a government, without a capital city, strangers and aliens everywhere, often fiercely persecuted and vilely treated. Yet to this moment they continue a distinct, isolated, and separate nation, far more so than any nation on the earth. The wonderful words of that strange prophet Balaam, who God constrained to speak, are still literally true: “The people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations” (Num. 23:9).

Of what nation or people on earth can the like be said? I answer, confidently, none. When Nineveh, and Babylon, and Tyre, and the hundred‐gated Thebes of Egypt, and Susa, and Persepolis, and Carthage, and Palmyra were destroyed, what became of their inhabitants and subjects? We can give no answer. No doubt they were carried away captive and dispersed. But where are they now? No man can tell. When Saxons, and Danes, and Normans, and Flemings under the persecution of Alva, and Frenchmen after the edict of Nantes, settled down in our own England, what became of them? They were all gradually absorbed into our own population, and have generally lost all their national distinctions, except, perhaps, in some cases, their names. But nothing of the sort has ever happened to the Jews; they are still entirely distinct and never absorbed.

Even in matters of comparatively minor importance, there is to this very day an extraordinary separateness between the Jews and any other family of mankind on the face of the globe. Time seems unable to efface the difference. At the end of eighteen centuries they are a separate people. Physically, they are separate. Who does not know the Jewish type of countenance? Even a man like Mr. Lawrence, in his work on physiology, is obliged to admit that “the Jews exhibit one of the most striking instances of national formation unaltered by the most remarkable changes” (p. 468, ed. 3). In customs and habits they are separate. The tenacity with which they still keep to their Saturday Sabbath, and the feasts of their law, might put Christians to shame. Even in their political influence they are strangely separate. The extraordinary financial power which they exercise in all the money‐markets of the world enables them to sway the actions of Governments to an extent of which few have any conception. In short, if there ever was a people who are distinct, marked, cut off and separate from others, that people is Israel. Though they have dwelt among the Gentiles for eighteen centuries, they are still as distinct from the Gentiles as black is distinct from white, and seem to be as incapable of mixture or absorption as oil is incapable of being absorbed into, or mixed with, water.

Now how shall we account for this extraordinary state of things? How shall we explain the unique and peculiar position which the Jewish people occupies in the world? Why is it that, unlike Saxons, and Danes, and Normans, and Flemings, and French, this singular race still floats alone, though broken to pieces like a wreck, on the waters of the globe, amidst its 1,500 million inhabitants? After the lapse of 1,800 years, it is neither destroyed, nor crushed, nor evaporated, nor amalgamated, nor lost sight of. Rather, it lives to this day as separate and distinct as it was when the arch of Titus was built at Rome.

I have not the least idea how questions like these are answered by those who profess to deny the Divine authority of Scripture. In all my reading I never met with an honest attempt to answer them from the unhappy camp of unbelievers. In fact it is my firm conviction that, among the many difficulties of infidelity, there is hardly any one more really insurmountable than the separate continuance of the Jewish nation. It is a burdensome stone which your modern skeptical writers may stubbornly despise, but cannot lift or remove out of their way. God has many witnesses to the truth of the Bible, if men would only examine them and listen to their evidence. But you may depend on it there is no witness so unanswerable as one whom he always keeps raising up, and enlivening, and moving before the eyes of mankind. That witness is the Jew.

The question, however, about the exceptional and peculiar position of the Jewish people is one that never need puzzle anyone who believes the Bible. Once open that Book and study its contents and the knot which so completely baffles the skeptic is one which you can easily untie. The inspired volume which you have in your hands supplies a full and complete explanation. Search it with an honest determination to put a literal meaning on its prophetical portions, and to reject traditional interpretation, and the difficulty will vanish away.

I assert that the peculiar position which Israel occupies in the earth is easily explicable in the light of Holy Scripture. They are a people reserved and kept separate by God for a grand and special purpose. That purpose is to make them a means of exhibiting to the world in the latter days God’s hatred of sin and unbelief, and God’s Almighty power and Almighty compassion. They are kept separate that they may finally be saved, converted, and restored to their own land. They are reserved and preserved, in order that God may show in them, as on a platform, to angels and men, how greatly He hates sin, and yet how greatly He can forgive, and how greatly He can convert. Never will that be realized as it will in that day when “All Israel shall be saved.”

3. I will ask you in the third place to consider the very peculiar future prospects of Israel.

The singular condition of the Jews at the present time, we have seen, is most painful and instructive. They are still lying under the just displeasure of God. Because they despised His prophets and rejected His messages, because they “would not believe the voice of His Scriptures read to them every Sabbath day,” because they killed the Prince of life and were His betrayers and murderers, for all these reasons His wrath is come upon them to the uttermost, and for a time they are cast off and rejected. Like Cain, they slew their holy Brother, and like Cain, they are fugitives and vagabonds on earth, and bear the mark of God’s displeasure. The blood of the Messiah, whom they murdered, is upon them and their children. And their eyes are yet blinded. The veil is still upon their hearts. They stand before the world at this moment, like a beacon at the top of a hill, a perpetual witness that nothing is so offensive to God as unbelief, formalism, self‐righteousness, and abuse of privileges. Such is their present position. But what are their future prospects? Let us turn once more to the Bible and see.

The history of Israel then has not yet come to an end. There is another wonderful chapter yet to be unfolded to mankind. The Scripture tells us expressly that a time is coming when the position of Israel shall be entirely changed, and they shall be once more restored to the favor of God. For what says the Scripture which cannot be broken? What is written in that Book of which no prediction shall ever fail?

I read that when the heart of Israel “shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away” (2 Cor. 3:16).

I read that a day is coming when God says, “I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication: and they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for his only son” (Zech. 12:10).

I read that in that day “there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and uncleanness” (Zech. 13:1). I beg you will remember that the primary application of these prophecies of Zechariah belongs literally to the Jews.

I read, furthermore, that God says in Ezekiel to Israel:

I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and you will be clean: from all your filthiness and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my judgments, and do them. And you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. I will also save you from all your uncleanness: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you. And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that you shall receive no more reproach of famine among the heathen. Then shall you remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations. Not for your sakes do I this, says the Lord God, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel. Thus says the Lord God: in the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will also cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be built. And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by. And they shall say, this land that was desolate is become like the Garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited. Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the Lord build the ruined places and plant that which was desolate: I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it. Thus says the Lord God: I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them; I will increase them with men like a flock. As the holy flock, as the flock of Jerusalem in her solemn feasts; so shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of men: and they shall know that I am the Lord” (Ezek. 36:24‐38).

Once more I remind you that this wonderful passage primarily belongs to the JEWS. No doubt the Church of Christ may secondarily make a spiritual use of it. But let us never forget that the Holy Ghost first caused it to be written concerning Israel.

But time would fail me, if I attempted to quote all the passages of Scripture in which the future history of Israel is revealed. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Micah, Zephaniah, Zechariah, all declare the same thing. All predict, with more or less particularity, that in the end of this dispensation the Jews are to be restored to their own land and to the favor of God. I lay no claim to infallibility in the interpretation of Script–many excellent Christians cannot see the subject as I do. I can only say, that to my eyes, the future salvation of Israel as a people, their return to Palestine and their national conversion to God, appear as clearly and plainly revealed as any prophecy in God’s Word.

Concerning the time when Israel shall finally be saved, I shrink from offering an opinion. No doubt there are many “signs of the times” which deserve the serious attention of all Christians, and it would be easy to enumerate them. But, after all, we are always bad judges of anything that happens under our own eyes. We are apt to attach an exaggerated importance to it, for the simple reason that we ourselves are affected by it. Let it suffice us to believe that whatever God has said concerning Israel, God will do in His own good time. Let us not be hasty to fix dates. Those last words of our Master are very instructive, when the disciple said, “Wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” He answered, “It is not for you to know the times and the seasons, which the Father has put in His own power.” (Acts 1:6, 7). To study prophecy is most useful and brings a special blessing. To turn ourselves into prophets is not wise, and brings discredit on the cause of Christianity.

Concerning the manner in which the complete salvation of Israel will be effected, we shall do well not to enquire too closely. We must avoid rash speculation and conjecture. If I may venture an opinion, I should say that Scripture seems to point out that Israel will not be restored and converted without an immense amount of affliction, affliction far exceeding that which preceded their deliverance from Egypt. I see much in the words of Daniel: “There shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at THAT time your people will be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book” (Dan. 12:1).

I believe the words of Zechariah are yet to be fulfilled: “It shall come to pass, that in all the land, says the Lord, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God” (Zech. 13:8, 9). But I freely confess that these are deep things. Enough for you and me to know that Israel shall be restored to their own land, and shall be converted, and saved, without entering too minutely into particulars. Let me close this branch of my subject with the Apostle’s words: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out” (Rom. 11:33).

Only let us grasp firmly the great principle laid down by Jeremiah:

Fear not you, O my servant Jacob, and be not dismayed, O Israel: for, behold, I will save you from afar off, and your seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and be in rest and at ease, and none shall make him afraid. Do not fear, O Jacob my servant, says the Lord: for I am with you; for I will make a full end of all the nations where I have driven you: but I will not make a full end of you, but appropriately correct you; yet will I not leave you wholly unpunished” (Jer. 46:27, 28).

4. I shall now ask you in the fourth and last place to consider the peculiar debt which Christians owe to Israel. I shall touch on this branch of my subject briefly, because it is one with which most people are familiar. But it is a branch of such vast importance that I dare not altogether pass over it. It is one about which we all need to be reminded.

