Our Goal and Guiding Star
We are here to remember Christ. We have come because it is our duty to come, because it is profitable to come, and because we like to come. It is a duty because it has been commanded; and it is profitable because it tends to strengthen the hold of Christ upon the mind; and it is pleasant because every agreeable and ennobling exercise of the mind is called into play by the ideas presented for contemplation.
We make a mistake if we excuse ourselves from attending on any ground, except absolute inability. Duty, advantage and pleasure will be sure to bring us—one or other of them—if we are even moderately in subjection to the Truth. The presence of an enemy or an obnoxious friend will not keep us away if we can realise that Christ requires our attendance. Christ did not say, “Come when all things are agreeable; come when all think well of you; come when every one else at the Table is perfect.” He said, “Do this,” and (by Paul) “Keep the ordinances as delivered unto you.” He also said, “He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.” Now if we stay away because someone has played Judas, or we think they have, we are not keeping his commandment but breaking it, and making ourselves as much a transgressor as we think our neighbour is in some other particular. The way to do is to go and see our offending neighbour if there is anything seriously wrong, and bring about a restoration. Try it; it will have a conciliatory effect for you to go and see him. If the thing is not serious enough to call for a visit of this kind, it is not serious enough to think of at all. It is your duty to “drop it” and go on as if all were sweet and right. If your feelings have been hurt, it is an opportunity of seeing if you can overcome evil with good;
“not rendering railing for railing, but contrariwise, blessing.”
It certainly is not a reason for staying away from the Table. Nothing can justify this but the open rejection of the Truth or of the commandments by the assembly, or the open espousal of error or unrighteousness in the person or persons of others. Some may stay away because they think it unnecessary for them to come. They think they can get all the good they want by staying at home and reading. This also is a mistake, as must appear to anyone on reflection. It is first of all setting up their judgment against Christ. Do they think the Lord would have required our attendance at the Table if it had been unnecessary for us? As a matter of fact, experience shows the wisdom of his appointment in the matter. We do not get the same benefit staying at home reading that we do in the assembling of ourselves together to call the Lord to remembrance. For this, there may be more reasons than one. First of all, the going out, the seeing of others, the taking part in an outward act in connection with the name and memory of Christ, all has a power to feed the mind more richly and more powerfully than belongs to the mere act of reading at home. We are mentally constituted for variety of exercise, and we get more “good” by going out to a meeting for the breaking of bread than we can get in the passive monotony of home. But then, there is another element in the case which may not enter into the hearts of the careless to think about. Jesus has said:
“Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
Does this not indicate a special interest on the part of Christ in assemblies held for his memory and love and honour? And must it not be that his attention fixed on such an assembly has a beneficial effect on those who are present? We must remember that in his exaltation, Christ is “the Spirit,” as well as the glorified Son of Man. He is a bodily nucleus that has become one with universal power, in nature and control. He requires not to be bodily in a place to be aware of those who are present, or to influence them for good or evil. His attention practically amounts to a being “in the midst,” and his power to give this attention to different assemblies at the same time must be as great as his power to act as intercessor for thousands at once who pray in different parts of the earth.
The capacities of the Spirit in this respect may baffle our mortal powers of conception but that they exist is manifest in many ways in heaven and earth. The simultaneous operations of the Spirit is one of the most wonderful facts in the history of revelation, and in the physical constitution of the universe. The action of gravitation, light, “ether”, and electricity illustrate the point in physical nature. The opening of the mind to the Lord’s power in this respect will help us to appreciate the assemblies in honour of his name, which he has required; and to understand the possible cause of the blessing we receive in the act of obedience in the matter. But every right-minded brother and sister will come also because of the pleasure it is to them. I may safely appeal to the experience of such whether it is not the sweetest, purest, holiest pleasure they have—to come to the Table of the Lord and fix the memory on him.
The memory of a dear friend is sweet. True friendship is prone to this memory, and finds pleasure in every occasion and mode of its exercise. In its ultimate form, it is not satisfied with anything less than looking on the countenance: and one look is not enough. There is boundless hunger and boundless capacity in true love. It wants always to see its object. This privilege we shall have by-and-by in Christ, if we are happy enough to receive his approbation; the apostles enjoyed it in measure, in their day, while he was with them; and their breakings of bread after his departure would doubtless have a reality and a zest of memory that we cannot attain, who have not seen him, and do not know what he is like. Meanwhile, we have to be content with the privilege that is within our reach, and with nothing less will true intelligence be content. We may know the love of Christ though we have not seen him; and feed sweetly at the Table on his memory though we cannot recall the sight of the eye. Our love does not rest on the contour of his face and the shape of his figure, though both will charm us when we can see. It is what he is in himself, and what he is in relation to our highest wellbeing, that excites our interest and engages our admiration and love.
For himself, we know him as the “altogether lovely and chief among ten thousand.” All possible excellence unites in him—the greatness of God and the loveliness of man; the power of omnipotence and the gentleness of friendship; the justice of the highest and the kindness of the most merciful; the spotlessness of perfection and the compassionateness of the most erring; all depths of manly wisdom and knowledge with all grace and tenderness of womanly true affection. Mercy and truth embrace; righteousness and peace salute; strength and beauty unite; unutterable grace is poured into his lips; ineffable majesty girds him; honour and glory rejoice in his presence. To know him truly is to “know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge” “He is thy Lord, worship thou him.” Consider how immeasurably his interestingness and glory are heightened for us by the meaning he has for the noble earth we inhabit and the poor afflicted race to which we belong.
