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Free Books » Meyer, Frederick Brotherton » The Gospel of the King

Chapter 10 - The Mercy Seat of Gold The Gospel of the King by Meyer, Frederick Brotherton

Index

THE MERCY-SEAT OF GOLD

 

 

"Rest, weary soul!

The penalty is borne, the ransom paid,

For all thy sins full satisfaction made!

Strive not to do thyself what Christ has done,

Claim the free gift and make the joy thine own

No more by pangs of guilt and fear distrest,

Rest, sweetly Rest!

 

Rest, weary Heart!

From all thy silent griefs and secret pain,

Thy profitless regrets and longings vain;­-

Wisdom and love have ordered all the past,

All shall be Blessedness and Light at last;

Cast off the cares that have so long opprest!

Rest, sweetly Rest!

 

Rest, spirit free!

In the green pastures of the heavenly shore,

Where sin and sorrow can approach no more,

With all the flock by the Good Shepherd fed,

Beside the streams of Life eternal led,

For ever with thy God and Saviour blest,

Rest, sweetly Rest!"

H. L. L.

 

 

THE MERCY-SEAT OF GOLD

"My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye may not sin.

And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world."- 1 John ii. 1, 2.

"My little children"-the language of venerable age. The writer had lived long; sixty years at least had passed since he beheld the Incarnate Glory, the glory of God in the face of Christ. The language of ineffable love! He had lived so near the heart of love that he had become impregnated and saturated with it. He might be old, but that was young; he might be weak, but that was strong; his mind might be giv­ing way beneath the pressure of age and infirmity, but the eyes of his heart were as clear-sighted as in the days when he first beheld Christ on the shores of the lake. The language of great authority! At the feet of this man other inspired teachers might have been prepared to sit. We can imagine that many of the minor prophets of the Old Testament, for instance, would have been glad to form a class around this venerable man, whose head had leant upon the bosom of Christ, and who had known Him face to face.

Sitting in his chair at Ephesus, or speaking from the Isle of Patmos, he addresses the entire Church of every country, as he says, with the weight of venerable age, with the tone of ineffable love, with the accent of invincible authority­-"My little children."

In the words we are considering we have-

1. A brief epitome of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. There are just five points in that epitome which we can only note superficially here.

1. Behind all that we know of God there is a Father's heart. It is a very necessary thing to understand and to believe that the heart of God is not only the heart of the Monarch, but also of the Father; that behind all the wonder­ful array of creation there is the contrivance of a Father's love; that underneath all the mighty machinery of providence there are a Father's thought and care, and that behind the moral government of God and His mediatorial govern­ment especially, there is the wisdom, the foresight, the tender heart of a Father.

All men are His offspring in a sense-not in the deepest sense, not in the sense in which we may be His children, but there is a sense in which all mankind are the offspring and children of God, and when they went from Him into the far country, and broke His law, the loving Father's heart contrived a way by which, without infringing His justice or dishonouring His law, His ruined, hopeless, backsliding children might come back to Him, and be adopted into a closer fellowship, into a more intimate relationship, than was theirs simply by creation or nature. Never forget that behind all the mystery and perplexity, the awful sorrow of our world, there is One so ineffably tender that if all the love of all the fathers were purified of sin and concentrated into one pure beam, that beam, compared to His heart, would be as a taper to the sun when it shines at the noon­tide. We have "an Advocate with the Father."

2. Man, sinner as he is, is allowed to plead his cause in the Court of Mercy. There are two courts in which we might plead our cause. First, the Court of Merit where the Pharisee stands with outspread hands, saying: "My God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are; my hands are clean; and upon the ground of my deserts I claim to be accepted." But most of us, knowing full well the stain and soil which have defiled our robes and spoilt our record, realise that we have no chance there, and gladly turn to that other court, where lost and undone sinners are dealt with in mercy.

3. The Advocate is provided. The Advocate stands there, the stainless, blameless Christ, who assumed our nature that He might fully apprehend and understand it, and ascended that He might for evermore plead our cause at the right hand of God. The Court is open, the Advocate waits, one cry will set His advocacy in motion, be that cry faint as a dying whisper or loud as the applause of a mighty crowd. It may even be voiceless, hidden in the depth of thine heart, but it will bring to thy aid and help the right­eous Advocate. When Sir Walter Raleigh was being con­veyed from Westminster Hall to the Tower, in the flickering light of the torch by which the ferryboat was lit, he wrote these words:-

"From thence to heaven's bribeless hall,

Where no corrupted voices brawl,

No conscience molten into gold,

No forged accuser bought or sold,

No cause deferred, no vain-spent journey,

For He is there, the King's Attorney."

