Convention Report Sermons






Come Ye Apart

Text: "And Jesus said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place and rest awhile." Mark 6:31.

ON only two other occasions have I ever addressed larger audiences than the one now before me. One of these was in the city of Glasgow on the occasion of my last visit there, when it was estimated that 4,500 were present and over 1,000 turned away; but my audiences are usually mixed ones and never before have I had the extreme pleasure of addressing so large a concourse of people consecrated to God – Bible students. As the things of the world go this is a very astounding assemblage, because we have come together not for worldly pleasure or recreation, but in strict accordance with the words of our text we have turned aside from the busy scenes of daily life and strife to fellowship with the Lord and with each other – "to build one another up in the most holy faith" – to encourage one another, to lift up the hands that hang down and to strengthen the feeble knees and to bid those of fearful hearts to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. While we trust a physical refreshment will result from this turning aside we specially hope for spiritual refreshment and the rest of soul which began when first we found the Lord and which has been increasing ever since as we sought to know and to obey Him more fully.

We are trusting to His promise that He is both able and willing to cause "all things to work together for good to those that love Him" – to the called ones according to His purpose – we have come here with this confidence and I am sure that many of us already feel well repaid. Indeed, it is always so with those who have given their hearts fully, completely, to the Lord and who are seeking to know and to do His will. They can realize the Father's smiles and the gracious promises which are to be fulfilled in Christ Jesus, and with these as offsets to the trials and difficulties of life they are privileged in all conditions to rejoice – even in tribulations, for, as the Apostle says, "Tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts." (Rom. 5:3-5.) Is it any wonder then, dear friends, that as I look into your faces and see them beaming with the heavenly light that I see joy divine? It is no wonder. The wonder, on the contrary, would be if any other condition should obtain. You, like myself, I am sure, have come hoping, praying that the Lord will pour out a blessing such as we shall not be able to contain – a blessing which will continue to increase and expand and which, when we return to our homes, will overflow on the dear children of God not privileged to be with us on this occasion.

Ways of Turning Aside.

We need to get the right standpoint of view. When the Lord used the words of our text in addressing His disciples He did not mean that they should turn aside from sin, for they had already done this, else they would not have been His disciples. So with us. It is not the thought that we have come hither for a brief season of religious worship and turnings aside from sin – from lying, cheating, short weights and measures, from filthiness of word and spirit, from malice, envy, strife, evil speakings and surmisings. No, thank God, we trust that all of us have learned the impropriety of such things long ago and that we left them behind when we accepted our Lord's invitation to follow Him as soldiers of the cross – followers of the Lamb.

Our turning aside to this beautiful wilderness for rest does not mean, to the majority of us, either a turning from self-will and its troubles and trials and conflicts to rest in the Lord by a fullness of consecration in our hearts to Him; so far as I am able to judge, dear friends, a considerable majority of us have already taken this step – have not only turned from sin and been accepted as children of God through the merits of Jesus, but also in addition have presented our minds, bodies, hearts and wills to the Lord, with the agreement that we will carry out this consecration faithfully through the remainder of life, seeking not our own wills, but the Lord's. Quite probably, however, some believers have come hither longing for the rest which our Lord promised to His true followers, saying, "Come unto Me all ye that are weary and heavy laden – take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart and ye shall find rest to your souls." We hope, indeed, that some of our number are in this attitude – seeking a closer walk with God and further divine light shining upon the road which leads men to the Lamb.

The Lord's promise to such is that He is willing that they should thus present themselves; and it is our hope, our confidence, that those seeking will find and that to those who are knocking the Lord will graciously open the way and that they may become His in fullest and completest sense and He theirs by the same covenant.

It is my pleasure this afternoon, dear friends, to know that I am addressing those who appreciate these words of the Apostle, "Ye know your calling, brethren." Ye know the object of the call – Ye know the method of the call – Ye know the conditions of the call – Ye know how ye may make your calling and your election sure and how ye might fall and lose all the blessed things which God has promised to those who love him and who respond to the terms of this call. As the Apostle said, "I will put ye in remembrance of these things though ye know them and though ye be established in the present truth."

"The Hope of Your Calling."

I would, dear friends, that it were within my power to picture before your minds the glorious hope of our calling. The Apostle calls it a "high calling." and again, a "heavenly calling." The Apostle Peter speaks of this calling as consisting of "exceeding great and precious promises." He tells us that these are given to us that through the operation of our minds and hearts our course of life should be so changed from grace to grace, from knowledge to knowledge, from glory to glory, that eventually we might become partakers of the divine nature by participation in that great blessing promised. "The First Resurrection." (Rev. 20:5) It is because it is impossible for the tongue to describe this great honor and dignity that the Apostle declares, "Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him; but God hath revealed them unto us by His spirit, for the spirit searcheth all things, yes, the deep things of God."

