By J.G. Bellet
Redemption is God's principle. Leviticus 25 (which is the great scripture on the subject of redemption) shows us that, because on the sale of either the person or the lands of an Israelite, if he had no kinsman to redeem him or his estate, God would redeem both every fiftieth year, and every man then should return to his family and to his possession. So that redemption was God's principle. And also, because it was so, neither the land nor the people were to be sold for ever, but to be sold subject to redemption--as we say in our laws, sold by way of mortgage, not sold for ever, or out and out, but sold by way of mortgage, or subject to redemption. The same chapter shows us that. Thus it is clearly apparent that redemption is God's principle. But what does it imply? The paying of a price, a full price, for the thing or person sold. The purchaser of an Israelite or of his possession was to have the full money weighed out to him, ere he could be required to restore the man or his land to his kinsman. The Scripture shows, in like manner, that our glorious kinsman (the God of heaven and earth manifest in flesh) has, by Himself, paid the full price of our redemption, paid the debt that lay upon us and our inheritance. In the balances of the throne of God (where righteousness was seated) the price was paid and weighed with the nicest hand, that no wrong might be done to any one through man having sold himself and all that he had by his sin. And thus Scripture calls Jesus a redeemer, in the sense of this glorious chapter on redemption. He visited and redeemed His people, and the price that He paid was His blood, or Himself--"he gave himself a ransom for all to be testified in due time," "by his blood having obtained eternal redemption for us"--"the redemption of the purchased possession," and "thou hast redeemed us to God," and many such passages.
And the scales of the throne of God tested the weight of this price before it was paid. They had before tried the weight of the blood of bulls and goats, but they found all such blood to be light and insufficient; but when the blood of God's own Lamb--God's divine Son--was put into that balance, which was thus held by the hand of Him that sat on the throne--that judges right--the balance stood, the will of God, the great Creditor, was satisfied, and by the satisfying of that will we are sanctified (Heb. 10); by the payment of that price our person and lands are repurchased by our glorious Redeemer or kinsman.
I do confess, to touch this doctrine of repurchase, or redemption, appears to me to touch the dearest thought in the mind of God, for it is as Leviticus 25 blessedly shows us, as I have said, His own principle. And why is it so dear to Him? Because it glorifies His love, that is, Himself, above everything; because it shows such a way of self-sacrifice in God, that though this ransom, this price of redemption, demanded the Son from the bosom (the Isaac), yet the Isaac was delivered.
And what comfort to the conscience to know that the full price has been paid. What comfort to a poor redeemed Israelite it must have been to know that his creditor, to whom he had sold himself, had been paid the uttermost farthing of his demand by his generous kinsman! The heart gets comfort from knowing that God's love was gratifying itself in the work of our redemption, but the conscience gets ease from knowing that God's righteousness has been honoured and secured, that the demand of His throne has been fully answered. And I judge that the Scripture enables us to understand how the blood of Jesus is equal to accomplish this great end of paying the ransom or redemption money. For the original condition was this: life must go for sin; "in the day thou eatest thou shalt die." Adam ate, Jesus died or gave up life; and He had life to give up. No other victim on earth had life; for sin, the principle of death, was tainting everything. All other blood carried the savour of death in it, but the blood of Jesus was the blood of a living one, and this was equal to meet the penalty of sin, and when given was the full price for the redemption of all who would trust it and plead it, for life had now gone for sin. Jesus was not debtor to sin or to death, for He was entitled to life, but yet for us he consented to "die unto sin" (Rom. 6), to own the claim of sin and death, and thus has He fully and meritoriously discharged it. The blood was the life and was reserved for God. It was a thing forfeited or given back to God, because of sin. But God laid it up (or, found it) in Jesus, and in Him gave it to sinners for atonement. (Lev. 16) In this way again we see the blood of Christ to be as heavy as all the penalty of sin. For death has been induced--life has gone for sin, and that was the original condition. And again, the Lord said, the soul that sins shall be a curse. But the same Lord says, the man that hangs on a tree shall be a curse. And thus, in another shape, we see the price equal to the debt in the very reckoning of Him who alone can take the account, that is, the Lord, or God Himself. (Deut. 27, 21; Gal. 3) And it is most comforting to see the unbending severity of righteousness in this matter. It will be satisfied. The patriarchal law (Gen. 9: 5), the national law of Israel (Exodus 21: 23), the law of shadows or ordinances (Num. 35; 33), all show this. The payment must be equal to the debt, the ransom to the penalty or forfeiture. Guiltless living or untainted blood in Adam was shed by sin; guiltless, ever-living, and untainted blood in Jesus has now been shed for sin. (Heb. 9: 14.) And our comfort as sinners comes from thus seeing that the nicest and fullest demands of the righteous One have been honoured, ere pardon and peace are preached to us, ere the boundless love of God would give itself to our hearts to rest, refresh, and gladden them for ever. And that blood which as the victim Jesus once shed for sin, (Heb. 9: 14), as the Mediator He pleads always for transgressions. (Heb. 9: 15.) For it is the redemption of the one as of the other--the price for full remission of daily defilement. And by that same blood, as the forerunner into heaven, the same Jesus now there is getting all ready for us. (Heb. 9: 23, 24.) The very presence-chamber and all the heavenly things in glories that are there, making them approachable to sinners. And after all this display of the blood in Hebrews 9 we see the act of the righteous hand of God, as it were, holding the balance, as I have said, while weighing it against sin in Hebrews 10, and then the balance gloriously stands, and sin is then righteously remitted. So that in the blood we enter the holiest with a perfect conscience no longer in our sins kept outside.
