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What saith the Scripture ?-Rom. iv. 3.
THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB AND THE UNION OF SAINTS. THERE is a day in prospect when all the Church of God shall be gathered together in glory, when each one shall be made like unto our glorified Lord, and when all shall be unitedly manifested as composing His body, as being the several members, while He Himself is the Head.
The New Testament makes frequent mention of this blessed day, when all being gathered in, the household of God shall be complete: thus we read in the book of Revelation—“After this I beheld, and lo, a great multitude which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands ; and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God, which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.......... And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these who are arrayed in white robes ? and whence came they?
And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said unto me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb: therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he that sitteth upon the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more, neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (vii).
How much there is in this description to cheer the weary traveller on his way! Before him there is this rest ; and it is only the more blessed in contrast to the roughness of the road : and though we are in a wilderness, yet it is our privilege to enjoy in anticipation all that is revealed to our faith ; for just as surely as we know that “we have redemption through Christ's blood, even the forgiveness of sins,” so surely have we been sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession” (Eph. i). That which is ours, in fact, and that which we have only as yet in prospect, rest alike upon the word and grace of God : and as His Spirit has quickened us to believe in Christ, and thus we have received the one blessing, even forgiveness, so is that same Spirit the earnest to us of the other, even the inheritance.
This inheritance, which is secured to us in the blood of Christ, is one of the things that are freely given to us of God;" for the knowing of which the Holy Ghost has been imparted to us (1 Cor. ii. 12); so that it is our duty and our privilege to rest on whatever the word of God reveals to us respecting it.
It is impossible for a saint not to look onward to things which are yet future. Anticipation of natural things ever characterises man naturally: and just so does the spiritual man look onward, only he has spiritual objects in view; and instead of trusting to probability or conjecture, he has revelation for his guide. The only question is, whether he will simply take the hopes which the word of God presents, or whether he will rest in a vague expectation of blessing to come, without really" "knowing the things which are freely given to us of God."
He who has peace with God through the blood of Christ, does not rely upon that blood without having some intelligence of its value in the sight of God; and just so ought he who hopes for blessing to come to take the testimony of the word as to the particulars which it affords him, remembering that the Scripture is not written in vain, and that although “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things
which God hath prepared for them that love Him : [yet] God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, even the deep things of God" (1 Cor. ii. 10).
If then we be resting in happy anticipation of the glory that is before us, taking the Scripture for our guide, it is impossible for us to avoid thinking who those will be who in that day shall be sharers with us in the inheritance.
Let us then consider briefly, according to the word of God, who those are who will partake in the glory to come : What it is that gives to them their title to enter into glory; and, What are the practical consequences resulting from these two considerations which bear upon the present conduct of the saints.
They are described as being “a great multitude, whom no man can number," and they are gathered not by nations being assembled as such, but by their being taken out of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues ; and the ground on which they stand before the throne and before the Lamb is, that they have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." This brings before us the grace of God, and the manner of its display; it is by " the blood of the Lamb" that the Church is to be gathered ; and their ascription of praise is, “Salvation to our God, who sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb !"
Let us look for a little at the ground of confidence which these redeemed saints have in the glory, for it is well worthy of our joyful, and at the same time solemn consideration. Their robes have been washed and made white; thus we see, that as the gathered company were once those who had been clothed with defilement, no question could possibly arise as to innocency, whether absolute or comparative. Their washed robes speak of grace; that which is most humbling to the flesh when rightly understood; because at once taking away all idea of human merit or desert, it throws the soul of the sinner simply and wholly upon God. Now the flesh, liking nothing but that which exalts itself, and being utterly unable to enter into this, finds no fellowship whatever with the self-renouncing idea of grace; but the testimony is very plain, and to him who through the Spirit's teaching apprehends it, very blessed ; that it is as having once been defiled, but now washed, that the ransomed out of every nation will be gathered together in glory.
If God manifested both power and love in setting Adam in blessing in the garden, when he was in innocence, how much more does He shew both this
power and this love in the exercise of this grace towards those who are devoid of innocence. He has shewn that however it might have seemed that the purpose of His heart to bless was frustrated by the triumph of Satan over Adam, yet really it was through this very fall, that He has developed that which was in His counsel, even redemption as the exhibition of His grace.
