Tuesday, September 01, 2009

My attention has been elsewhere

Lately I have been concentrating on my other blog:

Shoes Off at the Door, Please

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

God's Dwelling with Men, by J.N. Darby

By John Nelson Darby

Revelation 21: 1-8

In this part of the chapter we have the end of all things, when the mediatorial work of Christ, even as king in subduing all things, is finished, and He has given up the kingdom that God may be all in all; when the final result is produced in the new heaven and the new earth; when the former things have passed away; when everything is in its own essential blessedness in the presence of God, and we have not only got blessing, but this in glory; it leads us in a peculiar manner to see the way in which the thought and counsel of God have been at all times to make man His dwelling-place. This is not always observed in Scripture; but when God's ways are brought out, and also particularly His holiness as it is said in the Psalms, "Holiness becometh thine house, O Lord, for ever," then we have the purpose of God unfolded to us to make man His dwelling-place; and therefore we find the goodness and love of God finally displayed.

"Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." The language is figurative, no doubt; but there is this full and complete effect of God's own dealing and working in the removal of everything that can create a pang. But there is more in this than that tears are wiped away: God shall do it. There is the compassion that has caused the removal of the sorrow, and this is more than that the sorrow is gone. It is God who has removed all. If the evil is gone and the sense of pain, it is God who has put them away from the heart. "And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain." Not only has He taken away the evil, but it is never to be any more. That is, there is now full and perfect security and blessedness. All the evil is gone, and all those things too through which; man was exercised to bring him to a point where he could really meet God. The love of God takes the place of everything, and, filling all things with Himself, precludes the possibility of evil ever coming in again the contrast of man's paradise of old, as we all know.

Then come two great principles in verses 6, 7: "I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son." First, there is the one who is athirst, and then the one who overcomes. These are the ways in which the Spirit works; and God always answers the workings of the Spirit. Whenever the Spirit acts in producing desires and wants (it may be at first after holiness or forgiveness, and then after communion and enjoying God), they are all perfectly satisfied in God. Therefore it is said, "I will give unto him that is athirst of - the fountain of the water of life." It is not merely, mark, the water of life that is given here; but there is given "of the fountain," that which springs up in the presence of God. What a thing to find! Thus the soul is perfectly satisfied with the fountain of blessedness for which he is thirsting, even God Himself, whom he is rendered capable of enjoying. He is at the wellspring.

The second principle is that he that overcomes shall inherit. Here we find not desires satisfied, but difficulties overcome. It was so with Jesus Himself, as it is said, "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me on my throne, even as I also overcame and am set down with my Father on his throne." "He that overcometh shall inherit these things," as associated with Christ, "and I will be his God, and he shall be my son." He comes into immediate connection with God. In the one we have the satisfaction of spiritual wants, in the other the relationship wherein we stand. This is the general thought. Such is the state and condition of those spoken of; but there is another point which deserves to be enlarged on a little more, and that is the personal happiness found in it. There is no longer a Mediator, no longer the need of one; there is no more the need of mercy and grace found to help in the time of need.

When we come a little closer, there are other things that claim attention. We have here, "Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people," etc. His dwelling-place is with men. It is no more an individual or a national thing. Of course the wicked are put away; but God's dwelling-place is no longer with the Jews, but with men. And this too is to be noticed, that the church has a very peculiar place.

The thought of God was to be with men, dwelling and abiding with them. Christ dwelt here among men, but it was a short time, and now He is cast out; but that will be another thing. Nor will it be as He appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Even Christ's stay was to end; but not so the dwelling of God by-and-by. Neither is it simply men made blessed; but God will dwell with them. Such is the distinctive eternal character of blessing; but also the church is to possess it in a peculiar way, already remarked on in this passage. It is not life only, but the presence of God with men as His abiding-place to reveal Himself and bless them fully.

If we look back at Adam and his dwelling-place, we shall not find this. God did not, could not, stay there. Man was then put under responsibility to see if God could stay there. The question of obedience had to be settled; and we know how it was settled. Man disobeyed and was cast out. The test was the stability of the creature; it was no question of divine work in grace. God, therefore, in no wise dwelt there. But on man's sin He revealed the assurance of the Second Man, the Lord from heaven. As the first man, Adam, had failed under the serpent's craft, the last Adam was to come and destroy his power. So said God when pronouncing on the serpent. There was this revelation; but the world went on so badly that the flood came and took them all away, save Noah and his family, whom God rescued in the ark.

Yet the next thing we hear of the world is that men set about in the plain of Shinar to defy God, centralise man, and possess the earth in their own might and for their own name; just as men will do by-and-by in a yet more daring way, but Jehovah will confound them also, as He did at Babel. Thus, we see, by His judgment, the world ordered into nations and tongues; and the very fact of the existence of different tongues shews that men are separated into nations. This took its rise at Babel; so that the children of men could no longer understand each other. And still there are these peoples and tongues, nations and families. Thus the world was settled then.

But another thing comes out: "The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham." He said, as it were, You must have done with all this: it is the world. You must leave your country, and kindred, and father's house. I must have a people in the world. This was the call of Abram. But though we hear of the calling of God, and the election of God, and the promises of God, we have no such thing as God dwelling with Abram or the patriarchs. We know, in fact, that Abram did not leave his father's home at once, though he did quit his country; in other words, he had not done with the flesh. But when Terah was dead, then he blessedly went on as a pilgrim, and God visited him in a lovely way, shewing him His goodness and grace; not, of course, in such spiritual depth and fulness as now, but brightly and beautifully, as in Genesis 17, 18. He was the olive-tree or stock of God, as we read in Romans 11. Still there was yet no dwelling-place for God. He visits and gives him the promises. This was all right so far as it went; and though Abraham's faith failed in Egypt, yet in the main he walked blessedly as a pilgrim. But though God visited him and talked with him, there was yet nothing of redemption seen as a ground-work for God to abide with men.

At Egypt came the question which was to be the type of redemption: so mercy put the blood on the lintel as a figure of Christ. Then the children of Israel go through the Red Sea as the sign of the death and resurrection of Christ. Then we find redemption - the active intervention of God to make good the promises made. We have not now a promise of something to be given, but actual deliverance, as it is said in Exodus 19: 4: "Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself." So it is said (1 Peter 3: 18), "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God." Not our poor vile bodies - they are not yet brought to God; but our souls are truly redeemed. A work has been wrought so absolute in its nature for the putting away of sin, that now there is not a single thing (morally I mean) between God and him who has part in it; and not only is there nothing in us by which sin can be imputed, but we have been brought nigh to God.

