At the earnest request of many beloved labourers (in the present harvest of souls) to write a series of tracts for young converts, I now have much joy, in dependence on the Holy Spirit, beloved young Christians, in leading your thoughts, in my first paper to you, to that all-important subject, full redemption. Before reading, however, will you lift up your hearts in prayer, that our God and Father may bless it for establishing and confirming your faith, and that He by His Holy Spirit may enable me, from time to time, to give you His own precious truth, in all faithfulness and love? And will you also ask that many who read these papers, who are not saved, may by reading be awakened and converted to God?
Well, beloved young Christian, then, you have been brought to God, your sins are forgiven through believing the blessed testimony of God. You have redemption through the blood of Christ. You may not know, however, but you will soon need to know, the greatness, the fulness, the completeness of that Redemption.
As a young child learns much by pictures, so the young Christian may learn much of the completeness and blessedness of divine truth by the types or pictures of the Old Testament. If you turn to the Book of Exodus you will find an exact picture of the way in which God has brought you to Himself. Even Moses, (drawn out), when he was thus raised from the river of death, was a shadow of Him who was to be raised out of death; the first to rise from among the dead, that He might be the risen Deliverer of His people.
Mark the condition of the people, (read chap. 3) crushed with the cruel oppression of Egypt's slavery: groaning beneath the iron rod of Pharaoh. "And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmaster; for I know their sorrows. And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and large." (Exodus 3:7, 8.) Is not this man's condition everywhere, bond-slave of Satan? How fearful the misery which has come upon the whole race of man through sin. Behind the fair surface of human society, what an hideous reality of woe. Man believed the enemy, doubted the goodness of God, and fell, and deep indeed was that fall — from the happiness of the garden to the misery of Satan's Egypt.
But God heard the cry of misery and affliction. Could there be a more thrilling picture of God for us than this? He came down to deliver, when there was no friend for poor man. When there was none to help, His right hand brought salvation. "In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 4:9.) I wish you to think much of this wondrous love. There does not appear to have been one thing to draw the heart of God towards the children of Israel, but their very bondage, and sorrow, and His own covenant love. If you look at the end of chapter 2, they cry because of their bondage; but they do not look up to God, but God looked upon them. "And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them." Yes, it was all of God — there was no merit in them. God heard, God looked, God came down to deliver. Blessed God, what love and pity thus to reveal Thyself the Friend of the oppressed!
Has it not been exactly so, my dear young Christian, with your soul? God heard your groans; and what groans, throughout eternity, if God had not come down to save. I often think how Jesus died for our sins, so long before we were born, who live in these last days. Surely our redemption is entirely of God. It was not we who looked to God, but God who looked upon us. Yes, long before time began, God chose us in Christ, in whom we have redemption. Ephesians 1, 2, are full of this blessed theme. There the soul is ravished with contemplating how redemption is of, and flows from, God's eternal love.
But let us trace the picture a little further in Exodus. If you read chap. 4, you will find, that though God had thus revealed His compassion and love to Moses, and sent him with the commission of deliverance, yet the children of Israel were in total ignorance of this wondrous grace in store for them. It was not until after Moses had met Aaron, that the gospel of God's deliverance was preached to the people. "And the People believed: and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel, and that he had looked upon their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshipped." How little, when groaning in bondage, did you think of the loving purposes of God. But when the Spirit of God met you, as Aaron met Israel, then faith came by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
In chapter 5 the condition of the people becomes worse and worse. They desire deliverance. They desire to worship. But their burthens become heavier. They lose their straw, and cannot do their work. The chapter ends with many stripes, but no deliverance. It is sore work often for the awakened soul, passing through this experience. Would make bricks, but has no straw; would do good, but evil is present. Longs to worship; strives hard to keep the tasks of the law: gets only stripes, but no deliverance. How long poor Luther was in this brick-kiln. Have you been there, reader? Then you know, as the officers did see, "They were in evil case after it was said, Ye shall not minish ought from your bricks of your daily task." The apostle well describes the struggles of the brick-kiln in Romans 7. Only bear well in mind, that the full redemption was not known in the brick-kilns of Egypt. Neither can full redemption be possibly known, to the soul passing through the experience, of which the brick-kilns of Egypt were but a picture. By the way, it is just possible my reader may be in this very state. You may have believed, so far as the Gospel has been made known to you; you may earnestly long to worship God; you may long to escape the bondage of sin and Satan; all this may be the yearnings of the new nature, but still you have not learnt the full redemption. You do not enjoy deliverance. You say, I have no strength to do what I want to do; just as the people had no straw. They had no straw, and you have no strength; and now Satan presents the tasks of the law, and says, these must be fulfilled. What a picture the officers of Pharaoh were of those who preach works for salvation. "Go, therefore, now, work; for there shall no straw be given you, yet shall ye deliver the tale of bricks." "Go, therefore, work; for except ye keep the law ye shall not be saved." How like in substance is the language of both.