That every Christian is a debtor and under solemn obligation to do good to his fellow men, is one of the great first principles of the Gospel. An ignorant formal Churchgoer, who never reads his Bible, or prays with his heart, or thinks seriously about his soul, may not understand this. He is apt to say with Cain, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” “Let every one mind his own business.” But a man who is taught by the Holy Spirit, who feels his sins, and knows his obligation to Christ, and has tasted the comfort of peace with God, such a man will long to do good to others. He will feel for those who are living without God and without Christ. He will say, “I am a debtor to Greek and Barbarian, to Africa and India, to China and Hindostan. What can I do to save souls and make others partakers of my blessings?”

Now I ask such a man to consider gravely this day, whether he is not under special obligations to the Jew. I ask him to remember that there are peculiar reasons why we should care with more than ordinary care for Israel.

1. To whom do we owe our Bible? By what hand was that blessed Book written, which is a lamp to so many feet and a lantern to so many paths, that Book without which we could neither live with comfort nor with comfort die? I answer that every book in the Old and New Testament, unless we except Job, was written by Jews. The pens which the Holy Spirit guided to put down the words which He inspired were held by Jewish fingers. The hands which were employed to forge this matchless sword of the Spirit were Jewish hands. Every time we take up that wondrous volume, that volume whose nature and existence no infidel can explain away, every time we draw out of it doctrine, correction, reproof, instruction in righteousness, our eyes fall on matter which passed through Jewish minds. The texts which we live upon now, the texts we shall cling to by memory in death, when sight and hearing fail us, the texts which will be a staff in our hand when we go down into the cold river, these texts were first put down in black and white by Jews. Is this nothing?

2. To whom do we owe the first preaching of the Gospel? Who were the first to go forth into the world, and proclaim to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ? Again I answer, they were all Jews. The men who first turned the world upside down and deprived heathen temples of their worshippers, and put to silence the philosophers of Greece and Rome, and made kings and rulers tremble on their judgment seats, and made the name of the crucified Jesus of Nazareth more influential than the name of Caesar, they were all children of Israel. They soon passed away. Many of them died for their preaching. The lamp they lighted was taken up by multitudes of converted Gentiles who walked in their steps.

But the fact remains, that the FIRST to begin that blessed work on which the very life of a Church depends at this day, I mean the preaching of the Gospel, were all Jews. Where would Europe be at this moment, if it had not been for an invasion of Jewish preachers who obeyed the call, “Come over and help us “? Surely this also is something.

3 Above all, what shall we say to the great fact that the woman of whom the Savior was born, when He condescended to come into the world, was a Jewish woman? When that grand mystery, the incarnation, took place, the mystery which so many slur over and keep back, when the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, the virgin who miraculously conceived and bare a son, was a virgin of the house of David. No royal family of Assyria, or Persia, or Greece, or Rome, was chosen for this honor. That precious blood which was shed on Calvary for our redemption, was the blood which flowed from the body of one who was Man in all things like ourselves, sin only excepted, and took a man’s nature by being born of an Israelitish woman. The seed of the woman, be it always remembered, that bruised the serpent’s head, the Mediator between God and man, the Almighty Friend of sinners when He “took on Him the form of a servant, though equal to God,” was pleased to take upon Him the form of a Jew. “He took on Him the seed of Abraham” (Heb. 2:16).

If facts like these do not make up a peculiar claim on Christians, I am greatly mistaken. In the face of the Bible, the preaching of the Gospel and the person of Christ, I am bold to say that Christians owe a peculiar debt to Israel. If there is such a thing as gratitude in the world, every Gentile Church on earth is under heavy obligation to the Jews.

But how can our debt be paid? That question admits of being answered in two ways.

On the one hand, we may pay our debt directly, by using every reasonable effort to bring the Gospel to bear on the minds of our Jewish brethren in every part of the globe. No doubt they need to be approached with peculiar wisdom, delicacy, and care. They are not to be treated as heathen, but as men who already hold half the truth, who believe the Old Testament like ourselves although they do not see and receive its full meaning. But all experience proves that there is everything to encourage those who endeavor to lead Israel to the true Messiah, the Christ of God, with love and patience.

Now, as in the apostles’ times, though the nation, as a whole, remains unbelieving, there is a “remnant according to the election of grace.” I repeat, there is abundant encouragement to do what the Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews does and to preach the Gospel directly to the Jews. If Saul the Pharisee was converted and made a Christian, I know not why we should despair of the conversion of any Israelite upon earth, in Europe, Asia, Africa, or America.

On the other hand, we may all pay our debt indirectly by striving to remove stumbling blocks which now lie between the Jews and Christianity. It is a sorrowful confession to make, but it must be made, that nothing perhaps so hardens Israel in unbelief as the sins and inconsistencies of professing Christians. The name of Christ is too often blasphemed among Jews, by reason of the conduct of many who call themselves Christians. We repel Israel from the door of life, and disgust them by our behavior. Idolatry among Roman Catholics, skepticism among Protestants, neglect of the Old Testament, contempt for the doctrine of the atonement, shameless Sabbath‐breaking, wide‐spread immorality, all these things, we may depend on it, have a deep effect on the Jews. They have eyes and they can see. The name of Christ is discredited and dishonored among them by the practice of those who have been baptized in Christ’s name. The more boldly and decidedly all true Christians set their faces against the things I have just named, and wash their hands of any complicity with them, the more likely are they to find their efforts to promote Christianity among the Jews prosperous and successful.

And now let me conclude all with a few plain words of application. I ask all who read this paper to take up the cause of the Jews’ Society, and the Jewish subject, for the following reasons.

1. Take up the subject because of the important position which it occupies in Scripture. Cultivate the habit of reading prophecy with a single eye to the literal meaning of its proper names. Cast aside the old traditional idea that Jacob, and Israel, and Judah, and Jerusalem, and Zion, must always mean the Gentile Church, and that predictions about the Second Advent are to be taken spiritually, and first Advent predictions literally. Be just, and honest, and fair. If you expect the Jews to take the 53rd of Isaiah literally, be sure you take the 54th and 60th and 62nd literally also. The Protestant Reformers were not perfect. On no point, I venture to say, were they so much in the wrong as in the interpretation of Old Testament prophecy. Even our venerable authorized version of the Bible has many “tables of contents” which are sadly calculated to mislead, in the prophetical books. When the revised version comes out, I trust we shall see a great improvement in this respect.

2. In the next place, take up the Jewish subject because of the times in which we live. That man must be blind indeed who does not observe how much the attention of politicians and statesmen in these days is concentrating on the countries around Palestine. The strange position of things in Egypt, the formation of the Suez Canal, the occupation of Cyprus, the project of the Euphrates railway, the drying up of the Turkish empire, the trigonometrical survey of Palestine, what curious phenomena these are! What do they mean? What is going to happen next? He that believeth will not make haste. I will not pretend to decide. But I think I hear the voice of God saying, “Remember the Jews, look to Jerusalem.”

3. In the next place, take up the Jewish subject because of the special blessing which seems to be given to those who care for Israel. I challenge any one to deny few ministers of Christ have been so useful of late and made a greater mark on the world than the following well‐known men, Charles Simeon, Edward Bickersteth, Haldane Stewart, Dr. Marsh, Robert McCheyne, and, though last but not least, Hugh McNeile. They were men of very different gifts and minds; but they had one common feature in their religion. They loved the cause of the Jews. In them was the promise fulfilled: “They shall prosper that love you” (Psa. 122:6).

4. In the next place, take up the Jewish subject because of its close connection with the Second Advent of Christ and the close of this dispensation. Is it not written, “When the Lord shall build up Zion, He shall appear in His glory“? (Psalm 102:16). “If the casting, away of Israel be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?” (Rom. 11:15). The words which the angel Gabriel addressed to the Virgin Mary have never yet been fulfilled: “He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:33).

5. Last of all; let us annually support that great and good institution, the Jews’ Society, by our money and our prayers. Our money will be well bestowed on an old and faithful servant of Christ, which does Christ’s work in Christ’s own way. Our prayers are well bestowed if given for a cause which is so near our Master’s heart. The time is short. The night of the world is drawing near. If ever there is “a nation born in a day” [Isa. 66:8], that nation will be Israel. Let us pray for that blessed consummation, and give habitually as if we really believed the words, “All Israel shall be saved.

AW Pink (1886–1952) – The Application of the Scriptures

The Application of the Scriptures

By

AW Pink (1886–1952)

Copyright: Public Domain

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Having written so much upon both the inspiration and the interpretation of Holy Writ, it is necessary, in order to give completeness unto the same, to supply one or two articles upon the application thereof. First, because this is very closely related to exegesis itself: if a wrong application or use be made of a verse, then our explanation of it is certain to be erroneous. For example, Romanism insists that “Feed My sheep” (John 21:15-17) was Christ’s bestowal upon Peter of a special privilege and peculiar honour, being one of the passages to which that evil system appeals in support of her contention for the primacy of that apostle. Yet there is nothing whatever in Peter’s own writings which indicates that he regarded those injunctions of his Master as constituting him “Universal Bishop.” Instead, in his first epistle there is plainly that to the contrary, for there we find him exhorting the elders or bishops, “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock” (v. 2, 3).

Thus it is quite clear from the above passage that Christ’s precepts in John 21:15-17, apply or pertain unto all pastors. On the other hand, our Lord’s words to Peter and Andrew, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19) do not apply to the rank and file of His disciples, but only unto those whom He calls into and qualifies for the ministry. That is evident from the fact that in none of the Epistles, where both the privileges and the duties of the saints are specifically defined, is there any such precept or promise. Thus, on the one hand, we must ever beware of unwarrantable restricting the scope of a verse; and, on the other hand, be constantly on our guard against making general what is manifestly particular. It is only by carefully taking heed to the general Analogy of Faith that we shall be preserved from either mistake. Scripture ever interprets Scripture, but much familiarity with the contents, and a diligent and prayerful comparing of one part with another, is necessary before anyone is justified in dogmatically deciding the precise meaning or application of any passage.

