“That in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him.” – Ephesians 1:10.
A few evenings since we paused for a moment’s meditation upon the portico of the SECTARIAN building; a scene of rare autumnal beauty opened before us, overlooking an adjoining county and stretching for miles across the Potomac River, and into the adjoining State of Maryland. Forest covered with the golden tints of departing life; fields whose crops had ripened, and were gathered or shocked ready for the barn; evidences that the year’s work was nearly ended, and the dawn of another at hand.
We thought of the startling rapidity with which the present year was rolling away: but yesterday it was spring, and now summer had given place to fall, which was rapidly passing away in the winter of the dissolving year. Forcible reminder indeed of the constant changing and passing nature of all that pertains to the “breath of life” (Genesis ii, 7;) of all beneath these lower skies!
“Life from vegetation flying,
Brings to mind the mould’ring urn.”
From this train of thought we readily passed to consider the shortness of human life, and the point to which it all tended, which forcibly impressed upon our mind the Scripture which we have quoted at the head of this article.
It is comforting to realize that in all the conflicting and varied scenes of mortal life; that in all the unfolding events of time there is a deep laid, and eternal purpose of God, to bring order out of chaos, to make crooked things straight, to make darkness light; as developing in all, a wise and glorious way of eternal salvation, to the honor and glory of His exalted name! that the changeless purpose of love immortal should be developed in the lifting on high of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the salvation and glorification of His favored people, “according as He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” – Ephesians 1:4.
And in the development of this eternal purpose there is need for time with all its events, however small or large each may appear to be. He has created all worlds, and His mighty hand has tossed them into space, holding each in its respective sphere; having use for, control over, each and all its several parts, to the furtherance of His grand design of love and mercy, toward His elect in Christ before the world was:
“And thus shall this moving engine last
Till all Thy saints are gathered in,
Then for the trumpets dreadful blast;
To shake it all to dust again.”
“That in the dispensation of the fullness of times.” What beautiful and expressive language! “The dispensation of the fullness of times.” Not only is there to every thing a season, but “a time to every purpose under the heaven.” – Ecclesiastes iii, 1. And every thing must come to pass according to the changeless dispensation of Him who holds all things in His hand. It is not by lot, or chance, or according to our will; but according to the dispensation of the All wise and eternal God, who has declared “the end from the beginning, from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.” – Isaiah xlvi, 10.
This dispensation of God covers all events in their entirety, and each incident or event in its minutia, and in its distinct development, as not only for instance, decreeing the fall of a snow-storm, but where each and every tiny flake shall rest providing nutrients for the smallest living creatures; not only the rain-storm but the number of its drops as well, and where each minute drop shall fall, whether on mountain or in dale, on ocean or on land; not only ordaining the birth and development of each individual, but all the scenes connected with each life, as “numbering the very hairs of the head” of each, (Matthew x, 30,) and ordaining in accurate decree each and all such mortal way in a dispensation that falls from the hands of Him from whose “unerring judgment” there can be no appeal; and each event comes “in the fullness of times,” for the lifting on high of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the salvation of His people given to Him of the Father in seed-substance err the world was ever brought forth. That is all else is made to foster it, made subservient to it; made to “work together” with and in it, in complete and perfect harmony, no matter how it may appear to the imperfect, inaccurate, and clouded vision of poor, puny man.
Similar phraseology is found in Galatians iv, 4; “But when the fullness of the time was come.” An event cannot come to pass one minutia of a second before, nor can it be retarded one iota behind, it must come precisely at the appointed fraction of a second of times; as in Acts ii, 1, “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come.” As in John xvii,1, “Father, the hour is come.” As in Luke xix, 4; “for He was to pass that way.”
The mightiest hurricane that ever blew cannot lift or drive an atom of dust one centesimal part of the smallest fraction of an inch beyond where God ordained it to rest before all worlds were made.
Of course this eternal truth of Predestination is foolishness to the world, as it is written in inspiration: “For the preaching of the Gospel of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” – 1 Corinthians 1, 18.
The apostle continues the subject in the language “Gather together in ONE all things IN Christ.” It is God who gathers the Israel of God. He says, “I will surely assemble O Jacob all of thee, I will surely gather the remnant of Israel.” – Micah ii, 12. “And ye shall be gathered one by one, O ye children of Israel.” – Isaiah xxvii, 12. “I will take you one of a city, and two of a family.” – Jeremiah iii, 14. “And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet; and they shall gather together His elect * * * from one end of heaven to the other.” – Matthew xxiv, 31.
Wonderful language! “Gather together in one.” As the tiny drops of ocean life are gathered to gather in one inseparable and indestructible body, as the tiny atoms in the giant oak are gathered in one and the self-same life, “so Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together,” as the members of the body of Christ are “gathered together” in one indissoluble oneness, as members of the body of which He is the Head, and we “members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.” – Ephesians v,30.
“Gather together in one all things in Christ.” Does He not know them, wherever they have been scattered “in the cloudy and dark day”? He says, “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of My hands: thy walls are continually before Me.” – Isaiah xlix, 16. “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His.” – 2 Timothy ii, 19.
The reader will notice that they are “in Christ,” already, and not in Adam! In Christ as having been chosen IN Him “before the foundation of the world.” In Him as having been thus eternally chosen, and actually, yea, vitally existing in His eternal existence, as the undeveloped crop in the chosen seed, as the body in the chosen Head, the “unperfect” (Psalm 139:16,) or “undeveloped substance of a glorious and heavenly development, to be gathered together “in the dispensation of the fullness of times.”
“Both which are in heaven, and which are in earth, even in Him.” Whether under the legal heavens or among the Gentiles, “for if the first fruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches * * * And so all Israel shall be saved; as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” – Romans xi, 16-26. “Even IN Him.” Secure dwelling place indeed! “In all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hadst formed the earth and the world.” – Psalm xc, 1,2.
And thus the work of Redemption goes on through all ages and generations to the end of all mortality. The New Jerusalem (Revelation xxi, 2) is coming down; the generation of Jesus Christ is being made manifest in these earthen vessels of mercy; the body of Christ is being developed; the spirit (child) which is born of the Spirit takes up its temporal abode in a Adamic body which is born of the flesh; and thus seals that mortal body (the outward man) as the subject of adoption (salvation) for which we are waiting, for “the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.” – Romans viii, 19. Thus the wonders of redemption are revealed “in the dispensation of the fullness of times.” Time is but a grand panorama continually unfolding the wise-laid way of truth eternal.
We who now dwell in these mortal temples must give place to others, as those who have gone before have given place to us “that they without us should not be made perfect,” that the perfection of the body of Christ should be made manifest, “which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them,” “made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth,” as “Trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.” – Isaiah lxi,3. We could not if we would, and we would not if we could, hold back these trees of heavenly planting that are designed to bud in time, but must blossom in heavenly grandeur in all and vast eternity.
And thus when the last heavenly born child shall be thus made manifest, the completion of the glorious work shall be revealed in the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, “for the Lord 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.
“Wherefore, comfort one another with these words.” – 1 Thessalonians iv, 16, 17, 18.
Elder William Smoot - 1907