GOD reveals himself as both omnipresent and omnipotent, the almighty, who tills immensity and inhabits eternity. So there is no fleeing from his presence or going beyond his power. His dominion is unlimited and from everlasting to everlasting. God is the supreme One. No other power is supreme. Therefore, all powers, beings and things are subject to the Almighty. If not, then God is not the supreme ruler, and there is no sovereign power in the boundless universe. How terrible this would be! But we rejoice that our God “sits upon no precarious throne, nor borrows leave to be.” He declares that what his soul desireth, even that he doeth. His wisdom, knowledge and understanding are as all comprehensive and infinite as his purpose, dominion and control are unlimited and omnipotent. God is neither subject to influence nor to change. If he could be influenced, to that extent he would be controlled and changed. But his word says, “I am the Lord: I change not.” With him there is not the shadow of turning, says James. The word again says, “He is in one mind, and none can turn him.”
These are primary or first truths relative to the Most High. They enter into his very being, are essential to his infinite attributes, to the eternal qualities and perfections of his adorable Godhead. The Bible faithfully and largely records and proclaims this infinite and absolute supremacy of Jehovah. The sun and moon and stars, with all his handiworks in creation, and the fixed laws in nature, also show forth the omnipotence and overactive power of God. To no other being, whether archangel or seraphim, cherubim or saint, prophet or apostle, belongs these crowning perfections of the eternal and Holy One. We may be awed in the presence of Moses and Elijah, Gabriel and Michael, Daniel and John, who went before Jesus; yet they were but the servants of God, and all that made them good and great was his free gift to them.
“With God is terrible majesty,” said Elihu to Job. At best our thoughts of “his eternal power and Godhead” fall infinitely below his high and holy throne; and he himself says, that as heaven is higher than the earth, so are his thoughts and ways above our thoughts and ways.
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.” All these are the creatures of God, whether animate or inanimate. His omnipotent power ruleth over and controlled them all, and they are all subjected to his universal dominion. God has set the bounds of all, so that no creature can go beyond or escape his almighty power. Were this possible, the sovereignty of God would be destroyed, and himself hurled from his eternal throne. The Bible overflows with the record of these sublime truths concerning the Almighty. What do they teach us! That God is highly exalted in heaven infinitely above all the universe, and that the earth and all it contains is his footstool; yea, more, that all nations are as grasshoppers, as the small dust of the balances, and all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as less than nothing, before the Most High. How stupid the thought, then, that creatures thus insignificant can and do influence and move, control and defeat the Almighty; that man, who is himself “less than nothing and vanity,” can and does prevent, hinder and disappoint the Lord God omnipotent. O how weak and absurd is this insolent presumption! Yet the worldly wise and all worldly religionists thus dishonor God, and they vainly imagine that he is subject to creature influences, insomuch that he can be moved even by their prayers. The Lord says, “Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself.” In a sermon an aged preacher once said in my hearing, “Prayer is the lever that moves the arm that moves the world.” All worldly religious teachers thus regard the relation of God toward men. They hold that he is acted upon and moved by his creatures; that he is subject to them, and may be largely influenced and moved in his conduct towards them and other sinners by their prayers and zeal and works for him in his service, as they suppose. The professed christianity of the world, no less than the Jew’s religion, is based and built upon this belief. Because we serve God he is moved to reward us. Thus stands the world’s religion.
But the religion of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the true worship of God, is just the opposite of this. Our perfect Teacher thus states it: “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” This cometh down from God out of heaven; the fountain of eternal life is its source; it raises up its blessed recipient into everlasting life, and all his love to God and holiness, his spiritual devotion, worship and service, are the free and fervent springing up in him of this water of life. Thus his soul is as the garden of the Lord, spontaneously sending up the incense of love and praise, saying to the Lord in prayer, “Come into thy garden and eat thy pleasant fruits.” This, our Lord says, “I shall give him.” When given, it shall be in him a fountain of life, and shall spring up to the glory of the Giver. What moves him to give it! Hear him in prayer to the eternal Father: “As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.” What moved the Father to give them to the Son? Jesus tells us in his prayer, saying, “Thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedest me before the foundation of the world.” Therefore, the everlasting love of God the Father for his Son, and for all his people, whom he gave the Son, and chose and blessed in him, moved him to send his Son into the world, to die for them, and to give unto them eternal life. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins,” testilies the beloved John.
Love is the greatest of all, Paul says, and John says, “God is love.” “Love is strong as death,” said Solomon. Says Paul again, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Love, therefore, the love of God, is the strongest and most active power in the universe, and he bestows his love upon his people in its divine freeness and active potency. Yea, the love of God infolds them in Christ Jesus, his well beloved Son, in whom the Father has blessed them with all spiritual blessings, unto the end that they should be holy and without blame before him in love, “to the praise of the glory of his grace.” “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” And so “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” It is the divine power of the love of God in the hearts of his dear children that savingly and blessedly influences and moves and controls them in all their emotions and devotions Godward. The sentiment and language of their hearts therefore is, “For the love of Christ constraineth us.” “The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.” Now, to be thus constrained by the love of Christ springing up in the heart, and divinely drawn with the loving-kindness of the Lord to run after him in the paths of holiness, is as far removed from a cold, faithless, legal, heartless, selfish and machine-like service as heaven is above earth, or as the love of God is more holy and powerful than the love of self.
