Monday, July 14, 2008

Horatius Bonar's "Faith in an Unseen Christ," "FALSE RELIGION AND ITS DOOM," & "The Vision of God"

Read Horatius Bonar's sermon "Faith in an Unseen Christ" here (Grace Gems).
Read Bonar's work "FALSE RELIGION AND ITS DOOM" here.
Read Bonar's work "The Vision of God" here.

Read Bonar's work "The Three Witnesses" here. From the work:
False religion and vain philosophy gather round a Christ of their own fashioning; a golden calf of their own molding; a Christ whose blood was never shed. But that which is true and divine, acknowledges as its alpha and omega, a Christ who died as well as lived; a Christ who took upon him our curse; a Christ whose person, however glorious in itself, is nothing to us sinners, without the blood shedding of his sacrificial work.

From Horatius Bonar's Light and truth: or, Bible thoughts and themes: the Revelation:



'Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they (men) see his shame.'—Rev. XVI 15.

THESE are words specially for the last days. They suit all times, no doubt;—for Christ is ever coming; the last trump is ever about to sound; the fire is every ready to be kindled; the Judge is ever at the door. But they suit the last days best, and are meant for these. With eighteen hundred years behind us now, we may take them home most solemnly to ourselves. (1) They warn; (2) they quicken; (2) they rouse; (4) they comfort.

I. The coming.—It is the long-promised advent. Christ comes! He comes,(1) as Avenger, (2) as Judge, (3) as King, (4) as Bridegroom. The same Jesus that left the earth is about to return to it. 'Behold,' says He to a blind, heedless world; 'behold,' says He to a cold and slumbering Church. 'I come:' He is herald to Himself. 'As a thief;'—at midnight; when men are asleep; when darkness lies on earth; when men are least expecting Him; when they have lain down, saying, 'Peace and safety.' 'Behold, I come as a thief.' Without warning, though with vengeance for the world in His hand; when all past warnings of judgment have been unheeded. Without further message; for all past messages have been vain. Like lightning; like a thief; like a snare. Like lightning to the world, but the Sun of morning to His Church; like a thief to the world, but like a Bridegroom to the Church; like a snare to the world, but like the cloud of glory to His own.

II. The watching.—Not believing, nor hoping, nor waiting merely; but watching,—as men do against some event, whether terrible or joyful, of which they know not the time. Waiting was the posture of the Jewish Church for the first advent; watching is ours for the second. Watch, said the Master. Watch, said the servants in primitive times. Watch, we say still, for ye know neither the day nor the hour of His arrival. Watch, for that day is great and glorious. Watch, for ye are naturally disposed to sit down and take your ease. Watch, for Satan tries to lull you asleep. Watch, for the world, with its riches, and vanities, and pleasures, is trying to throw you off your guard. Watch upon your knees. Watch with your Bibles before you. Watch with wide-open eye. Watch for Him whom not having seen you love.

III. The keeping of the garments.—Be like Nehemiah, who, when watching against the Ammonites, did not put off his clothes night nor day. Keep your garments all about you, that when the Lord comes He may find you not naked, but robed and ready. Do not cast off your raiment either for sleep or for work. Do not let the world strip you of it. Keep it and hold it fast. It is heavenly raiment, and without it you cannot go in with your Lord when He comes.

IV. The blessedness.—Blessed is the watcher; blessed is the keeper of his garments. Many are the blessed ones; here is one class specially for the last days. How much we lose by not watching and not keeping our garments! (1) It is blessed, for it cherishes our love. (2.) It is blessed, for it is one of the ways of maintaining our intercourse. (3.) It is blessed, for it is the posture through which He has appointed blessing to come, in His absence, to His waiting Church.

V. The warning.—Lest ye walk naked, and men see your shame. 'Shame' has three meanings: (1) the shameful thing or object; (2) the feeling of shame produced by the consciousness of the shameful thing; and (3) the exposure to shame and scorn from others. The first of these is specially referred to here. But all the three are connected.

Adam was ashamed at being found naked when the Lord came down to meet him; how much more of shame and terror shall be to unready souls at meeting with a returning Lord! It will be the beginning of shame and everlasting contempt. They shall be put to shame before men and angels; they shall be overwhelmed with confusion before the great white throne. The universe shall see their shame. O false disciple, come out of your delusion and hypocrisy, lest you be exposed in that day of revelation! O sinner, make ready, for the day of vengeance is at hand!

From Horatius Bonar's The Morning of Joy:

Chapter IX.