The blood, as thus the price of redemption, or the consideration on which God can be just and the justifier of the believer, is called "the blood of the covenant." (Heb. 13; see also Ex. 24; Zech. 9; Luke 22: 20; 1 Cor. 11: 25.) And in that character also it is seen on the mercy-seat, or the throne of God, being that which shows how that righteousness and peace can kiss each other. And as the price of redemption it was put on the lintels of the Israelites' houses, and from the beginning of the world to the death of Jesus used in atonement, used as that which alone could meet sin.
Bath, July 26,1848.
MY BELOVED SISTER,
Your little word waited for me here on my return from Dublin last Saturday. Our stay here is uncertain, as is also the direction in which we may move from it. But I cannot speak of being at Torquay, though you know, to sit occasionally at your side, and speak together of our blessed Lord and His truth, would be pleasant to me.
I have judged that sea air would be very desirable for our . . . ., and her dear mamma also has the little cup of tears, dear sister, still wrung out at times; but many things make these movings not so easy.
Is not the great move a little nearer than it was? Do not the present agitations tell of the winds beginning to strive upon the great sea? And if ever distant symptoms of such action be perceived, is there not cause for afresh looking up in expectation of the meeting in the air?
I see dear L . . . . M . . . . now and again, and last evening we drank tea together at Miss B . . . .'s. My love to the little flock near you, beloved sister, and to your dear physician. Accept the same from us all unitedly, and to your dear sister.
The Lord be with your spirit with every desire towards you in the bowels of Christ Jesus.
Believe me, my dear sister,
J. G. B.
May 9, 1850.
MY VERY DEAR SISTER,
I had written to you and my dear brother, as I heard through your last of his sore bereavement.
Would that I had bowels that could feel for others, and give my honoured brother the comfort of deeper fellowship in his sorrow. Remember me in all love to him. Tell him I am knowing something of the dealing of the blessed, blessed God with my own soul just now, and in the midst of exercises can both trust Him and bless Him. He aims to take us out of an artificial into a real atmosphere, to speak immediately to us, to give tokens without and consolations within, while both things and people be against us, and our reins are chastening us.
As surely as it is written, "He that believeth shall be saved," and again, "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of heaven," so surely may our dear brother rejoice in the evidence his departed one has left behind her. How quick the passage is made from darkness into the kingdom of God's dear Son! We take the two steps: we learn that we have destroyed ourselves, and then that in Christ is our help.
The Lord be with your spirit! Accept our united love and remember us to your dear sister. We are moving this day into Dublin, so that our address will be, 2, Upper Pembroke Street, Dublin.
Ever your affectionate brother,
J. G. B.
March 1, 1851.
MY DEAR SISTER,
Your letter was a surprise and a joy to me. I had, I believe, concluded in my mind that we were at present very differently affected by this agitation among brethren, and that it was well understood by our hearts that the happier way was to be silent towards each other. But your letter has told me other things in which I rejoice. And indeed the more I give myself a thought upon it, I think I can the more say that I marvel at the lessons which this agitation is fitted to teach, as being still unlearnt by so many. But it shows that many a mind among us was very little removed from the ordinary dissenting ground. The great personal grace and devotedness of some was long an occasion of delay and hindrance with me, and some of the ways of those in the other scale, was another similar hindrance. I made such mistakes, and took the journey so lamely, that I have to be forbearing and humble; but I do indeed, again I say, wonder at the slowness of many hearts.
