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VOICE OF TRUTH;
" SPEAKING THE TRUTH IN LOVE."
In ESSENTIALS, UNITY; IN NON-ESSENTIALS, LIBERTY; IN ALL THINGS, CHARITY.
Expositions and Essnys.
UNITY AND ITS BLESSINGS.
By J. S. ANDERSON.
“Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity !" &c.
Psalın cxxxiii. 1-3.
We invite your attention to two things in this short Psalm,-Unity, and its utility.
I. \Unity.— There is unity in all the works of God,—the elements blend, the different departments in creation unite, nothing is isolated. But not to dwell upon this, the words of the text will apply to the family : “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for” brethren who occupy the same house, to dwell together in unity! That home cannot be a happy one without it. The words will apply to the members of the Christian church : they are brethren, children of the same Father, heirs of the same inheritance, and journeying to the same home; and they should dwell together in unity,“ endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." The church is a family of persons, and the whole Christian community is a family of churches. Outward unity has been sadly broken-alas, the church is divided and weakened-for, “unity is strength." Every sect lays the blame on every other sect. " Every man's own doxy, is orthodoxy; and every other doxy, is heterodoxy." Still there is real unity in the church of God, which differences of opinion, and different forms of church government can never break. But the language of our text does not only refer to the unity of the members of the church with each other, but the unity of the whole with their Head—“ We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.”
1. It is the unity of brotherhood with Christ,-a union of nature,—not that we could ascend and take his, but he could and did descend and took ours. Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John i. 14). He did not merely visit us, and look at us, but "pitched his tent” among us, not outside, but in the midst.
“Forasmuch, then, as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same.” “For both he that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified are all of one ; for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren."
Our blessed Lord took pains to impress this very precious truth upon the minds of his disciples. “One said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. . . . And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren ! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother”(Matt. xii. 47–49). And again, after his resurrection, he sent this soul-cheering message to the downcast and sorrowing disciples : “Go to my brethren," not my disciples, or, my servants, but“ my brethren”—“Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father ; to my God, and your God” (John xx. 17). Blessed brotherhood! Glorious unity!
2. It is a unity of interest with Christ ; there is a world of meaning in these words : “Joint-heirs with Christ” (Rom. viii
. 17). He is, as Mediator,“ appointed heir of all things ” (Heb. i. 2); and as fellow-heirs with him,“ All things are yours (1 Cor. iii. 21) by way of interest. Now look at the extent of your possessions : “ All are yours, and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's. There is a joint interest with him in the love of the Father, which we have set out in those wonderful words in John xvii. : “ They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (v. 16); “ Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word ; that they all may be one (v. 20). And “ Thou has loved them as THOU HAST LOVED ME” (v. 23). “ For thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world ” (v. 24). Beloved, can anything be more clear than this truth of our oneness of interest with Christ, in the eternal love of the Father?
3. The church “dwells” in this unity,--it is an abiding bond. “God is love, and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John iv. 16). This is what the Psalmist calls, dwelling in the secret place of the Most High (Psa. xci. 1). “O Lord,” says Moses, “thou hast been our dwelling-place in all generations” (Psa. xc. 1). And John alludes to this blessed privilege, when he says, (1 John v. 18) “ That wicked one toucheth him not.” He does touch us in our feelings, but he can never touch our interests; we dwell in God, in Christ, in love, in eternal love. “ Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.”
II. Let us consider the utility of this unity. It is good and pleasant, profitable and pleasurable. The special grace of the Holy Ghost flows down upon the special objects of God's love, through their union with Christ, their great High Priest and Head. That grace was typified in the anointing of Aaron, the high priest of Israel (see Exo. xxx. 22—33). Moses had Divine direction for the making of that “precious ointment,” both with regard to the material and the quantities to be used (v. 23, 24). The tabernacle and all its furniture had to be anointed, in which we have a figure of the church, for "ye are the temple of the living God," a spiritual house, for an habitation of God through the Spirit. Then Aaron was anointed as the representative of the people ; but none was to be put upon a stranger (v.33). Here I see particular redemption, special salvation ; the mercy-seat is as broad as the ark, and no broader. The “precious ointment was upon Aaron's head first, then it ran down upon his beard, and reached to the skirts of his garments. The whole person of Aaron was covered and perfumed. So with our spiritual Aaron, “the great High Priest of our profession.". The Spirit was not given by measure unto him. John saw the Spirit like a dove descend and rest upon him, and it abode upon him, yet flows down till the mystical Person, the members with their Head, are all covered and filled with the Spirit.