And the multitude not only appear with robes washed and made white, but it is “ in the blood of the Lamb.” How wondrous is the word ! that not only God should have shewn mercy, but in such a way; not only have cleansed the guilty, but have done it with blood so very precious in His sight.
Let us rest with our thoughts intent upon this blood; it fully satisfies the mind of God ; let us, as having his Spirit dwelling in us, find our full satisfaction in it likewise.
The blood of the Lamb of God! How much the very name tells us! How many questions might arise concerning it! Why did that holy and spotless One die? And why such a death? What could have caused God to hide His face from His Son, and to pour out His wrath upon Him ? How came it to pass that He by whom the world was made should be so treated in that world, which He had created for His own glory?
“ The grace of God” gives us an answer to all these inquiries. Wondrous as is everything concerning the blood of the Lamb, it is most blessed to know that we, as being sinners absolutely lost and ruined, are concerned in all that that blood is, and in all that caused it to be shed. “ 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. 21). Before God we are constituted sinners :-(i). By condition, as springing from a tainted stock;
“By one man's disobedience many were made sinners” (Rom. v. 19).- (ii). By nature, as being our own selves altogether corrupt; “ In me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. vii. 18).—And (iii.), by practice, going on in our own ways, leading away from God; “We have turned every one to his own way" (Isa. liii. 6). And it is to meet us such as we are, that the blood of the Lamb has been shed. The purpose of God was to save and to bless; but when the works of God fell, through transgression, under that curse, which He Himself had pronounced, Satan
had this seeming triumph, that there was a gulph between man and God, which apparently even the mercy of God could never overpass. Neither could it have done so in any way except that in which God has been pleased to manifest it ; and the fact that mercy has so re-united God and man, in spite of all the power of Satan, who had as it were been able to interpose the righteousuess, the truth, and the holiness of God, as obstacles to God Himself, proves beyond all other proof the greatness of that “love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins” (Eph. ii. 4,5).
It was only by God providing one who could bear the denounced curse, that the righteousness of God could be met; it was only by death falling on one capable of enduring it vicariously that His truth could be vindicated; it was only by blood being provided which could truly sanctify, that the holiness of God could, without being impaired, receive those who were personally sinners : and these three things have been done; all that was needed was found in the Lamb whom God provided, and in Him alone.
How much there is which we might admire in looking at the walk of our blessed Lord in the world; His holiness; His grace; His love ; His seeking of the Father's glory, not His own; all exhibit to us a character to which our souls must respond, that it was pleasing to God. It would be easy to say that one who walked as the Lord Jesus did, would have a righteous claim to enter into life by obedience, and so surely he would if such an one could have been found.
But although we might have felt that the person of Jesus was indeed that in which God could delight, yet there would have been but an awful feeling produced if His holiness only had been known, apart from the object for which He had come. It could never have given confidence before God for a sinner to know that Jesus was one who perfectly responded to the Father's mind ; because his own dissimilarity to Jesus would ever be present, hindering all feeling of confidence in coming to Jesus, because of the infinite distance he would consciously feel as being between Jesus and him; and this would even prevent the soul from receiving any testimony to the love of God. How can the love of a holy God rest on a defiled sinner such as I am ? If God delights in Jesus, how can He delight in me? Such are the questions which would almost necessarily arise, if the person of the Lord were known apart from His work.
But how changed is every thought, so soon as it is really known by the sinner not only who Jesus is, but what He has done; as soon as the soțl knows that He has laid down His life for sinners : “ It pleased Jehovah to bruise Him, He hath put
Him to grief;" there is that which gives fulness of confidence. All that Jesus is in His own inherent holiness becomes then that which we see to be for us, instead of against us, and the only estimate which we can form aright of the satisfaction which the Father has in us as believers in Jesus, is to be learned from knowing the Father's satisfaction in Him.