"An Advocate with the Father,"-a righteous Advocate, for we do not wish for one who will excuse or exterminate our fault, but one who, before God, will so entirely deal with our unrighteousness that He will put it away for ever, and clothe us with His own stainless beauty. Behold the blessed, the holy, the exalted Christ, into whose hands sinful men and women may put their cause without fear, knowing that He will maintain it consistently with the principles of infalli­ble rectitude. In our Saviour Righteousness and Peace embrace. He is the soul of Justice, but in His heart there is the tenderest love for every poor client that appeals for His inter-position. Oh, what a days-man is here! The patriarch longed for one to lay his hand on God and himself, and here is the one, which his prayers and tears fore­shadowed: for men "there is one God, one mediator also between God and men, himself man, Christ Jesus."

4. He advocates our cause upon the basis of His propiti­ation. "Whom God set forth to be a propitiation." The propitiation was the mercy-seat-the golden slab which, according to the Divine prescription, covered the ancient ark. It would, therefore, be of the same size as the tables of stone deposited within, and be encrusted with the blood of innumerable days of Atonement. When Jesus is said to be a propitiation, we are taught that His perfect obedience to the will of God measures and overlaps the full demand of God's holy law, whilst His precious blood has atoned for our sins.

"The terrors of law and of God,

With me can have nothing to do;

My Saviour's obedience and blood

Hide all my transgressions from view."

It is the knowledge of this that gives such perfect rest to the troubled conscience. And nothing else will. May not this be taken as a valid proof that we are not following cunningly devised fables, when we proclaim God's way of peace and insist on the necessity of a full appreciation of the finished work of Christ as the condition of soul-peace?

Some years ago a Mohammedan came forward in Calcutta for Christian baptism, and was asked, among other questions, wherein he found his religion deficient. He answered, "Mohammedanism is full of the mercy of God, and so long as I had no consciousness of sin that satisfied me, but when I came to see myself a guilty sinner in the sight of the Most Holy God, and that I had broken His laws, I felt I must have something more. When I saw that I must deal not only with God's mercy, but with His justice, I could have no rest until I understood that the Lord Jesus, as my Representative, had met and satisfied every claim of the moral law."

We must all endorse these words, and we may even go farther, and say that we would not wish forgiveness at the cost of God's righteousness and truth, for if He were to for­give us thus, there would be no guarantee that He might not retract the forgiveness which had been given, at the impulse of mercy; and there would be a grave peril that if God were not to respect the claims of justice, the moral government of the world would be relaxed, and the whole universe rock to ruin. What barrier is there against the reign of evil, the intrusion of utter moral chaos, a very avalanche of destruction, unless God maintain His Law, and insist that every violation of its righteous demands shall receive its just recompense and reward, in the person of the offender, or his Surety?

God's way of salvation is in harmony with infallible, unimpeachable justice, because He has satisfied its claims through the obedience and sufferings of Jesus Christ, on the behalf of the whole world of sinners. We believe in the ascension, we rise with our Lord to His Throne, and stand there accepted in the Beloved; we anticipate the eternal glory; but the whole fabric of the Church's salvation, and of the individual's, rests upon the work that the Divine Saviour did on Calvary when the thunder and lightning of Sinai broke upon His soul, buried themselves in His heart, and were silenced for ever.

5. Man, by God's blessing, may live a stainless life. "These things I write unto you, that ye sin not." This, of course, does not mean objectively, that we are kept from all possible sin, but it does mean subjectively, that the child of God may live day by day free from known sin; that at the end of each day, as we review it, though we are conscious of having fallen below God's high standard of possible obedience, yet that up to the limit of our light we have been kept from words, actions, glances, dispositions, that would grieve the Spirit of God.

It should never be forgotten that sin has two aspects, that direct and positive violation of known duty, and that of coming short of God's glory-a deficiency in that perfection of love, of tireless consecration, of joyous real­isation of obedience to God's holy will, which characterised our Lord. When the apostle says that he writes to his little children in the faith, that they may not sin, it is clear that it is to the first of these that he refers. There is provision in the redemption of our Lord Jesus Christ, in virtue of which we are delivered from all known sin, and kept by the power of God, through faith, from things which we once wrought without shame or remorse. But at the close of a day in which we have realised that keeping power to the uttermost, who is there of us that is not aware of having come short of the glory of God? We might have been more earnest and devoted and single-hearted. And in all this we need the forgiveness and cleansing of our Heavenly Father.

II. A glimpse of the Lord Jesus as the representative Man. He was the second Adam, the Lord from heaven, and His work of redemption is co-extensive with the havoc brought by Adam's fall and sin. All mankind was embraced in that one supreme act of His. In Him all mankind rendered obedience to that law, and suffered beneath its penalty. All mankind, therefore, in that act was redeemed from the inci­dence of Adam's sin. Topsy, in "Uncle Tom's Cabin," says: "Why should I be punished? I never ate that apple!" Certainly; neither Topsy nor anyone else will go to hell because Adam ate that apple, because whatever loss accrued to the race from that act of sin has been more than made good by the act of righteousness of the One Man Jesus Christ. Why then are men lost?

