The Suffering Saint: Bodily Pain


Our Lord was equally sensitive to bodily pain. This was, doubtless, one of the ingredients of the cup Christ was now about to drink to its dregs.

The body was involved in the fall of man- the inlet to the sin of the soul. In the working out of an atonement for sin, the body must also suffer. Our dear Lord’s entire exemption from a sinful nature did not exempt Him from a sensitive nature- a nature sensitive to physical suffering. The absence of sensibility to pain of body would have compromised the fact of His actual humanity. What an essential defect in His sympathy would have been His freedom from bodily pain! How could the Head then have sympathized with the members? The diseases which assail our frame, it is true, found no counterpart in Him; yet, was He not the less exempt from suffering of body.

Oh, was there no bodily agony in the laceration of the scourge, in the heavy blows of the clenched fist, in the plucking off the hair, in the thorn-crown, in the spikes impelled through the hands and the feet, in the thrust of the spear entering the side and piercing the heart of Jesus? Was there no torture in the long, lingering agony of the cross, the blood oozing from the wounds by drops, and life ebbing slowly by inches? How literally was verified His own prophetic words, “I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheek to those who plucked off the hair!” Hear His cry, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me”- this cup of mortal agony. You, too, may thus be shrinking from bodily suffering. Does the weak flesh recoil from those agonies which no tongue can describe, which no skill can baffle, which no anodyne can soothe, and which no affection can prevent? Jesus can sympathize with you.

Do you think that He will desert you in this trial of your humanity, or make no allowance for the weakness of the flesh, the pain and nervousness, the agony and languor, the fainting and swooning which so much interferes with your soul’s enjoyment, beclouds your mental powers, and prevents those spiritual exercises of reading, meditation, and prayer in which you have been wont so happily to indulge? Ah, no! He is your fellow-sufferer! and when, in anticipation of the throes, the agonies, and the convulsions which rack the body with pain, the spirit fails, the flesh shrinks, and your trembling heart breathes to heaven its earnest, plaintive cry, “Father, if it be possible,”- you are at once in the closest sympathy with your Savior’s sensitiveness to bodily suffering, and He in sympathy with yours. Who will arrest that prayer?- not Jesus!

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Thy Rod & Thy Staff: The Rod As Disciplinary Agent (7 of 7)

Nor would we omit the employment of the “Rod” as a disciplinary agent in the hands of our Divine Shepherd. This symbol is frequently used as illustrating the afflictive dispensations through which God’s people pass. “Hear the rod, and He who has appointed it.” The rod of Divine discipline is not less essential to the completeness of our Christian character, and thus our fitness for heaven, than any other use in which the Lord employs it. The reference in God’s word to this is striking and instructive. “If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him,” says God, “with the ROD of men.”

Listen to the words of the sorely afflicted patriarch- “Let Him take His ROD away from me, and let not His fear terrify me.” How necessary this “Rod” of reproof, judgment, and restraint, by which the Church of God is disciplined! It is fearful to contemplate the result of its absence! Dissever a timely and wholesome exercise of discipline from a church-or a nation- or a school- or a family, and how soon would lawlessness, anarchy, and ruin ensue!

And thus, exempt the Church of God- collectively and individually- from the discipline of Christ- let Him extinguish the furnace, and suspend the flail, and lay aside the knife, and what would be the result? The dross would then hide the gold- the chaff would spoil the wheat- the sucker would ruin the vine- and incalculable would be our soul’s loss!

Thy Rod & Thy Staff : The Rod Of Restraint (6 of 7)

Nor must we overlook the restraining use of Christ’s Rod and Staff. The restraints of Christ’s grace are not less conspicuous in the believer’s experience than the constraints of His love. There is a strong tendency in us to go before the Lord, rather than follow His leading hand. We desire to anticipate His will and antedate His way concerning us, rather than in quietness and confidence wait the movement of His guiding rod.