But there is a further reason, and a pressing one today, why we should write upon our present subject, and that is to expose the modern and pernicious error of Dispensationalism. This is a device of the enemy, designed to rob the children of no small part of that bread which their heavenly Father has provided for their souls; a device wherein the wily serpent appears as an angel of light, feigning to “make the Bible a new book” by simplifying much in it which perplexes the spiritually unlearned. It is sad to see how widely successful the devil has been by means of this subtle innovation. It is likely that some of our own readers, when perusing the articles upon the interpretation of the Scriptures, felt more than once that we were taking an undue liberty with Holy Writ, that we made use of certain passages in a way altogether unjustifiable, that we appropriated to the saints of this Christian era what does not belong to them but is rather addressed unto those who lived in an entirely different dispensation of the past, or one which is yet future.

This modern method of mishandling the Scriptures - for modern it certainly is, being quite unknown to Christendom till little more than a century ago, and only within recent years being adopted by those who are outside the narrow circle where it originated - is based upon 2 Timothy 2:15, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Very little or nothing at all is said upon the first two clauses of that verse, but much on the third one, which is explained as “correctly partitioning the Scriptures unto the different peoples to whom they belong.” These mutilators of the Word tell us that all of the Old Testament from Genesis 12 onwards belongs entirely to Israel after the flesh, and that none of its precepts (as such) are binding upon those who are members of the Church which is the Body of Christ, nor may any of the promises found therein be legitimately appropriated by them. And this, be it duly noted, without a single word to that effect by either the Lord or any of His apostles, and despite the use which the Holy Spirit makes of the earliest scriptures in every part of the New Testament. So far from the Holy Spirit teaching Christians practically to look upon the Old Testament much as they would upon an obsolete almanac, He declares, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the (Old Testament) scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

Not satisfied with their determined efforts to deprive us of the Old Testament, these would-be super-expositors dogmatically assert that the four Gospels are Jewish, and that the epistles of James and Peter, John and Jude are designed for a “godly Jewish remnant” in a future “tribulation period,” that nothing but the Pauline epistles contain “Church truth,” and thousands of gullible souls have accepted their ipse dixit - those who decline so doing are regarded as untaught and superficial. Yet God Himself has not uttered a single word to that effect. Certainly there is nothing whatever in 2 Timothy 2:15, to justify such a revolutionizing method of interpreting the Word: that verse has no more to do with the sectioning of Scripture between different “dispensations” than it has with distinguishing between stars of varying magnitude. If that verse be carefully compared with Matthew 7:6, John 16:12 and 1 Corinthians 3:2, its meaning is clear. The occupant of the pulpit is to give diligence in becoming equipped to give the different classes of his hearers “their portion of meat in due season” (Luke 12:42). To rightly divide the Word of Truth is for him to minister it suitably unto the several cases and circumstances of his congregation: to sinners and saints, the indifferent and the inquiring, the babes and fathers, the tempted and afflicted, the backslidden and fallen.

While there be great variety in the teaching of the Word, there is an unmistakable unity underlying the whole. Though He employed many mouthpieces, the Holy Scriptures have but one Author; and while He “at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets” and “hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son” (Heb. 1:1, 2), yet He who spoke by them was and is One “with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17), who throughout all ages declares: “I am the Lord, I change not” (Mal. 3:6). Throughout there is perfect agreement between every part of the Word: it sets forth one system of doctrine (we never read of “the doctrines of God,” but always “the doctrine”: see Deut. 33:2; Prov. 4:2; Matt. 7:28; John 7:17; Rom. 16:17, and contrast Mark 7:7; Col. 2:22; 1 Tim. 4:1; Heb. 13:9) because it is one single and organic whole. That Word presents uniformly one way of salvation, one rule of faith. From Genesis to Revelation there is one immutable Moral Law, one glorious Gospel for perishing sinners. The Old Testament believers were saved with the same salvation, were indebted to the same Redeemer, were renewed by the same Spirit, and were partakers of the same heavenly inheritance as are New Testament believers.

It is quite true that the Epistle to the Hebrews makes mention of a better hope (7:19), a better testament or covenant (7:22), better promises (8:6), better sacrifices (9:23), some better thing for us (11:40), and yet it is important to recognize that the contrast is between the shadows and the substance. Romans 12:6, speaks of “the proportion [or "analogy"] of faith.” There is a due proportion, a perfect balance, between the different parts of God’s revealed Truth which must needs be known and observed by all who would preach and write according to the mind of the Spirit. In arguing from this analogy, it is essential to recognize that what is made known in the Old Testament was typical of what is set forth in the New, and therefore the terms used in the former are strictly applicable unto the latter. Much needless wrangling has occurred over whether or not the nation of Israel were a regenerate people. That is quite beside the real point: outwardly they were regarded and addressed as the people of God, and, as the Spirit through Paul affirmed, “who are Israelites: to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises: whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came” (Romans 9:4, 5).

Regeneration or non-regeneration affected the salvation of individuals among them, but it did not affect the covenant relationship of the people as a whole. Again and again God addressed Israel as “backsliders,” but never once did He so designate any heathen nation. It was not to the Egyptians or Canaanites that Jehovah said, “Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings,” or “Turn, O backsliding children… for I am married unto you” (Jer. 3:22, 14). Now it is this analogy or similarity between the two covenants and the peoples under them which is the basis for the transfer of Old Testament terms to the New. Thus the word “circumcision” is used in the latter not with identity of meaning, but according to analogy, for circumcision is now “of the heart, in the spirit” (Romans 2:29), and not of the flesh. In like manner, when John closes his first epistle with “Little children, keep yourselves from idols,” he borrows an Old Testament term and uses it in a New Testament sense, for by “idols” he refers not to material statues made of wood and stone (as the prophets did when employing the same word), but to inward objects of carnal and sensual worship. So too are we to see the antitypical and spiritual “Israel” in Galatians 6:16, and the celestial and eternal “mount Sion” in Hebrews 12:22.

The Bible consists of many parts, exquisitely correlated and vitally interdependent upon each other. God so controlled all the agents which He employed in the writing of it, and so coordinated their efforts, as to produce a single living Book. Within that organic unity there is indeed much variety, but no contrariety. Man’s body is but one, though it be made up of many members, diverse in size, character, and operation. The rainbow is but one, nevertheless it reflects distinctly the seven prismatic rays, yet they are harmoniously blended together. So it is with the Bible: its unity appears in the perfect consistency throughout of its teachings. The oneness yet triunity of God, the deity and humanity of Christ united in one Person, the everlasting covenant which secures the salvation of all the election of grace, the highway of holiness and the only path which leads to heaven, are plainly revealed in Old and New Testament alike. The teaching of the prophets concerning the glorious character of God, the changeless requirements of His righteousness, the total depravity of human nature, and the way appointed for restoration therefrom, are identical with the apostles’ teaching.

If the question be raised, Since the sacred Scriptures be a strict unit, then why has God Himself divided them into two Testaments? perhaps it will simplify the matter if we ask why God has appointed two principal bodies to illuminate the earth - the sun and the moon. Why, too, is the human frame duplex, having two legs and arms, two lungs and kidneys, etc.? Is not the answer the same in each case: to augment and supplement each other? But, more directly, at least four reasons may be suggested. First, to set forth more distinctly the two covenants which are the basis of God’s dealings with all mankind: the covenant of works and the covenant of grace - shadowed forth by the “old” from Sinai and the “new” or Christian one. Second, to show more plainly the two separate companies which are united in that one Body which constitutes the Church of which Christ is the Head, namely redeemed Jews and redeemed Gentiles. Third, to demonstrate more clearly the wondrous providence of God: using the Jews for so many centuries to be the custodians of the Old Testament, which condemns them for their rejection of Christ; and in employing the papists throughout the dark ages to preserve the New Testament, which denounces their idolatrous practices. Fourth, that one might confirm the other: type by antitype, prophecy by fulfillment.

“The mutual relations of the two Testaments. These two main divisions resemble the dual structure of the human body, where the two eyes and ears, hands and feet, correspond to and complement one another. Not only is there a general, but a special, mutual fitness. They need therefore to be studied together, side by side, to be compared even in lesser details, for in nothing are they independent of each other; and the closer the inspection the minuter appears the adaptation, and the more intimate the association…. The two Testaments are like the two cherubim of the mercy seat, facing in opposite directions, yet facing each other and overshadowing with glory one mercy seat; or again, they are like the human body bound together by joints and bands and ligaments, with one brain and heart, one pair of lungs, one system of respiration, circulation, digestion, sensor and motor nerves, where division is destruction” (A. T. Pierson, from Knowing the Scriptures).

Some Dispensationalists do not go quite so far as others in arbitrarily erecting notice-boards over large sections of Scripture, warning Christians not to tread on ground which belongs to others, yet there is general agreement among them that the Gospel of Matthew - though it stands at the beginning of the New Testament and not at the close of the Old! - pertains not to those who are members of the mystical body of Christ, but is “entirely Jewish,” that the sermon on the mount is “legalistic” and not evangelistic, and that its searching and flesh-withering precepts are not binding upon Christians. Some go so far as to insist that the great commission with which it closes is not designed for us today, but is meant for “a godly Jewish remnant” after the present era is ended. In support of this wild and wicked theory, appeal is made to and great stress laid upon the fact that Christ is represented, most prominently, as “the son of David” or King of the Jews; but they ignore another conspicuous fact, namely that in its opening verse the Lord Jesus is set forth as “the son of Abraham,” and he was a Gentile! What is still more against this untenable hypothesis - and as though the Holy Spirit designedly anticipated and refuted it - is the fact that Matthew’s is the only one of the four Gospels where the Church is actually mentioned twice (16:18; 18:17)! – though in John’s Gospel its members are portrayed as branches of the Vine, members of Christ’s flock, which are designations of saints which have no dispensational limitations.