Say, are you brought nigh to God? You say, I am hoping to get there. Then you have not been brought there, for He does not bring half way. But Christ has brought us nigh to God. He represents us in the presence of God. The putting away of sin is accomplished, or it never can be, for Christ cannot die over again. The work is done, but also the people are brought out. All that hindered God having them is put away by blood-shedding; but also they are taken out of the condition in which they were and are brought to God, to "walk in the light as he is in the light." And so it is with the believer now.

It is a very different thought to say, One day I hope to come, from saying, I am come. It is all grace: that we know. But now there is nothing between me and God - of course, there is the blessed Mediator - but I mean there is no evil; it is all cast into the depths of the sea; and we are in His presence "holy and without blame." And what is the consequence of this? That God can dwell among us and in us. If you look at Exodus 15: 2, you will see how He brings it out, consequent on their deliverance from Egypt, "The Lord is my strength and song and he is become my salvation; he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation." And in Exodus 29: 45, God declares that this was His own thought: "And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God, and they shall know that I am the Lord their God that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them; I am the Lord their God." This is just the language applied to the church. We shall see the church brought out later. But He brought Israel into the land to dwell among them, and He did dwell among them, as we know, for the Shechinah just means a tabernacle or dwelling-place of glory.

We get this immense truth, which we are almost afraid to look in the face, that, when sin is put away and we are brought to God, He dwells in and among us. just as Solomon said, "But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee," 2 Chron. 6: 18. What a truth this is, that God has so perfectly sanctified the people in order to manifest Himself, that He comes and dwells among them! And where was Jehovah to dwell? In Israel; and all nations were to come there and see His glory; as it will be again in the latter day. It was all spoiled and corrupted: this is another thing; but it was set up that He might be inquired of by the nations.

You will find another thing connected with this, that, except the setting apart of the sabbath, the first time holiness is spoken of is in Exodus 15. Every saint had it, of course, in his heart and ways; but it was not brought out before. But the moment they sing this at the Red Sea, "Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness," the command is, "Sanctify yourselves"; that is, walk in holiness. The great truth comes out that in redemption the person is brought to God. We also find these companion-truths that the people are sanctified fully, and God is dwelling among them.

There is a people set apart for God, and what characterised them was His own dwelling among them. This itself is an immense truth. It is thoroughly followed out in Christianity, not in figure but in the reality of truth, through the true blood-shedding of the Lamb of God and perfect cleansing from sin, and real deliverance through the death and resurrection of Christ, whereby we are brought nigh to God.

But now another thing comes in, that where one gets this full blessedness is in Christ: not Christ in us (however true), but we in Him. And you will find this connected with the fact that He is dwelling with us. There is not a spot left on the man that is set apart as redeemed and purchased and perfected for ever, Christ having borne his sins in His work of redemption. The believer stands in all the efficacy of Christ's work. Suppose you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and your sins have not finally and definitely been put away, they never can be; or else Christ must die again, and He never can. But, blessed be God, He has put away sin, as we find in Hebrews 10: 11, "And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices which can never take away sins; but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down on the right hand of God." He is not standing, but is set down, for the work is done. There we find perfect cleansing through the blood-shedding, as it was said to Israel, "When I see the blood, I will pass over you."

But then we find another thing in the death and resurrection of Christ. I have One passed out of this world (of course, in spirit, He never was of it, this blessed, Holy One, but as to His actual presence here). He is gone as man into another scene, as risen, having passed through the Red Sea, or death, and gone to God as man. Thus we see not only the putting away of sin, but Christ entering into another scene; and now we see not only God dwelling with man, but man with God. Christ has gone into God's presence as the Redeemer, presenting Himself to God for us, and we stand in His presence in Christ. How is this? He sends the Holy Ghost as the Comforter, and our bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost. We have this wonderful and blessed truth as the result of redemption accomplished and sin put away. We are partakers of the death and resurrection of Christ. He is gone into heaven presenting His own blood. We are cleansed, and our bodies the temple of the Holy Ghost, and thus we become individually His dwelling-place.

It is true again of the church of God, as it is said, "In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit," Eph. 2: 22. Thus the church of God became the habitation of God. This is a wonderful and blessed position, and we have it in a special manner by the Head being in heaven, as the Lord Himself said, "At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you," John 14: 20. This expresses our union with Christ; as it is said in Ephesians 5: 30, "We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." Such is the special and blessed character of the church. It is the habitation of God, and will be so till the day it is taken up to be with the Lord. This is indeed a wonderful thing, and shews us what manner of persons we ought to be in all holy conversation. The individual may fail, and the church of God may fail, and has failed, so as to have become the very seat of Satan (I mean those professing to be the church now); but this has not altered the truth that, wherever we find the true church, it is the habitation of God. It is not merely that life is there hidden as we get in Colossians, but manifested, as in Ephesians; it is brought out. It is the Holy Ghost in the individual man, though His presence may perhaps only be known by a groan. I am not speaking now of how all this has been corrupted and spoiled. This is truth also. But so is this other thing with regard to the individual, that Christ is in him, and he is in Christ. This is true of the church too, if it knows its place. It is more than being the mere dwelling-place of God. We have union with the Head in heaven. We are members individually, we are also collectively the body of Christ. Hence the exhortation, "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God"; and therefore, the church ought to be as a city set on a hill.

Thus, we have here two things: first, God dwelling among us; and secondly, and what specially characterises the church, it is one with Christ. But let us follow farther. When we come to the kingdom, we have this union fully accomplished, being in heaven in the body. We go into our Father's house; not only does He dwell in us, but we have association with Christ - a place in the Father's house. I can say, the Head is in heaven, and He is going to take me there to His own dwelling-place; just as He taught us before He went up, "In my Father's house are many mansions . . . I go to prepare a place for you; and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself." Not only so, but we have boldness to go there now in spirit; and He will come again and receive those whom now He is not ashamed to call brethren, when He comes to display His glory in connection with this world, and the heavenly Jerusalem becomes the dwelling-place of God. As John says, "I saw no temple therein."

