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Good Words 1860
A String of Pearls


I. JESUS IN THE BEGINNING.

The beloved disciple opens his beautiful evangel with these words, "In the beginning was the Word," When the Almighty "made known His ways to Moses" the inspiration was, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." In both passages "in the beginning" means "from eternity;" and it is worthy of notice, that John affirms of "the Word" just what Moses ascribes to "God:" "All things were made by Him." Our blessed Saviour, then, is Divine: ''The same was in the beginning [from eternity] with God." What a grand thought is this! He who died for us is "the Eternal" himself. However incomprehensible, however impenetrable the mystery, it is true, He is the uncreated—He the Creator. Jesus is not only the only friend of sinners—for '' there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved"—but He is their oldest friend. From all eternity He has been loving them. He was ''set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was;" and even then, He himself tells us that "His delights were with the sons of men." O Divine Redeemer! possess my soul with the exalting persuasion that Thou hast loved me '' with an everlasting love"—that, when there was no creature of any kind in existence, Thou wert thinking of me, intensely affectionate towards me, and, in the councils of peace, representing and undertaking for me. In wisdom Thou didst design the worlds of space; in power Thou didst construct them ; with goodness Thou didst replenish them ; but, in still deeper wisdom, with still more awful power, and in still more admirable kindness, didst Thou find a ransom for my deathless soul. Therefore, "bless the Lord, O my soul."

II. JESUS IN THE PROMISE.

"I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel," are the wonderful words of the first promise. We have in the Bible many "exceeding great and precious promises;" but they all draw their precious-ness out of the first. But for it, they should be wells without water, and words without meaning. Deep and shoreless as is the ocean of redeeming love, it was filled out of this fountain. When God uttered it, the rod was uplifted which struck the rock of our salvation, and from that moment "the rivers of His pleasure" have been flowing through our dry and parched souls. He spake the word in the garden of Eden that shook hell to its depths, that peopled the visions of angels with the peerless glories of a new kingdom for their Lord, and that laid the foundations of that spacious, solemn temple, within which He is to receive the homage of the universe for ever, even the great soul of his ransomed Church. Oh, what an impressive scene was here when man fell, and God rushed out of His secret place of mercy, and saved him on the very brink of destruction ! Shadowy and dark was the oracle; but the gospel was in it, and that gospel was believed, and the transgressors were saved. Sin was met at its birth with the only alterative that destroys its virus. The gospel was believed the very first time it was preached, and souls were saved by the first exercise of faith in the Lord Jesus. It was Jesus himself who spake to the guilty trio; and meet it was that, at the very beginning of His mediatorial work, He should make the devil tremble, and snatch souls out of his jaws. How thrilling is the thought, that, as He was conqueror at the outset, so was He at the finishing of His merciful atonement! Before there was time thoroughly to debauch the soul with sin, our first parents were partially restored to, and by faith in, God; and as His own soul was about to depart, while He hung upon the cross, He illustrated His mightiness to save by taking one of the chief of sinners along with Him to the paradise above. The gospel bruised the serpent's head that day in Eden—again, that night on Calvary; and nothing but the gospel, as we have it in the first promise, gives Satan any concern, for by it alone are his works to be destroyed.

III. JESUS IN THE EMBRYO-CHURCH.

When Abel was murdered, his brother, it is said, "went out from the presence of the Lord;" but the sorrowing parents continued to enjoy that presence. They were members of the infant Church; for the presence of the Lord implies the presence of His people. He dwells where they dwell—nay, He himself is their "dwelling-place in all generations." This is their security, that whatever betides, they shall never be either homeless or fatherless. When Seth was born, his mother applied the first promise to his birth, regarding him as the divinely appointed towards its fulfilment. Here we have Jesus, '' the seed of the woman," drawing out that woman's confidence, and fixing it on Himself. When Enoch was translated he was walking with God. His life was a life of faith, and faith always implies that Jesus is present to, and appropriated by, the soul. Noah, we are told, "found grace in the eyes of the Lord." That great preacher of righteousness saw through the timbers of the ark into the womb of the everlasting covenant, where lay the germinating elements of the future glorified Church. Jesus spake with him face to face, and accepted from him the sacrifice which he offered on the rude, unpolished altar of Ararat. And surely Jesus held sweet communion with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The first was "his friend;" the second was his fearer : the third was his prince—the wrestler in prayer, that prevailed over him. Truly, Lord Jesus, Thy delights have, from the beginning, been with the sons of men. Thou art the lover of the soul. From eternity Thou wert blessed in Thyself, in Thine own holiness and goodness ; and, in the earlier epochs of time, Thou didst rejoice in brooding over Thine own likeness, as it reappeared in the seed of the faithful. ''The God of Jacob is our refuge."