In chapter 6, mark that whilst the people were under the cruel burthens of the brick-kiln, the very promises of God failed to give relief. Read the tender words of God in verses 1 to 8. What words are these. "I have also heard the groaning." "I have remembered my covenant." "I am the Lord." "I will bring you out." "I will redeem you." "I will take you to me." "I will be to you a God." "I will bring you in unto the land." "I will give it you." "I am the Lord." I say, is it not most remarkable that, whilst under the tasks of the brick-kiln, these precious promises entirely failed to give relief. "They hearkened not unto Moses for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage."
If my reader is a quickened soul, still under the bondage of the law, this is sure, sooner or later, to be your experience. You will say, Yes, the promises of God are very precious, but I cannot fulfil my task. I have tried to keep the law, but how often, nay, always, I fail. Ah! whilst ever the soul is standing on its own responsibility under law, all that it finds is failure, sin, anguish of spirit, and cruel bondage. And every child of God knows what a tendency there is thus to cling to self. But most surely this springs from ignorance of full redemption. No, my dear young Christian, we do not stand in our own responsibility under law, like the brickmakers of Egypt; but in the risen Christ, through whose precious blood we have redemption, even the forgiveness of sins.
And now God puts forth His power in the plagues of Egypt, in His governmental judgment of the proud oppressors of His people; but still no deliverance. These are solemn pictures, as taken up again in the Book of Revelation, of the judgments of God in the last days. Ah! in that day the proud oppressors of God's people shall be broken to pieces. But I return to our subject.
It may seem strange that so great a display of the Lord's power should have been made in Egypt, and yet not one soul delivered. We see the very same thing in the Gospels. After all the rich display of power and grace in the blessed life of Jesus, yet at the close of His ministry amongst men, had there been nothing more than this, He must have remained alone. Blessed as was that ministry, great as were those miracles, heavenly as was His teaching, holy as was His life, yet had He not died, the Just for the unjust, not one of all the sons of Adam could possibly have been saved. What a place this gives to redemption! It was so in Egypt! We have seen the tender compassion of God; we have heard His sweetest promises; we have witnessed His terrible power against the enemy. We have seen all this from chapters 3 to 11. But it is not until the blood of the Lamb is sprinkled, that one soul is delivered from bondage. How very exact is the teaching of God in these types.
Chapter 12. Do, my young reader, ponder well this deeply interesting chapter. May the Spirit of God so bless it to your soul, that it may be the beginning of months to you. Sure I am, it would be even so to many old Christians, did they but understand the full redemption it shadows forth.
Blind, indeed, must be those eyes, which cannot see that this chapter 12 sets before us the redemption blood of Christ; as saith the apostle, "For even Christ, our passover, is sacrificed for us." (1 Cor. 5:7.) Just as the lamb without blemish, of the first year, was put up until the fourteenth day of the same month, and then killed by the whole assembly; even so did our Jesus, as the lamb without spot, offer Himself to God. Yes, on the very passover night, He gave Himself up for us. He said, "I have heartily desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer." (Luke 22:15.) Was ever love like this? And the blood was to be sprinkled upon the door-posts of the house. And the Lord said to the children of Israel, "And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood I will pass over you." (Exod. 12:13.) And God kept His word. Not one person perished that night who believed His words about that blood. God said, "when I see the blood,I will pass over you." And, my young Christian, think what God sees in the blood of Christ! It is not what you see. We have as yet very limited views of the value of the atoning death of Jesus. But what does God see? The place of highest glory into which God has raised the once-bleeding Jesus, is the answer to what God sees in the value of the cross of Christ. Unmingled grace, flowing throughout eternity, to the millions of the redeemed, proclaims what God sees in the blood of Christ!
