It is a happy and an encouraging thing for the soul to be habitually impressed with the every-day interest which our beloved Lord takes in His own while here in the world. Probably nothing is more conducive to the deepening and unfolding of our affection to Himself, and to consistency in our walk, and to diligence in His service, than the discovery of what an object we are to Him all along the road to the Father's house, and how He loves to disclose to us the sweetness, the reality, and the constancy of His personal interest, notwithstanding that He is the glorified One at the right hand of God!
In the days of His flesh "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not." This we find at the very opening of John's gospel, which starts with His rejection by those whose privileges are significantly indicated in those two little words, "His own," henceforth no longer thus used because inapplicable to the reprobate nation. But in John 13:1, this affecting term is transferred to His beloved disciples - "Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end;" i.e. not merely to the end of His sojourn below, nor as to time in any sense, but right through to the uttermost. Thus we have present title to this endearing expression from the lips of our blessed Lord, and not only so, but, as the chapter delineates, to the unmeasured love and faithfulness, and the unwearied service, which He connects with it for the gratification of His devoted affection for His object. For we rejoice in the thought that not only has He graciously so wrought in us by the Holy Ghost as to win our confidence for ever, and make Himself an object of eternal rest and joy to the hearts of His own, but He has, on the other hand, permitted us to regard Him as the eternal Lover of His saints, whose interest in us never needs to be re-awakened, but continues unflagging, if not ever deepening, as the consummation in glory draws nigh!
We are then, each in his own measure, no less truly an object to Him than He is an absorbing and satisfying one to us. And even as when a poor sinner it was my first duty to let Him have His own way according to all the service He had rendered me on the cross, so now as a believer is it equally my first and my abiding obligation (oh, what a privilege too!) to allow Him to fulfil His cherished service from the glory, after a fashion suited to the delight of His heart in enriching and adorning me with His own graces, as well as in removing hindrances to that moral transformation He is effecting. Every child of God being a distinct individual object to Him, has his personal history disclosed, in its out-working every day, to the eyes of that blessed Man in the glory. And whether we be regarded as pupils under tuition, or as patients under treatment (alas! the more frequent case), it is He alone who can discern, and discerning can by the Holy Ghost supply, what is needed for each saint's daily path and progress. Thus, apart from those so frequent occasions, alas! in which our failures bring His blessed advocacy into active exercise, if it have not indeed anticipated them, each day has the weft of its own distinctive colouring interwoven with the warp of our lives; and well will it be if, weaving deftly and dexterously, we produce so beautiful and so durable a texture that, like the fabled fabric of fibrous asbestos, the action of the fire so far from consuming will only whiten it into a thing of lustrous purity and beauty for ever (1 Cor. 3:13); for indeed of such a character, surely, are those practical righteousnesses which constitute the fine linen of the saints! (Rev. 19:8.)
Can He whose glory we shall then be the medium of displaying, and towards which all is so rapidly and definitely tending, be otherwise than intensely interested both in that which is now being woven in the loom by His saints, and in the work of His Spirit in them, to make them, as it were, His garments of glory and beauty for that day of manifestation? For if we survey the interests of Christ, we have to remember their present two-fold character; first, the evangelizing in the world which has to be completed that the rapture may be effected; and second, the transformation going on in the saints in view of the "revelation of the sons of God" with the Lord Jesus in glory; the latter being that which is due to Himself, and which will be effectively displayed then, according to what has been our spiritual grasp and growth in these days of our pupilage. The two lines on which the Spirit of God is thus working run side by side according to their distinctiveness of character, and terminate synchronously at the word of the Father to the Son. If every soul that is saved hastens the rapture, equally so does every little bit more of Christ wrought in a saint as fruit of the Spirit add a further ray of beauty to the glories of Christ in the day of His manifestation! Thus the quantitative and the qualitative work of the Spirit of God - the one in the world, and the other in the Church - synchronize in their course, and close simultaneously at the coming of the Lord. Whether then we look at the world as to evangelization, or the saints as to transformation, what a field is presented for the tender and assiduous interest of Christ in the service of His saints, and of the Holy Ghost in His saints! Nor can we too closely connect either the one or the other with Himself, with the person of that glorified Man upon the throne of the Father; for to deny or to doubt the intensity of His present personal interest in His saints would be seriously to impair the comprehensiveness and continuity of His service to His own, and to cast a slur upon the deep perfections of His character and of His ways of love!
