Outlines of Christian Doctrine.
I. “Peace With God”
PEACE with God! What a blessed word! for it means, if it means anything at all, that the war is ended, every enemy overcome, every foe silenced, every opposing force demolished. The storm, the conflict, the confused noise of the battle has given place to the calm of peace—and that "with God.” "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. v. 1). It is the effect, then, of knowing for ourselves the grace that justifies. Not a mere clearance—our guilt is proven and more than pardoned—it is the blessedness of being before a righteous God, accepted in all the value of the sacrificial death of Christ, regarded by Him in the wondrous light of those against whom not a charge can be preferred, the whole question having been satisfactorily, and therefore permanently, settled by the Lord Jesus Christ, by means of His death, as the bearer of our sins.
The death of Christ is brought before us in a twofold way in that part of the epistle to the Romans which deals with a sinner's justification in order to his enjoying peace with God. In chapter iii. 24-26, we have what answers to the first goat on the day of atonement, therefore we read of the blood on the mercy-seat. In chapter iv. 24, 25, the thought is clearly the second goat, or substitution, the load laid on another and carried away. "He was delivered for our offences." Now justification is connected with both these aspects of the one sacrifice. God's claims were fully met by the one, the sinner's load wholly removed by the other. To learn this, by faith to enter into it, apprehend it, believe it, results in peace with God. In what a light must my soul regard the blessed God who can now righteously look upon me, an ungodly one, in the light of one justified? Everything that has the element of disturbance in it is obliterated. Christ has been raised again for our justification, and He, once charged with our sins, is now where sin can never enter; He is as Man in the glory of God. The same One smitten in righteousness, yet in pure grace to us, seeing He was spotless, was received up into glory. His death declares the measure of our guilt, His resurrection the measure of our acceptance.
"Peace with God!" Revel in it, oh my soul! God's eye is on the blood. Its priceless preciousness is fully estimated by Him, He appreciates its stupendous cost. Not thy thoughts but His as to that blood, form the basis of thy peace. Mix nothing with it, experiences have their place, but not a single right experience can be gained until the soul reposes in the blood without a thought of experience. Varied and deep are the experiences and distresses of one awakened by God, leading up to conversion, and often deeper still those after, but not a feeling, not a thought of our state, frames, or progress, dare for a moment cloud "this grace in which we stand" (Rom. v. 2). Experiences are dealt with in due course in that part of Romans where the subjects of sin, death, and the deliverance of the believer as one in Christ risen from the dead, are under contemplation, but God in His grace as a righteous Justifier, and Christ in His love as Sacrifice and Saviour, must fill the soul's entire vision, if peace with God is to be enjoyed.
II. “Perfected Forever.”
THIS is true of every believer—the youngest and feeblest stands in the same perfection as the oldest and most advanced. ''By one offering, He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified" (Heb. x. 14), and to be sanctified is not some subsequent blessing to justification. Indeed "the sanctification of the Spirit" a/ways precedes faith, in order to it. (See 1 Pet. i. 2.; 2 Thess. ii. 13). But the sanctification here is the being set apart as a company of purged and priestly worshippers inside the veil of the true tabernacle, which the Lord hath pitched and not man. It is the grand doctrine of Hebrews. This is the effect of the offering up of Himself on the part of Christ, who has come to do the will of God, that we might not only be justified as guilty ones so as to have peace, but sanctified as unclean ones so as to have nearness to God in His sanctuary. The blood secures both, and that concurrently, to the believer.