IV. JESUS AMONG THE PRIESTS.

"The priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God." We sometimes wonder how much of the gospel these priests apprehended when they bared their arms to shed the blood of the heifer. They were quite alive to this, that the remission of sins was, in some mysterious way, inseparable from the shedding of blood on Jehovah's altars; but we cannot suppose them to have been so ignorant as to believe that such blood had merit to take away sins. There was much about the solemn and imposing ritual of their Church to suggest that more was meant than met the eye. There was something exceedingly majestic in the high priest clad in his robes of office, something overawing in his annual disappearance within the veil, and something almost divine in his whole deportment, as he returned from the Holy of Holies to bless the congregation. But Aaron and his successors knew that a Greater than even Melchizedek was there. On the Shekinah above the mercy-seat their eyes rested every time they entered the Holy of Holies: and they must have carried, from this sublime symbol of Jehovah's presence, indelible impressions of the reality of Israel's God, and of the necessity for the shedding of better blood than that of bulls to justify His mercy. All the priests, indeed, were understood to lay the sacrifices on the altar, as believing preachers to the people of the one great atonement for sin that was to be made in the end of the world. In this way alone can it be true of them that they "accomplished the service of God." And what does it all mean, but that Jesus himself was there, in them, and with them, the true Shekinah within the veil, and the true sacrifice without? When I look upon Aaron as he sacrifices and intercedes, I see Jesus laying down His own life for us, and then becoming an advocate with the Father. When I see inferior priests presenting their morning and evening services, their continual burnt-offering, I see Jesus in all the members of His Church, each sprinkling upon his own conscience "the precious blood of Christ," and each consecrating himself a priest unto God. Yes; Jesus was in that ark, above that mercy-seat, in that priesthood, in that blood, in all the service of that sanctuary. Immediately after instructing Moses in all these matters, He said, "And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God." How thankful should we be that we live under the new and better testament!—that we are beyond the "beggarly elements" of the old, and that in our Jesus we at once behold the High Priest who officiates, the Lamb that is slain, the Altar on which the blood is shed, and the eloquent Intercessor whom "the Father heareth always!" Truly, "the lines have fallen unto us in pleasant places, and we have a goodly heritage." The typical priesthood was '' not suffered to continue by reason of death;" but Jesus "continueth ever," and ''is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them."

V. JESUS IS THE PSALMS.

David himself saith in the Book of Psalms, "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool." It is interesting to hear the Saviour thus pointedly and unhesitatingly giving His sanction to the authenticity and genuineness of this most inestimable portion of the Bible. On this occasion, the reference and quotation were designed to confute and confound the scribes. His allusion, however, to these divine odes after His death, and just as He was about to ascend up to heaven, is more impressive and instructive: ''And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms concerning me." No wonder, after this, that so much searching has been made by the Church for her Lord in this devotional section of sacred writ. To have it from His own lips that in the Psalms there are to be found things "concerning Him," is enough to send all that love Him to glean there. Hence what are called the " Messianic Psalms" have been more profoundly studied than all the rest, not only by scholars, but by saints. It was to be expected of David, with whom the covenant of royalty was made, and to whom the promise of the kingdom was given, that he would sing of Jesus in no measured strain. Nor are Asaph and the other singers of Israel slow to take up their harps and echo forth Messiah's praise. We have not entered the vestibule of this divine music-hall, before our souls are made to rise in the presence of Him who is to have "the heathen for His inheritance," and "the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession." Anon we are carried forward to the very days of the Incarnation, and, as if by divine foresight, His Gethsemane and Calvary sufferings are described in language as particular as it is pathetic. We see men ''laughing Him to scorn, shooting out the lip, and shaking the head; piercing His hands and His feet, parting His garments, and casting lots upon His vesture." Yea, we hear that heaven-piercing cry which clothed the sun with darkness, and made the earth quake,—"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Above all, we are conducted along the lines of the gospel epochs, and have our hearts cheered by the future triumphs and glories of the Messiah's kingdom down to the latest ages. Thus the seventy-second Psalm is a perfect contrast to the twenty-second. In the latter, He humbles Himself, and becomes obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. In the former, He is exalted to His throne in the heavens, and the blessedness of His mediatorial reign is seen in the submission and felicity of a regenerated world, in the falling down of kings before Him, and in the surrender to His service of the gold of Sheba, and the prayers of faith. Let us then pray, ''Blessed be His glorious name for ever; and let the whole earth be filled with His glory!"