There could not have been any redemption except by the substitution of one who was cupable of standing in the stead of others; so that the more our hearts estimate the perfectness of Jesus, the more do we apprehend how perfect was His capacity for being our substitute. Sinless and spotless, there was no claim which could have been righteously made against IIim, and the more we are conscious of the contrast that He was in the world to what we naturally are, the more may we find full satisfaction in His work; the higher thoughts we entertain of “the Holy One of God," the more shall we apprehend the greatness of the salvation which God has provided
When the soul responds to the blessed truth, “It is Christ that died; yea rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Rom. viii. 34), it can joyfully trace out all His ways upon earth, following Him through every scene of which the Holy Ghost has given us an account; and every exhibition of holiness, marvellous as it is to us, will only cause more fulness of reliance upon that love which gave Him to die.
If we would learn the love of God towards us, let us read it in Gethsemane,-in the cross, -and in the glory of the Lord. Look at Gethsemane : there is “the Lord of glory;" Himself" the true God," appearing as “the man of sorrows," and realizing the bitter anticipation of drinking the cup of wrath for us; He fully feels what is before Him, so as to say, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death;” and in that sorrow He was alone, none able to share it with Him; none able at all to ap
prehend it; behold Him withdrawn a little from His disciples, and listen to the prayer which He addresses to the Father : “() my Father I if it be possible let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” We know that the cup did not pass from Him: and this
proves that it was by means of His blood, and and only by that, the purposes of " God's grace could be carried out; no other way was possible.
But though the cup did not pass from Him, yet we know that His prayer was heard : “ There appeared an angel unto Him from heaven, strengthening Him." How low a place had He taken, to be strengthened by the ministry of one of His own creatures ! How deeply His soul felt what was before Him, is proved by the agony and bloody sweat; but through all there is the fullest reliance upon the Father's will, and the fixed purpose of soul that His will should be done. Now what love do we see in the Father's heart in this! His love to us had brought His Son to die; and deep as the agony was which that Son felt, and fully as He loved Him, His purpose changed not! And Jesus changed not from His purpose of doing the Father's will. He had prayed the first time that if it were possible the cup might pass from Him; but He
says, both the second and the third time, “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, Thy will be done !"
What love, what grace is exhibited to us in this wonderful intercourse between the Father and the Son, which the Holy Ghost has thus recorded ! Our Lord receives the bitter cup as given Him by His Father; so that, when betrayed, He rebukes those who sought to deliver Him: “The cup which my Father bath given me shall I not drink it ?"
Now let us look at the cross. There we have the actual shedding of the blood of the Lamb. There we see the Lord bruised for our iniquities. “It was exacted, and He was made answerable.” But oh! how different were the thoughts of God and the thoughts of man with regard to that transaction. The serpent was bruising the heel of the seed of the woman : in the judgment of men, “ He was numbered with the transgressors.” It seemed as though all the power which He in His actions on earth had displayed, was gone. Satan and Death were triumphing over Him; and (O how blindly!) Man joined in the triumph. But look at that transaction as before God, and then we find that “it pleased Jehovah to bruise Him.” It pleased God to give to His Son this portion of suffering, this endurance of wrath for us ; for our sakes, and in our stead. If we look at our Lord merely as suffering under the hand of man, we see that He endured no small portion of sorrow: but when we know that He was bearing the wrath of God, we see a vastness in what He endured upon the cross, which far passes all our thoughts. It were comparatively easy to bear even the anguish of His pierced hands and feet and His torn brow, and to endure the taunts and reproaches of those around Him, and of those who suffered with Him; others have, it may be, endured all this, and have prayed too for their murderers as He did; but who can estimate the anguish of His soul ? " He who knew no sin" was then“ made sin for us." He was bearing our sins in His own body on the tree. That which was abhorrent to His very nature was now taken up and laid on lim; borne by Him as though it were His own; confessed by Him; and He, in one word, was nailed upon the cross as though He Himself had been verily guilty of all the sins of the whole Church.
It is the Psalms, such as the 69th, 40th and 22nd, that tell us of " the travail of His soul;" if we would understand Christ“ made sin," we must look there. And oh ! how wondrous is the thought of the face of God having then been hid from Jesus: “My God, my God! why hast Thou forsaken me ?” was His cry; and this one imploring question reveals to us much of the love towards us of Him who had thus given His Son to die. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things ?” (Rom. viii. 32).