There is a daily and growing sanctification, the Father's answer to the Son's prayer in John xvii. 17-20. Jesus has sanctified Himself as Man in glory, to be the Model of our sanctification in the world, that we might be sanctified by the Word as the means; and, of course, we cannot be sanctified by the Word unless we know it. Growing intelligence, in this particular, in the very nature of things, keeps equal pace with practical separation to God, but intelligence must not be mixed up as a pre-requisite in connection with the sanctification which carries with it the being perfected forever. It is entirely the nearness of the believer, as a saint, in all the value of Christ's offered sacrifice. How blessed! Can the worth of that sacrifice be measured? He, through the eternal Spirit, offered Himself without spot to God (Heb. ix. 14). "Perfected forever;" consider it, my soul! But may not failure on my part tarnish its lustre? Not for a moment, though I dare not make light of failure, for it is a sin against light and love, against goodness and grace. When a believer sins, it becomes a question of communion and the government of God in the family; but as the perfection of the offering abides, (the evidence being that the Offerer is in heaven) so does the perfection of those for whom the offering was made. The Corinthian assembly was most unholy in both doctrines and practice, but nevertheless, it was an assembly of saints in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, and that of God (1 Cor. i). Believers are exhorted to be saint-like, never to be saints. New Testament exhortations and Christian responsibilities are on the ground of established relationships, the opposite in principle to Judaism, for the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
"Perfected forever!" O view Him there, the Settler of every question, in unbroken peace, in that scene of rest and divine perfection, in the holiest of all, Himself the measure of the nearness of His own. The blood is on the mercy-seat, heaven is filled with the fragrance of the burnt-offering, it is to God a savour of rest; though offered on earth, its preciousness penetrated heaven. Behold the opened veil! Pass in, pass in, my soul, thy sins will be remembered no more. Robed in whiteness, suited to the immaculate purity of the enthroned One, one with the Sanctifier (Heb. ii. 11), how elevated should be thy worship, there where creature voices are hushed, where the groan of a travailing creation is heard no more, where, through the Spirit, the Father and the Son the vision fill and the heart engage.
III. Eternal Life. What is it, and What Does it Include?
ETERNAL life is a truth intimately connected with the Person of Christ. He is it; its source ("In Him was life," John i.), and, as the incarnate One, its blessed expression. Thus, the First Epistle of John begins and ends. In chapter i., He is "that eternal life which was with the Father," which the apostles had heard, seen, looked upon, and handled. In chapter v., "we know that the Son of God has come," and "this is the true God and Eternal Life." The latter statement beautifully reminds one of Jeremiah x. 10, "Jehovah is the true God and the living God."
The truth of eternal life was specially committed to the apostle John. His Gospel teaches how we may have it. His First Epistle, how we may know we have it (John xx. 31; 1 John v. 11-13). Paul had the revelation of the counsels of God in connection with the Church, the Body of Christ. John lived long enough to see the assembly's decline from her first love, and the rapid development of the evils predicted in Acts xx. and 2 Timothy. He, in the Spirit, traced the downgrade of the professing body ending in being spued out (Rev. ii., iii.). Instead of the chaste virgin espoused to one husband of 2 Corinthians xi. 2, the ecclesiastical thing becomes a harlot full of mysteries, supported by the blasphemous beast (Rev. xvii.). How blessed then the opening out of that which failure cannot touch, sin cannot soil, nor death extinguish; a life which existed in Christ before the creature (2 Tim. i. 1; Tit. i. 2), and which will outlive all creature changes and ecclesiastical breakdowns.
Now the Old Testament does not speak of eternal life as a present thing for the saint on earth. The term is only found twice, and then as a future blessing, as we understand it in the millennium (Ps. cxxxiii.; Dan. xii.). So also, it is ever spoken of in the first three Gospels: "In the age to come, eternal life" (Mark x. 29, 30; Matt. xix. 29, &c). Though, of course, every one confessedly a stranger on earth looking for that heavenly country, had part in the new birth; Nicodemus as a professed teacher being rebuked for not knowing of it, life and incorruption waited to be brought to light in the Gospel (2 Tim. i. 10). The evidences of new birth before the Gospel oftentimes came out in the deepest distresses, because of what God is in His holiness and the Law, as the Psalms testify—redemption being as yet unaccomplished and the Spirit of adoption not yet possessed. It is in the sphere of blessing into which redemption introduces us, that we enjoy pierced life. Thus, the water came out of the eternal side of Jesus with the blood, and the first mention of life eternal as a present matter for faith is in John iii., in connection with the lifting up of the Son of Man and the gift of the Son in love to the world. Thus, also John vi.: "Except ye eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man, ye have no life in you, he that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood hath eternal life." Eternal life would have been "alone" in the Son, had He not, as heaven's grain of wheat, fallen into the ground and died, to associate us in life with Himself in resurrection on the basis of redemption. But now He ministers, from the glory, to as many as the Father hath given to Him out of the world, that heavenly life and nature that they might know Him, the Father, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent (John xvii.). For if "the blood" gives us title; "the life" gives us capacity, as 1 John i. proves, the apostles passing on to others what they had seen of "the Word of Life," that we might share their fellowship with the Father and the Son in the light and in fullest joy. Surely this is more than a new spring of deathless existence, though it includes it; more than eternal security, though that belongs to it; it brings us into Canaan joys, beyond the first man, and outside earth where he fell, and where on the Cross, He was set aside in judgment. It causes a well of living water to spring up in our souls into eternal life, true and spiritual worship free from Jewish bondage and in the full revelation of the Father in the Son (John iv.).
