The fulness of blessing

by Sarah Frances Smiley

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The Creation Concept

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Contents

Introduction

I. The land of Promise

II. The failure of unbelief

III. Change of Leadership

IV. The Boundary Line

V. The Triple Preparation

VI. The Ark of the Covenant

VII. Memorial Stones

VIII. The Reproach of Egypt

IX. The Passover in Canaan

X. The New Corn And Fruit of the Land

XI. Seeing The Captain

XII. The Good Fight of Faith

XIII. Failure and Mistakes

XIV. Choice Possessions

XV. The Last Charge of Joshua

CHAPTER IV.

THE BOUNDARY LINE.

THE GOOD LAND THAT IS BEYOND JORDAN."--(Deut. iii. 25).

The crossing of Jordan was to be the great initiative of the Conquest. All the events of their future were focalized at this point, and, therefore, thither their eyes were always directed. "When ye be come over Jordan," was the fitting introduction of many a precept. The wisdom of God is very apparent in leading His people out of Egypt by the way of the Red Sea, appointing that as the memorable boundary of the land of bondage, and there "baptizing them unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea." It is the counterpart of this act to give them now a like baptism in Jordan--committing them, by another marked display of His power, to the leadership of Joshua, and bringing them in with an arm outstretched as wide as when He brought them out. The two crossings stand thus coupled in the second Psalm of the Hallel, as similar displays of the presence and power of God--"What ailed thee, O thou Sea, that thou fleddest, thou Jordan, that thou wast driven back!" [1]

Elsewhere, we find an omission of the crossing of Jordan as significant as this special mention of it. In that sublime chapter in Hebrews, where the heroes of the kingdom pass along their triumphal way of Faith, there is a sudden hiatus of forty years, leaving two remote events in conjunction: "By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, which the Egyptians assaying to do, were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were compassed about seven days." [2] Up to this point each important step had been noted; but the Apostle would not turn aside to trace the by-ways of unbelief; no, not even to glance at that step of faith which ended them. The record with this silence restores the true order of experience. Had there been no wandering, there would have been no Jordan to cross.

In harmony with this we find that the Epistles which describe so fully the doctrines of Christ, never teach that any second marked experience is needful to follow conversion save this -- after they had believed, to be "sealed with that holy Spirit of promise," which was the earnest of their inheritance. [3] The route which they marked out for every traveller ran direct to Kadesh-Barnea. Besides this, such was the faith of the early disciples, that they could be usually addressed as those who were already in heavenly places, although very far, in some instances, from having conquered all their enemies, and from possessing all the land. The counsel adapted to them is precisely that which we need, as we come to take the same stand of faith. But until then we need another lesson. Thus, in the case of giving counsel to a foreigner already landed on our shore, we would say nothing about the sea. Whereas, were he on the other side, we would speak first of the most pressing point --how to cross. Such crossing over is unquestionably the great need of the majority of Christians; not to make some slight change in their course, but to get upon new ground.

And yet there may for many be other needs, lying back of this. Some may have accomplished their Exodus who have not learned Leviticus;--who have not come to worship God in spirit and in truth. Others, again, have never passed through Numbers --have never declared their pedigree and claimed their adoption. Others who have come thus far have stopped short of Deuteronomy. Having drawn back in unbelief and lost their vantage ground, they have never been roused to have the law revived in their hearts, and pressing its claims upon them with all the more force, for all that they have learned of the goodness of God. Some, indeed, there seem to be, who have even forgotten that there is a Land of Promise before them. They have neither climbed a Pisgah for themselves, nor believed the report that has been brought by others.

Doubtless much of the failure of those who think for a time that they have found the desired blessing, only to learn their mistake, is the result of neglecting this preliminary teaching. Their need is deeper than is apprehended by themselves or others. It is in vain to think of crossing over Jordan, until God has prepared us to conquer and to hold the land; and how can this be done, unless we know assuredly that He is ours and that we are His? Happily, these antecedent steps, while all important to be taken, may be rapidly taken; and still more happily, a large number of Christians are prepared to take them as soon as they are clearly pointed out. These are steps of comparative ease; but the step which now more specially claims our attention, is one that no human foot can take by itself. God Himself must make the pathway here; and when it is made, His wonderful work will be coupled forever, in our thoughts and in our songs, with His first great work for us: "The Sea saw it and fled! Jordan was driven back!"

