How many there are without God in the world; being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them because of the blindness of their hearts, they desire not the knowledge of his ways. But when the Lord calls a sinner by his grace, then that sinner be gins to seek after God, and to desire to know him as his almighty Friend, whom thus to know, in Christ Jesus, is life eternal. All creation is his; the sun, the moon, the stars, are the work of his fingers; the sea is his, and he made it; the stormy wind fulfills his word. He looketh upon the earth, and it trembleth, he toucheth the hills, and they smoke. (Psalms civ. 32.) When Jehovah gave the law unto Israel at Sinai he but touched the mountain, and Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire, and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. (Exodus xix. 18.) And when God spake unto his people his fiery law, his voice touched them so that all the people trembled, stood afar off, and even Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake. The people said, Let not God speak with us, lest we die. When God speaks to us in the law, that law voice of the Almighty discovers to us our transgressions. By the law is the knowledge of sin, and touched with the breath of God in the law we are withered, we are condemned, we die, for we are guilty transgressors. “The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.” – Isaiah xl. 6, 7. This is the old covenant touch, this is being touched by the breath of the Lord in the law; we are withered, we fade, our comeliness is turned into corruption. We are but touched by the withering breath of God and all our supposed righteousness and self-esteem are blasted. But O the sacred blessedness of God’s new covenant touch, this is life and peace. Our dear Redeemer, while here in the world, by his own omnipotence wrought wondrous miracles among the people. He but said, “Young man, I say unto thee, Arise,” – Luke vii. 14, “Lazarus, come forth,” – John xi. 43, and touched with his voice the dead arose and came forth from death’s embrace. So the sinner dead in trespasses and sins, not in simulative death, no, but as it was said of Lazarus, “By this time he stinketh,” so the sinner dead in his sins is at moral stench, corrupt is he, having done abominable works, in uncleanness, in the lusts of the flesh, alienated from God, an enemy in his mind by wicked works. Thus the Scriptures describe the sinner. This is being dead in trespasses and sins. But O, when the voice of the Son of God, who is our life, speaks to the soul of a poor, vile sinner, the Spirit of life from God enters the soul, and the sinner is quickened into divine life. Because of this holy, divine life in the soul of the sinner what trouble, what dismay, what mourning there is from day to day to find that the body is dead because of sin, that in our flesh dwells no good thing, but that we in all the five senses of our bodies are corrupt, we are sensual, the five senses being the inlets and outlets of our sinfulness. A very gracious result of this life-giving touch of the God of grace is that it is a well of water springing up into everlasting life. There flows forth from the soul unto God a sacred fear of his name. His name is held in hallowed contemplation, for we are taught of his Spirit that the Lord is holy, just and true, gracious, merciful, almighty; and in this fear of the Lord our souls are exercised with cravings to know him as the God of our mercy.
Touched by God’s law touch a sinner experiences condemnation. He finds the law to be the ministration of death to the transgressor. But touched by the blessed new covenant touch this is the ministration of life; the gospel sweetly, graciously ministers life. We are made meek and lowly in heart, our hardness of heart, our hard thoughts of God depart, we are mellowed before the Lord. Thus touched we are of a broken and contrite heart. From this touch of life from the Holy Ghost there arise in our hearts hungering and thirsting after righteousness; yes, this lifegiving touch is the fountain of the sinner’s cries for pardon, for salvation and reconciliation with the Holy One. Because of this quickening touch we pray for life, we pray that we may live before and unto the Lord; we hunger for the Bread of life, we thirst for the Water of life, and our precious Lord Jesus Christ is in due time found to be all this unto our quickened, needy souls. In many aspects Jehovah’s new covenant touch is set forth in the Scriptures; let us glance at a few of them. The prophet Isaiah, beholding in prophetic vision the glory of the ascended Redeemer, was made to exclaim, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” He felt as a very outcast from the temple of the Lord, as a very leper whose mouth must be covered, and had to cry, “Unclean, unclean.” – Lev. xii. 45. So Isaiah felt himself undone, unfit to be of the glorified host, Christ’s train that filled the temple. “Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: and he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips, and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.” Isaiah’s leprosy was the leprosy of sin, and under the dreadful consciousness of it his despairing cry was, Woe is me, for I am undone. That publican that stood afar off, who would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner, (Luke xviii. 13,) was in the selfsame affliction as the prophet Isaiah. Have you ever cried in spirit before God, Woe is me, for I am undone? God heareth the cry of poor, humbled, undone sinners. “And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy; who seeing Jesus, fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And he put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him.” – Luke v. 12, 13. Jesus touched him! Dear Physician, precious Savior, one touch of thine and sin, vile leprosy, is cleansed. Thy sacrifice, atoning, cleansing blood purges our sins away. “He touched her hand, and the fever left her: and she arose, and ministered unto them.” – Matt. viii. 15. The body is the prey of sicknesses, but Jesus’ healing touch cured them all of whatsoever diseases they had. So there is sickness of soul.
