ON account of the Address dealing with the "Approaching End of the Gentile Age being so eagerly sought after, friends who were interested in the series given at the Tabernacle Mid- week Bible Study during the winter of 1926 have earnestly requested that the closing address on the "Return of Our Lord" should also be published. The subject is dealt with in various aspects by every writer in the New Testament; one in every twenty-five verses refers to it, and this fact in itself should be sufficient to impress the vital importance of the truth upon every Christian. We are living in phenomenal days, when important changes are taking place politically, economically, religiously, and physically. The paramount things are at a discount, while the passing things are at a premium. The permanent is being sacrificed for the perishing. God is being humanised and man deified. Stress and strain are everywhere rife in official life. Statesmen are exerting their utmost to find a workable basis for capital and labour. Alliances and leagues are being formed in a vain hope to establish a settled national peace. But Par- liamentary agreements and political arbitration will never succeed in doing that which has been decreed should be achieved by the advent of earth's rightful King. The present state of the world is ominous of a grave crisis, and the only remedy for its unrest is the return of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. Until He comes, the darkness will deepen, and no one who accepts the Word of God in its entirety can indulge the hope of brighter prospects being ushered in by national legislation or by any human administration.
THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST / WILL HE RETURN?by
Charles J. ROLLS
"Only through Me! The clear high call comes pealing Above the babel voices of the plain. Only through Me can life's red wounds find healing, Only through Me can earth have peace again!"
THE HOME CALL OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH THE COMING EVENT
THE CERTAINTY OF THE EVENT.
THE CHARACTER OF THE EVENT.
THE CONSEQUENCE OF THE EVENT.
The Certainty of the Event.
Is it not strange that the fact of the Lord's return, which is attested by no fewer than three hundred and eighteen references in the New Testament should be regarded with suspicion by many professing Christians, and even treated with scorn by others who declare they believe in Him and His Word? That the Old Testament anticipated the Messiah, and foretold His coming, is patent to every candid mind. That He did actually come is proved beyond doubt. That He is to come again is equally plain from New Testament teaching. That He will come is positive, because He said so, and His word cannot be broken.
Whenever any important truth of Scripture has been lost sight of for any length of time and later on rediscovered to the Church, its re-empha- sis has been attended with grave perils. This may be said of the doctrines of justification by faith, the person and work of the Holy Ghost, the humanity of Christ, and more especially the return of the Lord. Unwarrantable teachings have been broadcasted concerning the second advent, and some of the well-meaning interpreters have done more to bring the teaching into disrepute than the enemies who ridacule and oppose it. We expect the sceptical mind to repudiate the whole conception as a fantastic idea. Those of speculative tendencies revert to conjecture and theory. The spiritually minded revere the in- spired truth of God's Word, believe it, accept it, and are actuated by it.
We are definitely told by the Apostle John that the first purpose of the manifestation of Christ was to undo the works of the Devil, to reveal the Father, and to impart life. The works of the Devil are stated by the same writer, who declares that be is a murderer, a liar, the lawless one, and a traitor. As a murderer, he destroys life; as a liar, he seeks to obscure the light of truth; as the lawless one, he repudiates law; and as a traitor, he violates love. Hence he is antago- nistic to life, light, law, and love. "For this pur- pose was the Son of God manifested, that He might undo the works of the Devil." Therefore, it is evident Christ came to impart life, to radiate light, to establish law, and to reveal love. The fact that these four verities do not prevail univer- sally, intimates that Christ's work is not finished, and the incompleted condition of His purpose demands that He should come again to complete what He began.
Further, He came to reveal the Father, but there is still widespread and universal ignorance of the Father's heart and nature. Hence that ignorance demands that Christ should return to perfect the knowledge of the Father throughout the entire realm, so that all may know Him from the least even unto the greatest.
Thirdly, the purpose of His first appearing was to impart life, but death still prevails. It is therefore essential that He should appear again to destroy death, and crown all His people with age-abiding life.
Some expositors politely tell us that the Apostles made a mistake when they taught the early Church to look for the Coming of the Lord: for, say they, all those early Church members died, and the Lord did not return. If that be correct, we might legitimately ask if Abraham was mistaken, because "he looked for a city which had foundation whose builder and maker is God." With a like expectancy, many of the Old Testa- ment saints looked forward to this consummation. Yet these all died in faith, not having received the promises, but were persuaded of them and embraced them. Heb. 11:10, 1:3. Was the early Church, then, wrong in looking for the Lord's return? Nay, verily. The promise was embraced, and they were persuaded of the fact; but all died in faith, not having realised the promise. Did not Christ tell His disciples that they were to live and labour as men who wait for their Lord? Luke 12: :36. As Professor Ramsay has said, it was certainly the spirit of expectancy in relation to the return of the Lord that lent the bloom and beauty to the zeal of the early Church. The uncertainty of the time is certainly the greatest incentive to consistent living, and the greatest inspiration to faithful service.
Christ's teaching conveys the impression that, the true conception of Christian life is that which is governed and controlled by the anticipation of His return, and which will be consummated by that event. Life is viewed in Scripture as a pilgrimage - a voyage - a race - a warfare - a development - a growth, and a cultivation. The pilgrim's objective is the city which he sets out to reach, and the hope of realisation stimulates with fresh zeal to tread the highways and byways of the journey, and nerves with new endeavour because of the anticipation of entering into the happy social friendships, and the bright home of love. The sailor's desire is to gain the desired haven, and he braves the storm and endures the hardships while cherishing the hope of entering the peaceful harbour, and anchoring safely in the moorings of blissful calm. The runner strains every sinew and exerts every muscle to win the contest, and the thought of the prize enables him to curb desires and abandon himself to his pur- pose that he might win the race. The soldier dreams of the warfare to be waged and of the victory to be won, and is stimulated by the glow- ing thought of participating in the conquest and sharing the honours of triumphant achievement. If life be dealt with under the figure of growth, there is that daily approximating to the fashion and image of the Saviour, until the per- fect likeness be reached. With the thought of life as a development, there is an advancing from weakness to strength, from inability to ability. from immaturity to maturity, until the fulness of the measure of the stature of Christ be realised, and satisfaction and complacency pos- sessed. Viewed as a cultivation, it has its experi- ences of sowing and reaping, of planting and gathering, until the harvest clusters of a glorious vintage are gathered, and the luscious fruit of the Spirit bespeak holiness realised. These seven aspects of life are all pictured in relation to the Coming of the Lord, and whichever one of them may be our conception, the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ should be the supreme incentive for all advance, achieve- ment and service.
In the five chapters of the First Epistle to the Thessalonians the Coming is seen to be the Church's creed, the herald's hope, the saint's stim- ulus, the Christian's charter, and the believer's beacon. When Christ was impressing the truth upon the minds of His disciples, He based His instruction upon a custom that had been familiar to them for centuries in connection with the Temple service. After the completion of the Temple, in the days of Nehemiah and Ezra, the perturbed conditions made it necessary to estab- lish a night-watch of two hundred and forty priests, and station them at twenty-one different parts of the building. They are referred to in the Antiphonal Psalm No. 132. It was the cus- tom of the High Priest to make a periodical inspection, and, together with a few attendants, pay an unexpected visit to the Temple to see if those on duty were faithfully discharging their responsibility. He would sometimes go at the first watch, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., sometimes at the second, 9 p.m. to 12 p.m., sometimes at the third, 12 p.m. to 3 a.m., and sometimes at the fourth, 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. Should he find a priest asleep with his robe taken off and rolled up for a pillow, he had power to set fire to it, and the man was shamed. Our Lord referred to these watches in the three synoptic Gospels, and spoke of the first and fourth in Matthew, of the second and third in Luke, and of all four in Mark. The different usages are of set purpose and in character with the point he was emphasising at the time. In Luke He said, "If it be at the second watch or at the third watch, be ye also ready, for at such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh." When later He gave a vision of the final unveiling to his servant John, He made use also of the other figure and said, "Behold I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth and keepeth his garments lest he walk naked and they see his shame." Rev. 16: 15. It is therefore evident that Christ adopted His usual method when instructing them of His projected departure and anticipated return, and drew upon the things that were familiar to all to illustrate this truth and rivet it upon their minds, just as He had done with the sowing of the seed, the reaping of the harvest, the casting of the net, when drawing His analogy.
