THE ONE GREAT REALITY
Author of "Heart Lessons", "Loving Messages", "Winning and Warning", "Wilderness Lessons", etc.
"I AM GOD, AND THERE IS NONE ELSE"— Isa. xiv. 22.
THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED to all my friends in Rusthall, in loving remembrance of our happy fellowship in the gospel during the past thirty years, with the earnest prayer that the messages may be stored up in their hearts and bring forth fruit in their lives when the voice which delivered them is still.
3, Somerville Gardens, Tunbridge Wells.
In response to the request of an old and esteemed friend I gladly add a Foreword to the collection of Addresses embodied in this volume.
I do so in recognition of the supreme importance of the great topics that have been chosen, and also in appreciation of the clear and attractive way in which the truth is set forth. May the messages find attentive and receptive readers, and be followed by deep and abiding spiritual blessing.
EVAN H. HOPKINS.
Woburn Chase, Addlestone, Surrey.
I GOD, THE GREAT REALITY
II GOD, OUR FATHER
III THE SON OF GOD
IV THE SPIRIT OF GOD
V THE VOICE OF GOD
VI THE HANDS OF GOD
VII THE WORD OF GOD
VIII HAVE FAITH IN GOD
IX THE CHURCH OF GOD
X THE KINGDOM OF GOD
INDEX OF CONTENTS
GOD, THE GREAT REALITY
Personal knowledge of God, the secret of happiness—Realising His Presence in prayer—Illustrations from the telephone and family life—God is our Father, Saviour, Comforter—The Living God-knowing all, and controlling everything—Illustrations from current events.
GOD, OUR FATHER
A Chinese convert—Christ's confidence in the Father—Christ reveals the Father—Philip's prayer, "Show us the Father"—What God is to us as Father—How the minister sang the Doxology in an empty flour barrel—The glorious calling of the children of God.
THE SON OF GOD
Christ is the Son of God from Eternity—He is sent to be the Saviour of the world—Three questions answered: Where did He come from? When did He come? Why did He come?—A working-man's experience—The story of the pearl necklace—Christ's work of redemption—Sir James Simpson's dying testimony—Hymn, "He came and took me by the hand."
THE SPIRIT OF GOD
God is a Spirit—True spiritual worship—The Spirit of God in Creation and Salvation—The New Birth—The work of the Holy Spirit convincing of sin, and revealing Christ—Searchlights—The loveliness of Christ—The Holy Ghost like a Mother—The Comforter.
THE VOICE OF GOD
Jacob's ladder, a type of Christ—Jacob brought face to face with God— What it is to hear the Voice of God—God's first call to man in the Garden of Eden—A perfect link of communication between God and man—The Voice of God speaking in His Word.
THE HANDS OF GOD
Why St. John wrote his Gospel—The safety of the believer—God's hands in Creation, Providence and Redemption—The "Scarred Hands"—The story of a brave shepherd lad—The Hands of Jesus wounded for our transgressions— The Three Crosses.
THE WORD OF GOD
The Glory of God seen in Nature—The Glory of God revealed in the Bible— The dying woman and her rich inheritance—God's Word brings wisdom, conversion, joy and light to the heart of man—Spurgeon's text in the Crystal Palace—A Chinese convert "behaving the Bible"—The Torch that will light you home—A neglected Bible.
HAVE FAITH IN GOD
Abraham the Friend of God—The greatness of his faith—Faith the gate into Life—Faith the link between the sinner and the Saviour—A missionary's faith rewarded—Illustrations from the telegraph and electricity—The wonders wrought by the touch of faith—Great faith brings Heaven into our souls—The difference between believing and committing.
THE CHURCH OF GOD
The Church of God: Past, Present, Future—Its Beginning and Growth—The Church the Body of Christ, a Living Union—The Church the Bride of Christ, a Loving Relationship—The Glory of this Union—Three Great Surprises—The Old Man's Message; Love, Eternal Love—The Four Precious Words—"Labelled and Ready"—The Glorious Future of the Church of God—The Church will show forth God's Grace and Glory in the Ages to come.
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
"Bringing the King back"—One King, Jesus, His entrance into Jerusalem— The Jews rejecting their King—His Kingdom in our hearts—Make Jesus King—The Cross the Way to the Throne—The dying thief received into the Kingdom—The King's Victory over the Powers of Darkness—The Coming King— The Glory of the Lord revealed—Christ's Reign on Earth—Rutherford's testimony—Miss Havergal's Prayer—The Eternal Kingdom.
GOD, THE GREAT REALITY
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE—Hebrews xi. 1-6.
God is the one great Reality. Will you close your eyes for a moment and say those words over again very slowly so as to let them burn into your inmost heart and soul. The Word of God tells us that "The Son of God is come and hath given us an understanding that we may know Him that is true": this means that we may personally know Him that is Reality. In the wonder of that moment when we first know that God is real and that God is near, then we cry out, "My God, how wonderful Thou art." To have personal knowledge of God is the secret of assurance and happiness, and to put real trust in Him changes our whole life, for then we can say, "I have a wonderful God."
To know God is Eternal life; to know Him fully, brings "life more abundantly"; to know Him with no veil between, is glory—life.
If you look again at the 6th verse of the 11th chapter of Hebrews you will notice a very clear statement: it says, "He that cometh to God must believe that He is," or to put it in other words, "the man who draws near to God must believe that there is a God."
Do you believe in God? Is He real to you? Here is one test. When you pray do you realise His Presence? Is He so close to you that it is like speaking into His ear?
It was this text, "He that cometh to God must believe that He is," which first awakened a worldly gentleman named Brownlow North to think about his soul. God's Spirit showed him that he had never really believed in God and that all his former religion was worthless, "for without faith it is impossible to please God." As soon as he had really learnt to know God, he devoted all his life to preaching the Gospel. He told every one that the first thing we need is to believe there is a God. Many of his friends who were rich and well educated were thus brought to a personal knowledge of God for the first time. He that cometh to God must believe that He is really there. Have you ever been conscious of the Presence of the living God? You must make sure that He is near before you can really pray.
We have an illustration of this in the telephone. You first put the speaking tube to your mouth and then you say "Are you there?" In any case you make sure that the person to whom you wish to speak, is listening at the other end. Although you cannot see any one, you know he is holding the receiver so as to hear what you say.
When you begin to pray always pause for a moment and remember that you are speaking to God. Do not say a word until the Holy Spirit puts you into direct communication with God. The Psalmist was quite sure that God was really listening to his prayer, for he says, "I love the Lord because He hath heard my voice and my supplications. Because He hath inclined His ear unto me therefore will I call upon Him as long as I live." [Footnote: Ps. cxvi. 1, 2.] And again, "I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice, and He gave ear unto me." [Footnote: Ps. lxxvii. 1.] It is in this way we realise that there is a God, a personal living God.
I asked a Christian man one day if he had prayed about some work which was offered to him, and his reply was, "Yes: I am on the telephone." Can you say the same? As soon as you have spoken through the telephone you put the receiver to your ear to listen for the answer. Many people pray without expecting to get an answer. They are like children who knock at a door and then run away before it is opened. The prophet Micah says, "I will wait for God, my God will answer me." [Footnote: Mic. vii. 7.] Yes, he expected to get an answer.
The Lord Jesus says, "When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut the door, pray to thy Father which is in secret." [Footnote: St. Matt. vi. 6.] When a child wants to tell his father something very private he whispers it in his ear. I daresay you have noticed that the telephone at the General Post Office is enclosed in a box, so that no one can overhear what is said. There are many things we say into God's ear which we could not tell to any one else. It makes Him very real to us, if we can say in our inmost hearts, "O God, Thou art my God, my very own Father."
When we speak through the telephone we never say useless words, and our Lord tells us to avoid needless repetitions when we pray, and He adds, "for your Father knows what things you need before ever you ask Him." Just as an earthly father delights to hear his children's, voices, so our heavenly Father loves to hear us speaking to Him, for He says, "Put Me in remembrance, let us plead together." [Footnote: Isa. xliii. 26.]
A child's intercourse with his father is quite simple and natural, he talks freely about everything. When you speak to God, is it an effort, or do you look up into His face with confidence and tell Him all? A child expects his father to supply all his wants and to be equal to every emergency, but we seem to have lost sight of the Father in heaven who is pledged to "supply all our need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." [Footnote: Phil. iv. 13.]
We must not be disappointed if we do not get all we want, because God's promise is to supply what we need. We often wish for things which we do not really need.
If ever you lose sight of God, think of the wonderful lesson which Jesus teaches when He says, "If ye then being evil know how to give good gifts unto your children," and you, fathers, always get the best you can for them, "how much more" (wonderful words), "how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him." [Footnote: St. Matt. vii. 11.] Have you ever heard God's voice saying to you, I am your Father; love Me, look to Me, trust Me, worship Me: "Open thy mouth wide and I will fill it." [Footnote: Ps. lxxxi. 10.]
