The Blood of the Lamb and the Union of Saints.
THERE is a day in prospect when all the Church of God shall be gathered together in glory, when each one shall be made like unto our glorified Lord, and when all shall be unitedly manifested as composing His body, they being the several members, while He Himself is the Head.
The New Testament makes frequent mention of this blessed day, when all being gathered in, the household of God shall be complete; thus we read in the book of Revelation—"After this I beheld, and lo, a great multitude which no man could number, of all nations and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God, which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb . . . And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these who are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said unto me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb; therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple; and He that sitteth upon the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more, neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes" (chap. vii.).
How much is there in this description to cheer the weary traveller on his way! Before him, there is this rest; and it is only the more blessed in contrast to the roughness of the road: and though we are in a wilderness, yet it is our privilege to enjoy in anticipation all that is revealed to our faith; for just as surely as we know that God "hath made us accepted in the Beloved, in Whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins," so surely have we been "sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession" (Eph. i). That which is ours, in fact, and that which we have only as yet in prospect, rest alike upon the Word and grace of God; and as His Spirit has quickened us to believe in Christ, and thus we have received the one blessing, even forgiveness, so is that same Spirit the earnest to us of the other, even the inheritance.
This inheritance which is secured to us in the blood of Christ, is one of "the things that are freely given to us of God;" for the knowing of which the Holy Ghost has been imparted to us (1 Cor. ii. 12); so that it is both our duty and our privilege to rest on whatever the Word of God reveals to us respecting it.
It is impossible for a saint to avoid looking onward to things which are yet future. Anticipation of natural things ever characterizes man naturally; and just so does the spiritual man look onward, only the objects which he has in view are spiritual; and instead of having to trust to probability or conjecture, he has revelation for his guide. The only question is, whether he will simply take the hopes which the Word of God presents, or whether he will rest in a vague expectation of blessing to come, without really "knowing the things which are freely given to us of God."
He who has peace with God through the blood of Christ, does not rely upon that blood without having some intelligence of its value in the sight of God; and just so ought he who hopes for blessing to come, to take the testimony of the Word as to the particulars which it affords him, remembering that the Scripture is not written in vain, and that although "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" yet "God hath revealed them to us by His Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea the deep things of God" (1 Cor. ii. 9, 10).
If, then, we be resting in happy anticipation of the glory that is before us, taking the Scripture for our guide, it is impossible for us to avoid inquiring who in that day will be sharers with us in the inheritance.
Let us then consider briefly, according to the Word of God, who those are who will partake in the glory to come; what it is that gives to them their title to enter into glory; and, what are the practical consequences resulting from these two considerations which bear upon the present conduct of the saints.
They are described as being "a great multitude, whom no man can number," and they are gathered not by nations being assembled as such, but by their being taken out of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues; and the ground on which they stand before the throne and before the Lamb is, that they have "washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." This brings before us the grace of God, and the manner of its display. It is by "the blood of the Lamb" that the Church is to be gathered; and their ascription of praise is, "Salvation to our God Who sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb!"
Let us look for a little at the ground of confidence which these redeemed saints have in the glory, for it is well worthy of our joyful, and at the same time solemn, consideration. Their robes have been washed and made white; thus we see, that as the gathered company were once those who had been clothed with defilement, no question could possibly arise as to innocency, whether absolute or comparative. Their washed robes speak of grace; that which is most humbling to the flesh when rightly understood; because at once taking away all idea of human merit or desert, it throws the soul of the sinner simply and wholly upon God. Now the flesh, liking nothing but that which exalts itself, and being utterly unable to enter into this, finds no fellowship whatever with the self-renouncing idea of grace; but the testimony is very plain, and to him who through the Spirit's teaching apprehends it, very blessed; that it is as having once been defiled, but now washed, that the ransomed out of every nation will be gathered together in glory.
If God manifested both power and love in setting Adam in blessing in the garden, when he was in innocence, how much more does He shew both this power and this love in the exercise of this grace towards those who are devoid of innocence. He has shewn, that however it might have seemed that the purpose of His heart to bless was frustrated by the triumph of Satan over Adam, yet really it was through this very fall, that He has developed that which was in His counsel, even redemption, as the exhibition of His grace.