Supposing, in order to explain things, there had been a temple, and God dwelling in it as among the Jews, there He was hidden, so that even the high priest could not go in but once a year; and even then none saw Him. Though glory was there, it was a glory which was hid. It was then in darkness, except what light the glory itself gave. Here "the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple." If I may so speak, His own glory is the temple. Therefore there is no light there; "The Lamb is the light thereof," or the lamp of it, as the word should be rendered.

Behold the blessed picture of this in the transfiguration. We see Peter, James, and John, men on the earth; Moses, Elias, and Christ representing men in glory, and then they enter the Shechinah, which, I have no doubt, was the cloud which overshadowed them, of which they were afraid as they entered. As for Peter, he was so astonished that he did not know what to say, and proposed to build three tabernacles, where each could preside as three oracles. But then comes the excellent glory which overshadows them, and they hear the Father's voice saying, "This is my beloved Son, hear ye him." In this scene we see the three things which shall be in the kingdom. We find here (Rev. 21) the same thing, the heavenly Jerusalem coming down, and we have the purpose of God when all is done. We know that it is the church, for it is called the bride, the Lamb's wife, and only the church is suited to be thus associated with Christ.

The tabernacle of God will be with men. Not only He is with them, but there is the tabernacle, the church, and He dwells in it. Here is the full and blessed result of God dwelling with men, and also the tabernacle; for we shall have been taken up and given this heavenly character.

It is a great truth that there is even now the dwelling-place of God. It is not only that we have life and are happy in heaven, but here we are the habitation of God. Let me ask, What is the full fruit of redemption? God dwelling in us. And look at the practical effect of this. "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost," which is the only spring of our thoughts and feelings, so that nothing else can come in. And cannot we understand how holiness ensues? Of course it must, and divine judgment too, as it is said, "Judgment must begin at the house of God"; for nothing that defiles can be in His presence anywhere, and of all places not there where He dwells. Thus holiness is founded on redemption, being intimately connected with God's dwelling-place. You will see how all is founded on redemption. Adam innocent could not get it. He listened to Satan and ate the forbidden fruit, and so was driven out.

A new thing comes in - redemption. The Son of God came and brought the responsibility of man to its full, final, test. They would not have Him. He would not condemn till the iniquity was full; but when they rejected the Son, it was full. They afterwards despised the Holy Ghost, but at the cross it was full. Then comes in the fruit of redemption, taking man out of that scene of judgment by One glorifying God perfectly. Now that redemption is wrought, the sin is put out of God's sight and deliverance is given, which we enter into by faith; and those who are now brought to God by the power of redemption are not now as man under responsibility to answer for himself and find he is good for nothing, but through the work of Christ they are brought into the new creation; as it is said, "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation," 2 Cor. 5: 17. He belongs not to the old creation (of course his body does; but I am not speaking of that: the man himself does not), but to the new creation, as it is said, "That we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures," James 1: 18. The church of God is such.

We see that God has not done some little good for us, but He has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ. We have become His dwelling-place, and what do I find as to this holiness which comes in? I am not my own, I am bought with a price. I am sanctified to God, and I must bring the heavenly atmosphere to bear on my ways, habits, and feelings, and grow up unto Him in all things who is the Head, and know more of Christ every day. What a character of holiness belongs to the Christian and to the church of God! "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God."

Let me ask you how you treat this divine guest. I am now speaking reverentially of God's presence. How often do you think of it in the day, that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost? If the queen were to come, and for a time take up her abode with any of us, we should think of nothing else. I am now speaking of the respect which every person ought to feel towards her. Supposing I were to forget her presence, it would be a shame to me, and the fact of neglecting her would fill me with shame and bitterness. But what of the Holy Ghost who dwells in us? We think not of it half the day; we think of it, if we do all things so as to please the Lord. I am called to walk worthy of this; I must keep the temple pure. We fail, it is true, and then comes in the intercession of Christ. But such is the character that belongs to us. O, if our hearts only thought of it, His presence in us is far more blessed than when God dwelt in the temple! Though not so palpable, it is far more real. Do you believe that the Lord Jesus sent down the Comforter to dwell here? Of course, as God, He is everywhere. Do you believe that the Son came down? As God, He was everywhere, and yet He came down; and so with the Holy Ghost. He did come down, and where does He dwell? In our bodies and in the church of God. And what kind of persons ought these to be?

Where is He, the Holy Spirit? Has He gone and left the earth? No, blessed be God, and never will, till Christ comes and takes up the church, and then the Holy Ghost will be taken up too, though He will not, even then, cease working. But He is with us even now, and will be till then, unless we say that God has abandoned the earth, which is not true. Where, then, is the sign of His presence, the witness that He is here? There are no such things as miracles now, and I do not expect there will be again, except in the devil's power.

But, practically, what are we to look for? We are to see how far we in heart, conduct, ways, spirit and manner, are walking on the earth in the power of the Spirit. Only let us see that all these things are the fruit of accomplished redemption. How could we talk so if we were only looking at ourselves? But the Holy Ghost comes as the seal and value of Christ's work. He produces fruit after, when He comes witnessing to the efficacy of Christ's work. just as the priests under the law were first washed with water, next sprinkled with blood, and then anointed with oil, the Spirit comes, not as the seal of the fruits He produces, but as the seal of Christ's work, and then the fruit follows.

And thus it is we get peace. It is by the Spirit testifying to the efficacy of Christ's work. Being convicted of sin, we flee to Christ and submit to God's righteousness, looking at the value of Christ's blood; and then peace comes, the Holy Ghost being the witness and seal. And then the exhortation applies, "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed to the day of redemption." So it was with the children of Israel. It was not said to them, "See the progress you have made; see you have left Succoth; see you have packed up the dough in your troughs"; no, but "See the salvation of the Lord!" That which distinguishes the effect of redemption is the presence of the Holy Ghost; we enjoy it as the fruit of Christ's work. Is this your case? Do you believe that you are redeemed? You speak of Christ as the Redeemer. What has He done for you? Has He left you in Egypt? He has taken you out of it, if you are a believer, and He is gone into heaven, there to appear in the presence of God for us. All exercise of heart before we believe is to convince us that we are without strength. And what can we do? If we are really powerless, what can we do but "stand still and see the salvation of the Lord"? Then I can say, I am not in Egypt at all. I have got the journey through the wilderness, and exercises of heart there, and conflict in Canaan when I have left the wilderness, but always with the certainty of being redeemed.