Peter- impulsive and self-reliant, went before the Lord when He asked Jesus to bid him come to Him upon the water. The consequence was, he began to sink; and but for the hand of Christ, the proud waves had whelmed him in their depths. Impetuous and distrustful, we would dictate to God the way by which He should lead, and the means by which He should deliver, and the lessons by which He should instruct, and the discipline by which He should sanctify us. But Jesus, consulting our greatest good, orders otherwise. “When He puts forth His own sheep, He goes before them.”

Oh blessed restraints of Christ! Restraining our rebellious will- our impetuous spirit- our blind zeal- and our erring judgment- Christ interposes His “rod and His staff,” and in a thousand instances keeps us from falling. Significant words of God to David- “I kept you from sinning against Me”! Among your costliest mercies, count the restraints and checks of Christ’s “rod and staff.” We shall never fully know, until we arrive in heaven, in how many instances and ways we were kept by God- from how many a precipice, and from how many a broken bone, and from how many a fatal mistake, the Lord went before to preserve us.

We rebelled, perhaps, at the interference of the “rod”- we murmured at the checks of the “staff”- we felt the sickness sore- the suffering acute- the disappointment bitter- nevertheless, when the mist and the cloud uplifted, revealing the imminent peril to which we had been exposed, we then saw clearly the wisdom and mercy of our God in imposing those divine and salutary restraints, but for which we should blindly and inevitably have wrecked all that was precious to us in this life, and glorious in the life that is to come.

Thy Rod & Thy Staff: Protection For The Flock (5 of 7)

The shepherd’s “Rod” is for protection. It is a weapon of defense with which the flock are shielded from the prowling beasts of prey. There is not a moment that danger is not near, and not a moment that Christ’s Rod is not outstretched in our defense. There is not a being in the vast universe more exposed to assault, nor yet one more divinely and safely kept, than a saint of God. Loved with a love that passes knowledge- redeemed with the precious blood of the Shepherd- and made a temple of God through the Spirit, is it possible that he can ever perish?

Listen to the Shepherd’s declaration of this truth- “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, who gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” Take comfort from this, O my soul! You do often tremble at the prowling beasts of prey, causing the forest to shake with their roar- yet more do you dread the veiled and subtle foe- the sin that dwells in you- ever present, never slumbering, treacherous and strong, and therefore the more dangerous and dreaded, often extorting the cry, “I shall one day perish by my enemy!” Do not be dismayed! Every sheep and lamb of the flock is kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation; and shall be delivered from the mouth of the lion, the paw of the bear, and the fangs of the serpent.

The Octavius Winslow Reading Group: Help Heavenward (Chapter 9)

“Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the Lord our God.”—Jeremiah. 3:22.

Few will read the pages of a work designed to proffer a helping hand to Zion’s travellers to whom that hand will be more needful and acceptable than the awakened, returning backslider. To such, languid and fainting, depressed and despairing, hesitating to return, doubting God’s welcome,—evidences lost, soul-beclouded, fears rising, hope vailed,—the strongest cordials of God’s most gracious, full, and free promises are needful to rouse, revive, and reassure the wanderer that the Lord invites, receives, and welcomes the returning backslider—the child retracing his way back to his forsaken Father.

God addresses them as backsliding CHILDREN. He can never forget His parental relation to them, though they may forget or abuse their filial relation to Him. Children though we are, adopted, sealed, and inalienably entitled to all the covenant blessings of adoption, we are yet backsliding children. The heart is ever swerving from God. The renewed soul possesses the principle of its own departure, contains the elements of its own declension, and but for the electing love, the restraining grace, the illimitable power of God, would destroy itself entirely and forever.

If ever there were a more encouraging chapter in all of christen dome and in all works ever penned by the hand of man, this chapter and this opening verse must be it. Who of us cannot immediately relate and benefit of its rich blessing and comfort? Who of us had not, even in the quiet of our very souls, slidden away from our true Love and sought solace in the futility of another’s earthly arms? Wretched men and women that we are! Though we be saved, redeemed, and regenerated, who of us does not need to hear this opening word to us? “Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings.” He does not call us enemies or rebels here, He calls us children! Blessed thought!