What then does Jordan signify? and what more does it teach us than was signified in the Red Sea crossing? St. Paul has taught us that the fathers were "baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea." [4] It was a shadow of that substance concerning which he writes--"Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him." The Lamb with his sprinkled blood had set forth one all-important aspect of salvation--that of Atonement; while the Red Sea crossing was needed to set forth another no less important--Regeneration. With this--their baptism--the old life ended and the new life began. That crossing corresponded to conversion or the New Birth, of which Baptism now in its form and spirit is both the symbol and the seal.

The Red Sea and Jordan alike signify Baptism, in its double meaning of Death and Resurrection. Yet they differ in this, that the Red Sea gives prominence to the Death, and Jordan to the Resurrection. The one marked the end of bondage--the other the entrance upon true freedom. Strictly speaking, the two events have but one Antitype--the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. Objectively they are one. But subjectively, in our own death and resurrection with Christ, the two events give each experience its fitting emphasis. As one crossing took Israel out of Egypt, and the other into Canaan--so with us, one separates us from the world, the other leads into Heavenly places. Again, this further distinction appears: at the Red Sea they were baptized unto Moses; that is, unto fellowship with him in that faith by which he had forsaken Egypt, and unto following him. At Jordan they were committed to Joshua--precisely as we follow the Law-giver, while it is the death of Christ that is mainly recognized, and then when we see more clearly the Risen Lord, we follow the Life giver. The great lesson of Jordan is the power of Christ's Resurrection [5] to separate us not only from Egypt, but from all wilderness wanderings, and to secure for us an entrance into Heavenly places. [6]

The significance of Jordan may appear more clear from a glance at its hallowed associations. The Scriptures often use mere locality as the link of spiritual truths. A singular instance appears in the words, "Out of Egypt have I called my Son," as applied to the sojourn of the infant Jesus in that land--the utter unlikeness of the outward events forcing us to seek for some more subtle accord.

Around the name of Jordan we find a group of events which are in close alliance as to their inward character. Jacob passed twice over Jordan--once as the lonely pilgrim with his staff, and again returning with his two bands. It was over Jordan that David fled in the darkness of the night from Absalom; and to its banks he returned to be brought over it again in state, as king of the very hearts of his people. When Elijah was to be taken from Elisha, the two stood by Jordan till Elijah with his mantle smote the waters, and they went over on dry ground; and again, Elisha returned thither with a double portion of his master's spirit upon him, and himself smote the waters, and passed safely through, as his first miracle. In these instances, the first crossing is in poverty-- in defeat--in sorrow; and the second, is in wealth--in restoration--in triumph.

Again, this very crossing of Jordan by the Israelites has another event as its companion. When Jacob was carried back into Canaan to be buried, they went, it is expressly noted, beyond Jordan to the threshingfloor of Atad, lying between the river and Jericho. [7] "There they mourned with a great and very sore lamentation." The head of their nation was gone. In the cave of Machpelah reposed the bones of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and that sepulchre was their sole possession in the land promised to each. The nation turned back bereft to Egypt, not to come over Jordan again, till multiplied beyond measure, they went into Canaan as their home. National death and national resurrection are signified in these two crossings.

Again, during the baptism of John, Jordan was thesignificant stream selected. There they "confessed their sins." They virtually declared themselves dead in those sins by submitting to a rite known hitherto only to aliens, in their acceptance of Judaism. Jesus could not possibly join in this confession of sin, even while by a like baptism he identified himself with the sinner. Instead of this, there was a confession of His righteousness from the opened heavens-- "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." [8] Both of these meanings are accordingly preserved in Christian baptism--death of self unto sin, and resurrection in Christ unto righteousness.

Yet again, in these two crossings of the Red Sea and Jordan, we may find the coupling of the offices of Christ and His Spirit. The first gives no faint foreshadowing of the power of His death and His most precious blood. The second has significance in its very name, "The Descender" or "flowing down." The power of the Risen Lord was manifested chiefly in the descent of the Holy Spirit. It was the outpouring of this gift that made the marvellous change in the Disciples of Jesus, and it is still a distinct experience from that of believing in the Lord Jesus for the forgiveness of sins; as is clearly taught, for example, in the question, "Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?"* and again, in this statement, "As yet He was fallen upon none of them; only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus." [9] The close connection of the two appears in the charge, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." [10]

Jordan signifies to us this baptism of the Holy Spirit, or the power of Christ's resurrection; since upon this and His subsequent glorification, the giving of the Spirit depended. This Baptism of the Spirit means far more than being born of the Spirit. The birth of Jesus identified Him with our human nature; His baptism in Jordan identified him still further with our human lot of sin and suffering. So does our birth of the Spirit make us partakers of His divine nature, while the Baptism of the Spirit makes us sharers of His righteousness, His joy, His power. It is not merely life that is bestowed, but life more abundantly.