And the multitude not only appear with robes washed and made white, but it is "in the blood of the Lamb." How wondrous is the Word! that not only God should have shewn mercy, but in such a way; not only have cleansed the guilty, but have done it with blood so very precious in His sight. Let us rest with our thoughts intent upon this blood; it fully satisfies the mind of God; let us, as having His Spirit dwelling in us, find our full satisfaction in it likewise.
The blood of the Lamb of God! How much the very name tells us! How many questions might arise concerning it! Why did that holy and spotless One die? And why such a death? What could have caused God to hide His face from His Son, and to pour out His wrath upon Him? How came it to pass that He by Whom the world was made, should be so treated in that world, which He had created for His own glory?
"The grace of God" gives us an answer to all these inquiries. Wondrous as is everything concerning the blood of the Lamb; it is most blessed to know, that we, as being sinners absolutely lost and ruined, are concerned in all that that blood is, and in all that caused it to be shed. "He hath made Him to be sin for us Who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. v. 21). Before God, we are constituted sinners; 1. by condition; as springing from a tainted stock; "By one man's disobedience many were made sinners" (Rom. v. 19.); 2. by nature; as being our own selves altogether corrupt; "In me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing" (Rom. vii. 18); and 3. by practice; going on in our ways, leading away from God; "We have turned every one to his own way" (Isa. liii. 6). And it is to meet us such as we are, that the blood of the Lamb has been shed. The purpose of God was to save and to bless; but when the works of God fell through transgression, under that curse which He Himself had pronounced, Satan had his seeming triumph, that there was a gulph between man and God, which apparently even the mercy of God could not overpass. Neither could it have done so in any way except in that in which God has been pleased to manifest it; and the fact that mercy has so reunited God and man, in spite of all the power of Satan, who had as it were, been able to interpose the righteousness, the truth, and the holiness of God, as obstacles to God Himself, proves beyond all other proof, the greatness of that "love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins" (Eph. ii. 4, 5).
It was only by God providing One Who could bear the denounced curse, that the righteousness of God could be met; it was only by death falling on One capable of enduring it vicariously, that His truth could be vindicated; it was only by blood being provided which could truly sanctify, that the holiness of God could, without being impaired, receive those who were personally sinners; and these three things have been done. All that was needed was found in the Lamb whom God provided, and in Him alone.
How much there is which we might admire in looking at the walk of our blessed Lord in the world; His holiness; His grace; His love; His seeking of the Father's glory, not His own; all exhibit to us a character to which our souls must respond, that it was pleasing to God. It would be easy to say that one who walked as the Lord Jesus did, would have a righteous claim to enter into life by obedience; and surely He would, if such an one could have been found.
But although we might have felt that the person of Jesus was indeed that in which God could delight, yet there would have been but an awful feeling produced if His holiness only had been known, apart from the object for which He had come. It could never have given confidence before God for a sinner to know that Jesus was one who perfectly responded to the Father's mind; because his own dissimilarity to Jesus would ever be present, hindering all feeling of confidence in coming to Jesus, because of the infinite distance he would consciously feel as being between Jesus and himself; and this would even prevent the soul from receiving any testimony to the love of God. How can the love of a holy God rest on a defiled sinner such as I am? If God delights in Jesus, how can He delight in me? Such are the questions which would almost necessarily arise, if the person of the Lord were known apart from His work.
But how changed is every thought, so soon as it is really known by the sinner not only who Jesus is, but what He has done; as soon as the soul knows that He has laid down His life for sinners; "It pleased Jehovah to bruise Him, He hath put Him to grief;" there is that which gives fulness of confidence. All that Jesus is in His Own inherent holiness becomes then that which we see to be for us, instead of against us, and the only estimate which we can form aright of the satisfaction which the Father has in us as believers in Jesus, is to be learned from knowing the Father's satisfaction in Him.
There could not have been any redemption except by the substitution of One Who was capable of standing in the stead of others; so that the more our hearts estimate the perfectness of Jesus, the more do we apprehend how perfect was His capacity for being our substitute. Sinless and spotless, there was no claim which could have been righteously made against Him, and the more we are conscious of the contrast that He was in the world to what we naturally are, the more may we find full satisfaction in His work; the higher thoughts we entertain of "the Holy One of God," the more shall we apprehend the greatness of the salvation which God has provided for us.