THE HOME CALL OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH
C.J. ROLLSThe Character of the Event.
We will now turn to the character of the event, which it will be necessary to state in the briefest possible way, in order to leave more time for dwelling at length upon the consequences that follow. It is frequently remarked by some that the early Church spoke of the Lord's return as an event that was soon to take place. As a matter of fact none of the records give any intimation of the time, and that for definite reasons. Christ's last word to His disciples and the people was, that they should watch. He warned them of the peril of curiosity as regards dates, and also of the peril of carelessness in relation to duty. Mark 13: 32-3. Unholy attempts have been made to deter- mine dates in the face of our Lord's declaration that the day was hidden and the hour unknown. All the references in the New Testament concern- ing the event refer to its character, not to its time. There is a tremendous difference in saying "I am going to town soon" and "I am going to town quickly." "Soon" refers to the time of my going; "quickly" to the manner of my going. Hence the Coming of Christ is spoken of as occurring speedily, swiftly, quickly, in a moment, as a thief in the night, as in the twinkling of an eye; not soon, but sudden. The very nature of it demands watchfulness, not in the sense of being onlookers or observers, but as diligent servants. Watching without working is worthless. Therefore we are not to be careless in regard to duty. John Wesley was asked by a friend one morning what he would do if he knew that he would die at midnight that night. He said, "I have arranged to have dinner with So-and-So, and would fill the engagement. I am to speak at a meeting from 3 to 4 in the after- noon, which I would do. I am to visit a friend's home and have tea with him at 5.30, and have an address to give at the Church at 7.30, which I would deliver, and then return to my home and retire to rest at 10 p.m., and at one minute past twelve I would be in the presence of the Lord." This answer proved that he was living his life in accord with the will of God, and that he was not conscious of permitting anything that was dis- pleasing to his Lord. The programme he had before him called for no change. Is that true of our manner of life, or would the appearing of Christ mean a sudden arrest and find us steeped in unholy living or engrossed in dishonest busi- ness? On the other hand, our experience may be A parellel with that of Enoch, who walked with God and was not, for God took him. In the lan- guage of Hebrews 11, it was translation by faith. How difrerent was Lot's exodus from Sodom! He was removed by power and pressure, and was compelled to leave. I believe that this is just the experience that will characterise the watchful and unwatchful, the ready and the unready at the Coming of the Lord. "Blessed are those ser- vants whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching." Luke 12: 3.
We now come to our third section.
The Consequences of the Event.
On two former occasions during this series of addresses, we have spoken of how the consequences of the second advent of Christ will affect Christians. In the first of these we dealt with two issues: The Father's House, and the Kingdom of Christ, and noted in relation to the first, our Lord said, "In my Father's House are many abodes. If it were not so, I would have told you 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 unto myself." John 14: 2-3. With reference to the second, Peter says, "Strive to have an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." II. Peter, 1: 11.
We traced in connection with these two distinct ideas the clear lines of contrast which are given in the New Testament, and saw that the House is to express the mercy of His love through redemption, the Kingdom will exhibit the merit of our labour in remuneration. In the Home there is no officialism, but one glorious family, all bearing the likeness of the Son. In the Kingdom there is officialism and authority, and administration is based upon our fidelity in the service we now render to our Lord. These two aspects stamp their character on the Books of the New Testament. For example: In the first Epistle of John, which presents the family circle in the fellowship of love, the title "Lord" does not appear once, not even in relation to Christ Himself; He is always referred to as "The Son." Lordship is incon- gruous in a family circle. On the other hand, in the two Epistles to Timothy, which deal with our service and responsibility, the word "Lord" appears seventeen times, but Christ is in no instance referred to as the "Son." In continuing the lines of contrast, we saw that the House referred to our Relationship, the Kingdom to our Remuneration, the House stands for our Residence, the Kingdom for our Rule. The one expresses our adoption, the other our administration. The prevailing characteristic of the one is Righteousness, and the prevailing characteristic of the other is Love. The one treats of our capacity, the other of our authority. In the first we are seen as sons of a Father, in the second as the subjects of a King.
It is essential, in the light of these issues, that we develop capacity in the present life for the enjoyment of God and His amaranthine love, and also that we strive to merit authority to be exercised in the Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The development of capacity may be illustrated by the old story of the botanist and the farmer who met on the Highlands of Scotland. The scientist was studying the heather bell, and after having described its intrinsic beauties to the uncultured farmer, he asked him to look at one through his strong microscope. In astonish- ment the man replied, "Mon, and I've trod on thoosands a them." The botanist had developed capacity to appreciate the heather bell, but the farmer had never cultured his powers of apprehension or appreciation in that direction. Some Christians think that although they do not give time and place to God here, as they should, they are going to appreciate Him fully in heaven. What a mistake! Each soul's capacity for live will be filled to overflowing, but it is possible to have developed a capacity as big as a thimble, or as spacious as the "Titanic." And it is certainly more God - honoring that we have a large capacity than a small one on entering the Father's, Home.
Relative to the Kingdom, the exercise of authority is the matter in question. Our Lord in speaking of the rewards, painted three pictures in connection with the money parables - pounds, pence, and talents. A careful study of these discloses that He was emphasising a distinct feature in each case. The talents suggest indowment, the pence environment, and the pounds energy. In the parable of the talents (Matt. 25) there is equality of energy and environment, but inequal- ity of endowment, inasmuch as one received ten, another two, and another one. In the parable of the pounds (Luke 19) there is equality of endow- ment and environment, and inequality in energy; one gains ten, and another gains five from the same initial capital. In the parable of the pence there is equality in endowment and energy, but inequality in environment, for some hhave the opportunity of working eight hours, some seven, and so on down to one hour. At the Judgment Seat of Christ, which precedes the allocation of positions of authority in the Kingdom, every man's work shall be tried of what sort it is, and the reward is never determined on the measure of endowment or ability, nor on the basis of environment or opportunity, but always on the ground of energy or industry. A man may have ten talents, but if he does not use them, he will not obtain a position of authority in Christ's Kingdom. The one-talented man who gains another talent is equal in percentage to the ten- talented man who gains ten more, and the reward is the same. These activities and rewards are not in order to accomplish salvation, but are mentioned as the things which accompany salvation. To refer back to the Home for a moment, we enter by virtue of birth, by being born again, but we enter the Kingdom by battle, through faithful conflict in the Master's service. Hence we are told to strive to have an abundant entrance into the Kingdom, but we are not told to strive to enter into the Home. The story is told of a business man in Glasgow who had two sons, and after their schooling and Universfty course they were employed in the busines. The father appointed a manager and withdrew from taking an active part. Success and prosperity attended the enterprise, and at the close of one of the financial years the father of the two boys commended his manager on the greatly increased profits. The con- versation then turned in the direction of the boys, and the father was eager to know from his manager just how they were shaping. "Alex. has done splendidly," was the reply, "and the marked success of the year is partly due to his untiring efforts. He is always at hand when rush hours demand extra time, and is most reliable when stocktaking comes round. But as for William, he is of no use to the firm. He usually strolls in at 10 a.m. and casually looks about, pretending to busy himself for a little while, but he has to many tournaments and engagements to give the needed concentration of interest to business; so much so that I feel he is sponging on your good nature." The father asked what would be the wisest course to follow. The manager suggested that Alex. be made a junior partner, and William be asked to seek other employment. The father left the premises for a brief reverie, and after careful deliberation, decided to take action. Calling the younger son Alex. to his private office, he told him how pleased he was to hear of the interest he had shown in the business, and the energy he had put into the year's work, and after duly considering the matter, he had decided to make him a junior partner in the firm. The son replied, "I do not feel deserving of such a place, father." Whereupon the father reassured him of his worth, and affirmed that the decision was to take effect. Later, he called in William and in- formed him that he must seek a situation else- where, as it was not in his best interests to remain where he was. The son exclaimed, "What do you mean, father? Why! I am your eldest son!" "Yes, my boy," said the father, "and that is just what you are playing on." "But, father," said the boy, "does that mean I have to leave home?" "No, my son," said the father, you may still occupy the same room in the home, and enjoy the same relationship and domestic comforts, and the same roast lamb,; but you are no longer required in the business.