In religious service and professed divine worship, there are but these two incentives or prompting motive powers: the love of God, or the love of self, and all who are religious at all, are actuated and moved by either the one or the other. They are either moved by the power of God, or they think to move him by their own power. For it must be that man is either subjected to the power of the Lord and made subservient to his will, or else the Lord is subservient to man and moved by his will and works. The enabling motive and power to desire and do, must either descend from God to man, constraining him Godward, or else it must ascend from man to God, constraining him manward. On which side are we! Shall we believe that God is omnipotent toward us, bringing us into obedience to his power of love in our hearts! or shall we hold that we are potent toward him, and that our obedience moves him toward us in bestowing his love upon us! One of these two ways it must be. Either God moves upon man, or man moves upon God. Either man or God must yield in will and power, and be brought into the passive voice or state, and say, “Not as I will, but as thou wilt,” or there can be no reconciliation and communion between them. Now, therefore, who should yield and be subservient and passive, be as nothing, and let the other be all in all! For in the matter of will and power, either man or the Lord Jehovah must surrender and yield, for the controlling power and influence of one or the other must prevail, and he must be placed upon the throne and reign supreme, but the other must be made submissive and be acted upon. This is an evident truth, and it pervades the Bible. God is in heaven, man is upon earth; God is infinite, man is finite; God is the Creator, man is the creature; God bestows all, man receives all. “For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God,” declares faithful Paul.
“The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness.” Thus the Lord reveals to us and in us the place of power, and how it is that his people are made willing to serve him in the beauties of holiness – not their own wrought holiness, but his holiness wrought in them by his divine power. “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” This is the way of it, and thus do we receive it, my dear brethren in the Lord. “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” “And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.”
Much has been published in Baptist papers in opposition to the sovereign power of God towards his people, as manifested in their obedience of faith and love in Christ Jesus, wrought in their hearts by the Spirit and grace of God; and this has been treated with derision and ridiculed, as reducing the obedient children of God to mere machines, which have neither life nor love, and they are reproached as “Can’t help its,” and the meek and lowly Christ is jeered as doing all the obeying for his obedient followers, who love him, and therefore keep his commandments. All this is charged against the sovereign will and power of God as wrought in his redeemed and new-born children, by the subduing, controlling and leading power of his Spirit and love in their hearts, “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” that this makes them irresponsible, destroys their obligation unto loving obedience, and makes them as passive as unliving stones. That many dear brethren in Christ, who desire to know the truth as it is in him and walk in it, have been thus prejudiced and misled, there is no doubt, but that this opposition and accusation is either a misconception or misrepresentation of the sovereign power of God and the reign of his grace in the hearts of his dear children, is certainly true. All such captions railing and disputing is divinely met and rebuked by the word of the Lord in the ninth chapter of Romans, for all this caviling is replying against God and doing despite to his sacred truth. Brethren should pause, und solemnly consider whence they are tending and drifting, as in the presence of God, “who will by no means clear the guilty.”
So far from this reigning power of the God of salvation lessening the sacred obligations of his people, whom he hath called with an holy calling, or weakening the utility of loving and faithful exhortation to their meek submission unto the will of God in a loving and heart-given service to him, it gives to these their sacred and binding force, and is the soul and essence of all holy obligation and loving obedience; and nothing else than the true and loving service of the pure in heart will God accept. And all this is the fruit of his Spirit, the springing up of his love shed abroad in the heart. The Lord never speaks in vain to his people. “When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” It is so in every case. Omnipotence never tries. “His arm shall rule for him.” When he speaks, the mad persecuter tremblingly prays, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” The will of the Lord is at once supreme.
Now, as to the objection to the omnipotent sovereignty of the Almighty over all the universe, and the active reign of his grace in the hearts and lives of his redeemed, quickened and called-out people in saving them from the dominion of sin; that this subjects their will and brings them into a passive state to the will of the Lord; in mind and heart I have been led into a prayerful and scriptural consideration of this prevailing and fault-finding complaint, and will kindly meet it in the light of revealed truth.
