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God's thoughts, and walking with and before Him as the living God, and cheered by the promises and truth suited to their circumstances-work on (as those in Ezra) for the building of the House and are sustained in doing so (notwithstanding all the trial and difficulty of the way), by the moral power — the secret divine energy of faith, looking on to the glory itself, not working or building with reference to the scene here only, or so much—as to the time when He will appear, who alone is worthy and able to bear the glory and sit and rule upon His throne. Oh that our hearts could enter into this. That there was given to us the needed confession of sin and failure, the broken and soft heart, and the faith that will work on, not for man or present things, but having “ respect to the recompense of the reward” and to Him who will dispense crowns of gold and better than that, (Rev. ii. 17), “ hidden manna" and "a white stone and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” But let us glance at the Scriptures quoted. In Deut. xxxi.29, Moses speaks to the people, the elders and officers “ For I know [compare Paul's identical For I know' to the elders of the Church at Ephesus, Acts xx.29] that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you, and evil will befall you in the latter days:" It is then on the fore-known failure of the people, and fore-declared corruption of their ways that the magnificent song (chap. xxxii.) and utterance of the Holy Spirit by Moses proceeds. It is based on man's failure, but oh! what a testimony as to our God. “Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear oh earth, the words of my mouth. My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb and as the showers upon the grass [and how or why was the doctrine to be such a cleansing, fertilizing, refreshing blessed doctrine?]: because I will publish the Name of the Lord: ascribe ye greatness unto our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect, for all His ways are judgment, a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He"; and what does he find at man's hands ? “ They have corrupted themselves," and with what tender and affecting words does Jehovah speak of His dealings with the people, ver. 9, “ For the Lord's portion is His people; Jacob is the lot of His inheritance. He found Him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; He led him about, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: so the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him. He made him ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of the fields; and He made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock.” How the very terms and thoughts (the pure grace) are calculated to penetrate our very souls and affect our consciences indeed (if heart and conscience be not as the nether millstone); but what of the people Israel, ver. 15, “But Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked," the very exuberance of the grace and manifestation of God's goodness not held in communion with Him, turns them aside. forsook God which made him and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation." Thus early, ere the dispensation had well begun, does Moses speak as to man's failure, but utters such a glorious testimony as to the perfectness of the work of the Rock of Ages, and how does Habakkuk witness towards the close of the dispensation ? “Although the fig tree shall not blossom" failure and disappointinent may be all around, “Yet, I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength.” He can fall back
the faithfulness and perfectness of Jehovah the Rock. But the prophet Habakkuk did not get these blessed thoughts without due exercise of soul-yea, deep searchings of heart ; surely the three chapters of his prophecy are replete with instruction, and give a very exact picture of the course pursued, and the exercises of conscience of many a saint of late.
In the 1st chapter Habakkuk manifestly is not in communion with God as to what is going on around, he is astounded at circumstances and the conduct of manycomplains to God Himself, even vexed in spirit at the
scene before him. Mark the expressions, ver. 2, “O Lord, how long shall I cry
and thou wilt not hear ! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save! Why dost thou shew me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance ? for spoiling and violence are before me : and there are that raise up strife and contention. Therefore the law is slacked and judgment doth never go forth,” etc. We see from the entire chapter (see ver. 13 to the end) that the prophet is occupied with the scene below, like a field of battle for confusion. He does not get above to the pure atmosphere of God's counsels and the needs be for such things, he is taken up with himself and man-expediency and circumstances. What a picture of the condition of many a soul ! but the scene changes in chap. ii. The prophet gets into God's presence and mark how, with self-judgment and lowliness and watching, “I will stand upon my watch and set me upon the tower and will watch to see what He will say to me, and what I shall answer, when I am reproved. And the Lord answered me." And what a truth does his God meet him with, ver. 4, “ Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith." Here is the principle, the secret, which when understood, removes difficulties and accounts for God's dealings with His people ofttimes. They get away from Him. The Lord Jesus loses His due and proper place, as the centre of their affections—the object of their faith and service—the eye is not single-worldliness comes in—independency and, presently, haughtiness of spirit: the soul becomes “ lifted up” (just the contrary to the word "learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart”). The Lord judges it and sifts because of His Divine, unceasing, as unchangeable love. This blessed Divine culture and teaching was not lost on Habakkuk, for in chapter iii. we see him fully in the Lord's thoughts. In the power of communion with God he has the vision of the Holy One from Mount Paran, the manifestation and power of the Son of Man, whose glory covered the heavens and the earth was full of His praise. And then, notwithstanding all his exercises, ver. 16, “and disappointment and failure all around," ver. 17, he comes to the blessed conclusion, that let man or things fail, God is VOL.III. PT.I.
