Imagens da página


alien to the truth of God, and are according to the teachings and traditions of men. The wood does, perhaps, represent the idea of utilitarian teaching on the evil principle of expediency; the hay, or grass, that teaching which has for its object the religious culture of the flesh, or mere psychical man ; and the stubble would seem to denote that kind of wordy and worthless talk which is not unknown at the present time—“vain babblings."

(c) It is assumed that all the builders contemplated acknowledge the one foundation, and are themselves believers in Him. And it is taught that the work of each will be judged in that day, and that each will be caused to know the moral judgment of the Lord on the work which he has done, whether good or bad ; and each will thus learn whether his ministerial work was approved or disapproved. Those whose teaching has been according to the emblematic meaning of the wood, hay, and stubble-while they themselves are saved-shall consciously suffer loss. And those who have faithfully taught the truth of God, as symbolised by the gold, silver, and precious stones, shall receive a reward.

4. The same Divine principles will be applied in that day to the works of all the saved. This the same apostle has taught saying, Wherefore, whether present or absent, we aim earnestly at being well-pleasing to Him, for we must all appear before the tribunal (beema) of Christ, so that each may receive the things (done) through the body, according to that which was practised (as a part of their religious profession), whether good or bad.”

The saints themselves “ shall not come into judgment,” neither shall their sins be brought to remembrance; but their works will be judged of the Lord, those works in the practice of which they have professedly served Him. And each shall be caused to know and entertain the moral judgment of Christ, respecting the works done, either really in accordance with His revealed will, or from a false zeal, and erroneous thoughts and intents. And in the case of each there shall be either a consciousness of loss, or a conscious possession of the approbation of the Lord and a distinguishing mark of His complacency in the service rendered to Him in honour of His name, and in fidelity to the truth of His Word. The practically faithful shall receive an everlasting reward.

It would appear that this judgment of the works and ways of the saints shall be after they have met the Lord in the air, and before they are led into the place which He has gone to prepare for them ; and then He will present them to the Father, “spotless and with exceeding joy."


[ocr errors]


THE REIGN OF GRACE. “ The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us ... full of grace and truth. The law was given by Moses ; grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”—John i. 14, 17.

“ The law entered, that the offence might abound; but where sin abounded, grace did much more abound, that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.”—Rom. v. 20-21.

* For by grace are ye saved through faith ; and that not of yourselves : it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.”—Eph. ii. 8-9. GRA RACE is kindness, favour, benignity, free gift, undeserved

blessing. Dispensation is the economy or arrangement during whose continuance God deals with men in any given way. Its duration is fixed by Him who does all things according to the counsel of His own will. The dispensation of the law began with Sinai in the wilderness, and ended with Calvary when the Lord was crucified. The dispensation of grace began when the Gospel was sent to the Gentiles, and will end when the Saviour comes for His Church. Then will begin the dispensation of judgment, or righteousness, when the Lord in righteousness will judge the earth. More strictly still, the dispensation, or reign of grace, began at the day of Pentecost, and will close at the second coming of Christ. This is the age or world in which it is our privilege to live; and when the next age, or world to come, shall begin, we, if we avail ourselves of the grace that now reigns, shall then reach a higher, better, and more perfect state of being than can be reached in the flesh.

The dispensation of grace has lasted already nearly nineteen centuries, a very long period in the estimation of beings so shortlived as we are, but God's eras, or ages, are not to be measured by our narrow conceptions. The distance before His eye; the circumference through which His thoughts range; and the ends to be served through countless ages by what He has done and will yet do in connection with this mysterious world, are all immeasurably beyond our ken. Our reach of sight is feeble. Much has been revealed, much more, in fact, than many of us think; but the unrevealed—because by us impossible of comprehension-must, from the nature of the case, be inconceivably vast in extent and wonderful in character. This much, however, is certain : God has

, been pleased to select man's dwelling-place as the scene of surprising exhibitions of His wisdom and power. He has made it the centre of influences that reach His own throne and stretch far away across ages upon ages, for which man has no arithmetic.

Hitherto all that we have seen, fearfully dark from the merely human point of view though much of it is, has nevertheless been of a progressive order from a lower to a higher state of things. Each movement on God's part has been in advance, a slow but

[ocr errors]

steady development of some inconceivably great purpose upon which His mind has been fixed “From the beginning, ere ever the earth was.” That the dispensation of grace, dating from the fall of Judaism, is such a step in advance, such an additional unfolding of a settled purpose of action, there can be no doubt. Hear the apostle of the nations, the great minister of grace to the world outside Judea : “Do we begin again to commend ourselves ? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or from you? Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men; manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testame; not of the letter, but of the spirit; for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance-which glory was to be done away-how shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious ? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious” (2 Cor. iii. 1-11). This is admirable testimony to the superiority of the dispensation of grace over that of law; and the witness is unexceptionable, for he personally knew both dispensations. Besides, the words are not Paul's only, but the inbreathing of the Holy Spirit, the testimony of that Spirit who knows the mind of God.

