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"He that hath an Ear to Hear, let Him Hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches." (Bey. ii.i London: — PublUhed for the Proprietor by J. B. BATEMAN, 22, Paternoster Row, entrance in Ivy Lane.
"BAKNABAS, SON OF CONSOLATION."
"And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart sndof 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.
"And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The Son of Consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet."
With the return to the simplicity of early times, one most important doctrine specially unfolded by the Holy Ghost is—
The Oneness of the Church or Body of Christ. "There it one Body." (Eph. iv.) "By one Spirit are we all baptized into One Body." (1 Cor.)
"What a dreadful misnomer, then, to speak of "Religious Bod>««"! The Scriptures know of but One Body—
"The Chvbch, which is his Body, the fulness of him that fiUeth aU in all." (Eph. i.)
The Oneness of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ was blessedly felt and shown in the early Church —
"And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one tout."
This is still one of the first blissful feelings of the new-born saint. What a joy it is to hear a sinner (recently troubled about his sins) clasp one's hand, and exclaim—Now I can call you—brother!
"We know that we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren." (1 John, iii.)
May we cherish inwardly and show outwardly this blessed brotherly love.
"Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." (Gal. v.)
"Add to your faith virtue : and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance ; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity." (2 Peter i.)
Pilgrims walking together to heaven may well afford to share their loaves and coats on the road. Who can possibly be expecting glory on high and suffer himself to be greedy down here! Oh, it is a luxury to "have all things common "—to feel that what I have is as much my brother's as it is mine.
"Whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty [the law of love], and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed." (James i.)
"It is more blessed to give than to receive." (1 Cor.)
But brotherly love must not be indulged in as a luxury, because of the happiness which it produces. If it is, it will be capricious and variable. It must be cherished as a duty—a delightful duty, it is true; but, nevertheless, a duty—and. a duty not so much to the Body, as the Head.
This aspect of the case seems very blessedly expressed in the conduct of Barnabas and others. They brought the proceeds of the sale of their property, and laid them at the Apostles' feet.
The Apostles (as visibly representing the Bead, the Lord Jesus Christ,) were felt to be the rightful disposers of all that was possessed by believers for the benefit of the One Body. It was an expressive admission of the Lord's authority (in His Apostles) over All that they had.
There is a vast deal of wealth in the Church— abundance for all. The great evil is—its nondistribution. Believers too generally hold what they brought into the Church as though they still possessed ownership rights over it. Whereas tho right thought is stewardship, the fact being that when we were bought, everything that we had, with ourselves, passed into the possession of another.
"Ye are not your own, but aro bought with a price; wherefore glorify God with your body and with your spirit, which are God's."
As a Levite, Barnabas had received tithes of his brethren and had paid tithes to the family of Aaron (see Numb, xviii. 26—28); but as a Christian, he offers All to the Lord.
And here the remark may be made—There has much been said lately about "systematic beneficence," and "tithing property for the Lord."— Brethren, that might do for a far lower priesthood. But let us think of our great High Priest in heaven as Lord of all. As the Holy Ghost declares— "He is Lord of all." (Actsx.)
This is true, absolutely. God hath appointed Him—
"Heir of all thino*, by Whom also He made tho 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: being made so much better than the angels, as He hath, by inheritance, obtained a more excellent name than they." (Heb. i.)
But though all is His, He exacts nothing, but "loveth a cheerful Giver."
III.—PRIMARY CAUSE OF THE EFFLUENCE OF LOVE.
To ascertain this, we must go a verse further back than the passage quoted at the beginning:
"They wero all filled with the Holy Ghost." (Ver. 31.)
Love is the first fruit of the Spirit—
"Tho fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace," lie.
It is the Spirit, by whom we are baptized into One Body, who enables us to feel and show our oneness. The Church is just as much One Body as ever. When it is not felt, the fault is ours, and it is not felt when we are not " filled with the Spirit," as our brother Barnabas was—
"He was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and faith.'' (Acts xi.)
But, then, we ought to be, as the exhortation still applies—" Be filled with the Spirit." (Eph. v.)
As a fact, All believers are "sealed," or marked with the Spirit, as Christ's own property, until He comes :—
"In whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of Promise." (Eph. i.)
"Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God by whom ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." (Eph. iv.)
This sealing of us is a part of the Spirit's work, and is a very different thing from our duty set forth in the exhortations—
"Walk in the Spirit."—" Be led of the Spirit."
Just as my old nature was led of Satan; So, as a new creature, I am to be led of the Spirit.
Barnabas and our brethren of "the church which was at Jerusalem," were full of love, because "full of the Holy Ghost."
We are full of the Holy Ghost—or filled with the Spirit—when He has full power over us, to more us and to lead us—to move us to do the will of God and to lead us into all truth, through the Written Word. By this latter, He will press upon us the Lord's precious pattern of love:
"For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes, he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be made rich." (2 Cor. viii.)
He parted with a vast estate, indeed, for us poor sinners! Shall we not have a moiety of His mighty love? and
"Choose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season." (Heb.)
IV.—THI SPIBIT TEACHES THE LORDSHir OF JESUS.
"No man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost." (1 Cor.)
Brethren, there are no Apostles now. We cannot lay down our property at their feet for their disposal. No; we walk by faith in the omnipresence and lordship of the Son of God. And at His feet we may be constantly laying down anything we have. And He will accept it—accept it in His Members.
"Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto ME." (Matt.)
It is true the Apostles ordained "deacons," of the church's choice, to deal forth the money, collectively raised. And though there can be no ordinations now, there being no Apostles, yet each church, [that is, all believers in any city or town,] may w> 11 select two or three or seven of its members, and request them to distribute unto every man as every man has need, from the moneys gathered at doors in boxes for the poor. There is collective giving and there is individual giving. But the lesson which the Spirit is pressing upon us from the Scripture before us is— Individual and total devotement to the Lord,
—laying down that which we possess at His feet, to be used of Him in any way He may show.
To this devotement, the Spirit is ever prompting us: to "glorify God with our body and with our spirit which are God's." He, too, will guide, as well as prompt. So that, like the Lord Jesus himself, we may — "go about doing good, for GOD is with us."
This fact settles the attitude of those who are in want—They can demand nothing, but must look by faith to the Lord to lead a Barnabas (in the name of tho Lord) or a Stephen (in the name of the Church) to relieve them.
This Divine guidance in doing good is extremely needful, considering all the hypocrisy that is abroad. Do any fear bribing impostors into the Church? Nay, the "church which was at Jerusalem " had no such fear. If we feed the unregenerate, the Lord did the same; spirituality of lip and life will keep them from attempting to come into fellowship, or it will soon drive them away. And suppose we are deceived by a hypocrite now and then: well, is it not still true?
"For Thy sake, wc are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter! Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us !" (Rom. viii.)
Let not Satan hinder us, beloved, from seizing any opportunities that may be afforded us of laying down property at the Lord's feet!
"He is thy Lord; worship thou Sim." (Ps. xlv.)
V.—DISUNION AND ITS RESULTS.
The church of God in any town or city is composed of All true believers in that city. When the Holy Ghost speaks of believers in any city, it is as the church (never churches) in or of that city, as Rome, Antioch, or Jerusalem; but when the brethren in a province or country are regarded, then the plural is used, "the churches of Galatia," or Judea, &c. It is presumed, in the Word, that (where possible) believers go on in fellowship—not apart.
Believers in the Lord Jesus in any city may assemble in different places for convenience' sake, but, like the "church which was at Jerusalem," they should be all "of one heart and of one soul." That is to say, in close fellowship one with another, in mutual recognition, intimacy, and love. Were this the fact, cases of special distress among Christians meeting in any one street would be carried, in the Lord's providence, into the neighbouring streets, and special sympathy flow forth to the afflicted part of the Body. And without systematizing (which is our great fear) we may safely say, the weak ones of the flock would be cared for by the flock, generally. But where there is no fellowship, there can be no intimacy or love.
Nothing is plainer than that the Body of Christ, the Church, ought to care for its own. It is equally plain, that its members possess abundance of the requisite means.
But what is the fact? Is it not this? "We meet selfishly apart; we do not care to ascertain each other's cases of distress and mention them at the meetings for prayer, and commend them to the Lord and the saints, and ourselves to lay down our property at the Lord's feet.