The Lord give us to know that the place we hold on earth by redemption is to be the habitation of God through the Spirit individually, and as the church of God, and to feel "what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation," and that "holiness becometh" His "house for ever!" God will carry this on till the time of the new heaven and the new earth; and even then He speaks of the tabernacle of God being with men in connection with the place we have got into in Christ. The Lord give us to know by faith now that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost; that we are not our own, but bought with a price!

Lot's Choice: a word on Present Advantage, by J.N. Darby

By John Nelson Darby

There is much profitable instruction in tracing, in contrast, the characters of Lot and Abram. Both were saints of God, yet how different as to their walk! how different also as to their personal experiences in regard of peace, joy, and nearness to God! And there is ever this difference between a worldly-minded believer and one, through the grace of God, true-hearted. In the scriptural sense of the term (2 Pet. 2: 8), a "righteous man," Lot was "vexing his righteous soul from day to day." Abram walked before God.

The Lord cannot but be faithful to His people, still He does mark in their path that which is of faith and that which is not of faith, and Lot's trials are the consequences of his unbelief There is one thing very marked in his course throughout - great uncertainty and obscurity as to his path, and as to the judgment of God, because of not realizing that security in God which would have enabled him to walk straightforward, whilst there is no hesitation in things connected with this world. And it is thus with ourselves if we have not taken Christ for our portion heartily. Abram's was a thoroughly happy life - he had God for his portion.

Lot is seen rather as the companion in the walk of faith of those who have faith, than as one having and acting in the energy of faith himself. This characterizes his path from the beginning. Therefore, when put to the test, there is only weakness. In how many things do we act with those who have faith, before having it for ourselves! It was thus with the disciples of the Lord, and the moment they were put to the test there was weakness and failure. The soul will not stand, when sifted through temptation, if walking in the light of another.

God's personal call of Abram at the first is mixed with a sort of unbelief in Abram, much like the reply in the gospel, "Lord, suffer me first to go home and bury my father." He sets out, but he takes Terah, his father, with him, and goes and lodges in Haran (he could not carry Terah with him into the land of Canaan). Now God had called Abram, but not Terah. He left everything except Terah, and entered into possession of nothing. But he tried to carry something with him which was not of God, and he could not. It is not until after Terah's death that he removes into Canaan, to where God had called him. (Compare chap. 12: 1 and Acts 7: 4) "So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him, and Lot went with him . . . they went forth to go into the land of Canaan, and into the land of Canaan they came."

Lot (though having faith) goes in the path he treads as the companion of Abram. As to actual position, he stands with Abram. He is truly a saint of God, though afterwards we find him treading the crooked path of the world's policy.

God blesses them. The land is not able to bear them so that they may dwell together (chap. 13). They have flocks, and herds, and much cattle, and there is not room for them both - they must separate. Circumstances, no matter what (here it is God's blessings), reveal this.

They are in the place of strangers, that is clear ("the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land"). They have nothing in possession, "not so much as to put a foot upon"; all rests on their valuing the promises (Heb. 11: 9). They have just two things, the altar and the tent. Journeying about, and worshipping God, they are strangers and pilgrims on the earth. Abram confesses that he is such; he declares plainly that he seeks a country,* "wherefore," we are told, "God is not ashamed to be called their God." (He is never called "the God of Lot.") This acts upon the whole spirit and character of Abram.

*In chapter 12 Abram goes down into Egypt. This is evidently a mistake; for he comes back again to the place of the altar which he built at the first. He had no altar in Egypt.

The land is not able to bear them that they may dwell together, there is a strife between their herdsmen, they must separate. Abram says, "Is not the whole land before thee?" take what thou wilt, do not let us quarrel "if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left" - the promise is my portion; I am a thorough stranger, the city of God is open in glory before me. His heart is upon the promises of God, and everything else is as nothing in comparison. It might seem a foolish thing to let Lot choose - to give up to Lot the right to do so is certainly his own; but his heart is elsewhere, his faith goes entirely free from earthly advantage.

Not so Lot; he lifts up his eyes* - the plain of Jordan is well watered everywhere, even as the garden of the Lord, and he chooses it. There is nothing gross or wrong in itself in his choosing a well-watered plain, but it just distinctly proves that his whole heart is not set upon the promises of God. Thus is he put to the test; and thus, in the way of the accomplishment of God's purposes, character is displayed. Abram's conduct has for its spring a simplicity of faith which embraces God's promises (Heb. 11: 13), and wants nothing besides. Faith can give up. The spirit of a carnal mind takes all it can get. Lot acts upon the present sense of what is pleasant and desirable; why should he not? what harm is there in the plains of Jordan? ** His heart is not on the promises.

*"And the Lord said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest, to thee I give it, and to thy seed after thee," etc.

**A man says, What harm is there in the well-watered plains of Jordan? are they not the gift of Providence? I answer, The devil has planted Sodom in the midst of them.

The companion of Abram, he is brought to the level of his own faith.

But he will dwell in the cities of the plain if he chooses the rivers of the plain. It is not his intention to go into the city, but he will get there step by step. (He must find trouble in the place he has taken pleasure in.) There is not the power of faith to keep him from temptation. When there is not the faith that keeps the soul on the promises, there is not the faith to keep it out of sin. It is not insincerity, but people's souls are in that condition, and God proves them.

Abram's path all the way through is characterized by personal intimacy with God, constant intercourse with God, visits from God, the Lord comes to him, and explains His purposes, so that he is called the "friend of God" (2 Chr. 20: 7; Isa. 41: 8; James 2: 23); and this not only as to his own portion, but as to what God is going to do with Sodom - the judgment He is about to bring on - Sodom, though personally he has nothing to do with it, and the promise is his hope (chap. 18). So now He tells His people what He is going to do about the world. Though their hope is connected with their own views, with the promises, and the heavenly Canaan, He takes them into His confidence as to what is to happen where they are not to be.

Lot the while is vexing his righteous soul - does he know anything about the purposes of God? Not a word. He is saved, yet so as by fire; though a "righteous soul," his is a vexed soul, instead of a soul in communion with God - vexed "from day to day" (there is, so far, right-mindedness that it is a vexed soul). He is there before the judgment comes with his soul vexed (whilst happy Abraham is on the mount holding conversation with God); and when it does come, how does it find him? with his soul vexed, and totally unprepared for it, instead of in communion with God about it.

