« הקודםהמשך »
to a conviction of the truth of His blessed Captain's statement, “Without me ye can do nothing" (John xv. 5). He goes on, and by-andbye, with Paul, the aged, he says, “I can do all things, through Christ, which strengtheneth me” (Phil
. iv. 13). Oh, the importance of viewing all the Lord's dealings with us in the way of grace, and in the way of Providence too, as designed to mellow, and deepen, and extend, and ripen our personal experience, that we may reach the standing of " fathers in Christ."
I pass on to remark, that these fathers are very different from the lazy old drones whom the Papists call “fathers;” and that they have their orthodoxy firm and fixed-so firm and fixed, that they are not to be driven about by “ every wind of doctrine.” I was struck, in contemplating this point, with the statement of the apostle, “Strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use "—mark, the “ reason of use"—the use of all the graces of the Holy Spirit, and the circumstances to which I have been referring, both things temporal and things spiritual—"who by reason of use have their senses exercised "—their spiritual senses exercised--not a mere spurt at a thing, just as a little boy deals with a toy; but “ their senses renewed to discern both good and evil" (Heb. v. 14). That is the way to get at establishment in orthodoxy: a full age attained, the use of all the graces called forth, the discernment clear and brightened, and a distinction drawn between good and evil with regard to doctrine.
Let us look for a moment at this fixed establishment in orthodoxy, and we shall find a strong contrast between the genuine Christian fathers, and the fathers of the dark ages that Papists and Puseyites pride themselves upon. It is all lost time to read any of them. It is infinitely better to keep to your Bibles. The time I have devoted to reading these “ fathers," has been so much thrown away; though perhaps I, as a public character, did right to read them. But the true scriptural fathers are brought to full age, to manhood. Paul once said, " I knew a man in Christ” (2 Cor. xii. 2). A man! Whatno more than one, Paul ? “I knew,” he said, “ a man in Christ;" as if he would almost intimate that he never knew but one. He knew many babes, inultitudes of babes, and some boys, advanced : and perhaps the prediction relative to Jerusalem of old, might be thus spiritually viewed, “The streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof" (Zech. viii. 5). But "I knew a man in Christ,” said Paul; one matured, of full age, reaching nearly to the
measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ;" correct in his discernment, and discovering and appropriating all the grand doctrines, so fixed as not to be moved or shaken by any cunning polemic he might come across; so settled in the grand doctrines of God's eternal grace, as to be able to cry out with the Psalmist,“ O God ! my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise.” Thus, according to the statement of the apostle, he had his as senses exercised."
Ah, beloved, you who are younger-you will never find yourselves at the standing of fathers in Christ, without having your “senses,” your spiritual « senses," called into exercise; and the graces of the Holy Spirit also called into exercise. Your attaining to that standing will not depend upon the number of your years, but on the extent to which the Holy Ghost is pleased to exercise His own graces, and call them into use in your souls. Your faith will be like but a grain of mustard-seed, unless it is used and called forth. But when trying cir
cumstances, distressing, events, deep and bitter soul experiences, various temptations, and hard trials, call faith into use, it grows and grows, becomes stronger and stronger, and is more active, and vigorous, and powerful. It is having the “senses ”thus called into use, that constitutes the maturity of a father in Christ. So with the grace of lore. I apprehend that the love to God, which often appears so warm on the part of young converts, is coupled with a degree of natural affection; but, being brought into use, that little flame at length blazes up, and becomes abiding, firm, and steady towards our precious Christ and His salvation. It is the more apparent on account of its increased purity, on account of its having a Divine origin, and coming down from heaven; and it is seen and known that these “ fathers " love Jehovah “ with His own love," with an affection that is heavenly and Divine, and not merely with nature's emotions.
Moreover, with regard to humility, and meekness, and zeal, and patience, they are called into exercise in the experience of the believers, they are brought into use, they support under sorrows, they instruct under difficulties, they go forth on their errands to the throne of God, and fetch home new supplies to the soul that is the subject of grace.
I must mention that the senses are brought into use in the exercise of prayer. This is of vast importance. Private prayer must be the practice of all the regenerated family of God. Family prayer is the duty—the imperative duty—of every man who would advance to anything like fatherhood in his own household. Public prayer, I may say, is a more limited privilege ; and though I admit that every
Christian is not qualified for public prayer, yet I believe that not one-fourth part of those who are, would allow us to know it, and they want dragging out, that “ their senses " may be called into use and exercise.
