Finally, as if to complete the picture, he says, “when I come again.” (Luke 10: 35 KJV) He awakens in the heart by these last words, “the blessed hope” of seeing him again. What a lovely picture! And yet it is all a divine reality. It is the simple story of our blessed Jesus who, in His tender compassion, looked upon us in our low and utterly hopeless condition, left His eternal dwelling-place of light and love, took upon Himself the likeness of sinful flesh, was made of a woman, made under the law, lived a spotless life, and fulfilled a perfect ministry down here for 33 years, and finally died on the cross as a perfect atonement for sin so that God might be just and the Justifier of any poor, ungodly, convicted sinner that simply trusts in Jesus.
Yes, dear reader, whoever you are, high or low, rich or poor, learned or unlearned, Jesus has done all this; and He is now at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens. The One who was nailed to the cross for us, is now on the throne. Eternal Justice has wreathed His sacred brow with the wreath of victory, and that, be it remembered, on our behalf. Nor is this all. He has said, “I will come again.” Precious words! Would you be glad to see Him? Do you know Him as the Good Samaritan? Have you felt His loving hand binding up your spiritual wounds? Have you known the healing virtues of His oil, and the restoring, invigorating, and cheering influence of His wine? Have you heard Him speak the thrilling words, “Take care of him”? If so, then, surely, you will be glad to see His face: you will cherish in your heart’s tender affections the blessed hope of seeing Him as He is and of being like Him and with Him forever. The Lord grant it may be so with you, beloved reader, and then you will be able to appreciate the immense difference between the law and the gospel — between what we ought to do for God and what God has done for us — between what we are to Him and what He is to us — between “do and live” and “live and do” — between “the righteousness of the law” and “the righteousness of faith.”
Charles Henry Mackintosh was born in October 1820, at Glenmalure Barricks, County Wicklow, Ireland, the son of the captain of a Highland regiment. Mackintosh was converted at the age of eighteen through the letters of a devout sister, and the prayerful reading of J. N. Darby’s Operations of the Spirit. When he was twenty-four years of age, he opened a private school at Westport, but it was not long before he concluded he must give himself entirely to the ministry of the Word of God, in writing and in public speaking. Soon thereafter he felt led to establish a periodical, which he continued to edit for twenty-one years, Things New and Old.
Mr. Mackintosh took a great interest in, and actively participated in, the great revival of 1859 and 1860. He died on November 2, 1896, and was buried in Cheltenham Cemetery, awaiting the resurrection morn.
Has the church failed in its responsibility? Has the Christian religion broken down? Has Christianity failed as a witness, a steward, and a light-bearer for Christ in this world? 99% of Christians look at Christendom as a splendid success. Christendom will claim that, like the rider on the white horse, the gospel has gone forth to conquer, and achieved many glorious triumphs. Church people look back to the opening of the fourth century as a glorious epoch when persecution ceased, and Constantine adopted Christianity. They claim Christendom has gone on increasing in brightness from that day until now.
CHM said that he was thoroughly persuaded that Scripture did not support those who hold this view. all support this. Paul’s farewell address to the elders of Ephesus and his closing ministry in the letters to Timothy prove the anticipated ruin of the church in its earthly service and testimony. Peter and Jude, as well as the parables of the leaven, the tares, the mustard tree and the ten virgins, confirm this too.
The seven churches in Revelation indicate the phases of the church’s history, leading to its present Laodicean state. Lift up your eyes: look upon Christendom: say if you can trace a single feature of resemblance to the church as presented in the New Testament.
The One Body
Where is the one body? Suppose a letter was addressed, “To the church of God in London;”. To whom should it be delivered? Who could claim it? The church of Rome might, but not truthfully. The established Church of England would not claim it, but an uninstructed postman would probably deliver it there by default. None of the sects and parties into which Christian profession is divided, could rightly to call at the post-office and demand the letter: not one of them is the church of God (even if some have such a name). We must admit that Christendom, far from being a splendid success, has proved to be a most deplorable and humiliating failure.
The history of the church is one of failure and ruin, sin and judgment: all human efforts to mend or remodel must prove as utterly vain and hopeless as building the tower of Babel. Look at our own bodies: Can they be restored? They must die or be changed; never reconstructed. God will give us bodies of glory; He will never patch up bodies of sin and death.