Alas! Satan has so wrought among us, that Christian widows and their orphans have frequently to appeal to the world, and the poor and aged to seek parish relief! Painful failure in faith in them and love in us!
Instead of all true believers in each town apprehending and showing a family oneness, they go on apart as if they were so many distinct families! and allow the feeling of independency to grow up. But we are not independent; we are One Body. And "love [not rules and regulations] is the bond of perfectness."
Independency of spirit, as distinguished from the Oneness of Love, has wrought this—While some of the family are surfeited, others are suffering want! and how often would the Lord use us to ease His afflicted ones, if Satan had not so disunited us! And so the Members suffer on, and the Mead with them! Painful thought!
"In all their affliction He was afflicted."
Let this go to the heart of the Church the Woman, —when a Member of the Body suffers, " My Lord suffers."
Besides this ovil of Disunion, as contrasted with the Oneness of Love, Satan binds our hands with Worldly Prudence; a strong cord is that. Satan, winding it round, suggests, "You'll want it yourself another time; you should be prepared for adverse circumstances." The answer that breaks this cord is, "The Lord will come; I am not sure of anything else: I know the Lord will provide."
Then there is a special 'weight,'or hindrance, Vain Show, "the lust of the eye." It is wonderful what a "weight" some of us are contriving to carry with Ub! But "let us lay aside every weight." What does a pilgrim want with pictures, works of art, extra fine clothes and articles of plate, jewellery, &c? —" Oh, but," says some one, "our pictures are on sacred subjects!"—Very true, but can the skill and fancy of an unconverted man help the faith of a saint? "Looking unto Jesus," not pictures. "We walk by faith, not by sight."
What shall we do, then, with all things not needful, but rather hindrances?
They "gold their possessions and goods."
Sell—sell; all that is not needful, sell. And consider the blessed result. None of them lacked.
"Neither was there any among them that lacked."
If all is held at the Lord's disposal, to be given collectively with others, or individually in private, and if believers in any place, whether there be one meeting-room or half-a-dozen, are really, as a family, of "one heart and one soul," then will there be no lack, and God will be glorified in us.
"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye lane love one to another." (John xiii.)
There's Christians' debts, too, as well as their wants, —debts incurred through sickness, &c. The debts of the members are our debts—the debts of the One Body!
Brethren, let us haste back to Jerusalem ground. He who so set up His church cometh—cometh.
Apostles we cannot have; but we have their doctrine. To do rfeacon-work we can choose certain brethren, with prayer. Other ministries were not required then. An apostle possessed all the "gifts." Having their writings and the Spirit to "lead us into all truth," let us get back, in spirit, to Jerusalem ground. We cannot take ground higher or simpler.
Doing so, we shall not only find ourselves increasingly blest, but the Lord will also use us for blessing to others, for while Ananias and Sapphira are taken away, Barnabas is honoured of the apostles and used of the Lord very greatly.
VI.—BEHOLD, BE COMETH 1"
At the Lord's coming, All we have Must be left. Left for whom? For the enemies of God, those whom we shall leave behind when we are caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Just as Jerusalem and Judea were taken by the Gentiles, so will all that is left .behind come into possession of the children of this world. If Barnabas and the other brethren had not have sold their possessions, and houses, and lands, they would, in a short time, have had to flee from them with regret. So too, ye rich ones, "trusting in uncertain riches," and saying in your hearts, "My Lord delayeth Ids coming,"—"Ho will come in an hour that ye look not for Him," and you will have to die (like Ananias and Sapphira) to these things which, in part, you are keeping back. Happy, then, those who, like Barnabas, have sought grace to lay down All at the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ, Head of the Church !—All, after "providing things honest in the sight of all men."
In the bght of eternity, our so-called valuables become baubles. And yet they are valuables, for, let us remember, by their right use we secure the Lord's approval and a place in the loving hearts and happy memories of our fellow-heirs of glory everlasting!
"Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves hags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens which iaileth not." (Luke xii.)
Oh, let us desire to be "sons of consolation "!