First, then, there is but the Lord and man, the Spirit and the flesh, the will of God and the will of man, the mind of Christ and the mind of the flesh or carnal mind. These are opposite and contrary the one to the other; therefore, before there can be harmony and peace, nearness and communion between God and man, the will of man must be subdued and brought into passive or uuresisting submission to the will of God, and God must be absolutely supreme in the mind and heart of man, and his heart-given prayer to his Sovereign must be, “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” In no other way than this entire surrender of man can he truly worship God. Second, the holy Son of God taught this way and truth to his followers, and he himself perfectly lived it in all his life in the flesh, never once asserting his own will as a man, but always making the will of God his Father supreme. So when he speaks of the discrimination of God’s sovereign will and grace, in hiding the blessings and glories of salvation from the wise and prudent, and revealing them to babes, who know but little, and are receptive and passive, Jesus said, “Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.” This was enough for the loving and submissive “man Christ Jesus.” His own will was entirely subdued or surrendered and swallowed up in the supreme will of God. Therefore Jesus himself was passive, and God was active. Let us hear and heed his touching prayer, saying, “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.” This is entire and absolute surrender. “He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter.” So he was passive, submissive and yielding. Shall we therefore deride him as a “Can’t help it,” and as a mere machine! O for shame! Is it any better to thus stigmatize his humble followers! Hear him say again, “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me! the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.” “The Son can do nothin? of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” “I can of mine own self do nothing; as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” This is enough, and it is pointed and positive, showing the entire abnegation or renunciation of the will of the holy Son of man, and the absolute control of the will of God in him, and that he of himself could do nothing, but the Father who dwelt in him did the works.
Third, in all things Christ is the leader, example and pattern of all who follow him, and they must follow in his steps, and be as he was. He taught his disciples that except a man deny himself, take up his cross and follow him, he cannot be his disciple. Self-denial is the sacrifice of self and of man’s own will, and being made like Christ and as he was. So then to follow Christ is to have the mind of Christ, to be child-like and moulded into the will and way of God, and to say, as our Master said, “I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father.” “I can of mine own self do nothing: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.” And while this work is manifested in us and by us, as the dear children of God who walk in love, and we work out this good work of salvation with fear and trembling, which the Lord hath begun in us, yet it will be in our hearts to ascribe to him the kingdom and the power and the glory, as did Christ and Paul, meekly saving, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Here is the enabling and moving power, and it is nothing less than the will and power of God prevailing in us, “of his good pleasure,” subverting our own will, turning us unto the Lord in the day of his power, constraining us in heart and spirit to submissively and meekly pray, “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”
Thus Jesus taught and felt. The will of God is absolute and supreme in heaven, and we here surrender that it shall be so done in us. We should not seek to be above the meek and lowly Master, but esteem it an honor to be as he was, and his prayer was, “Not as I will, but as thou wilt.” So then every one in whom Christ is formed the hope of glory, must thus yield submission to the supreme will of God, for Paul says, “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ I iveth in me.” “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.” This is true in every one who is Christ’s. “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the Mesh with the affections and lusts.”
Thus clearly does the truth shine out, that in all the true worship and service of God by his children, their own will is surrendered, their fleshly powers are crucified, and the Spirit and life of the Lord Jesus moves and enables them and prevails in them; “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ,” says the humbled Paul. And so the christian loses himself in Christ, or is hidden behind the cross of Christ, becomes as a cipher or naught, and Christ is all in all to him. Set down a thousand million ciphers, and they count as nothing, but let one be placed before them, when, lo, they are as a strong nation, an innumerable company. So it is with Christ and “the general assembly and church of the first-born.” All life and authority, might and dominion, wisdom and understanding, righteousness and sanctification, will and power, grace and glory, perfection and love, are in the Head, and descend from him to all the members of his body, the church, the bride. “And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.” God raised Christ from the dead, “and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the Head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.” So the church is in Christ and is his fullness, and Christ is in the church and is her fullness. The church has the mind of Christ, says Paul. “So then with the mind I myself servo the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” It is thus with us all. The flesh is denied and crucified, and the mind and Spirit of Christ prevail in us, in the worship of God. “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” It is a very flesh-abasing and suffering experience to be led to thus worship God, and rejoice in Christ Jesus alone as our life and salvation.
One very solemn and wonderful truth more, in closing, as written by Paul, of the completion of Christ’s reign upon his Father’s throne, saying, “Then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” This overwhelms me with awe and deep abasement, to be told that the all-conquering Son of the Highest, who “must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet,” “the King of kings, and Lord of lords,” shall then himself deliver up the kingdom and the do minion and the throne to his and our Father and God, and again make himself of no reputation, be as one with his brethren, and himself he subject to God. O, may I then fall down at his sacred feet, and in lowest humility be as he is! O behold! and be humbled at the lowly condescension of the highly exalted and dear Son of God, that he shall himself be subject unto him that put all things under him. O, how much more should we ourselves be subject unto God, and unto his meek and lowly Son.
“That God may be all in all.” This shall be the end and crowning glory of all the dear and reigning Redeemer’s work. Entire or absolute subjection unto God, whose will and power are supreme, is the sublime doctrine and truth of the Bible, and the very crowning purpose and work unto which he sent his Son into the world, and has now seated him at his own right hand in power and glory. And shall we not, therefore, as followers of Christ, meekly and humbly surrender our own will and way, and esteem it our highest honor to “be subject unto him!” “Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” All our self-will, opposition and enmity to the absolute dominion and reign of our God and his Christ, therefore, must be subdued and put down, for all authority and power must be put under his feet. “The Lord God omnipotent reigneth,” not only in heaven, but upon the earth, and all things shall be subdued unto him, and God shall be all in all.
Signs Of The Times
VOL. 69. NO. 12.
JUNE 15, 1901.