First, because they contract themselves out of the benefits of Christ's death. We are accustomed to that phrase as between workmen and master. There is, in their relations, an Act of Parliament which will secure great benefit to work­people, but they may contract themselves out of the operation of that Act. And men by their sin may contract themselves out of the benefits of Christ's death. Our Lord tells of a man who had been forgiven, but shortly after took his brother by the throat, and insisted that he should pay him what he owed; but in that act he cancelled his own forgiveness, and his Lord directed that he should be given over to the tormenters till he should pay all the original debt. So, by their wilful rejection of Christ, men may contract them­selves out of the benefits of His work on their behalf.

Secondly, Christ's death is for us all, but every man has, by faith, to take what God gives. All men who have been saved outside the pale of the Christian religion have been accepted on the basis of what Christ did, and through the operation of their faith-not faith which rests on perfect knowledge, but directed to that beam of light from the face of Christ, that came to them in whatever manner, and which they embraced; for "the light lighteth every man that cometh into the world." Christ's redemption is for all the world, but men, by humility, obedience, and faith, must live up to the light they have. Rahab, Samson, Jephthah, and others, had a very different amount of knowledge to ourselves, but they exercised in such as they had the very same qualities of the soul as we towards our wider revelation; and the touch of the hem of Christ's seamless robe saved them. Disbelief is fatal.

III. Hear a parable. There was once an island surrounded by oceans of light, but clouds brooded perpetually over its skies; tawny forests covered the mountain slopes, and thick undergrowth the valleys, in which snakes, scorpions, and wild beasts lurked. Many who dwelt there spent their lives in speculating upon their origin, how they had come, to whom they belonged, what was their destiny. Some of their number had climbed the loftiest mountain peaks, from which, they said, they had descried in the sunset the shores of a very distant land, but they were shadowy and indistinct; and they speculated, and wondered, and in vain. No one could unriddle the mystery. In the port of that island there stood a mysterious and complicated instrument, which no one understood, but if parts of it were struck they emitted sounds. There was a rumour that some day One would come who could interpret its use. After the individual members of this race had spent some time on the island, a mysterious spell would fall upon them, beneath the fascination of which they would come down to the shores, launch a skiff, and float out into the dark. The spell came sooner or later upon each, and could not be evaded, but whither they went no one knew. At last a ship have in sight, and One stepped on shore who said that He had come from the neighbouring continent, that He was the Son of the great King there, and that the island was part of His dominions. He said One lived there who had a Father's heart, that He longed and yearned over His children in the island, and that when, one after another, they passed away beneath that spell, what seemed dark was really light, and the gondola glided into the morning. They challenged Him to give some proof of His being all He said. They conducted Him to the instrument, and, as He laid His hands upon it, it poured out streams of enchanting music, by which the hearts of all who listened were charmed with the most exquisite delight. But after a while they raised a mob against Him, and put Him ruthlessly to death. As He breathed out His last in a miserable cell, with only two or three around Him, He said: "Every word I have uttered is true; begin to tell the message; tell it as you pass through this island, until the whole population is acquainted with My Father's Name and love." They began, but soon grew tired; they told only a few, and covered only a limited area of the island. The most told the same people again and again. Sometimes one more courageous than the rest pressed up to the mountains, and through the thickets, and away to the villages of the interior, but for the most part that island still lay beneath the brooding clouds, and still men and women dreaded the spell that took them irresistibly away. Wickedness, fear, and darkness brooded all around.

You can interpret the parable,-that island our world; death that spell; the Son of God touching the mysterious keyboard of Nature, revealing the Father, and dying; a few followers carrying His message, telling men the Father loved them, that a home awaited them, that peace, and joy, and blessedness were purchased for them. But we have not told the story; we have done very little to disseminate the tidings. The whole islet-world has been blessed by the death of Christ, but waits to be advertised of it. Will you, sons and daughters of God, rise to your high privilege? Promise God that, if it be His will, you will leave the ocean shore and press up into the interior, to take the gospel of Christ. And will not you who cannot go provide them with the means? Shall we not, as never before, begin to scatter the tidings of that gospel which has made us what we are? Advertise the people in the port if you like, but send the tidings beyond.

Acting thus, we enter into fellowship with the Eternal. The heavens are the Lord's, the earth is given to men; men open the furrows and scatter the grain, but the heavens pour down sun and rain. That holds everywhere. God gives redemption, the Blood of His Son, the mission of His Spirit, the gift of His Word, but He leaves it to us to carry the tidings through the world. The Bride and the Bride­groom are implicated alike in the redemption of men, and the Church never becomes so splendid in her royalty and beauty as when she passes through the world with the torch of the gospel in her hand, telling men of Him who was the propitiation for their sin on Calvary, the Advocate evermore at the right hand of the Father, in the power of whose deathless love and grace it is possible to overcome the Tempter and to live stainless lives.