When the soul responds to the blessed truth, "It is Christ that died: yea rather that is risen again, Who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us" (Rom. viii. 34), it can joyfully trace out all His ways upon earth, following Him through every scene of which the Holy Ghost has given us an account; and every exhibition of holiness, marvellous as it is to us, will only cause more fulness of reliance upon that love which gave Him to die.
If we would learn the love of God towards us, let us read it in Gethsemane,—in the Cross, and in the glory of the Lord. Look at Gethsemane; there is "the Lord of glory;" Himself "the true God," appearing as "the Man of sorrows," and realizing the bitter anticipation of drinking the cup of wrath for us; He fully feels what is before Him, so as to say, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death;" and in that sorrow, He was alone, none able to share it with Him; none able at all to apprehend it; behold Him withdrawn a little from His disciples, and listen to the prayer which He addresses to the Father: "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt." We know that the cup did not pass from Him, and this proves that it was by means of His blood, and by that alone, that the purposes of God's grace could be carried out; no other way was possible.
But though the cup did not pass from Him, yet we know that His prayer was heard: "There appeared an angel unto Him from Heaven, strengthening Him." How low a place had He taken, to be strengthened by the ministry of one of His Own creatures! How deeply His soul felt what was before Him, is proved by the agony and bloody sweat; but through all, there is the fullest reliance upon the Father's will, and the fixed purpose of soul that His will should be done. Now what love do we see in the Father's heart in this His love to us had brought His Son to die; and deep as the agony was which that Son felt, and fully as He loved Him, His purpose changed not and Jesus changed not from His purpose of doing the Father's will. He had prayed the first time, that if it were possible, the cup might pass from Him; but He says, both the second and third time, "O My Father, if this cup may not pass away from Me, except I drink it, Thy will be done."
What love, what grace is exhibited to us in this wonderful intercourse between the Father and the Son, which the Holy Ghost has thus recorded! Our Lord receives the bitter cup as given Him by His Father, so that, when betrayed, He rebukes those who sought to deliver Him: "The cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?"
Now let us look at the Cross. There we have the actual shedding of the blood of the Lamb. There we see the Lord bruised for our iniquities. It was exacted, and He was made answerable. But oh, how different were the thoughts of God and the thoughts of man with regard to that transaction. The serpent was bruising the heel of the seed of the woman; in the judgment of men, "He was numbered with the transgressors." It seemed as though all the power which He in His actions on earth had displayed, was gone. Satan and Death were triumphing over Him; and (O how blindly!) man joined in the triumph. But look at that transaction as before God, and then we find that "It pleased Jehovah to bruise Him." It pleased God to give His Son this portion of suffering, this endurance of wrath for us; for our sakes, and in our stead. If we look at our Lord merely as suffering under the hand of man, we see that He endured no small portion of sorrow; but when we know that He was bearing the wrath of God, we see a vastness in what He endured upon the Cross, which far passes all our thoughts. It were comparatively easy to bear even the anguish of His pierced hands and feet and His torn brow, and to endure the taunts and reproaches of those around Him, and of those who suffered with Him; others have, it may be, endured all this, and have prayed too for their murderers as He did; but who can estimate the anguish of His soul? "He Who knew no sin" was then "made sin for us." He was bearing our sins in His Own body on the tree. That which was abhorrent to His very nature, was now taken up and laid on Him; borne by Him as though it were His Own; confessed by Him; and He, in one word, was nailed upon the Cross as though He Himself had been verily guilty of all the sins of the whole Church.
It is the Psalms, such as the 69th, 40th and 22nd, that tell us of "the travail of His soul; if we would understand, Christ was "made sin," we must look there. And oh! How wondrous is the thought of the face of God having been hid from Jesus: "My God, My God! why hast Thou forsaken Me?" was His cry; and this one imploring question reveals to us much of the love towards us of Him Who had thus given His Son to die. "He that spared not His Own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Rom. viii. 32).
The Cross is to us the assurance of the Father's love; the proof that we are lost in ourselves; the opening of that river of grace to our souls in which our blessing from the hand of God is so richly exhibited. Well might we ponder long upon the Cross, upon the actual shedding of the ‘blood of the Lamb; but it is only when the glory beyond is seen, that either Gethsemane or the Cross can be estimated aright.