To attain fully to all that this resurrection implies, is the life-work of each child of God--the "working out" of his salvation. As the Resurrection of Jesus ended in His glorification, so ours goes on to the same goal. It can not be completed till we reach "the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ;" until we reach this with our entire being, even this body of ours becoming like unto His glorious body. [11] Therefore, the full appropriation of what Christ has wrought for us must be a continuous work, and the Baptism of the Spirit must be a life-long baptism, coming not only once, like the early rain, but in many a soft shower, and in silent successive dews of night.

Thus we have the paradox of a work that is finished and yet only begun -- of Christ having "perfected us for ever," and yet we ourselves "going on unto perfection."

St. Paul has given us, in most admirable terms, this distinction between God's side and man's side. In his Epistle to the Philippians, he glances first at this power of Christ's resurrection and the hope it holds out to him. In all humility he declares that he has not attained, that he is not already perfected; but he presses on to "apprehend" that for which he was "apprehended" of Christ. It was because of the fixity of the mighty work of Christ, and the support it gave to faith, that all his energies were roused to obtain the full benefit of it. Because he is apprehended, he will henceforth apprehend.

Yet is the first apprehension, the first entrance upon this risen life, the all-important point, and that which Jordan represents. You plant, for example, a little vine. You know its possibilities and provide for them. You place close to its root the trellis upon which it is to climb, without which it could only creep upon the ground. In the placing of that trellis within its reach, with full provision for all future growth, the vine may be said to be apprehended. But the chief difficulty is found in the first attachment to its support. When the vine has fairly clasped it and begun to wind its tendrils about it, it has begun to apprehend. Its career is before it, but the crisis is that beginning.

It was an immense advantage in leaving Egypt, to know it by the sharpest of all boundary lines. Had the boundary been a valley, a hill, a rock, the fact would have been known; but how slight would have been the impression thus made upon the mind! But, being what it was, passing first through the walled waters, and watching then the waves that overwhelmed their enemies, an entire revolution in all their thoughts and purposes would naturally follow. That Sea was both a boundary and a barrier. They stood upon new ground with another life before them. And no less was the advantage of a distinct boundary and barrier between the wilderness and Canaan. There a host more formidable than all Pharaoh's horses and chariots were swallowed up--even their f:ars and unbelief--and as once their hearts thrilled with the cry, "Out of Egypt!" so would they thrill again at the blessed certainty, "over this Jordan!"

In how many human events is our interest concentrated upon some one act that clearly and openly signifies many beside itself. How much meaning in that one moment when the crown is set upon the brow of a Monarch! Does He not seem from that time more truly to reign? How much it means when the hand is set in solemn signature, in the presence of witnesses, to that Title-deed which gives a Homestead or forfeits it! How much it means beyond all that has already been--the marriage-day--the spoken vow--the ring upon the hand! Those now wedded hearts were pledged long ago. They give themselves to each other at this moment not more fully than then. But God and man alike ordain that such an event should be signalized, that there should be somewhat to mark it for the eye and ear of others. What emotions stir the soul even of a spectator in such a scene! By all these tokens it becomes a reality that is recognized.

And so in countless things the new future demands its turning point. Did not Caesar feel it when he crossed his Rubicon? Was not every man in that army stronger for that act? Jordan is the Christian's Rubicon; and is it not well when the Lord calls to us with a voice of command so distinct as this, " Arise, and go over this Jordan! "And were these glorious privileges in Christ Jesus pointed out long and lovingly--were they spoken of line upon line, till dull hearts caught the meaning, what an arising would there be through all the slumbering hosts of Christendom!

We have on record the lives of not a few noble men and women who, years after their conversion, heard this new call to arist and go further on. They passed through a distinct spiritual crisis, and stood henceforth on new ground. They were full of the Holy Spirit. Here and there through that region of Christian biography resounding with secret moans of "Wo is me! " we find those who have walked almost like Enoch, in wondrous fellowship with God. And yet in their own statements of truth there is often a vagueness. The silver trumpet does not give a certain sound. They had not really come unto all riches of "the full assurance of understanding;" and so, while in their own experience they had far outstripped their comrades, they knew not how to give the clew to others to follow them, as they had followed Christ. Their teaching lacked that great essential of definiteness.