To love in absence, though with the knowledge of being beloved, and with the certainty of meeting ere long, is but a mingled joy. It contents us in the room of something better and more blessed, but it lacks that which true love longs for, the presence of the beloved one. That presence fills up the joy that turns every shadow into brightness.

Especially when this time of absence is a time of weakness and suffering, and endurance of wrong; when dangers come thickly around, and enemies spare not, and advantage is taken by the strong to vex or injure the defenseless. Then love in absence, though felt to be a sure consolation, is found to be insufficient, and the heart cheers itself with the thought that the interval of loneliness is brief, and that the days of separation are fast running out.

It is with such feelings that we look forward to meeting with Him "whom having not seen we love," and anticipate the joy of being for ever "with the Lord." That day of meeting has in it enough of gladness to make up for all the past. And then it is ETERNAL. It is not meeting to-day, and parting to-morrow; it is meeting once and for ever. To see him face to face, even for a day, how blessed! To be "with him" for a life-time, or any age, even though with intervals of absence between, how gladdening! But to be with him forever,—or always, as it stand in the original,—this surely is the very filling up of all our joy.

Has not the Lord, however, been always with us? Has he not said, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world?" Yes. Nor ought the church to undervalue this nearness, this fellowship. It is no shadow or fancy; it is reality. It is that same reality to which the Lord referred when he said, "He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father; and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him" (John xiv. 21); or, as the old versions have it, "will show mine own self to him." For when Jude put the question, "Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself to us, and not unto the world?" that is, "how shall it be that the world shall not see thee, and yet we who are living in the world shall see thee? how is it that we shall have thy presence, and yet the world have it not?" "Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him."

So that thus we have had the Lord always with us, nay, making his abode with us. It was when first we gave credit to the Divine testimony concerning the free love of God, in the gift of his Son, that we drew night to him and he to us. It was then that he came in unto us, and took up his abode with us. And it is this conscious presence,—this presence which faith realizes,—that cheers us amid tribulation here. In the furnace we have on like the Son of man to keep us company, and to prevent the flame from kindling upon us.

But this is, after all, incomplete. It is the enjoyment of as much fellowship as can be tasted in absence, but it is no more. Nor is it intended to supersede something nearer and more complete,—far less to make us content with absence. Nay, its tendency is to make us less and less satisfied with absence. It gives us such a relish for intercourse, that we long for communion more unhindered,—eye to eye and face to face. This closer intercourse, this actual vision, this bodily nearness, we are yet to enjoy. The hope given us is to be "with the Lord,"—with him in a way such as we have never been.

Let no one despise this nearness, nor speak evil of it, as if it were material and carnal. Many speak as if their bodies were a curse,—as if matter were some piece of mis-creation to which we had unnaturally and unhappily been fastened. And others tell us that actual intercourse, such as we refer to, the intercourse of vision and voice, is a poor thing, not to be named beside the other, which is, as they conceive, the deeper and the truer.

But is it so? Is matter so despicable? Are our bodies such hindrances to true fellowship? Is the eye nothing, the ear nothing, the smile nothing, the voice nothing, the embrace nothing, the clasping of the hand nothing? Is personal communion a hindrance to earthly friendships? Can the friend enjoy the friend as well afar off as near? Is it no matter to the wife though her husband be unseen and distant? Granting that we can still love and receive love in return, is distance no barrier, does absence make no blank? Do we slight bodily presence, visible intercourse, as worthless, almost undesirable? Is not the reverse one of the most deep-seated feelings of our nature? And is it not to this deep-seated feeling that the incarnation appeals? Is that incarnation useless, save as furnishing a victim for the altar,—and providing blood for the cleansing of the worshipper? No. The incarnation brings God night to us in a way such as could not have been done by any other means. He came bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, that we might have a being like ourselves to commune with, to love, to lean upon.

In that day when we shall be "with the Lord," we shall know to the full the design of God in the incarnation of his Son, and taste the blessedness of seeing him as he is.

The time of this meeting is his coming; not till then. Before that there is distance and imperfection. I know that in the disembodied state there will be greater nearness and fuller enjoyment than now. And this the apostle longed for when he had the "desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better." Even before the resurrection there is a "being with Christ," more satisfying than what we enjoy here; a "being with Christ" which is truly "far better." Nor would I disparage this blessedness. But still this is not to be compared with resurrection-nearness, and resurrection-fellowship, when, in a way up till that time unknown, we shall be introduced into the very presence of the King, all distance annihilated, all fellowship completed, all joy consummated, all coldness done away, all shadows dissipated, and "so we shall ever be with the Lord."