Equally remarkable is the fact that the very same epistle which contains the verse (2 Tim. 2:15) on which this modern system is based emphatically declares: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (3:16, 17). So far from large sections of Scripture being designed for other companies, and excluded from our immediate use, ALL Scripture is meant for and is needed by us. First, all of it is “profitable for doctrine,” which could not be the case if it were true (as Dispensationalists dogmatically insist) that God has entirely different methods of dealing with men in past and future ages from the present one. Second, all Scripture is given us “for instruction in righteousness” or right doing, but we are at a complete loss to know how to regulate our conduct if the precepts in one part of the Bible are now outdated (as these teachers of error assert) and injunctions of a contrary character have displaced them; and if certain statutes are meant for others who will occupy this scene after the Church has been removed from it. Third, all Scripture is given that the man of God might be “perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” - every part of the Word is required in order to supply him with all needed instruction and to produce a full-orbed life of godliness.

When the Dispensationalist is hard pressed with those objections, he endeavours to wriggle out of his dilemma by declaring that though all Scripture be for us much of it is not addressed to us. But really, that is a distinction without a difference. In his exposition of Hebrews 3:7-11, Owen rightly pointed out that when making quotation from the Old Testament the apostle prefaced it with “the Holy Spirit saith” (not “said”), and remarked, “Whatever was given by inspiration from the Holy Spirit and is recorded in the Scriptures for the use of the Church, He contrived to speak it to us unto this day. As He liveth for ever so He continues to speak for ever; that is, whilst His voice or word shall be of use for the ChurchHe speaks now unto us…. Many men have invented several ways to lessen the authority of the Scriptures, and few are willing to acknowledge an immediate speaking of God unto them therein.” To the same effect wrote that sound commentator Thomas Scott, “Because of the immense advantages of perseverance, and the tremendous consequences of apostasy, we should consider the words of the Holy Spirit as addressed to us.”

Not only is the assertion that though all scripture be for us all is not to us meaningless, but it is also impertinent and impudent, for there is nothing whatever in the Word of Truth to support and substantiate it. Nowhere has the Spirit given the slightest warning that such a passage is “not to the Christian,” and still less that whole books belong to someone else. Moreover, such a principle is manifestly dishonest. What right have I to make any use of that which is the property of another? What would my neighbor think were I to take letters which were addressed to him and argue that they were meant for me? Furthermore, such a theory, when put to the test, is found to be unworkable. For example, to whom is the book of Proverbs addressed, or for that matter, the first epistle of John? Personally, this writer, after having wasted much time in perusing scores of books which pretended to rightly divide the Word, still regards the whole of Scripture as God’s gracious revelation to him and for him, as though there were not another person on earth, conscious that he cannot afford to dispense with any portion of it; and he is heartily sorry for those who lack such a faith. Pertinent in this connection is that warning, “But fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve… so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3).

But are there not many passages in the Old Testament which have no direct bearing upon the Church today? Certainly not. In view of 1 Corinthians 10:11 - “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples [margin, "types"]: and they are written for our admonition” - Owen pithily remarked: “Old Testament examples are New Testament instructions.” By their histories we are taught what to avoid and what to emulate. That is the principal reason why they are recorded: that which hindered or encouraged the Old Testament saints was chronicled for our benefit. But, more specifically, are not Christians unwarranted in applying to themselves many promises given to Israel according to the flesh during the Mosaic economy, and expecting a fulfillment of the same unto themselves? No indeed, for if that were the case, then it would not be true that “whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4). What comfort can I derive from those sections of God’s Word which these people say “do not belong to me”? What “hope” (i.e. a well-grounded assurance of some future good) could possibly be inspired today in Christians by what pertains to none but Jews? Christ came here, my reader, not to cancel, but “to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy” (Romans 15:8, 9)!

It must also be borne in mind that, in keeping with the character of the covenant under which they were made, many of the precepts and the promises given unto the patriarchs and their descendants possessed a spiritual and typical significance and value, as well as a carnal and literal one. As an example of the former, take Deuteronomy 25:4, “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn,” and then mark the application made of those words in 1 Corinthians 9:9-10: “Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith He it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope.” The word “altogether” is probably a little too strong here, for pantos is rendered “no doubt” in Acts 28:4, and “surely” in Luke 4:23, and in the text signifies “assuredly” (Amer. R. V.) or “mainly for our sakes.” Deuteronomy 25:4, was designed to enforce the principle that labour should have its reward, so that men might work cheerfully. The precept enjoined equity and kindness: if so to beasts, much more so to men, and especially the ministers of the Gospel. It is a striking illustration of the freedom with which the Spirit of grace applies the Old Testament Scriptures, as a constituent part of the Word of Christ, unto Christians and their concerns.

What is true of the Old Testament precepts (generally speaking, for there are, of course, exceptions to every rule) holds equally good to the Old Testament promises - believers today are fully warranted in mixing faith therewith and expecting to receive the substance of them. First, because those promises were made to saints as such, and what God gives to one He gives to all (2 Peter 1:4) - Christ purchased the self-same blessings for every one of His redeemed. Second, because most of the Old Testament promises were typical in their nature: earthly blessings adumbrated heavenly ones. That is no arbitrary assertion of ours, for anyone who has been taught of God knows that almost everything during the old economies had a figurative meaning, shadowing forth the better things to come. Many proofs of this will be given by us a little later. Third, a literal fulfillment to us of those promises must not be excluded, for since we be still on earth and in the body our temporal needs are the same as theirs, and if we meet the conditions attached to those promises (either expressed or implied), then we may count upon the fulfillment of them: according unto our faith and obedience so will it be unto us.

But surely we must draw a definite and broad line between the Law and the Gospel. It is at this point that the Dispensationalist considers his position to be the strongest and most unassailable; yet nowhere else does he more display his ignorance, for he neither recognizes the grace of God abounding during the Mosaic era, nor can he see that Law has any rightful place in this Christian age. Law and grace are to him antagonistic elements, and (to quote one of his favourite slogans) “will no more mix than will oil and water.” Not a few of those who are now regarded as the champions of orthodoxy tell their hearers that the principles of law and grace are such contrary elements that where the one be in exercise the other must necessarily be excluded. But this is a very serious error. How could the Law of God and the Gospel of the grace of God conflict? The one exhibits Him as “light,” the other manifests Him as “love” (1 John 1:5; 4:8), and both are necessary in order fully to reveal His perfections: if either one be omitted only a one-sided concept of His character will be formed. The one makes known His righteousness, the other displays His mercy, and His wisdom has shown the perfect consistency there is between them.

Instead of law and grace being contradictory, they are complementary. Both of them appeared in Eden before the fall. What was it but grace which made a grant unto our first parents: “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat”? And it was law which said, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it.” Both of them are seen at the time of the great deluge, for we are told that “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8), as His subsequent dealings with him clearly demonstrated; while His righteousness brought in a flood upon the world of the ungodly. Both of them operated side by side at Sinai, for while the majesty and righteousness of Jehovah were expressed in the Decalogue, His mercy and grace were plainly evinced in the provisions He made in the whole Levitical system (with its priesthood and sacrifices) for the putting away of their sins. Both shone forth in their meridian glory at Calvary, for whereas on the one hand the abounding grace of God appeared in giving His own dear Son to be the Saviour of sinners, His justice called for the curse of the Law to be inflicted upon Him while bearing their guilt.

In all of God’s works and ways we may discern a meeting together of seemingly conflicting elements - the centrifugal and the centripetal forces which are ever at work in the material realm illustrate this principle. So it is in connection with the operations of Divine providence: there is a constant interpenetrating of the natural and the supernatural. So too in the giving of the sacred Scriptures: they are the product both of God’s and of man’s agency: they are a Divine revelation, yet couched in human language, and communicated through human media; they are inerrantly true, yet written by fallible men. They are Divinely inspired in every jot and tittle, yet the superintending control of the Spirit over the penmen did not exclude nor interfere with the natural exercise of their faculties. Thus it is also in all of God’s dealings with mankind: though He exercises His high sovereignty, yet He treats with them as responsible creatures, putting forth His invincible power upon and within them, but in no wise destroying their moral agency. These may present deep and insoluble mysteries to the finite mind, nevertheless they are actual facts.

In what has just been pointed out - to which other examples might be added (the person of Christ, for instance, with His two distinct yet conjoined natures, so that though He was omniscient yet He “grew in wisdom”; was omnipotent, yet wearied and slept; was eternal, yet died) - why should so many stumble at the phenomenon of Divine law and Divine grace being in exercise side by side, operating at the same season? Do law and grace present any greater contrast than the fathomless love of God unto His children, and His everlasting wrath upon His enemies? No indeed, not so great. Grace must not be regarded as an attribute of God which eclipses all His other perfections. As Romans 5:21, so plainly tells us, “That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness,” and not at the expense of or to the exclusion of it. Divine grace and Divine righteousness, Divine love and Divine holiness, are as inseparable as light and heat from the sun. In bestowing grace, God never rescinds His claims upon us, but rather enables us to meet them. Was the prodigal son, after his penitential return and forgiveness, less obliged to conform to the laws of his Father’s house than before he left it? No indeed, but more so.

That there is no conflict between the Law and the Gospel of the grace of God is plain enough from Romans 3:31: “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” Here the apostle anticipates an objection which was likely to be brought against what he had said in verses 26-30. Does not the teaching that justification is entirely by grace through faith evince that God has relaxed His claims, changed the standard of His requirements, set aside the demands of His government? Very far from it. The Divine plan of redemption is in no way an annulling of the Law, but rather the honouring and enforcing of it. No greater respect could have been shown to the Law than in God’s determining to save His people from its course by sending His co-equal Son to fulfill all its requirements and Himself endure its penalty. Oh, marvel of marvels; the great Legislator humbled Himself unto entire obedience to the precepts of the Decalogue. The very One who gave the Law became incarnate, bled and died, under its condemning sentence, rather than that a tittle thereof should fail. Magnified thus was the Law indeed, and for ever “made honourable.”

