The Brides and the Bride.
WHAT we want, I have thought, as Christians, is to be lifted up, in our lives and characters, into a height much higher than the level with which too many are satisfied. But this we can never be until we realize the place which God has given us; for we must know the place itself, and our right to be in it, ere we can cultivate the character suited to it. Even now, we are "raised up together, and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Did we estimate ourselves thus, remarks another, it would give the character of wrong to everything, however small, which did not comport with Him. That which put us into such a place was grace, and that which keeps us before God is the same; we are kept there by the precious blood of Christ, the value of which has been placed to our account. We are kept by Christ in the very secret place of God, where our sins and our iniquities are no more remembered, and where, as before God, unblameable and in love, we are without spot or blemish, "complete in Him." That we are there is not a matter of attainment on our part; we are there by grace. But it is a matter of attainment that our life correspond therewith. There can be no failure as to our standing before God; there may be, alas! there is, as to our life.
In order practically to live a life of holiness and righteousness, we must dwell in spirit where Christ is, and, by communion with Him through the Word, enjoy what He is in Himself, and what He is there doing for us. In Hebrews, we are told, ‘"He appears in the presence of God for us." In John xiii., the Lord said, as if already gone to the Father, "If I wash you not, you have no part with Me" as if He had said, "If I am to have you at all, I must keep you clean; if I keep you not, you cannot be with Me." As Moses kept his flock in Midian "far removed from all the defilements and entanglements of Egypt," so in our divine Midian, the Lord, in the presence of His Father, is keeping us. It is through Him that our faith does not fail.
Were we to live more in spirit, with the Lord where He is, we should be holier and happier here. Moreover, our practical conduct would be such that no place would be given for the darts of the enemy to penetrate, and our love would be manifest. "I find few," said Hewitson, "who seem to love the Lord as His redeemed ones should. Often do I feel longings for a higher sort of fellowship than I am privileged to enjoy, at least with saints." The fellowship of saints, to be of value, must come of fellowship with the Lord. If we were in company with Him more, it would soon be blessedly felt in our own souls, not only in correcting the levity natural to the heart, but in giving power for every good word and work. Such a life is felt by others; for, living in communion with Him where He is, we bring with us the blessed tone of it where we are. As ships from the balmy Isles betray whence they have come by the very fragrance of the spices they bring, so should we ever bring a savour of the scene from whence, in our dealing with others, we too have consciously come.
All that helps us thus to live is of great value. It is surely helpful to trace out the moral scenery and spiritual atmosphere attending the lives of those who in earliest times had communion with the Lord. These Brides of Scripture bring us into connection with such; also with the true Bride, the heavenly Jerusalem. That city brings us into the presence of God Himself, before Whom and with Whom they delighted to walk. It is good to be with them; for they were in company with Him. They tell us, moreover, of ourselves; they were, as we are, believers in God. The just have ever lived, as we must do, by faith. Their joys and griefs, their conflicts and triumphs, their foes and fears, were the same as ours.
To enjoy the company of such as Abraham is to be morally elevated. His calling, along with that of Isaac and Jacob, was a heavenly calling. Man by sin had forfeited the earth; but God not only gave back the earth to such as these, but opened to them Heaven also. This was more than Adam lost.
The special form which the calling took was that of a heavenly city and a heavenly country, inclusive, doubtless, of a heavenly kingdom. In the day of the earth’s glory, the Lord will set His throne in the heavens, and His Kingdom will rule over all. But the heavens will rule because the King will be there, and will sit at meat with His friends. Hence, His Own beautiful words: "But I say unto you, that many shall come from the rising and setting of the sun (as the word is), and shall sit (literally lie down) at table (perfect provision and perfect rest) with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Kingdom of the heavens (the kingdom of kings and palaces), whilst the sons of the Kingdom shall be cast out.