VI. JESUS IN THE SONG.

It became the son and the heir of David to baptize his poem with the Messianic spirit. He had spoken "three thousand proverbs," and his "songs were a thousand and five;" these, no doubt, were beautiful, and those were full of wisdom. But his '' Song of songs " is wiser than the wisest of his proverbs, and sweeter than the sweetest of his odes, because it lauds Him who is "the Wisdom of God," and for whom "praise waiteth in Sion." He could speak of trees, "from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon, even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall;" but no chapter of his botany can equal those exquisite stanzas which describe the loveliness of "the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the valleys." The "cedars of Lebanon" are nought before Him who is "the apple-tree among the trees of the wood." The father, in his psalms, rises into the lofty and holy regions of wonder, worship, and confidence. When he strikes his lyre, it is to sound forth the divine honour of his Lord— and no grander themes were ever set to music than those which were chosen for the praises of the sanctuary. On the other hand, the son—worthy in this of such a sire—in his Song .of songs, thirsts and pants after his Beloved; with him it is the passion of love—divine love—love labouring for expression—sighing its soul out after the sweet embraces of Him whose love is "better than wine," and refusing to let Him go till the blessing was given. What a delicious view have we in all this of the fascinating beauty of Jesus—of our dear Lord,

"the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely!" O my soul! lovest thou Him? art thou, too, "sick of love?" Be stirred up from thy mysterious depths to bless His holy name, "who redeemeth thy life from destruction, who crowneth thee with loving-kindnesses and tender mercies."

VII. JESUS AMONG THE PROPHETS.

"We have found Him of whom Moses, in the law and the prophets, did write—Jesus," said Philip to Nathanael. "The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of pro2)hecy," was the voice that came out of the throne to John in Patmos. It is pleasant to search for Jesus anywhere, but specially in the prophecies. He assuredly is to be found among the prophets of the house of Israel. When the divine afflatus fell upon them.

"They saw a form that others could not see, And heard a voice that others could not hear." They all knew Jesus, and loved Him, and spake of Him. Some of these have been called major and others of them minor prophets, but they are all alike in this—they point to Jesus—they all anticipate the Baptist, and cry aloud, ''Behold the Lamb of God!" It is ever upon the major key they sing when it is Messiah they extol; the low and minor strain is only adopted when they solemnly chant His griefs and bewail His sorrows. Heaven and earth pay tribute to their genius when they celebrate His glory. They gather from all nature the sublime imagery whence to represent His majesty; and, as on angels' wings, they ransack the pure and bright regions of thought, to bring to His feet the treasures of universal adoration. But after all, they owed their inspiration to Himself. It was His Spirit that moved forward their minds into the true and evangelistic meaning of their beautiful metaphors. Job saw Him as His living Redeemer. Jacob spake of Him as the Shiloh. He was Isaiah's Lamb, Jeremiah's Branch of Righteousness, Ezekiel's Plant of Renown, Daniel's Ancient of Days, Micah's Young Ruler, Haggai's Desire of all Nations, and Malachi's Sun of Righteousness. With what deep and awful tones do these Hebrew seers roll down through their generations the psalm of the first advent! They never stammer in their repetitions, they never contradict themselves, they never change their music, and they never weary either in or of their song. Only around the cross did they seem to make one short pause—not from any distrust of Him who was dying amid the darkness of that hour, but just to draw one long breathing before all their harmonies were blended into one loud and final testimony— the testimony of Jesus, "It is finished;" and now "the vision and the prophecies are sealed up."


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