Our calling consists of two parts, one belonging to the present life and the other to the future. What we have just been considering relates to the later, which we hope to enter upon in our resurrection "change." "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye." In the end of this age, when the last member of the elect Church shall have been called and shall have responded fully and completely to the terms of the call in the present life and thereby have been prepared for the glory of the Kingdom and joint heirship with the Lord.

But the hope of our calling in the present life is the hope that we shall faithfully endure the trials and disciplines and tests which our heavenly Lord may see fit and proper to subject us to – that these trials and tests may not discourage us, may not sour and embitter us, may not make us hard-hearted, but, on the contrary, that they may ennoble us, sweeten our characters, broaden and deepen our hearts' affections toward others and that thus we may become copies of God's dear Son, our Lord Jesus. Ah! how valuable it is to us to have this knowledge respecting the hope of our calling in the present life and in its glorious outcome. How this knowledge and hope are an anchor to our souls, sure and steadfast, entering into that which is within the vail, preserving us from shipwreck, discouragement – from our own fears and from the adversary's allurements and threatenings.

Well may we, dear friends, as students of God's Word, [CR35] blessed by the glorious light that is now shining, well may we apply to ourselves the Master's words, "Blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear;" and again, "To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven," but to all outsiders these things are spoken in parables and dark sayings, that "hearing they might hear and not understand." Thank God that we are not any longer outsiders, that we have heard the Master's voice, that we have accepted the Lord's grace provided for us in our Redeemer's sacrifice. We have heard the invitation, "Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service." – Rom. 12:1.

We accepted the offer, gave our hearts entirely to the Lord and entered into the holy place – into the family of God – into the brotherhood of Christ – into prospective joint-heirship with the King of Glory as members of His Bride Class. It is because we have entered this first fruit of our inheritance in Christ that we have such holy joy and fellowship in turning aside to this beautiful place to refresh our hearts and minds and to strengthen and encourage one another as iron sharpens iron.

The Apostle's expression, "This one thing I do," implies: (1) That there was one all important thing which was worthy of his whole life, of his very best endeavors, and (2) That any division of his interests, a scattering of his powers would in some way be detrimental and a hindrance to the attainment of that one thing which he considered to be in every way paramount. In the context he tells us that he counted all other things but loss and dross in comparison to this one thing, this one pursuit, this one life-work. He intimates that he endeavored to forget anything and everything else that he ever knew lest his education and its exercise in any other direction should in any way distract his attention from this one all important matter. He said that he sought to forget the things that were behind and reaching forward to those things which were ahead as a great prize worthy of every effort and the failure to attain which would be an irretrievable loss. He does not state that the loss of this prize, this high, heavenly calling, would mean eternal torment. Oh, no! There is nothing of this kind in the Apostle's writing, for he said that he had not shunned to declare unto them the whole counsel of God. The doctrine of eternal torment is not the teaching of God, but on the contrary the doctrine of devils, and it came to us from the dark ages and through our forefathers, who were so grossly deluded that in burning one another at the stake they verily thought that they were doing God service. It was not something the Apostle was fleeing from, but striving for – the prize of our high calling in Christ Jesus.

"If We Suffer With Him."

Distance lends enchantment to the view. Looking back our Lord and the Apostles are applauded as wise, holy, self-sacrificing servants of God, yet to the people of their day they appeared fanatical extremists. Andrew, Peter, James and John were so infatuated with the Gospel of Jesus that they first of all had Him for their guest, let Him speak from their fishing boats and finally forsook all their boats, nets, fishing, etc., and sought to walk in His footsteps. They followed a man whom the learned D.D.'s of their day, the priests and Pharisees, all declared was a fraud and fanatic. His invitation to them was, "Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men." But when they found Jesus the world said of them that they were fools, lacking common sense, and that He was doubly responsible in that He encouraged "ignorant and unlearned men" to act after this insane fashion. Their folly was still more thoroughly demonstrated to the multitude when calamity overtook their leader, Messiah, when He was crucified. To the worldly-wise this justified all the expressions of folly, ignorance, etc., which had been hurled against them.

Saul of Tarsus was another extremist – of wealthy family, of liberal education, and of excellent social standing, because honored with the title and privileges of a Roman citizen. As soon as this man came into proper touch with the doctrines of the Nazarene, as soon as he was convinced of their truth and acted in accordance with his convictions to be a servant of Christ, that soon his name was cast out as evil until he himself said, "We are counted fools all day long;" that is to say by everyone and all the time; others said he was mad, mentally deranged – that no sane man would forsake good earthly prospects such as he enjoyed in order to serve the cause of a crucified one, in the hope that he would ultimately be with the crucified one in His Kingdom and share His glory.