A godly man who was a servant used to say, "There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God." He felt that God was nearer and dearer to him than any one else. This is what makes God real to us when we feel that He is near and dear.
"Only to sit and think of God, Oh! what a joy it is!"
It is just the same with your children if you are a really good, loving father, they are quite happy if they can sit close to you. Your very presence makes a great impression on them, even if you do not say a word. Is God's presence so real to you that it makes you control your temper and keeps you from saying unkind things?
A boy may be troublesome sometimes, but he never really doubts his father's love for him. Do you ever doubt God's love? Oh, yes: you say, I often murmur. Then this shows that in a sense you have never really known God. People would not speak as they do about God, I mean even Christians would not talk as they do if they really knew God. We often hear people say, "I hope God will be good to us," or, "I think it very hard God does not answer my prayer." This shows they have never personally known Him. Their thoughts about God are so contrary to what they sing. For example, how much do we really mean of that sweet hymn—
"Precious thought—my Father knoweth, In His love I rest; For whate'er my Father doeth. Must be always best. Well I know the heart that planneth Nought but good for me; Joy and sorrow interwoven, Love in all I see."
Do you ever doubt His wisdom and think you might have been treated better? When we really know our Father-God, then we see His wisdom even in the things that are against us. We know and we feel that they have all been working together for our good, "for He knows all."
This Book in my hand is The Word of God. It is a revelation of God, and the glory of God Himself shines in every page. The first word in it is, In the beginning God. Perhaps you ask me, "Who is God?" I will tell you. "He is my Father." But you say, I am so sinful, I am not worthy to be called His son. That is just what I felt, so sinful, and then He revealed Himself to me as my Saviour. Ah! you say, but I am so far off, how can I find my way to Him? And that was just like me till the Holy Spirit led me to Him. When God reveals Himself to you as Father, Saviour, Comforter, then you will know that God Himself is dwelling in your heart. Perhaps you ask, Will God really come and dwell in me for I am so unworthy? God Himself answers that question; "Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." [Footnote: Isa. lvii. 15.] Every one is standing now in view of God and Eternity.
A very long time ago the question was asked, "Canst thou by searching find out God?" [Footnote: Job xi. 7.] The only way we can find Him is by our spiritual necessities. If your soul needs life, you will find Him. If your spirit needs reviving, you will find Him. As this text says, I come "to revive the heart of the contrite ones."
When your children talk about their Father, he is a real Person to them; that is what God wants to be to us, a real personal God. He says, "I will be to them a God." [Footnote: Heb. viii. 10.] I know a little boy who whispered to his aunt one night when she was giving him the goodnight kiss, "Oh, Auntie, I sometimes wonder whether there is a God. Are you quite sure?" "Yes," said the aunt very earnestly, "I am quite sure. You see, I have known Him so long and He is so much to me, I am quite sure." The child was satisfied.
If you will turn again to Psalm cxvi. you will see a wonderful unfolding of the secret feelings of David's heart, and as we read it we cannot help saying to ourselves, the man who wrote this experience had very close dealings with some One about his soul. Who is this Some One? Do you know? Perhaps you think your religion is good enough to take you to heaven when you die, but alas! it begins and ends with the "Unknown God." How different to David's experience when he says out of a full heart, "I love the Lord," or as the word means, "I am full of love," and then he tells of his confidence in God; "I believed, therefore I have spoken," as if he had said, "God is so real to me now, I must tell others"; and he adds, "I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living." We can walk with God in our daily life just as Enoch did.
A good man said a short time ago, If ever I pass any one in the street with a careworn, anxious face, I long to say to them, "There is God," "Have faith in God." St. John said, "We have known and believed the love that God hath to us and in us—God is love." [Footnote: 1 John iv. 16.] This is the central fact, the one great reality in life, and when once it is grasped there is nothing to compare with it. Why is there so much unrest, so much ungodliness, and lawlessness in our midst? We are forgetting God. The only remedy is coming back to God.
A poor woman who has been a Christian for many years was telling me about her mother's sudden death the week before, and then she added, "I have never known God as I do now. The future used to look so dark, but now that I know Him as the Living God, I can only see life. I cannot tell you what He is to me." Her face, which bore traces of her recent sorrow, shone with a new peace and a new joy, which made me rejoice. I was sure that God had revealed Himself to her in her time of need. Those precious words had come true in her case, "In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit and said, I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them unto babes; even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight." [Footnote: St. Luke x. 21.]
Are you saying, "My soul thirsteth for God, for the Living God"? Then you will have a Personal revelation of God Himself, for that is the only way the life of God can enter into your soul and mine. Are you longing to find God? It is not that we find Him, but that He finds us, making Himself to us the great Reality. We may know wonderful things about Him, but that is not enough. We must really know Him in our hearts!
The very longing which you have for this personal revelation of God comes from the loving Father Himself, and He says, "I will give them a heart to know Me": [Footnote: Jer. xxiv. 7.] so we need never think, ah! it is beyond me, for He promises to give us the heart to know Him.
I had a striking instance of this some years ago. A working man who could not read or write told me that he had been converted at our meeting. He died in the Union Infirmary, and I heard afterwards that he had been a blessing to many in the ward. He said to me one day, "I want to tell you what God is to me." In very simple words he described how he could see it all plainly. How in the beginning, sin came into the Garden of Eden and then God revealed Himself to the sinner so as to bring him back to Himself. Again and again his simple testimony was, I must tell every one what God is to me. This man had learnt to know God personally through his own need as a sinner, so it is not by earthly education that we find God, but through the Holy Spirit's teaching, and then in the Word He reveals Himself more fully.
It is "through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord that grace and peace are multiplied to us," [Footnote: 2 Pet. i. 2.] so if we have not more and more grace and peace coming into our souls it is because we do not really know God.
It makes all the difference in our life when we can say, God is now my living Father; for it means God in His infinite love has taken my life into His, and by this personal link of love I take His life into mine. When He assures us that He is the Living God, it means that He lives and cares for us. All things, great and small, are under His control. We have an illustration of this in the present war. Think of our Navy, scattered over seven oceans, yet all under the control of the Commander-in-Chief, Sir John Jellicoe. Not one vessel can move without his orders, no ship can be attacked without his knowledge; the wireless apparatus is at work night and day communicating every detail. It brings Sir John word of any submarine sighted, or of any movement in all the seas round our country, and it carries his orders far and near.
When God tells us that He is the living God, we know that He cares for us in the same way as a mother cares for her children. We had a touching illustration of this about a year ago.
Do you remember how we were thrilled with horror when the Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria, was shot while driving through the city? He expired in a few minutes, leaving three children. In those few moments he turned to his wife who was seated by his side and said these pathetic words, "Sophie, live for our children." He did not know that she too had been mortally wounded and would be powerless to care for their orphan children.
It is because our Father-God is the living God, that He can say to us to- day just as He said to the Old Testament saints, "I am living for you, caring for you, protecting you." "Even to your old age I am He; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made and I will bear, even I will carry and will deliver you." [Footnote: Isa. xlvi. 4.] When He says to you, "I am God and there is none else," [Footnote 2: Isa. xlv. 22.] does your heart answer, Yes: "Even from everlasting to everlasting Thou art God." [Footnote 3: Ps. xc. 2.]
GOD OUR FATHER
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE—Matthew vii 24-34.
In the chapter we have just read there is a great deal about our daily home life, and the word "Father" is mentioned twelve times, so it shows that God knows all about the everyday work. It is a grand thing when we find this out.
A poor woman in China was converted, and very soon the lady missionary who visited her noticed that now her house was very clean and tidy, and told her how glad she was to see it.
The woman smiled, and said in her own simple way, "You see my Father God and the Lord Jesus are constantly coming in and out, so I like to keep it nice." She realised the Presence of God.
"The eyes of the Lord are in every place." [Footnote: Prov. xv. 3.] If we do not find God everywhere we practically end by finding Him nowhere.
A busy Christian mother told me that she begins each day and lives all the day long saying in her heart, "In Thy Presence and by Thy Power." We must not only say it, but act upon it as a reality, and then it will be our daily experience to be in touch with God.
There was one word which was very precious to Christ and which was often on His lips, and that was "Father." You remember how He stood one day at the grave of His friend Lazarus. All the mourners were standing round Him. Lazarus had been dead four days. It seemed utterly impossible that he could be restored to life again. No one expected it.
