The Hidden Manna, the White Stone and the New Name - Part 2
Or it might be you were deeply wrapped up in professing self, and you often said to yourself, "I can never leave the church or chapel which I now attend. What will my wife say, what will my husband say, what will members of the church say if I leave the church where I was baptized? Besides which, it would crush all my prospects in life; it would turn against me my best friends, and be almost my ruin. O it is a sacrifice which I cannot make, for it would mar all my respectability, destroy all my comfort and worldly happiness, and overthrow all I have been striving to build up for years. It cannot be done."
But keen and sharp convictions are sent to pierce and wound the conscience. The fearful danger of falling, as an unpardoned sinner, into the hands of Him, who is a consuming fire, terrifies the mind; the wrath of God alarms the conscience; death and hell stand continually before the soul, and it feels compelled to flee from the wrath to come, be the sacrifice what it may. In these exercises the Word of truth becomes often opened up to the enlightened understanding, and a power is put forth, in its application to the heart, to believe and act upon it. Now is done in a moment that work whereby without difficulty the step is taken, self is denied and the soul delivered from the snare.
2. But to pass on to our next step. We do not travel very far in this way, before we begin to find the power of belief. When the Lord is pleased to work in us by His Spirit and grace, in His first dealings with our conscience, as I have just described, and gives us faith to take the onward step, of which I have just spoken, so as to come out of the world and be separated from it, and from all that profanity or profession in which we were wrapped up, we could do it, for we did it in His strength, not our own. Anything was better than to die in our sins. A prison, a workhouse, the loss of all our substance was preferable to the loss of our soul. This was faith-the faith of Moses, who chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. But at this time we did not, for the most part, know the mighty power of unbelief, for it lay deeply hidden out of sight in our heart. We had sufficient faith given unto us to take the first step in denying self, and to come out of its binding strength and power; but we little knew the strength of unbelief for all future trials and cares. It was, indeed, subdued for the time, but soon began to revive and show itself in renewed strength. Nor did we, at first, know much of the mighty power of sin in which unbelief finds its stronghold.
But when the law, in its spirituality and curse, made itself known to the awakened heart, when guilt began to press upon the conscience, light to open, in its penetrating discoveries, the majesty, holiness and purity of God, as seen therein, attended, as it always is, with a sense of our own helplessness to fulfil any of His commandments, and the bondage produced thereby, then it was that the power of unbelief was felt. It became now a heavy load, and the soul often cried aloud-
O could I but believe,
Then all would easy be.
But we could not overcome this unbelief. The stumbling stone was too heavy for us to take up, and though we would believe, and often tried to believe, and muster up every argument and every reason why we should not doubt, yet we found that we could not overcome this unbelief; for if it seemed to be for a time subdued or removed, it came back again with renewed strength and power. Now, if we were left to ourselves, in this unbelief we should live and die. But the Lord comes to the soul s aid, applies His Word, brings home some promise or some blessed truth out of the Scripture, and by this means raises up and draws forth faith upon His dear Son. Now the unbelief is overcome, and we find it as easy to believe when the Lord gives faith as it was hard, yea, impossible to believe, when shut up in our feelings in unbelief.
3. But we may have-and this is the third thing which we have to grapple with- much guilt of conscience, especially when the fountains of the great deep are broken up, and we have to learn that painful lesson which all learn, sooner or later-the depth of the fall. There is often great guilt of conscience, bondage of spirit and much despondency accompanying the breaking up of this deep fountain. Now how are we to overcome our guilt? How can we, when we are burdened with a sense of dreadful sin and iniquity, lift up our head before God in sweet confidence and holy boldness? We cannot do it, for the guilt of our sins has such an accusing voice that we cannot bear the voice of mercy speaking in the promises and invitations of the gospel. There is nothing harder to bear than a guilty conscience, for it seems to cut the very roots of our hope.