God’s method of salvation by grace has “established the law” in a threefold way. First, by Christ, the Surety of God’s elect, being “made under the law” (Gal. 4:4), fulfilling its precepts (Matt. 5:17), suffering its penalty in the stead of His people, and thereby He has “brought in everlasting righteousness” (Daniel 9:24). Second, by the Holy Spirit, for at regeneration He writes the Law on their hearts (Heb. 8:10), drawing out their affections unto it, so that they “delight in the law of God after the inward man” (Romans 7:22). Third, as the fruit of his new nature, the Christian voluntarily and gladly takes the Law for his rule of life, so that he declares, “with the mind I myself serve the law” (Romans 7:25). Thus is the Law “established” not only in the high court of heaven, but in the souls of the redeemed. So far from law and grace being enemies, they are mutual handmaids: the former reveals the sinner’s need, the latter supplies it; the one makes known God’s requirements, the other enables us to meet them. Faith is not opposed to good works, but performs them in obedience to God out of love and gratitude.

Before turning to the positive side of our present subject, it was necessary for us to expose and denounce that teaching which insists that much in the Bible has no immediate application unto us today. Such teaching is a reckless and irreverent handling of the Word, which has produced the most evil consequences in the hearts and lives of many - not the least of which is the promotion of a pharisaical spirit of self-superiority. Consciously or unconsciously, Dispensationalists are, in reality, repeating the sin of Jehoiakim, who mutilated God’s Word with his penknife (Jer. 36:23). Instead of “opening the Scriptures,” they are bent in closing the major part of them from God’s people today. They are just as much engaged in doing the devil’s work as are the Higher Critics, who, with their dissecting knives, are wrongly “dividing the word of truth.” They are seeking to force a stone down the throats of those who are asking for bread. These are indeed severe and solemn indictments, but not more so than the case calls for. We are well aware that they will be unacceptable unto some of our own readers; but medicine, though sometimes necessary, is rarely palatable.

Instead of being engaged in the unholy work of pitting one part of the Scriptures against another, these men would be far better employed in showing the perfect unity of the Bible and the blessed harmony which there is between all of its teachings. But instead of demonstrating the concord of the two Testaments, they are more concerned in their efforts to show the discord which they say there is between that which pertained unto “the Dispensation of Law” and that which obtains under “the Dispensation of Grace,” and in order to accomplish their evil design all sound principles of exegesis are cast to the wind. As a sample of what we have reference to, they cite “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Exodus 21:24) and then quote against it, “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matt. 5:39), and then it is exultantly asserted that those two passages can only be “reconciled” by allocating them to different peoples in different ages; and with such superficial handling of Holy Writ thousands of gullible souls are deceived, and thousands more allow themselves to be bewildered.

If those who possess a Scofield Bible turn to Exodus 21:24, they will see that in the margin opposite to it the editor refers his readers to Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21, and cf. Matthew 5:38-44; 1 Peter 2:19-21; upon which this brief comment is made: “The provision in Exodus is law and righteous; the New Testament passages, grace and merciful.” How far Mr. Scofield was consistent with himself may be seen by a reference to what he states on page 989, at the beginning of the New Testament under the Four Gospels, where he expressly affirms “The sermon on the mount is law, not grace” [italics ours]: verily “the legs of the lame are not equal.” In his marginal note to Exodus 21:24, Mr. Scofield cites Matthew 5:38-44, as “grace,” whereas in his Introduction to the Four Gospels he declares that Matthew 5-7 “is law, and not grace.” Which of those assertions did he wish his readers to believe?
Still the question may be asked, How are you going to reconcile Exodus 21:24, with Matthew 5:38-44? Our answer is, There is nothing between them to “reconcile,” for there is nothing in them which clashes. The former passage is one of the statutes appointed for public magistrates to enforce, whereas the latter one lays down rules for private individuals to live by! Why do not these self-styled “rightly dividers” properly allocate the Scriptures, distinguishing between the different classes to which they are addressed? That Exodus 21:24, does contain statutes for public magistrates to enforce is clearly established by comparing Scripture with Scripture. In Deuteronomy 19:21, the same injunction is again recorded, and if the reader turns back to verse 18 he will there read, “And the judges shall make diligent inquisition,” etc. It would be real mercy unto the community if our judges today would set aside their sickly sentimentality and deal with conscienceless and brutal criminals in a manner which befits their deeds of violence - instead of making a mockery of justice.

Ere leaving what has been before us in the last three paragraphs, let it be pointed out that when our blessed Lord added to Matthew 5:38, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you” (verse 44) He was not advancing a more benign precept than had ever been enunciated previously. No, the same gracious principle of conduct had been enforced in the Old Testament. In Exodus 23:4-5, Jehovah gave commandment through Moses, “If thou meet thine enemy’s ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again. If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him.” Again in Proverbs 25:21, we read, “If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink.”

The same God who bids us, “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath” (Romans 12:17-19), also commanded His people in the Old Testament, “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:18); and therefore was David grateful to Abigail for dissuading him from taking vengeance on Nabal: “Blessed be thou, which hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood, and from avenging myself with mine own hand” (1 Samuel 25:33). So far was the Old Testament from allowing any spirit of bitterness, malice or revenge that it expressly declared, “Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the Lord, and He shall save thee” (Prov. 20:22). And again, “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth” (Prov. 24:17). And again, “Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me: I will render to the man according to his work” (Prov. 24:29).

One more sample of the excuseless ignorance betrayed by these Dispensationalists - we quote from E. W. Bullinger’s How to enjoy the Bible. On pages 108 and 110 he said under “Law and Grace”: “For those who lived under the Law it could rightly and truly be said, ‘It shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the Lord our God, as He hath commanded us’ (Deut. 6:25). But to those who live in this present Dispensation of Grace it is as truly declared, ‘By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight’ (Romans 3:20).” But this is the very opposite of Deuteronomy 6:25. What, then, are we to say, or to do? Which of these two statements is true and which is false? The answer is that neither is false. But both are true if we would rightly divide the Word of Truth as to its dispensational truth and teaching…. Two words distinguish the two dispensations: ‘Do’ distinguished the former; ‘Done’ the latter. Then salvation depended upon what man was to do, now it depends upon what Christ has done. It is by such statements as these that “unstable souls” are beguiled.

Is it not amazing that one so renowned for his erudition and knowledge of the Scriptures should make such manifestly absurd statements as the above? In pitting Deuteronomy 6:25, against Romans 3:20, he might as well have argued that fire is “the very opposite” of water. They are indeed contrary elements, yet each has its own use in its proper place: the one to cook by, the other for refreshment. Think of one who set up himself as a teacher of preachers affirming that under the Mosaic economy “salvation depended on what man was to do.” Why, in that case, for fifteen hundred years not a single Israelite had been saved. Had salvation then been obtainable by human efforts, there had been no need for God to send His Son here! Salvation has never been procurable by human merits, on the ground of human performance. Abel obtained witness that he was righteous, because he offered to God a slain lamb (Gen. 4:4; Heb. 11:4). Abraham was justified by faith, and not by works (Romans 4). Under the Mosaic economy it was expressly announced that “it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Lev. 17: 11). David realized, “If Thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” (Psalm 130:3); and therefore did he confess, “I will make mention of Thy righteousness, even of Thine only” (Psalm 71:16).

By all means let the Word of Truth be “rightly divided”; not by parceling it off to different “dispensations,” but by distinguishing between what is doctrinal and what is practical, between that which pertains to the unsaved and that which is predicated of the saved. Deuteronomy 6:25, is addressed not to alien sinners, but to those who are in covenant relationship with the Lord; whereas Romans 3:20, is a statement which applies to every member of the human race. The one has to do with practical “righteousness” in the daily walk, which is acceptable to God; the other is a doctrinal declaration which asserts the impossibility of acceptance with God on the ground of creature doings. The former relates to our conduct in this life in connection with the Divine government; the latter concerns our eternal standing before the Divine throne. Both passages are equally applicable to Jews and Gentiles in all ages. “Our righteousness” in Deuteronomy 6:25, is a practical righteousness in the sight of God. It is the same aspect of righteousness as in “except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees” of Matthew 5:20, the “righteous man” of James 5:16, and the “doeth righteousness” of 1 John 2:29.

The Old Testament saints were the subjects of the same everlasting covenant, had the same blessed Gospel, were begotten unto the same celestial heritage as the New Testament saints. From Abel onwards, God has dealt with sinners in sovereign grace, and according to the merits of Christ’s redemptive work - which was retroactive in its value and efficacy (Romans 3:25; 1 Peter 1:19-20). “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8). That they were partakers of the same covenant blessings as we are is clear from a comparison of 2 Samuel 23:5, and Hebrews 13:20. The same Gospel was preached unto Abraham (Gal. 3:8), yea, unto the nation of Israel after they had received the Law (Heb. 4:2), and therefore Abraham rejoiced to see Christ’s day and was glad (John 8:56). Dying Jacob declared, “I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord” (Gen. 49:18). As Hebrews 11:16, states, the patriarchs desired “a better country [than the land of Canaan, in which they dwelt], that is, an heavenly.” Moses “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter… esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt” (Heb. 11:24-26). Job exclaimed, “I know that my Redeemer liveth… in my flesh shall I see God” (19:25-26).