He goes on. This excerpt is a little long, but it really needs to be read:

The language in which God addresses you is most reassuring. He calls you “children;” though a backslider, yet a child. Can the human parent ever forget, in the deepest provocation of his offspring, that still he is his child? God here meets His wanderer just where that wanderer stands most in need of a Divine assurance. What relation is it which spiritual backsliding the most contravenes, which sin the most obscures, and of which unbelief and Satan, presuming upon that backsliding, would suggest to the mind the strongest suspicion and doubt? We answer—the relation of Divine sonship. The backslider reasons thus—“Is my adoption real? Can I be a child of God, and prove so base, sin so deeply, and depart so far from my God? If a son, why am I so rebellious, disobedient, and unfaithful? Surely I cannot belong to the adoption of God, and grieve and wound the Spirit of adoption thus?” Now God meets the wanderer just at this critical juncture. He declares that though a backslider, yet he is still His child, and that no departure however distant, and that no sin however aggravated, has impaired the strength or lessened the tenderness, tarnished or shaded the lustre of that relation. If God, then, comes forth, and, despite our backsliding, recognizes our son-ship, and acknowledges us as His children, who shall dispute or contravene the fact? “Let God be true, and every man a liar.” Such, beloved, is the first consolation I suggest to your sad and depressed soul. Could it be surpassed by anything else I may offer? What! does God still call you His child? Does He not disown and disinherit you as a son of God and an heir of glory? Ah, no! He cannot forget that He has predestinated you to the adoption of children, that His Spirit has been sent into your heart, and that in happier days gone by you have often called Him “Abba, Father.” And although you have been rebellious, backsliding, and stiffnecked, yet, taking with you words and turning to the Lord your God, He meets you as once He met His repenting, mourning Ephraim— “I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself . . . Is Ephraim my dear SON? is he a pleasant CHILD? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord,” (Jer. 31:18, 20.) Clear is it, then, that God’s children do backslide; that it is no strange thing that their love to Him should wax cold, their faith decline, their strength decay, their zeal slacken, their godly frames grow sleepy and inert, the spirit of prayer be restrained, the means of grace be neglected; and, as a consequence of all this inward declension, the world should have an ascendancy, Satan prevail, and the sin that does most easily beset them attain a momentary triumph. But still they are God’s children,—O wondrous grace! O changeless love!—and chastened, corrected, rebuked, and humbled, their heavenly Father will restore them to His pardoning love and gracious favour, and they shall again walk with Him filially, humbly, softly, as His dear children, “when He is pacified towards them for all that they have done.”

After reading that excerpt, stop a moment and let it fall on you. Mediate and taste all that is in it! If your heart is not firmly planted within the clouds after reading that you are not alive!

What an invitation! “RETURN!” It is GOD who speaks it—the God from whom we have revolted, departed, and gone so far astray. It is the word of our Father, against whom we have rebelled, so deeply, so grievously sinned. He trammels His invitation with no conditions. His simple word is—“Return unto me!”

The Lord Jesus is this open door. The blood of Jesus, the righteousness of Jesus, the intercession of Jesus, the grace of Jesus, the quenchless love of Jesus, the outstretched hand of Jesus, unite in guiding the trembling footstep of the returning soul back to its Father. The present efficacy and the continuous presentation of the Lord’s sacrifice in heaven, blended with His intercessory work, personally and constantly prosecuted before the throne, are a warrant that this door to God shall never be closed while there lives a penitent sinner to enter it.

Brood not over what is past, yield to no forebodings and fears as to what may be the future—grapple with the present. For it you have a door, which God Himself has opened and which neither man, nor Satan, nor sin, shall shut. You have a throne of grace now inviting your approach; and you have the blood of Jesus with which to enter, as new, as efficacious, as prevalent, and as free as when it streamed from His sacred body on the cross. Let there be no postponement, then, of your return to God.