We may know an excellent friend, but he can do nothing for us. He is powerless to bless. To that extent our appreciations are diminished. It is only an artificial philosophy that attaches a sinister meaning to this fact. There is nothing evil in it in right connections. We esteem an excellent friend, and we rejoice for his sake in his good fortune if he have any; but if he have power and disposition to bless his neighbours as well, an additional number of our faculties are engaged, and the stream of gratification is broadened. A friend of this sort is simply overpoweringly interesting, though you don’t meet with him often. Now such a friend Christ is for all the world at last. Consider the whole ground is covered by that description in which he calls himself “The Light of the world.”
This name suggests that we are afflicted with darkness which he is destined to remove. So it is. We suffer from darkness in many ways. As regards our mental state, we naturally belong to darkness. We are born without light; and if we are not subjected to the discipline and restraint of education, we grow up barbarians—ignorant and evil. Even with the best of education, we suffer much on both points; and as regards our relation toGod, we are “enemies in our minds by wicked works”—are dead in trespasses and sins—“having no hope, and without God in the world.” What light is there for any man in this state? Apart from Christ, there is absolutely none. Away from the righteousness of God in him, we are in darkness and must stumble on in darkness and disappear in darkness.
Christ is our Passover sacrificed for us. He is our High Priest, who ever liveth to make intercession for all who come unto God by him. By him, we have justification through faith, forgiveness of our sins, and peace with God. Naturally darkness, we now become light in the Lord, and have prospect of inheritance among all them that are sanctified through the faith that is inhim. Our present darkness flies away before the enlightenment that comes byChrist, and by him alone. Not only are our sins forgiven, but a new man is formed within us by the power of his name, and we become totally different and truly noble creatures. Looking into the state of man upon earth, what do we see but darkness? Think of the countless millions scattered over earth’s wide surface, in poverty, in ignorance, in hopelessness and miseries of all kinds. What prospect of betterment is there? Man has had 6,000 years of self-management, and this is what has come of it. Is there any hope of anything different? Politicians are busy with their nostrums; but man is as far off from what he ought to be as ever. He requires a government no politicians can give him. He wants a powerful head who knows what is good for him, and has power to bring it about and ability to preserve it from the “time and change” which are “busy ever”, a kind and powerful captain who can manage rightly, and enforce his management against all comers—securing plenty and peace and righteousness and light and comfort and gladness for all. Where is such a shepherd-captain to be found? Is it not in the nature of things impossible unless God provide him? Yet without him, is not man doomed to welter on in the darkness now covering the earth? But God has provided such a head and captain:
“a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of His people Israel.”
“God hath appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness by him.”
The Bible is full of the promise of him. It is the earliest covenant: a seed to poor mother Eve, who should bruise the head of the serpent—the beginner of all our woes: a seed to Abraham in whom all families of the earth shall be blessed; a son to David to sit on his throne—in whose days the righteous shall flourish, and abundance of peace as long as the moon endureth; who shall come down like dew upon the mown grass, like showers that water the earth; who shall judge for the poor and needy and break in pieces the oppressor; who shall fill the hungrywith good things and send the rich empty away. He has already shown his reality to mankind in the words and works of 1,800 years ago which has already planted a blessing on the earth, notwithstanding the confusion and evil that prevail. Shortly, he will manifest his power in the greater marvels needed to abolish the present evil world and establish a new heavens and new earth wherein light and righteousness and joy will dwell.
Finally, look at the darkness that pertains to individual life followed to its certain goal. See how completely and how gloriously Christ is “the light of the world” here. All is gay and bright in life’s early morn. There are no clouds in the sky. Christ is an apparent superfluity. The talk of darkness and vanity seems morbid and unnatural. But give us time enough, and the true state of the case shortly appears. We get older and the friends of youth disappear one after another. The edge goes off our own enjoyments. Things slowly cease to be what we thought them. Strength begins to get less. Elasticity leaves us. Vexations multiply. Earthly hopes twinkle out one after another. The sky clouds over. A short way ahead the horizon is blocked. Friends and acquaintances die off all around us. The cemetery fills and there is no returning. We ourselves have occasional warnings. Ahead, is what people call “the leap in the dark.” Dull and dark the night closes in. What light or hope is thereapart from Christ? Absolutely none. We walk in the graveyards of 500 years ago, and realise how completely the people who sleep under the worn slabs and long grass have vanished from the scene. Occasionally, the fact stares in upon us, that we too are on the same road and will disappear in the dark with all our friends and concerns. Under this shadow most men’s contemplations fall some time or other. What other light is there then but Christ the Resurrection and the Life? None, all else is darkness.
As we sit around the Table then, and call Christ to memory, we can see that everything belonging to him makes him an object of surpassing interest and loveliness. How wise to do this every time we have the opportunity. How unwise to let little things stand in the way. How insignificant will our most important temporal affairs appear when we stand before him in the day of his appearing. How misguided shall we then seem in our own eyes, if it turns out we have given him the second, orscarcely a place at all in our lives. How satisfied shall we be to have made him the goal and guiding star of our course through the present darkness. This satisfaction is to be earned now, while our mortal days are still in hand. Once attained, it will last for ever, for concerning those who remain steadfast in the midst of life’s tribulations, it is written that they shall be presented before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, and find in Yahweh everlasting strength and peace.
Robert Roberts, Seasons of Comfort, Vol. 2