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the following address was given by
MR. W. P, LOCKHART (of Liverpool).
The subject to be considered by this Conference is so vast that I am thankful those who invited me to speak asked me specially to confine myself to one part of the programme, viz., the knowledge of God as revealed in His Son. There is one passage of Scripture to which I would invite your attention at the outset. “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed Heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Heb. i. 1-3.) The Epistle of which these words form the opening sentence, is emphatically an epistle of contrast. To a large extent the argument of the Epistle is a contrast between the typical or Levitical economy and the anti-typical or Christian economy in which we now live. There is also a contrast drawn at the beginning of the Epistle between the position and testimony of angels and the position and testimony of the Lord Jesus, while in the words I have just now read, a very striking contrast is drawn between the revelation that God has given of Himself through the prophets, and the revelation He has given of Himself in His Son.
I take it that there is more in these words than the mere statement that the revelation of God in His Son is subsequent to, and corroborative of the revelation given by the prophets. There seems to me not only to be a difference in degree, but almost what one might term a difference in kind between the two. God forbid that we should speak in disparagement of the prophets! They were holy men of God, and they spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost ; but they were only media of communication. So we are told that they were found “searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow.” We are told likewise that unto them it was revealed “that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the Gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.”
Thus far the prophets. But notice the wonderful fulness and richness of the terms that are here employed to set forth the ord Jesus. He is the “appointed Heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds." The first moment of time and the last moment of time are united in the person of the Lord Jesus. It was He who opened time by His creative work, and it is He who will close time when He assumes that inheritance which is His right. He is stated also to be the brightness, or effulgence, the shining forth or irradiance “ of God's glory, and the express image of His person"-words which have been rendered by some “an exact representation of His very being." I know no terms that could more fully set forth the manifestation of God. Further, we are told He “upholds all things by the word of His power.” The destinies of the universe are in His hand, the thread of life of every man and woman in this hall is held by the word of His power. Further, we read, “ He by Himself purged our sins.” By Himself, His own self, His whole self; for He “ loved the Church, and gave Himself for it." He "put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself,” and having thus done,“ He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high,” and He is there to-night, “from henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool.” So it seems to me that in these words we are told that while at sundry times, or in divers portions, as well as in divers manners, God spake unto the fathers by the prophets, who were the media of communication, He hath now spoken altogether differently, in and through His Son, who is thus described as being in very deed Deity in manifestation.
There are words in the beginning of the Gospel of John which appear to me to emphasise this statement. We read in John i. 18, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” It is not merely that He speaks of Hirn, or bears witness of Him, but that He is Himself the exponent of the Father ; He is “God manifest in the flesh," and, therefore, in His own person and mission and work, He is the One who reveals and brings to us the knowledge of God. This is the Divine Word, and though illustrations are but poor things at the best, I cannot help remembering that in Bruce's work on
his travels in Abyssinia, he relates that at a certain Eastern court the king himself is never seen; that when decrees have to be promulgated, the king sits on a throne behind a latticed window, heavily curtained, while on the steps of the throne there stands one of high rank, who is called the “voice” or “word :” to him the King speaks, and he makes the proclamation. This may in some measure help us to understand how the Lord Jesus is truly God manifest in the flesh, and is Himself the exponent or exposition of God.
From all this I gather that the incarnation is the central point of God's revelation of Himself; while we are thankful for all the testimony borne and for all the blessed announcements made, still the central point of God's revelation of Himself is the incarnation of Deity in the person of Jesus Christ our Lord, and the central point in the incarnation is—what ? It is the Cross ! and it therefore seems to me that at the Cross more than anywhere else, we have the knowledge of God revealed in and through Christ Jesus. Now what do we find at the Cross ? Not only an exposition of the love of God, not only a setting forth of the forbearance, and tender mercy, and longsuffering of God; but a manifestation also of the righteousness and justice of God. He showed Himself there to be just as well as the Justifier of him who believeth in Jesus. At the Cross, therefore, we see not one side only of the character of God, but we see the whole character of God displayed in its fulness, or what may be termed His holiness. God was there proclaiming His love towards those for whom He had a purpose of mercy from eternity; but God was likewise upholding the dignity of His own character as the moral Ruler of the universe, and therefore Christ must suffer.