As Winslow said, the door is wide open for the adopted sons and daughters of God and no one, NO ONE can or will ever shut it! Do not fret yourself believer that if you return He may be disgusted or displeased with you. He is now your Father and as such He cannot disown you. Though you have run from Him and have tasted of the worlds foolishness and fickle idols, He ever waits to embrace you once more. And as you return your gaze to Him from afar, He runs to you and welcomes you willingly and openly! He loves you believer! HE LOVES YOU!

Backsliding from the Lord involves wounds, bruises, dislocation. It wounds the conscience, it bruises the soul, it breaks the bones of our strength, and causeth us to travel in pain and halting many a weary step. Ah, there is nothing so wounding as departure from God! Nothing so bruising of the soul’s peace and joy and hope as sin! Who can heal, who can bind up, who can mollify, who can reset these broken bones so that they shall rejoice again, but our sin-pardoning God? We have no self-power in this great matter of restoration. All that we can do is to make burdens, forge chains, carve crosses, inflict wounds,—in a word, destroy our own selves.

God will forgive! Christ will bind up the broken heart! The Comforter will restore joy to the soul! There is still balm in Gilead, and a Physician there. The healing balsam still bleeds from the wounded, stricken Tree of Life. The gate of paradise is yet unclosed, its portal garlanded with a thousand exceeding great and precious promises, all inviting your entrance and insuring you a welcome to its sunny banks, its shaded bowers, its peaceful quiet streams.

What glad tidings these astounding words contain to repentant back-sliders! What a bow of promise and of hope do they paint upon the dark cloud of despair which enshrouds the soul! “He will turn again.” Though He has turned a thousand times before, yet, “He will turn AGAIN;” not “seven times” only, but “seventy times seven.”

When we do return to the Savior of our soul, we are promised and assured He will bind our wounds, heal our hurts, and pour salve on our conscience. I the embrace of a Father’s arms in humble repentance, all things are made anew and all becomes well again with our souls. He will not continue to chasten us upon our return, but He has promised to re assure us over and over and over again that we are His and we will always be the apple of His eye and the joy of His heart through His Son Jesus Christ. No matter how many times we have departed or how cold our hearts have grown, He will always be ours and we will always be His… thanks be to God!

If the Lord has graciously given you to experience His restoring mercy, forget not one great reason why you are restored—that you might hate and forsake the cause of your departure. If we have succumbed to temptation, it is not enough that we have broken from its snare; if we have fallen into sin, it is not enough that we have escaped from its power. God would have you learn thereby one of your holiest lessons—the deeper knowledge of that which tempted and overcame you, that you might go and sin no more. Restored yourself, seek the restoration of others.

Seek to bring souls to Jesus. Let this be an object of life. Be especially tender, gentle, and kind to Christians who have fallen into sin, and are thereby wounded, distressed, and despairing. Extend a helping hand to lead them back to Christ. Your deep abhorrence of the sin must not be allowed to lessen your compassion and sympathy for the sinning one.

Therein lies the importance of belonging to a local body of believers and realizing that these trials are not only sent for our own sanctification and growth, but to now go and help others who are struggling in their earthly war and need help heavenward. Ask yourself, during your times of brokenness and trial, wouldn’t you have wanted a kind word or an open ear to help you in your time of need? Such a blessing you can be to a fellow traveler on the King’s highway with you!

