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A GOOD WORK BEGUN.

“BEING confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” – Phil. i. 6.

It is written in the new covenant, “They shall all know me, from the least unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord.” – Jer. xxxi. 34. It was from this knowledge of God that the apostle Paul was so confident that there would be a glorious consummation of the good work that was wrought in the saints. To know the Lord is of infinite importance, all things, however highly valued among the children of men, are vanity when compared with this inestimable blessing to know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent. “Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.” – Jer. ix. 23, 24. Paul put such an estimation upon the knowledge of God, as declared in the only Son of God, that he writes, “What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” Paul knew that the Lord is gracious, immutable and omnipotent. He is our “faithful Creator.” – 1 Peter iv. 11), our covenant-keeping God, who in his matchless love and grace performeth the counsel of his own will. He repents not of the work that he begins in his people, it is done assuredly with his whole heart and with his whole soul. (Jer. xxxii. 41.) He fainteth not, neither is he weary. His good work begun is not as an experiment that possibly may not come up to his desire, and therefore he will leave undone his work begun, and abandon to fall into ruins the work of his own hands. The Lord of hosts our God is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working, having begun to build he is able also to finish. What he hath promised he is able also to perform,

“The work which his goodness began,
The arm of his strength will complete;
His promise is yea and amen,
And never “was forfeited yet.

Things future, nor things that are now,
Not all things below nor above,
Can make him his purpose forego,
Or sever my soul from his love.”

The apostle singles out in very emphatic language that concerning which he is abidingly confident, it is, “This very thing.” He knew the temptations and rugged pathway of the saints; he knew they are subject to fears that all will not end well with them; he knew that at times the depravity of their flesh is felt to so abound that it appears hardly discernible that there can be such a thing as a good work of the Lord in them, and their misgiving heart says, If there ever was such a gracious work of the Lord in me it has been swallowed up, the spark has been extinguished by the floods of my sinfulness and the temptations of the devil. But for the good cheer of such tried, tempest-tossed, halting people of God, this inspired servant of God declares this very thing of which he is confident, “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” God begun the good work. If he had not begun the work, who would or could have wrought such a work? The good work would ever have been undone. What folly is the doctrine of the world that represents the Lord as demanding that the sinner shall “take the first step.” The Lord our God is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end in the good work in his chosen. It is he who called us by his grace, quickened us when we were dead in trespasses and sins. It was God that sought us out, it was Christ the Son of God who apprehended us, laid hold of us and taught us to lay hold on himself. (Phil. iii. 12.) It was the Lord who called us that we should call upon him. The hand of the Lord has laid the foundation of this good work in his people, and his hand shall finish it. (Zech. iv. 9.) There has been a glorious work of God done for us in the obedience, sufferings, death, resurrection and ascension to glory of the incarnate Word, our Lord Jesus Christ. In that good work of our mighty Redeemer was wrought our justification and reconciliation before God; we were thereby made free from our sins, redeemed from the curse of the law, redeemed unto God, no one could have begun, and no one could have finished such a good work save Christ the Head of the church.

But this good work of which Paul now speaks with such confidence of its being performed till the topmost stone shall be laid is “a good work in you.”

This workmanship of God in the elect has many presentations in the Scriptures for our contemplation, it is described in the language, “I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.” – Jer. xxxii. 40. Truly this fear of the Lord in the heart is a wonderful work. That a creature, who by nature is alienated from God should have a good work wrought in him that in consequence he is moved toward God in affectionate reverence, and in his heart is found saying, “Hallowed be thy name.” This is wonderful indeed! Before this good work, this fear of the Lord was put in our hearts, our faces were turned away from God, but he turned us from the paths of folly to himself; turned us, his enemies, to be his friends. We are no longer saying, “Depart from us for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways,” but the good work of God in us is saying continually, “Seek ye my face,” and our responding heart exclaims, “Thy face, Lord, will I seek,” Now, we come to God in prayer, yearning for his mercy, and for such discoveries of his loving-kindness as shall bind up the wounds of a poor sinner, and enable him to hope in his salvation. All of this evidences that God hath begun a good work in us, fulfilling in us the work of faith with power. (2 Thess. i. 11.) The good work in us makes us believers in God, our faith is in him, in his holiness, justice, mercy and grace, and all these divine attributes are revealed in Jesus. The Holy Spirit opens up to us the gospel of Christ, and we are moved by his gracious power in us to believe with all our heart in Jesus; our faith is in his righteousness, not our own. His obedience and atoning sacrifice are all our reliance to give us vile sinners acceptance, reconciliation and sweet friendship with the Lord our God. Truly this is a good work, to the everlasting praise of him who hath begun it, and will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. It is because of God’s good work in us that we are brought to commune with God, to him we tell our burdens and griefs because of our sinfulness; in his bosom we pour forth our sighs over our unlikeness to Jesus, and humbled and heart-broken we fall at his feet. Very blessed is that man who lives in the sacred consciousness of the omnipresence of the Lord, and the consoling persuasion of his special love. Is such a life in any measure mine?