This story illustrates the two spheres of the House and Kingdom. We are to be in the House by virtue of sonship based upon the finished work of Christ. We are to share authority in the Kingdom by virtue of stewardship faithfully discharged in the interests of the Lord. Pro- fessing Christians who look upon Christ merely as a Saviour, by whose sacrifice they escape from the penalty of sin, have a poverty-stricken conception of the redeemed life. He saves us to serve, and all service is to be compensated at His coming. He has told us to occupy until He comes. In other versions, the word "occupy" is rendered "trade," "meichandise" till I come. Christ's words on that occasion seem to refer to the incident that had taken place a few years before, when Herod had set out to obtain jurisdiction in Palestine for his son, Arehelaus, who accompanied him. On departing, he entrusted his interests to some of his courtiers, and on his return, after having suc- cessfully obtained the power he sought, he learned that some of those whom he had empowered to maintain his affairs had violated his rights, so he had them brought and slain before him. The whole story would seem to be incorporated in Christ's message if warning and exhortation in Luke 19.
In the second address on the consequences we dealt with identitication with Christ in His death, burial, resurrection, and future manifesta- tion, and showed the wonderful parallels between the historical experiences of Christ in the Gospels and the spiritual counterpart shared by the Christian as taught in the Epistles. The section that was enlarged upon referred mostly to the Manifestation, for we read that when He is mani- fested, then shall we also be manifested with Him in glory. When dealing with this aspect of the Coming, we divided numerous references to the advent under seven heads, and remarked on the place and share we were to have in His glory, verity, beauty, purity, felicity, victory, and royalty.
We shall now finally sum up the consequences of the Advent by examining it under the following heads:-
THE TEST OF THE COMING DISCERNS.
THE TRUTH OF THE COMING DEMANDS.
THE TRIUMPH OF THE COMING DELIGHTA.
In the first place, the test of the coming discerns. There is nothing that so tests a Chris- tian's excellence of character, fidelity of heart, and constancy of love, as the truth of the Coming of the Lord. This is brought about because Christ is absent, distant, and silent. His words in John 14 were I go away, indicating absenee. In Luke 19 he spoke in figure of going into a far country, which implies distance, and his ascension to the right hand of the majesty in the heavens resulted in both. Since then there has been no voice from the excellent glory, save to arrest Saul of Tarsus, to whom it was given to fill up the Revelation of God. Hence in this sense, there is a prolonged silence. The long absence and The distance and deep silence have proved a severe test to the faithfulness of the Church. These three are always a test, even in the common rela- tionships of life.
While engaged in Christian work in the City of Colombo, I was continually brought in contact with young men who had received appointments for periods of three to five years with certain firms. When they left England to take up their duties many of them were attached in bonds of intimate friendship. For the first few months after their arrival, letters were both regular and frequent. But the fervour cooled the love and fidelity that had been attested by each other in fervent terms began to wane, and not unusually, twelve months or two years saw the correspon- dence terminated from one side or the other. The absence and distance was too great a test, and proved the quality of the love professed to be lacking in fidelity.
Our Lord knew the hearts of all men (John 2: 25), and because He did, He pleaded with His discipies in John 14 to believe on Him when they could not see Him by the eye of sense, as they had believed on Him while He was present in body. He knew that His own were capable of forgetting the most loving love, and the most self- abnegating sacrifice, and because of this, He pointed out to them that they believed in God, whom they had not seen, and He wanted them to continue to believe in Him when he was invisible, because He would surely come again. We need but take seven examples from the Scriptures to convey how real and sifting this test is.
The first we will call
From Consciousness to Carelessness.
The people of Israel had had a wonderful experience with God, and through the three great patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, had re- ceived a wonderful unfolding of His name and all that was implied in it. Because of the character expressed in that name, great and gracious promises had been made to them, which were con- firmed by Joseph. But they entered on a period of prosperity followed by dire adversity, and the distance from Palestine, and the absence of marked intervention, and the silence of God, resulted in their losing sight of the promises and forgetting the glorious name of Jehovah. From the consciousness their fathers had possessed they had drifted away from the things they had heard, and had let them slip. So careless had they become that it was necessary for God to send and reveal Himself afresh, and perform His wondrous acts to stir again their hopes and aspirations. How often prosperity and adversity dim the vision of Christians to the blessed truth of the Deliverer coming to emancipate us from the thraldom of sin and from its very presence.
From Conformity to Contrariety.
We recall again the incident that occurred when Moses ascended the Mount and left the newly-organised nation to await his return. When he took his departure, the people of Israel were in conformity, but they soon began to bemoan the fact that Moses was absent, distant, and silent, and they knew not what had become of him. Before he left he told them where to abide, and left the congregation in one place, and Aaron and the priests in another, and charged them to remaIn until he returnee. They could not stand the test for forty days, and turned to their own invention and corrupted themselves by dancing about the golden calf they had cast. When Moses returned and charged them, they told lies to excuse themselves. Their contrariety could not have been more complete. In their case, separation and solitude quenched their constancy, and how frequently isolatition and loneliness cools the fervour of our expectancy, and we no longer await with eagerness ur Master's return.
From Composure to Collapse.
One of the extremely sad instances of the breakdown of patience in waiting is shown in the case of Saul. Samuel the prophet was the medium through whom God expressed his relationship to Israel. It was therefore necessary that Saul should wait for Samuel to obtain understanding of what he ws to do. The whole of his future career depended on his obedience at this critical point. In Chapter 10 of II Samuel he had been anointed, and as he returned homeward he met two men at Rachel's sepulchre. That was very ominous, for at that spot Benoni the Son of Sorrow was changed to Benjamin the Son of my Right Hand. Ge . 35:18. this very establish- ment was possible in Saul's case. The hour called for faith in God and had Saul had spiritual per- ception instead of self-occupation, his future would have been assured. He continued his journey and met three men going to Bethel, another significant omen. It was at Bethel that the father of the patriarch who was head of the Tribe to which Saul belonged had been met by God in a troublous day, such as Israel was then in, and had received the assurance that the Lord would not forsake him. Next, Saul drew near to the Hill of God, which was in the possession of the Philis- tines. The Hill of God indicated the public seat of the divine strength, but it was in the hands oi the enemy. Here it was that Samuel told him the Spirit of the Lord would come upon him and to do as occasion served. But instead of vindicating God, he was self-occupied and did not use his power to overthrow the enemy's strength. Samuel had told him to wait seven days until he returned to Gilgal, but when he saw the enemy marshalling his forces, and that high noon had passed without Samuel putting in an appearance, to use his own words "he forced himself" to do that which he had no right to perform. The test of absence, distance and silence was too much for Saul, and he acted in self-will to his lifelong discredit. Have no acts of impatience marred our obedience because the will of our Coming Lord has been withheld for a season to try us?