Thus, my brethren, behold how good it is thus to dwell in unity with our glorious elder Brother and Co-heir ; it is through this unity that we are made to partake of the “precious ointment,” the grace of the Holy Spirit, which is as the dew of heaven, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion, for there the Lord commanded the blessing. Mark you, not a blessing, but THE blessing; and what is it? “ Even life for evermore.” That is the blessing of union with Christ : life-eternal life. “You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” And God the Spirit “commands ” this upon the members of the mystic body of Christ. Hermon means a curse, and we were “nigh unto cursing" in our sins; but Christ delivered us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, and through him the dew of the Holy Spirit's blessing descends and turns Hermon to Zion (Deut. iv. 48), which means a monument or tower. Thus Jehovah fulfils his promise, which says, “ Thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name (Isa. lxii. 2).
But there is pleasure: “Behold how pleasant!” The holy anointing oil had a sweet savour—a rich perfume : it beautified the person and delighted the senses; and thus it set out the preciousness of Christ, when his blood and merits are applied to the soul by the power of the Holy Ghost. “ His name is as ointment poured forth,” and it destroys the stench of sin. The Psalmist says, “ My wounds stink ;" he loathed and abhorred himself, and so will everyone who is taught of the Spirit to see and feel his sinnership. His sinful nature is to his soul like a loathsome disease to the body, and his cry is, “Oh, wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me ?" and there is no deliverance till the holy oil is put upon him, and then the sweet savour of the merits of Christ quite overpowers the stench of sin, and the soul is made happy. Yes, to dwell together with Christ our glorious Brother in spiritual union, does not only render us safe from the consequences of our sins, but it makes us happy in his love,—the Spirit testifying of that love in our hearts, and filling us with the sweet fragrance of his precious
And all who dwell together with him in spiritual unity shall dwell with him eternally. And if it be so good, and so pleasant now, what will it be above !
" Where we shall see his face,
And never, never sin;
Drink endless pleasures in.”
“My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him."-Psa. Ixii. 5.
This scripture, with the connection in which it stands, was given to me, in a very special manner, to prepare me for and support me under the very distressing bereavement which I have been called to experience, viz., the death of my eldest daughter, by drowning. We may talk about mistakes, but our God makes none : and we may talk of accidents, but with him even the falling of a sparrow, or of a hair of the head, from whatever external cause arising, is no accident ! We may often be taken at unawares, but He, never! His wisdom, goodness, and sovereignty, join to regulate, in the exercise of his decretive or permissive will, every want, whether pleasant or painful ; and every action, whether by friend or foe, both as to its incidence and effect upon and towards his people. When we see things in any light but his, we see them crooked and entangled; but when he shews us his way, he makes the crooked straight, and the entangled simple. When our troubles come without him, they are a heavy burden, too heavy for us to bear; but when he comes in them, like the bow in the clouds, though nature feels the load, and flesh and heart fail, the spirit rises above the storms and billows of life; and, seeing Him who is invisible, sustains with fortitude the passing hurricane with a consciousness that, with God for our helper, the changes of time are of small moment; and can but tend to hasten on our arrival at home, where the travail of all earthly sorrow will be swallowed up in the fulness of heavenly joy.
When David wrote this Psalm, there were three things present in his mind :the variety and power of his enemies ; the overruling hand of his God over them ; and the uncertainty of the final issue in his deliverance and salvation. It is well for us when, in every human danger and calamity, we are similarly placed ; for it leads us to say as he said on another occasion, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee ;” and also with our scripture, “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.”
He speaks to his soul as if his soul and he were separate identities, the fact being that every one of God's people is like two persons; not merely that the flesh lusteth against the spirit in enmity ; but that the feelings and faith of a child of God are as two, sharing the weakness of nature, supported and encouraged by the power of grace. Thus, when he says, “ My soul, wait,” or, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul ?" it is faith addressing feeling, the judgment speaking to the fear, the life and light of God speaking as the umpire between the strugglings of grace, and the weakness of our feeble nature, as if saying, “ Never mind appearances, however much they seem against me; my course is to wait till I know what God will say and do about them; for it is with him alone I have to do."
The marginal reading of this scripture is, “ My soul, be silent before God." The grief of some people is noisy and demonstrative, and the world generally judge of its depth by its expression. Many people think that he trusts God most who says most about it ; or that he most truly prays, who uses most words. This is not so. When Hannah prayed “she spake in her heart ; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard." The Spirit maķes intercession for the saints according to the will of God,“ with groanings that cannot be uttered.” When Job's three friends went to visit and mourn with him “they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him ;” and when David was in heavy sorrow, he said, “I was dumb, I opened not my mouth ; because thou didst it.” And God himself says to his people, in the midst of judgments, "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the heathen; I will be exalted in the earth.” To wait truly and only upon God is to be silent before him ; which means the following things :
1st. To submit to him, acknowledging his righteousness, and bowing to his sovereignty. They who are enabled to humble themselves under the mighty hand of God, shall be exalted in due time.” To be reconciled to God in the darkest of his dispensations, is to be in a truly blessed position. To be free from trial is not blessing, for “the Lord trieth the righteous ;” but to be sustained in trial, to be strengthened in infirmity, and to be enabled to endure temptation, this is blessing; blessing that is life here, and the prelude of a crown of glory hereafter.