We who believe, carry the secret of this glory in our hearts, and of all the other glories to which we are entitled through Christ. Great is the interest which we have in them; for the Church, as being in Christ, is raised up to the same height, "far above all heavens, all principalities and powers, all might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come." But what was Faith’s secret to Abraham? The land, of course; but also a country which was heavenly, and the "city which hath foundations." And what now is Faith’s secret to us? It is that, as one with Christ, the Church is to share His glory, yea, all His glories, the incommunicable only excepted; and to be with Him, and like Him forever. The darkness of the world which surrounded Abraham was not greater than that which surrounds us. That darkness deepened around him ere Sodom was destroyed; it is fast deepening around us, previous to a greater destruction. He looked for a city amidst it all. We look for the Son from Heaven. This is our express hope, as the city was his. Abraham walked by faith regarding it. We also, relying on the Divine Word, simply believe. But Abraham’s hope broke all his former associations and ties with the world lying in wickedness. It is the nature of ours to do the same. I make no hesitation in applying the truths relating to such as Abraham and those of the Old Testament Scriptures to our own present use. Being heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ, all things are ours. Being one with Christ, we are as He is; and as to the future, our lot will be with the Lord, and to share with Him whatever blessedness is His—that of the heavenly or earthly; that of the Kingdom, or of Israel; of the nations of earth in its millennial glory, or of the heavenly Jerusalem, which will then overshadow it. The different Brides we are to consider were for the most part connected with Israel—Rebekah with Isaac, Rachel with Jacob, Asenath with Joseph, Ruth with Boaz, Abigail with David, the Shunammite with Him who is the millennial King—but the principles contained in their histories are of deep interest to us. These Brides moreover are figures of the True Bride; and the True Bride, "the holy city," more than anything else foreshadows as a symbol what her beauty and glory will be, not only during the earth’s millennium, but onwards in the new heavens and new earth of the eternal state.
Then, besides what is dispensational, there are precious gospel principles which find in these histories, the most happy illustrations. In them we see that salvation is by grace—that righteousness is through faith, faith in God’s Word. Also, how faith is sufficient for salvation is so plainly seen, that he who runs may read. In the society of the Old Testament saints, what strikes one forcibly is, that theirs pro-eminently were promises. They saw them—greeted them, as the word is—from afar. But we live on wondrous, glorious fulfilments of things but dimly seen by them.
How different were the types as to Christ’s death and resurrection, His person and work, through which they saw, compared with what we now see, which is Christ Himself—Christ incarnate, dead for our sins; raised again for our justification; ascended into Heaven, there to appear in the presence of God for us; thence to come again to take us to Himself, that where He is, we may be also; yea, Christ as set up by God as Head of all things to His Church in Whom we are in possession of blessings councilled to us by God before all ages— "all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus."
It is not only on Christ—having died for us, and risen again—but on His Own eternal enjoyments as Son, that we are called upon to live, —even on His peace; His rest; the love the Father had towards Him, which was before all dispensations. That love was beyond all else to Him. Such love is ours, not as a matter of promise, but of possession. Wonderful prayer! "That the love" (the eternal love of the Father towards the Son) "wherewith Thou hast loved Me, may be in them."
It is the same also as to the now indwelling of the Spirit. Because we are sons, He hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, whereby we cry, "Abba, Father." The same Spirit that dwelt in Him as Son before all| worlds, now dwells in us, giving us to say, as He from all eternity could say, "Abba, Father." But beyond and greater than all this, God has given Himself to us for an object. More than this He could not do; less would not have satisfied Him. Such indeed is our divine portion. But we must know it if we would live in it. Let us think we can never lift another higher than where we are ourselves; and if our own level be a poor one, our service goes but for little. Oh to be lifted up into all that which we have in God!—the same place, as I have said, as that of His Own Son, Who "hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us."
