Brethren Archive

God For Us and In Us

by John G. M'Vicker

Extracts from a Letter to a Missionary.
" . . . If we were to meet to-morrow, I suppose we would hardly recognize each other, so many years have elapsed since our one brief interview. Nevertheless, I remember you well in spirit, and by that remembrance, I think, will recognize you in the streets of the New Jerusalem, if we never see each other till we meet there. Is it fanciful to suppose that our appearance there will express to all who see us these two things: (1)—and this will be common to us all—Whose we are; 'His name shall be in their foreheads'; and (2) the peculiarities of our individual characters—our true personality? We shall have nothing then that we shall wish to hide. Elijah, Moses, Lazarus, Abraham, &c., were at once recognized by those who saw them after their life on earth had ceased.
" . . . Often I feel ashamed in my very heart that in my own work here, something worthy of the name in which it is done is not accomplished. That was what the early disciples, when filled with the Holy Ghost, expected and effected. 'Signs and wonders were done' in that holy name. The Lord's hand was stretched out to heal. And He is still the same. His Spirit is still with us. His name has lost none of its old power or value. Why should we consent to accept less from God in that name than those who were saved by it a few hundred years before us?
"In your last letter you say: 'Far better to be sustained through a time of darkness and trial than to be kept out of it.' How true this is, and yet how reluctant we are to prove its truth! How exceedingly unwilling to be put into circumstances which give God an opportunity of abundantly helping us! We would rather be in the midst of plenty and talk about faith, than be in need and exercise faith; perhaps I had better have said, than be in need, and have the joy of seeing the hand of our faithful God coming in to deliver us. For it must come in.
When our Lord Jesus chose the place on this earth in which He could most honour God and exercise the greatest possible influence for good on men, He chose the very lowest place—the place in which, having no rank, no riches, no power, no human learning; God had unhindered opportunity of coming in for his help and supply; the place also that allowed men to see to the full, all that God could do for and by one who, in uttermost need, perfectly relied on Him.
"How close on His footsteps 'our beloved brother Paul' followed! Hungry, thirsty, naked, buffeted, homeless, toiling as a labourer with his own hands, reviled, defamed, having nothing—but God; but having everything in Him; such was the life that Paul chose to live. For surely, if he had asked, God would have given him money and clothing and food without stint. But 'there is a kind of faith that refuses, as well as a kind that obtains, deliverances.' And Paul must have seen that it would be more for the glory of the Lord and for the furtherance of the gospel that his life should be a life of trial, than that it should be a life of ease. No doubt, therefore, he rather prayed that he should be borne up through the trials in which Christ was glorified than for their removal. 'Never mind me. I know that all is well with me forever. Glorify Christ.'
" . . . I cannot send you much news. I suppose you see from the papers how Moody and Sankey are being led and used of God. Their recent visits to Cambridge and Oxford seem to have been peculiar triumphs of the grace and power of God. But some of us see as little of this, and other prominent home-work, as you. We are living in a day of salvation; and even the feeble ones among the workers cannot afford much time to stare at what others are doing. Occasionally we are glad to do it for a little, if we can, that we may get our own hearts warmed, and learn to do our work better, or even that we may cheer our mightier brethren by showing our interest in their labours.
"The deepening of spiritual life in the hearts of believers goes on side by side with the conversion of sinners. In this, as in gospel work, no doubt mistakes are made, and extravagancies committed; but for much good in it we can heartily thank God. Some time since, for the first time in my life, I attended what is called a holiness meeting, feeling some curiosity to see what was taught and done there. Much of it was good, but much of it, on the other hand, little likely to promote true holiness. One could not but be distressed by the attempt, sedulously made, to create physical excitement, by standing up and stamping, and clapping the hands, and singing favourite verses over and over again to rapid tunes, and waving handkerchiefs, and uttering volleys of prearranged 'Amens' and 'Hallelujahs.' Nervous disease was much more likely to be produced by such means than gospel holiness, and many would be in danger of mistaking the one for the other. Not less painful were some of the testimonies that young Christians were encouraged to give to their own spotlessness; one declaring, with outstretched arms, that in him we beheld 'an Israelite indeed in whom is no guile'; and others saying things of themselves not much less offensive. Still, this must be said; there was life and interest all through; there was much less in the teaching to object to than I expected; some who spoke had evidently got true soul-deliverance and the courage of cleanness; and, frankly, I feel less distress over even the mistakes and exaggerations of those who are longing for true holiness to God, such as Paul claimed (1 Thess. ii. 10; Phil. iii. 13-15; Gal. ii. 20; and elsewhere) than for the far more serious mistakes of those who cry out against 'perfectionism,' and are living in daily sin and conscious defeat, and argue that this is all that Christians are to expect on earth, and try to satisfy themselves with a kind of visionary and imputed holiness which they have outside themselves in Christ. I like to have it within, and to hear a Christian say that he is conscious of having a well of living water inside of him. Of course, when he does, others would need to see it flowing out. "I fear that this is the point in which many Christians have erred, and to which their weakness is to be traced. Some have told me, after knowing forgiveness of sin for years, that they could only tell that they had the Holy Spirit by a text of scripture. Many profess to have the Holy Spirit in their meetings, and to own His guidance, and yet the powerlessness, dullness, and unprofitableness often felt in them does not seem to shock them, as all false and unreal things ought to shock spiritual men. Scriptural forms and methods are very good, just as beautiful marble water-courses are very good. But what if there is no water in the latter? And what if there is no spiritual life and power in the former? When forms satisfied Israel, how the blood rose into God's face! 'Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination to me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with,' &c. The very forms which He had commanded, when they became mere forms, He abhorred.
"The Lord keep you a clean vessel, close to the Master's hand, and ready for His use." J. G. M’Vicker.


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