2nd. To pray to him and leave our case in his hands. He tells us to be careful for nothing, but in all things by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving to make our requests known to him ;” and he that is enabled to do this, leaves his care, his burden with the Lord ; relying on his taking note of it and seeing to it. He that proposes to commit his way unto the Lord, and then tries to devise it for himself, asks counsel that he does not intend to take ; and he that asks Divine guidance, and then uses his own judgment, is only practising a mockery, which, though of common occurrence among men, is very evil towards God. “He that believeth," or relies on God, “shall not make haste ;" that is, he shall wait till the Lord shews him his way, and shall feel that, knowing his own ignorance, and having asked direction from God, he must wait till it is given ; which implies the
3rd thing included, namely, a waiting by faith in his goodness. They that profess to fear God, to seek him, and love him, indulge in an empty parade unless they rely on his goodwill
. To seek help from one who never gave us any before, is to pursue a speculation that may or may not answer ; and they that truly fear God dare not speculate nor presume; but they have reason to rely on what they have seen and known; as Paul did when he said, “ He delivered us—and doth deliver : in who we trust that he will yet deliver us. God's gracious habit of carrying out the blessed maxim, “ Unto him that hath shall be given," is a secret inducement to rely on the experience of the past as the earnest of repetitions in the future. The
deliverances he had wrought for David, assured David's mind that future trials would add to future deliverances; and so we, in proportion as we have known God's help in the times that have gone over us, are led to feel
“ His help in times past forbids me to think,
He'll leave me at last in trouble to sink;
Confirms his good pleasure to help me quite through."
4th thing is : A patient watching for succour and relief. As Paul tells the Romans,—if a man hope for a thing, he quietly waits for it. What we are to get from another we cannot expect to have at our own command. What is under à man's own control he can avail himself of at any moment ; but when he has to wait on another, he both learns dependence and practises patience. Jeremiah said, “It is good for a man quietly to wait, and hope for the salvation of the Lord ; and every one of God's people is made to have some practice in waiting and watching. If
and help always came just as we wished, we should suppose that the cause was in ourselves ; but our God has such very various ways and times for imparting his gifts, that he makes them evidences of his living interest in them that are his; and proves that the help given is not a matter of course, but of gracious wisdom and paternal watchfulness. Thus the more we are brought into positions of trial and of great necessity, the more we know of the efficiency of God's help ; and the more we are able to speak as personal witnesses of the fact, that “God is a present help in trouble ;” so present as we could never have known or believed, had we not been in the trouble in which the help was realized. We are encouraged by the figure of the “husbandman who with long patience waits for the harvest,” in patience to possess our souls ; and are told by Habakkuk, that we are to wait for the vision, for “in the end it will speak, and not lie.” Blessed are they that watch and observe God's ways ; for it is they alone that practically learn the true connection between precept, promise, prayer, and praise ; the experience of which makes us know God's power to help and comfort without external means or human props, and leads us to say, “ My soul, wait thou only upon God," with the double consciousness, that human power cannot help us, it would ; and also that we do not need it if it could. None but God himself will do for heavy trials, no secondhand help can meet the case ; and when he appears it is alone, for closet talk which none may hear; for closeness of communication, which no other can enter into ; and for relief which comes so direct from heaven, as to raise the soul above earthly considerations in meeting it ; and it imparts a fulness of satisfaction which makes the soul say, My God, the trouble is heavy, but it were better to have the trouble with the help, than be without both. And with this feeling, faith emphatically says again, “ My soul, wait thou only upon God, for my expectation is from him.” He is sufficient, and it would be folly and ingratitude to look anywhere else, for both necessity and choice assure me that help is solely to be found in Him.
What, we would now ask, is the soul's expectation and hope, in thus waiting 1st. They that wait upon God are warranted in expecting unfailing favour and affection. His covenant stands fast, the thoughts of his heart through all generations.
"No turns of Providence abate
God's care for those he once has loved.”
“He will never cast off his people, because it has pleased him to make them his people.” And of this we are sure, that the cause of God's love being in his own will in Christ Jesus, no human cause can alter it. Nothing above or below
separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord;" and this also is known that, whatever betide, God will never deny himself ; but having confirmed the immutability of his counsel by an oath, he will not withdraw the sure and steadfast hope, which is the anchor of the soul in every storm ; and although,