From Certitude to Concern.
Turning to the New Testament, we are very early introduced to the valiant herald, John the Baptist, who had so faithfully witnessed to the first coming of Christ. The ministry of John re-echoed with a note of certainty. "Behold the Lamb of God" had been declared with no uncer- tain sound. Said he, "One mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose. He shall baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire... and many other things preached he unto the people." Luke 3: 16-18. But John was later thrust into prison, and Christ remained absent at a distance, and was silent. He never even paid him a visit, nor sent a reassuring mas- sage to him, and the strong faith of John weak- ened, and began to waver, and he sent a deputa- tion to Christ to ask if He were the Messiah or were they to look for another." What a test to be left within the grip of an iron power without communication other than that which was received in earlier life to equip him for his great work.
In the light of this, it is little wonder that some Christians tell us that they once rejoiced in the thought of the Lord's Coming, but now they have lost heart. Disappointments, say they, have so crushed them, that the thought of the bride- groom's coming no longer thrills.
From Confidence to Complaint.
The hospitable sisters of Bethany who had so frequently entertained our Lord stand out on the pages of the New Testament as a veritable pattern of devoted love and faithful service. Their confidence in the Messiah had been firmly estab- lished, and He looked upon them as friends he could trust. The home at Bethany was a place of pleasant refreshment, but the day came that cast its shadows of anxiety over the household, and the severe illness of Lazarus prompted Mary and Martha to send a message to Christ which was couched in those familiar words, "He whom thou lovest is sick." They concluded that was enough. They thought they knew him so well that imme- diately he received word he would hasten to their assistance. But instead, the absence continued, the distance remained, and the silence was ter- rible. The days passed and there was no response, and death divided theirs' from the best-loved heart. Four days later, Christ came to receive the words of censure from Martha and of complaint from Mary. Martha's faith had been challenged. Could it be, after all, that He did not really care? Mary's faith had been disappointed, and although she used the same words as her sister, she ex- pressed them with a softer accent. But the fact remained He did not respond when they sent, and the worst had happened. His coming, and the consequent activity, removed the critical spirit and the hasty misjudgment of his attitude. So it will do again, for we are taught by this narra- tive that our loved ones are not lost to us. How often the blinding tears of grief eclipse the light of His coming to be the Resurrection of the dead.
From Courage to Cowardice.
The experience of the disciples in Matt. 14 is a searching lesson of the difficulties that selfish- ness brings upon us. The twelve felt they would like respite from ministering to the needs of the people, therefore they requested Christ to send the multitude away. He told them their needs must first be supplied, whereupon they informed Him that two hundred pennyworth of bread was insufficient to meet the demands, and that amount in all probability was as much as Judas had in the bag, and to spend it on the crowd would leave nothing for their own personal needs. The Master was more wise and resourceful than they anticipated. He first of all commissioned them to attend to the needs of the great company, and as a rebuke to their selfishness and unbelief, per- mitted them to take up a full basket each for themselves, after all had been satisfied. He then sent them away, but they did not wish to go. He meted out to them the same medicine as they wished to dispense to the people, and needed to constrain them to get into the boat and go to the other side, while He Himself returned to the mountain to pray.
In the former instances the tests lasted for centuries - years - months - weeks - and days, but in the present case it was only a few hours. Nevertheless, the absence, distance, and silence changed their demeanour from courage to cowardice. And so it is with us; we are often stirred to boldness and venture, but life becomes storm-tossed and tempest-driven, and the bois- terous opposition and carping criticism damps our ardour, and we become fearful and afraid, until we esteem the truth of the coming of a world administrator as some ghastly apparition or fanatical idea of a few unbalanced minds, suffer- ing from hallucination.
From Constancy to Contempt.
In Matthew 24: 43-51, the Lord gave an account of portioning out ability, and granting opportunity to servants as an entrustment to be used for his interests during the period of his absence. Service is used in Matthew in a univer- sal application, because Christ is seen as the mer- chant who purchases the world, and after paying the price He becomes the rightful owner of all that is in it. In this sense, every man, woman and child is a bond-servant of Jesus Christ. But that does not imply Salvation, for as Peter tells us, "Ungodly men deny the Lord that bought them." Their hue and cry is, "We will not have this man to rule over us." An illustration of this is seen in the passage before us, and the absence, dis- tance, and silence of the Lord changed the atti- tude of one servant, who stands as the representa- tive of a class, from a feigned constancy to con- tempt. The liberties and privileges held out to him were turned to licence and indulgence, and alas, how many who once outwardly expressed their allegiance to Christ have retracted, and act and live as though the Lord was never coming back to establish His Kingdom in the world. None of us can evade the test. A survey discloses that absence, distance, and silence sifts and searches every class - the chosen nation, the appointed priest, the anointed king, the accredited prophet, the devoted sisters, the devout disciples, and the deputed servants. Whether sovereign or seer, student or servant, saint or sinner - all are alike tested.
In Matthew 25 Christ discloses that He will come in three relationships: as the Bridegroom, as the Lord, and as the Son of Man. As the Bridegroom, He is to receive His Bride; as Lord, He will reward His servants; as Son of Man, He will establish His Kingdom, and deal with right- eousness and lawlessness. Few take note of these distinctive phrases with the result that the truth is frequently confounded instead of being ex- pounded. The Bride will be taken to the home prepared; the servants will be taken to the Judgment Seat for reward; the righteous and lawless will appear before the Throne, for life eternal or punishment everlasting. To deal with these here would take up beyond the scope of this address. Suffice it to say, when He comes as Son of Man every eye shall see Him. Rev. 1: 7.
The Truth of the Coming Demands.
Let tis turn for a brief consideration to what His coming demands. We can best understand these demands by quoting two passages bearing on each requirement. Christ expects that we should be-
"Let your loins be girded . . . and ye your- selves like unto men who wait for their Lord when He shall return." Luke 12: 35-36.
"Be ye also ready, for the Son of Man cometh at an hour when ye think not." Luke 12: 40.
Luke, Chapter 12, deals with seven exhorta- tions that Christ gave to His disciples for Chris- tian living. Three of the conditions are negative, while four are positive. To sum up the negative side, there is to be no hypocrisy, no fear, and no anxiety. Christ taught that we had the God of Power for us, and there was no need of fear, and that we also had the Father of care providing for us, so there was no need for anxiety. On leaving India in 1915 by rail, I recognised a young engineer in the dining car whom I had led to Christ in the City of Madras. He was going to England to join the Flying Corps, and the 34 members of the young men's Bible Class he had been attend- ing had each written him a cheering message, and enclosed them in envelopes asking him to open one every day while on his journey to England. He asked me if I would care to read the first he had opened that day. I expressed my pleasure in being asked to do so, and after a stimulating mes- sage of comfort from this 12th Chapter of Luke, the letter ended with the lines :-
"Absolutely tender, Absolutely true, Understanding all things, Understanding you. Infinitely loving, Exquisitely near; This is God our Father, Why have care or fear."
That is just it. If we are living suitably and waiting and watching, and looking and labouring as the positive side instructs, we shall be in all readiness for the sudden appearing of the Saviour. Learning Readily.