Now none but He who has laid the burden on can take it off. He must remove it from the conscience, for we cannot. But sooner or later He speaks peace to the troubled mind, and when He is pleased to apply the precious blood of Christ to the conscience, or to drop in a comforting word, or to give a view of the glorious Person of the Son of God, and manifest Him with a divine power to the heart as bearing our sins in His own body on the tree, then the guilt is removed and the conscience is cleansed and purged, by the application of atoning blood, from filth, guilt and dead works to serve the living God. In this way the guilt of sin is overcome, and with it its filth, love, practice and power, for all these are removed by the same hand, which takes away its guilt.
4. But as we travel on we begin to find the worm to have a very strong hold upon our heart-much stronger than we suspected. Now there are many things connected with the world which have to be overcome, such as the spirit of it, the strong affection which we naturally have to it, the cares which spring out of our connection with it, and the continual circumstances which necessarily attend the various employments which each of us has to fill. John tells us the way in which the world is overcome: "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." 1Jo 5:4 And he asks this question as if he would show that there was only one character who succeeded in obtaining this victory: "Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" 1Jo 5:5
Now, unless there were some great difficulty in overcoming the world, would John have used this strong and striking language concerning it? But why does faith give this victory? Because it worketh by love, being connected with the love of God shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost. It is only by faith that there is a saving view of the glory and blessedness of the Lord Jesus Christ; and where this is seen and felt, the love of the world drops out of the heart, and its carking cares and anxieties no longer press as before. Compared with the beauty and blessedness of the Son of God, the world and all its charms are seen to be less than nothing and vanity; and as the Lord Jesus reigns and rules in the heart, He puts the world and worldly things under His feet.
5. But in order to be an overcomer, we must overcome every obstacle, which stands in our way. Among these obstacles we may find many fears, and amongst them especially fears of death. Many anxious thoughts and terrifying suggestions may press upon our minds; how it may be with us in those solemn moments when we shall have to encounter the swellings of Jordan. Now these fears we have to overcome, that we may die in sweet peace; and it may be that they will not be fully overcome till just before the Lord cuts the thread of life. But how graciously is it said of the Lord, that one object for which he came was that "through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver them who, through fear of death, were all their life time subject to bondage!" Death is the last enemy; but the blessed Lord, who has overcome every other enemy, will also overcome this last in the experience of His dear people, and enable them to say, "Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"
II. If you recollect, I said I would endeavour to show you in what way he that overcomes obtains the victory. Let me now redeem my pledge. I have already shown how victory is given us over self, unbelief, the guilt of sin, the world and the fear of death; but I have not yet distinctly explained the difference between those who fight and are overcome, and those who fight and gain the victory.
Very many persons think themselves overcomers, who never gain any real victory but, as Paul says, "beat the air." He tells us, "And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully." 2Ti 2:5 Thus a man may strive for, and seem to get victory, and yet if he do not strive lawfully, that is, to use a common expression, fight or run according to the laws of the game, his success goes for nothing. This at once disposes of the whole tribe of those who fight with carnal weapons and gain the victory by their own skill and strength. Their victory is in fact a defeat; for it is merely substituting one form of the flesh for another. Thus, a man may be considered a very religious man, and yet not possess a grain of true religion; a very holy man, and yet not be sanctified by the power of the Holy Ghost; indeed, may be a very consistent, upright and benevolent man, full of devotedness to what are called good works, and yet know nothing of the teaching and testimony of the blessed Spirit in his own heart. The great point is not only that we overcome, but overcome in such a way as is consistent with the Word of truth and meets with the approbation of God and His testimony in our own conscience.
