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profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of thenı; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord God, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers ; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. I will also save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you. And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that ye shall receive no more reproach of famine among the heathen. Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations. Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord God, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel. Thus saith the Lord God; In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will also cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded. And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by. And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited. Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the LORD build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate: I the LORD have spoken it, and I will do it. Thus saith the Lord God; I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for theni; I will increase them with men like a flock. As the holy flock, as the flock of Jerusalem in her solemn feasts; 80 shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of men: and they shall know that I am the LORD (Ezekiel xxxvi. 22—38).
This citation is the more observable, because it is the one doubtless that the Lord had in view in his conversation with Nicodemus (John iii). Jesus had laid down the necessity of regeneration as the condition of seeing the Kingdom of God; and to the questions of the Jewish ruler, answered, that except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter that kingdom. Flesh and Spirit admit of no modification in the nature of each, which remains unchanged and distinct; and so Nicodemus was not to marvel if Jews must be born again in order to have part in God's kingdom, for the question is about
the kingdom, and not salvation merely. When then Nicodemus still inquires, “ How can these things be?” the
“ Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.
If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you heavenly things?” Thus it is clear, that when the Lord spoke of the need of the new birth, a Jewish teacher ought to have understood; for go had the prophet Ezekiel shown. Before Israel enjoys the earthly blessings in the promised land, Israel will be born again. Israel will be sprinkled with clean water, and will have a new spirit put within them. It is afterwards they have the earthly things of the kingdom of God. “I will also save you from all your uncleannesses; and I will call for the corn, and will increase it,” etc. “And they shall
This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden.” The important thing to notice, is, that in all this the Lord had not gone beyond the earthly things, or what was essential to their enjoyment, i. e. the new birth. Of course to have blessings in heavenly places, a man must à fortiori be born again; but even the Jewish people, as we have seen, must be regenerate to have the earthly promises in God's kingdom. In speaking of regeneration, He had not gone beyond the range of earthly things and what a Jew ought to have learned from the prophets. “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not; how shall ye believe if I tell you
of heavenly things?” On the latter, the Lord does not touch fürther than to intimate the lifting up of the Son of man, and the gift of the Son of God in His love not to the Jews only but to the world; which things involve, as we know, the exaltation of the Lord into glory on high, and the union of the church with Him there, as the fulness of that Heavenly man. The lifting up of the Son of man, was, so far as man's responsibility is concerned, the demolition (though in the marvellous wisdom of God the security) of all the earthly hopes of the Jews. In Christ all the promises of God found their meetingplace; and if He had been received, all would have been
made good to His earthly people. But He was rejected. Wherefore God also highly exalted Him. The promises remain to be accomplished, based as they are upon the blood of the Mediator; but before that accomplishment takes place, a new and extraordinary work goes on; namely, the formation of a body to share the dominion of Christ, when God's purpose is fulfilled, of gathering all things, heavenly and earthly, under the headship of Christ, the Church sharing that inheritance with Him. This, then, was the mystery of the will of God: not the kingdom of God, not regeneration, indispensable even for its earthly promises. Of these the Prophets had spoken; but they were silent on the purpose of God which destined Christ and the Church to rule over all things in the heavens and on the earth. The restitution of all things was not in any sense a mystery; but this was.
Let me observe by the way, that 1 Peter 10—12 does not at all refer to this mystery, but to other privileyes which formed the burden of many a prophetic strain. The salvation of souls was certainly no hidden secret-"of which salvation the prophets,” etc. They searched, no doubt, what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify; but it is manifest that the sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow, testified before-hand by the ancient prophets, cannot be the mystery which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit (Ephes. iii.). Here were things testified before-hand, ministered unto us, and not unto themselves; for it was so revealed to them, but clearly these previously revealed privileges totally different from another sphere of blessing which from the beginning of the world was kept hid in God; nor do the epistles of Peter once allude to our fellowship with Christ as His body. The mystery is nowhere introduced. We are regarded as begotten again to a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled ... kept by the power of God," etc., and exhorted to diligence, sobriety, confident hope, and obedient holiness, and withal to pass the time of our sojourning in fear, knowing our
redemption with the precious blood of Christ. It is not doubted that the persons whom Peter addressed were members of Christ's body; but it is certain, that the Spirit here dwells upon the blessings which spring from the resurrection of Christ-our new and incorruptible life, holy and royal priesthood, pilgrim-calling, and the like, but never upon our union with Christ in heaven. Hence also, when the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven is referred to, it is as the power of preaching the gospel unto us, never as the One who constitutes us, Jew and Gentile, God's habitation (Ephes. ii.), or baptises us into one body (1 Cor. xii). In other words, the mystery is not treated in the Epistles of Peter, whereas it is the main subject of Ephesians.
The administration, we have seen, awaits "the fulness of times,” or the expiry of the various periods appointed by Divine Wisdom. All things are out of course, and waxing worse and worse, until Christ takes the reins. The only Righteous One is still an outcast from the world, though known to the Church as crowned with glory and honour in heaven, and those who love the Lord of glory suffer here below. God's favoured earthly people is a proverb and a by-word among all nations, and driven out from a country of which God delighted to be the landlord. And what has been, what is the history of that people and land? Their oppressors, the Gentiles, have they walked in abasement or in pride? Have they honoured the King of heaven? And how fares creation? Does not the whole of it groan and travail in pain together until now? And where is Satan? Is it on earth merely that he walks about, or is there spiritual wickedness in heavenly places? Well, there is a set time
, for each of these things; and these times shall have a
Satan shall lose his sway over the air and the earth; creation shall be delivered into the liberty of the glory of God's children; the broken Gentile image shall give place to an everlasting kingdom; Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit; the wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them, and Christ shall appear and we with Him in glory. This will be the fulness of the times spoken of.
When that fulness of times arrives, how great our joy, beloved, to see Him, not only as the Melchisedek blessing God and blessing man, but actual Possessor of heaven and earth, all things therein being headed up in Him who, though He is the most High God, administers as the exalted Man: to see Him ourselves so near Him and so truly one with Him, that then we shall at length forget all save His love and His glory. And yet, o wondrous grace! is it not so now, as regards His love? Are we not here and now members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones? Yet surely we may long for the day when, seeing Him, we shall be for ever like Him, according to that working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself.
Yes, all things in heaven and earth shall be headed up in Him, and even things under the earth, every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. Worthily has He won such a place, that blessed One
“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given bim a name which is above every name' (Philippians, ii. 6—9).
It is false, utterly false, that Jesus took this place when He was born. It is true, that then was the fulness of the time come for God to send forth His Son. The very children were enslaved under the rudiments of the world, and all were shut up under sin. Man had proved himself competent to ruin himself under the law of God only the more readily, because it was good but he was not. But was God's business done when the Son came, made of a woman, made under the law? By no means. The incarnation was but a means, not the end. Redemption was the grand point to which God turned. Therefore the Son was thus sent and made “ to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye (the Gentiles, who had not been under the law] are sons” (Gal. iv. 4.-6).