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Great Christian Works:     Natural Emblems Of Spiritual Life   By A. B. Simpson

A. B. Simpson

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Natural Emblems Of Spiritual Life
By A. B. Simpson

Business Terms As Types Of Spiritual Things

"But now hath He obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also He is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises."   Hebrews 8:6

NOT only are all the objects of Nature used as emblems of spiritual life and truth, but God has put teachings of His own holy truth into the framework of man's secular and social life. He has used the ordinary employments and business arrangements of every day as types of His own transactions with us. In every part of commercial life, we can see a finger pointing upward like a church spire, and telling us of God. On our business streets, and in all the marts of trade, we can learn many precious lessons of God's covenant blessings. The business man, as he goes to make a deposit in the bank, can think of the great treasure he has laid up for him in Heaven.

Such verses as this may come to his mind : "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep my deposit against that day." So, too, the broker as he prepares his insurance papers, and the proprietor man as he takes them from his hand may think of the greater security he has obtained for the future. When the flames of dissolution shall sweep over this dissolving world, he need not fear for he is safe from loss or danger. The notary, as he places the stamp upon the paper, and hands over the sealed document, and the one person who receives it, may each think of the greater covenant written with God's own finger and sealed with His own stamp. So through the whole circle of business life, there is something which speaks of God.

The Scriptures are framed on these moulds, and, to understand all their meaning, we must understand business forms among men, especially among God's ancient people. God is definite in His transactions, even far more than man. The whole plan of salvation is precise, and yet wonderful in its adaptation to the needs of the community or people to whom comes, bringing its promises of help. The act of faith, by which its offers are received, is as much a business matter as a letter written to a person accepting some offer in every day commercial transactions. It is setting our seal to God's covenant of grace. The work of the Holy Ghost is described under these figures. The great act by which God secures redemption to us, is called a covenant. The Communion service in which we so often participate, is described by a commercial term. It is not only a supper of which God and His dear children partake together, but it is a will and testament the seal of a covenant. It is a business transaction repeated often in the presence of men and angels.

These terms, which are employed so freely in the Bible, give us insight not only into God's character, but they present His truth in such a definite way that we are able more readily to grasp it. We will speak this morning of two or three of these and the manner in which they are intended to help our struggling faith. The first of these is the word "covenant;" the second, "seal," and the third, "earnest." They are all closely linked together.

I.

In the first of these we shall, perhaps, be able to get a view of God's covenant with us. In the text it is spoken of as a better covenant of which Christ is the surety. The word means a treaty which is formed between communities or individuals. Such things were very common in ancient times, and particularly in Oriental countries, they were considered very sacred. An Arab today counts his word or his covenant as sacred as his life. With them they were ratified by some simple ceremony. The covenant of salt was always ratified by each party partaking of bread and salt, and striking hands together heartily when the rite was over. The compact then was as good as the life of each man. In certain parts of Africa the persons, forming a covenant, partake of each other's blood.

A vein is opened in the arm of one of them, and the other drinks his blood. There is then a blood covenant between them which can never be broken. In the distant East, that land of spiritual symbols, a covenant is regarded as a very sacred thing, and God has taken this form and made it the pledge of His love and help for His lost and redeemed people. We find covenants running all through the Scriptures. There was first the covenant of works by which Adam, and his posterity were to be saved if they kept it unbroken. Then there was the covenant written in stone by the finger of God in presence of the holy angels. Still further back there was a covenant before man was born by which the sin of the world was to fall upon Christ, by whose sufferings lost man was to be redeemed and brought back to God.

This was a covenant in which Christ and the Father participated. It was the covenant of grace. The other covenant of works was broken, and God knew it would be; the covenant of grace through Jesus Christ never can be broken. It is the best and strongest of all the covenants. It is made with God's dear Son. I like to think that God did not make this covenant with me personally, but with Jesus Christ for me, and it is kept by Him. All through the Old Testament this truth is taught. Salvation is a great transaction, in which the Father and the Son are the transacting parties. Jesus stands as the head of the redeemed race and undertakes to fulfill all the conditions of the agreement. He stands there with the Father in the ages before the world was formed, as though man had already fallen.