What did Jesus do? "Jesus lifted up His eyes and said 'Father.'" [Footnote: St. John xi. 41.] Those eyes were still wet with tears, for a few verses before we read "Jesus wept." Then He lifted up His eyes and said "Father": that was enough. There is everything in that word. It just meant, "I have told Father all about it." He knows, He loves, He cares, and all things are possible with Him. There is no limit to His power and His love.
Then the command was given to those standing near—"Take ye away the stone." Was Christ going into the cave? No, the dead man was to come out. So we have first the wondrous name "Father," and then the loud cry, "Lazarus, come forth," and he that was dead came out of the cold grave', out of the region of death into the land of the living.
All through His life on earth our Lord always speaks to God as Father. One verse especially brings out the perfect intimacy, the perfect confidence, the perfect love between the Lord Jesus and the Father. Jesus says, "All things are delivered unto Me of My Father, and no man knoweth the Son but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him." [Footnote: St. Matt. xi 27.] The last words of this verse are very precious, for they show that not only has the Son perfect knowledge of the Father, but He reveals or makes known the Father so that you and I may know Him as our Father.
You remember Philip prayed, "Lord, show us the Father, that is what we want," [Footnote: St. John xiv. 8.] and Christ answered, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father." Yes, "He is the image of the invisible God." God said to Moses, "Thou canst not see My Face and live for there shall no man see me and live," [Footnote: Exod. xxxiii. 20.] and for hundreds of years no one saw God. Then came the wondrous gift and the wondrous revelation. God gave His only Begotten Son, and in Him we see the Father. Praise the Lord! the glorious light has come to us in our darkness. For "God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." [Footnote: Cor. iv. 6.] The Apostle John says, "We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."
"No man hath seen God at any time," [Footnote: St. John i. 18.] and before Christ came the verse stopped there; but after He came, then God was fully revealed; so the verse finishes with the words "the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." Will you look up now, and say, "Lord, show me the Father," and He will reveal Him to you, because this is what He promises to do. Look at the last line of the 27th verse of Matthew xi. where Christ says, "He to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him," and without a pause He adds the wonderful invitation, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." It is to the weary and heavy laden that He reveals the Father. He invites them to share the fellowship He has with the Father, the peace and joy and rest of knowing the Father.
Why does He invite the weary ones to come to Him? because He felt in Himself such joy in this close fellowship with God, He wanted every one to have it too. He felt that His experience of what the Father was to Him was so rich, He longed for them to come and share it, "I will give you rest." It is as if He said, "I will give you the same rest I have when I am tired and hungry and thirsty; the same comfort that I have when I am misunderstood and reviled; the rest, the comfort, the peace I have in My Father."
We have the same assurance when the Holy Ghost says in St. Paul's letter to the Corinthians, "Grace be to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort." [Footnote: 2 Cor. i, 2, 3.]
How can you and I know what the Lord Jesus found in His Father's love? He has graciously made it known to us in the four Gospels. There the veil is drawn aside and we see how all through His life He was in close fellowship with the Father.
We can hear the very words which the Son spoke to His Father in the hour of deep agony: "O My Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt." [Footnote: St. Matt. xxvi. 39.] The last words on His lips when He was dying on the Cross were, "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit." [Footnote: St. Luke xxiii. 46.] He said to His disciples the last night, "You will leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me." All through His life He spoke of His oneness with the Father and the joy of doing and finishing the work which He gave Him to do.
We too can have the sense of God's Presence in our souls at all times. A Christian woman who was suffering from neuralgia told me that one night when she could not sleep, a voice seemed to whisper softly to her, "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him, for He knoweth our frame, He knows all about our poor bodies, for He made them," [Footnote: Ps. ciii. 13, 14.] and with those words of comfort in her mind she fell into a refreshing sleep.
If you will turn to the 6th chapter of St. Matthew again you will see in the 8th verse that our Heavenly Father knows about something else. "He knows what things we have need of before we ask Him."
The secret of what it is to have God as our Father, and the sweetness of it, comes out in these three homely questions, What shall we eat, what shall we drink, what shall we wear? And Christ says, [Footnote: St. Matt, vi. 31, 32.] Take no thought, that means, do not be anxious about these things, for your Heavenly Father knoweth that you have need of all these things. Yes, if He knows, that is enough, and then we have only to trust Him for all.
Do you find your faith failing sometimes? It is one thing to trust God when the wages are coming in regularly, and quite another thing to trust Him when times are bad. It is just then we learn to look less at our faith and more at God's Faithfulness.
A minister once gave a little bit of his experience about this. He said, "It is only as we really take God's promises and plant our feet upon them that we shall find faith abiding in times of testing. The last penny may be gone but GOD is there. I know this to be true.
"I have often said when preaching, 'It takes real faith in God to be able to put your head into an empty flour barrel and sing the doxology.' My wife had heard me say this, and one morning she called me to come into the kitchen. I said, 'What do you want me for?' She replied, 'I want you to come out here and sing.' I thought this queer, so I went to see what it all meant.
"In the middle of the kitchen was an empty flour barrel that she had just dusted out. 'Now, my dear,' she said, 'I have often heard you say one could put his head into an empty flour barrel and sing, "Praise God from Whom all blessings flow," if he believed what God says. Now here is your chance, practise what you preach.'
"There was the empty flour barrel staring at me with open mouth, and my purse was empty too. I looked for my faith, but could not find it; I looked for a way of escape, but could not find one, for my wife blocked the doorway with the dust brush covered with flour.
"I said, 'I will put my head in and sing on one condition.'
"'What's that?' asked my wife.
"'On condition that you will put your head in and sing too. You know you promised to share all my joys and sorrows.'
"She consented, so we put our heads in and sang the doxology, and we told our heavenly Father 'all about our need.' Yes, we had a good time, and when we got our heads out we were a good bit powdered up, which we took as a token that there was more flour to follow!
"Sure enough, though no one knew of our need, the next day a barrel of flour was sent. Where it came from or who sent it we never knew, but our heavenly Father knew that we had 'need of these things.'"
Does not this simple testimony teach us all a lesson? I wonder how many of us can say from our hearts—
Those who trust do not worry; Those who worry do not trust.
Which are you doing, dear friends? Trusting or worrying? Count on God. He never fails, and He knows just what to do. The moment a difficulty comes, look up and say "Father," and at once the burden will roll off, He will undertake all for you.
I had an illustration of this one day when I was going across the Common. It was very windy, and two little girls lost their hats; they were quite at their wits' end, till they caught sight of their father in the distance, and at once they called to him, "Father, father." That was enough, in a minute he ran to help them.
I have often found great help in looking up again and again during the day and just saying "Father." Try it. You, fathers, often say to your children, "If you want me just call me." That is what our heavenly Father tells us to do.
To know God means not only to trust Him, but also to treat Him as a Father. If you will read the 6th chapter of St. Matthew carefully when you are at home, you will see that it gives the experience of the child of God with the Father for one whole day. It includes all that we need during the day:—food, clothing, forgiveness, victory over temptation, grace to do God's will, and grace in dealing with others.
This experience is so deep, so real, so entirely something between Father and child, that in this chapter we find the words "in secret" no less than six times. When the little child is looking up into a loving father's face and talking to him, it never thinks of those around. "In secret" means a sweet sense of His Presence in the soul and of close communion with Him. "I write unto you, little children, because you have known the Father." [Footnote: I St. John ii. 13.]
God is our Father, because He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: this is one of the greatest treasures of Redeeming Grace. All the teaching about God as Father comes from the lips of Jesus, and it is in this way He reveals the Father to us; so if we would know Him, we must drink in His teaching and watch His life of communion with God. By His life He reveals to us the reality of the experience into which He calls us to enter. He also shows us the way. He not only says "Come to Me," but also Come through Me. "I am the Way: no man cometh unto the Father but by Me." [Footnote: St. John xiv. 6.] It was by dying for us He opened the Way. "God sent forth His Son to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts crying, Abba, Father." [Footnote: Gal. iv. 6, 7] So we are not only received into God's family, but we have also all the privileges of sonship. We are made "heirs of God, joint heirs with Christ."
Perhaps you are thinking of your unworthiness; like the Prodigal Son you are ready to say "Father, I have sinned again and again, I am not worthy to be called Thy son." God knows just what you are and what you have been, and He Himself has asked the question, "How shall I put you among the children?" It is a question which none but the Lord would ever have thought of, and it would never have been answered if He Himself had not answered it. It is a wonderful answer: for He says, "Thou shalt call Me, My Father." [Footnote: Jer. iii. 19.] God Himself puts us sinners among His children, and no one else can do it, and He keeps us; for He says, "Thou shalt not turn away from Me." How does He do it? By creating a new life in us, we are "born again." The old nature is not improved, but a new heart is given. "A new heart also will I give you, and a new Spirit will I put within you." [Footnote: Ezek. xxxvi. 26.]