There are always to be found, however, those whom indefiniteness suits. The vague teaching shelters their want of full devotion to God. They carefully avoid a crisis. They are not whole-hearted enough to be decided. They do not want to face the question, Do I from this day follow the Lord fully? Am I ready to be made conformable unto His death, that I may know the power of His resurrection? Am I willing that God's Holy Spirit should baptize my whole being--spirit, soul, and body, so sanctifying me, and keeping me blameless unto the coming of the Lord? Such questions search the heart down to its hidden thoughts and intents. It requires the truest faith to die with Jesus, and to live only in Him. But such thoughts can only irritate those whose policy it is to evade conviction of their true state. And even where it only results in hesitation, yet what terrible quicksands of unbelief even this discloses. No, they do not care to give over the whole being to God! They desire to keep to themselves the control and choice of many little things, for God might not always care for their pleasure, nor secure the interests they most prize!

Poor soul! that art weighed in such a balance and found wanting, look yet again that thou mayest see. The first step out of every difficulty is the removal of our misapprehensions of God. Listen to the voice that pleads with thee, and even through the Law declares of every dealing with thee--"for thy good always." He loveth thee! He delighteth in thee! Look and listen till thou canst trust Him fully, and lay thy all before Him!

But how many are there of quite another class-- souls earnest and eager to be taught of God--who have been hindered by the erroneous teaching of the very truth they need! Important as it is to put a clear boundary line between our failure and our faith and to cross over this Jordan, yet it is a most serious mistake to overload this experience with a stress it can not bear. Very plainly, in the case of the Israelites, to cross the Jordan was not to conquer all their enemies in the act. It was to prepare them for victory; it was to pledge it to them; and yet it could only be the earnest of their inheritance. Nor was it in the fullest sense possession, since, as has been said, it was only the soles of their feet that could secure that. The land was theirs by promise before. It was theirs now by the first putting in of an actual claim. Hereafter it should be more fully theirs as they advanced and conquered and held it.

This subject will claim a fuller handling when we reach the long warfare that followed their entrance; but here let it be simply premised that the system which teaches that entire sanctification is an instantaneous work, has the feeblest possible support from Scripture, either as to the doctrine or the phraseology. Experimentally, the results of such teaching, however flattering for a time, are finally most disastrous. The poor soul, once beguiled into self-deception and the assertion of claims which can not be soberly sustained, is either pushed on the one hand up the heights of presumption, or else is driven back on the other to drop into the depths of despair. No close observer can doubt that such has been the general tendency of this teaching, while happy exceptions may be seen, where there has been such a private adjustment of its terms as virtually to change the doctrine. Beside this, the love of God really shed abroad in the heart, has a wonderful power to render error innocuous. But taking the system in its legitimate results, there can be little doubt that eventual loss is sustained by its supporters. The testimony which it encourages has a singular tendency to recur to past experiences, or if touching upon the present state, to claim little more than the conservation of former blessings. Meanwhile, the importance attached to such testimony repels those who, like an apostle, desire to know not the speech of them that are puffed up, but the power!

It seems the more needful in all Christian charity to allude to these errors, from the fact that, with few exceptions, this has been the prevalent mode in which the doctrine of Holiness or Sanctification has been presented as a specialty. At the same time such a monopoly of the subject has been claimed, as to insist that it was the only correct mode--so challenging the assent of those who could heartily sympathize with its object. The unhappy result in the case of many who recoil from these assumptions in doctrine, linked with such inconsistencies in life, is that they do so, as though released from all further inquiry upon the subject. They begin to waste their strength upon controversy, and are more eager to point out the logical inaccuracy of the system, than to find a true remedy for their own shortcomings. It is a dark day for those who begin finally to justify themselves for the beam in their own eye, because they have found a mote in the eye of a brother. When the great beam of an unconsecrated life is taken from their own eyes, it may be that God will give them the grace, not to point out, but to pluck out, the mote of misapprehension from their brother's eye.

As for the many thousands who desire to follow the Lord fully, whether among the satisfied sustainers of such a system, or those who are perplexed and hindered by it, or those who, ignorant of this, yet know right well the need of their lives--as for the multitude thus seeking after God, may He make His own Word a lamp unto their feet and a light unto their path.

Any failure which exists in the lives of such, passing by all secondary causes, has its real origin in unbelief. Like Israel of old, losing sight of God to see only self and the giant enemies, the one pressing need is to have the eye refixed on Christ in a true apprehension of Him as our Risen Lord--a work which only the Spirit of God can accomplish for us. A right relation to Christ must precede our growing up into Him in all things. Happy that moment when the eye sees Him!