He assumes all the guilt of the fall, undertakes to suffer for the sin, to fulfill the rightousness which man has lost, and to pay all the debt he has incurred. He measures all the possibilities of man's failure, and assumes all the responsibility of preserving his love and faith and obedience unbroken. He undertakes the whole of it, and agrees to make the matter right on man's part. God on the other hand agrees to remit the penalty for sin, to blot out all the transgressions, and to accept sinful man in His Son through all the ages to come. It is of this that the Father speaks when He says: "I will give Thee for a covenant of the people." Jesus came down to earth for this very thing, to be the surety of a better covenant. If God had made the covenant with us we would certainly have broken it, but Christ has made it sure for us by fulfilling all its stipulations.

He took the hardest place that could be found in the universe. He overcame all its difficulties, and until the end He shall not fail. His holy life was lived in the presence of sinful men, the burden of our guilt was fully borne, and until death He stood without a failure. Then He could raise the exultant cry, "It is finished." The price was all paid, the purchase was complete, and we have nothing to do but to enter into the possession He has prepared for His beloved and redeemed ones. Then He ascended up on high, having led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. As soon as the work of redemption was complete the Father began to deliver over into His hands the results of His wonderful sacrifice and toil, and He shares it with us, His brethren.

He is the elder brother, and so inherits everything, but we enter into His possession and enjoy it with Him. He takes us in as joint heirs with Himself. The covenant of salvation was not made with us. It was made with Christ for us. He became the surety of this better covenant. He undertook to be the sponsor for you and me. We do not promise God to do this or that, and then He will do His part. That old covenant of works was broken in the garden of Eden, and never can be kept by man.

Christ becomes surety for the frail heart of man. He knows it is nothing but a rope of sand, yet he says: "I will stand for it." Christ becomes through this covenant of grace surety for our rightousness. As we let Him live in us and control us perfectly He meets God's expectation in us, and the covenant is fulfilled. What is the language of the old prophets in this connection? "I will put my spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them." "I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever." God puts Christ's spirit within you, beloved. Christ is in you as the strength of your life and He is for you, the surety of better a covenant. Let us be very careful that we lean only on that inner consciousness of the Spirit's presence.

There is another sense of this word which is also very sweet. God has not only made a covenant with Christ, He makes a personal covenant with each one of us. We have come to trust in the fulfillment of Christ's great covenant with the Father for us all collectively as His people. But besides that, it is very blessed to have separate covenants with God for ourselves, each in his own life. They are little circles of precious links with God, revolving within the greater circle of Christ's marvelous work for us, and working out the fulness of their purpose with as great certainty as Jesus' own work is being fulfilled.

One of the first acts I did as a child after my conversion was to write out such a covenant with God. I had been reading the severe but profoundly heart-searching writings of Dr. Philip Doddridge, and I took his suggestion about such a plan. I wrote it out carefully and signed and sealed it. I could weep sometimes as I think of the many little things God let me put into that covenant, and the marvelous way in which He fulfilled them, trifling as they seemed afterward. I was careful even then, to make it in accordance with Scripture, and so it was not presumptuous. I have learned more fully since then, that a knowledge of His will is the highest thing we can ask for. More than anything else we need that there shall be a perfect understanding between His heart and ours.

What He does not wish me to know I do not care about knowing; and away back in those early days I had a consciousness that not one of His thoughts for me would ever fail. One of the things that as a child I chose in that first covenant was the working out of His best thought for me. I chose even then the will that He intended for me, as the best thing that could be wrought into my life. Later, as my life has been more fully yielded to Him, I have known that He was fulfilling it, and am sure that He will to the very end. We can lean back upon the knowledge of this truth, and find it supporting us like cables of steel, each one of them a separate line of communication with heaven.

Yes, beloved, the Lord has a covenant for each of us, a better covenant than our wills could frame. It is sweet to think of it. It is a covenant by which God is specially pledged to you, and you are immutably bound to Him. Let us then lift up our heads in confidence, and realize what it means, for we have a "strong consolation who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us, which hope we have as an anchor to the soul, both sure and steadfast." It is sure; it cannot be shaken. There is nothing that need frighten you. God has made it sure, that we may be free from fear. We know it is strong and safe. We can go to sleep on it. We can awake and go to work upon it. We can suffer and die upon it.