Why should it be thought a strange thing if the worldly view of matters today has not changed on this subject? Why should we think it strange if our names should be cast out as evil and we should be counted fools for seeking to walk after the same course as Jesus and His Apostles? It was our Lord Himself who said that if we would be His disciples that it would be necessary to take up our cross and follow after Him and that we must expect no better treatment than He. If the religious people of His day called Him Beelzebub, what more can we expect at the hands of a similar class who are filled with a spirit of envy and are fearing the undermining of their cherished institutions? Our Lord declared "Whosoever will live godly in this present time will suffer persecution," evil-speaking, etc. Whoever is not prepared for this gives evidence that he has not been shod with the sandals of the preparation of the Gospel of Peace.

"Vocation or Avocation – Which?"

It is wholly a matter of standpoint as to which is wise and which is foolish – the world or the Lord and His faithful footstep followers. From the world's standpoint our position is a foolish one – it is unwise to exchange the advantages and privileges of the present life, which are real, actual, tangible, for a future life which is ours by faith only. From the world's standpoint it is unwise to exchange a certainty for an uncertainty, a possibility for a hope.

But now we take the other standpoint and with the eye of faith consider "the things which God has in reservation for those that love Him." It is wise for us to sacrifice every earthly interest to gain "this pearl of great price." From this standpoint of the Word it must seem foolish to be chasing after the things of this life, which bring little satisfaction even if gained – which are gained by a very few and which if gained are but transitory. Bunyon has well represented the worldly, self-seeking spirit, grasping for honor, of men, titles, earthly riches. He pictures these, we remember, by a man on the seashore with a rake laboriously accumulating a pile of seaweed, corks, etc., things of no value, while neglecting the things of great value, the kingdom for which Bunyon's Christian was seeking and running as in a race-course.

The question is one of vocation or avocation. The worldly thought is that religion is not to be despised, but that it is to be made a vocation only by those who are set apart as the clergy and that they follow it only on business lines of a justifying salary. The world claims that each well-balanced man or woman should have an earthly vocation or business that somehow would represent money, honor of men or social position, and that practically all of one's time and energy should go to this earthly project and that religion should at very most be an avocation or temporary employment – for a passing hour or occasion. As, for instance, the world would commend and hear of religious worship once a week, as being wise, proper, profitable.

The Lord's consecrated people, on the contrary, take the opposite view, namely, that we should live for the future, for the eternal condition – the seeking of the things to come should be our real vocation and the things of the present time should be treated merely as matters of temporary necessity, as our avocation or temporary employment; just as with the Apostle Paul tent-making was an avocation or temporary business, while the preaching of the gospel was his vocation or temporary employment.

"Christian's Calling or Vocation."

The world, including the nominal church, fails to comprehend that the Church of Christ is a called out "little flock." As Jesus said, "Fear not, little flock, it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom." These are the called-out from the world; as our Lord declared, "Ye are not of the world, even as I am not. If ye were of the world the world would love its own, but because ye are not of the world, therefore the world hateth you." Our Lord tells us that we are called with a view to our ultimately receiving an inheritance with Him in His Kingdom, and that meantime [CR36] we are to be His representatives and ambassadors in the world. "Among whom ye shine as lights." He tells us "hereunto were ye called" that ye might receive the inheritance, but that our faithfulness in the present time under present adverse conditions and in contact with the world of mankind blinded by Satan will be tested and proved, that our loyalty to the Lord, to righteousness, may be fully demonstrated. "The Lord, your God, doth prove you whether you doth love the Lord your God with all your heart or not." Only believers are called to this vocation and it is optional with them whether those believers who accept the call and make a full consecration to the Lord receive the begetting of the holy spirit, called in the Scriptures "the anointing." This anointing is the special commission of the Christian calling – He is anointed to preach the good tidings, to bind up the broken-hearted with the gracious promises of the Lord's word. Our Lord Jesus is the Head, the First of this royal priesthood thus authorized and accepted. As soon as He received the anointing of the holy spirit at His baptism it was His commission to preach His good tidings. Similarly the anointing of the holy spirit is their vocation to begin their ministries of Christ, ambassadors of God. We read, "The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings to the meek; He hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord" – that during this Gospel Age God will accept such sacrifices as would come unto Him through Jesus, as would count their offerings "holy and acceptable."

"Bear a Song Away."

So then, dear friends, we have turned aside to this beautiful spot to rest just as Jesus and the apostles did in the olden times. We are still engaged in our vocation as special ministers, servants to the Truth – all of us – not only those who preach publicly but all who have been anointed to the holy spirit and who find exercise for their vocation in a more private way on the train, on the boat, at the fireside, in the shop or mill, in the parlor and dining-room, or wherever we may be our vocation is the proclaiming of the love of God and of the glorious facts that He is now selecting a "little flock" from among the redeemed world for the blessing of all mankind during the Millennial Age.