What a token of love, the blood of the Lamb! Whilst the death of Jesus shews out the righteousness of God in all its brightness; and surely also His wrath against sin, in all its blackness; yet what a token of love to the poor sinner! Dear reader, I often get comfort in thus thinking of God. His righteousness maintained, to the utmost, yet His love shewn to us in all its fulness. Why were the door-posts of Israel sprinkled with blood? God loved them. Why did He deliver every man, woman, and child who dwelt in those blood-sprinkled houses? He loved them. Now go up to that blood-sprinkled post; what do you react in that blood on the post? God is love. The blood speaks and says, I am the token of God's love to you; but it also declares, that "without shedding of blood there is no remission." Draw near the cross; what do you read there? Blessed lessons, that shall never be fully learnt when eternal ages have rolled away. Oh! why this Holy One thus dying? Why those pierced hands and feet? Why no place to lay that precious head? They who loved Him are fled! They who hate Him are gnashing their teeth around Him? But, why this three hours' darkness? Why is He forsaken of God? Why that bitter cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" In those hours of darkness, forsaken of God, did Jesus pay the full price of redemption; and, bowing His head, cried, "It is finished." And thus died the Lamb of God! Yes, on that cross I read, "God is love." But I also read, "Without shedding of blood there is no remission."
If our sins could not be remitted even to Him, when He bore them in His own body on the cross, then surely they cannot be remitted to us on any other ground, but through His precious blood. What a token of love to the sinner, then, is the cross of Christ! Sure token on which my soul rests for ever.
And now to return. Was it not very striking, that though not one of the Hebrews were delivered from Egypt before this very night of the passover, on which the firstborn of Egypt were slain, yet not one was left in bondage after. Solemn truth! death there must be; death passed on Israel's lamb, their substitute; but death passed on Egypt's firstborn. Even so death and judgment have passed on my reader's Substitute, the Lamb of God; or death and eternal wrath must be your portion for ever.
Thus the blood was sprinkled on the door-posts, and thus the Lord brought them out of Egypt. Even so Christ has once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, to bring us to God.
And now, that the lesson of redemption may be fully learnt, let me ask you to read chap. 14. What a picture of Satan's last effort! The sea before — the whole army of Pharaoh behind. The people are terribly afraid. "And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not; stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will show to you to-day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to-day, ye shall see them again no more for ever." And what a deliverance the Lord wrought that day! The sea was divided, so that the children of Israel passed through on dry land. But that very sea that saved them, drowned every enemy that pursued behind. Not an Hebrew was lost — not an Egyptian was spared. "And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh, that came into the sea after them: there remained not so much as one of them." Thus the Lord saved Israel. And what a salvation! Could it have been more complete! No more brick-making — no more cruel bondage in Egypt — no more beatings and oppressions. What a sight that was, as Israel looked upon the Egyptians, dead on the sea-shore! And if this, the mere figure of our redemption, were so complete, what must the reality be? It is very terrible to the poor, trembling soul, as it first learns the value of redemption like Israel of old, the rolling waves of death before, Satan and the whole array of sins in hot pursuit behind. But what was it to the Captain of our salvation, when, at the close of His life in the flesh, the prince of this world came against Him, and with the dark billows of God's wrath before Him, and no escape. Ah! there was no passing on dry ground for Him. The full power of Satan let loose against him the utmost hate and rage of man! What were the armies of the Egyptians, compared to that fearful hour when all our sins were laid on him! Stroke after stroke of divine wrath against sin fell upon Him. All God's billows went over His soul. But why this sea of death rolling in upon His soul? Dear young Christian, all this He freely bore that we might pass through death and judgment dryshod. Yes; He came to this Egypt of cruel bondage, that "by his death he might deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." And oh! how complete the deliverance! Blessed Deliverer, He is no longer beneath the dark wave of divine wrath, but raised from the dead. As the Egyptians lay dead on the sea-shore, so even God has said He will remember our sins against us no more for ever. (Heb. 10.) As the Red Sea destroyed Pharaoh and all his host, so Jesus by His death destroyed him that had the power of death, which is the devil.