And here another thing, observe—this giving of Himself. It is not His life, true as that is (I use the words of another); it is the entire devotedness of all that He is, or that is in Him; His grace, His righteousness, His acceptance with the Father; His wisdom, the excellency of the glory of His person, the energy of divine love that can give itself—all is consecrated to the welfare of the Church. Nothing can be more wonderful than the place which the Church thus occupies in the love and purpose of God, and in the love of Christ. The language expressing it, speaks not of union with Him merely, but of oneness with Him. What words are these: "No man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the Church, for we are members of His body, of His flesh," or rather being of His flesh and His bones. ‘For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh." (Eph. v. 31)
Eve I believe to be the true type of the Church. She was not absolutely another, or simply belonged to another, which she did, but was a part of Adam himself. She was his fulness; she was the complement of Adam; she was a member of his body formed out of himself, a help-meet for him, to be his joy and his delight; one with him in all that pertained to him in the garden around him and in any communion he may have had with the heavens above him.
"And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made He" or, as the word is, builded, He—"a woman." As the Lord afterwards said, "On this rock will I build My Church." God knew what rib to take from Adam. God knew His Church, in Christ, before all worlds (Eph. i. 4). The Eve was as old as the Adam. The Church, in the thought of God, is as old as His eternal thought of Christ as its Head; yea, as old as His eternal love for His Son. Hence, "who can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord?" What creature could reach or alter that which is eternal? Eve was first in Adam. Then she who was in him, on his being in a deep sleep, was taken from him; so that she who was first in him, was now raised up together with him. Thus we, who in the purpose of God, were first in Christ, on His having died—for He, like Adam, became dead for us—were raised up together with Him, the blest objects of His joy, and are "made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." At the creation of Adam, the Lord God breathed into his nostrils, and he became a living soul; but when Eve was formed, there was no breathing again—she was of the same life as Adam. So also with Christ and the Church. Christ and His Church form together "one new man." "This is a great mystery: but I speak," says Paul, "concerning Christ and the Church." And as Eve had the same life with Adam, so also she possessed the same inheritance—image of the Church's place through all eternity. For Christ’s dominion will be ours; His glory will be our glory; His joy, His rest, His delight, being one with Him, will be ours also. This surely is wonderful for the Church which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all. All this, then, being true, what shall we not possess along with Christ? Not His Kingdom only, which He says "is prepared of My Father;" but all His Own blessedness, that essential to His Godhead only excepted, will be ours also. The blessedness of the Bride, that fair city of God; and the glory of the "Kingdom"—the joy alike of His espousals and of His royalties, being one with Him, will be ours. We shall share with Him all His Own joy, and our joy will be full.
But it is the Church, which is His body (Eph. ii), of which I am now speaking; it is that of which the Lord spake when He said to Peter, "Thou art Peter, and on this rock" (the confession which he had made) "WILL I build my Church;" and which, when completed, He will take to Himself, as He says in John xiv. 2, and 1 Thess. iv. This He will do prior to our appearing with Him when He comes to the earth in His glory. Hence, to our proper immediate hope, we now look not for a city, not for the Bridegroom King of Matt. xxv., but for the Son from Heaven (1 Thess. i)
Then our hope will be consummated. Those who now sleep in Jesus, or through Jesus, will be raised; we who are alive and remain shall be changed. Heir of glory! What a hope! How near! There can be no return to this earth for judgment, or to take the Kingdom, when His saints will come with Him, as in Zech. xiv., and as in Matt. xxv., till He has first come for them. Hence, whilst the Spirit in us says "come," the Bride also says "come." Oh, how blessed that coming, with all the many glories which will then follow!
The order will be: First, His coming for His saints "in the he air," that is, for all those who have "fallen asleep," or as the word means, were "laid asleep by Christ," from the time of righteous Abel, who "died in faith," down to the last of those of our own dispensation who have "fallen asleep in Jesus;" then next, His Kingdom and His glory, when we shall dwell together with Him in the city which hath foundations—in the very city, I believe, of which in these meditations we are so especially to speak.