Funeral Sermon for General Stewart
"Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And departing leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time."
AS the esteemed George Washington held a high place in public favor, in peace as well as in war, so did our esteemed friend and brother, Lieutenant General Alex. P. Stewart, to whose remains we pay our tribute of respect today. It is quite unnecessary for me to point out to you his "footprints on the sands of time" as a soldier who laid his all upon the altar of patriotism in the cause espoused by his State. Suffice it that I remind you that the soldiers under his command gave him the sobriquet "Old Straight," because of his recognized honesty of purpose, on account of which they loved and respected him.

Neither need I remind you of how he put his high talents to good use as an Educator of the young – as Chancellor of two prominent colleges of the South. I do remind you, however, that these "footprints on the sands of time" took a very, a very different course from those of some of the great generals of the past; and that their trend is worthy of note and imitation in several respects from those who would make their lives sublime.

I will remind you also of the epigramatic eulogy, paid to the General by his fellow of the Chickamauga National Park Commission, when he styled him "First Gentleman of the Splendid South." And I ask you to remember that his gentlemanliness proceeded from the heart, because he was first of all a true Christian.

We sometimes quote that "Charity begins at home," and so, you will agree with me, all of our graces should begin under the home roof. And the fact that he was so deeply loved by his own family is to me one of the very best evidences that he strove to do his duty in his home.

But these matters are aside from my real topic. You desire that I shall tell you what I knew of General Stewart as a Christian, and what are our hopes for him. And this is your right and my privilege, for we are all agreed that to be a courageous general, a College President, a splendid gentleman or a faithful father, one or all would not mean of necessity to be a Christian in the deeper and truer sense of that word – a follower of Christ. This, then, shall be my theme – to demonstrate that the same courageous qualities and honesty that gave him the title "Old Straight" applied to him also as a Christian.

Many years ago he gave his all to his Creator and his Redeemer, and sought light upon the path of life in the Bible. His soul cried out as yours and mine have done, "Lead kindly light amid encircling gloom."

Of a generous heart, he loved his fellow-men, and while seeking their welfare was perplexed to know how the God of Love and Justice could have foreordained the eternal torture of all except the "Little flock" who hear of Christ in the present life and become "saints" or followers. Such a plan implied that its author was less just and less loving than his fellow creatures. The General could not assent to this. The God of his worship must be greater than he, and not his inferior. The "encircling gloom" attached itself to every doctrine which had been taught him from infancy. He could not see the consistency of an "elect" class when all the non-elect were to be tortured. He could not see much "free grace" in what is popularly so called – a "free grace" in name only, since faith is a prerequisite to salvation, and the vast majority of our race die without the faintest knowledge of "the only name given whereby we must be saved."

Another subject that troubled him was the doctrine of baptism – that only the baptized were freed from sin, and only they could be of the "elect" Church. The immersion idea was still more troublesome, because still fewer of mankind have been immersed. The "encircling gloom" deepened the more he investigated, and so much the more he prayed, "Lead kindly Light."

Finally his prayer was heard. All of his difficulties vanished, he saw the Bible in a new light, and beheld by its aid a Creator worthy to be worshiped, – a God of Wisdom, Justice, Love and Power. To this One whom he had long sought to know, the General bowed his heart and consecrated his every talent, and in this blessed faith and hope he died.

I believe, dear friends of his, that I shall fulfil the desire of his heart if I tell you briefly of the Bible interpretation which made the last ten years of General Stewart's life the happiest and holiest of his experience. I will explain to you his hope for himself and all the "elect," and his different hope for the non-elect.

The key to his blessing came through the discernment that the word "hell" has been misinterpreted – that "sheol" of the Old Testament, and "hades" of the New Testament never signify a place of fire and torture, but really the tomb, – that indeed the same words are more frequently rendered "grave." At the same time, his attention was drawn to the fact that God pronounced a [CR37] death sentence, and not an eternal torment sentence, upon father Adam. "In the day that thou eatest (the forbidden fruit) thou shalt surely die."

These items of truth brought him great relief of heart, but still left some "encircling gloom." But shortly the Lord let him see that the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ paid the penalty of death for father Adam, and thus redeemed Adam and his race which shared his condemnation. Next came the Bible testimony that as all die by reason of Adam's condemnation, even so all are to be made alive, given an opportunity of everlasting life through Christ. This threw a flood of light upon St. Peter's declaration that "times of refreshing" are coming, and "restitution of all things." He could see that restitution is just what humanity needs; – an uplift out of sin, out of imperfection, a helping hand back to the original image of God in which Adam was created, but from which all of his race have sadly fallen. As he continued his search and prayer for the Truth, through the leading of the Kindly Light his blessing continued, and he saw that the Bible taught two salvations. One of these, for mankind in general, a restoration to perfect manhood with the whole earth his Paradise restored, waits for the second coming of Christ and his Millennial Kingdom, for which all Christians have so long prayed in the Redeemer's words, "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, even as in heaven."

The other salvation is of this Gospel Age – since Pentecost – and includes all of the "elect," "even as many as the Lord shall call," who by faithfulness will "make their calling and election sure." Those who attain to this salvation are the "elect," who must now "walk by faith and not by sight" and in the "narrow way." These are to experience the "First Resurrection" "to the divine nature," and its "glory, honor and immortality."