Can you say, "God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into my heart," and now I can call Him my Father? Being made the children of God by adoption and grace, let us enjoy the privileges which are secured to us; let us act as loving children should do.
Does it all seem too good to be true? Trust His Word, "As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His Name." [Footnote: St. John i. 12]
Some of you remember the joy which thrilled you when you first received Him as your Saviour, but perhaps it was not until afterwards that you realised the blessedness of your new position as sons of God.
The Holy Spirit leads us on step by step. First, He assures us that "there is no condemnation," then He sets us free from the bondage of sin and death. [Footnote: Rom. viii. i, 2.] All is changed now, we feel the confidence of a child who has free access to his father at all times. There are three things which mark the children of God, the spiritual mind, the spiritual walk, and the spiritual talk. "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirits that we are the children of God." [Footnote: Rom. viii. 16.] We then call out with the consciousness of sonship, "Father, Father."
The witness of the Spirit was given to me soon after my conversion and thrilled me with joyful assurance. It came to me when a Christian doctor was telling his children about the way of salvation. He drew a line on the carpet with a stick and said, "On one side there is DEATH, on the other, LIFE," and I said to myself, "I know which side of the line I am on." So it was by means of this simple remark that I found out that I was really a child of God, and my heart began from that time to cling to God as my Father. Every day since then I have experienced the blessedness of trusting Him and knowing Him as my Father. Is this your happy portion? If not, why not?
THE SON OF GOD
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE—St. John i. 1-18, 29-34.
"THIS IS THE SON OF GOD." These are the closing words of John the Baptist's striking testimony, What a grand message! How it thrills us through and through! On and on the glorious words ring out, "The Son of God is come." Many years after, when the Apostle John was a very old man, he wrote in one of his letters, "We know that the Son of God is come." [Footnote: I John v. 20.]
Now look back to the first words of our chapter. "In the beginning was the Word." Who is the Word? It is "the Son of God." When was the beginning? Long, long ago in Eternity that is past "the Son of God was the brightness of His Father's glory and the express image," [Footnote: Heb. i. 3.] or exact representation, "of His Person." In His last prayer with His disciples our Lord speaks of "the glory which He had with the Father before the world was." [Footnote: St. John xvii. 5.]
The first verse of this Gospel takes us back long before this world was created. Then we come to the creation in verse 3: "All things were made by Him." This is exactly what is said in the first verse of the Bible of another beginning, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Long before this world was created we read of God's dear Son as "the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature." All things were created by Him and for Him, and He is before all things, the Eternal Son of God. [Footnote: Col. i. 15-17.]
He says, "I was set up from everlasting from the beginning, before ever the earth was. When He appointed the foundations of the earth, then I was by Him as one brought up with Him; I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him: rejoicing in the habitable parts of the earth, and My delights were with the sons of men." [Footnote: Gen. i. 26.]
How wonderful it is to think that in the Eternity that is past, and long before the world was made, God had two grand purposes. One was to create man to be the head of the whole human race. So, when the moment came that the earthly home was ready, then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness." [Footnote: Prov. viii. 23, 29, 30, 31.]
The other grand purpose in the Eternal counsel between the Father and His Son was to redeem man after he had fallen through sin. The Redeemer is the Son of God Himself, so He was foreordained to this work of redemption before the Creation of the world—"The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." [Footnote: Rev. xiii. 8.] Hundreds of years rolled on, and then the glorious message from heaven was sounded forth over the plains of Bethlehem:—"Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy ... for unto you is born this day a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." [Footnote: St. Luke ii. 10, 11.]
THE SON OF GOD IS COME
Where did He come from? When did He come? Why did He come? These are some of the questions we must try to answer.
First, where did He come from? He came forth from God. He was in the bosom of the Father from all Eternity. He said to the disciples, "I came forth from the Father and am come into the world." [Footnote: St. John xvi. 28.]
We have read of two beginnings, now we will look at another beginning. In the first chapter of St. Mark's Gospel, and the first verse, we read, "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." Here we have the beginning of all that grand and glorious work of Salvation which is still being carried on by our Lord at the Father's right hand in heaven.
So we read of three beginnings, and these three are all of God. There is one more which is also of God.
It is the beginning of the life of Christ in the soul. When we read about "the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ," we know it means the beginning of His life on earth. Have you ever asked whether there has been a beginning of His life in your heart? Is it only what you read about, or is it a personal experience in your soul? Alas! many join in singing the chorus, "What a wonderful Saviour," who cannot say, "He is my own dear Saviour." They have never been able to say "My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour."
What is this personal experience of the life of Christ in the soul? It is what the Apostle Paul describes when he says, "I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." [Footnote: Gal. ii. 20.]
"Once far from God and dead in sin, No light my heart could see: But in God's Word the light I found, Now Christ liveth in me."
In writing to the Galatians he says, "My little children, you for whom I am again undergoing, as it were, the pains of child-birth, until Christ is fully formed within you" [Footnote: Gal. iv. 19.] (Weymouth's translation).
THE SON OF GOD IS COME.
Secondly, When did He come? "It was when the fulness of the time was come," [Footnote: Gal. iv. 4.] that is when the time was ripe for it. God's clock is never too fast or too slow: so at the exact moment "when the fulness of time was come God sent forth His Son." Still and always His Son, but now "made of a woman," "God, manifest in the flesh"—the God- man.
THE SON OF GOD IS COME.
What is His Name? God Himself gave the Name. "Thou shalt call His name Jesus." [Footnote: St. Matt. i. 21.] No other name was to be given: it is a command, "thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save": that is why He is come. "He is come to seek and to save that which was lost." "Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He Himself shall save His people from their sins." He is presented to us as a living personal Saviour. The promise is, "He, Himself shall save." It means that He will abide in each believing soul for ever. Yes, moment by moment and for ever. He abides in us as the Deliverer from all sin. What a glorious promise! Are you living in the reality of it?
"Jesus! Name of wondrous love, Human Name of God above."
It is the God-given Name. "The Name which is above every name." Is it precious to you?
THE SON OF GOD IS COME.
Thirdly, Why did He come? The King sends ambassadors to represent him in foreign countries, but God sent "His own dearly loved Son." "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." [Footnote: St. John iii. 16.] The little word "so" means love in its unutterable fulness, and God is the source of it. Have you ever thanked Him for the unspeakable gift of His dear Son? Link the two words together, God—the world: it means God and you: God and me. Then link together loved and gave. It will take Eternity to get to the bottom of those two words. Now add that other precious text, "He loved me: He gave Himself for me," [Footnote: Gal. ii. 20.] and you have "the grace of God bringing salvation."
Six times in the Epistles we find the words "He gave Himself," and in I Peter ii. 24, it says, "Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree." This is why the Son of God is come, and it is this which makes Him so personally real to us when earthly things are fading away.
I knew a working man who had a long, painful illness which lasted three years. I rejoice to say that soon after it began he was converted. He was so earnest that his one thought was to tell others what a dear Saviour he had found, and many were led to Christ through his example and testimony. His mother was converted through him and she is now carrying on the Christian work which he began. What was it that changed this man? It was the Holy Spirit revealing Christ to him as a living personal Saviour. The day before he died he said to his sister, "I had such a lovely time with the Master this morning in between the pain. Oh! it was like healing balm to me and He gave me a little hymn—
"'Jesus loves me, He who died Heaven's gate to open wide: He will wash away my sin, Let His little child come in.'"
How wonderful that a man nearly 40 years of age should find such comfort in a simple little hymn. But it is thus the Lord reveals Himself.
Do you feel that you are like a lost sheep? "The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." [Footnote: St. Luke xix. 10.]
THE SON OF GOD IS COME!
It is a fact, a certainty. A great reality. Nothing can take it from us. It is a living experience in our inmost hearts. "And we know," says the Apostle John, "that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true; and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son, Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life." [Footnote: I John v. 20.]
The Son of God is come and God presents Him to us as His Perfect Son and our Perfect Saviour. Twice during His earthly ministry there was a voice from heaven which said, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased": "In whom I have perfect delight now and for ever." Can you reply, "This is my Beloved Saviour and He is everything to me"? [Footnote: St. Matt. iii. 17 and xvii. 5.] He is either everything or nothing.
Are you like the merchant in the parable, "seeking goodly pearls, who when he had found one pearl of great price went and sold all that he had and bought it"? Is your heart singing
"I've found the pearl of greatest price, My heart doth sing for joy; And sing I must for Christ is mine! Christ shall my song employ!"
A Chinese convert told one of the missionaries that he happened to take up a Testament which had been sold to the people of the house by a colporteur, but they could not see the meaning of it, so they laid it on one side. "But," he went on to say, "from the moment my eyes lighted upon it, I was greatly attracted by it. So I read and kept on reading till the meaning dawned upon me, and then," he added with a beaming face, "I found the Pearl of Great Price."
