Precious Jesus

"Afresh, precious, precious Jesus, I resign this body to You, for doing or suffering, for living or dying. Will You accept it? Will You use me for Your glory more than heretofore, that You may have some little return for all the benefits You have done to me? Oh, do grant this request; my heart longs for it, my spirit pleads for it; and "if You will, You can." You know the hot temptation of which I am the subject. Bring Your glory out of it, and keep me from the evil, and it shall be well." - Ruth Bryan

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Let the devil and evil men afflict me

Ignatius, a disciple of the apostle John, and a successor of Peter and Evodius, was in the service of the church of Christ at Antioch in Syria. He was a very God fearing man, and faithful and diligent in his ministrations. He was surnamed Theophorus, that is, The Bearer of God, apparently because he often bore the name of God and his Saviour in his mouth, and led a godly life. He was wont to say frequently: "The life of man is a continual death, unless it be that Christ liveth in us." Likewise: "The crucified Christ is my only and entire love." And: "He that allows himself to be called after any other than Christ, is not God." And again: "As the world hates the Christians, so God loves them." A. Mellin., fol. 15, col. 1, from. Iqnat. in EQist. ad Row. et alibe.
Having learned that the Emperor Trajan, after the victories which he had achieved against the Dacians, Armenians, Assyrians, and other eastern nations, gave thanks at Antioch unto the gods, and offered great sacrifices unto them, as though these victories had proceeded from them, Ignatius, as we are informed by Nicephorus, reproved the Emperor for it, and this openly in the temple.
The Emperor, exceedingly enraged on this account, caused Ignatius to be apprehended, yet, for fear of an uproar, because Ignatius was held in great respect in Antioch, he did not have him punished there but committed him into the hands of ten soldiers, and sent him bound to Rome, there to have him punished.
In the meantime his sentence of death was made known to him in what manner and where he was to die; namely, that he should be torn to pieces by wild beasts at Rome.
On his way thither, he wrote several consolatory epistles to his friends, the faithful in Christ Jesus; and also to different churches, as to those of Smyrna, Ephesus, Philadelphia, Trallis, Magnesia, Tarsus, Philippi, and especially to the church of Christ at Rome; which letter he sent before his arrival there.
It appears that the thought of being torn to pieces by the teeth of wild beasts was constantly on his mind during the journey; yet not as a matter of dread, but of earnest desire. This he mentions in his letter to the church at Rome, writing thus "Journeying from Syria to Rome, by water and by land, by day and by night, I fight with wild beasts, bound between ten leopards, who, the more I stroke, and show myself friendly to them, the more cruel and malignant they become. However, through the cruelties and torments which they daily inflict upon me, I am more and more exercised and instructed; nevertheless, I am not justified thereby. O that I were already with the beasts, which are ready to devour me I I hope that, ere long, I shall find them such as I wish them to be, that is, cruel enough to destroy me speedily. But if they will not fall upon and tear me, I shall kindly allure them, so that they will not spare me, as they have already spared several Christians, but will quickly tear me in pieces, and devour me. Forgive me for speaking thus; I know what I need. Now only I begin to be a disciple of Christ. I regard neither things visible nor invisible, at which the world is amazed. It is sufficient for me if I but become a partaker of Christ. Let the devil and evil men afflict me with all manner of pain and torment, with fire, with cross, with fighting against wild beasts, with scattering of the members and bones of my body; all this I esteem very little, if I but enjoy Christ. Only pray for me, that inward and outward strength be given me, not only to speak or write this, but also to perform and endure it, so that I may not only be called a Christian, but also be found one in truth." Ignat. in Epist. ad Rom.
Having arrived at Rome, he was delivered by the soldiers to the governor, together with the letters of the Emperor, which contained his sentence of death. He was kept in prison several days, until a certain feast day of the Romans, when the Governor, according to the order of the Emperor, had him brought forth into the amphitheatre. First of all they sought by many torments, to induce him to blaspheme the name of Christ, and offer sacrifice to the gods. But when Ignatius did not weaken in his faith, but was only, the longer, the more strengthened in refusing to offer heathen sacrifices, he was forthwith condemned by the Roman Senate, immediately to be cast before the lions.
As Ignatius was led away from the presence of the Senate, to the innermost enclosure, or pit of the lions, he frequently repeated the name of Jesus in the conversation which he, while on the way, carried on with the believers, as well as in his secret prayer to God. Being asked why he did so, he replied thus: "My dear Jesus, my Saviour, is so deeply written in my heart, that I feel confident, that if my heart were to be cut open and chopped to pieces, the name of Jesus would be found written on every piece." With this the pious man indicated that not only his mouth, but the innermost parts of his heart were filled with the love of Jesus for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. Thus, also Paul, being filled with the love of Jesus Christ, has used, in his letters, as much as two hundred times (as has been counted) the words, "Our Lord Jesus Christ." The name "Jesus" he employs as much as five hundred times.
When the whole multitude of the people were assembled, to witness the death of Ignatius (for the report had spread throughout the whole city, that a bishop had been brought from Syria, who, according to the sentence of the Emperor, was to fight against the wild beast), Ignatius was brought forth and placed in the middle of the amphitheatre. Thereupon Ignatius, with a bold heart, thus addressed the people which stood around: "O ye Romans, all you who have come to witness with your own eyes this combat; know ye, that this punishment has not been laid upon me on account of any misdeed or crime; for such I have in no wise committed, but that I may come to God, for whom I long, and whom to enjoy is my insatiable desire. For, I am the grain of God. I am ground by the teeth of the beast, that I may be found a pure bread of Christ, who is to me the bread of life." These words spake Ignatius, when he stood in the middle of the amphitheatre, and when he heard the lions roar; which the brethren of the church who also stood among the people heard and testified to.
As soon as he had spoken these words, two dreadful, hungry lions were let out to him from their pits, who instantly tore and devoured him, leaving almost nothing, or, at least, very little, even of his bones. Thus fell asleep, happy in the Lord, this faithful martyr of Jesus Christ, A. D. 111, in the 12th year of Emperor Trajan. Compare Abr. Mell. 1st book of the Hist. der hervolg. en Mart., printed 1619, fol. 25, col. 1-4, and fol. 26, col. 1, with JoR. Gysii Hist. Mart., fol. 15, col. 2, 3. Also, W. Baudart. in Apophth. Christian, printed A. D. 1640. The first book, in the second Apophthegm, on the name Ignatius, pp. 37, 38, from different other authors.