But there is more. Paul's first sight of Christ was as a glorified Man, and therefore with him eternal life includes the being brought into His likeness at His coming—the power of eternal life applied to the body. (See 2 Tim. i. 1, "the promise of life;" Tit. i., "the hope of eternal life;" Rom. vi. 22, "in the end everlasting life," &c). Jude, likewise, "looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." How blessed! When Christ our Life shall appear, we shall appear with Him in glory (Col. iii.), till then, our life is hid with Christ in God, waiting for its display in its proper sphere, though we have it now in the Son, in whom the life ever was.
How does it shine out? He hath put this treasure in earthen vessels, but only as we learn death practically shall we in practice be heavenly men upon earth. Gal. ii. 20 speaks of being crucified anterior to the living out of the indwelling Christ, our Life. His desire is to reproduce in His saints the beautiful features of that heavenly life He exhibited on earth, in all its divine fragrance and beauty. He was the Man, Jehovah's Fellow, the Eternal Life on earth, all the fulness of the Godhead dwelling in Him, even as the Babe. The One who hung on the virgin's breast, AT THE SAME TIME dwelt in the bosom of the Father. Shall we not gaze adoringly upon Him till we catch and reflect some of the moral features of the life He lived?
IV. The “Blood,” The “Death,” and the “Cross.”
HOW choice are the words the Holy Spirit teaches, the inspired words of Scripture (1 Cor. ii.). The three expressions quoted above blessedly prove this. Though the "blood," the "death," and the "cross," are words reminding of the same event, they present different views of it. And who can fathom the infinite depth of the meaning of that eventful hour when the blood of Him who died on the cross was shed.
In Romans we read of the blood in chap, iii., of the death in chap, v., of the cross in chap, vi. The first is connected with teaching as to propitiation—for that has to do with our sins— and how God enthroned in holiness and majesty could justify us righteously in view of them (iii. 24-26). The sprinkled blood witnesses to life sacrificially offered. It is, moreover, ever for God's eye; the sinner finding peace when on the strength of Divine testimony, he learns the blood has been presented, and that every claim upon him is satisfied. That testimony is Christ's resurrection. The empty tomb proclaims with no uncertain voice how the question of his sins has been gone into Divinely, and is therefore eternally settled.
Moreover, when the light of the Spirit's teaching is focused upon the subject of *reconciliation, it is "the death" that is kept prominent and Who it was that thus died, for, "We were reconciled to God by the death of His Son" (Rom. v.). Now this is not a question of sins but of persons; we, not our sins, are reconciled, and that because of our enmity against God; He, blessed be His Name, ever full of love, though hating our sins. "And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled" (Col. i. 21).
*("Reconciliation for the sins of the people" (Heb. ii. 17) is a well-known error of translation. "Propitiation" is the proper word. So also Daniel ix. 24: "To make reconciliation for iniquity” is the word generally translated "atonement." Consult Newberry's Bible.)
Then, it is the death of the Son which is the weapon love employs to break down the hostility of man's mind. What an appeal to his affections! For the death shows the love, as the blood speaks of the claims of holiness. O how the iceberg of prejudice, hatred, and indifference is melted down beneath the warm rays of that love! Can we go on hiding from and hating a God who loves us so? What joy to find Him different from the caricature the devil (i.e., slanderer) and our own wicked imaginations have pictured Him to be! That death tells a different tale, and reconciliation is the effect upon us when we at last take in somewhat of its blessed meaning. "We joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation" (Rom. v. 11, mar.).