"I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope ... them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him ... 1. Thessalonians 4: 13-18.
This passage is worthy of more treatment than time permits. However, it is obvious on the surface that our Blessed Lord would have us in- crease in knowledge concerning the manner and issues of His coming. Certainly, if we allowed the Holy Spirit to beget in our hearts that bridal affection which is seen in the last Chapter of Revelation, we shall be eager to know more of what will take place when Christ comes. We could not conceive a true maiden, whose beloved had crossed the seas and been promoted to honour, being indifferent as to the circumstances that would attend his return. Should he send a message and tell her of some official function that must needs be attended on his arrival, following which he would look forward to their early mar- riage, we cannot conceive of her being indifferent to ascertaining all the information she could of what was to take place. We, too, are to be ready learners of what will transpire when our bride- groom comes.
"Behold I show you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of-an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible. and we shall be changed." 1. Cor. 15: 51-52.
"The coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned. Behold the judge standeth at the door." James 5: 9.
To listen to such declarations as these, fills the soul with expectancy. The language of the hymn aptly expresses the thought in those familiar words
Faith can almost hear his footfall, On the threshold of the door.
The trumpets were used in the Old Testament for four definite occasions. Firstly, when a journey was about to be taken, as, for example, in Num- bers, Chapter 10, where it was sounded to arouse. Secondly, on occasions when the people were required in the ranks, its shrill call was to assemble. Thirdly, when a battle was to be fought, its blast was sounded to alarm; (for an example, see the Fall of Jericho). Fourthly, when the year of jubilee was reached. Its appealing call was to announce the true ownership of the land.
All are significant in the light of the reference made to the last trump in connection with the Lord's coming, The four imply
(a). The Divine Proclamation in relation to
(b). The Divine Presence in relation to
(c). The Divine Prerogative in relation to
(d). The Divine Proprietorship in relation to
So, in like manner, the last trump will arouse the Lord's people, John 5; cause them to assemble. II. Thess. 2. 1, sound the alarm, and announce His rightful ownenship, I. Thess. 4: 17.
Firstly: The divine purpose will be proclaimed universally. But a few years ago, scoffers laughed and said it was a physical impossibility for a trumpet to be heard all over the world at the same time. In the present day, man is able to broadcast sound worldwide; and if such is possible to the creature, we are sure the Creator is familiar enough with the laws of His creation to cause a universal proclamation to be heard by every one of his redeemed people.
Secondly: The assembling of old meant gathering round the captain, who marshalled the ranks in preparation for advance. In like manner, the Lord's presence is to be realised when we hear the shout and gather together unto Him. This is why the appearing is frequently spoken of as the "Parousia," which means the "Presence" of Christ at His coming.
Thirdly: The divine prerogative will be ex- pressed in relation to power. A careful reading of John 5 will throw a flood of light upon this phase. Like as the Father hath power to raise up and quicken, so Christ will quicken whom He will. The chapter demonstrates the prerogative of resurrection power to be exercised by Christ.
Fourthly: As to proprietorship, the year of Jubilee was also the time of the blowing of the trumpet. and at that season God claimed the entire right of proprietorship to the whole land. Hence, at this juncture, Christ gathers His people to Himself, and, after the due preparation, He descends with them to execute judgment and take possession of the inheritance. Jude 14, 15. How eagerly we should be listening for that victorious blast! It is noteworthy that at the conclusion of the sounding of the trumpets in Revelation, Chap- ter 11, the kingdom, of this world becomes the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever.
"Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." Titus 2: 13-14.
"For our citizenship is in Heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ; Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself." Phil. 3: 20-21.
The looking in these two passages is charac- terised by a distinctive difference. In the first instance the Hope of the Coming is looked for; in the second instance the Coming itself is looked for. There is not sufficient notice taken of this first statement. The hope is something associated with the coming, but not the fact of the coming itself. The hope of His calling mentioned in Ephesians is not the calling, but something issu- ing from it. The hope of righteousness in Gala- tians is not righteousness, but that which issues from righteousness. Likewise the hope of the coming is not the coining, but a fact associated with it. In Romans, Chapter 8, where "hope" is referred to five times, the hope is seen to be conformity to the image of His Son.
John, in speaking of the same truth in Chapter 3 of his first epistle, says, "It doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for' we shall see Him as He is. And everyone that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as He is pure." Our hope is that of being like Christ, and this is to be realised when He appears. For this we are to look, and the idea is confirmed in Philippians, where we read of the body of our humiliation being fashioned like to His body of glory. Christian! What a prospect to be looking forward to!
"Yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry." Heb. 10: 37. "He that testifieth these things, saith. Surely I come quickly. Even so, come Lord Jesus." Rev. 22: 20.
The longing in the soul for our Lord's return, is begotten by the Holy Spirit. Is it not remark- able that some professing Christians who claim the indwelling of the Spirit in fulness, discounte- nance the truth of the Lord's coming? The Spirit is eagerly longing for the event to take place. He has been operating since Christ's ascension to call out from the nations a people for His Name, and is intense in His longing for the hour to arrive when He shall present the bride to the heavenly Isaac, just as Eliezer presented Rebecca to Isaac after having called her from her natural sur- roundings. Can we not imagine the longing of Rebecca as she traversed the wilderness way in the companionship of Eliezer - anticipating her meeting with the heir of the promises? She had the earnest in the jewels which had been sent, which were types ot the gifts and graces where- with Christ has already bedecked his bride, the Church. As well try to tell us that Rebecca had no bridal affection in her heart as she journeyed as to tell us that it is wrong for the Christian to ardently long for Christ to come.
It may be remarked here that there are three types of Christ and His bride in the Book of Genesis.
Adam in figure passed through death, and afterward received Eve, taken from his side, who is a type of the Bride in her Character as suitable to Christ (see Eph. 5). Isaac in figure passed through death at the altar, and later received Rebecca, for whom Eliezer had set out. Rebecca is a type of the Bride in her Calling. Joseph in figure passed through death in the pit, and later received his Gentile bride, Asenath, who is a type of the Bride in her Co-heirship. The hymn beau- tifully expresses the truth of this teaching.
"'Midst the darkness, storm, and sorrow,
One bright gleam I see;
Well I know the blessed morrow- Christ will come for me!
Long the blessed Guide has led me
By the desert road;
Now I see the golden towers--
City of my God.
There, amidst the love and glory,
He is waiting yet;
On His hands a name is graven
He can never forget.
There made ready are the mansions,
Glorious, bright, and fair;
But the Bride, the Father gave Him
Still is waiting there.
Who is this who comes to meet me
On the desert way,
As the Morning Star foretelling
God's unclouded day?
He it is who came to win me,
On the cross of shame;
in His glory I shall know Him
Evermore the same.
Oh, the blessed joy of meeting-
All the desert past!
Oh, the wondrous words of greeting
He shall speak at last!
Meet companion then for Jesus,
From Him, for Him made;
Glory of God's grace for ever
There in me displayed
He, who in His hour of sorrow,
Bore the curse alone;
I, who through the lonely desert
Trod where He had gone-
He and I in that bright gloiy
One deep joy shall share:
Mine, to be for ever with Him;
His, that I am there."
"Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain." James 5: 7.
"Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts; for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh." James 5: 8.
