Beloved Brethren In Christ: – In mind and heart I have been much exercised recently upon the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings, and to-day am impressed to write to the members of Christ upon this heart-touching theme, with the hope that they may be comforted with the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God, and that their confidence in him may be strengthened, and their love abound. As a text, let me use the brief words of Paul the inspired: “If so be that we suffer with him.” – Romans viii. 17. May it please the Spirit of truth, the Comforter, to quicken and illuminate my spirit, and guide my mind and thoughts while I dwell upon these expressive and wonderful words of this suffering servant of Christ. He is writing to the “beloved of God, called to be saints,” of the evidences of their filial relation to God in an everlasting and ever blessed sonship, first telling them wherein this divine sonship exists, saying, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Their sonship therefore is in the Spirit of God, but not in the flesh of man. He next assures them that they “have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” So Paul, as well as they, had received this Spirit, and now it was by this blessed Spirit that they were the children of God, and he was their Father. Their Father in the new and everlasting covenant of life and peace, and their Father in the holy and blessed eternal life in Christ Jesus. So then their sonship to (Sod the Father is in the Lord Jesus Christ, in his sonship and name, life and nature; for Jesus is “declared to be the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.” “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell,” writes Paul. Hence to the children of God, “Christ is all in all.” “And ye are complete in him, which is the Head of all principality and power.” “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” Thus are all the children of our God connected with his beloved Son, in and with whom they have eternal life, and all other spiritual blessings, and are his brethren and members. Paul declares this oneness with our living Head, in sublimely simple and wonderful words, saying, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved,) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” And as we are and shall ever be thus one in and with Christ, as we have been regenerated, and shall be resurrected, so truly was and is he also one with us in his incarnation, as both the Son of God, and Son of man. So it is written, “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same,” &c. “Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that lie might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.” – Heb. ii. For this cause, and in this way, was Jesus joined with his brethren in suffering, even unto death; yet he suffered for us, and for our sins, “The just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.” We thus learn that the brethren of the meek and lowly Jesus, the children of God, are the children of men, partakers of flesh and blood, and are therefore sinners in their fleshly nature and existence, subject to affliction and suffering, disease and death. In all this the man Christ partook with them, as their Brother, Mediator and High Priest, that he might redeem them from all iniquity, save them from their sins, and present them to God a holy priesthood. Jesus was therefore a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, not only in coming in close touch with the woes of others, but also in his own sinless person. So he was touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and knew how to succor the distressed and tempted, in that he was tempted. He was even made to be sin for us, although he knew no sin, and did no sin, that he might put away our sins, and make us partakers of his holiness. Now unto this end God has chosen his beloved people in Christ, who died for them, and rose again, that he might wash them from all their guilty stains of sin in his own atoning blood, purify them unto himself a holy people, and raise them up unto God and glory, in immortality, in the power of an endless life, to evermore be with him. The beginning of this work of righteousness in the heirs of eternal glory, is their regeneration by the quickening and sanctifying power and operation of the Spirit of the God and Father of our Lord .Jesus Christ, who raised him up from the dead to heaven, and gave him glory. This life-giving Spirit in them, is to them “the Spirit of adoption,” and it seals them in their hearts as the heirs of salvation, and gives them character as the children of God, because they are now in living union with his Son Jesus. Thus are they quickened together with Christ, and raised up together with him in his righteous life above the law of sin and death, and shall forever live, because he lives in them, and they live in him. Before they were thus quickened, and raised up from under the law and its curse, they were dead in their sins, and in the uncircumcision of their flesh, having no hope, and without God in the world. But now they are made nigh unto him in Christ Jesus, and cry to him, “Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.” They have passed from death unto life, and now live in the Son of God, who loved them, and gave himself for them. Yet this life they now live in the flesh; therefore they are the children of God by the Spirit of adoption; for they have not yet received the adoption itself unto God their Father, but wait for it in hope, namely, the redemption of their bodies from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the Son of God. Hence now, from the time when they are quickened together with Christ, they also begin to have fellowship with him in his sufferings in the days of his flesh; for now they die indeed unto sin, but live unto righteousness through our Lord Jesus Christ. He is their Leader, and in all the way they must follow him, and walk in his footsteps. From the manger to the cross, every “new-born babe” in Christ must go after him, and be made conformable unto his death, that they may also know the power of his resurrection unto life, and unto God. They must drink of his cup, and be baptized with his baptism. As he was afflicted in all their afflictions for their salvation, so in coming into this salvation, they must come into his afflictions. Thus and in this way they personally know the preciousness of Christ in his sufferings for their sins, and the joy of his salvation, in all of which they are joint-heirs with him. Tribulation, suffering and sorrow filled the cup of the meek and lowly Son of God on earth; and his baptism, in which he fulfilled all righteousness, was into death. Thus it must be with all his members, because they are joint-heirs with Christ. “In the days of his flesh, he offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” And it is in him, and through his sufferings fulfilled in us, that we shall be made perfect; for it is by his obedience that many shall be made righteous, and obtain eternal redemption and salvation. All this shall be fulfilled in them that are Christ’s, as well as for them. “For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: if we suffer, we shall also reign with him.” “For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.” “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake,” says Paul. Hence not the faith only is God’s gift to us for Jesus’ sake, but the suffering as well.