There is nothing more secure and solid in the universe. It is as stable as eternity, as deity itself. "It is an anchor to the soul sure and steadfast." God is under covenant to each one of you, beloved friends. He has bound Himself to you so strongly that He can not tear Himself away. It is a safe place to be in, but all it cost Him to provide it for us not even the angels can know. God help us to abide in it, and say evermore:

"On Christ the solid rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand."

II.

The next expression, we will refer to this morning, is the word seal. It is used in the epistles as a type of the stamp of the Holy Ghost which God puts upon us when we accept His word. There are two seals spoken of in the New Testament: one is the seal of faith; the other is the seal of the Spirit. "He that hath received His testimony hath set to His seal that God is true." That is the seal of faith. "In whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise." That is the work of God. I put my seal upon the document, and then God puts His there.

He will not do this, however, until you have committed your faith irrevocably to Him and His word first. As in business transactions the most responsible party reserves his signature until the other has affixed his, so God does also. When you accept Him wholly and without reserve, then He gives the stamp of inner gladness and joy and peace. The trouble is we are too apt to want His seal before we have put down our own, forgetting the word of Jesus, "He that believeth not the Son shall not see life." There must be faith on our part before God will seal us with the Holy Spirit.

Jeremiah was so convinced that the children of Israel would be brought back from their captivity that before they were carried away, he bought back part of his old paternal estates, believing God's word that fields and vineyards should again be possessed in the land. He sealed the covenant he thus made with its former owner with two seals, one of which was open and the other was closed. Beloved, God's covenant with us has two seals also. The open one is faith in the Word of God. But there is a secret seal He puts upon His dear children, that is fore each one personally. This is the Holy Spirit by which God impresses upon our hearts a sense of His acceptance, and a consciousness of His presence and blessing.

III.

The last business term, which we will look at today, is the word earnest. It occurs in the same verse which we read before. Eph 1: 13 "Ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession." God not only seals us when we become His children, but He gives us something which He calls an earnest. The old Hebrew custom will convey some meaning of this figure. The earnest was a guarantee and in some sense a sample, a first installment of the thing covenanted for. So with us it is the beginning of that which God means to give later more fully.

When Jeremiah bought back his old estate, he probably received from its former owner a handful of soil taken from the farm according to the ancient custom, as a token that he should have the whole of it. This first installment or earnest of future possession used to accompany all the deeds of ancient times. The covenant was not only sealed, but along with it came a little pledge of future possession. God uses this figure to teach us a precious truth. He not only gives us a promise, confirmed by an oath, of what He is going to do for us, but the Holy Spirit gives a part of that which is yet to come into our hands. He begins to pay it over to us from the very commencement of the contract. As fast as we can take in the soil of heaven we are put in possession of it.

The future inheritance is transfused into our life here in some measure. There is nothing that we shall have or that we shall be in the fullness of glory but we begin to have and to be in the days of grace. There is not a song we shall sing in heaven but we shall begin to learn it here. There is not a glory or a purity or a power awaiting us yonder but we have received the beginnings of here. The fullness of eternal life we begin to receive here on earth : and if we do not have it here in foretaste, beloved, we shall not have it there. As we sit here this morning in His holy presence, do we realize that we have all heavenly things, not only in promise, but that we are really tasting them?

This word earnest is used not only in reference to our spiritual possessions, but about our physical life also. It has been very impressive to me to find out this truth about divine healing. God begins to give us the resurrection life of His dear Son here on earth. We have an earnest not only of the purity and bliss of heaven, but the beginnings of resurrection life in physical power in our nerves and veins. Speaking of this, Paul says:

"For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:

If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.

For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened; not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.

Now he that hath wrought us for1 the self-same thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.

Therefore we are always confident."

The Spirit is giving us now the first fulfillment of the promise of resurrection life. We can know it in the beating of the heart, and the fresh energy of the whole frame. Resurrection life has indeed already begun.

God has given us this morning three great words: His covenant of grace; the seal of the Holy Spirit; and the earnest of an inheritance which Jesus died to bring to us, and of which He has become the sponsor and guardian. Are you sure that you have them all, dear friends? Are you sure you are trusting in His covenant, and not your own, and that you have received His pledges and the surety of His word and love? May God begin today to renew His covenant and seal, and press into our lives the earnest of His promises of future glory in abundant foretaste, so that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

Chapter 22  

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