Let us then trace onward that pathway of blessing to which the Holy Ghost directs our eyes. We have seen the Lord in His unmoved purpose going down into anguish and death; but from that point, we find an upward course of light and glory. Satan had his seeming triumph for a little while; but in the slaying of the Lamb of God, he had done his worst. Death had gained a seeming triumph over the only Man over Whom he had no rightful claim. The grave held His body, and Hades His soul for three days; but after that brief interval, Resurrection declared both the person and the victory of Him Who had so lately been the victim. He had died "that through death, He might destroy (render void) him that had the power of death, that is the devil." In resurrection, He was declared to be the Son of God with power. He was manifested as holding the keys of death and Hades; "I am He that liveth and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen, and have the keys of hell (Hades) and of death" (Rev. i. 18).
The resurrection, proved the value of His blood which had been shed. What had weighed Him down into the grave? The sins which were laid vicariously on Him. How then could He rise again? Because His blood was shed, and its shedding had a real efficacy in the remission of those sins. It was commensurate to the purpose for which it had been needed.
But not only did the crucified Saviour rise from the grave, but "the path of life" (Psa. xvi.), which the Father shewed to His Son, led Him upwards to His presence, where there is "fulness of joy," and gave Him glory at His right hand, where there are "pleasures for evermore." But although He thus rose triumphant into glory, His work for His Church was not forgotten. He was not merely the "rejected of men" accepted by God, but He was the High Priest of His people; and the blood which had been so freely shed upon earth, was not to be forgotten—"Christ being come a High Priest of good things to come . . . by His Own blood, entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption" (Heb. ix.); and thus this blood has its true value declared in the presence of God Himself, in its acceptance by Him, and in the redemption therein being set forth to us as being eternal. It is on the mercy-seat above, that faith sees the blood—it is the witness before God that we have sinned, but that the propitiation having been made, His grace accepts, in the way which He has provided, even sinners such as we are. "The blood of sprinkling speaketh better things than that of Abel;" it now speaks peace and forgiveness; it is now the recorded result of the work of Christ. Through that blood, the Holy Ghost works in quickening the chosen children of God; and in giving to them the testimony—"Their sins and iniquities I will remember no more."
And He Whose blood was thus shed, is still "the Lamb that was slain in the midst of the throne;" to Him is the worship of Heaven directed, all joining in the new song of praise: "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing." And well may we, as redeemed sinners, who are now made the children of God, "begotten again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead," unite in our response, "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His Own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen!’’
And now that we see the blood in the presence of God, how fully ought our souls to rejoice in it. We cannot have too deep thoughts of our own guiltiness; but it is only by the value of the blood which declares it to be forgiven, that we can at all learn its aggravated amount in the sight of God; and the more we contemplate that blood, the more will our souls be lost in wonder at the greatness of the love of God.
But in our upward glances at the glory into which Jesus is entered, we must not forget that it is as our forerunner that He is there. He will not dwell in glory for ever without having that Church, which has been ransomed at so costly a price, with Him in it likewise. As He has risen and has entered into His glory, so surely will every one who has trusted in His name, be raised likewise. As Death and Hades could not hold Him as their prey, so He, having the keys, will not allow one of the weakest of His flock to remain under their power. He did not speak in vain when He said, "On this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hell (Hades) shall not prevail against it." (Matt. xvi. 18). True it is that the place of separate spirits has received, and yet holds myriads on myriads of the departed saints; but as the Lord could not be retained by the gates of Hades, so will He, on that promised day of blessing unlock them, and deliver all who are His. Death has a brief and a seeming dominion over the bodies of the saints; they lie in the grave even as others, but it is only for a season that Satan triumphs in turning them to corruption; and then will it be manifested that his power was lost when he exerted it against Christ; and that having once had dominion over Him, he can have none permanently over those who are His. The promise of Christ is true, "Because I live, ye shall live also." (John xiv. 19). As He liveth, risen from the dead, so shall they. The death of any individual saint is a blessing to Him, for he "departs to be with Christ, which is far better." But it is the resurrection of the sleeping saints, and the change of the living ones when the Lord cometh, which shall declare Him before all to be the triumphant victor over Death, Satan, Hades, and the grave. "Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed; in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death where is thy sting? O grave, (Hades) where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, Who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. xv.).
Thus do we arrive at the full manifestation of the glory of Christ in His Church; in their rising because He rose, and their entering into glory because He has entered in. Thus do we see the result of the work which He has performed, and in which He was satisfied: "He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied" (Isa. liii. 11); the manifestation of all the saints before the throne being that which will shew in result the value of the blood of the Lamb.