This reminds me of that strange story of a very valuable pearl necklace worth L117,000 which was lost about a year ago. It was sent by post from Paris to London when it suddenly disappeared and no one knew what had become of it. A very large reward was offered to any one who found it.
But now comes the wonderful part of the story. One morning, a man of the name of Horne was on his way to the factory where he was employed when he saw a large match-box lying in the gutter in St. Paul's Road, near London. He picked it up and put it in his pocket. Presently he went into a public- house to have a glass of beer and there he met two of his mates. He took the match-box out of his pocket, pushed it open, and seeing it was filled with what he thought were white beads or marbles, he said to them, "What do you think of these, I've just picked them up?" "Oh! they're no good," replied one of the men, "throw them away." However, Horne decided to take them to the Police Station. The officers looked at them and said they were worth nothing, but gave him a receipt for them.
On their way to the factory they turned into another public-house for a drink, and while there Horne found one of the marbles loose in his coat pocket. "Oh!" he said, "I've got one of them left." Holding it up in his fingers, he looked round and asked, "Will any one give me a penny for it?" But no one would have it.
In another public-house where they stopped, he offered the pearl for a glass of beer, but no one accepted the offer. The pearl which was worth many hundreds of pounds was despised by one and all. Then Horne offered it for a packet of cigarettes, but again it was handed back with the remark, "That's no good to me." So one of his friends suggested that he should crush it under the heel of his boot as it was no good.
Later on when some one asked him what he had done with it he said he had thrown it away.
It is a wonderful story and quite true. "Oh!" you say, "what a thousand pities, if that man Horne had only known its value, it would have made him a rich man in one day."
Are you not surprised that none of these men ever thought of finding out the real value of that pearl? But is it not stranger still that scarcely any one ever stops to inquire who Jesus Christ really is, and the meaning of His death on the Cross? You listened just now with astonishment to the questions and answers about this valuable pearl, and yet the same questions are being asked every day about another Pearl, God's Pearl of great price, and people are treating it with the same indifference. How the angels must look on and wonder!
There are two questions which you have to answer now. First, What think ye of Christ, whose Son is He? Can you say, "He is the Son of God"? Think of the Glory of His Person: it is "the glory of the only begotten of the Father." Think of His Divine Mission: sent by God to be the Saviour now and the Judge by and by. Think of Him as God's great Gift to a perishing world. Have you received Him?
The other question which you have to answer is, "What shall I do with Jesus?" Remember God hath given to us Eternal Life and this life is in His Son. "He who has the Son has life, and he who has not the Son of God has not life." [Footnote: I John v. 12.] Jesus is pleading with you, saying, "Ye will not come," that means, you are unwilling to come to Me "that you may have Life." [Footnote: St. John v. 40.] By and by you will have to face another question, "What will He do with me?"
"The Son of God is come." It is God Himself who presents Him to us: "Behold the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world." [Footnote: St. John i. 29.] He is the One whom God Himself has provided and set apart: and "now He has appeared once for all to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." [Footnote: Heb. ix. 26.] There on Calvary's Cross before the eyes of crowds of people "who came together to see that sight," He is set forth as the spotless Son of God who was made an offering for sin. He it is "whom God now sets forth to us as a propitiation." [Footnote: Rom. iii. 25.] He it is, and no other, whom God sets forth as a Mercy seat, the Blood-sprinkled Mercy Seat. God's eye rests on Christ and His finished work, and because it is a full, perfect and sufficient satisfaction for all our sins, "God sets Him forth in order to demonstrate His righteousness that He may be shown to be righteous Himself and the giver of righteousness to those who believe in Jesus." Oh, what a comfort it is to me to know that He is always there standing before God as the Righteous One, and therefore when God looks at me in all my unworthiness He does not see me, He only sees His dear Son.
When that godly physician Sir James Simpson was dying, the minister who was by his bedside asked if he had any doubts. He looked up and said, "I have no doubts; when I stand before God I shall just hold up Christ to God."
This is why Jesus is come, and this is why Jesus died, that the believing soul may hold Him up to God as "the One who has been made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption," [Footnote: I Cor. i. 30.] and it is all God's doing, from first to last. I love to say to myself,—
"I'm a poor sinner and nothing at all, But Jesus Christ is my all in all."
Our salvation depends on believing God's Word, that He has accepted our Surety. When God raised Him from the dead, it was a proof that all the claims of His holiness and justice had been fully met and satisfied. The debt is paid because Jesus paid it all. He gave Himself as a ransom— the redemption price for all.
So now God sets Him forth in all His untold preciousness and proclaims the glorious message, "Deliver him, that poor helpless sinner, from going down into the pit. I have found a ransom." [Footnote: Job xxxiii. 24.]
What was the price to be paid? "The Son of man is come to give His life a ransom for many." "We are redeemed, not with silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ." Who can tell how precious? "More precious far than gold." Think what it cost the Father: He gave His only Son. "Having yet one son, His well-beloved, He said, I will send Him."
Think what it cost the Son of God. Think of His agony in the garden, and then the hiding of His Father's face, and last of all the pouring out His soul unto death on the cross. Our redemption is doubly precious, not only because of the price paid, but because of the Divine and Holy One who paid it, the Lord of glory, even the Son of God Himself, "Which things even the angels desire to look into." [Footnote: 1 Pet. i. 12.] They long to see into the depths of this wondrous redeeming love.
Can you sing this chorus from your heart—
"Precious, precious, Precious is my Lord to me; Precious, precious, Everything in Him I see."
Think of what we have been rescued from! Christ has redeemed us from sin, and death and hell.
Think of the cost of this great salvation, and then ask yourself, how much is it worth to me? We shall only be able to answer that question when we are safe home in the glory. Then we shall be looking back on death, looking back on the Judgment of the great White Throne, as never having come into it: looking back on the old world which has passed away.
"When this passing world is done, When has sunk yon glorious sun, When I go to Christ in glory, Looking o'er life's finished story; Then, Lord, shall I fully know Not till then—how much I owe."
Think of the last plague which God sent upon Egypt. It was not till the midnight cry, that exceeding great and bitter cry had resounded through the land of Egypt showing that the destroying angel had entered the houses of the Egyptians, leaving death and desolation there; it was not till the judgment had actually come that the Israelites realised the delivering power of the blood which they had sprinkled on their doorposts. Think of their wonder and of their thankfulness. They had believed and obeyed before, but now their hearts are filled with gratitude and praise. If you have really cast yourself and all your sins on Christ, then you too will join in the new song, saying, "Thou art worthy, for Thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God by Thy Blood." [Footnote: Rev. v. 9.]
To receive Christ now into our hearts by faith is to be born of God: [Footnote: St. John. i. 12, 13.] spiritual life is imparted to the believer.
To feed upon Christ day by day is to live by Him: [Footnote: St. John vi. 57.] this is the evidence of life in the believer.
To see Christ by and by and to be like Him, is life perfected in glory. [Footnote: 1 John iii. 2.]
Dear fellow sinners, let me entreat you most earnestly in the light of an Eternity that is coming, and as you value your precious, never-dying souls, do not trifle with God's unspeakable Gift. "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" [Footnote: Heb. ii. 3.] No one either in heaven or upon earth can answer that question. If the lost in hell could speak to us they would tell us that there is no escape.
THE SON OF GOD IS COME,
and oh! the wonder of it all, "He came to where I was." The words of this beautiful hymn describe it—
"I looked and there was none to help, 'No man' could meet my case: A weary, world-worn heart was mine, Without a resting place. Then One drew near, the Christ of God, With pitying eyes He scanned, Jesus came to me where I was, And took me by the hand.
"He led me first to Calvary's mount, And, oh! what sight it gave! The agony, the life out-poured, It cost Him there to save. My heart fell broken at His feet, Who could such love withstand? The love that came to where I was, And took me by the hand.
"He lifted me upon a rock, Round me His light He shed; He poured His peace into my heart, He healed, He held, He fed. Ah! then I knew that holy One, The whole could understand. The One who came to where I was, And took me by the hand.
"And since that day, through all the days, His love my way has planned: He comes to bless me where I am, He takes me by the hand. This glorious One is all to me, He shall my life command, The Christ who came to where I was, And took me by the hand."
THE SPIRIT OF GOD
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE—St. John iv. 1-26
God is a Spirit. Look at this poor woman standing at the well and let us try and realise what a wonderful revelation it was which Christ made known to her soul about God. He told her that God is Father, that God is Saviour, and that God is Spirit; three Persons but one God.
The Lord opened her heart and she grasped this wondrous truth.