VII. —CAN A MAN GIVE VNTO GOD?— NO!
Israel in the wilderness applied its gold to two purposes—The Tabernacle, its furniture and vessels, and the Golden Calf. So now, we serve God—in His way or our way. God permits offerings now for the service of his living tabernacle—the Church, the members of the One Body, the "habitation of God through the Spirit." He receives gifts for that, and that only, not for Himself. He needs nothing.
Oh, that those who are giving money, much or little, to the sustenance of the so-called "cause of Christ" could but see that they are feeding and clothing "that woman Jezebel, who callcth herself a prophetess,"—upholding that which (after the Church of God is gone) will be developed into the "Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth"! Yet how many think they are, in that way, "doing God service"! and applauding to the skies those who give largely! It is casting gold together to form a "Calf," as in Exod. xxxii.
"Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light!" (Eph. v. 14.)
To think that the Lord needs money to help Him. to carry on His purposes of grace to man I Monstrous! Is there anything like it in tho Word of God? What do we see there?
The Church is nowhere charged with anything
"Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do." (Gal. ii. 10.)
"If any man or woman that believeth have widows, lot them relieve them, and let not the church be charged, that it may relieve them that are widows indeed." (1 Tim. v. 16.)
To think the Lord has need of money! for His ■work!
"Thy money perish with thee!" (Acts viii.)
Jezebel needs it—the horse-leech, ever crying "Give, Give I" The Lord has need of nothing! —
save in the Members of the One Body.
And He suffers need there, that faith may be exercised in them and love in you.
But, says some one, "The Church must meet her own liabilities!"
Yes, but tehoevcr heard of a woman taking liabilities upon herself that had a husband!
We feci confident, then, that if the Lord, the Head of the Church, sees it needful that a place of meeting should bo possessed, He will open the heart of a Barnabas (or two or three\ who will perceive His mind, and lay down their property at His feet. Till then, we must use what we have; if nothing more—Booms in our own houses.
In His own gracious way, whatever is needful,
"The lord will provide!" "I— I have set before thee an Open Door I" Perhaps you think you could not get on so?
"Let God be true, but every man a liar!" (Rom. iii)
We know you couldn't get on so, with your heavy rents, your gaudy buildings, and your salaried men!
—The Lord Jesus has not guaranteed to provide for these. Hence you must resort to Balls, and Bazaars, and Begging with boxes and bags, and contrivances sickening to think of! Simpletons!
"Yc suffer fools gladly, swing ye yourselves are wise I For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a m;m exalt himself." ('2 Cor. xi.)
Oh, brethren beloved, lot us "hate even the garment spotted by the flesh," as exhorted in the epistle of Jude. And what is all this, but the ways of the carnal mind? If the saints are solicited pressingly, or a box sent round, what is it, but making the saints pay rent to the Lord? Oh, how loathsome it must be in His sight!
ANANIAS AND SAPPHIEA.
How strikingly the case of Ananias and Sapphira contrasts with that of Barnabas! What a solemn commentaiy upon that passage—
"If ye live after the flesh ye shall die."
They had grieved the Holy Spirit of God by walking after the flesh, and Satan, ever watchful, seeking "whom he may devour," had found an entrance into their heart, and filled it with a lie.
"Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost f"
As Satan prevailed in Eden, so did Satan prevail over this man and woman, and so has he prevailed in part ever since,
"For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their »hame, who mind earthly things." (Phil. iii. 18-19.)
Satan is a liar and a cheat. How many are his lies! and there are few more insidious than the desirableness of money!—of having means of our own to meet our future needs!
'• But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." (1 Tim. vi. 9-10.)
Satan's Lies. God's Truth.
Your Lord delayeth his com- "He that shall come will ing. come, and will not tarry."
iStore up for the future. "The Lord will provide."
A man's own requirements "We ought to lay down our come/tret. lives for the brethren."
The land is good. "A waste howling wilderness.
Rest; take it comfortably. "Pass the time of your so
journing here in fear."
Get on in life, then retire and "Work with your hands— serve God. that you may have wherewith
to give to him that needeth."
All who are going on with Satan's lies are earning "death." In the case of the unconverted, it is eternal death; in the converted, it is a present deathstate of soul.
"The wages of sin is death."