The cross is to us the assurance of the Father's love; the proof that we are lost in ourselves; the opening of that river of grace to our souls in which our blessing from the hands of God is so richly exhibited.
Well might we ponder long upon the cross, upon the actual shedding of the blood of the Lamb ; but it is only when glory beyond is seen, that either Gethsemane or the cross can be estimated aright.
Let us then trace onward that pathway of blessing to which the Holy Ghost directs our eyes.
We have seen the Lord in His unmoved purpose going down into
anguish and death; but from that point we find an upward course of light and glory. Satan had his seeming triumph for a little while; but in the slaying of the Lamb of God, he had done his worst. Death had gained a seeming triumph over the only man over whom he had no rightful claim. The grave held his body, and Hades his soul for three days; but after that brief interval, Resurrection declared both the person and the victory of Him who had so lately been the victim. He had died that through death he might destroy (render void] him that had the power of death, that is the devil.” In resurrection, He was declared to be the Son of God with power. He was manifested as holding the keys of death and Hades; “I am he that liveth and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen, and have the keys of hell [Hades] and of death" (Rev. i. 18).
The resurrection proved the value of His blood which had been shed. What had weighed Him down into the grave ? The sins which were laid vicariously on Him. How then could he rise again ? Because His blood was shed, and its shedding had a real efficacy in the remission of those sins.
But not only did the crucified Saviour rise from the grave, but “the path of life" (Psa. xvi), which the Father shewed to His Son, led Him upward to His presence, where there is fulness of joy, and gave Him glory at His right hand, where there are pleasures for evermore. But although He thus rose triumphant into glory, His work for His Church was not forgotten. He was not merely the “rejected of men" accepted by God, but He was the High Priest of His people; and the blood which had been so freely shed upon earth, was not to be forgotten-“ Christ being come an High Priest of good things to come............... by His own blood, entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption” (Heb.ix); and thus this blood has its true value declared in the presence of God Himself
, in its acceptance by Him, and in the redemption therein being set forth to us as being eternal. It is on the mercy-seat above that faith sees the blood - it is the witness before God that we have sinned, but that the propitiation having been made, His grace accepts, in the
way which He has provided, even sinners such as we are. “The blood of sprinkling speaketh better things than that of Abel;" it now speaks peace and forgiveness ; it is now the recorded result of the work of Christ. Through that blood, the Holy Ghost works in quickening the chosen children of God; and in giving to them the testimony—“ Their sins and inquities I will remember no more.'
And He whose blood was thus shed, is still “ the Lamb that was slain in the midst of the throne;" to Him is the worship of heaven directed, all joining in the new song of praise : “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing." And well may we, as redeemed sinners, who are now made the children of God," begotten again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” unite in our response, “ Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father ; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen!”
And now that we see the blood in the presence of God, how fully ought our souls to rejoice in it. We cannot have too deep thoughts of our own guiltiness; but it is only by the blood which declares it to be forgiven, that we can at all learn its aggravated amount in the sight of God: and the more we contemplate that blood, the more will our souls be lost in wonder at the greatness of the love of God.
But in our upward glances at the glory into which Jesus is entered, we must not forget that it is as our forerunner that He is there. He will not dwell in glory for ever without having that Church which has been ransomed at so costly a price with Him in it likewise. As He has risen and is entered into His glory, so surely will every one who has trusted in His name be raised likewise. As Death and Hades could not hold Him as their prey, so He having the keys will not allow one of the weakest of His flock to remain under their power. He did not speak in vain when He said, “On this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell [Hades) shall not prevail against it.” True it is that the place of separate spirits has received and yet holds myriads on
myriads of the departed saints, but as the Lord could not be retained by the gates of Hades, so will He on that promised day of blessing unlock them and deliver all who are His. Death has a brief and a seeming dominion over the bodies of the saints; they lie in the grave even as others: but it is only for a season that Satan triumphs in turning them to corruption; and then will it be manifested that