But, for the better understanding of this subject, let us look to the way in which the apostle handles it in administering comfort to the Thessalonian church, some of whom had been giving way to immoderate grief for the dead.

The grief of the heathen was immoderate, and their expression of it equally so. No wonder. Their hearts beat with as firm a pulse as ours, and natural affection was as strong with them as with us. The husband mourned the wife, the wife the husband; the parent mourned the child, the child the parent; the friends wept over the grave of friends. The breaking of these ties was bitter; and the special sting was, that they had no hope of reunion. Death to them was a parting for ever; not as when one parts in the morning to meet at even, or as when one parts this year to meet a few years hence. It was hopeless separation. At the best it was a vague uncertainty, to which deep grief gives no heed; more commonly it was despair. Their sorrow was desperate, their wound incurable.

The Thessalonian saints were sorrowing as those that had no hope, as if they had buried their beloved brethren in an eternal tomb. For this the apostle reproves them. He points out the hope,—a sure hope, a blessed hope, a hope fitted to bring true comfort. "Them that sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." They are not lost; they have only been laid to sleep by Jesus, and he will awake them when he returns, and bring them up out of their tombs. Their departure cannot being called dying; it is only sleeping. It has nothing of the despair of death about it. Death has lost its sting; the shroud its gloom; the grave its terrors. It is an end of pain; it is a ceasing from toil. "Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord, for they rest from their labours."

But the apostle looks beyond the resting-place. "Thy brother shall rise again." God himself will uncover their tomb and call them up, at the return of Him who is the resurrection and the life. And this, says he, "we say unto you by the word of the Lord." He gives this consolation to them as a certainty; having in it nothing vague or doubtful; a certainty proclaimed by himself and resting on the Lord's own words to his disciples ere he left the earth, regarding his advent, and the gathering of his elect to him.

The Lord is to come! This is the certainty. The Lord is to come! And in that coming are wrapt up all the hopes of his saints.

Of these saints there will be two classes when he comes. (1.) Those that are alive and remain; the last generation of the church. For, says the apostle elsewhere, "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed." (1 Cor. xv. 51.) (2.) Those that have fallen asleep; these forming the larger number, doubtless; for the sleeping ones of all ages shall be there. It might be supposed that the living ones would have the advantage, as being alive when the Lord arrives. But, no. It is not so. They may have some advantages. They never taste death. They are like Enoch and Elijah. They know not the grave. They see no corruption. In their case soul and body are never separated. They do not meet the king of terrors, nor fall under his power.*

*Thus Richard Baxter wrote: "Would it not rejoice your hearts if you were sure to live to see the coming of the Lord, and to see his glorious appearing and retinue? If you were not to die, but to be caught up thus to meet the Lord, would you be averse to this? Would it not be the greatest joy that you could desire? For my own part, I must confess to you that death, as death, appeareth to me as an enemy, and my nature doth abhor and fear it. But the thoughts of the coming of the Lord are most sweet and joyful to me, so that if I were but sure that I should live to see it, and that the trumpet should sound, and the dead should rise, and the Lord appear, before the period of my age, it would be the joyfullest tidings to me in the world. Oh that I might see his kingdom come! It is the character of his saints to love his appearing and to look for that blessed hope; 'The Spirit and the bride say come; even so, come, Lord Jesus.' Come quickly, is the voice of faith, and hope, and love. But I find not that his servants are thus characterized by their desire to die. It is therefore the presence of their Lord that they desire, but it is death they they abhor; and therefore, though they can submit to death, it is the coming of Christ that they love and long for. If death be the last enemy to be destroyed at the resurrection, we may learn how earnestly believers should long and pray for the second coming of Christ, when this full and final conquest shall be made. There is something in death that is penal, even to believers; but in the coming of Christ and their resurrection there is nothing but glorifying grace." Works, vol. xvii. p. 555—590.

These are privileges; and yet it might be said, on the other hand, that these saints do not taste the gladness of resurrection; that they are not conformed to their Lord in this, that he died and rose. Still the end in both cases is the same,—the one shall have no advantage, no pre-eminence over the other. Both are "presented faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy;" both equally faultless, though each has undergone a different process for the accomplishing of this. Thus, the one being changed and the other raised, they are formed into one company, marshalled into one mighty army, and then caught up into the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.

