Last Updated on : Saturday, October 11, 2014


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Seasons of Comfort (Volume 1)

Robert Roberts


Sunday Number

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Book Contents  
Vol 2  

Light and Darkness


Need for the weekly breaking of bread. -- No light within. -- When put in it must be fed continually. -- Present impressions misleading. -- Wisdom utters a disagreeable "Don't." -- Natural man prefers no restraint. -- Bible neglected. - Pleasures of the present world. -- Nemesis of the Word. -- That which is wise to be done. -- That which is written. -- The world a passing but deceptive affair. -- Feeling contrary to knowledge. -- A dangerous spiritual glamour. - The devil of experience. -- The way he is to be combated. -- The philosophy of spiritual strength. -- Heavy weights sinking a man elegantly to perdition. -- One thing needful. -- Several "musts." -- Evanescence of the present life. -- The lessons of history. -- Life's rugged hill, the vain toil and quiet grave. -- The prayers of the righteous and their answer.


WE much need this weekly reminder of Christ. Increasing experience will show every thoughtful mind the entire wisdom of the appointment by which Christ has made it a matter of duty to break bread each first day of the week in remembrance of him. Without it, we should drift into forgetfulness and death. The appointment was founded upon a knowledge of what man is and how he is affected by his surroundings. In this it differs from human institutions. Human appointments are liable to be founded on false theories, and, therefore, to work mischief instead of benefit. It is a false theory that we have "light within"; it is a false theory that we have intrinsic memory of divine things; it is a false theory that knowledge once introduced into the mind is a permanent fixture there; and any line of action based upon these assumptions is certain to lead away from the path of life. Most men are more or less influenced by a false theory of this sort, and the effect is seen in the neglect of Bible reading, the neglect of meetings, the neglect of "the ordinances," as delivered by Paul at the command of Christ; and the effect of this neglect is spiritual death.

The Bible representation of human nature is found experimentally to be true - that man is dark left to his native resources; that there is no good in him by nature; that light comes from without; that there is no light but Christ; that this light, by the Gospel, heard, understood, believed and obeyed, shines into the inner man, and constitutes the recipients children of light; yet that the reception of this light does not save him unless it remains with him; that there is danger of its not remaining; that man is weak; that he is liable to "let slip" the "things which he has heard"; that he is in danger of being hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, and departing from the living God; drawing back into perdition, after having run well for a while. Nothing is more plainly revealed than that it is he who endureth to the end that is to be saved; that it is they who hold fast the beginning of their confidence and rejoicing of the hope, steadfast unto the end, that are to be made partakers of Christ; that the man not keeping in memory the Gospel, not remaining grounded and settled, but being moved away from the hope of the Gospel, will fail in entering into the kingdom of God.