Moreover, these fathers are described as having their understandings matured. I must refer you to the precious Word of God for confirmation of this. In it you will find that the apostle, writing to the Colossians, prays earnestly for those believers," that they might be filled with the knowledge of His will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding." Now do not mistake this “spiritual understanding." Observe that there is a marked difference between the natural and the spiritual understanding. A natural understanding may be well matured and informed in natural things, but do nothing for its possessor with regard to spiritual privileges, much less with regard to his arriving at the standing of a “ father. A natural understanding cannot rise higher than nature, and there are many men of clear, bright intellect, great attainments, correct perceptions in matters of business, and clear discernment between good and evil, who have not one single ray of spiritual light, no spiritual understanding at all. And even those who have spiritual understandings, frequently have them so darkened, limited, and circnmscribed, that, until the mighty operations of grace have been called into exercise, they know little about them. As was the case with the disciples in going to Emmaus. They had been with our Lord, seen His miracles, heard His teaching, watched His example, and accompanied Him through His wilderness ministry, yet they understood next to nothing. They understood not His plain statement, made just before he suffered, that He would rise again the third day. But when He appeared to them afterwards, it is said, " then opened He their understandings, that they might understand the Scriptures” (Luke xxiv. 45). Take Colos. ii. 2, where the apostle prays “ that the hearts of the Colossians might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of under standing." Mark that—"the full assurance of understanding." There is something like fatherhood there. And in what is the “ full assurance of understanding” to be manifested? Why, “to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ." Here we discover that the “ fathers are persons of long standing in Divine life, of blessed attainments as regards maturity of experience, firm orthodox principles, not to be moved, and who have reached what the apostle prays for, " the full assurance of understanding;" so that they are led to acknowledge the mystery of the Trinity.
II.—Let us now say something concerning the attainment. “I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known Him that is from the beginning Here mark the two words which are printed in Italics" that is '-because the omission of them makes a considerable difference in the reading, and yet does not alter the sentiment. Without these two words, the text would read, “ I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known Him from the beginning.” I should like to glance at the verse in both senses; for, without the Italics, it would appear that the apostle meant that these fathers had known Christ from the beginning
- from the beginning of their spiritual experience, or from the beginning of His ministry; and they were, in all probability, actual spectators of His miracles, death, and resurrection. I think this may
be admitted. Then, with regard to “the fathers " in the present day, it may be thus viewed: that they have known Hiin from the beginning of their spiritual life, from the beginning of the Lord's work in their hearts, from the period when they were first led to a clear apprehension and view of the Person, official character, and perfect work of our precious Christ. And I think there are some who would like this sense as applicable to their own history, and could say that from the commencement of the work in their hearts, they have been enabled to see that the oracles of God clearly unfold the Person of Christ as co-equal and co-eternal with the Father, the office of Christ, as the covenant Head, and the perfect work of Christ in the complete salvation of His Church, They have not been dragged about Sinai, and the vain philosophy and abominable idolatries that are practised in our universities. They have gone the direct road to Calvary, and seen at once, by the Lord's dealings with them, that their salvation is wholly in Christ. I congratulate such in my heart, and I cannot help saying to the young amongst you, beloved, look to it, that you know Christ from the beginning of your experience.
But now turn to the text as it stands with the Italics. “I write unto you, fathers, beause ye have known Him that is from the beginning." According as it is written, “ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the begining with God” (John i. 1). Again, “ That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life, declare we unto you ” (1 John i. 1). This represents our precious Lord as the first-begotten--the only-begotten of the Father, set up from everlasting as the covenant Head of His Church, and viewing all His Church complete in Him, and the entire matter of salvation and
redemption covenanted in Him and entrusted to Him; and these Christian-spiritual fathers have been brought to know Him as such.
Now a word or two as to the attainment. I apprehend the meaning to be, that they had known Him spiritually and savingly; and herein they differ from speculators, and from scribes and Pharisees, relative to their Christianity. There are not a few who learn divinity as they would a science. Why the very thought is profane. There are not a few who get their divinity from the reading of books, and weighing the arguments, and following the examples of those who, probably, knew no more of it than themselves. Led on by blind guides towards the ditch of eternal despair, they make up a theory which they call a creed of Christianity, but know nothing of the matter in their own souls' experience—have never learned one lesson from the Divine Preceptor, have never received one drop of unction from the Holy One (1 John ii. 2—20), have never known Christ to any saving purpose. They will repeat to you what they call a “belief,'' that shall contain orthodox principles, and set forth the very things that spiritual persons assent to respecting the Lord Jesus Christ and his salvation; and yet whilst they gabble it over, they have no more spiritual discernment or appropriation of the truth than the seats upon which they sit. There may be a theoretical knowledge thus attained without a saving knowledge.