Now we must not think to take the city by storm, to win the great battle by our own strength, wisdom and righteousness, but to learn that lesson which is contained in the words which were spoken by the Lord to the heart of Paul when he was groaning under the thorn in the flesh, "My grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." 2Co 12:9 The great secret of overcoming is, to be overcome, and then when overcome, to fall down at the feet of Him who is able to make us more than conquerors and, in and by His strength, to take up the sword against our foes and fears. No man ever overcame by his own strength. It must be with us as it was with Israel of old, "For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them: but Thy right hand, and the light of Thy countenance, because Thou hadst a favour unto them." Ps 44:3 It is not our own sword that can fight our battle, nor our own arm that can save us; but it must be the right hand and arm of God, and especially the light of His countenance shining into our souls to put our foes and fears to flight, and that because He has a personal favour unto us.
We read in the Book of Revelation of a blessed company who overcame Satan the accuser of the brethren, and we are told how they overcame him. It was by the blood of the lamb, and the Word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto death. Re 12:11 These were their weapons: atoning blood sprinkled upon their conscience, the testimony of God s Word in their heart, and their martyr spirit, so that they would sooner die than yield.
But a point which deeply tries many of God s living family is the being continually overcome and finding so much in them that is their master. They seem so little able to make head against the workings of sin, the movements of pride and covetousness, the secret lusts ever striving for the mastery, their own worldly spirit and the guilt, doubt and fear which a sense of the strength of these evils produces. They find sin continually working in them, and to their shame and sorrow it seems as if the sin, which they hate would prove their master, for they feel they have no strength to overcome it.
But now observe, what is the effect of this experience of their own weakness. It is to bring them down, to lay them low, to empty and strip them of all their strength, wisdom and righteousness. Now when they are brought there, to fall down in all humility of mind, with much brokenness of spirit and contrition of heart, before Him who sits upon the throne, and to beg of Him to undertake their cause which they cannot manage themselves, and give them the victory over sin and self, He will appear for them.
When, then, in His tender mercy and surpassing grace, the Lord thus listens to their humble cry, and sends His Word with power into their soul, it gives them the victory, and enables them to overcome. Their worst foes, their greatest fears are all dispelled, and they find themselves able to overcome what they were never able to get the better of, when they tried in their own strength. It will be found in the end that all who tried to overcome in their own strength were defeated; but that those who, stripped of their own strength, looked to the Lord for strength, proved the victors. All who fight with earthly weapons have them beaten out of their hands, for all carnal weapons are unfit for this terrible struggle.
The apostle, therefore, says, "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds." 2Co 10:4 What does Satan, the accuser of the brethren, care for arms manufactured by the skill and wisdom of man? What are resolutions, tears, prayers, vows and the whole apparatus of creature contrivances before this terrible accuser of the brethren, an angry God, a condemning law, a guilty conscience and an unbelieving, infidel heart, ever fighting and resisting the Word of God? What is all the strength of the creature or the holiness of the flesh against the allurements of sin, the power of temptation, the spirit of the world and the enmity of our own heart against the God of heaven? Nature can no more be bound by these bonds than Samson by the green withs or the new ropes. Sin would break them off from our arms like a thread. No man ever gained the victory over self, or overcame sin, who depended upon himself or trusted to his own strength. But when, after repeated and aggravated failures, almost in an agony of despair, he falls down before God, overcome, beaten and defeated, and with longing eyes looks to Him who sits upon the throne, and begs of Him to undertake his cause, then that victory which was impossible to nature now becomes possible to grace, and that which he could never have done for himself, the Lord does for him in the twinkling of an eye.
III.-But now I pass on to consider the special promises which are given in our text to him that overcometh. These are three:
1. It shall be given to him "to eat of the hidden manna."
2. To receive "a white stone."
3. In the stone "a new name, which no man knoweth save him that receiveth it."
But perhaps when you look, with a searching eye, through the greater part of your experience, you find yourself so overcome, baffled and disappointed, that the very mention of the promises to him that overcometh sinks you lower, as feeling you have no interest in them. How often are you obliged to confess before the Lord that on this and that occasion your bad temper, or your worldly-mindedness, or your light and trifling spirit, or the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, or the pride of life overcame you! Have you not been entangled, again and again, with a spirit of covetousness, or fretfullness and rebellion, or a careless indifference and neglect of prayer, reading and meditation? Even looking back through the past week, and taking an account of victories and defeats, how many more have been your defeats than your victories; how much oftener you have cried and sighed than sung and rejoiced; how much more often you have had reason to put your mouth in the dust, if so be there might be hope, than lift up your face with holy confidence and been able to shout victory through the blood of the Lamb!