The current period of His session at the right hand of God is as clearly marked by the activity of His tender affection and devoted service, though made good in another way, as ever were the days of His self-denying ministry on earth. If we glance through the gospel of Mark, where He is before us as emphatically the girded servant of Him who sent Him, how beautiful are the touches with which the Spirit of God has adorned the record of His lowly, lovely service among men. The assiduousness with which He engaged in it meets us at the outset. On the morrow following a long day of varied and arduous toil, protracted into night, we find Him rising up a great while before dawn, for prayer in the solitude of some secluded spot, only to have his privacy speedily invaded, eliciting, however, His readiness to resume at once in other towns His diligent labours. (Mark 1:35-38.) Yet when His apostles returned from their little "two and two" mission, His prompt and tender solicitude for them finds expression in words which bespeak His interest in the clearest way, "Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest awhile" (Mark 6:31), indicating to the Lord's labourers that rest and retirement in the secret of the Lord's presence is as essential after, as His own example shows that prayer is before, any public testimony for God. And how His heart went along with all His service is in like manner, and just as clearly, indicated by many a delicate touch in the cases of the "leper" (Mark 1:41), the "much people" of Mark 6:34, and the rich young man of Mark 10:21. And if, further, we bring home His service to ourselves, has He not, as it were, taken us by the hand and lifted us up? (Mark 1:31; Mark 9:27.) Has He not nestled us in His arms? (Mark 9:36; Mark 10:16.) Does not His eye survey the whole scene in which we are moving? Is anything lost upon Him? (Mark 3:34; Mark 8:33; Mark 10:21-23.) Is not His ear open to the harrowing tidings which sometimes wring a human heart, and does He not delight to speak an instant word of succour and of cheer, that our faith may be in Him? (Mark 5:36.) And if He open His mouth, as it were, to minister in word and doctrine, is it not as we are "able to hear it"? (Mark 4:33.) And if He send a message to His disciples, His words "and Peter" shall tenderly indicate how peculiarly interested He is in His poor heart-broken servant. (Mark 16:7.) Is there one whit of this loving, devoted service, taking account of everything, and adapting itself in its exquisitely tender human way to every human circumstance and feeling, which is not equally, yea, in a heightened way, made good to us now by the Holy Ghost, and which shall not be even more perfectly, because unhinderedly, displayed and enjoyed in the glory?
These are some of the special features of the Lord's ministry, found only in that gospel which has His service as the subject of the Holy Ghost's peculiar testimony, His spending and being spent for His own. It is our privilege to read between the lines, that "this same Jesus," though made "Lord and Christ," is as approachable, as attentive, as unwearied, as considerate, as loving, as compassionate, as observant, as tender, as in the days of His flesh, being in a word, "the same yesterday, and today, and for ever." (Heb. 13:8.)
And if He be thus interested in the progress and result of His own work by and in His saints, is there not even a deeper joy to Him in recognizing every little stirring of love to Himself which He delights to inspire in our hearts by the Holy Ghost's presenting to us the attractiveness of His blessed and adorable person? For this see Canticles. How beautifully does 4:9 to 5:1 illustrate and unfold the interest which He takes in the affection of His saints to Himself! and how calculated is the disclosure there of His appreciation of that love ("poor and feeble, Lord, we own it") to produce and to deepen it more and more, as He ever longs and loves to do. "How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! how much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointments than all spices!" (Cant. 4:10.) "Neither was there any such spice as the queen of Sheba gave king Solomon." (2 Chron. 9:9.) W. R. D.