“A PEOPLE NEAR UNTO HIM.”
“How great and glorious is the Lord! Who, by searching, can find out God? Who can find out the Almighty unto perfection? His works are great, sought out of them that take pleasure therein. The heavens, the earth, the sea and all that are therein are the work of His fingers. He sitteth upon the circle of the earth and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers. He stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in. God hath measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and meted out the heaven with a span and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance. Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket and are counted as the small dust of the balance. Behold, He taketh up the isles as a very little thing. Lift up your eyes on high and behold, who hath treated these things that bringeth out their host by number? He calleth them all by names; for that He is strong in power, not one faileth. He ruleth by His power forever. Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did He in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places. He sendeth forth His lightnings, He commandeth and raiseth the stormy wind, fulfilling His word. He ruleth the raging of the sea, He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou? Lo, these are parts of His ways; but how little a portion is heard of Him? But the thunder of His power who can understand? The Lord hath said, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.”
This God, O believer in Jesus, is our Lord forever and ever. He will be our guide even unto death. When we are led to meditate upon the eternity, unchangeable wisdom, the wondrous faithfulness of the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is holy, O what is man that God should take knowledge of him, or the son of man that He should visit him? Why should the Lord take pleasure in, why should he love and behold with delight such poor worms, who in comparison to His infinite being glory and power are counted to Him less than nothing, and vanity? (Isaiah 11:17).
And can it be that you, dear reader, that I, that we poor, vile sinners, are included in the number of a people near unto Him? Who is this people? They are the Israel of God; they are the chosen of God; chosen in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world – Eph. 1: 4 – eternally loved of Jehovah (Jer. 31:3). They are the portion which God has chosen Himself, and are peculiar treasure (Ex. 19:5). Do we not, dear children of God, when led to read or think upon the glorious and unspeakable mysteries recorded in the Scriptures, feel that these things are too wonderful for such poor sinful worms to be embraced in, the eternal love and delight of Jehovah?
But, “the things of Christ,” though unknown, and exceeding all the powers of the natural mind to comprehend, are most sweetly revealed to the loved and chosen race by the Holy Spirit, who is the infallible Teacher of all the redeemed of the Lord of hosts.
“A people near unto Him.” O how very far off am I by nature! The Lord is holy and pure, but I am so impure, so vile. When thy eyes are turned within, truly I am nothing but sin: Then, at the thought of the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is holy, the Lord so high, and I a loathsome sinner, sunk so low. How can it be that I can be, that I can have hope that I am among “a people near unto Him?” Let us, dear children of God, take a glimpse or two into this precious subject as it is contained in the Scriptures, and I know you will agree that this can only be done unto edification by the leading and instruction of the Comforter, the Holy Ghost. O how blessed, how sweet, are those seasons in our life when we find in our souls to acknowledge our dependence upon our God, and are found longing for divine teaching, heavenly food and more and more revelations of the kindness and tender love of Jehovah to our souls. In the 8th chapter of Proverbs, Christ, “the wisdom of God,” 1 Cor. 1:24, says, “The Lord possessed Me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old, I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth, when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills, was I brought forth; while as yet He had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When He prepared the heavens I was there; when He set a compass upon the face of the depth; when He established the clouds above; when He strengthened the fountains of the deep; when He gave to the sea His decree that the waters should not pass His commandment; when He appointed the foundations of the earth; then was I by Him, as one brought up with Him; I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him; rejoicing in the habitable part of the earth, and My delights were with the sons of men.” This is that One whom the Father calls “My dear Son,” speaking in the everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure, for the Son of God is the surety of this testament. Before the world was the Eternal Son of God, who in the fullness of time, was made flesh, took into union with himself the Holy Child Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, saw His seed, He beheld and delighted in the members of His body the church. Thus, in Psalm 139, speaking in David, He says, “My substance was not hid from Thee, when I was made in secret and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect, and in Thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there were none of then.” “Christ’s body, which is the church,” Eph. 1:22-23, was given to Him in the everlasting covenant by the Father. “Thine they were, and Thou gayest them Me.” These are the elect of God, chosen in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world. They were chosen not as apart from Christ Jesus, but in Him their Head. “Behold My servant whom I uphold, Mine elect in whom my soul delighteth” (Isaiah 42.1). So, how blessedly the apostle sings, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ; according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Eph. 1:3-4). O how precious is the thought that our life is hid with Christ in God; God hath given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. If we are favored with the sweet evidence of this, then,
“More happy, but not more secure
The glorified spirits in heaven.”
For, “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3:3-4). No separation; front eternity to eternity one with Christ Jesus. Look at this wonderful record concerning the person of our Head, our Husband, our Redeemer, our All. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” Thus we who now are poor, vile sinners, who mourn because of our iniquities, loathing ourselves in our own sight, and find ever springing up hungerings and thirstings after righteousness were chosen in Christ Jesus, and in Him given eternal life, blessed with all spiritual blessings, in heavenly places, and contemplating our fall in Adam, our earthly head, we, saith the apostle, “are saved and called with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2 Tim. 1:9).