Christ said to her, "God the Father is seeking you, He is longing for you to come to Him." Then He let her feel and see that He is the Saviour.
Was it not wonderful that she was the first to tell the good news that He is "the Saviour of the world"? [Footnote: St. John iv. 42.]
Christ said to her, "God is a Spirit," and she found that no one else but God could touch her heart.
Until the Spirit of God comes into our hearts, we cannot really know God personally or have communion with Him. "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God." [Footnote: 1 Cor. ii. 12.]
Although our hearts are so sinful the Holy Spirit is longing to come in. He found an entrance into the heart of this poor woman whose life was a wreck with its four great failures. Every life is a failure in God's sight, but we must never despair of any one, for "with God all things are possible," and as long as life lasts there is hope for the sinner.
"The Lord opened her heart," she heard and believed, and went home to tell others what a dear Saviour she had found. It was the beginning of a revival at Sychar, and every revival begins in the same way, God is revealed by His Spirit and men realise the nearness of God.
Until a man really finds out what God is, there can be no true spiritual worship. This is the truth Jesus came to make known to us when He says, "God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth," for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. Yes, the Father is seeking us, yearning for us to come close to Him and to respond to His love for us. When our Lord tells us that we must worship in spirit, He means that it is the spirit in man which responds to the Spirit of God. Do you offer Him your heart's devotion and praise, or is it only lip-worship?
True spiritual worship does not depend on forms or ceremonies or on any special place or time. I felt the point of this when a railwayman said to me, "We can be in touch with God all the day long."
God is a Spirit, just as "God is Light." [Footnote: 1 John i. 5.] And there are no limitations as to where He works or His ways and time of working.
The Holy Spirit reveals to us far more about God than we ever imagined. The Bible says, "Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit." [Footnote: 1 Cor. ii. 9, 10.]
Until the Holy Spirit opens our blind eyes to see spiritual things we cannot understand them. It is not the words of man's wisdom which can explain them, we need to use spiritual words for spiritual truths, so we can only speak as the Holy Spirit teaches us what to say. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him," [Footnote: 1 Cor. ii. 14.] he does not grasp the meaning of them.
It is because God is a Spirit that he meets our spiritual need when we feel altogether helpless and hopeless in ourselves, for He says, "I will put My Spirit within you." [Footnote: Ezek. xxxvi. 27.] God begins in the very centre of our being, in our innermost hearts. God makes Himself known to us as God, through our spiritual necessities.
The Presence of the Holy Spirit is a personal thing in each one who receives Him. There is only one way by which we can receive the Holy Spirit, and that is by faith. The Holy Ghost has been given. Will you ask yourself, Have I received Him? If not, why not?
When God puts His Spirit into our hearts He abides with us for ever. He never leaves us. Even when we grieve Him by our coldness of heart, He does not leave us.
It is God who begins the work of grace in our hearts. The Book which reveals to us what God is, opens with the words, "In the Beginning, God." [Footnote: Gen. i. 1.] God is the Beginner of all things, not only of the creation of the world, but of the new creation in our souls. This Book unfolds to us how God begins and finishes the great work of redemption and salvation.
We find another marvellous beginning which is also unfolded in this Book. "The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." [Footnote: 1 Gen. i. 2.] It is a remarkable word; it means the Spirit of God brooded on the face of the waters. In Genesis we read, "The Spirit of God was brooding," and in the Gospels we find the Spirit of God compared to a dove. The word "brooding" is a figure of the mother dove brooding over her nest and cherishing her young. The first time the Holy Spirit is mentioned in the Old Testament is in this verse, and the first emblem of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament is in the 3rd chapter of St. Matthew's Gospel, where it says that, after our Lord had been baptized, "The heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting upon Him." [Footnote: St. Matt. iii. 16.]
First let us look at the background of the picture. We see darkness and desolation, death and ruin. Then we see the Spirit of God, the Dove of peace, brooding over it all, and bringing light and life, love and peace out of the confusion.
So the two thoughts which are here brought to our minds are Motherhood and Peace. If you look carefully into the Word of God you will see how the thought of Motherhood is brought before us in many ways in connection with the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit.
When Christ is speaking of the New Birth, He says we are "born of the Spirit." [Footnote: St. John iii. 6.] Again, when the cry of the new-born soul is spoken of, we are told how it comes; for Paul says, "God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." [Footnote: Gal. iv. 6] Again there is the beautiful expression, "The Spirit of Adoption." "We have received the Spirit of adoption whereby we cry Abba, Father." [Footnote: Rom. viii. 15.] "Abba" means "dear Father."
When God would reveal His heart of love to us He says, "As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you." [Footnote: Isa. lxvi. 13.] Think of a mother busy with her work, and her little one playing on the floor. Presently there is a cry, it has fallen down, and in a moment the mother is by its side to soothe it. But there is something sweeter still. Even if nothing befall the child the mother is near by to help it over every difficulty and to respond to every look and sign. Even so our God who is to us our Mother Comforter, says, "Before they call I will answer, and while they are yet speaking I will hear." [Footnote: Isa. lxv. 24]
The little child always turns to its mother for comfort in every trouble. There is one thing which we notice in every home, that is, the mother's tender love and constant care for her little one. Night and day her child is her one thought. So the Lord says of His people, "I the Lord do keep it, lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day." [Footnote: Isa. xxvii. 3.] Every child of God can say—
"Moment by moment I'm kept in His love."
Does the child need the mother's constant, watchful care? Yes, because everything around is like a new world to the little one, it is all a new experience. The mother gives herself up so entirely to the child that it depends on her for everything. In the same way when the soul is born again it is brought into a new relation to God, it has entered into a new experience and the Holy Spirit becomes to it just what the mother is to the child and much more.
Just as the mother trains the little one to take the first steps in walking and holds it up, so it is the Holy Spirit who teaches us how to walk and to please God. The little hand is slipped into mother's hand to be led and held up. "As many as are led by the Spirit of God they are the sons of God." [Footnote: Rom. viii. 14.]
The mother keeps the child close to her, so the Holy Spirit is the Comforter to us, by our side, for the word "Comforter" means, The one whom we call to our side to help us. Just as the mother tells her child what to say when it wants anything, so He helps us when we pray, "for we know not what we should pray for as we ought." [Footnote: Rom. viii. 26.]
"The Comforter is come." When did He come? On the day of Pentecost, for it was then that the Holy Spirit was poured out, and He has been with us ever since.
Let those words ring in your heart and in your life, "The Comforter is come." [Footnote: St. John xv. 26.] There is a beautiful hymn which illustrates the presence and work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. It begins with the words—
"Spirit Divine! attend our prayers, And make our hearts Thy home."
Then four things are mentioned which show forth God's power in Nature. Light, fire, dew, wind. In the Bible they are all used as symbols of the Presence and Power of the Holy Spirit working in the hearts of men.
In Nature we know that human power is small compared with the power of light, fire, wind, and water. Have we learnt to depend only on the Power of the Holy Ghost? God's Voice is ever saying to us now, oh! that we may listen, "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord." [Footnote: Zech. iv. 6.] Just as all the marvels of the natural world are perfectly carried out by God's wisdom and power, so He has given the Holy Spirit to make Him perfectly known as a living Presence, a living Power and Reality in our hearts and lives.
In the second verse of the hymn we find the words—
"Come as the Light—to us reveal Our emptiness and woe."
We know what the light does when it shines into a room, It reveals or shows up any dust we had not noticed before. So when the light of God shines into our hearts it reveals what we never saw before.
Have you ever watched the battleships on a dark night, anchored a little way off from the coast? Suddenly the bright dazzling searchlights are sent out from the ship. They seem to sweep over the ocean with their sparkling light and then to wrap you round, as you stand there on the shore. The sight fills you with wonder; you feel as if the eyes of all on board ship can see you.
It is the same when the Holy Spirit shines into our hearts; it is almost overwhelming; we can only cry, "Woe is me, for I am undone." [Footnote: Isa. vi. 5.] We stand condemned under the searching eye of God. All our self-righteous excuses are swept away. We can no longer take refuge in the fact that we are as good as others and a great deal better than some of our neighbours. The dazzling light of God's Presence has searched us through and through and turned us inside out. Is this searching necessary for every one? Yes, for it is the only way we can learn to know the evil of our hearts.
Sometimes the light of the Holy Spirit comes to us in a quiet moment and shows us what we never saw before. Sometimes it comes like a flash. It flashed out on the road when Saul of Tarsus was on his way to Damascus. He described it when he was being tried before King Agrippa, "At midday, O King, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me. And I fell to the ground and I heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he tells us also that he could not see for the glory of that light." [Footnote: Acts xxvi. 13, xxii 17.] Whenever the light comes it is a revelation, a moment never to be forgotten: Darkness conceals, light reveals.