Moreover, in the pursuit of what is called theology as a science, they may advance so far as to become what are called divinity or theological tutors, and even presume to teach the rising race Christianity, they themselves knowing nothing of what they say or affirm, and thus both teacher and taught ultimately perish with the sound word before their eyes and in their hands. Why, say you, this is severe. I wish I could make it so. What, say you, then is the difference? I have called it a spiritual and saving knowledge of Him who is from the beginning. By spiritual I mean the Holy Spirit's communication of life Divine, the capacity to know God, the imparting of lesson upon lesson, information after information, and testimony after testimony of the precious Christ of God. The Spirit first creates a spiritual existence by giving life Divine to the soul, and then proves to the soul that what the Lord hath said is correct. “He shall take of mine and show it unto you" (John xvi. 14)—“He shall teach you all things" (John xiv. 26)——" He shall testify of me” (John xv. 26). So that those who are growing up to be fathers in Christ are waiting at the footstool of Divine mercy for the Spirit's unction, the Spirit's power, the Spirit's testimony of Christ, the Spirit's “witnessing with their spirits” that they belong to Christ. Whatever knowledge we attain to by reading we get nothing there from spiritual, saving, or satisfactory, to our souls; it is only to be got from that which the Holy Ghost communicates day by day, line upon line; for, says the glorious Master Himself, " A man can receive nothing except it be given him from above." Therefore I conclude that those “fathers in Christ " who are said to " have known him that is from the beginning" must have long been under unctuous anointings, hourly teachings, and special grace from above! “Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.'
I cannot allow that any men are worthy of the name of “fathers" in this spiritual sense, save those who have been taught of the Holy Ghost emphatically; who know what Christ is in His Person, what
Christ is in His official character and headship, what Christ is under responsibility for His Church, what Christ is before the throne as the Advocate on high, and what Christ is as formed in their hearts, the hope of glory. These are “fathers " who know him after this manner, with a spiritual and saving knowledge. One Scripture in confirmation This is life eternal”—and saving too—“to know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent” (John xvii. 3). I 'beseech you, beloved, to weigh this point well. I am very anxious that we should have more fathers in the Church of the living God. The apostle Paul lamented in his day concerning the people around him—“Though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers;" nor do I believe that there are many fathers even now in this highest and best sense. I want to see fathers of thirty years of age, forty years of age, and fifty years of age, as well as fathers of sixty and seventy. It does not follow, beloved, that you must remain upon earth threescore years and ten before you can be fathers in Christ and in divinity. No, there are fathers in Christ on earth now, who have arrived at spiritual eminence, and yet are comparatively young,
years. But to proceed. This knowledge of Him“ from the beginning" must be experimental and intimate. By experimental knowledge I mean the enjoyment of the powerful operation of His grace, and the melting accents of his voice saluting the soul and speaking consolation to the heart. Now he says, My sheep know my voice" well as hear it. They hear my voice and they know my voice—an attainment such as I have been describing this morning, and I want my hearers to be accustomed to His voice.“ The voice of a stranger they will not follow;" and when he speaks in accents like the following—“I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins"--when He speaks out thus a sense of forgiving love is felt and enjoyed. That is experimental knowledge. A sweet consciousness of pardon is fixed and written on the soul, and the soul lives in participation of its blessings.
Moreover, in the midst of the difficulties, the trials, the cares, the sorrows, and the temptations which befall the travellers through the wilderness, experimental knowledge of Christ must be realized; and if He comes and says, “ Fear not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, I am thy God," one such sentence from Him, known and felt to be from His voice, speaks with power Divine, melting into the soul, calling into exercise the graces of the Holy Spirit, and engaging the recipient to cry out, " Ten thousand thanks to Thy name, precious Christ, for speaking thus unto me.” This is experimental knowledge.
Again, experimental knowledge must grow into intimacy; the soul must sit with Him in heavenly places, walk with Him, come up leaning upon Him from the wilderness, and in close communion with Him; 80 that all our secret thoughts, complaints, sins, Justs, corruptions, ali that gives us annoyance, and that we could hardly tell to the dearest fellow-mortal, we may whisper into the ear of Jesus, who in return will whisper words of comfort, Divine encouragement, and a blessed assurance of our relationship to Him. Thus our souls get at a more intimate fellowship and intercourse with our glorious covenant Head.
It is most desirable that our knowledge of Jesus should be not merely experimental, but more intimate. I want to cleave to Him in “purpose of heart,” to cling to His cross, and refuse to be loosened