Yet let me endeavour, if I can, to show you in spite of this, that all with you is not defeat, and that you do sometimes, with all your defeats, know what it is to overcome.
1. Look, then, at the first promise: "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna." Is that promise altogether hidden from your eyes? By the hidden manna we may understand two things: first, the Lord Himself; and secondly, the Word of His grace.
It represents the Lord himself, as we find Him speaking in John vi., in answer to the Jews, who said that their fathers did eat manna in the wilderness: "Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world." Joh 6:32,33 There were various things in the manna that fell in the wilderness, which made it a suitable emblem of the Lord Jesus. Its coming from heaven was highly typical of the Son of God coming from heaven to earth; its fall only with the dew was emblematical of the dew of the Spirit which always attends the manifestations of Christ; its being just sufficient, so that he who had much had nothing over, and he who had little had no lack, was typical of the sufficiency of Christ for the desires and wants of all; and its being gathered day after day, was emblematical of Christ being the daily food of His people. Now have you not tasted sometimes of this manna, and felt a sweetness and blessedness in Christ, which you could never describe? And has not this been when views of Him by faith have enabled you to overcome? Then you fed upon Christ, and this was hidden manna to your soul.
But it also signifies not only Christ in His Person, love, blood and grace, but the Word of truth that testifies of Him; for we can only know and feed upon Christ by the testimony given of Him in the Word. Thus, any portion of the Scripture that is opened to the mind, and applied to the heart, so that the soul is fed thereby, is a part of this hidden manna. Now, this is only given to those that overcome. God s Word is precious only when you can overcome that unbelief which shut your heart against it; that guilt which could not receive the promises, but sealed your heart as with a double seal against them; that bondage of spirit, which kept you from the sweet liberty of truth.
If you look at your experience, you will find when you are in darkness, in bondage, in guilt, in fear, under the hiding and withdrawing of God s presence, the Word of God is mostly out of sight. You may try to catch hold of a promise, plead an invitation, endeavour to look through the dark cloud; but being under the power of unbelief, you cannot lay hold of God s truth so as to bring it into your soul and taste its sweetness and power. But if you get a little victory over your unbelief, the bright side of God s face begins to shine upon you, and you can see the Mediator looking upon you with affection and love. Then comes the sweetness of God s Word, for it is sweet just in proportion to your faith.
So you see that in order to feed upon the manna, you must overcome, because the feast is only to the victor. It was when Abram returned from the slaughter of the kings, that Melchisedec brought forth the bread and wine. So it is in grace. How often God s Word is to you a sealed book; how often you hear from the pulpit the most encouraging preaching, yet get no encouragement from it; how often you hear Christ held forth in His Person, blood and righteousness, and go away as you came, without any sensible relief! What is the reason? Because you are overcome. Unbelief, bondage, darkness of mind, insensibility rest upon your spirit, and all these keep you from feeding upon the manna. But sometimes a gracious Word comes over all these hills and mountains of unbelief, bondage, doubt and fear, and as this Word drops into your heart, you begin to shout victory over all your foes and fears. Then the Word of God begins to open itself up in its sweetness and blessedness. The Lord of the house brings out the hidden manna, and the Word of God is made sweet and precious to the soul.
Sometimes you read the Word of God as a dry and barren task to satisfy conscience. When is that? When you are shut up in unbelief and bondage. But at other times the Word of God is read with pleasure, and it is to you the joy and rejoicing of your heart. This is when you can believe it; and thus faith turns the Word of God into manna. But if you are barren, then the Word of God is barren; if dead, the Word is dead; if cold and lifeless, the Word is so too. But when the scene changes, when the clouds are dispersed, then you see light in God s light. Then it is a blessed Bible, a precious book, full of sweet promises and encouraging invitations. It is in this way the manna is given to the over-comer.