When we turn to Romans vi., we discover an entirely different subject under treatment. It is now a question of our state, not of our sins, or our false thoughts as to God. We need deliverance from the state of things brought in by the fall (apart from our own transgressions) a standing in righteousness, and reconciliation, as well as in order to have right thoughts about God. How? The Cross is the answer. "Our old man is crucified with Him." Not pardoned, much less justified or sanctified, but "CRUCIFIED." Man is so worthless he must go in death—all the pride and flower of the flesh—and that a judicial death, the way malefactors were penally dealt with by the Romans. Thus, we are no more "in the flesh," we are "in Christ," "a new creation," in Him risen. Rom. viii. 1; 2 Cor. vi.; Eph. ii.; Col. ii., iii., shedding further light upon the subjects of our introduction by means of death (Christ's, and our having part in it) into the presence of God and into an entirely new and heavenly order of things. Thus delivered, our sins and our selves gone, we live unto God. How could we live any longer in that to which we died? Not only has Christ's blood been shed for us, but we are to learn the power of the Cross for holy living, associated with Christ in life and resurrection liberty. As dead in sins, we have been quickened; as alive in sins, we have been put to death. The first is a new creation, the second is blessed deliverance from the thralldom of indwelling sin, to live unto God. The first is the teaching of Ephesians; the second of Romans; Colossians giving both.
How feeble is our entrance into these Christian blessings! Yet may we not only say, what is true of all alike, "Our old man is crucified with Christ," but, as in Romans viii. 2, we may have a personal grasp of this truth: "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death;" and, as in Galatians ii. 20: "I have been crucified with Christ." This is faith's language, as the first is God's reckoning. Alas what deep and painful exercises, what fruitless struggles, what tossings up and down, and emptyings out from vessel to vessel, even with a new nature and right desires, before we reach this altitude in the intelligence and joy of our hearts! Should we be ever bemoaning our badness, disappointed because the flesh does not improve? It is so bad, it is not worth a thought. "Christ is all and in all."
V. The Man In Glory.
THERE is A MAN in the glory of God. Not "the likeness" of one only, as Ezekiel saw, in vision, on the throne, but a real, true, veritable Man, who once trod this earth to the full delight of God. Would that we had more grace to delight ourselves in this amazing sight!
This is what pre-eminently characterizes and is distinctive of Christianity, the present disclosure of the thoughts of God. We shall certainly come away disappointed if we look for Christ on the cross or in the grave. Our sins brought Him there in grace abounding, but having secured the Father's glory on earth, as well as having met the solemn claims against us of outraged justice, the glory claimed Him for its alone worthy object, even as He, the second Man, could claim it as His portion and His right; He was "raised again from the dead by the glory of the Father" (Rom. vi.), and it is there we are to behold Him, in its innermost circle, in its brightest possible spot.
"My Gospel," so named by Paul, told out "the glad tidings of the glory of Christ" (2 Cor. iii.), divine glory streaming from the face of a Man, and no veil upon it. If it be hid to any, the vail is on them, "the god of this age" has blinded their eyes. And we fear not the full blaze of that heavenly light; we are set down in the presence of it with an uncondemning conscience, for though this ministry ''exceeds in glory" it is "the ministration of righteousness" illustrated in setting Christ in glory and His people in Him (2 Cor. v. 21). We "stedfastly behold" it, the brightness and brilliancy of it, for in the centre of it is that blessed One whose own wounds in heaven declare the complete blotting out of all our sins. A new creation in Him, we too are brought into it, an entirely new order of things, as much on the other side of death and judgment as Himself.