"The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation," and He delivers "just Lot." But whilst thus vexing his righteous soul with their unlawful deeds, the men of the city have a right to say to him, 'What business have you here?' ("this one came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge," v. 9) - you are quarrelling with sin in the place of sin.' They have a perfect right to judge thus. All power of testimony is lost by reason of association with the world, when he ought to be witnessing to his total separation from it; there is vexation of spirit, but not power. When Abram got down into Egypt, he had nothing to do but to go right back to the place of the altar he had built at the first. Lot testifies, but he cannot get out of the place he is in; the energy that ought to have thrown him out is neutralized and lost by his getting into it; his daughters have married there; he has ties where his unbelief has led him. It is far more difficult to tread the up-hill road than the down-hill road.

Whenever the counsels of God are revealed to faith, it brings out the spirit of intercession. The word to the prophet, "Make the heart of this people fat" (Isa. 6), at once brings out, "O Lord, how long!" So here Abraham pleads with the Lord to spare the city. (But there are not ten - there is not one righteous man in Sodom, with the exception of Lot.) As regards his own position, he is looking down upon the place of judgment. And in the morning, when the cities are in flames, he finds himself in quietness and peace on the spot where he "stood before the Lord" (v. 27), not at all in the place where the judgment had come, solemnized, indeed, by the scene before him, but calm and happy with the Lord.

The Lord sends Lot out of the midst of the overthrow. Angels warn him, and faith makes him listen. But his heart is there still. There are connections that bind him to Sodom, and he would fain take them with him. But you cannot take anything with you for God out of Sodom, you must leave it all behind. The Lord must put the pain where you find the pleasure. "While he yet lingered"; there is hesitation and lingering in the place of judgment, when the judgment has been pronounced; he ought to have left it at once; but the place, and path, and spirit of unbelief, enervate the heart - "the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters" - the Lord being merciful unto him - "and they brought him forth, and set him without the city." And now it is, "Escape for thy life, look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain, escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed," v. 17. As for the goods, the sheep, and the much cattle, he must leave them all behind. If the Lord's faithfulness is shewn in saving Lot, it is shewn also in breaking the links that bind him to the place. His mind is all distraction; he says, "Oh, not so, my Lord. I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die." He has lost the sense of security in the path of faith. Such is ever the consequence of the path of unbelief in a saint of God, he thinks the path of faith the most dangerous path in the world. Lot has become used to the plain, and the mountain (the place where Abraham is enjoying perfect security and peace) is a mountain. The Lord spares Zoar at his request, and lets him flee thither, but on seeing the judgment, he flees to the mountain, forced to take refuge there in the end.

This is an extreme case; we shall find the same thing true in various degrees. Abraham could give up (that sacrifice always belongs to faith); but there are trials to the believer because of unbelief - because he is a believer, but in a wrong place. Lot was a "righteous man"; but when he did not walk in the path of faith, he had vexation of soul and trouble - a righteous soul, but where a righteous soul ought not to be. Observe his incapacity simply to follow the Lord. Observe also his uncertainty. So will it be with us, if we are walking in the path of unbelief, there will be trouble which is not our proper portion, but which comes upon us because we are in a wrong worldly place, the trial that belongs to unbelief. We may be seeking the compassion of the church of God, when we are only suffering, like Lot, the fruit of our own unbelief - the simple path of faith having been departed from, because we had not learned to count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord. Giving up is our proper position, simple sacrifice, in the knowledge and present consciousness that "all things are ours." But the promise is "a hundredfold more in this present world," and that is not vexation of spirit.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

J.N. Darby on the Wheat and the Tares

John Nelson Darby wrote:

There is something wonderfully gracious in the way the Lord waits upon His people to instruct them: it is calculated to draw out the affections and the minds of believers in love and gratitude. But how often have they cause for shame, that the occupations of their minds and hearts render them insensible to the various ways, means, and methods in which a God of love teaches them!

God is blessing them all the way, and His mercy is exercised even in their wants. Do they feel and bewail their ingratitude and ignorance? Who teaches like God? His wisdom is the saint's portion. Are they bowed down under a consciousness of weakness and of bondage? "My strength is made perfect in weakness," and thus, in every way, He exactly suits Himself to their several necessities. He never withdraws His care; He never turns aside from them; still doing them good; and, though they may be fearful and fainting, His love is still manifested. Jesus is the fountain of all blessedness, sent to poor, weak, wretched sinners, that they may have abundance of comfort, of peace, and of enjoyment.

The knowledge of this knits and attaches the heart of the poor sinner to such a rich Saviour - makes him find that the way the Lord has led him has displayed to him the character of the God who thus instructs him, that his very sorrows and trials are a manifested proof of God's free love and favour, as succeeding circumstances display the riches of divine grace. The way in which He leads us, the particular circumstances in which we are placed, the situations we are in, are all so many methods and means of divine instruction planned by a God of love.

The believer longs for rest from all that now offends, but God leaves him here to teach him many lessons. This world, constituted as it is at present, is a means by which God teaches us what we could not learn in a world of glory: the believer is instructed in the long-suffering, patience, and love of God, in a way he never could have known elsewhere; his wants, his weakness, his barrenness, his deadness, display most touchingly the wonderful patience of God. And here too he learns the astonishing proofs of God's love in Christ; giving Him for such sinners that they may be pardoned and freed; learning what God is, in the Person of Jesus Christ, through all the particular circumstances in which they are placed, notwithstanding all our weakness, short-comings, and misdeeds. There is no feeling of hostility in God's mind toward us - not even an impatient word or look; all is love.

It is in the weakness and wants of His children that God's manner of love is even more drawn out, as the Father of a family: the affections of a parent are the same for all his children, but under different circumstances is differently manifested: the long and weak childhood of a child calls forth all the tender sympathy and watchful care of a parent, and knits the affections of a child to him. So the Lord, amidst our weakness and infantine helplessness, guards us, watches over us; and thus we come to learn the manner of God's love. Then, as we advance under the watchful care and training, and arrive towards maturity, we learn the blessedness of His love, and we come to discern how the Lord opens out the knowledge of Himself, putting us into a position of wondrous blessedness. "Henceforth I call you not servants, for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you."

This is the manner and blessedness of God's love to us; and if the believer is insensible to this, he is in a sadly low state; for nothing so much evidences the soul's not being in a healthful state, as to be insensible to the manner of God's love toward us, to be engrossed with what is about us here, and not to be sensible that we are nearer to God than we are even to the circumstances in which we are placed. How wondrous to behold God taking pleasure in opening out His mind and His plans to man! which we see evidenced in this thirteenth chapter of Matthew, as in the explanation to His disciples of the parables spoken to the multitude.

