IT IS A GREAT thing for us, beloved friends, in all our path to know where we are, and then to know the mind of God, not only as to where we are, but as to our place in the path in which we find ourselves.
Not only has God visited us in grace, but we have to take into our minds what the actual present result of that grace is, so that we hold fast the great principles under which God has set us as Christians; and at the same time be able to apply those principles to the circumstances in which we find ourselves. These circumstances may vary according to our position, but the principles never vary.
Their application to the path of faith may vary and does. I mean such a thing as this: in Hezekiah’s time they were told “In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength,” and the Assyrian should not even cast a bank before Jerusalem. They were to stay perfectly calm and firm; and the host of Assyria was destroyed. But when a certain time of judgment was come, in Jeremiah’s time, then he that went out of the city to the Chaldeans, their enemies, should save himself.
They were still God’s people as much as before, though He was saying for the time in judgment—”not my people,” and that made the difference. It was not that God’s mind was altered or His relationship to His people changed
—that never will be. Yet the conduct of the people was to be exactly the opposite. Under Hezekiah they were protected; under Zedekiah they were to bow to the judgment.
I refer to these circumstances as a testimony, to show that while the relationship of God with Israelis immutable in this world, yet their conduct at one time had to be the opposite to that at another.
Ldok at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, as regards the church, God’s assembly in the world. There I find the full display of power; all had one heart and one mind and they had all things in common; the very place was shaken where they were. But suppose I take the church now, including the Roman Catholic system and all, if we look at all that and own it, we bow down to everything that is evil at once.
While God’s thoughts do not change and He knows His people and so on, yet we need spiritual discernment to see where we are, and what the ways of God are in the circumstances, while never departing from the first great principles which He has laid down for us in His word. Another thing, too, we have to take account of as a fact of Scripture, is that wherever God has set man, the first thing man has done has been to spoil the position; we must ever take that into account.
Look at Adam, Noah, Aaron, Solomon and Nebuchad nezzar. God goes on in patient mercy, yet the uniform way of man, as we read in Scripture, has been at once to up set and destroy the thing which God set up good. Conse quently, there cannot be any walking with a true know ledge of our position if this is not considered. But God is faithful and goes on in patient love. Thus in Isaiah 6 we find “Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes” and so on, but it was not fulfilled for Soo years, and when Christ came they rejected Him
Patience went on in that way, individual souls were converted, there were various testimonies by the prophets and a remnant was preserved still. But if we should plead the faithfulness of God, which is invariable, to put a positive sanction upon the evil which man has brought in, our whole principle is false.
That would be exactly what they did in Jeremiah time when judgment was coming, and what christendom is doing now; they said, “The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, are these,” and “The law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise,” when they were all going to Babylon. The faithfulness of God was invariable, but the moment they applied that to sustain them in the place of evil, it became the very ground of their ruin. The same principles which would be our security become, if we leave out the sense of where we are, our ruin.
We get the word, “look to the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged. Look to Abraham your father and unto Sarah that bare you; for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him,” Isaiah, r: a passage constantly misapplied. God is saying there, Abraham was alone and I called him. Israel, to whom God spake this, was then but a little remnant— Do not let that make you uneasy, 1 called Abraham alone. Their being little was of no consequence—God could bless them alone as well as Abraham.
Now in Ezekiel, a similar statement by the people in different circumstances, is denounced as iniquity. They said there, “we are many,” “Abraham was one and he inherited the land”; Ezek. 33: 24; God blessed him and so He will bless us still more. From want of conscience, really, they misapprehended the condition in which they were, and with which God was dealing. So now, if we leave out the sense of our condition—I mean that of the whole professing church in the midst of which we stand— we shall be utterly wanting in spiritual intelligence.
We are in the last days, but sometimes I think people do not weigh the full force of that. I think I can show you from Scripture that, the church as a responsible system down here was, from the very outset, that which had got into the condition of judgment, and the state of it was such as to require individual faith to judge it.
The great thought that is current among hundreds and thousands is to get away from the present confusion to a ki±$ of resource, that the church teaches and judges and dod this and that; but, on the contrary, God is judging the church. Patience He does show and grace, calling souls to Himself as He did in Israel; but what we have to look in the face is that the church has not escaped the effect of that principle in poor human nature, that the first thing it does is to depart from God, and ruin what He has set up.
When we speak of the last times it is not a new thing, but one which we have in Scripture, one which God in sovereign goodness has given us before the closing of the canon of Scripture. He allowed the evil to come up so that He could give us the judgment of Scripture upon it. If you look at Jude—and I take now merely some of those principles which the church of God wants—he says, “Beloved, when! gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints.” The faith was in danger already, they were obliged to contend for that which was slipping from them, so to say, for there were “certain men crept in unawares,” etc., so that you must look at judgment now. God saved the people out of Egypt and afterwards had to destroy them that believed not. So, too, with the angels in like manner.
Then again Enoch prophesied of those of whom Jude speaks, the un on whom the 4.ord will execute judgment while comes again. These were there then, and the starting point of it in the Apostles’ days was sufficient to give the revelation of God’s mind by His word. The ground of judgment when the Lord comes again was there present already. If you take John’s first epistle chapter 2, 18, he says, “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists, whereby we know that it is the last time.” So that it is not a new thing that is developed, but it began at the first, just as in Israel they made the calf at the outset, yet God bore with them for centuries, but the state of the people was that which a spiritual man judged. John says, “we know that it is the last time.” I suppose the church of God has hardly improved since then. In verse 20 he adds, “But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things”—. you have that which will enable you to judge in these circumstances.
Again, take the practical state of the church as seen by Paul in Philippians, 2: 20, 21, “1 have no man like-minded, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things that are Jesus Christ’s.” That was in his day. What a testimony nor that they had given up being Christians.
He tells Timothy, “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me; I pray Qod that it may not be laid to their charge.” 2 Tim. 4. ;6. Not one stayed by him! Peter tells us that “the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God,” i Pet. : 17. I name these as the authority of the word of God, showing even then, at the very beginning, there was that going on outwardly which the Spirit of God could discern and testify to as being the ground of final judgment, but already manifest in the church of God.