“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” Suffering with Christ, therefore, is itself the blessed evidence given us by the Spirit that we are the heaven-born children and heirs of God; that he is our Father and our blessed God, and that his now glorified Son is our Brother, while we are also his brethren and joint-heirs, both in his sufferings, and in his victory and glory. O how consecrated and sanctified then are the sufferings of the children of God in the days of their flesh! For as the loving Father appointed the sufferings of his dear Son, so has he in his love and faithfulness appointed unto his dear children their afflictions and sufferings in all their sojourn on earth, from the cradle to the grave. It was in view of this truth that Paul wrote to the dear, suffering kindred in Christ, saying, “That no man should be meved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto. For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know. * * * Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith; for now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.” Their distresses and reproaches for Jesus’ sake not only tried their faith in him, but purified and strengthened it; and not only so, but their afflictions likewise brought them nearer together in Christ, and nearer to him. So in a time of sore distress and persecution in Jerusalem, the disciples lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and fervently called upon the name of their now glorified Lord in strong assurance of faith in him. “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.” They now suffered with Christ, and for his name’s sake, and he was near and precious to them. It was as when Jesus endured the dreadful temptations in the wilderness, and the awful suffering in the garden, and (Sod sent his ministering angel to succor, strengthen and comfort his beloved Son, and so he the mere preciously manifested his watchcare and love. It is so in all the varied and many afflictions of God’s suffering and dependent children on earth; for having loved them with an everlasting love, it is in this way that with loving-kindness he draws them to his mercy-seat, and to their precious Christ, and away from an arm of flesh, and all mertal power and dependence. And so he prepares them to say, “Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up.” This discipline teaches them their need of being bound up and healed, and that it is the Lord that does this. Hence what a blessed experience this is! So must we all be emptied of self, and all confidence in the flesh, before we are prepared as earthen vessels to be tilled with the fullness of God, and reflect the image of our precious Redeemer, who through suffering manifested that our perfection is in him. We come into his perfection only through his sufferings; and in no other way can we know the love of God for us. Remember, dear child of God, that in your first experience, and heartfelt burden of sin and sorrow unto death, the sowing in tears of deep repentance and contrition, and your unutterable soul-anguish, prepared you to feel your absolute need of God’s rich mercy and infinite love; then he shed his love abroad in your heart, and gave you to reap in joy. It is thus in all our pilgrimage from earth to heaven, for our Father and God, in his love in Christ towards his dear people and children, “Worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” This divine truth meved Paul to say, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” “All things,” include all the afflictions and sufferings of all who are Christ’s, of whatever nature and kind; for just as this was true in all the temptations, persecutions and sufferings of the beloved Son of God in the days of his flesh, so is it true of all the brethren and joint-heirs of Christ, because the Father “loved them, as thou hast loved me,” said Jesus in his prayer. “The everlasting Father,” in the infiniteness of his wisdom and love, and the omnipotence of his power, will not permit any affliction or suffering to any of the dear objects of his love, only as be please; hence it is all for their salvation and good, and his glory, and the glory of his grace. The love and power and glory of God shone mere brightly in the three Hebrew children, when in the fiery furnace, than ever before. It is so when the “beloved of God “encounter all perils and enemies, even “the last enemy, which is death.” So when it was told Jesus, “he whom thou lovest is sick,” he said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.” Yet he knew it all, all the suffering and bodily death of his friend Lazarus, all the heart-anguish and bitter sorrow and weeping of the stricken sisters; still it was in this way that the loving Father, and loving and dying Son, should be glorified. This covers the whole ground in all the sufferings of all the friends of Jesus, the now glorified Son of God. He lovingly eluded his two complaining disciples, and said, “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to have entered into his glory?” This applies to all who are his, and who come after him, that they may be glorified with him.
