Last Updated on : Saturday, October 11, 2014


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Seasons of Comfort (Volume 1)

Robert Roberts


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Book Contents  
Vol 2  

Christ and Nature

Nothing in Nature to remind us of Christ. -- Christ to be found only in the testimony, and brought home to us in the breaking of bread. -- The naturalist an admirer, but not a son. -- The sons of God will be for ever. -- The danger of mere rationalism. -- All education a fight against it. -- The only complete education. -- The mind of the Spirit. -- Minding the things of the Spirit. - Human forgetfulness, especially in divine matters. -- Bible reading a necessity.- - Otherwise we drift with the current. -- No fear of spiritual extremes. - These self-corrective, while the natural man's extremes are not so. -- Natural extremes become more extreme. -- A carnal and a useless life. -- The only valuable, possession in view of Christ's coming. -- A prudent and pleasant investment. -- False maxims. -- The standard of the word. -- The breaking of bread. -- Its necessiy. -- The blessing we lose if we neglect it. -- A joyful sitting down in the kingdom of God.


WE do well to come here to remember Christ. There is nothing to remind us of him in our daily surroundings: on the contrary, everything tends to hide him from our view. The sight of the eyes is blindness in this matter. The crowded thoroughfares tell us he is not a reality. The busy haunts of business -- the bank, the exchange, the market, the docks, the warehouse, the workshop -- seem to say he is a myth. The quiet walks of life are no more reliable; the office, the house, the family, the laboratory, the garden, whisper that there is no Christ. Even Nature in her silent proclamation of God tells us not the truth in this matter. She tells us in her majestic solitudes that there must be a Master somewhere, and a purpose equal to her greatness; but she speaks not of Christ as the answer to our needs. If she only is our teacher, with all the great sky, the mighty mountain, the towering crag, the deep ravine, the thick forest and smiling plain, the opening flower and hum of insect life, the song of the birds and the lowing cattle, the beautiful landscape and the great and wide sea -- she will but fill us with a sense of dreariness as of the emptiness of a majestic hall interior without an audience or entertainment.

To find Christ we must seek him where he is to be found, and where, at present, God has appointed he should only be found. It hath pleased God by the foolishness (so esteemed of men) of preaching to save them that believe. Christ is presented to us in that preaching, and the preaching takes a variety of forms. The apostles are dead, but they preach to us in the words they have written, and in these words they preach Christ. That is, they speak of one of whom we should otherwise know nothing, and that one "the heir of all things" and disposer of all destiny on earth. That mighty personage was once on earth himself, expounding all "the things concerning himself" out of "Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms." He is now absent "for a little while," and we hear not his voice, but he preaches to us in the ordinance delivered unto us, which we have met this morning to keep, and by which we "show forth his death until he come." The result of the preaching is to create in the mind a perception of his reality, from which springs "the conviction of things hoped for"; and this is faith, without which it is impossible to please God. This faith is accounted to us for righteousness; God is pleased with it, and condescends to recognize it as righteousness in us, for Christ's sake, in whom His, righteousness hath been declared in the condemnation of sin in the likeness of sinful flesh. This imputing of our faith for righteousness is justification by faith, in which we have "peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ," and are become "joint heirs with Christ" of "the glory to be revealed."

Now, the mere naturalist has no access to this faith, "in which we stand and rejoice in hope of the glory of God." He is simply a beholder, and, it may be, an admirer, of the beautiful features of Nature as God has organized it, but without knowing God himself or sympathizing with the purpose of which Nature is but the platform or raw material. He is himself, therefore, a mere passing object of Nature, like the creatures he studies, and whose bones, perhaps, he collects. He is not a "son," but a "slave"; and the slave abideth not in the house, but the son abideth ever. He is of the "world," of which John says, that it "passeth away"; in contrast to which, he adds, "but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." The sons of God, who are not mere admirers of the works of God, but do His pleasure, will live for ever. This is God's purpose, and though not visible now, will in its due season become as obvious a fact as the stability of Nature. Our concern is to belong to that most privileged order of men. In the promotion of this concern, we must be on our guard against mere naturalism. All of us have more or less a bias in that direction. Our native tendency as men is to remain ignorant of all things, and act in accordance with superficial appearances. To war against this tendency is to fight the good fight. Educationists are at war with it in a certain department; but their operations are too limited to secure lasting results. They are directed to knowledge of Nature and the improvement of mortal life. The operations of the apostles in which we may be comprehended by the study of their word, are directed to a knowledge of God and His purposes, and a consequent redemption from mortality itself at the last. It is here where the truly good fight has to be fought. This is the warfare in which we are engaged: to bring the natural mind into subjection to the mind of God. The natural mind -- the mind left to its own tendencies and resources -- is, by the testimony of Paul, in which all experience concurs, "enmity against God: it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be; so then, they that are in the flesh cannot please God."

