“Lord I am Thine entirely Thine,
Purchased and saved by blood Divine;
With full consent Thine I would be,
And own Thy sovereign right in me.”
“Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread My skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a Covenant with thee, saith the Lord God, and thou becamest Mine.” – Ezekiel xvi, 8.
The Lord by the prophet in the connection of this subject accuses Israel of gross idolatry. He reminds them of what He has done for them, of how He had taken them from the filth and mire of sin and degradation, and brought them to His banqueting house of love, and of their perverse returns to Him for His goodness.
Well indeed may be draw a comparison between our own earthly identity as the sons and daughters of Adam, and that of these Israelites who are so severely arraigned and reproved from the exalted throne of Israel’s God. It was said of them:
“Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite. And as for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born thy naval was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee; thou wast not salted at all, nor swaddled at all.”
Pitiful condition indeed! And no matter how princely the surroundings at the birth of a child of nature, from a Gospel stand-point this is his degraded condition too.
The prophet continues: “None eye pitied thee, to do any of these unto you, to have compassion upon thee; but thou wast cast out in the open field, to the loathing of thy person, in the day that thou wast born.”
We can see but little force in Scripture testimony only as it comes home in the experience of the dear children of the Regeneration. And who among us, but have felt this vivid Truth when the dawn of eternal life was first made manifest in our mortal pilgrimage? When we first saw ourselves “in the open field” exposed to the piteous storm of righteous wrath? But the wonderful and uplifting work of Redemption is declared in the next verses of this prophecy: “And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live! Yea, I said unto thee in thy blood, Live!”
And in the language of our text; “Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee.” It is said in John iv, 4, with reference to the travel and labor of the dear Master, “And He must needs go through Samaria.” He must pass by (not on the other side, but come to where a helpless sinner lies. Luke x, 32-34; that is, come to the succour of a prostrate and helpless case.
In every time of need He is there; and no appointed heir of immortal glory, whether in the frozen regions of the North, or the vine clad fields of the South, can escape His attention. He “passes by” always in the proper moment of time, and at the proper place, “a very present help in trouble;” and there is ever a “need’s be,” for Him to pass by at such a time.
But the particular expression under consideration was a wonderful display of human helplessness and Divine Omnipotence. “In the open field,” with no eye to pity the helpless character lay, and all human systems of every conceivable character passed on the other side (Luke x, 32,) entirely unable and unwilling to take hold of such a condition. The testimony continues as the Lord looked upon this desolate case, “Thy time was the time of love.”
We are told in Ruth ii, that as Ruth gleaned after the reapers in the field of Boaz; weary and desolate, friendless and helpless she had come to the field, but the eye of Boaz was upon her, and he ordered the reapers to “let fall also some of the handfuls of purpose for her.” And as the Lord “passed by” this helpless case, the appointed time of deliverance (the time of love) was manifested, and so he adds, “I spread My skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness.”
The blazing, piercing, all-searching light of heaven, streaming from the eternal throne, and beating upon the prostrate form of this helpless case reveals his awful condition as in the glare of eternal noon. No wonder the child cries in dire despair, and flies to the first appearing refuge.
“But Justice cries with frowning face,
This mountain is no hiding place.”
Lo what a transforming! What a wonderful deliverance is experienced! “Lest there should be found upon my soul, The shadow of a spot, He took the robe the Savior wrought, And cast it all around.”
“I spread My skirt over thee.” We ask you, child of grace, Can you forget that moment? And when all else fails must you not often go back to that dark hour, to find some ray of hope; and to again upon its holy altar, renew your devotion to the holy covenant of Gospel grace. It was thus that Jacob when sore pressed (Genesis xiii, 3,4,) went back to Bethel, “To the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first; and there Jacob called on the name of the Lord.” But now comes the solemn conclusion of this sacred testimony: “I swear unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord God, and thou becamest Mine.”
Think, dear child of grace, of the covenant so solemnly affirmed, by the oath and promise of Him “who could swear by no greater, He swear by Himself.” In Isaiah xliii, 1, it is declared, “I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art Mine.” Again in 1 Corinthians vi, 19,20; “Ye are not your own; For ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” Again, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” Yet again in Isaiah xliii, 21, “This people have I formed for Myself; they shall shew forth My praise.”
