Friends of God.

It is surely the fervent wish of every true child of God to be marked by the features and comportment that publicly manifest the friends of God. Some one might ask, But is a true child of God not a friend of God? One would unhesitatingly reply, Yes! In the counsels of God's sovereign grace and mercy every true believer is constituted such, and as being partaker of the divine nature he is endowed with those spiritual susceptibilities consistent with this blessed relationship. But I speak of what is characteristic of us in our public life, our responsible life here upon earth, rather than the place we occupy before God, graced in the Beloved One. Even in natural things "Rank imposes obligations;" how true this is of the Christian! What we are before God is to be wrought out livingly, in the power of the Spirit, in our ways and conduct before men.

The life of Abraham, so fruitful in results for God, provides us with most interesting and deeply instructive material for our contemplation and imitation. This life of "the father of all them that believe" exemplifies in a most beautiful way the truth of the words, that the essential characteristic of the life of faith is strangership, but this founded upon citizenship elsewhere. Stephen, in his defence (Acts 7) before his accusers, declared that the God of glory appeared into Abraham, and it was this glory that threw into the shade all the glory of the world around. To us, the Father of glory has been made known in His blessed Son, the One who has given being to a whole system of divine glory; and a voice from the unseen calls us to the enjoyment of faith's portion even now. As beloved Mr Darby expresses it so beautifully:

What powerful, mighty Voice, so near,
Calls me from earth apart —
Reaches with tones so still, so clear,
From th'unseen world my heart?

Abraham desired no place in this world, but with his tent and his altar he waited for the city which has foundations, of which God is the Artificer and Constructor: his tent marking him out as a pilgrim and sojourner before men, his altar speaking of him as a worshipper before God. Our tent and altar must go together. If pilgrim ways and character are not maintained down here, we cannot expect to be in a priestly state to exercise priestly functions before God in the heavenly sanctuary. Moreover, Abraham pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west and Hai on the east (Gen. 12:8). Hai means "a heap of ruins," no doubt typifying the ruin of the old creation; and thus, between a judged world and Bethel, "The house of God," Abraham's tent is pitched in view of both; and there he builds an altar, and calls upon Jehovah's Name. Do these things not speak to us with powerful voice, beloved saints of God? We too stand between a doomed world and that scene of cloudless joy, where "God in His own Rest is fully known."

What is our attitude to this world? Do we take account of it in its true moral condition as lying in the wicked one? the whole system in all its ramifications entirely antagonistic to God and His Christ; its moral features, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.

Do we desire to settle down, or have a position, in a world, which, were it not for the restraining mercy of God, would totter to irrevocable destruction; and this in spite of all man's boastful claims to progress and enlightenment? Let us take our stand for God, with uncompromising resolution, with unflinching courage; and as empowered by the Spirit of God, and fortified by the word of God. Thus shall we be proof against all the seductions and blandishments of a world at enmity with God. Let us give heed to those solemn words in the Epistle of James, "Know ye not that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore is minded to be the friend of the world is constituted enemy of God" (James 4:4). Let these solemn, searching, sifting words sink deeply into our inner consciousness, so that their serious implications for time and eternity may be rightly appraised by us. There are of course those legitimate things, to which we must give due attention, such as our homes, and our business, and things that touch the world in some form and degree; yet even these things ought to be held but lightly, as we lay hold, with purpose of heart, on those things which belong to that scene where "all things are of God," refusing all that would retard our progress, and militate against the realisation of being worthy of that title, which Abraham so richly merited — "FRIEND OF GOD" (James 2:23). A. Shepherd.

All below lies dark and shadowed,
Nothing there to claim my heart,
Save the lonely track of sorrow,
Where of old He walked apart.