When Jehovah proclaimed His name unto Moses, He revealed Himself as “the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious” (Exodus 34:5-7). When Aaron pronounced the benediction on the congregation, he was bidden to say, “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: the Lord make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: the Lord lift up the light of His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (Num. 6:24-26). No greater and grander blessings can be invoked today. Such a passage as that cannot possibly be harmonized with the constricted concept which is entertained and is being propagated by the Dispensationalists of the Mosaic economy. God dealt in grace with Israel all through their long and checkered history. Read through the book of Judges and observe how often He raised up deliverers for them. Pass on to Kings and Chronicles and note His longsuffering benignity in sending them prophet after prophet. Where in the New Testament is there a word which, for pure grace, exceeds “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18)? In the days of Jehoahaz “the Lord was gracious unto them” (2 Kings 13:22-23). They were invited to say unto the Lord, “Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously” (Hosea 14:2). Malachi bade Israel “beseech God that He will be gracious unto us” (1:9).

The conception which the pious remnant of Israel had of the Divine character during the Mosaic economy was radically different from the stern and forbidding presentation made thereof by Dispensationalists. Hear the Psalmist as he declared, “Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful” (Psalm 16:5). Hear him again, as he bursts forth into adoring praise, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases… He hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:2-3, 10). Can Christians say more than that? No wonder David exclaimed, “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides Thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever” (Psalm 73:25, 26). If the question be asked, What, then, is the great distinction between the Mosaic and Christian eras? The answer is, God’s grace was then confined to one nation, but now it flows out to all nations.

What is true in the general holds good in the particular. Not only were God’s dealings with His people during Old Testament times substantially the same as those with His people now, but in detail too. There is no discord, but perfect accord and concord between them. Note carefully the following parallelisms. “His inheritance in the saints” (Eph. 1: 18): “The Lord’s portion is His people, Jacob is the lot of His inheritance” (Deut. 32:9). “Beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation” (2 Thess. 2:13): “I have loved thee with an everlasting love” (Jer. 31:3). “In whom we have redemption” (Eph. 1:7): “With Him is plenteous redemption” (Psalm 130:7). “That we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21): “In the Lord have I righteousness and strength” (Isaiah 45:24). “Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings… in Christ” (Eph. 1:3): “Men shall be blessed in Him” (Psalm 72:17). “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7): “Thou art all fair, My love, there is no spot in thee” (Song 4:7).

“Strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man” (Eph. 3:16): “In the day when I cried Thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul” (Psalm 138:3). “The Spirit of truth… will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13): “Thou gavest also Thy good Spirit to instruct them” (Neh. 9:20). “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18): “All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:4). “I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims” (1 Peter 2:11): “Ye are strangers and sojourners” (Lev. 25:23). “We walk by faith” (2 Cor. 5:7): “The just shall live by his faith” (Hab. 2:4). “Strong in the Lord” (Eph. 6:10): “I will strengthen them in the Lord” (Zech. 10:12). “Neither shall any pluck them out of My hand” (John 10:28): “All His saints are in Thy hand” (Deut. 33:3). “He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit” (John 15:5): “From Me is thy fruit found” (Hosea 14:8). “He which hath begun a good work in you will finish it” (Phil. 1:6, margin): “The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me” (Psalm 138:8). Innumerable other such harmonies might be added.

As it is particularly the Old Testament promises of which Dispensationalists would deprive the Christian, a more definite and detailed refutation of this error is now required - coming, as it obviously does, within the compass of our present subject. We will here transcribe what we wrote thereon almost twenty years ago.

1. Since the fall alienated the creature from the Creator, there could be no intercourse between God and men but by some promise on His part. None can challenge anything from the Majesty on high without a warrant from Himself, nor could the conscience be satisfied unless it had a Divine grant for any good that we hope for from Him.

2. God will in all ages have His people regulated by His promises, so that they may exercise faith, hope, prayer, dependence upon Himself: He gives them promises so as to test them, whether or not they really trust in and count upon Him.

3. The Medium of the promises is the God-man Mediator, Jesus Christ, for there can be no intercourse between God and us except through the appointed Daysman. In other words, Christ must receive all good for us, and we must have it at second hand from Him.

4. Let the Christian ever be on his guard against contemplating any promise of God apart from Christ. Whether the thing promised, the blessing desired, be temporal or spiritual, we cannot legitimately or truly enjoy it except in and by Christ. Therefore did the apostle remind the Galatians, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ” (3:16) - in quoting Genesis 12:3, Paul was not proving, but affirming, that God’s promises to Abraham respected not all his natural posterity, but only those of his spiritual children - those united to Christ. All the promises of God to believers are made to Christ, the Surety of the everlasting covenant, and are conveyed from Him to us - both the promises themselves and the things promised. “This is the [all-inclusive] promise that He hath promised us, even eternal life” (1 John 2:25), and, as 5:11, tells us, “this life is in His Son” - so grace, and all other benefits. “If I read any of the promises I found that all and every one contained Christ in their bosom, He Himself being the one great Promise of the Bible. To Him they were all first given; from Him they derive all their efficacy, sweetness, value, and importance; by Him they are brought home to the heart; and in Him they are all yea, and amen” (R. Hawker, 1810).

5. Since all the promises of God are made in Christ, it clearly follows that none of them are available to any who are out of Christ, for to be out of Him is to be out of the favour of God. God cannot look on such a person but as an object of His wrath, as fuel for His vengeance: there is no hope for any man until he be in Christ. But it may be asked, Does not God bestow any good things on them who are out of Christ, sending His rain upon the unjust, and filling the bellies of the wicked with good things (Psalm 17:14)? Yes, He does indeed. Then are not those temporal mercies blessings? Certainly not: far from it. As He says in Malachi 2:2, “I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart” (cf. Deut. 28:15-20). Unto the wicked, the temporal mercies of God are like food given to bullocks - it does but “prepare them for the day of slaughter” (Jer. 12:3, and cf. James 5:5).

Having presented above a brief outline on the subject of the Divine promises, let us now examine a striking yet little-noticed expression, namely “the children of the promise” (Romans 9:8). In the context the apostle discusses God’s casting of the Jews and calling of the Gentiles, which was a particularly sore point with the former. After describing the unique privileges enjoyed by Israel as a nation (verses 4 and 5), he points out the difference there is between them and the antitypical “Israel of God” (verses 6-9), which he illustrates by the cases of Isaac and Jacob. Though the Jews had rejected the Gospel and had been cast off by God, it must not be supposed that His word had failed of accomplishment (verse 6), for not only had the prophecies concerning the Messiah been fulfilled, but the promise respecting Abraham’s seed was being made good. But it was most important to apprehend aright what or whom that “seed” comprised. “For they are not all Israel [spiritually speaking], who are of Israel [naturally]: neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, in Isaac shall thy seed be called” (verses 6 and 7).

The Jews erroneously imagined (as modern Dispensationalists do) that the promises made to Abraham concerning his seed respected all of his descendants. Their boast was “we be Abraham’s seed” (John 8:33), to which Christ replied, “If ye were Abraham’s children ye would do the works of Abraham” (verse 39 and see Romans 4:12). God’s rejection of Ishmael and Esau was decisive proof that the promises were not made to the natural descendants as such. The selection of Isaac and Jacob showed that the promise was restricted to an elect line. “The children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted [regarded] as the seed. For this is the word of promise. At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son (Romans 9:8, 9). The “children of God” and the “children of the promise” are one and the same, whether they be Jews or Gentiles. As Isaac was born supernaturally, so are all of God’s elect (John 1:13). As Isaac, on that account, was heir of the promised blessing, so are Christians (Gal. 4:29; 3:29). “Children of the promise” are identical with “the heirs of promise” (Heb. 6:17, and cf. Romans 8:17).

God’s promises are made to the spiritual children of Abraham (Romans 4:16; Gal. 3:7), and none of them can possibly fail of accomplishment. “For all the promises of God in Him [namely Christ] are yea, and in Him amen” (2 Cor. 1:20). They are deposited in Christ, and in Him they find their affirmation and certification, for He is the sum and substance of them. Inexpressibly blessed is that declaration to the humble-minded child of God - yet a mystery hid from those who are wise in their own conceits. “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). The promises of God are numerous: relating to this life and also that which is to come. They concern our temporal well-being, as well as our spiritual, covering the needs of the body as well as those of the soul. Whatever be their character, not one of them can be made good unto us except in and through and by Him who lived and died for us. The promises which God has given to His people are absolutely sure and trustworthy, for they were made to them in Christ: they are infallibly certain for fulfillment, for they are accomplished through and by Him.

A blessed illustration, yea, exemplification, of what has just been pointed out above is found in Hebrews 8:8-13, and 10:15-17, where the apostle quotes the promises given in Jeremiah 31:31-34. The Dispensationalist would object and say that those promises belong to the natural descendants of Abraham, and are not to us. But Hebrews 10:15, prefaces the citation of those promises by expressly affirming, “Whereof the Holy Spirit is [not "was"] a witness to us.” Those promises extend to Gentile believers also, for they are the assurance of grace founded in Christ, and in Him believing Jews and Gentiles are one (Gal. 3:26). Before the middle wall of partition was broken down, Gentiles were indeed “strangers unto the covenants of promise” (Eph. 2:12), but when that wall was removed, Gentile believers became “fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel” (Eph. 3:6)! As Romans 11 expresses it, they partake of the root and fatness of the olive tree (verse 17)! Those promises in Jeremiah 31 are made not to the Jewish nation as such, but to “the Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16), that is to the entire election of grace, and they are made infallibly good unto all of them at the moment of their regeneration by the Spirit.