These testimonies (for all these things are testified Matt. 24:13; Heb. 3:6, 14; 1 Cor. 15:2; Col. 1:23; Heb. 2:3; 3:13) point to a danger to which it is very easy to become oblivious. The human mind easily gives in to present facts, or rather, the impression they make, and these impressions are generally in the contrary direction to wisdom and well-being. Youth would eat unwholesome things and walk in hurtful ways, because they are pleasant for the time being, and do not, in their first impressions, show him the mischief. Knowledge, parentally enforced where there is wisdom, steps in and says, "Don't." The child either has loving confidence in the restriction, and submits willingly to the disagreeable denial, to find out afterwards the sweetness of wisdom; or dislikes the "Don't," and yields only to compulsion, but afterwards to discover the same lesson. Youth grown up, i.e., men and women, old and young, shows the same tendency to be led by the appearance of things, but lacks, in the absence of the kingdom of God, the guidance which is the privilege of some children. In most things, they judge by proximate sensations, and consequently go astray. It is pleasant to be free from restraint, and therefore, they go, "every one to his own way," to find at last that the pleasant ways of the natural man incline to darkness and death. It is irksome to watch daily at the gates of wisdom, waiting at the posts of her door; therefore, wisdom is made to lie on the library shelf, or under the table, or behind the door, or in the yard outside -- anywhere -- to wait the convenience of the man who prefers to find engagement in attending to the wants and pleasures, business and concerns, of the present animal existence; which, being interpreted, means that the Bible, which is to us the voice of Eternal Wisdom, is by some attended to in an only occasional and indifferent way, instead of being read and studied daily; and this because other things are sweeter to the taste or esteemed more important to be attended to. The result is that a man, at last, when he has lost the zest of human enjoyments -- nay, when perhaps the possession of them is gone for ever -- finds himself barren of that most precious of all treasures, to find which is to find life, the favour of the Lord and riches for evermore; but to find which requires, in the divine arrangements, that it be sought after with all the industry and energy implied in the figure of digging as for hid treasure. It is pleasant to have the smile and countenance of neighbours; it is pleasant to have plenty in hand; it is pleasant to have the friendship and honour of the world; and, therefore, men are liable to be insensibly governed by these things in the ordering of their lives, and to yield but a cold response to the demands of wisdom -- demands which, in many cases, are inconsistent with these pleasures, and mortifying to the natural man in general. The result of listening to these seductions will certainly be shame and death. This is revealed; and though men in prosperity may disregard the still small voice of wisdom, they will be compelled to listen at another time, when their surroundings will be those of desolation and consternation. Profane talkers speak of the Nemesis that follows in the wake of human action. There is no Nemesis like the Word of God, spoken now in quietness and love. It will yet rend the foundation of wickedness with destructive earthquake. It will subvert all the kingdoms of the world with a violence before which fleets and armies will be as nothing, and which will cause even the children of pride to lament with a pitiful wail when they see their houses in ruins before the hurricane of divine vengeance.

Not that which is pleasant to be done, but that which is wise to be done, will be the motto of every true member of the house of Christ. And that which is wise to be done is that which God has commanded; because obedience to His commandments only, will bring honour and life at the last. And what He has commanded is that which is written in the Scriptures of truth. Our anxiety, therefore, is to know, and remember, and hold fast, and honour, and constantly meditate upon, and do the things that are written therein. There is no other path of wisdom but this. In any other way vanity is the vexatious accompaniment, and death the end of the journey.

The world passeth away and the fashion thereof. This is a fact which everyone will admit; but how many allow to the fact its practical effect in their lives? Most men are under the power of illusion contrary to their perceptions on this subject. They know that human existence is a transient affair; they know that Christ has already appeared in the earth, and laid the foundation of the only concern of lasting consequence among men; and that in the purpose of God, Christ will, in due course, appear again and judge every man's work in the light of what he has required of them by the hands of his apostles. They know all this, and yet their feelings are contrary to their knowledge. They feel as if human life were not transient, but as if they had always been, and as if they would always exist. They feel as if Christ were merely a matter of history and dispute, and his future coming an ideal theme for poesy. Consequently they are liable to be swayed by that which seems the only reality: the maxims of men and the exigencies of the present evil world. This is a dangerous spiritual glamour, to be thrown off with the utmost determination. It is the power of the devil upon us -- not the mythical devil of orthodox phrase, but the dangerous devil of actual experience, the devil that lurks in every man's bosom -- the devil of natural stupidity, which is pouring endless lies into the ear -- the devil of ignorance and carnal affinity which binds in strong delusion the masses of mankind, and who can only be kept at bay in the children of light by unceasing vigilance in the warfare to which they have been called.

What literally is the mode of warfare to be adopted in the contest with this dangerous foe? Paul indicates it in saying to the Ephesian elders, "I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and give you an inheritance among all them who are sanctified" (Acts 20:32). Also Jesus, in his prayer, "Sanctify them through thy truth" (John 17:17). What is the essence of the idea here but this, that the false impression of the senses is to be combated by the implantation of knowledge which is beyond the reach of the senses? Christ is not within reach of the senses, because he is absent from the earth. If we trusted to our senses, we should believe that he was nothing - past, present, or to come. God's communications with Israel and His deeds on their behalf are beyond reach of the senses, because we live not in the day of their occurrence, but in the interregnum of the divine work on earth. If we listened to our senses, we should never know that such communications had occurred, and consequently should be influenced by the supposition that there never had been and never could be any work of God on the earth beyond what we see in the natural ordinances of creation. Our senses would tell us lies on these and many other particulars; and thus our natural selves are to ourselves the devil, whose impositions and temptations are to be continually resisted by the weapon of knowledge provided in the word. This applied to the mind creates, and constantly applied, maintains, the right impression with regard to all these things; and this right impression, sedulously cultivated and obeyed, gives us the victory: for what is the victory that overcometh the world? Even our faith (1 John 5:4); and what is faith? "The confidence of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1). And how cometh this faith? "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17); and the Word of God was spoken by the Spirit (2 Pet. 1:20, 21).

