Notes of a Reading with J. Doughty on John xx. 19-31.
by J. Doughty
WE have here a pattern. The idea of a pattern is something to work to.
Ques. In what way is this a pattern?
That in our minds and thoughts we should have this as a pattern, so that we may know what we have to work to when we come together.
First you have a pattern of those who do not miss the Lord. They went to their own homes; they could settle down in their previous associations, an external order of things here. But there was one who could not. Mary had no home where He was not. There is no home for the heart of a Christian where the Lord is not; and the one who works to that piece of the pattern must find Him. It is a great matter to first miss Him. You can scarcely find one you do not miss. It is a great thing to have the consciousness He is not here. To the one that missed Him, He declared the Father's name; He announced what His disciples were to Himself—they were His brethren. The reception of that message brought them together. That is the pattern of what brings us together as Christians. We are together in mind and heart before we come together. Coming together in the room will not put us together, and he who depends upon it is leaning on a broken reed. How could sitting side by side put us together? It is the fact that we are brethren that puts us together; we have, the same Father and God as the Son Himself. I may be breaking bread and not be answering to what a brother is. What is a brother? One who is just the same as myself. They were put together in mind and heart before they came together, or the coming together would have been a mere formal thing. The Lord gives His message to put them together in a real way, and then they came together as brethren—not to become brethren, but as brethren. If we really are together, we cannot help getting together. If we have not the sense we are brethren, whatever is the point in coming together? If you come for what you can get, you will probably go home and say, It was a poor meeting. If you are there in divine affections as brethren, you have your comfort and joy in what we all are. We have all the same Father and the same God; we are all alike; one has got nothing that the other has not.
The pattern is there, and we have something to work to, because we are apt to give way to our own feelings and ideas. The Lord has graciously given us something to work to; we may fail in coming up to it, but do not let us cast the pattern away. It is such a blessed thing we have not to make ourselves anything; we are what grace has made us . If we can say "Father" to God, surely, we are brethren. We have all got the same; we need not be envious of one another.
Ques. In what character is the assembly brought before us here?
In its true, divine, vital character; what it really is. It is a company of brethren, and each has the same Father and God. The acceptance of that is bound to bring us together in mind and heart, in the consciousness of what we all are, and all have. We have an individual path of service, and for our walk and circumstances—there is that side, but that is not the assembly side, that would not bring us together.
As God, He cares for us according to the love He has for us as Father. As God, He cares for me in my circumstances, but He cares for me according to the love He has for the whole family; the love is the spring of it all. A meeting is practically spoiled the moment anything is brought in that is not common to all. The power of the meeting is the oneness of it. All my service must be subservient to my being a brother. The brother side must come first, and the service is subordinate to it. If you take a part in the meeting, it is as a brother among brethren; your gift is subordinate. It is a wonderful thing to be brethren; it is delightful that we are brethren. It is good to dwell together as brethren. It is easy to forget we are brethren. The Lord is teaching us that we are brethren; He is not going to have any assumption, and if you have any ideas that you are superior to others, you will fall as to the very thing in which you think you are superior. If the Lord gives me anything, it is that I may benefit my brethren, not pride myself on it. A brother is born for adversity—he is just the man to come in and help his brethren when they are in difficulty.
The Spirit makes us conscious that we are together in the same relationship; we are all alike, and nothing is supposed to come in but what is common to all, and the weakness of the meeting is the amount of individuality in it. You must consider your brethren and sacrifice yourself to any extent for their profit. That is to be according to the pattern. The first thing the Lord calls attention to when they come together is His hands and side; that was to give character to the meeting, the love He had shewn in giving Himself. "Hereby perceive we the love, because he laid down his life for us." A man that considers himself where the brethren are concerned is not according to Christ.
The supper is the announcement of His death. There is no such Christ now, but it is what He was. It speaks of what His affections are to us now. How do we know His present love? By His death. He would impress His people with His unfailing, unchanging love. That one loaf represents the whole body in one aspect; and in another, it is the expression of His love to His people, to the whole of them; and if we are a few gathered out, it is pleasing to the Lord that we should be in the sense of His love to the whole of His people. You know His heart in His death. It is a present living love, but we know it in His death. It is not that He is there now, but He has expressed Himself there. If we keep on the affections line on the Lord's Day morning, the impression left on us tells its tale on the whole meeting. They were so glad when they saw Him as the One who had died. Then you are sensible of His love, and when you are all sensible of His love, He carries you. The great thing is to see Him before you come. Unless your affections are touched, you have no sense of His presence. There is power against my weakness, and I get alone with the Lord, and He lifts me above things, and then I am quite free—free to take part as a brother that is, in a manner suitable and happy to the rest. Before going to a meeting, get into your closet and say, "Lord, I do not want to be under the burden and pressure; I want to be a true brother." He is a gracious Lord, and will lift you up above it, even on the road to the meeting.
You remember a person in the way you know him. He goes down into death, and says, I will give you such an expression of Myself that you will know Me. How do we know His affection, His love? Because His death expresses it.
Ques. Was there any sorrow in this simple meeting?
Not at all. They were glad. You get to the Lord individually before you come to the meeting. Seek to be lifted up because you are going to retire from the individual. You do not in the supper celebrate His official position in glory. Under the effect of His love to His people, you get the sense of what they are to Him, and that puts you in mind and heart in the whole company in your affections; and now you are with Him, and He leads you on in the things that are of interest to Him.
The more we meditate on what He went through as the expression of His love to us —looking at it on that side—the more we are affected. You could not know the love except in the way He expressed it. The Spirit first affects us all with the love of Christ; when our hearts are affected by His love, He Himself is preeminent, and under His influence we take the course in which He is pleased to lead us. Unless we come under the influence of His love, we never act aright. If the supper has affected us, it is all on the line of love. Any little word given me is to impress my brethren with the Father's love, and the love of Christ. It is the Father's love revealed in the Son. The power of a meeting is the measure in which we realize divine love. What would make us adore Him like the sense of His love? God intends everything to be seen in the light of His love. If you see His love in a blessing, it always has the right effect. God intends His love should be realized in everything He bestows upon us.
Now as to sending them out. When their hearts are affected and they are associated with Himself, He sends them out. They were to go and carry the news of what God is as Love under the influence of it. The heart here is life—the power of life in Christ. He sends them out to carry on the same testimony as Himself. "As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you."
"Words of Grace and Comfort" 1925