In considering this apostolic declaration, the first thought that is apt to enter the mind, is that there is something to be consumed. For our God is the God of providence, and his grace embraces the heavens and the earth, and all created things. His infinite wisdom has designed all things in his creation, to accomplish the end according to his will and pleasure, decreed before the worlds were made. “Our God.” How precious and full of meaning are the words. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” Mow sweet and precious, and yet how awful, with our polluted lips, to name the name of God, and to frame the words, “Our God,” so full of dreadful meaning. Only the faith which removeth meuntains, and which bathes our soul in the abiding trust that the Lord is our God, can enable us to call upon the name of the Lord, in much assurance and with holy boldness. The apostle declares, that, “No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” And no man hath the Holy Ghost by which he can speak, except him that is begotten of God in Christ Jesus. The redemption through the blood and righteousness of Christ, give the subject of a precious hope the right to say, “My Lord and my God.” If I call any natural man my father, save him by whom I am naturally begotten, I not only practice gross hypocrisy, but I say what is not true. Therefore I can call no man father except him, whom I know is in truth my natural father. If I can say of a truth that Jesus is the Lord, then, as it is true that I can call him father, of whose natural seed I am begotten, so I can also say he is my Lord, of whose royal seed I also am begotten. It was when Jesus had separated himself and his disciples from the multitude, that he said to them (and not to the multitude), When ye pray, say, “Our Father who art in heaven,” &c. The apostle, when he uttered (or wrote) the words which are the subject of this communication, was addressing the church of Christ exclusively. As a meuth-piece for every member of the body of Christ, he could by faith in a clear conscience say, “Our God,” by which each member of that redeemed body could echo his words, by the same faith in all truth and soberness. The Holy Ghost which worketh in us by the grace of God, manifests in our daily life’s experience, that we are children of our great King Therefore he is our Father indeed, and we dare approach unto him by every right vouchsafed unto us, through his only begotten Son, by whom we are begotten, and by which we have become sons and heirs of eternal glory. “Who then can lay anything to the charge of God’s elect,” when they call upon the name of the Lord, and say he is their God?
“For our God is a consuming fire.” The many names given to our God throughout the Scriptures, arise from the necessities of our case, in the work of our salvation, and in the fitly framing and putting together the building which his own invisible hands have perfected. In the erection of his house, a man must prepare the stones for the foundation, so that each one will be meulded to fit securely and perfectly in the place designed for each one. The timblers and the boards must be planed and sawed to their exact necessity and usefulness in the building. Every piece of material must be adapted to its particular place. The lilting and preparing of the children of men for their place in the building of God, is the work of the great Master-builder. The gold, and the silver, and the precious stones, of which the glorious structure of God is being built, are buried in the earth. That is, in the earthly bodies of the people for whom Christ died. God is to them a consuming fire, because in trying them, as the gold is tried, and in refining them, as the silver is refined, he consumes, as by fire, everything which is not of the Spirit. Jesus is the foundation of the building. The evidence! that our work is of the Lord, is that it is built upon the foundation which is Jesus. The fruit of the Spirit makes manifest the Spirit’s work, which is “Love, peace, joy, long-suffering, gentleness,”&c. The apostle says, “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ,” and “Every man’s work shall be made manifest.” Also, “It shall be revealed by lire; and the fire shall try every man’s work.” And again, “If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” The same light of the knowledge of God’s glory, which reveals the beauty of holiness to the eye of faith, also reveals the depravity and deceitfulness of the heart. So by the same consuming fire, which consumes the dross, and destroys the works of the flesh, revealing the work of God by the spirit, the salvation of the creature is also revealed, “so as by lire.” God, therefore, as a consuming tire, works both to the destruction of the works of the flesh, and to the saving of the soul. How often, when we think we are worshiping God, do we find we have set up an idol in our heart, of wood, hay, or stubble, and are worshiping it instead of the living God. We do not discover they are dead works, until the consuming fire of God’s wrath has consumed the lusts, and we see by faith, that we are poor and helpless, and miserable, and wretched, and naked, in the sight of a jealous God, who will have us to serve him, and him alone, and like dear, old Job, we abhor ourself “and repent in dust and ashes.” Saul of Tarsus verily thought he was doing God service when he was viciously persecuting the saints. And it was necessary that his dead works should be consumed, and he changed from a persecuting Saul, to a repentant Paul, ere he could discover the error of his way. God’s plan (in the salvation of his people from the slime and mildew of a covenant of works under the law) has never been executed at the expense of justice. His sure hand meves in perfect wisdom, in holiness and in judgment. There was but one way by which the law could be satisfied and made honorable. Jesus said, “I am the way.” By the sacrifice of his beloved Son, and giving his life for an atonement for all his people, the law was amply and fully satisfied. Well could the apostle say, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” They are cleansed, and their sins are all washed away in the blood of the precious Lamb of God. The law has no mere dominion over them. As the owner of a multitude of sheep, (which have trespassed against another, and are taken and held for the redemption price), may redeem them by paying all demands, because they are his sheep, so also Jesus had the right to redeem all that the Father had given him, because they were his by right, of gift from the Father. The whole christian experience is a process by which the whole plan of salvation is wrought out and made manifest. Jesus said to the two on their way to Emmaus, “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into his glory?” And so the apostle declared, that, “Jesus learned obedience by the things which he suffered.” And this is what the christian experience reveals, “The bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus,” through the suffering on account of sin, by which we learn obedience to the law of life in Christ Jesus. If we hunger and thirst after righteousness, blessed are we, for we shall be filled. If we walk in darkness, where no light is, and tremble and fear because we cannot, behold the face of Jesus, blessed are we, for we long for the light, and it shall shine in our hearts in the accepted day of the Lord. If we make promises, what we will do, and what we will not do, God knoweth the secret thought and intent of every heart, and he in his own time and way, will make it plain before us that we are not our own, “we are bought with a price,” and without God we can do nothing. For, is not his consuming tire shut up in our bones! which will burn and consume until all the way and plan of salvation is made plain before us. And we shall walk in the light of his countenance and not faint, neither shall we grow weary.
B. F. COULTER.
Philadelphia, Pa., July 30, 1897.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 65., No.18.
SEPTEMBER 15, 1897.