We are always in danger of running into one or other extreme concerning the character of our God : like the pendulum swinging backwards and forwards, it is almost always at one end or the other. I suppose in the Puritan times people took rather a severe view of God's character, and thought more exclusively of His righteousness and justice than of His tenderness and love. Is it not possible that in the present day there is a tendency to think of God almost exclusively as very forbearing, very longsuffering, kind, gentle, and compassionate ? May we not be in danger of losing sight of some aspects of the Divine character which go to make up its completeness, as revealed at the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ? I think I may venture to go further than this, and say there are some people a little apt to worship a God of their own fancy, people who do not actually use a pair of scissors, but just as truly as if they did they cut out certain portions of Scripture and never read them; they read almost entirely certain lines of God's Word; they make up a God of their own imagination and seek to know Him.
What is the remedy for this? Is it not the reading of the whole Scripture, the entire testimony borne by God to Himself in His own Word ? Shall we not find there that, from age to age, in dealing sometimes with nations, sometimes with families, sometimes with individuals, and ultimately with mankind at the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, He showed Himself as the God of Righteousness and the God of Justice, the God, who, while He loved the sinner with a tenderness, and compassion, and fulness of love which truly transcends human thought, yet was very jealous of His own glory as the moral Ruler of the universe, and therefore punished sin with a severity that cannot possibly be grasped by human imagination. In other words, we must, according to the statement of the Apostle Paul in Rom. xi., remember the goodness and severity of God.” There are some who seem to think, and who speak in these days as if there were two Gods revealed in the Scriptures. One in the Old Testament with a rather severe character, a God of Judgment; and another in the New Testament with an altogether different character—that of love and compassion. But remember there is but one God. The God who destroyed the antediluvians is our God still ; the God who caused fire to fall upon the cities of the plain is our God still; the God who destroyed the Egyptians is our God still; the God of Sinai who gave that law which has never been abrogated, and is never to be abrogated, is our God still; the God who dealt with the Jewish nation in such terrible judgment, ultimately causing it to pass under the most severe strokes of His displeasure, is our God still. The same tenderness, love, and compassion towards the sinner, but righteousness, justice, and judgment towards sin, has been manifested at the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, where was plainly displayed the fulness of the character of God.
May I venture to say further that these points seem to me to bear very much on the children of God? You say, “Ah! but He is a Father.” Yes, very true. We think that the young man of the period does not show great respect for his parent when he calls him “ the Governor : " I have no wish to defend the slang, but what I would say is, that we may possibly forget that our God is the Governor : fatherhood does not consist in misrule, nor in allowing the children to have their own way in everything; fatherhood does not consist in ignoring righteousness and justice, but it consists in governing—in good, healthy government. Therefore, I submit that our Father shows towards us, day by day, and hour by hour, in our lives here below, the same fulness of character which He has displayed all through in His dealings with men, and which He has emphatically displayed at the Cross of the Lord Jesus. He governs, He rules. He governs and rules in righteousness.
Our Chairman spoke this morning about one peculiarity in the prophecy of Ezekiel, seventy-one times (I think, he said), we find the expression, “That ye may know that I am the Lord.” I do not know whether he has counted, as I have, the number of times in which that expression is used in reference to God's judgments, and not in reference to the manifestations of His love. We must remember that our God is a holy God, and we must seek to walk before Him as those who know Him, seeking to walk before Him in holiness and righteousness all our days.
And may I say that this thought seems to me to follow closely upon these others, the connection between communion or fellowship, and obedience? You will find in the beginning of the First Epistle of John, “ That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you,
may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” What is it to have fellowship with God? Are we not rather apt to suppose that fellowship is a matter of feeling, or emotion, or experience, or sentiment ? And are we not in these days rather apt to get into the idea that communion is a sort of dream-like, ethereal frame of mind, in which we strive to keep ourselves by a vast number of agencies, some of which are, to say the least, questionable ? I will tell you what I think communion is. In 1 John ii. 3-4, we read, “ And hereby we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in Him." The Apostle John was the apostle of love, very tender and full of compassion, but these are His words. Brethren, I have to