That blood is not to be regarded as having so done its work, as no longer intimately to concern us; for as it is now, our title to forgiveness, so eternally it will be our title to glory. It is as thus being the ground on which we shall be gathered then, that we well may contemplate it as the gathering point of saints even now.
In glory there will be nothing looked to as entitling the gathered multitude to their place before the throne, but their having "washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." This one plea suffices for them with God: and as they not only are thus to be gathered to Him, but also to one another, so do we see a principle of great practical value as to the union of saints.
Now we wish to press upon all the children of God, that the basis of our union in glory is quite sufficient for our union on earth; and even as we shall then be manifested on that ground, so ought we now to stand manifestly joined together on that alone.
Why should it not suffice? If that blood has power in bringing man to God, can it not unite to one another the individuals who have been so reconciled? No human distinction can possibly equal the separation which there was between us and God; and if He has broken down the latter, it suffices to annihilate the former. The greatest human distinction which ever existed in the world, was that of Jew and Gentile; we find no mention of any such distinctions in the glory; but there they are all blended into one company, gathered out of all nations; and as all such distinctions cease before the throne, so in the Church does the Word speak of them as ceasing now. Thus the Apostle speaks of our being brought near by the blood of Christ, and thus being united to one another: "Ye were without God in the world; but now in Christ Jesus, ye who sometimes were far off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For He is our peace, Who hath made both (Jewish and Gentile believers) one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us . . . that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the Cross, having slain the enmity thereby; and came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through Him, we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father " (Eph. ii.).
Let us take what distinctions we will, which could be supposed still to separate those who are alike reconciled to God through the blood of Christ, and we shall find them but insignificant when compared with the separation of Jew and Gentile. We must not forget that this was a distinction which had been set up by God Himself: a distinction which still exists with regard to those who are not in Christ (for we read of "the Jews, the Gentiles, and the Church of God," 1 Cor. x. 32), and yet this divinely sanctioned separation has no place in keeping asunder those who are equally brought near to God by the blood of Christ.
Why then is it that Christians are gathered upon many and different grounds? Why is it that they allow human distinctions to prevent their manifested union on earth? Just because other things besides "the blood of the Lamb" have been allowed to interpose terms of communion; because something more has been made requisite for union than that which unites to Christ; because varying judgments have been looked on as sufficient to keep apart those who are one in Christ, and are dwelt in by one Spirit; because choice, convenience, and inclination have weighed more with Christians, than the testimony of the Holy Ghost and the prayer of Christ (John xvii.).
Let us look at these added principles of communion, and see whether they have any real value in the sight of God. We can very well understand, that many may judge that something more than that which unites to Christ is needful to bind together the saints while here on earth; but we believe that any such judgment would, if closely examined, be found to resolve itself into unbelief.
It may be stated, without hesitation, that the New Testament gives no sanction to these added terms of communion; and this alone ought to make a Christian hesitate before he judges any such addition to be needful. And further, the directions are express, that we should not set up anything as necessary to our receiving one another, except the fact that each has been received of Christ: "Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be like-minded one toward another, according to Christ Jesus, that ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us, to the glory of God" (Rom. xv. 5–7). This passage answers many of the questions which might arise; for it is as Christ has received us, that we are to receive one another. It is not because of any desert in us, or anything of fitness on our part, that Christ received us; and this is the principle on which we are to act with regard to one another. Varying judgments melt into nothing when brought to this principle. It was not because of any union in judgment, but simply in grace, that we were met; and our consenting to the judgment of God concerning the blood of His Son, has been wrought in us, not by any acting of our own will, but by the quickening operation of His Spirit. And as this has been the work of God, so does it behoove us not to allow variance of judgment to separate brethren. If Christ has received any, we have to do the same; while we may ever seek that we may be so taught by the Spirit as to arrive at oneness of judgment. Of course, in the communion of saints, it must be judged that if inclination and convenience were permitted to have any place, they would only be the actings of self-will, and therefore they should never be allowed (as they so often are) to rend the children of God asunder.
And further, as it was "to the glory of God" that Christ received us, this one consideration ought to shew, that no lower motive than this should influence us in receiving our brethren. If the glory of God fills our thoughts, there will be no room for the many little hindrances, which are found in practice to be so powerful. This high and holy principle led our blessed Lord through all His paths of suffering for us; and so should we be led in service to Him, to act upon the same towards those whom He has thus received.