In the clear light of other New Testament passages, it appears passing strange that anyone who is familiar with the same should deny that God has made this “new covenant” with those who are members of the mystical body of Christ. That Christians are partakers of its blessings is plain from 1 Corinthians 11:25, where quotation is made of the Saviour’s words at the institution of His supper, saying, “This cup is the new testament [or "new covenant"] in My blood”; and again by 2 Corinthians 3:6, where the apostle states that God “hath also made us able ministers of the new testament,” or “covenant,” for the same Greek word is used in those passages as in Hebrews 8:8, and 10:16, where it is translated “covenant.” In the very first sermon preached after the new covenant was established, Peter said, “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off,” i.e., the Gentiles: Ephesians 2:13 - qualified by “as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:39). Furthermore, the terms of Jeremiah 31:33-34, are most certainly made good unto all believers today: God is their covenant God (Heb. 13:20), His law is enshrined in their affections (Romans 7:22), they know Him as their God, their iniquities are forgiven.

The Holy Spirit’s statement in 2 Corinthians 7:1, must, for all who bow to the authority of Holy Writ, settle the matter once and for all of the Christian’s right to the Old Testament promises. “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” Which promises? Why, those mentioned at the close of the preceding chapter. There we read, “And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (6:16). And where had God said this? Why, as far back as Leviticus 26:12, “And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be My people.” That promise was made to the nation of Israel in the days of Moses! And again we read, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (6:17-18), which words are a manifest reference to Jeremiah 31:9, and Hosea 1:9-10.

Now observe very particularly what the Holy Spirit says through Paul concerning those Old Testament promises. First, he says to the New Testament saints, “Having these promises.” He declared that those ancient promises are theirs: that they have a personal interest in them and title to them. That they were theirs not merely in hope, but in hand. Theirs to make full use of, to feed upon and enjoy, to delight in and give God thanks for the same. Since Christ Himself be ours, all things are ours (1 Cor. 3:22-23). Oh, Christian reader, suffer no man, under pretense of “rightly dividing the word,” to cut you off from, to rob you of any of, “the exceeding great and precious promises” of your Father (2 Peter 1:4). If he is content to confine himself unto a few of the New Testament epistles, let him to do so - that is his loss. But allow him not to confine you to so narrow a compass. Second, we are hereby taught to use those promises as motives and incentives to the cultivation of personal piety, in the privative work of mortification and the positive duty of practical sanctification.

A striking and conclusive proof that the Old Testament promises belong unto present-day saints is found in Hebrews 13:5, where practical use is again made of the same. There Christians are exhorted, “Let your conversation be without covetousness: be content with such things as ye have.” That exhortation is enforced by this gracious consideration: “for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Since the living God be your portion your heart should rejoice in Him, and all anxiety about the supply of your every need be for ever removed. But what we are now more especially concerned with is the promise here cited: “For He hath said, I will never leave thee,” etc. And to whom was that promise first given? Why, to the one who was about to lead Israel into the land of Canaan – as a reference to Joshua 1:5 shows. Thus it was made to a particular person on a special occasion, to a general who was to prosecute a great war under the immediate command of God. Facing that demanding ordeal, Joshua received assurance from God that His presence should ever be with him.

But if the believer gives way to unbelief, the devil is very apt to tell him, That promise belongs not unto you. You are not the captain of armies, commissioned by God to overthrow the forces of an enemy: the virtue of that promise ceased when Canaan was conquered and died with him to whom it was made. Instead, as Owen pointed out in his comments on Hebrews 13:5, “To manifest the sameness of love that is in all the promises, with their establishment in the one Mediator, and the general concern of believers in every one of them, howsoever and on what occasion given to any, this promise to Joshua is here applied to the condition of the weakest, meanest, and poorest of the saints; to all and every one of them, be their case and condition what it will. And doubtless, believers are not a little wanting in themselves and their own consolation, that they do so more particularly close with those words of truth, grace, and faithfulness, which upon sundry occasions and at divers times have been given out unto the saints of old, even Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and the residue of them, who walked with God in their generation: these things in an especial manner are recorded for our consolation.”

Let us now observe closely the use which the apostle made of that ancient but ever-living promise. First, he here availed himself of it in order to enforce his exhortation unto Christians to the duties of mortification and sanctification. Second, he draws a logical and practical inference from the same, declaring, “So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Heb. 13:6). Thus a double conclusion is reached: such a promise is to inspire all believers with confidence in God’s succour and assistance, and with boldness and courage before men–showing us to what purpose we should put the Divine pledges. Those conclusions are based upon the character of the Promiser: because God is infinitely good, faithful, and powerful, and because He changes not, I may trustfully declare with Abraham, “God will provide” (Gen. 22:8); with Jonathan, “There is no restraint to the Lord” (1 Sam. 14:6); with Jehoshaphat, “None is able to withstand Him” (2 Chron. 20:6); with Paul, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). The abiding presence of the all-sufficient Lord ensures help, and therefore any alarm at man’s enmity should be removed from our hearts. My worst enemy can do nothing against me without my Saviour’s permission.

“So that we may boldly say [freely, without hesitating through unbelief], The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” Note attentively the change in number from the plural to the singular, and learn there from that general principles are to be appropriated by us in particular, as general precepts are to be taken by us personally - the Lord Jesus individualized the “ye shall not tempt the Lord your God” of Deuteronomy 6:16, when assailed by Satan, saying, “It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Matt. 4:7). It is only by taking the Divine promises and precepts unto ourselves personally that we can “mix faith” with the same, or make a proper and profitable use of them. It is also to be carefully noted that once more the apostle confirmed his argument by a Divine testimony, for the words “The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” are not his own, but a quotation of those used by David in Psalm 118:6. Thus again we are shown that the language of the Old Testament is exactly suited to the cases and circumstances of Christians today, and that it is their right and privilege freely to appropriate the same.

“We may boldly say” just what the Psalmist did when he was sorely pressed. It was during a season of acute distress that David expressed his confidence in the living God, at a time when it looked as though his enemies were on the point of swallowing him up; but viewing the omnipotence of Jehovah and contrasting His might with the feebleness of the creature, his heart was strengthened and emboldened. But let the reader clearly perceive what that implied. It means that David turned his mind away from the seen to the unseen. It means that he was regulated by faith, rather than by sight - feelings or reasonings. It means that his heart was occupied with the Almighty. But it means much more: he was occupied with the relationship of that omnipotent One unto himself. It means that he recognized and realized the spiritual bond there was between them, so that he could truly and rightly aver, “the Lord is my helper.” If He be my God, my Redeemer, my Father, then He may be counted upon to undertake for me when I am sorely oppressed, when my foes threaten to devour me, when my barrel of meal is almost empty. That “my” is the language of faith, and is the conclusion which faith’s assurance draws from the infallible promise of Him that cannot lie.

In these articles we are seeking to show the use which believers should make of God’s Word: or more particularly, how that it is both their privilege and their duty to receive the whole of it as addressed immediately unto themselves, and to turn the same unto practical account, by appropriating its contents to their personal needs. The Bible is a book which calls not so much for the exertion of our intellect as it does for the exercise of our affections, conscience and will. God has given it to us not for our entertainment but for our education, to make known what He requires from us. It is to be the traveller’s guide as he journeys through the maze of this world, the mariner’s chart as he sails the sea of life. Therefore, whenever we open the Bible, the all-important consideration for each of us to keep before him is, What is there here for me today? What bearing does the passage now before me have upon my present case and circumstances - what warning, what encouragement, what information? What instruction is there to direct me in the management of my business, to guide me in the ordering of my domestic and social affairs, to promote a closer walking with God?

I should see myself addressed in every precept, included in every promise. But it is greatly to be feared that, through failure to appropriate God’s Word unto their own case and circumstances, there is much Bible reading and study which is of little or no real benefit to the soul. Nothing else will secure us from the infections of this world, deliver from the temptations of Satan, and be so effectual a preservative from sin, as the Word of God received into our affections. “The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide” (Psalm 37:31) can only be said of the one who has made personal appropriation of that Law, and is able to aver with the Psalmist, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee” (119:11). Just so long as the Truth is actually working in us, influencing us in a practical way, is loved and revered by us, stirs the conscience, are we kept from falling into open sin - as Joseph was preserved when evilly solicited by his master’s wife (Gen. 39:9). And only as we personally go out and daily gather our portion of manna, and feed upon the same, will there be strength provided for the performing of duty and the bringing forth of fruit to the glory of God.

Let us take Genesis 17:1, as a simple illustration. “And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before Me, and be thou perfect” or “sincere.” How is the Christian to apply such a verse unto himself? First of all, let him note to whom this signal favour and honour was shown: namely to him who is the “father of all them that believe” (Romans 4:11, 12, 16) - and he was the first person in the world to whom the Lord is said to have appeared! Second, observe when it was that Jehovah appeared unto him: namely in his old age, when nature’s force was spent and death was written on the flesh. Third, mark attentively the particular character in which the Lord was now revealed to him: “the Almighty God,” or more literally “El Shaddai”-“the all-sufficient God.” Fourth, consider the exhortation which accompanied the same: “walk before Me, and be thou sincere.” Fifth, ponder those details in the light of the immediate sequel; God’s making promise that he should beget a son by Sarah, who was long past the age of child-bearing (verses 15-19). Everything that is for God must be effected by His mighty power: He can and must do everything - the flesh profits nothing, no movement of mere nature is of any avail.