The Spirit of God brooded over the face of the waters, and God said, "Let there be light and there was light." [Footnote: Gen. i. 3.]
The Holy Spirit not only shows us what we are, but He shows Christ to us; then we see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." [Footnote: 2 Cor. iv. 6.] Yes, God's glory is radiant on the face of Christ and the Holy Spirit reveals it. He delights to show us His beauty and His loveliness and thus to glorify Him. He makes Him a reality in our souls—"a living bright Reality." If you have not seen Him as "altogether lovely" it is not because the Holy Spirit is not willing to show Him to you, but because you turn away and will not look.
How good it is of God to send the Holy Spirit into this world on purpose to reveal these things to us. We should never see them but for Him. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned." [Footnote: I Cor. ii. 14.] What is the natural man? It is what we are by nature before the Spirit of God gives us a new life. When it says "He receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God," it means that he has no power to receive them. He is groping in the dark, loving the darkness rather than the light.
A poor woman who had led a careless worldly life, sent me this message when she was dying, "Tell her the little prayer she taught me has been answered. She will understand. Tell her God has shown me myself and He has shown me Himself, so I am going to be with Him."
The little prayer which she had learnt from my lips was this—"Lord, show me myself; Lord, show me Thyself." How I thanked God that He used it for the saving of her soul.
When the Holy Spirit convinces us of sin and of our need of a Saviour, He does not leave us there. He draws aside the veil and reveals to us the secret love of God. When our eyes have been opened to know that God is Light, then we find out that God is Love. How did this love of God show itself? God sent His Son, "In this was manifested the love of God towards us because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him." [Footnote: 1 John iv. 9.] It is not only the Love of God made known and shining out in the Gift of His Son, but we are told that "God commendeth His love towards us." [Footnote: Rom. v. 8.] How does God commend His love? He sets together His love for His Son and His love for the sinner, and His love for the sinner is so great that He gave His Son to die for us. Thus the words "God commendeth His love" make it quite clear that "God loves the sinner with a love which gives its best, gives everything, keeping nothing back, and gives to everybody."
"Oh, the love that gave Jesus to die, The love that gave Jesus to die, Praise God it is mine this love so Divine— The love that gave Jesus to die."
"God commendeth His love towards us in that, when we were yet sinners," it makes no difference who we are or what we have been, the Holy Spirit fixes our thoughts on that little word "yet." The text says, "When we were yet sinners, still far off, still lost and undone, Christ died for us"; so the Blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, "cleanseth us from all sin." [Footnote: I John i. 7.] When we feel that sin is really a burden then the Holy Spirit points us to the little word "all." Then He applies the precious Blood to our guilty consciences, assuring us by the Word that the Blood of Jesus Christ does cleanse from all sin so that not a single stain is left. It is a perfect cleanser, there is nothing it cannot do. Then the Holy Spirit shows us that God has provided a perfect covering for us in the Robe of Christ's Righteousness.
It is thus that the Comforter, who is the Spirit of Truth, leading into all truth, shows us the meaning of Christ's redeeming work and enables us to understand it and to appropriate it. When we do this it is indeed a blessed experience.
A young man whom I know described it as follows: "I heard the voice of God saying to me, 'Who told thee that thou wast naked?' [Footnote: Gen. iii. 11.] I am sure that it was the work of the Holy Spirit showing me my utter helplessness and leading me to seek the covering of Christ's Righteousness. I feel I am exactly suited to Jesus as He is exactly suited to me, for I am just the one who needs His fulness, and He is the only one that can supply my emptiness."
I praised God for this clear testimony, and I have seen again and again ever since I began to work for the Lord many years ago, that the Holy Spirit delights to reveal the Lord Jesus Christ as "a full Saviour for empty sinners."
The Gospel of St. John tells us very plainly that the Holy Ghost was sent, not only to make us see the meaning of Christ's finished work, but also to prepare our hearts to receive it in all its fulness.
How does the Holy Spirit prepare our hearts? First, He opens our hearts, awakens in us a sense of our need and sinfulness, then, when He has opened our hearts, He breathes into them a new life; He creates a longing for God. We feel within us a burning desire to know God. We catch eagerly at everything we hear about God, This is quite a new experience; we used to go on year after year not troubling about it in the very least. What is this new experience, this seeking after God? It is what the Bible calls "Repentance." The word means "Change of mind." Again and again the Apostle Paul urged upon both Jews and Greeks the necessity of "repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ." [Footnote: Acts xx. 21.]
A few days ago I received a touching letter from a young friend telling me how God's Spirit had led her to repentance. She wrote, "When I was a little girl and began to seek the Lord, I was very much troubled because I could not feel sorry enough for my sins. I wanted a real repentance to come to the Lord with. I thought repentance meant crying over one's sins a great deal, and I could not feel sorry enough to cry as I wanted to. I used to keep praying, 'Give me a real repentance.' Many times I dreamed I had this deep repentance and could cry over my sins, and I have awakened with my face really bathed in tears, but oh, how disappointing it was to find it only a dream and I had not got what I wanted after all. I went on like this until I was twenty, when the Lord spoke these words with great power to my soul, 'The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance.' The voice seemed audible and I turned to see if anybody had spoken to me. I was able to weep enough then, but they were tears of joy and gratitude, and I well remember saying aloud, 'O Lord, why me, why one so sinful as I am?' I now see that repentance means 'a change of mind' and not a flood of tears. Had I known this when a child it would have saved me years of toiling and praying for repentance."
Dear friends, perhaps some of you are trying to get right with God. Look at the text which gave such peace to this seeking one. It begins with this question, "Despisest thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?" [Footnote: Rom. ii. 4.]
We little know that all the time we are working and toiling we are really despising, turning away from the riches of His goodness. The word "riches" shows how abundant His goodness is; therefore we are "without excuse."
God's forbearance in delaying punishment, and His longsuffering in patiently waiting, show that His purpose in thus dealing with us is to lead us to repentance, which is not merely grief for sin, but a thorough inward change.
So we now know what we did not know before, that it is "the goodness of God that leads us to repentance."
Yes, we find now that instead of working our way, back to God, He is there close to us, with open arms to receive us, stretching out His loving Hand to save us. We find that instead of trying to gain God's favour by our prayers and good works, God's Righteousness is there for us all ready and provided for us. We find that we are accepted in His dear Son not for any good thing we have done, but simply by faith in Jesus. All this is shown to us by the Holy Spirit, and without Him we could not have seen it.
We were speaking just now about repentance. Have you ever noticed that when our Lord began preaching the Gospel, the first word He said was "Repent." [Footnote: St. Matt. iv. 17.] Why did He call to the crowds so earnestly to repent? Again and again that word keeps ringing out. He wanted to make them see that He condemned the way they were living and their religious professions. It was a call to stop and think, as if He said to them, "You have lost your way, you are on the wrong road, stop and turn round."
First He points to the right road. He proclaims that the Kingdom of God is come. Then He says to them, But before you can enter in you must repent. The people recognised the meaning of the call; they knew that if they obeyed the whole course of their lives would have to be changed, because having lost the true centre of life, they were simply drifting. The man who is living without God is like a ship drifting on the wide ocean without a pilot or chart or compass. For three years He pleaded with them tenderly and lovingly, and at last they gave their final answer to His message. They said, "We will not submit to the Divine government, we will not have this Man to reign over us," [Footnote: St. Luke xix. 14.] and so they crucified Him.
When we have been led by the Holy Spirit to repentance we see sin, and we see ourselves in a new light. As soon as we really know God we cannot help being sorry for our sin. We begin to long for a Saviour, a Mediator, and it is then that the Holy Spirit points us to Jesus. Repentance, or change of mind, is the first step, and then follows conversion—a change of heart and life. The word conversion means "turning round." Jesus says, "Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven." [Footnote: St. Matt. xviii. 3.]
Think of God's two great gifts; first, the Gift of His only begotten Son, then the Gift of the Holy Spirit. Have you received them? Perhaps you ask, "How can I know?" If you have received the Holy Spirit there will be joy and peace in your heart, and the fruits of the Spirit will be seen in your daily life.
"Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost." [Footnote: Rom. xv. 13.]
"And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost." [Footnote: Acts xiii. 52.] They were filled again and again, more and more filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
You, too, may have a Spirit-filled life. God says to you now, and He is saying it every day and every hour, "Be filled with the Spirit." [Footnote: Eph. v. 18.]
Remember there are different degrees in the Christian life. First, there is Everlasting Life for all who seek it. Only ask Me, Jesus said to the woman of Samaria, and I will give you living water. Then he leads her on a step further. "It shall be in you a well of water." It will be an abundant life, a joyous, satisfying life. Afterwards He tells us that it will be a life "overflowing for others." [Footnote: St. John vii. 38, 39.] This is to be the experience of all believers now through the Holy Spirit. Lastly, the crowning of it all is still to come and we shall drink of "the pure river of the Water of Life." [Footnote: Rev. xxi. 1.] That will be the fulness of life through all Eternity.