The True Church vs. the Profession
Christ, blessed be His Name, will present the true church to Himself, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing (see Eph 5:27). That glorious body will be seen descending from heaven, like a bride adorned for her husband, shining in all the brightness of the glory of God and the Lamb. But for the false, faithless and corrupt church – that vast mass of baptised profession which calls itself Christian, nothing remains but the winepress of the wrath of Almighty God – the lake of fire – the blackness of darkness forever.
What must we do? We have learnt that the church is a ruin, and that it is not God’s purpose to restore it. Instead of asking, ‘What is to be done?’, let us be truly broken and penitent before our God, and cast ourselves on His rich mercy and sovereign goodness. Though He will never reconstruct a fallen church on earth, God will sustain, feed, strengthen and encourage all those who humbly rely on His faithfulness and love. It will be our privilege to tread a holy path and enjoy communion as the disciples knew it in the early days of this dispensation. May we make the church’s sin our own, and put away from us any proud pretension and futile effort to set up another church of our own devising and workmanship.
Unfortunately, there is a constant tendency to lower the standard of devotedness to the level of the general condition of things publicly. It is destructive of all service and testimony, and we must guard against this. In 2 Timothy 2: 19 it says, ‘The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His. And, Let every one that nameth the Name of Christ depart from iniquity’. God is faithful: His standard remains the same. His foundation can never be moved; and it is the privilege of the individual believer to rest on that foundation and abide by God’s standard, come what may. Faith can count on God, and draw upon His inexhaustible resources, despite the hopeless public ruin. Were it not so, what would have become of the faithful through the ages?
Take as an example the golden calf. Aaron made it, but it was blatant idolatry. Moses insisted that Jehovah and the golden calf could not reside together. If a calf was in the camp, Jehovah must be outside – such was the simple reasoning of faith (faith always reasons aright). When the public body is totally awry, the path of individual faith is outside it. The call is to depart from iniquity. ‘Every one which sought the Lord’(Ex 33:7) had to go outside of the defiled place to find Him: they even had to leave the camp of Israel, the place Jehovah had taken up His abode.
Elijah is another example. The ten tribes had been broken off from the two, and Israel’s visible unity was gone. But ‘Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the Word of the Lord came, saying, Israel shall be thy name. And with the stones he built an altar in the Name of the Lord’(1 Kings 18: 31). Elijah confesses the indissoluble unity of Israel’s twelve tribes in the presence of Ahab, Jezebel and eight hundred false prophets. It could have been said that this was not the time for an altar of twelve stones, the day for that was gone . However, God’s standard remained. ‘For ever,O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven’(Ps 119:89). We must maintain the eternal stability of the truth of God, even if that truth exposes our fallen condition. Faith takes its stand on God’s own ground, acting according to the integrity of divine revelation.
The Authority of the Holy Scriptures
If there is one feature of the present moment more deplorable than another, it is the loose way in which the truth of God is held: there is a strong tendency to lower the standard of obedience. It is deemed narrow-minded to insist on the paramount authority of the Holy Scriptures. The Word of God is fast losing its place in the hearts and minds of professing Christians. The motto, ‘The Bible, and the Bible alone is the religion of Protestants[*]’, if it ever was true -is certainly not true now. There is a most determined effort in the media and the pulpit, to dispense with the Word of God as a paramount infallible authority. This is not an over-statement. [Has it not gone much further in the 21stcentury, where quoting the scriptures, especially as to sexual morality, brings out allegations of criminal hatred? – and the iniquitous agenda of the liberal gay rights movement is being endorsed by the Established Church and promoted in Christian schools.]
Mackintosh was thoroughly persuaded that the professing church is hastening on to a fearful moment in her history, in the which she will utterly reject the Word, the Christ, and the Spirit of God. Ignorance, superstition and impudent infidelity are fast gaining sway over the minds of millions. Towards the close of the nineteenth century, millions professed their deluded belief in an immaculate woman (Mary) and an infallible man (the Pope).[†] At the same time, they audaciously tampered with the Word of God, with blasphemous assaults on the Person of the Son of God.
Does this not make us prize, all the more, the faith and faithfulness of those worthies, who stood in the face of a hostile world, and boldly maintained the truth of God, despite of the palpable ruin and failure of the that which publicly espoused Christ’s Name. Like Elijah before the prophets, and Moses going out of the camp, there is a blessed platform of faith on which each true believer can take his or her stand, in calm and holy confidence, and there abide with God.