full of grace and truth. “The Lord God is my strength and He will make my feet like hind's feet, and He will make me to walk upon mine high places.” How hard it is for the human heart to give God His place, and to put man in his place ! and to walk and abide in the power of such faith !
Thus we see the beginning and end of that time or dispensation marked with this emphatic testimony. And what is witnessed to us in the Word for our own time, or during this dispensation in which the Church is gathered? The same truth. Blessed it is to know that while man fails, God does not fail. He may set aside or close dispensations, but His people " are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” The existence of what is entrusted to man's hands will depend upon man's faithfulness. The existence, i.e. salvation, of the people of God depends on His faithfulness, our unfailing security. And it is good to remember this, for in such a scene as presents itself to many an eye now, souls may, through unbelief, begin to question God's purpose and grace. Now the Apostle Paul meets this very blessedly in his second letter to Timothy. There he draws a most dark fearful picture (chap. iii.) of the last days and perilous times in which our lot is cast. In his description of corrupt Christianity, the reader may remark that many of the terms employed by the Apostle describing the character of those of whom he speaks, are the same terms which are used in Romans i. in setting forth the horrible account of the gentile world; but the picture in 2nd Timothy is more fearfully bad, because of that word “having a form of godliness." The name of God is tacked on to the abominations of man. Now in this very letter, giving such an awful, frightful description of the time we are in, how truly precious are the words of comfort, the beacons of light for humble souls, brought into contrast with that which would alarm the soul. Mark the sentences of truth to support the soul cast upon God. We find in chap. i. that which is to be laid hold of by faith and gloried in, ver. 9, “ Who hath saved us.” Ver. 14, “The Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us." In chap. ii. ver. 8, “Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed
of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel.” Ver. 13, “ He cannot deny Himself,” the only thing our Lord Jesus cannot do! In chap. iii. ver. 16, “ All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” How good how beneficent is God! With the sad, awful dark history of such a time. Our God furnishes that truth for humble weak souls who look to Him, which can raise them up, out of, and above all the turmoil, confusion and failure. “What hath God wrought!” Is the soul alarmed and confounded at what is passing? Sweet the assurance of our God “ Who hath saved us and called us with
a holy calling (just what Satan would have us to question and deny] not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before the world began, but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death and hath brought life and immortality [incorruptibility) to light through the Gospel." Is there a “great house” containing those from whom a man must purge himself, if he be obedient, "a vessel unto honour sanctified and meet for the master's use”—The faithful man is thrown upon Him who cannot deny Himself, he has all Scripture and the Holy Ghost dwelling in him, to lead into all truth. How tender is our God! The witness of Jude is in the same strain. After a hideous picture of apostasy and man's corruption, the Spirit of God by Jude addresses a remnant out-side professing bodies building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God." Not their love to God, but their hearts being established in grace, to know God's love to them, and all His dealings according to His love and grace and not according to their apprehension of it. The Spirit then inculcates largeheartedness with faithfulness and abhorrence of the evil. "Of some have compassion, making a difference, and others save with fear, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” Othat such a heart were formed and found in us, because faithful and true to Christ, large towards the brethren (compare Job xlii. 10, “And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for