THE VOICE OF GOD
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE—Genesis xxviii. 10-22.
Jacob is leaving home for the first time, to take a long journey of 450 miles. He is quite alone and he feels very lonely when he lies down the first night in a barren place, with a stone for his pillow. Jacob was like some of us, he had heard about God ever since he was a child, but God was not real to him because he had never had any personal dealings with Him.
That night he had a wonderful dream, and it made a great difference to his whole life. The ladder which he saw in his dream was to show him that there was a gulf between him and God: and the gulf was caused by his sins. It also showed the necessity for some means of communication to be provided for him. Right down to his deep need the ladder came, right up to God Himself the ladder reached. It was set up on earth and it reached to heaven to make him understand that the gulf had been bridged over, so that now, constant, free communication was possible between his soul and God. The ladder which Jacob saw in his dream is mentioned again in St. John's Gospel. Jesus said to Nathaniel, "Because I said unto thee I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? Thou shalt see greater things than these. And He saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man." [Footnote: St. John i. 50, 51.]
The Lord Jesus had been revealing Himself to Nathaniel and this conversation took place near Bethel, so that the reference to Jacob's ladder was very forcible and the wonderful type was made clear.
When Jesus said that heaven would be opened, He meant not only opened just once, but remaining open; so that ever since Christ ascended into heaven we have lived and are still living under an "open heaven," which means free intercourse between God and man, because Christ Himself is the Ladder. It also means He is the one and only means of communication between the sinner and God. It is "through Him we have access by one Spirit unto the Father." [Footnote: Eph. ii. 18.] All that we know of God comes to us through Him, and all the grace we receive from God comes through Him. So Jacob's ladder is as real to us now as it was to him then, for it connects the seen with the unseen. It is possible for us now to have Christ's Presence with us always and everywhere, for He says Lo, I am with you alway. [Footnote: Matt. xxviii. 20.]
But there was something more wonderful for Jacob to see even than the ladder. "The LORD stood above the ladder." It was the first time in his life he had realised the Presence of God. He had lived over forty years without realising that God was close to him. When he awoke from his dream he said, "Surely the Lord is in this place and I knew it not." He never forgot it, just as we never forget the time and place where we are converted. One hundred years after that night, when he was a very old man, he mentioned it to his son. He said to Joseph, "God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz and blessed me." [Footnote: Gen. xlviii. 3.]
But what impressed him deeply was that there in that lonely place, many miles away from any human being, he heard the Voice of God speaking to him. It was then that a new life began in his soul, for God told him that from that moment He would be with him everywhere, blessing him and protecting him from all danger, and it was then Jacob began to trust God as his God.
So we see how God's glory and God's grace were shining down from the top of the ladder into poor Jacob's heart. Jacob was face to face with God for the first time, and he began to tremble with fear. If only you could realise that God is now, at this very moment, straight in front of you, you would fall down on your face before Him, and you would cry to Him as Job did, "I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth Thee; wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes." [Footnote: Job xlii. 5, 6.]
It is at this moment that we realise for the first time our need of a substitute, just as Job did, for he said, "He is not a man as I am that I should answer Him, neither is there any daysman betwixt us that can lay His hand upon us both." [Footnote: Job ix. 33.] How Job would have rejoiced in the glorious revelation which Christ has brought to us. "There is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, Who gave Himself a ransom for all." [Footnote: 1 Tim. ii. 5, 6.] He is not only the Mediator laying His hand upon us both, but He gave Himself, that is, He gave His life as a ransom. The ransom price was His own precious blood, for the life is in the blood. It is the Blood of God's own dear Son which makes an atonement for the soul.
The sentence passed on you and me and on every sinner is the sentence of death, for death is the penalty for sin. We are all under the sentence of death, but the glorious message is sent God has found a Substitute.
"He bore on the tree the sentence for me, And now both the Surety and sinner are free."
You and I now have what Job longed for so earnestly. The Daysman is the Son of God Himself, "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation," that is an atoning sacrifice, "through faith in His Blood." [Footnote: Rom. iii. 25.]
At first Jacob trembled with fear, but after he had heard the loving words which God spoke to him from the top of that wonderful ladder, then he began to realise that he was no longer alone in that lonely place. He said, "This is the house of God, this is the gate of heaven." Earth had faded from his sight and he was surrounded by heavenly realities. And so it is now, the veil is very thin which separates earth from heaven, the temporal from the Eternal.
It was God's Voice which woke him up spiritually. God revealed Himself as the personal God to Jacob. We can recognise a friend by his voice even if we do not see him. So it is the Voice more than anything else which makes the presence of any one real to us. We have an illustration of this in the pictures of the gramophone in which we see a dog listening for the master's voice. The sheep knows the shepherd's voice; the child is quick in recognizing its mother's voice; why do we turn a deaf ear to God's Voice? How tenderly He pleads with us, saying, "But My people would not hearken to My Voice." [Footnote: Ps. lxxxxi. 11.]
God wants to be very real and very personal to each one of us, so He says, "Unto you, O men, I call, and My Voice is to the sons of man." [Footnote: Prov. viii. 4.]
God has been calling us from the very beginning. Far back in the 3rd chapter of Genesis, when Adam was hiding among the trees of the garden, it was God's Voice which called him out with the searching question, Where art thou? It was as if He said, "Adam, I want you." He is the seeking God still. It was God's Voice that reminded Adam of the holy, happy friendship now broken by sin. Before sin came into the world Adam never listened to any other voice, and now when God is yearning to bring us to Himself, He says, "Listen." That word Listen, or Hearken, comes again and again in the Bible. We find it very often in Isaiah and Jeremiah. When God is pleading with the sinner, that is the word He uses more than any other. In Psalm lxxxi., where God tells us how grieved He is by our waywardness, He says, "Oh that My people had listened or hearkened unto Me." And in Deuteronomy xxviii. 45, He tells them that their troubles have been sent because they would not hearken to the Voice of the Lord their God.
I think God has chosen this special way of calling us by His Voice, because it is what we can all understand—it is so simple and so homely. When a boy is disobedient the father calls him, then he talks to him and pleads with him. The father's voice touches the boy's heart. How wonderful it is that God's Voice can reach us, however far off we may be. You have sometimes been to an Open-Air Service, and you have heard the speaker's voice a good way off, but now it has been discovered that any one's voice can travel through the air and be heard above 300 miles away by means of a new apparatus called the wireless telephone.
Some time ago a gentleman living in England put a special receiver to his ear and he actually heard a man speaking in France, more than 300 miles away.
A year or two ago when the Titanic went down among the icebergs, you remember how the wireless telegraph sent messages to other ships calling for help. This was done by special letters, flashed across the ocean, such as C.Q.D. (come quick, danger) or when the ship was sinking S.O.S. (save our souls).
But wonderful as this is, how much more wonderful it is to discover a way by which any one's voice can be heard miles and miles away. Very likely as time goes on and the wireless telephone is more used, you will be able to speak to your father or son far away in Australia or Canada, so that they will not only hear your voice distinctly, but they will answer back, and you will hear their voices just as if you were sitting together again at home. What a wonderful thing it will be to have this close link with them!
It is the same as the link which Jacob felt when he heard God's voice speaking; it seemed to bring God quite close to him and to make God so real, that he started again on his journey cheered and encouraged; for we read in the first verse of the next chapter, "Then Jacob went on his journey," and in the margin it says he lifted up his feet, showing his heart was lightened of its burden: when the heart is heavy, our feet drag. But he made a fresh start: and if only God's Voice reaches your heart now, you will go on your way rejoicing; it will be like making a fresh start.
Again and again we read of God talking to those who were willing to hear His Voice. For example, "The LORD talked with Moses face to face as a man speaketh unto his friend," [Footnote: Exod. xxxiii. 9, 11.] and at Mount Sinai "Moses spake and God answered him by a Voice."
Not only is the link of communication perfect between God and man, but the way in which we can use it and be put in touch with God is so simple: it is by faith—that is all.
We have another illustration of this when we think of the wireless messages. The world's greatest wireless station is in a little village called Nassau, in Germany. A short time ago a message was sent to a place far, far away over the ocean, 6,500 miles away. How was it started? Only by touching a key in the machine. That touch releases the lightning which carries a message for thousands of miles over vast continents and across the boundless sea.
Only a touch—is it not like the touch of faith? But we must not forget that when the message has reached its destination, when these waves of sound talk across the world, the ear at the other end must be prepared to hear the call.