That man is a regenerate man

For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 2 Cor. 4:6

There is a vast difference between a conviction of the doctrines of grace in the head, and an adoring the grace of those doctrines in the heart.
A speculative knowledge of gospel truth, that goes no further than a mere outward notion of it, may be found in a natural man. This knowledge of truth is a cold, unaffecting, and unattracting knowledge, that leaves the will and affections just where it found them. A natural man, indeed, may have some natural pleasure in getting some new notions of truth, but he experiences no soul-attraction to the things known.
A spiritual discernment of gospel truths is very different from a bare speculative knowledge of them; in that the glory of truth shines into the mind, which produces a sweet and strict adherence thereto, by all the inward powers of the soul. The understanding discerns the truth in its beauty, glory, and excellency; the judgment approves it; and the will and affections embrace and clasp about it. In a word, the whole soul unites with the truth, and is changed into the image of it.
Oh! when the least beam of Gospel truth shines in upon the mind with such a ravishing beauty and majestic glory as draws the heart to love it, and makes the soul bow down before it, this is a saving illumination, set up in the soul of a vessel of mercy, which is the very beginning of its future glory. It is God's shining into our hearts by a new creating efficacy to give the light, not only of the knowledge of God, but of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ; which word imports the ravishing beauty and all-attracting efficacy of gospel grace darting in upon the mind as a supernatural revelation, which unites the soul to the things beheld, to the objects revealed.
From this saving illumination the soul feels a sweet and strong attraction, by which, being drawn with cords of love, it comes unto Christ in its desires after Him, as beheld, altogether lovely.
Wherever the truths of the gospel are known, and so known in their beauty and excellency as to knit and unite the heart to them, or to draw out the soul into desires after and adoration of the glories beheld—that man is a regenerate man.

live, and bathe, and dive, to a blessed eternity!