It is just according as we ourselves apprehend the preciousness of the blood of Christ, that we shall know the power which it has in uniting those whom it has cleansed. If we would apprehend the motives which are set before us in the exhortation, that we should "receive one another, as Christ received us, to the glory of God," we ought to take the work of Christ in all its fulness. Look at the love shewn us in it, in all its vastness, and then say whether any thing which we can imagine, is sufficient to outweigh this motive for union.
We know well that unbelief will argue concerning the danger of not being sufficiently on our guard, and much more of similar objection. But what are we to guard? If we were to look at the communion of saints as a thing of human devising, then it might be for us to set up the safeguards which our wisdom might approve. But the communion of saints is of God; it is ordained by Him; it is the fellowship of those in whom the Holy Ghost dwelleth, and therefore it has the character of opposition to God for us to dream of any safeguards, except those which He has appointed.
And widely as our receiving is to be extended, God Himself has given us His safeguard. It is those whom Christ has received that we are to receive, and no others; it is, in fact, the application on earth of the principle on which the redeemed, and they alone, shall be gathered together in Heaven.
This is not merely an abstract truth, but an important practical principle; and we desire to press upon all our brethren in the Lord, that we are all responsible for carrying out the truth of God into action; it is not dealing honestly for us to admit anything to be truly the requirement of God, and then to question whether it be practicable to act upon it. Farther, it is really questioning the wisdom of God for any to ask, what is the use of doing what He has commanded. God did not wait till we should see the use, before He gave His Son; and if God calls us to present fellowship on a simple principle, our place is to consent to the wisdom of God by simple obedience.
Unbelief questions every step of the way; it is unbelief which hinders sinners from finding peace with God, through the work of His Son. It is unbelief in a Christian to question whether, as trusting in the blood of Christ, he will assuredly enter into glory with Him. And just so, it is unbelief for any to seek other grounds of union than those which God has appointed. It is unbelief, for it is practically questioning whether God's way is the best way; in other words, whether the wisdom of God is really to be preferred to the judgment of man. Faith questions none of these things; for, resting upon the testimony of the Holy Ghost, it knows the satisfaction of the Father in the blood of Christ, and it sees that blood connected with all these things. Faith knows the entire putting away of sin, because it sees the blood of the Lamb as fully commensurate to meet the infinite demand. Faith questions not the entering into glory of all who have trusted in the blood of the Lamb, because it sees the blood accepted in the Father's presence, and speaking peace there. And just so, Faith seeks no other term of union than that which is presented to its view in that blood through which the ransomed will meet in glory. If practical difficulties be suggested, Faith does not reject the command, well knowing, that however discordant the elements may be, which have to be brought together, the blood of the Lamb has united them to God in the relation of children, although they were far more contrary to Him than they can be to one another. Faith, taking God’s estimate, enters into His thoughts, and argues not upon any principle of human expediency, but upon the truth of God, which it values for His sake.
Unbelief, looking at the saints with the eyes of man, magnifies the difficulties which are in the way of their union; whilst Faith, seeing how great the love is with which they have been loved, sees in that love a common principle of responsive love in the hearts of all who through the Spirit have learned it, as shown in the gift of the Son of God.
Faith looks at Gethsemane, at the cross, and at the glory, and learns in them, how mighty is the love of God, how precious is the blood of the Lamb; and thus argues upon that blood and that love as supplying the most potent bond of union. Faith sees the difficulties which were in the way of man's union with God as utterly removed in Christ, and thus knows that nothing need separate from one another those who are one in Him.
All the children of God are brethren; we are all born of God; cleansed from our sins in the blood of Christ; all of us loved by God, even as He loves Jesus. Manifested union is what He now asks from us. He has made us one in Christ; He has given us the Holy Ghost, and are we to refuse to obey His voice? Can it be, that we have so little love towards God and towards those for whom God has given so much, as to refuse this? The Scripture has said, "Every one that loveth Him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of Him" (1 John v. 1). Shall we, then, in Christian fellowship shew this love, or shall we allow unbelief or self-will to hinder us?
Our Lord has thus prayed for all His disciples:—"I pray for them . . . that they may all be ONE; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me. And the glory which Thou gavest Me, I have given them, that they may be one, even as We are One; I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them Even AS THOU HAST LOVED ME" (John xvii.). Is there no joy to the hearts of the children of God, in knowing that the Lord, before He suffered, prayed thus for them? Then let our thoughts rest upon His Words: the glory is given for a specific object, that we should shew our oneness now—"that the world may know," "that the world may believe."