It has been a testing of the state of the spiritual senses among us. Had the Christ of God and the Church of God been more discerned in the exercise of the divine nature, I am certain the actings of Bethesda would have been promptly resented. The unclean letter of the ten, and the divisive or heretical actings in connection with that letter, ought to be instinctively detected, repudiated, and condemned.
It is not a question of personal devotedness with me. I know how such ones as dear . . . . stood in the midst of difficulties and oppositions for the Lord, while I was at ease and in leisure. But, I feel assured, the spiritual senses have been but poorly exercised in the peculiar calling of the Church of God, when such a letter as that can be gloried in, or its existence as the symbol, of any gathering in Christ be vindicated.
Oh how little, with all that we assumed, was the mind that was in the midst of brethren purified from the common leaven of the day! Would that many, my dear sister, would still the prejudices and the partialities of their hearts for and against individuals, and in the pure and heavenly light of the Church's calling, challenge the sayings, the writings, and the doings of Bethesda.
But with all this, many of us are deeply debtors to this agitation--debtors to the Lord through it. Indeed I am sure of that, and though I see myself in such changed circumstances here in Dublin, that I suppose time will never repair, or give me back what, in a certain way, I have lost in brotherly enjoyment, yet I would not surrender what I have learnt and experienced for a tenfold increase of even the past enjoyment.
Oh that dear . . . 's mind was spiritually guided in this, as I know his heart and services are with the Lord! There are some who surprise me, in the place they are taking, much more than others; and had I been asked, I should say, he was among them. I should have hoped he would have seen the direction in which the Spirit was--may I not say--so manifestly leading. He had not even the earlier habits of even an Independent's or Quaker's mind to withstand his progress. But we know not. Calculations have been all disappointed, and on either side the Lord has dealt in much of the sovereignty of His grace. In my own little connection with this agitation I have known Him again and again disappointing what I had reckoned on, and giving help even from what I had feared and suspected.
May He Himself be more personally with and before us! a nearer and more real object than ever!
Truth that gives thoughts is not fully the right thing; but truth that gives Himself - that is the thing.
Jesus once here--now in the heavens--again to be here and with us for ever--the same Jesus throughout--known for eternity as He was known in His track through the cities and villages of Israel--this is the mystery that gives us Himself. And it is the business of faith to reach Himself. The centurion pierced the cloud, the thick cloud, of His humiliation, and got at the divine glories, which lay the other side of it, or under it. The poor sinner of the city pierced the cloud, the dark cloud, of her own sin and misery, and got at the divine love that could heal it all. Faith may thus find various excellencies in Him, but it is Himself it reaches.
Faith sits and sings
"All human beauties, all divine,
In my beloved meet and shine."
Let not this evangelic age, dear sister, give you the work of Christ alone. It tends that way. Without His work, I know, all would be nothing. But let not doctrinal acquaintance with His work turn you from personal acquaintance with Himself.
I write at once, on receiving yours, for it was indeed a surprise and a joy to me.
Our dear sisters are at Cheltenham, where Mrs. M . . . . is, in very bad health. My dear Mary is increasingly feeble in her limbs, but "her peace in Jesus," through His grace, perfect. Great comfort have we in our dear child at our side; deep, eternal joy in our dear child that is gone.
All will soon close in the brightness of vision.
The Lord bless you and be with your spirit. Ever, etc.,
J. G. B.
Accept my Mary's love. Let us hear again of you and all dear to you, for it is a long time since we did.
2, Upper Pembroke Street,
Dublin, May 4, 1852.
MY DEAR SISTER,
It is, indeed, some time since a little word passed between us. The good Lord knows that it comes not from change or lack of the old and wonted love between us, but it may be, like some dream, from the multitude of business, and much of that business far less attractive to the heart than communion over some of the precious truth of God, but perhaps as needed and not less profitable.
I want to prove, "when he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble?" Beautiful sentence!
I heard of a good man who had been long under trial, people mistaking and reproaching him, saying to one who told me of it, "It has not given me five minutes' uneasiness for the whole seven months." What a living, happy experience of the reality of that short scripture. How much the soul covets the like, dear sister.
In our conduct and journey as saints, it is not enough, for the full repose of the heart, to have a good conscience. Without that, it is true, there could be no repose. But we need that light and grace and energy of the spiritual mind, that will keep us in the track of the mind of God, and in such activities as become the house and people of God, and our place in the midst of them. But, at the same time, I believe we can bring our lacking or our erring in these ways of the Spirit up to the throne of grace, in confession, with somewhat a less painful mourning heart than we should have to bring our blots of conscience.