General Stewart's strong nature laid hold of God's great promises and his faith took fresh root and bore an increase of love, joy and peace. His native courage and honesty helped him to take a firm stand for the true Gospel, of which the Apostle says, – "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ." The General knew that he once had been ashamed of the creeds of the dark ages and its "encircling gloom," and he now would confess the Gospel of which he needed not to be ashamed.

Further, I should remark that as he studied the Bible he perceived that not merely the living nations will be blest during the Millennium, but also the dead. Amongst the precious promises to the latter were our Lord's words, "Marvel not, the hour is coming in the which all that are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and come forth." All will come forth to share in the glorious blessings of that glad time, but not to compulsory salvation – eternal life will not be forced upon any – and all who will not avail themselves of those precious privileges will be utterly destroyed in the "Second Death." – Acts 3:23.

Dear friends, let us note General Stewart's "footprints on the sands of time," particularly their trend toward Christ and the Truth and the Kingdom. I trust that he won in the election – that he "made his calling and election sure," and will hear the Master's Well Done! – that he fought a good fight and finished his course and received the crown of glory and that he will shortly be with the Lord in glory, blessing the world. We, who have heard the same message, shall we not lay aside every weight and every besetting sin, and run faithfully for that great prize – the Kingdom? – Gal. 3:29.

The General Assembly

"But ye are come unto Mt. Zion, and unto the city of the living God, that heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly of the first-borns, which are written in heaven."

I AM sure, dear friends, that this glorious convention, which has drawn our hearts so near to the Lord and to all that are His has suggested to many of our minds the words of the apostle in our text. As the various speakers have directed our attention to one feature and another of the glorious things which God hath in reservation for them that love him we have in imagination to some extent been caught away and given glimpses of the glorious things which God hath in reservation for them that love Him supremely. Not only have we been pointed to the rich blessings prepared for the Church in heavenly glory beyond the vail, but we have also been reminded of the restitution blessings which then will follow for the uplift of the human family in general. At times we have almost forgotten the great blessings that are to be our portion in things of the glorious "times of restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began," which the apostle assures us are to be ushered in at the second coming of our Lord Jesus, and following the glorification of the elect Church in kingdom power. Our hopes have swelled with sympathy as we thought of the boundlessness of the heavenly Father's arrangements and his provisions, not only for us who now see and heed and enter into the joys of our Lord by faith and by and by in reality, but also for the good things He has in store for those who know Him not, hear not His voice and see not His glorious character and purposes. How glad we are that He will not leave them under the darkening, benighting, blinding influences of the adversary forever, but has promised, through the prophet, saying, "All the blind eyes shall be opened and all the deaf ears shall be unstopped – and unto Him every knee shall bow and every tongue confess to the honor of our God." As you have connected up into harmonious whole the various able presentations to which you have listened you have recognized them as all fitting and dove-tailing together with a harmonious oneness which could belong only to the truth, and with a grandeur and beauty which could come only from a divine arrangement, which quite discounts, overshadows and makes mean in comparison all the creeds and tradition which were handed down to us from the dark ages – which were slanders against our God and blasphemies of the Holy Name. As you have listened to these you have perceived that the very center of the divine program of salvation was Jesus Christ our Lord and the work which He accomplished during the three and a half years of His ministry and which terminated at the cross in harmony with His words, "It is finished." You have seen clearly that according to the Scriptures the second step in this divine program for the world's salvation began with the Pentecostal blessing, which recognized and sealed with the holy spirit as new creatures in Christ all of the consecrated believers of that time, and that the same process of spirit-begetting and sealing has progressed throughout this gospel age and is shortly to be finished when the last member of the "very elect" shall have finished his trial acceptably and the entire church of Christ shall have passed beyond the vail by the power of the "first resurrection." We have seen that this glorious consummation is nigh, even at the door. Our hearts rejoice that in this second part of the divine plan the very elect have been privileged to suffer with Christ, to lay down their lives in His service, in the service of the truth and for one another, and that so doing joyfully in the spirit of Christ these elect ones [CR38] will be accounted of God worthy to be sharers of the Redeemer's glory and divine nature and millennial kingdom work, and that Scripturally they are given names which signify these glorious associations – that they are called the "body of Christ" and "members in particular of the "body of Christ" and "the bride, the lamb's wife" and "His brethren." We have seen that not until after this work of gathering the elect and proving them and testing them through "fiery trials" will they be ready for the Lord's service and His kingdom class to rule, to instruct and to uplift humanity in the age to come.