“The worst of all diseases is light compared with sin;
On every part it seizes, but rages most within;
‘Tis palsy, plague and fever, and madness all combined,
And none but a believer the least relief can find,”
The whole head is sick and the whole heart faint. (Isaiah i. 5.) You say, I have never been so. Just so, there are many millions like you; they are whole in their own esteem, and need not the Physician; they have no need of Jesus’ touch. But those who are called of God are such that their sins and iniquities are as a distressing, wasting sickness, that afflicts their souls as a raging fever, and they feel they cannot live and walk before the Lord; they are made at length to feel to be so without strength that they are cast upon a bed of languishing. But let but Jesus Christ touch the sinsick soul. “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.” – Song of Solomon i. 2. Let the forgiveness of sins drop from the Savior’s lips into the distressed sinner’s heart and we shall revive and live and praise the name of the Lord, who is the health of our countenance and our God. The prophet Jeremiah saith: “Then the Lord put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.” – Jer. i. 9. Thus with his touch the Lord enabled his servant to utter his terrible judgments, and also to declare most wonderful and gracious new covenant mercies unto Israel. The life of this faithful prophet was amidst reproaches, ignominy and sufferings. Though his enemies persecuted him, yet through God’s abounding grace he diminished not a word. (Jer. Xxvi. 2.) They brought unto Jesus one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech, and they beseeched him to put his hand upon him. And he took him aside from the multitude and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue, and looking up to heaven he sighed, and saith unto him Ephphatha, that is, Be opened, and straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain. (Mark vii, 33-35.) It is Christ’s touch that makes the tongue of the dumb to sing, (Isaiah xxxv. 6,) and the poor, stammering sinner speaks plainly. O the virtue of Jesus’ merits, and if touched with the atoning blood of the Lamb, if Jesus’ grace, that grace of the eternal God given us in him before the world began, touch a poor, perishing sinner, then the heartstrings are tuned by his hand, the psaltery and harp of our heart awake, and we make melody in the heart to the Lord. O how hesitating, lisping, stammering is our speech sometimes; such fears, such trembling is upon us that we fear we have no right, we feel we have no power to say what our hearts yearn to say. But all impediment of speech is removed by Jesus’ kind touch, then we can lovingly say, “Abba, Father;” we can say, “My beloved is mine, and I am his.” We have power then to say, Jesus Christ is my Savior, he loved me and gave himself for me. Then there is a touch that is love’s touch, (Rev. iii. l9,) but it is not easy to understand while we are under this touch that God’s love to us is in it. It is our heavenly Father’s chastening touch. (Heb. xii. 5, 6.) Job cried out in his affliction, “Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends; for the hand of God hath touched me.” – Job xix. 21. Ah, these touches are gracious, even though we shrink from them. The Lord lays affliction upon our loins in varied ways. It may be trials from without, or the outward aspect of our affairs may be fair, but in our souls there are the sharp conflicts; the adversary may be sorely vexing us, and his fiery darts piercing and burning their way into the soul; we are as though we were set up as a target for his arrows. Then also our consciences are smitten by the Word of God. The voice of the Lord in his doctrine reproves and rebukes us, our backslidings in heart are made manifest. Though we may murmur, though self-pity may fill us with complainings, yet our God’s afflicting touch works for our good. All the touches of his chastening hand are for our good, they are in love, and for our profit, that we might he partakers of his holiness. This is the gracious design of God in all our afflictions. Shall we wince, fret, rebel? We do (so sinful, so contrary are we in our fleshly nature to God,) unless much grace every moment accompanies the strokes of our heavenly Father’s chastening rod, and this he does not withhold from his children. So he brings us by his grace to endure chastenings, to acquiescence to his afflicting providences, draws us to himself for consolation, for forgiveness, for grace to hope that we are the children of God, and that we may, even while under the rod, glorify him, yes, even glorify him in the fires, (Isaiah. xxiv. 15.)
“Dear Father, We consent to discipline divine,
And bless the pain that makes our souls still more completely thine;
Supported by thy love we tend to realms of peace,
Where every pain shall far remove and every frailty cease.”
But the hypocrite, the self-sufficient, know nothing of these things.
FREDERICK W. KEENE.
North Berwick, Maine.
Signs of the Times
Volume 82, No. 11
June 1, 1914