2. "And will give him a white stone." This seems to allude to an ancient practice, whereby criminals were either condemned or acquitted, according as the judges dropped a black or a white stone into a urn. In one of our celebrated Greek tragedies, Orestes, who had slain his mother as a judicious act because, in conjunction with her paramour, she had murdered his father, Agamemnon, on his return from Troy, is represented as pursued by the Furies. In his distress, Apollo advises him to go to Athens, and plead his cause before the court of Areopagus-the same court before which Paul stood. Ac 17 The cause is tried. The judges drop the stones, some black, some white, into the urn; but the goddess Pallas, who is the arbitress of the trial, drops in a white stone: the pebbles being counted are found equal, and Pallas declares that the criminal is acquitted.
I have merely named this as giving us an apt illustration of the meaning of the promise, "I will give him a white stone;" that is, I will seal his acquittal. He was almost like Orestes pursued by the Furies, or like a criminal tried for his life. Every sin dropped as it were a black stone into the urn against him. But the blessed Lord, from whose decision there is no appeal, drops a white stone into the judicial urn, and this outweighs all the black ones. "O man," he says, "guilty man, I acquit thee; I pronounce thee absolved from all thy sins and offences. Here is the white stone; hold it up before thine accusers, and keep it to the judgment day, that when the books are opened thou mayest produce the white stone, and say, There is my acquittal from the Lord Himself."
Now has the Lord ever given you a white stone? You know how guilt, law and conscience have dropped stone after stone into the urn-condemned thee here, condemned thee there; here was a black stone and there was a black stone. Is there a white stone that will swallow up all these black stones? There is; for when the Lord is pleased to drop a pardoning word into the heart, He empties out of the urn all the black stones, and then comes, in all its blessedness and beauty, the white stone of His sovereign acquittal.
3. But there was a new name written upon the stone. It was not merely acquittal, but something more. I take it to be the name of marriage. Just as the wife takes the husband s name and has a new one; so when the Lord brings forth the hidden manna and gives the white stone, He gives with it the marriage ring and changes the name. We find Him speaking by the prophet, "Thou shalt be called by a new name." And what is that name? "Hephzibah," "My delight is in her." The new name, then, is marriage with the Lord; and with the new name are given new rights, new favours, new blessings, and a claim to all that the Bridegroom possesses; because He gives a new name to the bride and calls her for ever His. This is the reason why no man knows it saving he that receives it. Who knows the love of the bridegroom but the bride? And when marriage puts them into possession of each other, their mutual fondness and affection are known only to themselves.
No, all these promises are given to him that overcometh. "Well," says one, "if none get them but those that overcome, what is to become of me?" Now I will take up your case. If you say that in a careless, discontented, unbelieving mood, it may be that this will be your eternal sentence-to be overcome and cast into, what the Lord calls, outer darkness. But I will take another case. You say, "I am often overcome; but it is my grief. O I wish I had more strength against besetting sins and temptations; but alas! alas! I am continually overcome." Let us see how this works. Does it work to harden or to soften? Some men are hardened by a continual sight and sense of their sins, and some are softened. Some are always complaining, "I am overcome; I have no strength; my temper, my business, my family, all get the better of me." And they are willing it should be so. There is no resistance, no struggle. But there are others who feel the misery of being overcome; and they are crying to one who is stronger than they, to put forth that strength in their behalf, which will make them victors. These will prove conquerors; and as they prove conquerors, they will come in for every promise to the conqueror. Salvation will be their happy lot; and the very tokens they now have here below, the very victories they have gained every time they have been able to raise a fresh Ebenezer, are all so many pledges that the victory is certain, though it may be delayed; and that the Lord, who has thus far wrought in them, will never leave His work till he has accomplished it for their good, and His own glory.