The glory has thus been given; and Faith knows it as our actual possession; although we are not yet in it, we have the Spirit as the earnest of it; and thus let us seek to contemplate it aright, seeing that it is for a practical purpose that it has been bestowed. The glory connects us necessarily in thought with all those who will be sharers with us in it; it is not given to one individual Christian or another, but to "them (i.e. to all), that they may be one;" so that the very thought of the glory ought to connect us with the whole of the household of God. And every thought of glory ought to lead our hearts to think of this union, which was so dear to the soul of our Lord. There is no selfishness in this; but, on the contrary, there is the recognition of the common love which rests upon us all, and which glows towards us all in the heart of our loving Father. "Thou hast loved them even as Thou hast loved Me!"
It is after treating of the entire forgiveness of our sins, that the Apostle exhorts, "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us through the wall, that is to say, His flesh; and having an High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering (for He is faithful that promised); and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works; not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another, and so much the more as ye see the day approaching" (Heb. x.).
Here we find connected together our present confidence and privilege in entering into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, and our manifesting by the assembling of ourselves (i.e., believers, because they are such) together, who we are, that through the grace of God, are thus privileged. We are on earth as to our persons, but above in spirit, because Jesus is there; and there we have access through His blood, and it is in our assembling ourselves together, that we are to exhibit to the eyes, even of the world, that we read the glory aright which we see above.
But our Lord, in the prayer to which we have before referred, not only spoke of the glory as being now bestowed on us, that we may be one, but also of our actual introduction into it. "Father, I will (desire) that they also whom Thou hast given Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory." This is our future portion; this is that at which we have been looking in anticipation, when considering the great company gathered before the throne, and before the Lamb. In that day, the prayer of Christ will be met, however much unbelief and self-will on our part hinder it now. The saints will be manifested as being one, however they now keep themselves asunder. But, it may be asked, Why is not this sufficient? Why need we care for manifested union now, since in glory we are sure to come to this? Because it is the desire of our Lord: and this one answer ought to suffice. But, further, no one who knows the love of God, would question that communion with Him is now to be sought, although there are many hindrances; and it is certain, that every saint will have this in full enjoyment when in His presence. Just so it is as to the communion of saints, because we shall fully enjoy it at last, so ought we to seek it now. If, when in rest, it will be our blessing, how much is it to be prized during the trials of the way.
We have not even glanced at the details of the separate grounds of communion which are set up amongst the saints on earth. This is not at all our present purpose, for it is simply as rejoicing in the blood of the Lamb, and in the glory into which it will bring us, that we have thus spoken of it as a principle of union in present fellowship for the children of God. We know that the sheep of Christ, who are to be one flock, are now widely scattered. We desire that they may see, in the blood shed for them, a principle of holy and blessed fellowship, to commence in gathering together on earth those who are washed therein, and in glory to be still their point of manifested union.
We know not how soon the blessed day which we have in prospect may arrive (the Lord grant it to be speedily!); but this we know and are assured of, that in seeking thus to gather the children of God, we are labouring for that day when we shall all join in the new song in glory.
If we had earthly objects in view, we might meet with disappointment; but in this we cannot finally, however many be the hindrances in the way; for we know it to be the immutable counsel and purpose of God, that if every saint on earth were to refuse to be united to us NOW on the ground of the blood of the Lamb, THEY ALL MUST MEET US UPON THAT ONE GROUND IN GLORY.
Let our brethren in Christ object now if they will; it may give us present grief; but we know that their objections will, when in glory, utterly melt away, and then no term of communion will remain, save that on which we shall all infallibly meet, "The Blood of the Lamb."
With this we close these remarks, earnestly desiring for all our brethren, that they may, through the teaching of the Holy Ghost, so learn the preciousness of the blood of the Lamb, as to know, in present anticipation, the joy of that day, when all the children of God, gathered in white robes before the throne, shall join unitedly in that song (which it is now our common privilege to sing), "Worthy is THE LAMB that was slain." Then we shall know even as we are known, and shall rejoice in reading the counsels of God, as declared to us in "the Blood of the Lamb."
LONDON:—Tract Depot, No. 1, Warwick Square.