It is thus we stand still, and really see in the death of Jesus the salvation of God.
Now what an entire new position this was to Israel, out of Egypt — brought to God, though in the wilderness! How much they had yet to learn! But they could now sing the song of Moses. And what a song of complete deliverance! Read it over, and let me ask now, Is this the language of your heart? Can you thus rejoice in God's complete deliverance? Do you understand the teaching of this blessed inspired history? Has the death of Jesus, the Lamb of God, thus changed the position of every child of grace! Has the whole power of sin and Satan, when brought against your holy Substitute, been conquered and destroyed? Surely as Israel looked back on the Red Sea, and saw the dead bodies of their enemies, they did not hope they were saved from Egypt's bondage. And can I look back at the empty grave of Jesus, and hope that I am saved? Surely it is a finished work. No; they sing, "The Lord hath triumphed gloriously The Lord is my strength He is become my salvation." Yes; every sentence breathes certainty and joy.
And should not the language of the Christian be equally confident? "Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light, who hath deliveredus from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins." (Col. 1:12.)
In so short a paper I can only just glance, as it were, at the blessed lessons set before us in this divine picture.
The Red Sea had separated Israel thus from Egypt: Israel, as it were, became dead to Egypt, and the Egyptians became dead to them. Have you, my reader, thus become dead to the world by the death of Christ? And has the world thus become dead to you? Not one of the armies of Pharaoh was left to throw a stone at God's redeemed people. Have you realized the amazing fact, that such is the value of the blood of Christ, that not a sin can be laid to your charge?
It is not death like a narrow stream separating you from heaven; but that narrow, dark, deep stream of death in which Jesus took your place and passed through for you, separating you for ever from the world, from sin, and Satan. Yes death and judgment, sin and Satan, the world and all behind: yes; as Israel sang on Canaan's side of the Red Sea, so may we sing on heaven's side of the cross.
Oh! what a happy place this is to be in, is it not? I think I hear my young reader say, "I trust I believe all you have said, but still, I am not so happy as I was some time ago." Well, what is it, think you, that makes you less happy? At first, when God spoke peace to your soul, you were filled with thoughts of Christ, and these made you happy; but now you are thinking more of yourself. Is not that the case? Have you been put under the tasks of the law again? Nothing can more effectually sap the enjoyment of peace than this. You may not have been put under law for salvation, but as a rule of life. You will soon find brick-making in Egypt, as a rule of life, to be brick-making cruel bondage. I never met a person yet under the law, as a rule of life, that enjoyed peace with God. I feel so much depends on clearing this point up for the youngest convert, that I must seek grace to speak on this, as on every other matter, the whole counsel of God.
Now, just as redemption from Egypt delivered the Hebrews entirely in every sense from the bondage of brick-kilns, so the death of Christ delivered even the believing Jew from the bondage of the law. I say Jew, for though, in the writings of men, it is often assumed that the whole world was, and even is, under the law, yet this is great confusion, and utterly opposed to Scripture and to fact. Surely the law was not given from Adam to Moses; and when given, was it given to any but the children of Israel? Yea; and not given to them for four hundred and thirty years after the promise given to Abraham, confirmed in his seed, which is Christ. (Gal. 3.) But the Jews were under law, and for this very special purpose, that the offence might abound. Transgression of known commands, as in the case of Adam, was needed to convict man of sin, and prove his need of the redemption provided of God. Transgression did come by the law, but righteousness could not. The passage translated "sin is the transgression of the law," is very much misunderstood; as though there could be no sin without the law. This clearly cannot be the meaning, as is evident, if you compare it with that passage, "For until the law, sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed where there is no law." (Rom. 5:13.) Indeed, those who know well the Greek tell us the passage is not "sin is the transgression of the law," but "sin is lawlessness."