The church of Christ therefore as viewed in Him, her Head, has ever been in eternal unity of life with the Word, who in the beginning was with God, and is God; for in Him was our life, and our precious Christ declares in John 17:24: “Father, Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world.” And it is wonderfully, blessedly true that all the elect, all the family of the Most High God, in heaven and in the earth, from the least unto the greatest, are in Jesus, the Word and made flesh, bound up in Him, the bundle of life with Jehovah, their God (I Sam. 25:29). Therefore our Jesus says unto God, our heavenly Father, “Thou hast loved them as Thou hast loved Me; Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:23-24). “I was daily His delight” (Prev. 8:30). The Church and Christ Jesus are one; for in Him is her life, and thus she is in Him. Her name therefore is Hephzibah, Jehovah’s delight is in her (Isaiah 62:4). “I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him.” Yes, Christ Jesus, the Word, loved His Bride, loved the members of His body. He, the Life, in the everlasting covenant, rejoiced before the Father, “Rejoicing in the habitable parts of His earth, and My delights were with the sons of men.”
“A people near unto Him.” From eternity near unto Jehovah, in eternal life oneness with Jesus, the Word, the Eternal Son of God. This is the source from whence is derived the foundation upon which is founded every aspect in which we view the nearness of the elect unto God. “A people near unto Him.” “For in the person of His Son I am as near as He.”
“Before Thy hands had made
The sun to rule by day,
Or earth’s foundations laid,
Or fashioned Adam’s clay,
What thoughts of peace and mercy flowed
In thy dear bosom, O my God!
A monument of grace
A sinner saved by blood;
The streams of love I trace
Up to their Fountain, God;
And in His sacred bosom see
Eternal thoughts of love to me.”
“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the Sons of God. Therefore the world knoweth us not because it knew Him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God.” Thus the Lord possesses “A people near unto Him.” They are “the household of God” (Eph. 2:19). This revelation in the gospel of Christ, like all other things belonging to the household of faith, is hidden from the wise and prudent of this world, it is altogether beyond the thoughts of the natural man, and he cannot know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. Natural reason even of the saints of God would sometimes send forth the challenge. “How can a puny creature be a child of God?” How can a mortal man call the eternal immutable God “My Father?” It is all bound up in Jesus, the Son of God. He was with the Father before the world was – John 17 – and in the fullness of time, according to the everlasting covenant, “God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba Father” (Gal. 4:4-6). The will, the works of the creature, had nothing to do to bring this to pass, but all proceedeth from the Lord of hosts, who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.
According, therefore, to His eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord, whom He did foreknow (His loved, His elect), He predestinated unto the adoption or children by Jesus Christ unto Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:5; Rom. 8:29-30). But you say, “I have felt and even now sometimes fear, that I am an alien, a stranger, a foreigner, and do not know that I belong to the house of God”; and others with no difficulty can say, “Our Father which art in heaven,” I often feel this to be something too great for such a poor sinner like me. The popular religionists, who quite easily account themselves to be Christians, say in their doctrines that all mankind are the children of God, therefore it is the duty of every one to call God “My Father.” But this is not agreeable to the doctrine of Christ, and is at variance with the experience of all who are the taught of the Lord. Among the first things that the sinner, taught of God, is brought to feel is that by nature he is an enemy to God by wicked works, that the carnal mind is enmity against God, and is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be; so that they that are in the flesh cannot please God. This bitter experience is learned by as many as are led by the Spirit of God, and such are the sons of God (Rom. 8:14). As outcasts from God, separated from the Lord by their sins, they feel they dare not call God their Father, they feel they have not the marks, that they have not the spot of His children (Deut. 32:5). It is in the power of the Holy Spirit alone that we can feel and cry, “Abba, Father” (John 1:12).
In the experience of each one of the chosen family there is a set time when they are born again, “born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” They believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ according to the working of His mighty power, and receive Jesus as the Christ, who is all, and in all, their hope, their salvation. Jehovah, their Heavenly Father, sends forth the Spirit of His Son into their hearts, crying, “Abba, Father.” “Thou shalt call Me, My Father” and shalt not turn away from Me” (Jer. 3:19). This is experimentally realizing that God has translated us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son. No more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God (Eph. 2:19). Oh, what an entrance is this among the dear children of God! We are made nigh by the blood of Christ, we, who were some time alienated, and enemies in our minds by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, presenting us unblamable and unreprovable in the sight of God, and our Father. O when this is sealed home in our hearts by the Comforter (who takes of the thing of Christ and shows them unto us) then with what simplicity does the dear child of God approach unto the Lord and say, “Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” We feel to be one with the Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal Son of God – John 17:4-5 – who said to Mary Magdalene, “I ascend unto My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.” It doth not yet appear what we shall be, but all is settled, and my soul approves it well. “We are predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son. We have received the spirit of adoption, and we are waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body (Rom. 8:19-23). God shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself (Phil. 3:21). In the resurrection we shall awake in His likeness; this mortal shall put on immortality, and this corruptible shall put on incorruption. We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. “A people near unto Him.”
FREDERICK W. KEENE
Raleigh, N. C.