PART II - EXPERIMENTAL ESSAYS
TWENTY YEARS WITH THE COMFORTER
Nov. 17, 1870. Nov. 17, 1890.
IN the autumn of 1870 my long hunger to know the full meaning of the promised Comforter, who should abide in the disciples testifying of Christ, culminated in an earnest seeking and a joyful finding. He came and He abides. The bliss was too great to be kept secret. It overflowed upon everybody whom I could reach through lip and pen. Along this new way, or highway, over which the unclean shall not pass, I have set up occasional mile-stones, extending the series far enough to demonstrate the permanence of the new experience, in accordance with St. John's inspired declaration, "The anointing abideth." But now that a score of years has been rounded out, comprising more than a quarter of the allotted age of man, and suggesting that I am nearing another stone called the gravestone, I deem it wise to plant one more "stone of help," which the Hebrews called "EBENEZER, hitherto the Lord hath helped me." For it is of the Lord Jesus, not of myself, that this steady walk up, the shining road towards the heavenly portals has been maintained without stumbling (Jude xxiv., R.V.) and without losing the way. The reason for this is that my divine Guide has not deserted me, nor have I abandoned Him. While He has poured His light upon my path, why should I stumble or go astray? Far from any evil report respecting this war, I can say with all possible emphasis, "It is better farther on." Yea, I can borrow St. Paul's Greek comparative superlative in Phil. ii. 23, R.V., "It is very far better." The pastures are greener, the still waters are deeper. While ecstatic joy fluctuates like the waves of the sea, peace flows right on like the Amazon. All the joys of life are hallowed, heightened and sweetened, and life's sorrows are by a kind of divine chemistry changed into benedictions. Domestic loves are spiritualized and sanctified by the stream of celestial love which flows beside them, quiet, sweet and clear.
"There is a Stream which issues forth
From God's eternal throne,
And from the Lamb; a living Stream
Clear as the crystal stone.
The Stream doth water Paradise,
It makes the angels sing;
One cordial drop revives my heart;
Hence all my joys do spring."
John Mason, who wrote this verse two centuries ago, teaches what I have long believed to be true, that the bliss of heaven is of the same kind as the joy of love divine, shed abroad in the believer's heart, only it is more abundant. "The river of the water of life, clear as crystal proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb" is only a poetical description of the Comforter whom the glorified Jesus sends from the Father. The saints below and the saints above all fill their brimming goblets from the same Stream, the personal Paraclete. Compare John vii. 37-39, xv. 26, and Rev. xxii.1.
During these twenty blissful years how wonderfully have I been saved from doubt respecting the two fundamentals: (1) Is Christ the true Saviour? and (2) Does He save me from sin, its guilt, its pollution, its indwelling? I call these the only fundamental questions, just as in the case of the bank-note, there are only two queries: (1) Is the bank solvent? (2) Is this note a genuine issue? Both questions are answered by taking the note to the bank and receiving its face value in gold. So long as the heavenly Banker cashes every promise of Jesus Christ these two fundamental doubts have no ground to stand upon. I wish that all doubters, within the Church and without, could be induced to take this short road out of the perplexities of doubt. I wish that theological authors, one-third of whose pages are devoted to the Christian evidences, or apologetics, would set up more guide-boards with finger-points towards this straight road through the tangled underbrush of scepticism, the "Taste-and-see Avenue.
"Jesus Christ is to me a bright reality," said the eloquent Punshon on his death bed. In my early Christian experience, a period of twenty-eight years, Christ was only occasionally and by glimpses a distant reality, with long intervals of haze and cloud obscuring my vision. But in 1870 the Comforter led me up the Mount of Transfiguration, and what is still better, He built for me a tabernacle, and, best of all, gave me a life-lease. Here have I dwelt ever since, envying no millionaire his marble palace in the city, nor his seaside cottage, nor his summer villa on the mountain's summit. Here though I see not Moses and Elijah, but 'Jesus only,' I see Him in a light so dazzling that it lights up both Penteteuch and Prophecy in the background. Thus the promise of Jesus Christ respecting another Paraclete is verified, 'He shall glorify me,' for He illumines both the prophetic and the historic record of that wonderful life of the Son of God on the earth. When He was revealed in the heart of Saul of Tarsus to qualify him to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ among the Gentiles, immediately he asked no man's advice whether he should put the trumpet of salvation to his lips and sound the jubilee as long as he had breath. He was sure of his vocation. Thus it always is when men get their call direct from heaven. They are sure that there is but one work for them to do. My vocation was "the perfecting of the saints till they all come unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ."
The office of an educator in a university was too far away from that great evangel to which I was clearly called. I believed then, and I believe now, that the towers of the loftiest temple of secular learning are lower than the humblest evangelical pulpit. Since my enraptured eyes have gazed on Jesus I have said again and again, with Dr. Edward Payson, "I had rather a man would eat my dinner for me than preach my sermon for me." And the possibility that I may be preaching a large gospel through my books, at least for a few years after my tongue lies silent in the grave, is a very comforting reflection, as Peter doubtless felt when writing his second epistle: "And I think it right, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; knowing that the putting off of my tabernacle cometh swiftly, even as our Lord Jesus Christ signified unto me. Yea, I will give diligence that at every time ye may be able after my decease to call these things to remembrance" (2 Peter i. 13-15.)
In conclusion let me say that it is through the constant daily appropriation of the blood of sprinkling covering my involuntary, defects, infirmities and failures, that I have such a conscious meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light as divests death of all his terrors and gives me victory over him through Jesus Christ our Lord. The atonement is not only for sin but "for the errors (Greek ignorances) of the people."
"Thy blood's unceasing prayer
And strong prevailing plea
Hath now obtained the Comforter
For all mankind and me."