From here Winslow jumps off into a bit of exposition of Hebrews 6:4-6, of which, I think I will not touch on at this moment as I feel his treatment of this text is of such weight and has caused much damage to many a fragile soul that it really needs its own post here on the blog. So please look for that in days to come. I will leave you this week with his introduction to this brief exposition:

It is no uncommon thing for the Lord’s backsliding children to be sadly and sorely distressed and cast down by certain portions of God’s Word, containing delineations of character and denunciations of woe which they suppose applicable to themselves; and which, so applied, inconceivably aggravate their soul distress, their mental anguish, and incapacitate them from receiving the promises and accepting the comfort which God, in His Word, so profusely and so graciously extends to His children, returning from their backslidings, with weeping and mourning, confession and prayer. Among the declarations thus referred to, which are supposed to have, the most direct application, and to wear the most threatening aspect, are those, so frequently quoted and as frequently misinterpreted and misapplied, found in the 6th chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews from the 4th to the 6th verse:—“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”

Next Week

Please read Chapter 10: The Swelling of the Jordan for March 28!

 

 

 

Thy Rod & Thy Staff: Protection For The Flock (5of 7)

The shepherd’s “Rod” is for protection. It is a weapon of defense with which the flock are shielded from the prowling beasts of prey. There is not a moment that danger is not near, and not a moment that Christ’s Rod is not outstretched in our defense. There is not a being in the vast universe more exposed to assault, nor yet one more divinely and safely kept, than a saint of God.

Loved with a love that passes knowledge- redeemed with the precious blood of the Shepherd- and made a temple of God through the Spirit, is it possible that he can ever perish? Listen to the Shepherd’s declaration of this truth- “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, who gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” Take comfort from this, O my soul!

You do often tremble at the prowling beasts of prey, causing the forest to shake with their roar- yet more do you dread the veiled and subtle foe- the sin that dwells in you- ever present, never slumbering, treacherous and strong, and therefore the more dangerous and dreaded, often extorting the cry, “I shall one day perish by my enemy!” Do not be dismayed! Every sheep and lamb of the flock is kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation; and shall be delivered from the mouth of the lion, the paw of the bear, and the fangs of the serpent.

Thy Rod & Thy Staff: Guidance For The Flock (4 of 7)

By a single wave of his “rod,” by a gentle touch of his crook, the shepherd of the east was wont skillfully and effectually to lead his flock in the way in which they should go. How clearly our Lord appropriates this. “When He puts forth His own sheep, He goes before them, and the sheep follow Him.” As one of Christ’s Fold, from the moment you ‘passed under the rod,’ you became an object of His especial guidance and care. Henceforth, “I will guide you with my eye,” is the promise He has made individually yours, and which your faith is to plead. You are passing through an enemy’s country- your path often intricate and perplexing- you see not a step before you, and are often called to descend a valley deeply shaded with dark and trying providences. But you have divine and precious promises- “I will bring the blind by a way that they know not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.”

Blessed Shepherd! I am perplexed to know the path of duty! My way is hedged, and I can’t see a step before me. Show me now Your way that I may know You. Let Your guiding-rod- the word of Your truth, and the eye of Your providence- indicate the way in which I should walk- Your way. And when that way is made plain, give me grace to walk in it; be it the path of service, the most self-denying; of suffering, the most severe; or of loneliness, the most solitary.

Commit yourself, then, unhesitatingly to the guidance of Christ’s rod. He will most assuredly lead you by the best way. He is leading you now in the right path. Clouds and darkness may be round about you; but all is light to Him, in whom is no darkness at all. Around your path the events of Divine providence may be as a complete web, baffling your every effort to unravel; but He ‘knows the way that you take,’ and will guide you through the labyrinth and the maze, bringing you ‘out of a strait place into a broad place, because He delights in you.’ Blessed Shepherd! “You shall guide me with Youe counsel; and afterwards receive me to glory.”

Thy Rod & Thy Staff: The Marking Of The Sheep (2 of 7)

“Your rod and your staff.” The image is pastoral and exquisitely beautiful. There are few objects more picturesque than that of the shepherd and his crook. The ‘rod and the staff’ are essential to the office of the shepherd as to the guidance and protection of the flock. The spiritual and practical significance of the symbol will be obvious to every reflective mind. The first is that of designation. The first and primary use of the shepherd’s rod is that of marking the sheep, by which they are distinguished from all others, and recognized as his own. This is the meaning of God’s word- “I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant.” And again, “In the cities of the mountains, in the cities of the valley, shall the flocks pass again under the hands of Him that tells them, says the Lord.”

