Quiet Talks About Our Lord's Return
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In my boyhood days I heard much from Mr. Moody's lips about our Lord's return, and belief in it became a real warm thing to me. Later I became rather confused over the different teachings regarding it, until by and by it was practically pushed out of my working program. I still believed that I should live so as to be always ready if He should come, but I had no grasp of the true teaching about the great event, even while I felt tremendously the emphasis placed upon it in the Bible. It had practically slipped out of my prayer-life. So that if prayer influences in any way our Lord's return, the confusion in my mind robbed my prayer of that influence.
Then I was led to pick up the Bible afresh on this subject. Earnestly trying to forget all the books I had read, I went prayerfully and slowly to work to gather out, and gather up, just what the Book itself teaches. I had no thought of making a book; I was concerned only with getting straightened out myself. The result arrived at has profoundly affected my outlook as a follower of Jesus Christ, my attitude toward the great problems of Christian service both at home and in foreign mission lands, my prayer-life, and my understanding of numerous passages of Scripture hitherto obscure to me.
And so because of the deep and deepening conviction that one's right outlook, and attitude and prayer exert a positive influence upon the time of our Lord's return, and that in this subject is found the key to the clear, broad grasp and understanding of the precious Word of God, I am letting this modest little messenger in print carry to others the results of my study, and the method by which the results were reached.
I am not concerned so much about any one accepting what is put down here, but I am deeply and intensely concerned that many may make a fresh, thorough study of God's Word, on the simple plan used here, or any other adequate plan, that its clear, emphatic teachings may be clearly and broadly grasped, and the whole life yielded to their power.
The plan followed is, not to study present world conditions, nor the likelihood nor unlikelihood of certain things happening, but only to try to gather up the teachings of the Book on this subject.
The final work on the manuscript has been done while crossing the Pacific Ocean, and in China. The distance from home makes impossible my own attention to proof-sheets. I am deeply grateful to Mr. Revell for his great kindness and painstaking care in personally supervising the reading of the proof-sheets.
S. D. G.
Almost the first you hear of Him He was mending a break. It was a bad break, too. He mended it by His own direct touch. He gave a bit of Himself. It was just like Him. That's the sort of thing He has been doing ever since. The greatest act of His life was mending a break, and doing it by giving Himself utterly out.
The story of this first mending is in the opening page of our old Bible. The story of creation is told in the single opening sentence of ten words. There is no calendar, no process is given, just the simple tremendous fact of creation stated. The second sentence tells with pathetic brevity of a break, sad and tragic. Then He—our great Friend—gave Himself to mend that break. His Spirit "brooded tremulous with love" over the disorder. That personal touch of love and power does quick, wondrous work, and man's home is ready for him. Again He gave Himself—His breath, and so man comes to His home, and into sweet fellowship with this wondrous father-mother-God. They are alike, and so can be fellows in spirit and life.
This giving of Himself is His most characteristic trait. He has been doing it constantly, and is. Eden and Calvary are the two mountain peaks, but the peaks are merely the highest points of the whole mountain range. He gave His breath in Eden, His blood on Calvary,—simply two parts of one act. In giving His breath He let us know that whenever the need might come He would give His blood.
This reveals His heart's longing. It is a bit of His exquisite parable-teaching. He wants what He gives, one's very self. A clergyman in the Midlands in England told me of a father and little daughter. They were continuously together whenever possible. Then an estrangement seemed to come. She would excuse herself, saying she had something to do, and leave him. This went on for a long time. He was deeply grieved, but said nothing. Then one morning, it was his birthday, she brought him a pair of slippers with her face all aglow. "Oh," he said, "thank you so much; where did you buy them?" "Buy them! I did not buy them. I made them. See, every one of these pretty stitches I put in with my own fingers!" "Oh," he said, "and it took you just two months to do it." "Now who has told you my secret?"
"No one told me, daughter, but it's been just two months that I missed you so much, and felt so grieved and wondered what had happened, and why you stayed away from me." Then he said very tenderly, "Thank you so much for the slippers, but next time remember it's your-self I prefer to anything you can give me." That was his father heart speaking out. That revealed a bit of the God-image in him. We bring our service, our things. God gave Himself. He longs for us, ourselves. So He says in creation, in Eden, on Calvary, and evermore by His Spirit.
Before coming to fix that first break He was in the Father's presence, in closest touch, from the earliest untimed morn of the uncreated beginning. It was His love for us that drew Him down to our corner of the universe. After coming He remained in most intimate touch with all our life. But after the Eden break He had much greater difficulty in getting men to recognize His presence. Yet some did. Enoch and Noah used to take long walks with Him, and help Him in carrying out His great plans of love for men. He used to talk with Abraham under the stars about His longings for the race.