But to return: the Jews were under the law, that is certain; and was not one great object of Christ's death to redeem them from the law? as it is written, speaking of Jews, the apostle says, "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law," &c. (Gal. 3:13.) And again, "When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law." (Gal. 4:5.) Redemption, then, from the law was as real as redemption was from sin and the curse. See how this is insisted upon in Romans 7. There the believer is as dead to law by the body of Christ as he is dead to sin in chap. 6. But what is it to be dead to the law, or redeemed from the law? Well what was it to be under the law? When that is understood, then it is easy to see what it is to be redeemed from it. The illustration of the brick-kiln helps us to clearly put the matter. The Hebrew slave was responsible to do what he could not do, and hence his bitter bondage. Man, under law, is in just this position. He is responsible to do what he cannot do. Important to remember, Israel put themselves in that position. (Ex. 19.) But that is just the position of any man, Jew or Christian, if under law, he is responsible to do what he finds he cannot do. The law is most holy, just, and good; but man finds himself lost, carnal, sold under sin. When he would do good, evil is present with him. Now, if he is in this position, he must be wretched. He does the thing he hates; and what he would do he cannot do. But, you say, "this is exactly as it is with me." To be sure it is, and so it is with every one under law. Whilst as a Jew of old, you were never under the law, a moment's reflection will convince you of that; yet, like the Gentile Galatians, you may have been entangled with the yoke of bondage. Now, if this be the case, is there any wonder at the miserable lives that so many Christians spend. Cruel bondage all their days; feeling they ought to fulfil the whole law, yet failing at every point, until almost driven to despair.
Now, if the precious death of Christ redeemed them from it, who were in this state under the law; is it possible that his death should place us, who never were under it, in that condition? Most clearly not. But then, my reader may ask, if the law is not the rule of life, is there no principle of holy obedience? Oh, yes, most surely, as we shall see in these papers; only the principle of holy obedience cannot be the same as legal bondage.
The law told man what was right, but gave him no power to do it; yea, only excited him to do what he knew was wrong; and thus it only condemned him. Now from that state, those who were under it were redeemed entirely. As they had once been brought out of Egypt, entirely delivered from its cruel bondage, so were they entirely redeemed from sin, and death, and law. And more; we who were not under law, but utterly lawless, sin and death having passed upon all, whether transgressors under law, or sinners without law; we, too, have been redeemed from the whole old ruined condition of lost and guilty man, and brought to God on a totally new principle from man's responsibility altogether. No longer the bond-slaves of sin, but sons of God, born of God, having a new nature; yea, having the Spirit of God dwelling in us; as it is written, "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father."
And yet there is one other character of redemption which marks its fulness above all others, and that is, it is eternal redemption. "By his own blood, he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption." (Heb. 9:12.)
The Israelite might possibly have got back to Egypt, but not so the believer, who has eternal redemption through the blood of Christ. Oh! who can fully tell what it is thus to be eternally delivered from sin, and death, and condemnation? My old former self dead! My old former state for ever passed away! My young Christian, do ponder these words — eternal redemption. The guilt of all your sins eternally put away. Death, even the death of the cross, has put an end to them all. No question of hope — it is so: we have eternal redemption. Where this is understood, what rest it gives. Even in this particular, the shadow was very striking. Redemption from Egypt being completed, then, but not till then did God make known His Sabbath or rest to the Hebrews. We heard of the Sabbath in Eden; but from Adam to Moses, we hear of no Sabbath for man. Surely, God says in this, there can be no rest for the sinner but through the blood of the Lamb.
Eternal redemption gives eternal rest. Surely, when we are in the glory, it will not be more complete. Nothing can add or take away from its value. And is this the place of boundless blessing into which God has brought you, my reader? Then will you, can you, glory in aught but the cross of Christ?
In my next, I hope to look with you at the "lessons of the wilderness." In the meantime, may our God lead you, after reading this paper, by His Holy Spirit to search His own precious word. This is the one desire of my heart, knowing that nothing else can meet your need.