Here is what you may call the philosophy of spiritual strength. It is here where the vital importance of the Bible and all the institutions connected with it is to be seen, and the importance also of avoiding all things, however "lawful" in themselves, which being calculated to foster the false impressions of life, or to interfere with the nurture of the true, are most inexpedient and dangerous. A man giving himself to the pursuit of a scientific hobby or a political enterprise engaging the enthusiasm of ungodly crowds, or to the cultivation of friendships on the basis of the present evil world, burdens himself with heavy weights which are almost certain to sink him into perdition in an elegant style. One thing is needful; with others we can dispense. We must have the knowledge of God in the power thereof sufficient to transform the natural man into the likeness of the divine moral image. We must be spiritually-minded, for any other state means death. We must walk as friends of God; and as such we cannot have friendship with the world, which is revealed as His enemy, and friendship with whom He counts enmity to Himself. We must be filled with wisdom -- the wisdom which is from above -- the wisdom which comes from and relates to God; for the absence of it ensures our repudiation by Him in the day when He makes up His jewels. And to secure this wisdom, we must apply ourselves continually to its acquisition; for the acquisition thereof is difficult and a work of time. Like the precious things of Nature, God has made wisdom a hidden thing, requiring search, and which the hand of the diligent only at last obtains. There is, therefore, no time for the occupations of folly. True saints recognize the necessity for working out their own salvation. To them Peter's exhortation is no meaningless one, that they be diligent to make their calling and election sure. They recognize the immense dangers to which they are exposed. They resist, as the most diabolical of devilish delusions, either the theory of light within, on the one hand, or the Calvinistic fatalistic no-will-of-your-own doctrine on the other -- doctrines which both alike seduce from the path of earnest heedfulness to the means of our salvation, which God has provided for us in His Word.

And by constant meditation on all they see around them, they aim to realize to themselves the evanescent character of the present life, and so to be helped in the diligent pursuit of that which is truly real and important. History and general knowledge are here a help. They assist the understanding to cope with and put to flight the delusion of the senses. They enable us to see and to feel, in spite of the constant, importunate, and plausible appeals of the natural man, alias the devil, to the contrary, that our present existence is in itself no more real than the vapour to which James compares it; and thus numbering our days, we are taught to apply our hearts to wisdom. Looking back, we see busy generations struggling up life's rugged hill, all with the same hopeful eagerness, all with the same ardent anxieties, all with the same idea of the importance of the affairs in hand; and as we see them gain the top and descend the other side, we notice the same toning down, the same disappointment, the same vanity and vexation of spirit, and the same quiet grave at the bottom. As we contemplate the scene, we say with Isaiah, "Surely the people is grass"; and with another prophet, "Lord, we are no better than our fathers"; and with another, "Wherefore hast thou made all men in vain? What man is he that liveth and shall not see death? Shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave?" (Psa. 89:47, 48); and with a fourth we pray, "Return, O Lord, how long? ... Make us glad according to the days wherein thou has afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil. Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children. And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it." We bear the answer as we read, "Thy dead men shall live ... awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust" (Isa.26:19). "I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O death, I will be thy plagues; 0 grave, I will be thy destruction" (Hos. 13:14). "O Jacob, I will restore health unto thee, and will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the Lord; because they called thee an outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after" (Jer. 30:17). "In this mountain the Lord of hosts shall make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the tees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. And he will destroy the face of the covering that is cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces, and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from all the earth; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. And it shall be said in that day, Lo: this is our God; we have waited for Him and he will save us ... We will be glad and rejoice in his salvation." "The tabernacle of God shall be with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain for the former things are passed away"(Rev.21:3,4).



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