The good work of the Lord in his people is the illumination of the soul. (Heb. x. 32.) And this is no less than the light of life, (John i. 4,) the light of life eternal in Christ Jesus. God hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Once we were darkness, but now are we light in the Lord. This light is opposed to darkness, to all unrighteousness, to all falsehood, to all that is unholy. Xo longer does the soul look downward to that which is sensual, to impurities, the depravities of our earthly nature for its delights, but its glance is heavenward to see the face of the Lord. Our faces are turned upward to him who is our everlasting light and immortal glory. (Isaiah Ix. 19.) In the light of life we begin to see things in their true forms and colors. How hideous is vice! The glitter of sinful allurements is dimmed to very blackness when God shines in the heart, then how amiable is virtue, how lovely are all the attributes of God.

“Lord, ‘tis an infinite delight
To see thy lovely face.”

We were in gross darkness before we experienced God’s good work of grace in our hearts, we loved darkness rather than light, because our deeds were evil. Like the owl our eyes were shut to the glories of the day, the rose of Sharon and lily of the valley charmed us not; we were wretchedly blind, we had no eyes to behold things that are excellent, we had no light to discern the beauty of the Lord. In the face of Jesus Christ immortal loveliness beams forth, so ravishingly beautiful in Jesus, to me, a poor sinner, I sing,

“His loveliness has won my heart;
Dear Jesus, let us never part.”

“He will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” He will maintain that spiritual, divine life in the quickened sinner, all the called of Jesus Christ shall be constantly taught of the Lord, God will fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodness in them, and the work of faith with power, he will work in them to will and to do of his good pleasure. Having by his good work in them been brought to fear his name and to affectionately worship him, he will carry on his good work and they shall cleave to him forever. God has said, “I will not turn away from them to do them good and they shall not depart from me.” What a precious, glorious God is ours!

“He will perform it.” Amidst afflictions, dire heart-rending providences, sickness and pain, in summer and winter, in prosperity and the regions of adversity, in spite of the world, the flesh and the devil, he will perfect that which concerneth them. Can we not look back to times when it appeared that all was undone, that the work of grace in us had ceased, had died within us? We feared that never again would our souls be brought into divine intimacy with God and his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Savior. Ah, some of God’s dear children are sometimes brought exceedingly low through inward corruptions, the buffetings of Satan and the cares and vanities of this earthly life, then we look, but look in vain, for evidences of God’s good work in us. Ah, there are times, dreadful times, experienced by some of the family of God; times of the whirlwind and the storm, when the once delightsome land is swept with the besom of destruction, and all is reduced to a dreary waste. O it is dreadful when the imaginations and emotions of our vile flesh rise up, break forth in open insurrection against the precepts of our God, when in all the moments of the day, so strong is our consciousness of our sinfulness that it would appear that evil only had possession of the city, and was running riot its streets.

“Swarms of ill thoughts their bane diffuse;
Proud, envious, false, unclean;
And every ransacked corner shows
Some unsuspected sin.

Our staggering faith gives way to doubt;
Our courage yields to fear:
Shocked at the sight, we straight cry out,
‘Can ever God dwell here?’”

It looks like presumption to entertain such a thought. But God worketh effectually in his people, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against his divine workmanship in them. Look at the following words of the doctrine of God, “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” – Eph. iii. 20. “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.” – Jude 24. “Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ; according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began.” – Rom. xvi. 25. So, amidst all the inward tumult of our iniquities, the fear of the Lord in us lifts up its head once more. O the fear of the Lord in us is a gracious fountain of life to depart from the snares of death. Though such a sinful being, unprofitable, unworthy, I am turned to the Lord, I find my heart sighing, throbbing with grief over my unlikeness to the Lord. My heart aches over my sins and implores the tender pity of God. “He will abundantly pardon,” so I find it, I cling with all affection to the exceeding great and precious promises, and I am dissolved in melting gratitude that once more the Lord hath remembered me in my low estate. Then, as one that was slipping over a dreadful precipice and has been snatched by the hand of our almighty Friend, as a brand from the burning, I cry out of my trembling, grateful heart unto the Lord, O what a mercy, O the exceeding riches of that grace of thine that keeps me from outward depravities, from acts of iniquity. I said my foot slippeth, thy mercy, O Lord, held me up. Keep me as the apple of the eye; hide me under the shadow of thy wings, for thou hast not cast off my soul. The surges of evil that would overflow my soul subside, and again for a little space I dwell in tranquillity, for my mind is stayed, O Lord, on thee. He restoreth my soul, he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness, for his name’s sake. This, this is our comfort, that he which hath begun a good work in us will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. O the unwearied, condescending goodness of God, hath he not said, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.”

“Until the day of Jesus Christ.” This is “that day” of which the apostle speaks. (2 Tim. i. 12.) This is the day of our ultimate redemption unto which we are sealed by the Spirit of God. (Eph. iv. 30.) The day appointed, (Acts xvii. 31,) the great day, in which Jesus Christ will judge the world in righteousness. (Jude 6.) The day when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming tire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. (2 Thess. i. 7-10.) It is called also the day of the Lord, the day of God. (2 Peter iii. 10-12.) The last day, (John vi. 44,) and the dead in Christ shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Cor. xv. 52.) The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. Yes, in this day of Jesus Christ, he himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. It may well be called the day of Jesus Christ, for this is the crowning day. Then shall all the loved, elect, redeemed, regenerated church appear with him in glory, Their bodies, which are the members of Christ, (1 Cor. vi. 15,) while on earth, corruptible, vile, shall then be fashioned like unto his glorious body. We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

FRED. W. KEENE.
North Berwick, Maine.

Signs Of The Times
Volume 72., No. 4.
FEBRUARY 15, 1904.