He had a hard time one night down by the little Jabbok stream to hold Jacob to His plan for helping the world. He had to change Jacob's step so they could walk together, though it grieved Him sorely to do it. He watched with tender care while the messenger-nation was having its birth pains in Egypt; patiently trained Moses to tend the new-born, and talked to him out of the desert bush; went along with them Himself from Egypt through all the desert road to Canaan; guided Joshua in the conquest; taught Samuel how to pray; and trained David how to shepherd sheep and people. When things were getting into bad shape He had a talk one day with Isaiah in the Jerusalem temple, and afterwards a series of talks with Ezekiel down by the Chebar.
All this time He was never absent from any part of His earth, or His race of men. They failed so largely to recognize or respond to Him. But, though deeply pained and grieved at His heart with what He saw, He patiently remained, sustaining life by His own direct touch; giving answer in the soil to all their requests; sending sunshine and rain and fragrant dew; speaking in their hearts; responding to every longing cry; and grieved that they understood so little what He was saying to them.
Then things got into the very worst shape. Something more must be done. So He wrapped Himself about in the garment of our humanity, and came in among us, through a very low door, and lived our life, shared our experiences, felt our temptations, met our tempter and worsted him. He went through the narrow Gethsemane gateway, up the steep hill of Calvary, where His great heart broke under the weight of our sin. So He made a new way for us back home. So He won the love of our hearts. So He forever worsted our enemy. The third morning He rose, then later rose up higher, back again to His Father's presence.
He was seen once after going back. It was by John. It was a sight never to be forgotten,—eyes of flame, feet like burnished brass, a face as the sun shineth in its strength, head and hair white as wool, as snow, a voice like many waters in the sense of authority it conveyed, but tender as a woman's in speaking with John. I do not know that the white hair speaks of the intensity of His suffering on earth; it may not be so; but so it always seems to speak to my own heart.
I recall the incident of the mother whose daughter confessed her wayward conduct, but was utterly hardened to the shame of it. The physician confirmed the truth of the young woman's statement. Not a word of reproach escaped the lips of the heartbroken mother, but the next morning when she came to breakfast her hair was white. And the sight made the daughter realize the mother's awful grief, and her own sin, and broke her heart into penitence. Our Lord's face in the glory bears the deep marks of His awful sufferings for us.
There He has remained since, praying for us men, thinking about us, doing all He had been doing before, and looking forward with eager expectation to coming back again. During the Kingdom time He will be seen on the earth as during the Transfiguration, in a wondrous glory.
After the Kingdom time is over He will gather all the race together around about Himself. He and they will walk together under the trees of life, by the river of life. His presence will flood the wondrous garden-city with light. And they shall see His face, and His likeness shall be in their faces.
His coming into our midst in human garb was because of our going away. We had gone away from Him. He came to us. He had a wondrous plan for living in our midst as King. But sin broke the plan. His coming again is to finish up the plan broken at the first coming.
God and man were together in a garden; it was a wondrous garden, trees, flowers, fruits, singing birds, beautiful animals, and a river of water of life clear as crystal. Together they talked and walked and worked, finishing up the work of creation. Then man went away, then farther away, then he lost his way back, then didn't want to come back. God never went away, and has never gone away. He remained, and remains, in all life just as before, but unrecognized, largely, not wholly.
Through two thousand years He has called and wooed, but the ears grew deafer. Then, while still wooing by His presence, He prepared to come in a new way that they could not fail to understand. A new nation was made. It was to be His new doorway in. Through it He would come as a Man. It took a long time to get the doorway ready. At last He came to it, so He could get through it, into His world in this new way.
But the door was all barred, logs crossed over it, up and down, and overgrown with thorns and poison ivy. But His love impelled Him to push through, carrying the crossed logs as He came, all torn by the thorns, dreadfully scarred, but He reached His race; and some began to understand the fire of love in His heart.
But that trouble at the door interfered with the full carrying out of His plan. He had a wondrous plan of love for the whole race through coming personally in this new way. Sin broke the plan. He gave His life to rid man of the sin. Then He planned that His friends down among men—those who had understood His love and purpose should go and tell all the others. Then He planned to come back again, and carry out the great love-plan interfered with by that trouble at the door.
And He will. So He says. And He has a way of getting the thing done that He has set His heart upon. Some of the dear friends He sent out to tell the others have not kept the plan quite clear in their minds. This has delayed things some. But the coming again is the very centre and climax of all His plannings, and He has never been known to fail. His love is a fire whose flames never burn low, nor lose their fine glow.