But before I proceed, let me, in passing, suggest that the question of the Church’s oneness with Christ implies the most important consequences, not only in our spiritual judgments, but also in our moral feelings and outward life; for unless we know who we are, we cannot know how to live. After all that is said by those who profess to believe in it, it is, I suggest, but little understood. It goes beyond all human and angelic blessedness. It was in God’s purpose before all dispensations, and will, it would appear, continue when dispensations will have forever ceased. (See Eph. iii. 21)
In its nature, the Church is as Christ is. Can anything be more wonderful? It places us, as Paul says, "far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world (age), but also that which is to come." (Eph. i. 21)
I know there may be a kind of interest, a hankering of the heart after the thought of a kingdom, as the idea of bride, in which there may lurk not a little of nature. Kingdom and Bride are indeed dear to Christ—the purchase of His death. But in the truth of oneness, all else is lost in Christ Himself; it is "Jesus only." We shall be as Eve was with Adam, the twain making but one person; so that even after being taken from Him, and when raised up with him, the Lord called their names Adam, just as Christ and His members are said to be "the Christ," which they are—the mystical Christ. (1 Cor. xii. 12) There are few, I believe, who see it thus. The path of wisdom respecting it is a narrow one—one which "the eye of the vulture, the carnal eye, hath not seen." "That we desire here so especially, is rightly to divide the Word of Truth. Let us dwell for a moment on the thought that we are thus in Him; yea, one with Him from all eternity; and on all those rich blessings in John xvii., and in Ephesians, and in Colossians, which language fails to describe; and then think of what a kingdom is. A kingdom is not one with Him Who is over it; but the Church being one with Christ, will reign with Him over it.
Phil. iii. 21; 1 Thess. iv. 17, and John iii. 3, show that we are to be with the Lord, and like Him; so that when Christ Who is our life, shall appear, we shall appear with Him in glory. All in accordance with the glorious mystery so specially made known to us in Ephesians and Colossians, and so grandly depicted in Rom. viii. 17, which speak of our being glorified together with Christ, which will be when the sons of God are manifested, for which the earnest expectation of the creature now waits. Hence, no rest for the creature, no Sabbath of the earth, no city of glory over it till then. Alas! how many speak of this, not as God's truth, but as something they may or may not believe! But surely, if the eyes of our understanding are enlightened, we shall know, so as to distinguish the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. We need again and again to appeal to believers on the ground of this their position of oneness with Christ. It was a real blessing in those days, not long since, when believers realized that they need never covet to be as angels; for that, in and one with Christ, they were infinitely higher! It was a still greater, when the Lord’s coming for His people, as in John xiv., became a generally received truth. And it will, I believe, be a still greater blessing when we realize as distinct from, and as having been before all dispensations, that very highest blessedness in which we now are in our oneness thus with Christ; yea, now and forever the same. For now He is our life; and now are we the sons of God; but it doth not yet appear what we shall be. To the world it cannot appear. To us in measure, it does appear what the Kingdom will be, and what the millennial earth will be, and what the Bridal City will be. Have we not, as we shall see, the magnificent description of her—of her glory—in Rev. xxi.? But one with Him, language fails to express what we shall be. Heirs of God! Joint-Heirs with Christ! Truly may you say, "If these truths had full sway on our hearts, what would become of us? The world would be as an idle nothing!" But we wait His coming to know it all. Hence, our one immediate hope is to be with Him, and like Him. Hence, till He appear, it cannot appear WHAT WE SHALL BE. This we are told, that, changed into His image, we shall be LIKE HIM; for we shall see Him as He is.
Hence, our hope is John xiv. 3; Col. iii. 4; 1 Thess. iv. 13-17; all which must take place before the city of the heavenly Salem of Rev. xxi. can come upon the scene. We must be presented first as children in the Father’s House, and then the property, the glory; for the order is, "If children, then heirs." But in this hope we have before us, so to speak, an immeasurableness and an almost immediateness of blessedness.
(The Brides of Scripture; or, Foreshadows of the Coming Glory. By J. Denham Smith. (James E. Hawkins, 36, Baker Street, W.) —This is a spiritual treat. The author, it may be observed, draws no distinction between the city coming down from Heaven and the Bride of Revelation, but tries to show that they are one and the same, which makes his book very interesting on this as well as on other points.) "The Christian Treasury" 1878