The eye of the Psalmist, in the Spirit of Christ, saw a Man crowned with glory and honour, set over all the works of God's hands (Ps. viii.) The sceptre given to Adam, surrendered by him to the devil, is in the hands of a Man again. The Son of God came, the seed of the woman, into the world. In this new character, as man, He met, overcame, and by death, destroyed him that had the power of death. I am not for a moment questioning the still deeper glory of His Godhead—the Person is ever one. But what is so wonderful is that in full view of His intrinsic, essential, and eternal divine majesty, "being found in fashion as a man," He blessedly passed through scenes of sorrow and circumstances of pressure, never moved away by them from obedience, dependence, and faith. The One who had all resources, as God over all, was pleased to hide Himself in order to reveal Himself in lowliness, meekness, gentleness, unselfishness, tenderness, and sympathy, ever treading that path (to Him so lonely!) upon which proud man ever has turned his back, the path of obedience to the will of God. It was the path of the 16th Psalm, and His present exaltation is the Father's answer to this.
Now the 8th Psalm is quoted three times in the New Testament. Ephesians i., Hebrews ii., and 1 Corinthians xv. shew Him to us thus. The glory has wrapt itself around the Man whom the dense darkness enshrouded on the Cross. But these three Scriptures disclose the fact that He has companions there, though "in all things He must have the pre-eminence."
In Ephesians i. there is a Man in the highest place and we are in Him; in Hebrews ii., there is a Man crowned with glory and honour and we shall be with Him; in 1 Corinthians xv., Christ the first-fruits, raised in glory, and we shall be like Him. As we have borne the image of the man of the earth we shall also of yon risen Man in heaven, that blessed, peerless, worthy One, of whom the Psalmist wrote, "Thou hast put all things under His feet."
Heralded by the glory at His birth, sealed from it at His baptism, transfigured by it on the mount, He vindicated and secured it in His death, and as the Second Man, ascended into it, that He might have us there, His companions and co-heirs forever.
In the meantime, He is actively engaged for them while waiting for that blessed hour. He is their High Priest and their Advocate, taking charge of their affairs while they tread the wilderness sand. And here I would say, how very meagre is our acquaintance with Him as in these touching relationships! Let it then be noted that He is the High Priest that we might not sin, while He is the Advocate when we have sinned. The first has to do with "things pertaining to God," the second, "with the Father'" (Heb. ii.; 1John ii.). Infirmity in us draws forth His high-priestly action, positive sin, His gracious advocacy with the Father. Hebrews unfolds His priestly sympathy and grace, 1 John His activities as the Advocate. The term "High Priest" is applied to our blessed Lord in Hebrews only. There His people are regarded as on the way to their heavenly rest, requiring succour and strength, and He ministers it to them. To this end, He is at "the right hand of God" for them, the place of power. But He is also seen in "the sanctuary," and in this second capacity, He becomes the Leader of their worship, on the basis of His offered sacrifice. He is the High Priest over the priestly house, i.e., the consecrated company, and the Holiest of all is thrown open to each one of them. Thus He is seen in a twofold activity as High Priest; as "pilgrims", He communicates strength to us from the right hand of God; as "priests", He presents our offerings in the heavenly sanctuary, the "propitiation" made by His blood laying the ground for this blessed heavenly ministry.
But beyond all these considerations, blessed as they are, He is the perfect Object for our contemplation, and that for His own sake and not for the good we derive. It has been beautifully remarked: "The 'babes' and the 'young men' say, ' Christ is this and that to me,' but the 'fathers' are taken up with what He is in Himself", finding their joy in His Person, not so much for the joy of it, but because it is His Person, the all-commanding and all-eclipsing Object of their hearts. Would that we knew more of this, and the power and blessedness of it in our souls! Thus beholding, and mirroring the glory of the Lord, one is imperceptibly changed into the same image, becomes morally like the Object contemplated, not thinking of the transformation going on, but rather of that glorious One who produces it, who, as He fills one's eyes, draws out the worship of the heart, as He supplants in its affections, the grovelling things of earth for "the things which are above."
VI. The Hopes of the Bride.
THE Church is the bride as well as the body of Christ. "The Spirit and the Bride say, Come!" That is the entire company of those on earth having a heart for Christ, "The Bright and Morning Star" (Rev. xix. 16, 17). Here are saints in the sweet consciousness of the place of dearness they have in Christ's matchless affections, having loved His own in the world, He loves to the end, and the Spirit, the heavenly companion of the Bride, makes them long for the meeting and the greeting, a longing they know the Bridegroom reciprocates.