[*]Attributed to William Chillingworth (1602–1644)
[†]Immaculate conception – Pope Pius IX 1854 and the assumption of Mary – Pope Pius XII 1950; Papal infallibility – First Vatican Council 1868
We learn from Scripture that, in every instance in which man has been set in a place of responsibility, he has utterly failed. Total failure has marked man’s history, from Paradise to Pentecost. There is not a single exception to the dark and melancholy rule. Let man be tried under the fairest possible circumstances, and he is sure to break down. Let a business start with the very brightest prospects, most often hopeless bankruptcy will be the end. There is no denying this fact – no getting over it. It runs like a dark, broad line along the page of human history, from first to last.
When at first, man was placed in the garden of Eden, surrounded by all that the hand of an Almighty and Beneficent Creator could do to make him happy, he believed the serpent’s lie, and turned his back on God. He proved, in an unmistakable manner, that he had more confidence in the serpent than in Jehovah Elohim – more respect for the word of the devil than for the Word of the blessed Creator. He trusted Satan rather than God, blessed throughout the everlasting ages. This is our first proof.
It could be said that Adam did not know he was listening to the devil. But how does that affect the real merits of the case? Satan would never say, ‘I am the devil; and I am come to slander Jehovah Elohim, and get you to turn your back upon Him altogether”. Yet this was precisely what he did, and Adam accepted serpent’s lie. That led to the word of God being replaced by human superstition.
Man progressed until at length his iniquity rose to a head, and God sent the deluge. Noah was carried safely through the judgment, and placed at the head of the restored earth, and given the sword of government. How does Noah carry himself? He gets drunk and degrades himself in the presence of his sons. Whatever excuse he might have given, he got drunk and exposed himself.
When Israel was redeemed out of Egypt, the people solemnly pledged themselves to do all that Jehovah had spoken. What happened? Just after receiving the tables of the law, no less a person than Aaron made a golden calf and said, ‘These be thy gods, O Israel, that brought thee up out of the land of Egypt’ (Ex 32:4). Jehovah displaced by a calf – How terrible! – and how deeply humiliating. Consequent on this the priesthood failed and Aaron’s sons offered strange fire;
So man fails always – the results: Adam was driven from the garden; Noah was despised by his son, and Israel saw the tables of testimony shattered to atoms, and Aaron never appeared in the presence of God in his garments of glory and beauty.
Failure continued – Israel got a king. What followed? – strange wives, gross idolatry, and a divided nation.
Now the Church
It need not surprise us to find that in the Christian church similar sad failures occur. All started well:
‘They that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved’ (Acts 2:41-47).
‘And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need’ (Acts 4:32-35).
Here we have a lovely sample of true Christianity – some rich clusters of the fruit of the Spirit – the glorious triumph of grace over all the narrow selfishness of nature – the exquisite merging of all personal interests and considerations in the common good. It displays of the moral glories of heaven – a fair and touching illustration of what it will be in a future day, when our God shall have things His own way, with new creation in view and the heavens above and the earth beneath under the benign influence of the Saviour’s reign.
The Church’s Failure
But alas, in the public church, this lovely picture was marred. Covetousness and deceit soon broke out in Ananias and Sapphira, and the murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, proving that man is the same, always and everywhere. Unfaithfulness, failure, sin and ruin are stamped on every page of man’s history, from first to last. It is perfectly useless for anyone to deny this.
Of course, we are not looking on the church as the body of Christ. In this aspect, thank God, there can be no failure. Christ infallibly maintains His church according to the divine integrity of His own work. He will soon present His church without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. He has expressly declared that the gates of hell shall not prevail against His assembly.
Paul had to warn the Ephesian elders, ‘Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of (or from among) your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them’(Acts 20: 28-30).
– This was a warning about the church fathers who insisted on their own authority – and held questionable doctrine.
Paul told Timothy ‘Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commandingto abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth’(1 Tim 4:1-3)
– This describes Romanism and popery.
And ‘This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away’(2 Tim 3:1-5).
– This describes Protestantism and infidelity.
Another great principle which we need to bear in mind is that God never restores a fallen witness. When man fails in his responsibility – which, as we have before proved, he always does – God does not reinstate him. He brings in something better, as the fruit of His own sovereign grace; but He never puts a new piece upon an old garment. What is of man cannot be reformed.