Here, then, we see at once that the Christian age is incomparably superior to the Mosaic. It brings God so much nearer to His ultimate goal. He is not thrown back by the crime that“crucified the Lord of Glory," but makes it the occasion of rending the symbolic veil, of throwing down the partition which divided the Gentile from the Jew, of nailing to the cross the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, of abolishing—its purpose served--the entire ceremonialism of the Levitical code, of enlarging the locality upon which Divine light shone from a small province of the Roman Empire to the entire world, and of commissioning the messengers -not of law, but of grace-to carry tidings of mercy to every nation under heaven. The Jews have slain the Hope of the nation, to whom every part of their gorgeous ritualism pointed, and now that ritualism can no longer hold together. Its preparatory work is done, its testimony is delivered, its machinery set aside, and the nation itself disappears from the map of the world. The fall of Judea, and with it Judaism--for without the Temple Judaism is

[ocr errors]

impossible-was to the eye of the Jew nothing but overwhelming disaster, a dismal, a terrific calamity; but in God's wondrous plan it was the reconciling of the world. When wicked hands killed the Prince of Life, God's hands opened wide, not to grasp hot thunderbolts to wrap our world in unquenchable fire, but to pour life and salvation across the vast deserts of idolatry, life and salvation without money, without price, without obedience to any law, freely, freely-it was the actual inauguration of the gentle dispensation of grace, the best, most blessed, most beneficent economy the world has hitherto seen. The special privileges of Judaism were contracted within a narrow sphere; the dispensation of the law was for the Jews only; and during its continuance God“ suffered all nations to walk in their own ways (Acts xiv. 6). The times of that ignorance He overlooked, but now He commandeth all men everywhere to repent. The dispensation of grace is for the world, and it turns upon the Divine point of simple belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a dispensation of testimony regarding the Son of God; that God is in Him reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing unto men their trespasses. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world ; but that the world through Him might be saved" (John iii. 16, 17). This testimony pervades the New Testament. Its sublime simplicity meets us constantly. “ If we receive the witness of men,writes John, “the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He hath testified of His Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself. He that believeth not God hath made Him a liar ; because He believeth not the record that God gave of His Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son" (1 John v. 9, 10).

The presentation of Divine testimony, the truth to be believed, is the grand feature of this economy. Hear what the Apostle Paul says about the subject of his ministry. “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead ; and that He died for all, that they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him who died for them, and rose again. Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh ; yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ he is a new creature ; old things are passed away; behold all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation, to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself; and bath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then,"—what am I and my fellowapostles in consequence of this new and most merciful state of things ?—“we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. For He hath made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin ; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. v. 14-21). This was apostolic ministry. It was a presentation to “ sinners of the Gentiles,” men who had not been placed under the dispensation of law, and who were living without God in the world, of the full benefits of a purely Divine scheme of reconciliation, on the simple ground of belief. If they would but believe the testimony, all the blessings to which that testimony referred should be theirs. No matter what their character had been. There was no moral preparation required on their part, no obedience to any law exacted, no process of introductory improvement enjoined. Every objection is met, every difficulty removed, every barrier broken down; all things are ready: all things are of God; be ye reconciled. Accept the perfect reconciliation just as you are, here and now, without money, without price, without merit, without previous purification, for it is the dispensation of grace, of gift, not of works. The treasures of grace are opened, and the Sovereign, with Divine munificence, is giving, without stint, without question as to character, to all who come. Sunk in abominable idolatry, debased, polluted, unutterably vile you may be. Well, this is all known, and because it is all known, the arrangement has been so made as entirely and fully to meet your case. It is for you, the helpless; God's redeeming love through Christ comes to you, meets you, asks an entrance into your hearts, an abiding place in

your souls. You are not asked to give, but to take; not to do work, but to “be reconciled." You are offered life, character, privilege, immortality as the gift of God.

Let any man read the loathsome description of heathendom in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans-a description fully borne out by such writings of the heathens themselves as have reached us, and by the testimony of our missionaries—and then ask himself what could meet the case of such persons, if it was to be met at all, but a system of transcendent grace, purely Divine in its origin and application ? But the case of such brutalised, demonised human beings has been met successfully, triumphantly, millions of times. Just listen to this: “To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints : Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world ” (Rom. i. 7, 8). In Rome! Ay,

) these are the very words. If grace won such triumphs there, the new dispensation has proved itself the wisdom of God and the power of God unto salvation.

In truth, the glorious character of God has been unfolding itself through past dispensations ; over the darkness of the world's ignorance, and sin, and misery, His light shines, and by what He has

« AnteriorContinuar »