My work on earth is almost done, glory be to God! A nobler work in heaven will soon come on. Now I would serve the Lord—but then I shall serve Him perfectly, incessantly, and eternally; serve Him without sin, interruption, weakness, and weariness—which attend our present services; serve Him under the full and immediate vision of His glorious face—to His perfect and endless praise—and to my ineffable and eternal bliss.
Oh, what grace is this, that the Lord has formed and shaped our hearts for His service, else for the perfect and eternal service of God in Christ in future bliss we would have no taste; whereas to a soul that loves the Lord fervently, the perfect, endless service of God in Christ is esteemed by him an essential part of heaven's bliss; nor shall any one soul that is thus prepared by grace for divine service here, lack the ineffable bliss of perfect, endless service hereafter. Alas! what would an unholy soul do in heaven? Heaven would be no heaven to him—he has nothing in him suited to heaven's enjoyment and employment. A soul that cannot make a life out of God, or rather that cannot live joyfully in God as His life, and find his unspeakable bliss in an entire dedication to Jehovah's praise, is quite unfit for the glories of the heavenly state; as there is not the least agreeableness between the object and the subject, so there can be no enjoyment. What thanks then shall we give "unto the Father, who has made us (initially, and will make us perfectly) fit for the great inheritance of the saints in light"—in light without darkness; in the light of His immediate Presence, without the least darkness of distance; and in the light of perfect holiness, without the least spot of sin to darken our perfect, endless praises!
Oh, how great and vast is our Jehovah's infinite essence—who with the simple vision of His glorious face can satisfy and solace myriads of glorious angels, and an innumerable multitude of saved men, when most capacious—and excite in all thereby perfect, ceaseless, endless praises to His eternal glory and their eternal joy! Well may it be said, "Eye has not seen, nor has ear heard, O God, besides You, what You have prepared for him who waits for You!" For no line short of an infinite understanding can search the immense glories of an infinite Being. None but the Lord Jehovah has seen, or can see, those immense glories which He has prepared in His infinite self as the boundless ocean of our soul-filling and eternal enjoyment!
We shall be cast, when all-enlarged, into the God of glory for an eternal fill of all felicity, and there live, and bathe, and dive, to a blessed eternity! And though the communications of divine glory will not be infinite, because of our incapacity, as we shall ever be but finite recipients, yet it is an infinite sea of glory we shall live, and swim, and play in—to a blessed eternity just as the God of nature has prepared an immense ocean of water for the fish of the sea to live, and dive, and sport in—although they can never comprehend that which comprehends them.
Thus, I humbly think, as the apostle says, "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him;" and then adds, "but God has revealed them unto us by His Spirit;" and elsewhere says, "we know in part" that we are to understand the revelation of them which is now made unto spiritual men, to be that which is partial and suited to our present condition; and though to the knowledge had in the present state he opposes that knowledge we shall have in the future state, and says, "but then shall I know, even as also I am known;" yet we are to understand the difference to lie only in this—our present imperfect and our future perfect knowledge of God, according to our creature-measure; because, as creatures, we can never have an adequate knowledge of an infinite essence. And as that revelation of God and His things which is here made to spiritual men, is denied by the apostle to natural man, "But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them," and as, in the text which he refers to, it is said, "Eye has not seen, besides You, O God," I think,  we may justly form these distinctions:
First, That no natural man has seen, nor can see, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him, because he lacks a spiritual capacity to discern the spiritual nature and kind of eternal glory.
Secondly, that spiritual men, in the revelation now made of spiritual things unto them, have seen them but partially, and will hereafter see them but finitely.
Thirdly, That none but God Himself has seen, nor can see them, infinitely; as the glories prepared for our enjoyment in His immense Being can be searched by no line short of His own infinite understanding.
Thus, all the texts will harmonize; and how vast, in Jehovah's infinite essence, is our prepared bliss!

That the Spirit of the Lord, in His sevenfold gifts and graces, may rest upon you, unto all assistance and success in divine service, and that you may at last be blessed with a massive crown of righteousness, is my earnest desire.