And yet once more, “Concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatever passes under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord.” How clear and precious the teaching! Christ’s Church is a chosen flock, distinguished and separate from all others by an act of eternal, sovereign, and most free election. Hence our Lord said- “I am the good Shepherd, and know my sheep.” If a member of Christ’s Fold, you have ‘passed under the rod’ of electing love, and have upon you His own secret and distinguishing mark that you are His. Deny it not!

To that everlasting love- to this election of grace from where it sprang- to your having thus passed under the Shepherd’s rod- you owe all that you are as a child of God, and all that you hope for as an heir of glory. Your views of the doctrine of Election may be misty, and your faith in it hesitating; nevertheless, your crude conception and hesitating belief do not negate the doctrine itself, nor release you from the solemn obligation to believe it humbly, to accept it gratefully, and to live it holily. It is a blessed thought, that the unbelief of the believer cannot invalidate any truth of God, or lessen his obligation to receive it, though it may shade the luster and impair the power of that truth in his personal experience, thus robbing him of its blessing, and God of its glory!

While yet upon this subject, however, let me remind you that a divinely revealed doctrine though Election is, and one of the central truths in the mediatorial scheme, yet the question of your personal election of God is not the truth with which your faith has primarily and mainly to deal. Election is nowhere in the Bible placed before you as an essentialtenet of your faith, but rather as a doctrine which imparts symmetry and consistency to the entire scheme of divine truth- renders lucid and harmonious doctrines otherwise obscure and dissonant- involves the divine glory- and supplies the believer with one of the most potent and influential motives to personal holiness– “According as He has chosen us in Him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.”

Salvation recognizes but one Object of faith- the Lord Jesus Christ. You are not called upon to believe that you are one of the Elect; but you are to believe in the Savior, as a sinner saved wholly by God’s free grace, only and entirely through the Lord Jesus Christ, the one Name given under heaven whereby we must be saved. Do not be, then, troubled in your mind touching your election; it is one of the secret things of God with which He alone has to do. The revealed thing is, the absolute necessity of faith in Christ, who for your encouragement has declared- “He that believes in me shall be saved.” No longer, then, stumble at this stumbling-stone; divine and revealed though it be- but, be anxious and earnest to know that you are called by grace. This great question once fairly settled, you may remain perfectly composed as to your election of God; for, your “calling made sure,” you have logically and theologically, “made sure your election of God.”

 

Thy Rod & Thy Staff: Introduction (1 of 7)

Today I will be starting a new 7 part exposition series on the beloved Psalm 23:4b “thy rod and thy staff”.

Winslow dealt with this nugget of scripture in a chapter of The Nightingale Song of David entitled The Rod and the Staff. If you would like to read the entire chapter, by all means please do so!

This introductory post will mark the first post in this new series. I hope you are encouraged and built up in your faith!

So let’s get started:

“Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.” Psalm 23:4b

When David spoke these words he was, in anticipation, passing down the ‘valley of death,’ his spirit poised upon its wing for heaven. It is befitting and profitable to pause amid the engagements and turmoil of this present life, and forecast the hour and the scene when its business and its probation will close- lost amid the realities and solemnities of the life that knows no ending. He is a wise man who meditates frequently and seriously upon his latter end. Common and certain as death is, alas! it is the last event of our history with which we make ourselves familiar!

Wiser far the heathen monarch who, amid the pomp and splendor of his court- the wine and the music of the banquet- ever and anon bent his ear to catch the warning of the attendant at his side- “Remember, O king, you are mortal!” Less eccentric, and more real, was the mode by which Joseph of Arimathea sought to familiarize his mind with his certain dissolution. In the excavation of a rock, encircled by the flowers and foliage of his garden, he built a tomb for his body- “a new sepulcher, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus.”