I would that you could tell me better things of yourself, as to the body; but you scarcely expect much till all that be perfected in its "eternal house." I was lately reading a life of dear G. Whitfield. What a fervent spirit he carried with him, and what a love of souls filled his heart. I found it good and rebuking to be in company with him and with others who breathed the life of Christ in those days of dear Lady Huntingdon. Oh for more such fervency, loved sister, in my cold and narrow heart! He wept while he preached, like his Master; in his measure and way he seems to have given himself to the people, imparting his own soul to them, as the apostle speaks. The Lord spread among us more of this!
Give my love to dear Mrs. W . . . ., when you see her, and to your dear physician. I have heard of his brother in the north, but knew not of his loss. Blessed be God for the mercy 1 In the riches of grace He has given me, in recollections of mine, some of the dearest joys of my heart. The Lord be with your spirit, and believe me,
Ever your affectionate
J. G. B.
My Mary desires her love, and remember me to your dear sister. I may find something on Matthew 13 among my MSS. and will send it, please God.
I was glad you told me of yourself, where and with whom you are now living. I visit two dear saints of God, laid up, like yourself, for years in pain of body. One of them a near connection of the dear man, Mr. Greene, who ministers to Matamoros. Trials, my sister, will re-appear as honours by and by, sufferings as crowns. (1 Peter 1: 7.) You may be full sure I should find my way to the Quarries, were I at Exeter. My own sister from Tiverton we hope to see here in the course of the summer; but for six years I have not paid her a visit. A visit from dear M . . . would be very pleasant to you, I am sure. The recollections of him are very grateful to me, as of dear Mr. and Mrs. W . . . . and theirs. But all is imperfection, till the presence of Christ in glory teaches it by and by. May we have a heart for His appearing, without the check of present lust and vanity!
I have not heard of dear L . . . . M . . . . for a long while. Your dear doctor at Torquay cannot visit you now, as he was wont to do so lovingly.
"We talk of the land of the blest,
That country so bright and so fair;
And oft are its glories confest,
But what must it be to be there."
Oh! for deeper, richer, larger desires and sympathies for it and with it, my sister.
Ever your affectionate brother,
J. G. B.
May 29, 1863.
How naturally, yea, necessarily, my dear sister, the sight of a letter from you took me back many years in the recollections of my heart, and the interval surely was marked by its lights and shadows. How consistently, as one company, brethren were walking together, when first you and I knew each other, and now how broken! And yet I believe we can say, we would not exchange our present experience with what it was in apparently brighter and calmer days. The harvest that is reddening for the sickle is not as lovely to the eye as it was in its early freshness of green spring-time. And it is well, my dear sister, to be thinking of the day of ingathering. With me, at my age of sixty-six, it can be but comparatively a little while; but to faith, it is always a little while, and the less the better--save as service and the will of the Master would have it otherwise.
There is nothing like resting in His love. "He that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God." There is no one moral thought so full of power, I believe, as that which the apostle utters, "the Son of God who has loved me." The soul looking upward, as in communion not with God in judgment but in grace, apprehending not an exactor but a Saviour. You speak of my visiting Exeter, my dear sister. But I have no such prospect. My dear Mary is dependent on me every day, the frame increasingly feeble, and the mind bemoaning much failing; but the simplicity of her faith holds on, and no cloud rests on her well-known title to the love of God her Father. Our dear . . . . is a great comfort to us, and in more health of body, I think, than some years since. You know, perhaps, that we have lost all our dear sisters. The three died within two years of each other, at Cheltenham, where . . . ., . . . . ., and . . . . still live, and live as walking with the Lord, and serving Him in their way and measure.
For more than four years I have not been absent from Dublin for a week, and though I know it is profiting to visit brethren in other places at times, and see how they do, and take their pledge, and learn where they have been seated at divine lessons which have escaped the notice of one's own soul, yet if His strong hand fix your habitation, that becomes your profitable as well as your right place.
We are kept here, thank the Lord, in much peace, and the revival times which were blessedly seen in our city and neighbourhood some three years ago, have led to the enlarging of our company, and to the manifestation of much grace and godliness in many young persons. . . But in the state of churches, dear sister, we have great reason "to rejoice with trembling." Mischief breaks out suddenly at times, and in quarters which had not awakened one's apprehensions.