We find here seven parables, which have been before noticed, but the order of which it would be well to remark again. The first parable is not a comparison or likeness of the kingdom of heaven, as the others, but a declaration of the agency of the kingdom, and of its particular results - the act described as being incidental to the Son of man before His ascension, and its results also, such as might be exhibited in individuals before as well as after it. The kingdom of heaven was subsequent to this, and consequent on Christ's resurrection, when a new system of things was about to be established.

The other six parables were not spoken at the same time: three were addressed to the multitude, and three to the disciples alone. Of these the first three exhibit the public character and result of this kingdom in the world; and the last three symbolised its intrinsic value, and the full development and results in God's hands. The former fully developed its ostensible and visible manifestation as seen in the world, and the latter, the real value of the thing itself as known in the mind of God. This expression, "kingdom of heaven," as well as "the kingdom of your Father," is peculiar to the Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel more especially of dispensation and prophetic testimony.

In what situation then is the believer while here? Holding communion with an absent Lord in heaven - brought into His family here - into His kingdom, and taught, not to look for blessings simply upon earth during his Lord's absence, but to look for a time when His saints shall know Him even as they are known, and shall never be absent from Him. That is what they are looking for, and into that situation they have been brought as the "good seed," partakers of the grace of that "corn of wheat," which fell into the ground and died, that they might live.

"The kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that sowed good seed in his field." And from verses 24-30 and 36-45, we have the parable and its signification, as explained by the Lord Himself. These things speak their own meaning: therefore they are simply brought before us as matters of fact. He says, as putting any other construction aside, "The field is the world." In these parabolical expressions there is a perfect harmony and conformity of meaning: if we can clearly ascertain the meaning by scripture light in one, we can readily imagine the same meaning of the same word in any other place.

Now our Saviour said expressly, "The field is the world": this is its meaning, and no other, which brings before us the theatre or the scene where the transaction recorded here takes place - "the world." It presents us with the view of a person sowing good seed in his field; he that sowed the good seed is the Son of man, the Lord Jesus Christ. He sowed it. It was good seed He sowed, and He sowed it in His field; and this is the world. He was entitled to this field; it belonged to Him. This then is the simple fact: the world was the field; the field belonged to Jesus, and He sowed good seed in it - something that had not previously been in it - a something planted which was not indigenous to the soil. Manifestly then it could not be the Jewish nation or system, for that was placed previous to the period, here alluded to, of the work of the Son of man. The world which is here mentioned is spoken of as a place, not where the seed had been sown and grown up, but where good seed, not yet planted, was now to be put in; and this then is in the world.

Let the child of God now look around him, and see whether (with the exception of those who have been manifestly brought into this new system) he sees anything of this good seed in the world; does it look like a field sown with good seed? In how far it resembles it, those who know the character of such as now possess the world can best tell. The world then is His - the Son of man's field. Thus this baffles the wisdom and power of those who pretend to claim any portion of it as their own, and who seek to have it all, and are described as saying, "This is the heir: come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours." It is not theirs - it is Christ's: His by an indefeasible right - by an indisputable title His.

This indeed, when once established, is calculated to overthrow the pride of vain man, who puts in his pretensions for a share; who calls the world his own; but it is not, it is Christ's; and every one who takes it as his own individual right is meddling with things which belong not to him, and of which he must give an account to the rightful owner. The world then is this field, and the field is Christ's. "While men slept, his enemy came, and sowed tares among the wheat." Here we have the character and circumstances under which this change came about; these men - these field labourers - were put in trust, and the enemy brought in the evil seed while these men slept.

Oh, how little are men aware of the indefatigable perseverance of the enemy of souls! it is while men sleep he does the mischief. It may not for a time be manifested; but he has sown it, and it will soon spring up. Satan is not hindered even by the good seed being there: "for when the blade sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also." God does certainly overrule it for His people's good; but the fact is there, that tares have been sown and spring up. They may not be seen immediately; but still they are in the ground, and much of it is occupied by them. The men slept; the enemy entered unperceived, sowed the tares among the wheat, and then went his way, having done the mischief. And the man who cannot see that these tares are now occupying the ground, and springing up, must be wanting indeed in spiritual discernment.

And what need have we of continual jealous watchfulness, that the ground be not more overrun with them! what need to be awake, to be sensible of the position we are in! that there is a positive separation between the wheat and the tares! that there is a wall of everlasting demarcation between them, and that we are not sensible enough of this! Does not sad and bitter experience testify that there is much moral evil countenanced? that there is a very bad and low state tolerated among believers? that there is a mixing up of the world with the things of God, an apparent shrinking and withdrawing from the Lord's work? Do we look for the cause? We find the whole of it here: the men slept, and let in the enemy; but it was His enemy, as the Psalmist says, "Remember how the foolish man reproacheth thee daily."

The Lord makes His cause and His people's one; they are His, and therefore their enemy is His. He calls them "brethren": "I will declare thy name unto my brethren." The saints of God get much courage from this declaration, when they know that the battle is in the Lord's hand. The saints look on this little word, "His enemy," with great delight. If sensible of our deficiencies and failings, and conscious that, while we slept, the enemy came in, yet let us look to the Lord; even though filled with shame in ourselves, yet let us look to the remedy, and we shall learn here, by this one little word, that it is His enemy, and, consequently, we have the strength of Christ against him.

"When the blade sprung up, then appeared the tares." This was the successful result of the enemy's work; they sprung up together. There was not at first any outward distinction; they were all mixed up together. There was no remedy for that, as regarded the present state of things; instantly to set the world right was not in the mind of God. Man was found a faithless steward; he had been negligent, and let in the enemy, and the field was found overrun with tares; but God's plans were not frustrated by it.

The servants come and say, "Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?" He said, "An enemy hath done this." The Son of God looked down at His field which He had sowed with good seed, and found it filled with tares: but, though in that position, we find it is not the wisdom of God to set the world to rights by plucking up the tares. The servants said, "Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?" This is according to man's wisdom, who would set the world to rights again by plucking up and rooting out heretics, and purging out the wickedness according to their own desire. "Nay," said the Lord, there are circumstances existing at present which made this proposal impossible to be acceded to; they are now together, and let them both grow together. If I were to give you power now to pluck up the tares, you might unconsciously root up the wheat with them, which cannot be; "let both grow together until the harvest."