Now as the believer ponders that memorable incident, hope should be inspired within him. El Shaddai is as truly his God as He was Abraham’s! That is clear from 2 Corinthians 7:1, for one of those promises is, “I will be a Father unto you… saith the Lord Almighty” (6:18), and from Revelation 1:8, where the Lord Jesus says unto the churches, “I am Alpha and Omega… the Almighty.” It is a declaration of His omnipotence, to whom all things are possible. “The all-sufficient God” tells of what He is in Himself – self existent, independent; and what He is unto His people - the Supplier of their every need. When Christ said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee,” it was all one with what Jehovah said unto Abraham. Doubtless the Lord appeared unto the patriarch in visible (and human) form: He does so to us before the eyes of faith. Often He is pleased to meet with us in the ordinances of His grace, and send us on our way rejoicing. Sometimes He “manifests” Himself (John 14:21) to us in the retirements of privacy. Frequently He appears for us in His providences, showing Himself strong on our behalf. Now, says He, “Walk before Me sincerely” in the believing realization that I am all-sufficient for thee, conscious of My almightiness, and all will be well with thee.
Let us now adduce some of the many proofs of the assertions made in our opening sentences, proofs supplied by the Holy Spirit and the Lord Jesus in the application which They made of the Scriptures. It is very striking indeed to discover that the very first moral commandment which God gave to mankind, namely that which was to regulate the marriage relationship, was couched in such terms that it comprehended a Divine law which is universally and perpetually binding: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:24) - quoted by Christ in Matthew 19:5. “When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favor in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement” (Deut. 24:1). That statute was given in the days of Moses, nevertheless we find our Lord referring to the same and telling the Pharisees of His day, “For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept” (Mark 10:5).

The principle for which we are here contending is beautifully illustrated in Psalm 27:8, “When Thou saidst, Seek ye My face; my heart said unto Thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” Thus he made particular what was general, applying to himself personally what was said to the saints collectively. That is ever the use each of us should make of every part of God’s Word - as we see the Saviour in Matthew 4:7, changing the “ye” of Deuteronomy 6:16, to “thou.” So again in Acts 1:20, we find Peter, when alluding to the defection of Judas, altering the “let their habitation” of Psalm 69:25, to “let his habitation be desolate.” That was not taking an undue liberty with Holy Writ, but, instead, making a specific application of what was indefinite.

“Put not forth thyself in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great men: for better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up hither; than that thou shouldest be put lower in the presence of the prince whom thine eyes have seen” (Prov. 25:6, 7). Upon which Thomas Scott justly remarked, “There can be no reasonable doubt but that our Lord referred to those words in His admonition to ambitious guests at the Pharisee’s table (Luke 14:7-11), and was understood to do so. While, therefore, this gives His sanction to the book of Proverbs, it also shows that those maxims may be applied to similar cases, and that we need not confine their interpretation exclusively to the subject which gave rise to the maxims.” Not even the presence of Christ, His holy example, His heavenly instruction, could restrain the strife among His disciples over which should be the greatest. Loving to have the pre-eminence (3 John 9, 10) is the bane of godliness in the churches.

“I the Lord have called Thee… and give Thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles”; “I will also give Thee for a light to the Gentiles, that Thou mayest be My salvation unto the end of the earth” (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6). Those words were spoken by the Father unto the Messiah, yet in Acts 13:46, 47, we find Paul saying of himself and Barnabas, “Lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us; saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth”! So again in Romans 10:15, we find the apostle was inspired to make application unto Christ’s servant of that which was said immediately of Him: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of Him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace” (Isaiah 52:7): “How shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace” (Romans 10:15). “He is near that justifieth Me… who is he that shall condemn Me?” (Isaiah 50:8, 9): the context shows unmistakably that Christ is there the speaker, yet in Romans 8:33, 34, the apostle hesitates not to apply those words unto the members of His body: “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth?”

The unspeakably solemn commission given to Isaiah concerning his apostate generation (6:9, 10) was applied by Christ to the people of His day, saying: “And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah” (Matt. 13:14, 15). Again, in 29:13, Isaiah announced that the Lord said, “This people draw near Me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour Me, but have removed their heart far from Me,” while in Matthew 15:7, we find Christ saying to the scribes and Pharisees, “Hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth,” etc. Even more striking is Christ’s rebuke unto the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection of the body, “Have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Matt. 22:31, 32). What God spoke immediately to Moses at the burning bush was designed equally for the instruction and comfort of all men unto the end of the world. What the Lord has said unto a particular person, He says unto everyone who is favoured to read His Word. Thus does it concern us to hear and heed the same, for by that Word we shall be judged in the last great day (John 12:48).

The fundamental principle for which we are here contending is plainly expressed again by Christ in Mark 13:37, “And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.” That exhortation to the apostles is addressed directly to the saints in all generations and places. As Owen well said, “The Scriptures speak to every age, every church, every person, not less than to those to whom they were first directed. This showeth us how we should be affected in reading the Word: we should read it as a letter written by the Lord of grace from heaven, to us by name. “If there be any books in the New Testament particularly restricted, it is the “pastoral epistles,” yet the exhortation found in 2 Timothy 2:19, is generalized: “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” Those who are so fond of restricting God’s Word would say that “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (verse 3) is addressed to the minister of the Gospel, and pertains not to the rank and file of believers. But Ephesians 6:10-17, shows (by necessary implication) that it applies to all the saints, for the militant figure is again used, and used there without limitation. The Bullinger school insist that James and Peter – who gave warning of those who in the last time should walk after their own ungodly lusts - wrote to Jewish believers only; but Jude (addressed to all the sanctified) declares they “told you” (verse 18).

“Ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord” (Heb. 12:5). That exhortation is taken from Proverbs 3:11, so that here is further evidence that the precepts of the Old Testament (like its promises) are not restricted unto those who were under the Mosaic economy, but apply with equal directness and force to those under the new covenant. Observe well the tense of the verb “which speaketh”: though written a thousand years previously, Paul did not say “which hath spoken” - the Scriptures are a living Word through which their Author speaks today. Note too “which speaketh unto you” – New Testament saints: all that is contained in the book of Proverbs is as truly and as much the Father’s instruction to Christians as the contents of the Pauline epistles. Throughout that book God addresses us individually as “My son” (2:1; 3:1; 4:1; 5:1). That exhortation is as urgently needed by believers now as by any who lived in former ages. Though children of God, we are stiill children of Adam – wilful, proud, independent, requiring to be disciplined, to be under the Father’s rod, to bear it meekly, and to be exercised thereby in our hearts and consciences.

A word now upon transferred application, by which we mean giving a literal turn to language which is figurative, or vice versa. Thus, whenever the writer steps on to icy roads, he hesitates not to literalize the prayer, “Hold Thou me up, and I shall be safe” (Psalm 119:117). “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for Thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8) is to be given its widest latitude, and regarded at both the rest of the body under the protection of Providence and the repose of the soul in the assurance of God’s protecting grace. In 2 Corinthians 8:14, Paul urges that there should be an equality of giving, or a fair distribution of the burden, in the collection being made to relieve the afflicted saints in Jerusalem. That appeal was backed up with, “As it is written, he that hath gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.” That is a reference to the manna gathered by the Israelites (Exodus 16:18): those who gathered the largest quantity had more to give unto the aged and feeble; so rich Christians should use their surplus to provide for the poor of the flock. But great care needs to be taken lest we clash with the Analogy of the Faith: thus “the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker” (2 Samuel 3:1) certainly does not mean that “the flesh” becomes enervated as the believer grows in grace, for universal Christian experience testifies that indwelling sin rages as vigorously at the end as at the beginning.

A brief word upon double application. Whereas preachers should ever be on their guard against taking the children’s bread and casting it to the dogs, by applying to the unsaved promises given to or statements made concerning the saints; on the other hand, they need to remind believers of the continuous force of the Scriptures and their present suitability to their cases. For instance, the gracious invitations of Christ, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28), and “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink” (John 7:37), must not be limited to our first approach to the Saviour as lost sinners, but as 1 Peter 2:4, says, “to whom coming”-in the present tense. Note too the “mourn” and not “have mourned” in Matthew 6:4, and “hunger” in verse 6. In like manner, that self-abasing word, “Who maketh thee to differ!” (1 Cor. 4:7) today: first from the unsaved; second from what we were before the new birth; and third from other Christians with less grace and gifts. Why, a sovereign God, and therefore you have nothing to boast of and no cause for self-glorying.

A word now upon the Spirit ‘s application of the Word unto the heart, and our task is completed. This is described in such a verse as, “For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance” (1 Thess. 1:5). That is very much more than having the mind informed or the emotions stirred, and something radically different from being deeply impressed by the preacher’s oratory, earnestness, etc. It is for the preaching of the Gospel to be accompanied by the supernatural operation of the Spirit, and the efficacious grace of God, so that souls are Divinely quickened, convicted, converted, delivered from the dominion of sin and Satan. When the Word is applied by the Spirit to a person, it acts like the entrance of a two-edged sword into his inner man, piercing, wounding, slaying his self-complacency and self- righteousness - as in the case of Saul of Tarsus (Romans 7:9, 10). This is the “demonstration of the Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:4), whereby He gives proof of the Truth by the effects produced in the individual to which it is savingly applied, so that he has “much assurance” - i.e. he knows it is God’s Word because of the radical and permanent change wrought in him.

Now the child of God is in daily need of this gracious working of the Holy Spirit: to make the Word work “effectually” (1 Thess. 2:13) within his soul and truly regulate his life, so that he can thankfully acknowledge, “I will never forget Thy precepts: for with them Thou hast quickened me” (Psalm 119:93). For that quickening it is his duty and privilege to pray (verses 25, 37, 40, 88, 107, 149, etc.). It is a fervent request that he may be “renewed day by day” in the inner man (2 Cor. 4:16), that he may be “strengthened with might by His Spirit” (Eph. 3:16), that he may be revived and animated to go in the path of God’s commandments (verse 35). It is an earnest petition that his heart may be awed by a continual sense of God’s majesty, and melted by a realization of His goodness, so that he may see light in God’s light, recognizing the evil in things forbidden and the blessedness of the things enjoined. “Quicken Thou me” is a prayer for vitalizing grace, that he may be taught to profit (Isaiah 48:17), for the increasing of his faith, the strengthening of his expectations, the firing of his zeal. It is equivalent to “draw me, we will run after Thee” (Song of Sol. 1:4).

The above content was published as a series of five articles in A.W. Pink’s Studies in the Scriptures from June through October, 1952 (A.W. Pink died July 15, 1952).