We are learning more and more to appreciate the force of our Master's words, "Through much tribulation shall ye enter the kingdom." Nevertheless, more and more we are counting it all joy, as the Apostle suggests, to be accounted worthy to suffer with Him, with our Master, to be accounted fools for Christ's sake, to be disowned and disesteemed of the world for the Truth's sake, since this is the Father's Will and the tests which he imposed as a demonstration of our loyalty to Him. I trust that we have considered these things during the nine days of our convention – that so far from being disposed to draw back your hearts with mine have repeated the words of our Master and Exemplar, "I delight to do thy Will, O Lord. Thy law is written in my heart."

Church of the First-Borns.

Let us for the moment revel in the green pastures of our text and refresh ourselves with the still waters of its divine assurance. The Lord shall be our shepherd and through the Apostle lead us as a sheep. In our minds we have gone beyond the vail, the trials and triumphs of the present narrow way are past, the general assembly of Convention of the Church of First-Borns has commenced. First among those whom we shall notice will be "The Lamb that was slain," our precious Lord Jesus who left the heavenly glory and endured and suffered and died, the Just for the unjust, to bring us to God – to open up for us and to all mankind the way of life, the way of righteousness to divine favor and blessings. First of all we will be glad to do Him homage and to acknowledge that all of God's blessings and favors have reached us through Him, our Redeemer, our Friend, our Advocate, and now our heavenly Bridegroom, most precious of all relationships – our Lord. That will, indeed, be a gala day when the betrothed Church shall be united, wedded to her Savior. If it was a glorious privilege to be "betrothed to one husband, even Christ," and to have his provided care and assistance in making ready for the marriage, how grandly will that moment be when we shall be made one with the Lord and like Him and sharers of His glory and immortality.

Next, doubtless, we must become acquainted with all the dear members of "The Bride," "The Body." First, our hearts will instinctively seek for those honored agents of the Lord, the Apostles, and as we greet them we will be made to clearly understand and appreciate fully the sacrifices which they made in the service of the Lord, the Truth, the brethren, and how the Lord delights to honor them because of their faithfulness. As we will be introduced to one and another of the Lord's faithful saints we will be sure to love them all, because "he that loveth Him that begat must love also him that is begotten." The same glorious qualities of character which bind us to the Heavenly Father in appreciation will fix our hearts and loves upon all the members of that glorious, elect, glorified ecclesia, the Body of Christ, because of their Christ-likeness above. That they will all have this glorified character likeness to the Redeemer is the assurance of God's word, for the Apostle declares that God has predestinated that those who shall be joint-heirs of Christ in His Kingdom must all be copies of His dear Son. "For whom He did foreknow He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son." (Rom. 8:29.)

"As star differs from star in glory," writes the Apostle, "so shall those be who share in that First Resurrection" and its divine nature and kingdom honors. But every one of them will be stars, bright ones, because every one of them will be conquerors; yea, more than conquerors through Him that loved us and bought us. Among the most resplendent perhaps we may find some of whom we had expected less and among the less resplendent possibly some of whom we had expected more. But all will be satisfied – the cup of blessing to each one will be full and all will have the Lord's favor and love and all will be satisfied with His rewards and recognize that He is too wise and true to err. The lesson is that God looketh at the heart and takes into consideration in His judgment all the environments and conditions in a manner and degree that to us are impossible. As we realize the force of this it should make us very generous in our thoughts and conduct toward all. "To his own master each servant stands or falls." It is ours not to judge, but to help the brethren by word, by example, every way. Among all the hosts none will shine so resplendently as this glorified Ecclesia, this honored "Body of Christ." The glory of the holy angels will be that they have never sinned and high indeed in honor will they thus be marked, but the glory of the Church, the Bride of Christ, will be that having been born in sin and shapen in iniquity and redeemed with the precious blood and called with the heavenly calling they responded; so gladly, so willingly, so joyfully walking in their Redeemer's footsteps that they were willing to suffer for righteousness' sake, for the truth's sake, for the brethren's sake, and, assisted by the holy spirit of their Master were enabled to lay down their lives for the brethren and for the truth. For this cause they will be acclaimed "Conquerors, yea, more than conquerors through Him who loved them and bought them with His precious blood." In these will be exemplified the length and breadth and heighth and depth of divine justice and love. Under justice they shared the general sentiments of death; under divine love they were lifted from the horrible pit and miry clay of sin and death condition and highly exalted to their Redeemer. "Far above angels and principalities and every name that is named."