The Lord has graciously explained the meaning of the word in verse 39: "The harvest is the end of the world." The term "world" here is not the same word as that used previously, where it is said, "the field is the world." This unquestionably is (as the literal translation signifies) the age, or dispensation, and should be read, "the harvest is the end of the age." In the first instance where it is used, it renders the meaning simply "the world," which is the scene of this great transaction. It is quite unconnected with the idea of peace, and conveys the time when it was to be thus manifested - at the end of the age or dispensation, and "at the time of the harvest." Says the Lord, "I will say to the reapers [that is, after both are grown up, fit for the operation], Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the wheat into my barn."

Now this presents us first with the view of the gathering together of the tares in bundles for the purpose of being burnt, and then the gathering of the wheat into the barn. After this is the destruction of the tares, as explained by our Lord: "As, therefore, the tares are gathered together and burnt in the fire, so shall it be at the end of this age: the Son of man shall send forth his angels [His messengers, ministers, and ambassadors of His purposes in providence], and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire." And, after that (that is, after the burning of the tares), "then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father."

Here is the order: The tares are gathered in bundles to be burned; the wheat is lodged in the barn; the destruction of the tares, or their entire consumption, then takes place; and, finally, after their destruction, "then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father."

In the third parable, spoken to His disciples alone, we find the Lord using terms analogous to these: The angels dividing the two parties which were hitherto mixed up together, gathering the good into vessels, and casting the bad away and destroying them; and then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. This brings before us the unhindered blessedness of the children of God - of those who are alive to God. That time is coming; and it is a thing greatly longed for by the saints. The present position of the world makes it known to them. They see that the tares are ripening fast in iniquity, ready for the destruction; and they see the ripening of the saints of God; and, though now apparently and sadly undistinguished, the Lord is ripening them for the harvest and will gather them in.

The tares are making their progress, being brought together ripe for destruction. Though they may think it is well, and no fear is to overtake them, yet certain and sudden vengeance awaits them. They say, and act on it, that it will not come; but God is true, and His word shall come to pass. Read Rev. 14: 14-20. There are the tares then ripening, thinking no harm shall happen unto them; strengthening themselves in their iniquity, and counting the very providence of God (their being bound together in bundles) the very occasion of their strength and power, which is to prove their utter destruction. "The heathen are sunk down in the pit which they made." "Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not go unpunished." The wheat are not left in the world in the great day; they are gathered into the barn; they are taken out of the way, "caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air." They witness the destruction of the Lord's enemies; and "then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father."

Here we behold the blessedness of the child of God, and the perfect character of that blessedness which the future results of God's love will evidence. Just remember that everything that offends has been cast out; all iniquity burnt up, destroyed; the saints safely housed in the barn; and then shall they shine - observe, "then shall the righteous shine" - they are the righteous. But who are the righteous? Those who are one with Christ: His character is brought forward as "the Lord our righteousness," and "the Sun of righteousness." "He shall be as the light of the morning when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth, by clear shining after rain." 2 Sam. 23: 4. And in these last words of David we have, along with the description of the glory of the Lord at His coming, a view of the destruction of the wicked: it is a similar passage to the one in the text, and refers to the same event. "But the sons of Belial [that is, the children of the wicked one] shall be all of them as thorns thrust away, because they cannot be taken with hands" - that is, they cannot be drawn by the teaching and beseeching of man to come to the right. "But the man that shall touch them must be fenced with iron and the staff of a spear; and they shall be utterly burned with fire in the same place" (v. 6, 7), that is, in the same place where they are, similar to the burning of the tares.

Christ is the Sun of righteousness, and therefore they are righteousness; He is the Sun, and therefore they shine as the sun: "When he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is," and we shall be made like unto Him. This blessedness was contemplated and spoken of by God's saints of old. We have it in the words of David: "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness." That was what he was looking forward to - to shine as the sun, as the righteous; to see God's honour vindicated, Satan and his powers cast out, and all God's enemies destroyed, and he himself bearing Christ's likeness; then he would be satisfied. And Paul also expresses himself strongly: "If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection from the dead"; when I shall see Christ as He is, and be like Him, shining as the sun, as the Sun of righteousness. That is what I now see in Spirit, and that is what I now believe in faith, and that is what I am just looking for, to be like Jesus in His kingdom.

Is there in you, dear brethren, this earnest breathing after this glory? this sensibility of enjoying these things? Oh, they are calculated to bring much joy - very real and deep comfort - to know that we shall shine as the sun, when the clouds of vengeance, which now threaten an ungodly world, shall have been discharged in just judgment on them: when these clouds shall then be carried away and dispersed, and all iniquity cast out, then shall the righteous flourish; then comes his time of much delight!

Brethren, are not these things calculated to rejoice the heart of the believer? Further remark that it is said, "In the kingdom of their Father." Here is great blessedness to the child of God in this appropriating word of happiness. It shews the position in which the Lord Jesus has placed them - associated with God as their Father, in His kingdom. We see the mighty result; not only that they shall be righteous - shall shine as the Sun of righteousness, but be brought into their Father's house. "In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you; I go to prepare a place for you." He unites Himself to them as one calling them brethren, calling them to look up to God as their Father: "I will declare thy name unto my brethren"; and again, "I go to my Father, and your Father; to my God, and your God.

There are two things which in anticipation minister great comfort to all believers; they shall see the Saviour whom here they loved, and they shall be found in Him, participating in His glory, and like Him. This is what they should be rejoicing in, pressing towards, and looking for. If then indeed ye are children of God, what is grieving you? Think of your high privileges: "We shall see him as he is," "be like him," in the presence of the Father, in His house, in the kingdom of our Father, having fellowship with Him everlastingly.

This is the portion of the child of God, a portion we are called on to rejoice in, even here, for it is ours; it is an inheritance reserved for us, and we are reserved to shine as the sun in the kingdom of our Father.

The Church will not always have to mourn an absent Lord. He will come to claim His bride - to take her to Himself, that where He is, she may be also: so He prays, "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am": and in Him she is complete; for the Father gave Him to be "head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." Here then is the position of the church with Christ; one body, one mind, one in all things, one in tastes, one in desires.