The particulars of this coming, in so far as the apostle gives them, let us briefly look into. The Lord himself shall descend from heaven. The same Jesus that ascended; he who loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood; he—his own self—shall come—come in like manner as he was seen go into heaven. With a shout. This is the shout of a monarch's retinue, the shout of a great army. Just as God is said to have gone up with shouts, so is he to return; return with the shout of the conqueror, the shout of triumph. The voice of the archangel. A solitary voice is then heard making some mighty announcement, such as that of the angel standing upon sea and earth, and proclaiming that there should be time no longer (Rev. x. 6); or of that other angel, with whose glory the earth was lightened, crying with a loud voice, Babylon is fallen (Rev. xviii.2); or of that other angel, who cried with a loud voice to all the fowls of heaven, "Come, gather yourselves unto the supper of the great God." (Rev. xix. 17.) The trump of God. It is elsewhere called "the last trump." (1 Cor. xv. 52.) It is God's own trumpet, the trumpet that awakes the dead; not a voice merely,—as if that were too feeble for such a purpose, nor a common trumpet, but the trump of God, one that can pierce the grave and awake the dead. These are the steps and the accompaniments of the advent. There is first the shout of the angelic host, as the Redeemer leaves his seat above to take possession of his kingdom here. This shout is continued as he descends. Then as he approaches nearer, the multitude of the heavenly host is silent, and a solitary voice is heard, the voice of the archangel uttering God's message; then comes the trumpet that calls forth the sleeping just. They obey the call. They arise. No holy dust remains behind. They put on immortality. Then, joined by the transfigured and glorified living, they hasten upwards to the embrace of their beloved Lord.

It is into "the clouds," or "cloud," that they are caught up; that cloud, or clouds, which in all likelihood rested above Eden, making it the place of "the presence of the Lord" (Gen. iii. 8; iv. 14, 16); which appeared to Moses at the bush; which led Israel over the Red Sea and through the desert; which covered Sinai; which dwelt in the tabernacle and in the temple; which Isaiah saw; which Ezekiel described; which shone down upon the Son of God at his baptism and transfiguration; which received him out of sight at his ascension; which Stephen saw when breathing out his soul; which smote Saul to the ground on his way to Damascus; which, last of all, appeared to John in Patmos; and which we know shall yet re-appear in the latter day. Into this cloud of the Divine presence, this symbol of the excellent glory, Jehovah's tent or dwelling-place, the ark of our safety against the flood of fire, shall the saints be caught up when the Lord appears, and the voice is heard from heaven, "Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust:" and as it was said in Israel, "the song of the Lord began with trumpets," (2 Chron. xxix. 27,) even so with the trump of God shall our resurrection-song begin.

Thus with songs shal we go up on high; our sings in the night being exchanged for the songs of the morning. They shall be "songs of deliverance," with which we shall then be "compassed about" in that day when we get up into our "hiding-place" to be "preserved from trouble" (Psa. xxxii. 7); when we "enter into our chambers" and "shut our doors about us," until "the indignation be overpast." (Isa. xxviii. 20.) No longer in a strange land or by the rivers of Babylon shall we sing our songs; no longer in "the house of our pilgrimage" or in the wilderness shall we make melody; but in the King's own presence, in the great congregation, in the New Jerusalem which cometh down out of heaven from God. Then "standing upon the sea of glass," and beholding the "judgements of God made manifest," (Rev. xv. 2—4,) as Israel did when Pharaoh and his chariots sank like lead in the mighty waters, we sing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb.

Thus "caught up" into the cloud, we meet the Lord "in the air," as those do who go forth to meet a friend already on his way to them (Acts xxviii. 15); we meet him in order that, being there acquitted, acknowledged, and confessed by him before his Father and before the angels, we may form his retinue, and come with him to execute vengeance, to judge the world, to share his triumphs, to reign with him in his glorious kingdom. (Zech. xiv. 5; 1 Thess. iii. 13; Jude 14; Rev. ii. 26; iii. 21.)