Satan knows he cannot work our eternal death, because "our life is hid with Christ in God." That which Satan works to produce, if he can, is a deathened state of spirit (temporary, but real)—to cause our spirituality to "die."
For what is Death?
Primarily, Separation (in the natural world, of soul and body—in the spiritual world, of the spirit from Christ). The results of Separation are—darkness, grief, injury, inaction, loss, decay.
What is the eternal death of the damned?
Not annihilation—but separation. "Everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord."
"Christ is our life." In proportion as I abide in Him, I live, "yet not I, Christ liveth in me." Now the Spirit teaches us to abide in Him; that is, to live. If I "walk after the Spirit," I shall live. I shall not know Death (that is, Separation, with its secondary effects mentioned above,) but I shall know Life—that is, Union, (both with the Head and the One Body,) and the secondary effects—light, joy, health, activity, growth, power. This is Life.
To go on in this life—and show its effects—is to "become" a "son of God."
"To as many as received him to them gave he power to become the tone of God." (John i.)
If we " walk in the Spirit," we are "sons of God." That is to say, we present our sonship to others and are conscious of it ourselves. The power to do this we received, when we received the Spirit.
It follows that if I "walk after the flesh," I do, for the time being, fall from my sonship—I "die" —I suffer the pangs of separation from fellowship with the Father and the Son; the Spirit being grieved, I lose the joy which He gives; and, (until restored by a groaning confession and the intercession of my High Priest,) I become incapable of fruitful action. This is death.
"If ye live after the flesh ye shall die, but if ye, through the Spirit, do mortify the deeds of tho body, ye shall live."
The present state of believers is here regarded.
Thus, in measure, all of us who believe in Jesus are always exemplifying Barnabas or Ananias—we are "walking" after the Spirit or after the flesh. If the former, then we live; if the latter, we die. If our sins are not sins unto death, we only feel the shadow of death. But if we yield to Satan completely, there is nothing to look for but complete separation, cutting off, destruction, perdition, all of which mean the same as Death—an end, temporary or final, to the believer's course down here. Mark what is said—An end to the believer's course down here, not hereafter.
If I sin, and am out of fellowship for a day, my course for that day is suspended—" I die." Unless we keep the body under, as Paul did, we are in constant danger. And oh, how dreadful if Satan "devour" us! that is, bring our testimony, as sons of God to an end, as he did in the case of Ananias.
"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. For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: but that which biureth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned."
"For if type sin Wilfully, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth No more Sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of*judomeiit and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden underfoot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite Unto The Spirit Of grace? " (Heb.)
"Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away. '"
There is a sin unto Death: I do not say that ye shall pray for it." "If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are." (1 Cor. iii.) "And great Fear Came Upon All Tub Church, And Upon
AS MANY AS HEARD THIS* THINGS." (Acts V.)
In the Word we are regarded only as what we ought always to be, practically,. "sons of God."
"Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His seed [God's Word] remaineth in him."
"He that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that Wicked One toucheth him not." (1 John.)
But if I sin, "I die," and for the time—long or short —as being dead, I am not a "son." Therefore, for the time, I am regarded as "not of God."
"Whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother." (1 John, iii.)
If we are "filled with the Spirit," like Barnabas, then shall we do well.
Thus we have seen, we are One Body—that all we have is the Lord's—that the Spirit teaches us to lay down at the Lord's feet that which, if kept baok, breeds death.
"Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen." (Jude.)
THE EPISTLE TO THYATIBA.
Referring the reader to the truth the Lord graciously gave us last month, concerning "that woman Jezebel," (who represents mere learning and cleverness taking the place of teaching,) we desire to add a little light on the rest of the passage, God has given us.
Having threatened to cast Jezebel into " a bed "-— dismay, helplessness, pain—the Lord then threatens to cast those—
"that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds."
These the Lord has previously called "His servants." Therefore, true believers in Christ are referred to. The means and the mode of their tribulation, we are not told; but we apprehend permission to afflict will be given to" Satan, our enemy. As the Prime Mover in all evil, he is yielded to whenever sin is committed, and the Lord is practically despised. In the light of other Scriptures, therefore, we apprehend that he who afflicted Job will be allowed to afflict any of the Lord's people who, at His coming, are found in sin.