The mind of the Spirit is exhibited to us in the word delivered to us by the Spirit through chosen men in ancient times, which word bath been "written for our learning." Consequently, our aim must be to learn that mind, and to be subject to it in all things. To be subject to the word is to be subject to the Spirit. To have the spirit of the word is to have the mind of the Spirit. If we fail in attaining this mind, we fail in attaining the end of the Gospel, and our salvation is not possible. We may know the Gospel and be damned by it instead of saved. It has two sides: and is either a savour of life unto life, or death unto death. It is better not to know the way of life, than knowing it, to trifle with it, or turn from the holy commandments delivered unto us. Its object is to create a zealous and peculiar people for Christ, whose zeal and peculiarity are due to the implantation of the spirit of the word in all the fulness and fervour which are reasonable. In some, this mission is accomplished; in others it is not. The difference is visible on the principle stated by Paul: "They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit." The Spirit in its moral power, dwells in the one class, and dwells not in the other; the mind of the other is pre-occupied with other interests, affinities and schemes which choke the word and render it unfruitful. The reason is to be found in the fact that the one class submits to the operation of the agency God has appointed for bringing about the indwelling of the word; and the other does not. The one obeys the exhortation of Paul, to "let the word of Christ dwell in them richly": the other gives it no heed, but drifts on in the current of creature gratifications in the thousand matters that constitute "this present evil world."

The agency which God has appointed for bringing about the indwelling of the word is based upon the fact of human forgetfulness. There is a constitutional need for bringing it to remembrance. Every man of reflection experiences this need. Even in human knowledge, the memory has constantly to be refreshed; how much more in the things of the Spirit, for which there is not only no natural affinity, but to which there is a constitutional repugnance. We should make a great mistake if we were to rest on our oars at all. The achievements of the past are only valuable to us if we preserve our connection with them by means of an unbroken line of similar action. This refers to present profitableness and divine approbation: we must in many ways "endure to the end." We know the truth, it may be, but it does not follow that we can afford to let the study of it alone. Even as respects knowledge, the word of God is so constituted that we cannot become acquainted with all its teaching apart from daily reading and thought; but what shall we say as to the personal views, tastes, and affections which it is intended to engender? It is here where our greatest need exists. The current of the natural mind is in the opposite direction to the mind of the Spirit, and that current is strengthened by all the circumstances to which we are related in life, whether in business or at home. We cannot hope to make headway against this current apart from the daily reading and meditation of the testimonies of God. If we suspend this process -- if we become lax in our attention to them, we shall as surely drift in the wrong direction as a boat set loose will drift down the stream. We shall slowly but surely come under the dominion of the carnal mind, in all our sentiments . and "to be carnally minded is death."