There are two grand factors in Christian living related to service. The one is experience, and the other expectancy. The general experience is full of trial, the grand expectancy is aglow with triumph. In the light of the triumph we are to endure the trials patiently. James declares that the coming of the Lord is going to solve the sweating problems associated with labour. The ill-paid worker who knows the Lord Christ is sure of compensation, because a reckoning day is coming, when every man shall give account of himself. The fact of God keeping records was laughed at a few years ago, but scientists have found out that the whole universe is constructed on laws of vibration, so that impressions are made by light and shade, sound and action. The out- come has been photography, telegraphy, and the phonograph. What we see, what we do, and what we say is all recorded. Christ gave an illustration of this in Luke 16. The demand, "Son, remem- ber," will recall the faded past. The solemnity of this is terrible.
"Dare to be patient, dare to be true.
Keep the great Judgment Seat ever in view. Look at your work as you'll look at it then, Scanned by Jehovah, and Angels and Men."
"Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appear- ing." II. Timothy 4: 8.
"And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints." I. Thess. 3: 12-13.
Love is summed up in these two references as directed to Christ's appearing and as displayed towards the saints. There are numerous reasons why we should love His appearing, for it will be the time of His supreme joy and gladness. If we were less selfish and looked upon things from Christ's standpoint, the occasion of His appearing would be looked forward to with supreme delight.
We would not only look and long for it, but love the thought of it. This attitude could not but produce a fervent love toward all Christians. It is certain from the statements of the New Testa- ment that all who believe in Christ will share the Triumphs of the coming. Therefore, He expects us to express His own spirit of love to one another until the hour that we are established in holiness. The label of our loyalty to Him is love, and the badge of our brotherhood is likewise love. Hence love is the fulfilling of all. Can we say we love Him and yet not love His appearing? Can we say we love Him and yet not love one another? Let us love not in word, but in deed and in truth.
In contrast to these attitudes, we may take seven others, that are expressed by those who are unprepared. The first attitude is that of - Scoffing.
"There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts," and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation." II. Pet. 3: 4.
The Second Epistle of Peter deals largely with Christian knowledge in reference to the day of the Lord, the words "know," "knowledge," "Lord," and "day" occurring thirty-seven times in three chapters. This knowledge is seen in Chapter 1 as our power for holiness, in Chapter 2 as our preservative from error, and in Chapter 3 as our preparation for His appearing. The scoffers call this glorious promise in question, "at the last of the days" (R.V. Margin,), declaring as people did in Noah's day, that there is no indi- cation whatsoever. They affirmed that since the fathers fell asleep all things continued on in an ordinary way. This refers back to the progenitors of the race, and to the patriarchs of Israel, and Peter's statement indicates that when the present dispensation draws to its close there would be those who would say in reference to the truth of Christ's coming that since the Apostles' days and the early generation of the Church, all things have continued without any such startling event, and will still continue to do so. But he states also that they are willingly ignorant. They have no desire to know or understand, because such a thing would interfere with their manner of life and determined plans, and would necessi- tate a revolution of heart and readjustment before it could be looked forward to with any pleasure.
The Apostle goes on to describe the power of God's Word, and the certainty of it, and tells us how to act and what to do till that day arrives. It is the day of the saints' hope, directing believers to glory in Chapter 1; the day of the sinners' doom, when anti-Christian, error will go into perdition in Chapter 2; and the day of the Saviour's majesty, when righteousness shall be established, Chapter 3. The advent exhortations of the third Chapter are noteworthy :-
Be mindful - - v. 2.
Be not ignorant - v. 8.
Be holy - - - v. 11.
Be diligent - - v. 14.
Beware - - - V. 17.
But grow - - v. 18.
"My Lord delayeth His coming." Matt. 24: 48.
It is astonishing how many professing Chris- tians exert themselves to endeavour to devise arguments and reasonings to disprove the plain teaching of Scripture. Addresses are given, and books are written, with the object of trying to disprove the actual corporeal return of Christ. Some inform us that Christ comes to an individual when death takes place, or when some great crisis occurs in life, or a catastrophe in any given city or country. Others again turn to Luke 17, and point out that Christ said, "As it was in the days of Lot"-"as it was in the days of Sodom and Gommorah," and "as it was in the days of Noah," so shall it be at the coming of the Son of Man, and therefore want to know how this can possibly agree with the teaching of the supposed rapture of the Church. Reference has been made already to the three aspects of the coming in Luke, Chapter 17. It is not the presentation of the Bridegroom coming for his Bride, but of the Son of Man cutting his work short in righteous- ness, prior to establishing His Kingdom. But another will say that Christ declared to his dis- ciples that they would not have gone over the cities of Judah before the Son of Man be come. Peter interprets the meaning of these words for us, and shows in his epistle that Christ referred to the event of the Mount of Transfiguration, where an illustration was given of what was yet to be, and he describes it as a more sure word of prophecy, unto which we do well to take heed. "For," says the Apostle, "we saw a demonstration of the Kingdom and glory as it would be when Christ comes, when we were with Him on the holy mount." (Read II. Pet. 1: 16-18.) When Christ said He would come, He meant it, and the angels confirmed to the disciples that he would so come in like manner as they had seen Him go. To deal at this stage with the difference between the Parousia and the Epiphany, which relate to the rapture and the manifestation, that is, Christ coming for His own, and afterward with His own, is beyond the scope of our time. There is a great need in our day of rightly dividing the Word of truth. This applies to all truth, even the Church. We cannot take the teaching con- cerning the Church as a building with its living stones, shaped by the Spirit of God and fitted together for a habitation, and apply it to the Church as a flock, needing guidance, sustenance and protection. In relation to the one, Christ is a Builder; in connection with the other, He is the Shepherd. How often do teachers distinguish between the presentation of the glorious Church of God as being a building, a bride, a body, a family, a flock, a fellowship, and the one new man! How little credit we give to the Holy Spirit, and how faintly we recognise the wisdom of God as revealed in the Word of Truth! Specu- lation as to our Lord's coming is very rife, but He that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Heb. 10: 37. There is a great need to-day of analysing the Scriptures to discover their beau- ties instead of the destructive criticism that is wrecking faith in their veracity.
"The Lord of that servant shall come at an hour that he is not aware, and appoint him a portion with the hypocrites." Matt. 24: 50-51.
There are some who affirm that the teaching of the return of Christ tends to stifle missionary enterprise and evangelistic effort. It is just the opposite. The true servant who believes his master may return at any time, will see well to his charge, and have the gardens flourishing, and the paths tidy, and the residence clean and aired. Much more so should this apply to the true ser- "ant of Christ. When we are sure that a given event will take place sometime, and do not know when, it is wiser to act as though it will take place at any time rather than live as though it will never take place at all. Loyalty to our expected Lord stimulates energy and safeguards from indulgence. The Apostle Paul made use of this application when addressing the Philippians, many of whom were Roman citizens living on the very outskirts of the Roman Dominion. As war- riors for the Empire they had formerly been nerved by the hope that one day when the Emperor took a tour through the provinces, their chief honour would be a commendation for fidelity and aggressiveness in his cause. Catching up the figure, the Apostle applied it to the saints at Philippi, and told them to reproduce their heav- enly citizenship, and are the same time to look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Real energy and enthusiasm in the cause of Christ are stimu- lated by an eager expectancy that He will come again. The shirker is the person who discredits the fact, or, while professing to hold it, acts disloyally towards his master's interests and lives self-indulgently or negligently.
"While the bridegroom tarried, they all slum- bered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh: go ye out to meet him." Matt. 25: 5-6.