Before our presentation in the august presence of our Creator, the Heavenly Father, we will be made acquainted with what the apostle in our text describes as "An innumerable company of angels." The mutual joys of this acquaintance can be better imagined than described. Gabriel will be there – he who has been described in the Scriptures as one of the chiefest of the angels and to whom is accorded the honor of our dear Redeemer's earthly begetting of the spirit to His mother Mary. With the perfect power we will then possess we will soon know all that innumerable company and be known of all. "Now we know in part; then we shall know even as we are known." "Now we see as through an obscured glass (by faith); then we shall see face to face." 1 Cor. 13:12. What a joyful acquaintance, how wonderful to think that there will be not a mar, not a blemish, not an imperfection of thought or word or act to mar the bliss of the occasion! By and by we shall learn which of the angels specially served us during our pilgrim journey toward the kingdom condition. We remember the declaration of the words respecting the angels, "Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation?" We remember the Master's words respecting His faithful little ones, saying, "Their angels do always have access to the Father." With what pleasure we shall become acquainted with the holy ones whose mission it is in the divine providence to attend us in our pilgrim way. It will be fortunate for us if, when we meet these blessed ones and greet and thank them for their heavenly ministries, we shall have no blush of shame for things done or said or thought in their invisible presence with us in our earthly journey. They will recount to us various scenes and incidents in our experiences which we have been able only imperfectly to understand. They will show us how, as the Lord's providential agents, they shielded us and assisted us from time to time according to the divine promises to help in every time of need. With the information thus supplied to us we shall be fully informed respecting all the obscure places in life's experiences and be enabled to rejoice more than ever in the divine love and care which not only bought us and sought us, but shielded us and helped us on to God in the glorious [CR39] things of His provision in Christ. Finally the gala day of all will come when we shall be ushered into the presence of the great King Eternal, the "God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," and we shall see His face and join with the angels and cherubim and seraphim in chanting "Holy, holy, holy, Lord, God Almighty; the whole earth shall be filled with Thy glory!"

Approximately the Scriptures tell us that our heavenly Lord himself will introduce us to the Father; and oh, what holy joy is in the assurance that He shall "Present us faultless." (Jude 24.) Faultful we were by reason of the fall and, having been born in sin and shapen in iniquity, through Christ redeemed and the various operations of His word and spirit and the various agencies and our own cooperation we have experienced a purifying influence in our hearts and gradually been changed from glory to glory until finally the climacteric change of the First Resurrection makes us faultless by His grace. As the Apostle explains, "It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption; it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body," like unto our Lord and to be forever with Him, His body. This glorious presentation to the Father is in the Scriptures termed the marriage feast – the nuptial feast – a feast of joy, of exhilaration, of blessing such as has never been known on earth, nor even in heaven before.

"Clothing of Wrought Gold."

In one of the Psalms (14) a prophetically symbolical picture is given us of the presentation of the church as the bride of Christ before the King Eternal, Immortal, Invisible, "the Only Wise God." Here the bride of Christ is styled "the King's daughter." She is described as "all glorious within," as arrayed in the most glorious garments of fine needlework and gold. Hers will not be merely a glory of office and honor, but an inherent glory, an eternal glory, as well. This description may well be understood to refer to the immortality of the church, by which she participates in the divine nature. The gold raiment in a figure represents the same thought, since gold is a symbol of the divine. What a wonderful honor and glory is thus pictured as belonging to the bride, the lamb's wife! Who that clearly sees this calling to divine favor and blessing and service, present and future, could hesitate to pay the price – to consecrate and lay down the present life and all that it includes – realizing that such a sacrifice is small and unworthy of divine acceptance, except as made worthy by the merits of our Redeemer, to whom we are betrothed and to whom we shall be united as bride. "He is faithful that called us and He will also do all that He has promised and exceedingly more than we could ask or think." No wonder the Lord, through the prophet, says to His espoused church, "Hearken, O daughter, and consider and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people and thy father's house" (the world). "So shall the King greatly desire thy beauty, for He is the Lord and worship thou Him."

If the espoused virgin, the Church, could but clearly keep before her mind in the present life the glorious things which God hath in reservation for those that love Him and who demonstrate their love, how gladly she would count all else loss and dross in comparison to the love of the Lord; how she would rejoice to share in His sacrifice and to "Fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body's sake, which is the Church." (Col. 1:24.) Incidentally let us remember that there is another company of the Lord's people who will come off conquerors and share in that blessed scene and joy unspeakable. These are referred to in the Scriptures as ultimately conquerors, but not of the "little flock" – "not more than conquerors." These, much more numerous than the "little flock," likewise made a consecration of all to the Lord and they loved righteousness and hated iniquity, but not with a sufficiency of receiving the highness of honor and divine favor. While the "little flock" suffered with Christ and through great tribulation entered the Kingdom, this great company, we are told, will suffer great tribulation, yet not enter the Kingdom class, because not found worthy. Pictures of these are given us in Revelation, where the "little flock," the one hundred and forty-four thousand, are represented as being with the Lord and His joint-heirs and sitting with Him in His Throne and having crowns; but the great company not found worthy of this high distinction are nevertheless to have great blessing and through their unwilling sufferings they shall be prepared for future blessings and honor. Of these we are told, "They shall serve God in His Temple," and again that though not granted crowns they shall have palms of victory; although not counted worthy to sit with the King they shall stand before the Throne as servants of the King. The Scriptures show that these, after washing their robes in the blood of the Lamb, through great tribulation will be permitted to come with the Bride to her nuptial feast and to them the message is sent, "Blessed is he that is invited to the marriage supper." Their entrance to the marriage supper is pictured in the same Psalm that represents the Bride, the King's daughter, the Lamb's Wife, arrayed in glorious garments, in clothing of gold. Thus we read, "The virgins, her companions, that follow her shall be brought unto thee. With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought; they shall enter into the King's palace." – Psalm 45:13-15.