Israel will not be in favour as a bride until after Messiah's return (Hos. ii.), when the Spirit is poured out according to Joel; till then, she is as the unfaithful and divorced wife, having broken the covenant of her youth. But here the coming is still future, the object of desire, and the Spirit is there fostering that desire, and creating bridal affections for the quickly coming One. How strange to confound this with Israel, as some do.
The prospects of the bride of Christ are twofold: to be presented to Him, then to appear with Him. The rapture leads to the first, the second is the accompaniment of His display to every eye. The events are distinct as is the instruction derived therefrom, and there must be between them a necessary interval of time.
The presentation contemplates what will fill up Christ's cup of gladness in connection with His coming. Jude's dark record of ecclesiastical apostacy closes with a silvery beam of hope. He is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless in the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. It is Christ's joy in having us there. The counsels from eternity and the activities of Christ's love in time are focused upon that hour. Christ also hath loved the Church, and given Himself for it, that He might sanctify it and PRESENT IT TO HIMSELF in unfading beauty and attractiveness forever (Eph. v. 25- 27). On the Cross, He procured her. Now He is preparing her. When He comes, He will present her. So in the type. Eve was chosen in the man, taken out of him, built up for him, and then presented to him. The blessed fulfilment in Ephesians is similar. The divine choice in chapter i., the "workmanship" in chapter ii., "quickened" first, then "builded together"— the presentation, without a spot of evil, in chapter v.
As Christ's servants, Paul and his companions laboured in the light of this. "Whom we preach (as evangelists), warning every man (as pastors), and teaching every man in all wisdom (as teachers), that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” (Col. i. 28). Observe his anxious care for the holiness of the Corinthian assembly: "I am jealous over you with godly jealousy, for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ" (2 Cor. xi. 2). He would watch over the Church's purity until the marriage, as the Bridegroom's confidential friend. To see them thus in His presence at His coming was His joy and crown (1 Thess. ii.). John, too, exhorts them to abide in Christ so that he need not be ashamed before the Lord, his work looking badly on the exhibition day. (See also 2 John viii.; 2 Peter iii. 14; and Rev. xix. 7, 8.)
Now the presentation will be in the Father's house, in that home circle of heavenly blessedness (John xiv.), followed by the marriage of the Lamb, while the judgment of Babylon is taking place on earth. This accomplished, He will proceed to take the kingdom, and immediately a new order begins—obscurity gives place to manifestation, whether of Christ or the Church. In its perfection, this comes out in the New Jerusalem, i.e., the glorified Bride, the glory of the Lamb streaming through its jasper walls. It is the seat of government. The kingdom will be administered from the heavenly city, the throne of God and of the Lamb is there. Now, dead with Him, our life is hid with Him in God; but when He, our life shall appear, we shall appear with Him in glory (Col. iii.), hidden no more. For the present, "the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not" (1 John iii.) The treasure hidden in the field has been hid again by the Finder and Redeemer thereof (Matt. xiii. 44). The sons of God are not yet manifested, and it doth not yet appear what they shall be, while the whole creation groans for that manifestation, the day when Christ is revealed to be admired in all them that have believed in His name (Rom. viii. 19-22; 2 Thess. ii. 10).
How inconsistent for the Bride to seek eminence and prominence where Christ has neither. Mephiboseth walked in retirement while David was rejected (2 Sam. xix. 24). When "Christianity ascended the throne of the Caesars", it got into Satan's seat (Rev. ii. 3). It became a conspicuous thing on earth, and it ended in the Romish apostasy, as it will in worse.
Are we content with a lowly sphere and a humble place as servants, satisfied with doors He opens, where we have His special support, if not man's? Should we wear the world's medals or grasp at its titles? Ah! let us bide the day when He will be crowned. At a coronation, the nobility hold their coronets in their hands until the sovereign has been crowned. Dwelling more on the proper hopes and peculiar prospects of the Church to be realized at the presentation and display will preserve our spirits and restrain our feet.
“The Witness” 1895