From such testimony it is evident that the children of God are sanctified or set apart to shew forth their high calling of God, their mortal bodies are “vessels of mercy, afore prepared unto glory,” mete for the Master’s use. Especially is this true of the membership of His visible church, for it is with direct reference to the Gospel covenant, and the church under that covenant that our subject deals. The Church is a witness to the Truth. Paul says to Timothy “that thou may knowest how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the Truth.” Good behavior as here referred to evidently embodies the life which manifests the Truth and order of the Gospel. To behave ourselves in the Church, is to live the Truth to the maintenance of which the Church stands irrevocably and unalterably pledged.
It is the light which falls from her holy altar. It is the banner which waves over her eternal parapets. It is that end to which she is chosen (“that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” – Eph. 1:4-6,) and for which her membership has been called out of the world, and set apart from it to the honor and glory of God.
Thus we are not our own, to follow the vain imaginations of our own evil heart, to live after the flesh. If we are His, it is to the end we follow His teachings, obey His commandments, “for if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die.” Jesus on one occasion said, “And why call ye Me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” – Luke vi, 46.
In line with this testimony the Master on another occasion said to His disciples, “He that loveth father or mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” – Matthew x, 37.
Again, “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundred-fold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” – Matthew xix, 29. Again, “Then one said unto Him, Behold, Thy mother and Thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with Thee. But He answered and said unto him that told Him, Who is my mother? And who are My brethren? And He stretched forth His hand toward His disciples, and said, Behold My mother and My brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother.” – Matthew xii, 47-50.
We are aware that these Scriptures are given loose interpretation in the world of anti-christ around us, but assuredly we cannot so loosely interpret them. They are not a mere form of words, but mean exactly what they say. In the quotation in the beginning of this article we referred to the condition of Israel when the mantle of eternal love was thrown over her; emphasizing In italics the expression “thy navel was not cut.” If the ties that hold us to earth have not been severed; if we cannot rise above them, then assuredly are we unfit for membership in a holy body where this is the first, the absolute, and unqualified requirement!
If these things are true of a Gospel ministration it is especially expected that those who minister in that ministration – Gospel Ministers – should live the Truth of this testimony. Upon the mitre (Exodus xxviii, 36) of those who ministered about the holy altar in days of old was graven in pure gold, “like the engravings of a signet – holiness to the Lord; and in the peculiar sense in which they were set apart to that (legal) ministration, they typify those who minister today, who are set apart under the Gospel ministration for “no man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.” – Hebrews v, 4.
The God of Israel is a jealous God. He has declared that Israel shall have no God beside Him. He will see that His people observe His Covenant, and forsake not His law. He will bring them through the flame and the floods, refining them in the crucible of sore trial, that they may bring forth a pure offering of praise to His most holy name. He will search them, and know them, that He may lead them “in the way everlasting.” And in this Divine manner of thus preparing them for His Gospel courts, He will turn down the idols around which their affections cling; tear down the natural strongholds in which they rest. Often to give up some earthly idol, to surrender some cherished object is like tearing out the heartstrings as in David’s case, when he cried in bitter agony “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! Would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son.”
He will bring His people through the seething flames of persecution, ridicule, and trial that they may be divested of all fleshly trust and dependence, and look unto Him. He will raise up among them false teachers, as in former days there were false prophets, to lead off, and sift from among them weak elements, to the betterment of those who remain. “For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.” – 1 Corinthians xi, 19. The apostle says, “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work, of what sort it is.” – 1 Corinthians iii, 11-13.
And in all this glorious and wise display of His wonder working way His Church shall be made manifest as His throne; where He dwells; His own peculiar treasure, a people which He has chosen to serve Him. “And they shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.” – Malachi iii, 17.
What we have written upon this subject we have written as our God has been pleased to give us ability; without the slightest regard to any one’s frowns under the wide canopy of heaven. It is Truth eternal, undying, unconquerable, and imperishable, that will live when we have long since “laid our armor by” and passed we trust to our final home.
It is that for which we have contended during the long years of our mortal pilgrimage, and for which we have suffered reproach and persecution, and which the Church of God holds today. To turn from it is to turn our backs upon all the priceless principles that distinguish us, and ranks with the low and beggarly elements of the world. Becoming as salt which “has lost his savour,” and is henceforth “good for nothing, to be cast out, and to be trodden under the foot of men.”
It will be preached and contended for when the green mound that covers our mortal remains shall wither under the touch of time, and we shall long since haven been forgotten, for “all flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field . . .But the Word of our God shall stand forever.” – Isaiah xi, 6-8. “And this is the word which by the Gospel is preached unto you,” even Jesus Christ our Lord – 1 Peter i, 25.
Elder William M. Smoot,