"Refuse Not Him That Speaketh."

But now we must come back and remember that the glorious things we have been seeing are still prophetical, still future. For more than eighteen centuries the Church has been coming – approaching – those glorious consummations at which we have been looking, and undoubtedly, as the Apostle suggests, "They are now nearer than when we first believed." But we are still on this side the vail, still approaching, still being fitted for the glorious consummation "change" of the First Resurrection. And in this connection the Apostle speaks of our Lord Jesus and how He will then be the Mediator of the New Covenant between God and mankind in general – in the sealing of which Covenant He invites us to share. All the value of the world's redemption and the basis of its future reconciliation under its New Covenant lie in the precious sacrifice of Jesus finished at Calvary, but in inviting us, in calling us, in speaking to us, He has suggested that we may cast in our lot with Him – with Him become dead to earthly interests and share with Him in the future glories. He proposes to accept us as members of His Body and our burial in death as a part of His own – with which He will ultimately seal His own. Thus the value of His death, which will ultimately speak forgiveness to the world and full cancellation of sin already by faith, speaks these blessings to us who now believe.

We conclude, dear friends, by urging in the Apostle's words, "See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh." The world in general cannot refuse because they hear not the message and the call. He will speak to them by and by as the Great King. During this age He is speaking only to those who have the hearing ear and inviting them to joint heirship with himself and directing them to the fact that He has opened up the way by which their sacrifices may be acceptable to God as a part of his, if offered during this "acceptable time," as a sacrifice. He has spoken to us, telling us of the Father's love, saying, "The Father himself loveth you." He has told us of His own love and care of all who come unto Him, drawn by the Father. His message is that "He is able and willing to keep all whom He has committed to His care," that He will give us all the assistance necessary for us to make our calling and election sure, and if we fail it will be our own fault, because He is able to "make all things work together for good to them who have been called according to His purpose," and whom He purposes to share with Christ in the divine nature and heavenly glory.

Blessed are your ears, for they have heard the voice of the Son of Man. Already it has brought us the newness of life. Already, figuratively, we who were dead have become alive and new creatures and if we continue to hear and to be directed by the message all the Divine purpose shall be accomplished in us and all and much more than we have been considering this afternoon will be our blessed portion. In view of these things, dear friends, what heed should we give to every word of God, to every feature of the Divine message. There are many voices calling us in various directions and presenting various hopes and prizes, but if we have caught a glimpse of the one pearl of great price let us indeed give all that we have, life and time, to secure that pearl. This glorious convention rapidly drawing to a close is but a foretaste of the superlatively grand one referred to in our text. If it gives us so much pleasure to discuss together the glories to come, seen only with the eye of faith, what will it be by and by in the convention which will never break up, where there will be no partings? As we go to our homes let us carry with us and distribute to others the inspiring thought of the General Assembly, the General Convention of the Church of First-Borns. And we may add to that the glad thought that the very name First-Borns as applied to the elect Church of this age implies "after-borns" in God's family in the age to come – the Millennium. As the Apostle says, "We are a kind of first fruits unto God of His creatures." How blessed the thought that the sin-blinded and deaf and spiritually dead shall yet see and hear the voice of the Son of Man and that they that hear shall live as after-borns and later fruits unto God. Let us ever keep before our minds the thought of the special favor of the "change" of nature to glory, honor and immortality, which the Lord has promised to the first-borns. Let this thought, according to the Divine design, energize us so that we may make our calling and election sure.

TELL me about the Master!
I am weary and worn tonight;
The day lies behind me in shadow,
And only the evening is light!
Light with a radiant glory
That lingers about the west.
My poor heart is weary, aweary,
And longs, like a child, for rest.

Tell me about the Master!
Of the hills He in loneliness trod,
When the tears and blood of His anguish,
Dropped down on Judea's sod.
For to me life's seventy mile-stones
But a sorrowful journey mark;
Rough lies the hill country before me,
The mountains behind me are dark.

Tell me about the Master!
Of the wrongs He freely forgave;
Of His love and tender compassion,
Of His love that is mighty to save;
For my heart is aweary, aweary,
Of the woes and temptations of life,
Of the error that stalks in the noonday,
Of falsehood and malice and strife.

Yet I know that whatever of sorrow
Or pain or temptation befall,
The infinite Master hath suffered,
And knoweth and pitieth all.
So tell me the sweet old story,
That falls on each wound like a balm,
And my heart that is bruised and broken
Shall grow patient and strong and calm.

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