Thus "meeting the Lord," we are to be "ever with him." He with us and we with him for ever. "So shall we ever be with the Lord;" that is, "as we then shall meet, so we shall never part;" as is our meeting, so is our eternal communion, our continuance in the presence of his glory. We shall see him face to face and his name shall be in our foreheads. Sitting upon the same throne, dwelling under the same roof, hearing his voice, having free access to him at all times, doing his will, going forth on his errands,—this shall be the joy of our eternity. No distance; that is annihilated. No estrangement; that is among the thing that are absolutely impossible. No cloud between; that is swept away and cannot re-appear. No coldness; for love is always full. No interruption; for who can come between the Bridegroom and the bride? No change; for he makes us like himself, without variableness. No parting; for we have reached our home to go out no more. No end; for the duration of our fellowship is the life of the Ancient of days, of Him who is "from everlasting to everlasting."

"With the Lord!" It would be much to be with Enoch, or with Abraham, or with Moses, or with Elijah, or with Paul; much to share their fellowship, to have converse with them on the things of God and the story of their own wondrous lives; how much more to be "with the Lord!" TO be like Peter at his side, like Mary at his feet, like John in his bosom. To have met him in the streets of Jerusalem, or by the sea of Galilee, or at Jacob's well; to have heard him name your name and salute you, as he passed, with the wish of "peace;" to have dwelt in the next house to his at Nazareth, to have been a guest at the table of Lazarus when he was there, to have slept under that roof, it might be in the apartment next the Lord of glory! How much should we have valued privileges such as these, treasuring them in memory, like gold! Nay, even to hear the tidings of his love, to have a message from him, to be told that he was gracious to us and kept us in mind, to be any where beyond the reach of sin and pain, how much! Oh, what then must it be to be "with the Lord,"—with him in his glory; "with him," as the friend is with the friend; "with him," as the bride is with the bridegroom; saying without fear or check, "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for thy love is better than wine;" and hearing him say in return, "Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee. Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse, with me from Lebanon: look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon. Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one turn of thy neck. How fair is thy love my sister, my spouse! how much better is thy love than wine!" (Sol. Song iv. 7—10.)

"Ever with the Lord!" This soothes all sorrow and sums up all joy. If even here we can say so gladly and so surely, "I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord," how much more gladly and surely shall we be able to say it then!

Forever to behold him shine,For evermore to call him mine!

This is what we look for; this is our watchword and our song even in the day of absence and sorrow; and it is this that makes the expected morning so truly a morning of joy. "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when i awake, with thy likeness." (Psa. xvii. 15.)*

*"Hasten, o my Saviour, the time of thy return; send forth thine angels, and let that dreadful, joyful trumpet sound; delay not, lest the living give up their hopes; delay not, lest earth should grow like hell, and lest thy church by division be crumbled all to dust; delay not, lest the grave should boast of victory, and having learned rebellion of its guest, should plead prescription, and refuse to deliver thee up thy due. O hasten that great resurrection-day, when thy command shall go forth and none shall disobey; when the sea and earth shall yield up their hostages, and all that sleep shall awake, and the dead in Christ shall first arise; when the seed that thou sowedst corruptible shall come forth incorruptible; and the graves that received but rottenness, and retained but dust, shall return thee glorious stars and suns. Return, O Lord, how long! O let thy kingdom come. Thy desolate bride saith, Come! For thy Spirit within-her saith, Come! The whole creation saith, Come, waiting to be delivered from the bondage of corruption. Thyself hath said, Surely I come. Amen; EVEN SO, COME, LORD JESUS."—BAXTER, Works, Vol. xxiii. p. 449, 450.

From Horatius Bonar's Words of peace and welcome:

The King in His Beauty

"Thou art Fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into thy lips: therefore God hath blessed thee for ever."—PSALM xlv. 2.

THE world is fair and bright. It has dazzled and ensnared millions. Yet there is such a thing as a new-found Saviour, eclipsing and outshining all earthly beauty, in the eyes even of those who once admired it most.

Every form of attraction gathers round Him. That attraction is felt to be resistless. With joyful swiftness we hasten to Him whose wondrous goodliness we have thus newly discovered. We henceforth move around Him as our centre. We are drawn off from vanities that once bewildered us. The world has lost its comeliness: nay, it has been utterly darkened. It shines no more. It wins no more. It is Egypt to us now, in which we were vile bondsmen. It is Babylon to us now, in which we were weary exiles and captives. But we are free. The true light has risen.

We have seen something that has drawn our eye, and won our heart. The beauty of the world has vanished. Its lustre has waxed dim. In the love of Him who loved us and gave Himself for us, we have found that which has dissolved the bonds of earth, and fastened us to heaven with an everlasting tie.

It is but little of the glory that we have seen as yet; but it is enough to allure us away from vanity, and to make us desire the day when we shall see Him face to face, "whom having not seen, we love."