Believers thus taste the Father's love most blessedly by beholding the Lord so sacrificing Himself as to bring this love to them, purchased for their enjoyment and inheritance. They feel the Father's love: "I say not unto you, I will pray the Father for you; for the Father himself loveth you." If we are believers, let us raise our thoughts to the bliss that awaits us, and not be sinking to the bottom, or floating on the surface of spiritual enjoyment.

It is no matter what are your circumstances here, what are your cares or your conflicts; it is but for a moment; the portion of the saints is to rejoice. But what is it that you are bowed down for? Is it a feeling of your own weakness? Why, the very "joy of the Lord is your strength." Why are you in affliction? What is it that keeps you down? Is it the world of sin? That is your enemy; and that it is your enemy is the cause of the greatest rejoicing: this is your confidence, and should be your delight, that it is a conquered enemy. If you feel it is your enemy, you know it is His enemy, and then you are brought into the same position with the Lord Jesus; on one side with Him, fighting one common enemy. Jesus warned His disciples of this trouble, but promised them His peace - promised to be with them by the Spirit, and testified to them the result of all the work He was doing for them: "I have overcome the world." Think, if you be of them who are thus loved and thus made happy here, what happiness yet awaits you when you shall shine like the sun in the kingdom of your Father! Blessed indeed shall we be in that day, when "we shall see him as he is"; first, "be like him," and then "see him as he is." Oh, the blessedness! when, after all troubles and conflicts are over, we shall "awake in his likeness."

Believers, is there nothing in this to quicken your joy in meeting Jesus? Is there nothing in this to throw contempt upon the world, and its unmeaning joys? The soul that loves Jesus loves one who has conquered all his enemies; "He that ascended far above all heavens, that he might fill all things." In this is the Son of God's love manifested, in that He humbled Himself to descend to the children of men, to bear their iniquity, to carry their sorrows and troubles, to minister to their joys and comforts, and to bear away sin from them for ever! And their joy and confidence is, that the same Lord has ascended on high, having "led captivity captive" - having destroyed His and their enemy: "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

Is it any comfort to you, that the wisdom of God will soon be seen in the world, to the destruction of all that oppose it? Would you like to have the world thus sifted, and all iniquity purged out? Would it rejoice your heart to hear that Jesus was now coming? In fact, would you like Him to come now? Oh! how sad, how very sad is it, that, when He is just about to come, and His saints about to be made entirely like Him, they should be mixed up in any way with the workers of iniquity, practising their habits, pursuits, or satisfactions!

Pray, brethren, that you may be led to a more simple and entire conformity to the image of your Saviour; that you may be cleansed from the unsatisfying and unsanctifying desires of the world, so that you may be ready to meet your Lord at His appearing.

Monday, June 30, 2008

J.N. Darby on the need for tolerance on the subject of baptism

John Nelson Darby wrote:

The ‘Record’ speaks of its objection to the ‘Brethren’s’ dogma on baptism. I do know what is its object in this; but I must be allowed to say, the ‘Brethren’ have no dogma on baptism. Had they, they would have given up their first principles, and I for one could not be among them: first, because they would be at once sectarian, united on a particular opinion; and, secondly, that I have no such dogma. I know well that many have Baptist views on this subject; but many, very many, have not: many are decidedly opposed to it; I for one.

J.N. Darby, A Letter on the Righteousness of God, in Collected Writings, vol.7, p.343

J.N. Darby on the unity among the Brethren

J.N. Darby wrote:

You charge us with having Baptists, Paedobaptists, Arminians and Calvinists, Millennarians and Anti-Millennarians, and even Quaker. Well, are there not Paedobaptists, Arminians, Calvinists, Millennarians, Anti-Millennarians in the Establishment too? And Quakers have been received there too: also they have been with us, and have been baptized as became them from the circumstances they were placed in. The only difference, then, on the point, is as to the existence of these views in the minds of those amongst us. They being real Christians, we should undoubtedly feel it wrong to shut them out,and rejoice we can walk together in love. There is only this additional difference, that there is not, through mercy, amongst us a vast body of members who have no faith at all.

J.N. Darby, The Claims of the Church of England Considered, in Collected Writings, vol.14, p.216

Thursday, June 05, 2008

JN Darby on Psalm 17

John Nelson Darby wrote:

Psalm 17 considers this life practically here below and in respect to its difficulties with man opposed to what is right. The state of the soul is still marked by entire dependence on God, but, as to integrity towards God, and as against man, the soul can plead righteousness. Still it does not avenge itself, but casts itself entirely on God, and thus gets the fruits of His righteous dealings. This is a great secret of practical wisdom not avenging self - the patience of the new life in the midst of evil, and looking, and leaving all to God. This supposes the righteous path as man of the divine life, which therefore can appeal to God's necessary judgment about it, knowing what He is, and also trusting in Him; but even here deliverance is sought, not vengeance, only the disappointing the plans of wickedness. If we have not walked uprightly, still confidence in God is our true place. He spares and restores in mercy most graciously; but this, though other psalms take it up, is not the subject of this psalm. Here it is the righteous life which God looks at and vindicates against the men of this world, for it is Christ, and Christians as far as they live the life of Christ. Immediately, as ever, it is Christ and the remnant. Jehovah hears the righteous, and the prayer which goes not out of feigned lips.

Remark, that in this psalm the life of Christ is supposed and found to meet opposition, and oppression in the world from the men of this world. We have seen how separated it was, associated with the excellent of the earth, passing as a stranger through it, though humanly in it. But then faith - and this shews how entirely Jehovah is still looked to - sees that the men of this world are the men of God's hand. They serve to prove the heart, and, in us who are ever in danger to slip into the world, to keep us strangers in it. Still God delivers from them, Christ, for blessed reasons, was not delivered, yet as freely giving Himself. The heart has the sense of righteousness here, and hence counts on deliverance; but there is no spirit of vengeance. It is the Spirit of Christ Himself, and hence above the spirit of the remnant, and much more the Christian spirit. There is the consciousness of righteousness and of integrity, but entire dependence on the Lord in respect of it, not as regards justification - it is not the question here - but confidence. "I know nothing of myself," says Paul, "yet am I not hereby justified." Again, "if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God." So Jesus: "The Father hath not left me alone, for I do always those things that please him." There is the consciousness of righteousness and confidence in God. And the heart appeals to Him, because of righteousness. And all this is right, thinks rightly of God, and trusts to God that He will not be inconsistent with Himself, and cannot be. If there be desire of vengeance, we have sunk below this.

Practical Reflections on the Psalms