Let us follow the weeping Son of God and his fearful disciples to the tomb of Lazarus, and with solemn wonder behold sorrow and weeping, suffering and death, turned into joy and gladness, glory and life, at the coming of the Master, the Physician, the Resurrect ion and the Life, that we may understand how the Son of God was glorified thereby; and his beloved disciples were with him, and beheld his glory. So it will be in the consummation of all things, when “death is swallowed up in victory.” In assurance of this, Paul could say, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” And Peter also says that the prophets spoke of the grace that should come unto the children of God, and that the Spirit in them “testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” The sufferings of Christ in us then go before the glory, as the night before the day, and the law of penalty, before the gospel of victory. So Paul would thus comfort us, saying, “And whether we, be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope of you is steadfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation. For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of the trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life; but we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us.” Paul here brings out the divine purpose and goodness in all these fearful trials, “That we should not trust in ourselves, but in God.” They are needful, and sanctified unto this end. Blessed God! and blessed trust.
Many years ago, with brother Chick, I visited a precious brother in Baltimore, greatly emaciated, and fearfully suffering from cancer of the face, insomuch that my mind murmured at such a distressing providence when we first entered his room, and I never felt to mere deeply pity and commiserate any poor sufferer; but as we sat and listened to the gracious words with which he spoke to us, expressing the sweetest reconciliation to the will of God, so that in spirit he was happy, and full of divine light and peace, entirely cut loose from the world, and raised above all its sorrow, full of heavenly mindedness, and rejoicing in the consolations of Christ, I felt and realized that he was in the very door of heaven, and inexpressibly blessed, while I myself was far beneath him in spiritual blessedness. Then I pitied myself, rather than him, and when he asked me to read in the Bible and pray for him, with tears I said, “Dear brother, I feel that I have need to ask you to pray for me.”
“That we may be glorified together with him.” Our suffering in the flesh is sanctified of God unto this end. lie gives to the children of his perfect love the cross of Christ first, then the crown of glory. We ourselves shall be his brethren in his infinite bliss and glory, as we were in his sufferings in the flesh, and shall bear his heavenly image, and be like him. This is the Father’s glory of perfect holiness and love, immortality and eternal life, in all their infinite fullness and everlasting blessedness and joyfulness, thrilling the enraptured “children of the resurrection “with heavenly transports of divinest bliss, adoration and praise. In the full assurance of this coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in triumph and glory, when he shall have put all things under his feet, and destroyed the last enemy, “our beloved brother Paul” comforts us with these words, “For our light affliction, which is but for a mement, worketh for us a far mere exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” A glory which infinitely exceeds all our affliction, and shall never fade away. This is the inheritance of the children of God, who is blessed for evermore. It inspired Paul with the earnest “desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.”
My beloved brethren, these heavenly promises and prospects comfort me now in the midst of many distresses, suffering and sorrow, and may your Father in heaven thus comfort you, and give us all patience in tribulation, knowing that the time is short, and that the day of our full redemption draweth nigh, when we shall follow Christ into his glory. “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no mere death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any mere pain; for the former things are passed away.”
In this hope of glory and immortality through our Lord Jesus, your brother in tribulation,
CRAWFORDSVILLE, Ind., August 2, 1897.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 65., No.21.
NOVEMBER 1, 1897.