And as, at eventide, he walked in his garden, and gazing upon its beauty and breathing its fragrance, he would pause before his prepared tomb, and recall the impressive ‘cry’ of the Prophet- “All flesh is grass, and all the goodness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withers, the flower fades.” If, in the sublime language of the Burial Service, “in the midst of life we are in death,” then should the thought, the imagery, and the preparation of death be ever present with our minds.

And we hold that there is nothing inappropriate or incongruous in the idea that, in whatever place or engagement we may be occupied, the prospect of our dissolution should impart a tone to every feeling, a character to every circumstance, and a sanctity to every thought, word, and action of our life. It were no mere fanciful exaggeration of the sentiment were the muffled death knell to blend with the joyous music- the bridal robe to suggest the image of the pale shroud- and the thronged and sumptuous hall, thoughts of the lone and vaulted tomb- for ‘in the midst of life’- the most busy, festive, and hilarious- ‘we are in death.’

We now turn to the Christian’s “Rod and Staff,” -his guidance and support in that eventful and solemn hour.

 

 

The Names of Christ: Christ, the Alpha and Omega (Part 10 of 10)

Jesus is the first and the last in the pardon of sin. That there is forgiveness with God, forgiveness of the greatest sins, is one of the sweetest refrains in the music of the gospel. “Who is a God like unto you, who pardons iniquity, and passes by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage. He retains not His anger forever, because He delights in mercy.” But Jesus is the sum and substance of this pardon. It comes alone through His wounded body, His pierced and bleeding heart. There is no forgiveness of sin, no guilt-cleansing, no conscience purifying, but through the atoning blood of Jesus. “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission.” “The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.” To this blood, this blood alone, let me direct your eye, my sin-distressed, guilt-burdened reader. I ask not how many, nor hove deep a dye, your sins are. Enough that you feel, and are sensible of them; that you deplore, and mourn over them. I meet you with the blood, the blood that can wash your sin-tainted, guilt-oppressed soul whiter than snow. And how, you ask, am I to avail myself of this full and free pardon of sin? I answer, simply and only by believing in Jesus. Listen to the proof: “For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God’s anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us.”

Oh, what precious words are these! “What!” you respond, “is there pardon for me?- is there forgiveness for one so vile as I?” Yes; through the blood of Jesus, there is a complete, a free, a present pardon- a pardon which no unworthiness shall ever cancel, which no ingratitude shall ever revoke. Believing this truth- experiencing the blood of atonement upon the conscience- how sincere and earnest will be your desire never to presume upon this irrevocable, ineffaceable forgiveness of a sin-hating, yet a sin-forgiving God, but will only, and all the more, draw from it your strongest obligation to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live godly, righteously, and soberly in this evil world.”

Christ is also the first and the last of our justification before God. As in our pardon, so in our justification, nothing of our own finds a place. Not a shred of our own doings is woven in the web of our righteousness. How luminously the apostle argues this truth! “For no one can ever be made right in God’s sight by doing what his law commands. For the more we know God’s law, the clearer it becomes that we aren’t obeying it. But now God has shown us a different way of being right in his sight—not by obeying the law but by the way promised in the Scriptures long ago. We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done.” Thus clear is it that, if we are ever justified, it must be by a righteousness entirely foreign to ourselves- by the righteousness of another.

And who is He? Even Him who is entitled “The Lord our Righteousness.” Of this justifying, this acquitting righteousness, this righteousness imputed to us who believe, and without a work of our own, Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last. It is all in His divine and full obedience to every precept of the law in our stead; so that every believing soul is “accepted in the Beloved,” and is “complete in Him.” The crowning of this great truth, is the declaration of the apostle- “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” Behold the method of our justification!

To read the rest of the chapter Christ, the Alpha and Omega, click here.