When you open a book hitherto unread by you, and peruse its pages from beginning to end, the book is not in the least changed since its contents are unfolded to your understanding. No matter how you may receive its sentiment or its theory, the plan of the author, as it was conceived in his mind, remains the same. So far as that book is concerned, it never can undergo any change. Although the author may rewrite the same work, revising it, and making changes therein, yet the original book will remain unchanged, so long as it is in existence. The minds of men are subject to change, but the Author and Writer of the book of life is unchangeable. With him “is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” During the ages that have passed since the beginning of time, the leaves in the precious book of life have been, day by day, turned over, and will so continue until the end of time. Looking back over the many events that have transpired, in their proper time and order, and observing those which have endured, and distinguishing between the perishable and imperishable, our mind lights upon one object in particular that has withstood the contumely of every passing age; that object is the Bible. It is the oldest literal book in existence, and its pages record events from the beginning of time to the end of time. All the means of men have been brought into play to banish it from the face of the earth, yet the light of its testimony grows brighter and brighter. It has been hidden, and buried, and burned, yet its lustre has not been dimmed. Enemies of the truth of God have assailed it in every conceivable way, yet without avail. It is the book of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and while it belongs exclusively to the church of Christ, yet it is useful in the world, because of the great moral power and influence it wields over an ungodly and unregenerate world. There is no book that has ever passed through the hands of a printer that is in any sense like it. All other literature has its use in this world, but the Bible, written by holy men of old as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, stands alone, because its record and testimony do not belong to this world, but to a kingdom which is above all worlds. Yet the Bible is not the “Book of Life,” It is the letter of the word, and not the word itself. Jesus is declared to be the word of God, in him is life. Therefore the “Book of Life” is the work and substance of Jesus, embracing all the salvation of God. The Bible is a transcript of that wonderful book whose pages are written in indelible characters in the hearts of the children of the living God. In this natural life we are creatures of time, and the reading of the pages of life’s treatise is subject to time conditions, and understood throughout the passage of time in the life of each saint. The name of each and every child of God, with their individuality, is recorded in the Book. To the world, (with its learning, its science, and its knowledge in natural things) the “Book of Life” is a sealed book. With all the power of cunning reasoning possessed by the mind of man, he has delved and searched and pondered, but the key to unlock this storehouse of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God he has never been able to find. The secret, to whom power and worthiness was given, to open the book and to loose the seven seals thereof, was revealed unto the apostle John, on the Island of Patmos, of which he says: “And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the back side, scaled with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Hoot of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.” Now the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, is Christ Jesus the Lord, who hath undertaken for us, and prevailed, becoming the victor over death, hell and the grave, giving his life a ransom for us, that we might behold all the beauties of holiness and grace in that book which he was found worthy to open. And now, as we turn its leaves and read therein, we behold Jesus set forth on every page, for by that life of himself which he has vouchsafed unto us, we are enabled to read and behold his gracious work. This great wonder of wonders is made manifest in the truth that it is in our own hearts that this great work has been accomplished. As we read along we note with joy and gladness the changes in condition and relationship which take place in the pilgrimage journey of the children of our great King. Every man who enters within the portals of this natural world is the offspring of natural parents, and as they are born into the world the relationship of father, mother and child begins. Even those natural children, who were before the foundation of the world ordained to eternal life, are simply children of the flesh, for they are not yet born of God, and the relationship of father and son cannot exist until the child is born. Therefore as we begin to scan the pages of the “Book of Life” we see at the outset of the natural life of each name that is recorded in the hook, that they were the children of wrath even as others, and as says the apostle: “At that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.” Is it any wonder then that Nicodemus could not believe when Jesus said unto him: “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again”? So, as has been said, the changes of condition and relationship are made manifest along the journey, and each change is recorded in its own proper time and order. Does it not behoove every one of us who have hope in God’s mercy, to walk softly before the Lord all the days of our life? For Jesus while preaching to his disciples said: “But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment: for by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shall be condemned.” The first condition, then, finds the foreordained subject of God’s grace enshrouded in nature’s darkness, living and revelling in all manner of sin, and boasting of his evil propensities; he is satisfied with his surroundings, he knows no god save his sensual appetite and selfish desires. It is his own country and the only home he knows, his friends are there, and the seductive woman beckons him to her house. But in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, the scene changes, a gleam of light breaks in upon his soul, it pierces the darkness, but the darkness in his soul becomes so deep and dense that it can be felt. The light is the light of truth, which enlightens him as to his true condition under the violated law of God, and presents him justly condemned under that law; the polish and glare of his old life in nature has faded, and now he is looking for an intercessor between God and himself; his heart seareheth for a “daysman “that might come betwixt them, and lay his hands upon them both. Great waves of sorrow pass over his benighted soul, and in his agony he begs and appeals for mercy. He cannot cry to a loving father, as a child who can claim a father’s love, but he sees only a drawn sword demanding justice. The same voice that spake to Abram in Chaldee spake to this soul, telling him as he did Abram, to leave his native country, and go to a place that He would show him. So he begins his troublous journey, and he wanders down into Egypt, and while there his burdens becoming almost unbearable, the Lord delivers him from thence, and brings him into a vast wilderness, yet under the frown and terror of the law. He is not yet under the care of his heavenly Father, but under the watchcare of the God who loves him and cares for him night and day, who leads him about and instructs him; and the leading in this wilderness journey brings him to the “ends of the earth;” in other words, to the end of all his creature strength and self-confidence. And again the scene changes, a bright page in the book of his life is opened to view, a great Hood of light has come into his soul, has found the Intercessor for whom he has been looking through all the dark and fearful night, the Sun of righteousness has arisen in his soul, Christ is revealed to him as his gracious Redeemer. He finds now, that “What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us.” Now he has come into the full light of the liberty of the gospel of Christ, he is born again, born from above, he is now a child of his heavenly Father, who is God over all. He is born “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” He is born of incorruptible seed, “by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.” Now he can say out of a full and thankful heart, rejoicing in the spirit, with his gracious Redeemer, “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.” He is now a recognized member of the Father’s family, and does approach the throne of grace with humble boldness sand much assurance, saying, “Our Father who art in heaven,” &c. Yet there are times in the experience of the dear soul when he seems to be forsaken of God, that he cannot say, Father; it would seem that he dares not utter the name. Jesus, when he hung upon the accursed tree, and all had forsaken him, even he could not call upon his Father, but said: “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” But while he was in the garden, and his soul was exceeding sorrowful unto death, he fell on the ground and prayed, and He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.”
It would take volumes to tell of the many perfections of beauty to be found in the Zion of our God, and in the record of the pages of the “book of life.” A few of the important changes have been noted in passing; the experimental relationship also has been set forth, that our pure minds may call to remembrance some things that have occurred to us in the passage of time. May our souls be refreshed with the dews of heavenly love from time to time.
I will close by calling your attention to hymn number 1037 (Beebe’s collection.)
“How strange, is the course that a Christian must steer,
How perplexed is the path he must tread!
The hope of hits happiness rises from fear,
And his life he receives from the dead.
His fairest pretentious must wholly be waived,
And his best resolutions be crossed;
Nor can He expect to be perfectly saved,
Till he finds himself utterly lost.
When all this is done, and his heart is assured
Of the total remission of sins,
When his pardon is signed and his peace is procured.
From that moment his conflict begins.”
B. F. COULTER.
Philadelphia, Pa., Oct. 5, 1904
Signs Of The Times
Volume 72., No. 21.
NOVEMBER 1, 1904.