The figure of sleeping is used as the ant- thesis of watching, and for a time, characterised both wise and unwise alike. This would apply to the Church as a whole, and, on account of centr- ries passing by without the advent taking place, the tense expectancy abated. The rousing mid- night cry awakened all from slumber and the suddenness of the event left no time for prepara- tion. The alarm discovered to some that they were unready, and Christ went on to stress the need for watchfulness. He frequently exhorts His own to watch, and the metaphors used in this connection are very striking. We are to watch as the soldier, like a sentury on the walls of a besieged city with eyes fixed on the narrow pass through which the relieving force is expected. We are to watch as a shepherd who seeks the straying sheep and tends his flock in view of giving account to the Chief Shepherd. We are to watch as a storekeeper buying up the opportu- nities to transact business for his master and secure the welfare of his enterprises. We are to watch as a sympathetic nurse in tending her patient, not carelessly, but confidently in a buoy- ancy of spirit that cheers and brightens the drooping lives around.
"Watch, therefore, for ye know neither the day nor, the hour." Matt. 25: 13.
"The evil servant shall say in his heart, My Lord delayeth His coming; And shall begin to smite his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken." Matt. 24: 48-49.
The section whence this passage is taken implies that a considerable time would elapse prior to Christ's return taking place. One to whom a trust had been committed viewed the delay as a breach of the promise made, and flung himself into all manner of indulgence. Cruelty and sensuality replaced sympathy and self-con- trol, and the wretched life of duplicity is to have meted out to it a severe judgment of being divided asunder, and a place appointed with the hypo- crites. The Scripture affirms that no drunkard shall inherit the Kingdom of God, and the dread- ful doom of this evil servant is a warning to those whose inward conviction is not attended with out- ward conformity. How many there are who have secretly dismissed from their thinking the blest anticipation of the Lord's return, and say that they believe in having a good time while there is a chance.
"The Lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him and in an hour tbat he is not aware of." Matt. 24: 50.
"To you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels. In flaming fire taking ven- geance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power; When He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day." II. Thess. 1: 7-10.
The message of II. Thessalonians was in- tended to correct an error that had been spread about by false teachers. The Christians were being bitterly persecuted, and out of malice these false instructors told them that the "day of the Lord," which answers to the "day of judgment" so largely figured in the Old Testament prophets, was at hand (chap. 2: 2), or as it should read, "was present." This the Apostle refutes and supplies a threefold proof that it could not be. The first is that a great apostacy must first come, and, secondly, that this was to be followed by the manifestation of the Man of Sin, the son of per- dition, who is also called the lawless one, and elsewhere named the Antichrist. Thirdly. the Holy Spirit, who is still the power In the world that keeps iniquity in check, was to be removed, and then lawlessness would have its fling for a season, and bring about a time of tribulation such as never was. Obviously forged letters had been sent in the Apostle's name which deprived them of the comfort they had derived from the teachings of the Lord's Coming as contained in his first message. To reassure them. he dealt with the "Parousia" or "presence of the Lord" to be real- ised when Christ came for His own, and in the light of this he exhorted them to patiently suffer and wait and toil. He then told them of the Epiphany, which is the manifestation of Christ's glory to all the world, as in Chapter 1: 10. Such an event will prove to be a disasterous day for those whose lives are characterised by sinning against light, and all who have heard the gospel and refused to obey its claims will have their doom sealed. It is quite possible by simple neg- lect, by angry rejection, by busy occupation, and by sinful indulgence to fail in obeying the gospel of Christ. Knowledge of the truth, through having heard it and read it, does not imply obedience to it.
"Oft as he jogs along the winding way, Occasion comes for every man to say, This way or that, and as he chooses then, So shall his journey end in night or day."
Shamming. <p> "Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame." Revelation 16: 15.
Of all people that are universally disliked, the man who is a mere sham is the most detested and despised. Those who are unreal and pretend, who are mere impostors and hum bugs, are to receive a rude awakening when our Lord comes. Some of these professedly swear allegiance to the cause of Christ, associate themselves with the dignity of His name, but do not share His nature. Even humanity in its deepest instinct hates the hypocrite, and recognises that such are com- panions of the traitor. How much better it would be to quit all form of religion than to act a part that is unreal, for it is impossible to cheat God. What an unmasking will take place when He comes, before whom all things are naked and open! Motives will be laid bare - actions will be weighed, and the character of the inner springs of life disclosed. How many there are whose inclinations and cherished desires would lead them to indulge the vulgar and sensuous, but for the sake of appearances. "Character," said Moody, "is what a man is in the dark."
We know where the sceptic stands, for he disdains the truth of the coming. The heretic distorts it, the fanatic defames it, the cynic despises it, but the sham who declares he believes it and by his manner of life denies it is an unmitigated fraud and a dangerous stumbling-block. Lot's wife professed to be righteous in the midst of wickedness. When told to flee from the doomed city, the inclinations of her heart were indicated by her backward look, and God made her outside of Sodom what she should have been whilst in it, namely "Salt," and the Son of God pointed to her as a flaming warning, and said, "Remember Lot's wife."
The Triumph of the Coming Delights.
In passing to the Triumph of the coming, we can but refer to it in the briefest possible way. It will be the time of:-
The Manifestation of the Sons of God. Rom. 8: 19.
The Resurrection of the body. Rom. 8: 2~.
The Expression of perfect likeness to Christ. Rom. 8: 25.
The Confirmation to holiness. I. Cor. 1: 7.
The Realisation of the hope of righteousness. Gal. 5:5:
The Transformation from humiliation to glory. Phil. 3: 20.
The Salvation that is final and complete. Heb. 9: 28.
Note particularly that in all these references the word "apekdekomai" occurs, which means "to wait," and it constitutes the clarion note of advent expectancy, being used only of the advent hope. In reality, it is the true reading of I. Peter 3: 20, which refers to God's eager waiting. It is interesting to trace also in the same connection the word "ekdekomai," "to expect," which shows:
The Christian's Lord expecting His King- dom. Heb. 10: 13.
The Christian Pilgrim expecting the City. Heb. 11: 10.
The Christian Husbandman expecting the Harvest. Jas. 5: 7.
The Apostle Peter declares this expectancy to be a living hope, a sure hope, and a reasonable hope. In his Second Epistle he declares, "we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty." II. Peter, 1: 16. Peter, James, and John had seen the character of the coming demon- strated on the Mount of Transfiguration - the scene which proves that we shall know our departed friends, yea, and all the heroes of the past; for the disciples knew Moses and Elijah there, and did not need to be told who they were, "And when we shall see Him we shall be like Him"; like Him in character, like Him in know- ledge and understanding, for we shall know even also as we are known. Therefore all the redeemed known to him we shall also know. These realities are not cunning fables. In the Epistles of Peter and Paul concerning the close of the dispensation both warn us against fables, and show us the difference between the fables that are of men, and the faith which is of God. The former are mythi- cal, profane and invented; the latter is true, holy and revealed. Our faith and hope are closely allied. Faith accepts, hope expects; faith appro- priates, hope anticipates, and our hope is sure and certain.
The return of Christ is the only hopeful solution of the world problems, even though some may decry it as pessimism, or with a sneer suggest it to be an easy way of escape from strenuous matter-of-fact duties. Christ did come and He will surely come again.
Our Lord pledged it, His Word assures it, the Spirit confirms it, the Church proclaims it, the heart desires it, the hope demands it, the nations require it and the world needs it. We need to-day spritual statesmen to vigor- ously proclaim our Lord's imminent return and universal reign.
Over three hundred years ago, in 1601, when Franke was unjustly driven out of Erfurt in Saxony, he composed the following lines:-
'Come' is the voice then of Thy bride,
She loudly prays Thee, 'Come.'
With loyal heart she long hath cried,
Come quickly Master, come!'
Come, oh Thou Bridegroom, Lamb of God,
Fulfil Thy Faithful Word,
Come down and take me home.