And how often is it the work of a moment at last. The sunrise may have been long heralded by steady increase of light, and yet it is in a flash that you see the golden orb itself. And when once the eye long occupied with self, whether in seeking its pleasure or proving its weakness, is lifted at last to see Jesus as the Prince and Perfecter of Faith--when it sees that it is Christ that it wants, and that this Christ is waiting for us, having all power in heaven and earth, it has had its vision--it has had its call, "Arise, and go over Jordan!" Seeing Christ arise, and give thyself fully to Him, to receive His fulness, and henceforth go on to apprehend that for which thou art now apprehended.

Notes

1. Ps. cxiv. 5.

2. Heb. xi. 29, 30.

3. Eph. i. 13, 14.

4. 1 Cor. x. 2.

5. "Arise, sad heart, if thou dost not withstand,
Christ's resurrection, thine may be:
Do not by hanging down break from the hand.
Which, as it riseth, raiseth thee:
Arise, arise;
And with His burial-linen dry thine eyes."
--George Herbert.

6. "It is obvious to every thoughtful Christian, that a strong link of connection exists between the crossing of the Red Sea and of Jordan. It is found in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus ; but there are two effects sensibly different and of real importance, that we should distinguish.

"Regarded in the type of the Red Sea, it is simply setting us apart to God from the world, making us pilgrims while we are passing through it; crossing the Jordan, or the death and resurrection of Christ, in this point of view does far more. It is the power of that mighty work as bringing us into the possession of our heavenly blessings before we go there. We are made consciously of Heaven; we have still to fight before the time is come to rest In both cases it is not that merely is Christ dead and risen, but this applied to us by the Spirft."--Lectures Introductory to the Historical Books, by W. Kelly, p. 4.

7. Gen. 1. 10.

8. Matt. iii. 17.

9. Acts xix. 2.

10. Acts viii. 16.

11. Acts. ii. 38.

12. This tendency to ignore the importance of the body, proceeds from a general lack of insight into the Scriptural philosophy of nature and of spirit. Those who do so are entirely wanting in any profound apprehension of the process of salvation, by which, according to Scripture, God is carrying on the world toward its consummation. This process must extend to the corporeal world as well as to the spiritual. For the victory of divine love over all the powers of sin and death would not be complete, if the body of man were not once to be released from the bonds of death, and raised into that glorious condition for which God has originally destined it. Like all other terrestrial bodies, it is intended one day to be entirely penetrated by the spirit--to be translated into the glorious liberty of the children of God, and thus to be transformed in light inwardly and outwardly (Rom. viii. 21-23 ; Phil. iii. 21; 2 Cor. iv. 10, etc.) And how otherwise could this world-renewing process be begun, than by the resurrection and transformation of that one Body over which death had no power --the sinless body of Christ, the second Adam, in whom all are to be made alive? (1 Cor. xv. 22, et se.) In His resurrection "the consummation of the world is anticipated." As in the nether world Christ broke the bonds of spiritual death, so in His resurrection He destroyed the organic power of death in the earthly creation, and impregnated it (as an organism; hence the dead bodies of the saints appear in Matt, xxvii. 52 and 53) with new and divine vital forces; just as in the heart the life-blood is prepared afresh, and from it flows forth into all the limbs. The resurrection-power coming from Christ, through the medium of His Word and sacraments, tends mainly to the sanctification and renewing of the sinner (Rom. v. 10; Eph. ii. 5, 6; 1 Pet. i. 3), and thus interpenetrates, first, the spiritual nature of man, planting within those who are regenerate a germ for the resurrection of the body (Rom. viii. 11). Then the spiritual life of Christ breaks forth in a manifestation in the visible world, by revivifying the bodies of those who are sanctified (in the first resurrection. 1 Cor. xv. 23; John v. 25-29; Rev. xx. 5, 6). In the succeeding general resurrection--an act of Christ's power which extends to the whole of the corporeal world, and introduces the great mundane catastrophe (Rev. xx. 11-13)--as well as in the formation of a new heaven and a new earth, this grand and gradually progressive progress of the world's renewal has its fitting consummation. It is God's will that His glory should dwell in His whole creation, that He may be all in all (1 Cor. xv. 28 ; Rev. xxi. 3, et se.) In this respect we must indorse the sentiment of Oetinger, that "corporeity is the end of God's ways."--Modem Doubt and Christian Belief, by Theodore Christlieb, D.D., pp. 451, 452.