We need all the helps we can get in our struggle with this tendency that draws to death. No fear of going to an extreme. The danger of extreme is all the other way. Extreme in a spiritual direction (such as there is any possibility of running into), is self-corrective, because the commands of the Spirit, daily pondered, will remind the liable extremist that there are other duties besides reading the Bible, and studying the truth, and prayer; that there are duties in many things pertaining to this life which require attention, and which yet may be so performed as to be as much a doing of the will of God as any act in which we can engage. But the other extreme is not self-corrective: it binds its slaves in stronger and stronger fetters. The man who goes to an extreme in saving money, becomes more and more saving. The man who goes to an extreme in developing business, becomes more and more devoted to that object, and increasingly indifferent to everything else. The man who goes to an extreme in careful provision for family exigencies, becomes more and more careful and anxious, until the words of Christ, which tell us to be without carefulness, cease to have the least meaning for him. All these classes of extremists -- and they are legion -- sink at last into a state of spiritual torpor, in which all sensibility is gone. The present world, which they have loved, has slain them, while they continue to think they are alive. They imagine their spiritual interests will take care of themselves; at all events, they can spare neither the time nor the money necessary for the promotion of them, and so precious life is wasted and thrown away, and the case of the fool with the barns is enacted over again. The result is inevitable: the man comes to die, and awakes to the fact that he has lived a carnal and useless life; that he has laid up treasure for himself, and is not rich towards God. Or Christ comes, and the same terrible disclosure opens to his eyes with still more staggering effect; for where will all the careful provisions and snug arrangements of this life be when the Redeemer stands at last in this latter day upon the earth? Everyone instinctively feels that in that day our personal affairs will have vanished into nothing; and that the only valuable possession will be the answer of a good conscience in being able to think that we have used life, in things few or many, as servants of the Lord Jesus Christ -- as good stewards of the grace of God -- and have not unfaithfully appropriated it to ourselves. In that day, even such an extreme as half a fortune given to the poor (Luke 19:8), will be a prudent and pleasant investment, when a careful hoard for self and family will seem as a fire in the bones -- a millstone burden that may sink the possessor to the depths of the sea. Prudence is reckoned all one way just now, because God is not in the reckoning. Men will praise thee when thou doest well to thyself. But when the true reckoning day arrives, men will return and discern between him that serveth God and him that serveth Him not. It will then be discovered that the faithful use of unrighteous mammon does not consist of its careful consecration to personal and family interests (in which all the faithless world shine conspicuous); but in using it as trustees for Christ in this day of his shame in the many ways he has indicated. "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." Every man is his own judge at present, but the earnest competitor for Christ's approval will fear to be implicated in the unfaithfulness of any who teach or practise in opposition to his commandments, even and more particularly if such profess subjection to his name. The false maxims of a professor are more dangerous than those of the world, because those of the world have little weight, while disciples are apt to be influenced to their hurt by believers who have not learnt the practical principles of the house of God. We must be on our guard, and take our cue from the word only. "If any man speak not according to this," we know how to estimate his sayings. Such care will only be offensive to the children of the flesh; the children of God delight to be measured by the word, and to be brought to its standard. They may appear inconvenient and even odious at present, but the end will justify their attitude.

One of our helps in the right direction is this breaking of bread. It is Christ's own appointment. Let us never neglect it. Let us never make the mistake of supposing we can do without it. We don't know what we need: he who appointed this knows all. People who stay at home do not know what they lose. The going out, the having the thoughts turned towards the things of God in a collective act, the seeing the brethren, and the going through the various exercises connected with the remembrance of Christ, are all quietly beneficial to an extent not known at the time; and continued from first day to first day, they have a powerful moulding effect on the inner man. They are like the sunshine and rain, which act slowly and invisibly on the grain in the field, yet with effects which become very visible at last on a comparison with those fields which have been exposed to drought and heat. The institution of the breaking of bread is based upon an exact knowledge of human nature and its needs. It helps to keep us in a healthful association of ideas, while it gives us the opportunity of a public acknowledgment of the Lord and the personal recognition of his despised friends. It is humiliating to the natural man who has any position in the present evil world, and who, sooner or later, finds reasons for backing out. Blessed are they who love Thy law, nothing shall them offend. Let us be found walking diligently in this, as in all the commandments of the Lord, blameless.

The day is near at hand when it will be apparent to all men that such a course "hath great recompense of reward" (Heb. 10:35). We shall be called upon to take part in this feast of love in another way. They were no vain words which Christ spoke when he said he would drink the passover wine with them new in the kingdom of God. There will be a joyful sitting down of many friends from all points of the compass with Abraham, Isaac, .Jacob and all the prophets. While this sitting down is, doubtless, to be taken in the general sense of inheritance, it is equally doubtless that this inheritance will include many joyous assemblies of the saints, in which, with angelic attendance, we shall be permitted to sup and commune with the Lord. The poverty and humiliation of the present phase of the work of God will then have passed away; the power and the glory and the unbelief and the scorn of men -- so oppressive in their present ascendancy -- will then be in the dust. God will be exalted in all the earth; and in this exaltation every friend of His will participate with joy and strength. The terms of friendship are plainly revealed. Let us adhere to them with determination to the very end, that we may be of that happy number to whom will be addressed the words: "Come, ye blessed of my Father; inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."



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