Yet, be the hour that none can tell
Left wholly to Thy choice;
Although I know Thou lov'st it well
That I with heart and voice
Should bid Thee come and from this day
Care but to meet Thee on the way
And at that sight rejoice."
How beautifully all this is expressed in that wonderful hymn :-
"They come and go, the seasons fair,
And bring their spoil to vale and hills;
But oh, there is waiting in the air,
And a passionate hope the spirit fills.
Why doth He tarry, the absent Lord?
When shall the kingdom be abroad
And earth and heav'n with one accord.
Ring out the cry that the King comes?
What will it be when the King comes!
What will it be when the King comes
What will it be when He comes?
What will it be when the King comes!
The floods have lifted up their voice;
The King hath come to His own, His own!
The little hills and vales rejoice,
His right it is to take the crown.
Sleepers, awake, and meet Him first!
Now let the marriage hymn outburst!
And powers of darkness flee, disperst:
What will it be when the King comes!
The ransomed hosts break forth in song,
The sin-stain'd ages overpast;
The yearning, "Lord, how long, how long?"
Exchanged for joy at last at last!
Angels carry the royal commands;
Peace beams forth throughout all the lands;
The saved of the Lord shall clap their hands;
What will it be when the King comes!
Oh, brothers, stand as men that wait,
The dawn is purpling in the East,
And banners wave from heaven's high gate;
The conflict now, but soon the feast!
Mercy and truth shall meet again;
Worthy the Lamb that once was slain!
We can suffer now - He will know us then;
What will it be when the King comes!"
How insignificant is the diversity of views regarding this glorious truth, in comparison to the power of it in the heart! Many who profess to believe it and condemn those who do not, are living lives that are displeasing to God and dis- honouring to Christ, while others who are unacquainted with it are living blameless lives in all godliness and honesty. The Apostle John tells us to abide in Him, that when He shall appear we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming, I. John 2: 28. In view of our hope being the realisation of perfect likeness to Christ, I. John 3: 2, 3, it is possible to determine what is to be the chief cause of shame. Some have advocated that we should not go anywhere where we would not like to be when He comes, nor do anything we would not like to be doing when He comes, nor say anything we would not like to be saying when He comes, and then there will be no cause for shame. But such advice only touches the negative side, and the possible cause of shame lies much deeper than this. The story is told of a Greek slave girl who had been bought in the slave market and taken by her owner to his fine residence. Her manners were unrefined, her attire unartistic, and her hair unkempt. On a pedestal at the foot of the stair- way was a beautiful sculpture of a woman. When the girl commenced her duties, she passed it by unnoticed, but was soon arrested by the attrac- tiveness of the form. Each day she observed it, and her attention became more and more riveted on the neatness of the hair and the graceful folds of the garments, and all unconsciously the object of her meditation was transforming her own appearance. She began to pay more attention to her own dress, and tidied her hair until her whole deportment was changed.
We are informed that we have the privilege in Christian life of gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, that we might here and now be transformed into the same image by the Spirit of the Lord. II. Cur. 3:18. Henee our shame at His coming will be caused by our lack of likeness to Him, on account of our having been so little changed. The nearer we approx- imate to His likeness in our life and labour now, the less shall be our shame when He appears. Let us learn to cherish more this glorious hope and embrace with firmer confidence the gladdening truth "that when we see Him we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." Every one that hath this hope in Him purifleth himself even as He is pure." May it be ours to express the responsiveness that John did on Patmos Isle when Christ said to him, "Behold I come quickly." In the spontaneity of a passionate love he cried, "Even so, Come, Lord Jesus."
"Lo! as some ship out-worn and heavy-laden, Strains for the harbour where her sails are furled,
Lo! as some innocent and eager maiden
Leans o'er the wistful limits of the world;
Dreams of the glow and glory of the distance,
Wonderful wooing and the grace of tears;
Dreams with what eyes and with what a sweet insistence
Lovers are waiting in the hidden years.
So, even I, with a heart more burning,
So, even I, with a heart more fleet,
Yearn, 0 Christ, for the hour of Thy restoring.
Long for the flaming of Thine Advent feet."
One word in closing for those who cannot anticipate this event with joy, who know in their own hearts that they are unprepared. The Coming One is the Saviour, who to-day is offering a full and free pardon to all who will accept it. The seventh President of America was Andrew Jackson. During his term of office an incident occurred which resulted in a man named George Wilson being condemned to death. Wilson had been proved guilty of robbing a mail coach and having shot the driver. While awaiting the time of his execution in a condemned cell, an influential relative who had rendered noble service for the Government, asked President Jackson to show mercy to the condemned man. The result was that a full pardon was written and sent to the Sherif of the gaol to be delivered to George Wilson. On being told what it was, Wilson refused it, and said he would not on any account accept it. All entreaty proved of no avail, and President Jackson was informed of the prisoner's attitude. He sent for his Chief Justice, Sir John Marshall, informed him of the matter, and asked his advice. Sir John Marshall said there was nothing in the law of the States to cope with the case, but if given a week he would decide what action should be taken. His reply was awaited with keen interest, and the following was his verdict :-
"A pardon is a piece of paper. It is impos- sible to conceive that a man under condemnation of death would refuse a pardon, but if he does, it is no pardon. George Wilson must be hanged." And he was hanged. Why blame God for the condemnation he has pronounced against sin, and say nothing about the full and free pardon he has offered to all'? God has made provision for us on a perfectly righteous basis, and the penalty has been borne by his Son, and the free pardon of His love is now extended to every one. You may accept it and be free from sin's penalty and power, and at the coming of the Lord be saved from its very presence.
When journeying South in the Limited Ex- press some time ago, I entered into conversation with a fellow-passenger, who turned out to be a keen business man. Reverting from matters in general, I asked him if he had ever seriously considered the claims of Christ, and whether he had a personal interest in His work. He answered and said he was one of that sort that could not believe. I told him I could not accept his statement, and thereupon took a one-pound note from my pocket and asked him if he had ever read the words that were printed upon bank notes, as comparatively very few people do. I pointed out to him that the value of the piece of paper was virtually nil, but the wording it contained and the signature it bore made it to be worth 20 shillings. Note the wording: "On demand, we promise to pay bearer one pound sterling." I said to him, "It is only the promise that is worth anything, not the paper." I then asked him if he believed the promise. He said he certainly did. "Very well" said I, "that proves you are capable of believing." I then took out my Testament, and read to him these words, "If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater." I John 5:9. Seeing you readily believe the promises of men, God expects you to believe His promises, and He says if you do not accept His testimony, you as good as make Him a liar (verse 10). I thereupon placed before him two promises, and said I had not yet met a person who was incapable of be- lieving the first, and could not see why the second one was difficult to believe.
A pound note or currency of some kind.
THE PROMISE OF MEN
Verily, verily I say unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlating life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.
THE PROMISE OF CHRIST
A crisis was now reached, and I concluded our talk by telling him of the following incident. A gentleman in the Old Country had one day received an amount of change from an account he had paid, and was folding up a one-pound bank note, when he noticed some writing on the back of it. The lines ran as follows:-
"This piece of paper in your hand
Declares to you that on demand
You twenty shillings shall receive.
This simple promise you believe.
It sets your mind as much at rest,
As though the silver you possessed.
So Christ who died and now doth live,
Doth unto you this promise give,
That if you will in Him believe
You shall eternal life receive.
Upon the first you calmly rest,
Which is the surest and the best?
The bank may break-Heaven never can;
'Tis safer trusting God than man."
Of the saints at Thessalonica it is written: "Ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come." I. Thess. 1: 9-10.
So do, that you may be among those who are looking forward with glad expectancy to the Coming of the Lord.