Rev. Archibald Cook*
I am indebted to Miss M. Dunbar, Tomatin, for translating twenty-four of Mr Cook’s sermons from the original Gaelic into English. (It may be of interest to our readers to know that Miss Dunbar’s father, as a boy, sat under Mr.Cook’s ministry). As far as I know these sermons, apart from one, have never been published in English. The sermon which follows is one of these twenty-four, and it seems to be one of a series of at least three on the same text. Our gratitude is also due to Mr Alasdair Gillies, M.A., Dingwall, for his revision of the translation of it, and to the editor, Rev. Neil M. Ross, B.A., for editing it for publication.
(Rev.) J. Goldby
Text: “Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?” The Song of Solomon 8:5.
THERE is a question posed here: “Who is this?” but it is not revealed who asked it. It will be seen in eternity who asked it and why it was asked. It may have been the Holy Spirit who asked it. But whoever asked the question, it was the Holy Spirit who aroused it. It may very well be that the end He had in view in doing so was to call men to take notice of God’s people of the church leaning upon her beloved. God’s people are a wonder: “Behold I and the children whom thou hast given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel.”
Many people make a profession of religion in the world, and their profession may be extraordinarily attractive, but few endure to the end. Why do many not endure? Because they are not united to Christ they are not leaning upon the Saviour but on their head knowledge. Everything, except union to Christ, will fail and wither away. It is very easy to begin a profession of religion, but enduring to the end is another and wonderful thing. You who hold family worship but are not united to Christ when death comes your profession will fail. Many have held family worship but were of no honour to Christ. It was not on Christ that they were leaning but on their own head knowledge; that failed, and so they withered away.
In speaking last Sabbath from the words of this text we were endeavouring: first, to show what this wilderness is from which believers are coming up; secondly, to open up what it is to be “leaning” upon Christ in coming up from the wilderness; and thirdly, to expound a few matters which are embraced in this question, “Who is this?”
First, in speaking of the “wilderness”, we said that the world is a wilderness literally, because it lost the beauty in which it was created. “Cursed is the ground for thy sake.” God’s curse wasted the original beauty of the earth. Again, the earth is a wilderness, because it is unable to satisfy the soul. The soul was created to be a dwelling place for God; and when God left the soul of man at the Fall nothing else could ever fill it. Because the Creator is robbed of the affection of the soul by the world, He is provoked to place a worm at the root of everything that is drawing the soul away from Himself. The Lord desires the soul’s affection for Himself. When it is given to any creature and not to the Creator, He sees the extent to which He Himself is being despised in favour of that other object of affection. Even if it were to an angel that you would give your soul’s affection you would thus be guilty of robbing God. When, for example, a man’s worldly affairs prosper and take away his soul’s affection from God, he is guilty of robbing God. Throughout eternity many will be cursing the day in which their worldly affairs began to prosper. You take care that the world does not draw your heart away from God.
We said also that the world is a wilderness because it is under sentence of death. The day of judgement will usher in the end of the world. The sentence of death has been pronounced against it as a murderer. They are few in number whose souls are not being destroyed by the world. In the day that you come to a saving knowledge of God you will come to know that the world is a murderer, and in that day you will lose your love for it.
We said too that in the day when the Lord comes into the soul, the world becomes an empty place it becomes a wilderness to that soul. Blessed is the man in whom this view of the world is maintained until the day of his death. In the day in which the Lord will come into your soul you will see no beauty in the creature but what is of God in it. This is what no hypocrite ever saw; but those who are the objects of God’s love must see it, and do see it. Until they come to see this, any godliness they may have will be a half-grown godliness; and it is no wonder that they do not bear fruit. But when their eyes are opened they do not see any excellency in the world but what is of God in it. You who have not this view of the world, still have the world, and not God, as your portion.
We said also that, when the world becomes a wilderness to the seeking soul, even the Lord’s people and the means of grace, in themselves, become a wilderness to that soul. In this way the Lord draws the soul away from everything that it is leaning upon, and towards Himself as the fountain of life.
In thinking secondly, of the nature of this “leaning” upon Christ as the object of the love of the soul, we must see something of this wonder: that a sinful creature may lean upon Christ. However wretched and unclean he may be, he may lean upon Christ in order to come up from the wilderness.
To see this further, let us notice the names Christ took to Himself. He took the name “Saviour”, and it is evident that part of what is implied by this name is the bringing of souls from the wilderness. When He was revealed under this name it is no wonder that the holy angels sang this song: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). A soul could never get out of the spiritual wilderness in which it is if Christ had not assumed the name “Saviour”; and it was out of the depths of His own compassion for man, as lost, that there flowed His purpose to save.
Man, of his own free will, and for the sake of his sin, separated himself from God. If man was to be left by God in that state of separation eternally, he could not say but that God was just in doing so. But there was in the Lord that which was touched by the misery of man, and it was from this compassion in Himself that there flowed His taking to Himself the name “Saviour”, and His undertaking to save His people from their sins.
When we look at the Scriptures we see that His heart was set on this from eternity: “The Lord hath appeared unto me of old, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee” (Jer. 31:3). “And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thine own blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when wast in thy blood, Live” (Ezek. 16:6). “I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry” (Exod. 3:7). Whatever groans believers may have had when they were in a state of nature they never had, of themselves, a cry to be brought out of that state of separation; never was there a penitent tear in the eye and an asking to be delivered from that miserable state. When this petition for deliverance arises from the soul to God, it is the Lord Himself who put it there. It may be that you listened to your own prayers but never heard a petition from your soul to be delivered from your miserable state. And when a cry for deliverance eventually did go forth from your soul, it was given by God, who intended it for you from eternity. When that is so, can a poor, sinful creature not lean upon Him to take him out of his miserable state?
Man in his original state had fellowship with God, as God: there was no human nature in God. But now the church stands in union with God, as God “manifest in the flesh”, and she will not fall as long as that union lasts. It is said of believers that they are “members of His body”, and that is why it is written in Scripture that “there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother”. There was never a brother who would do for them what He did for them.
Man fell into dreadful debt. We read of one who owed ten thousand talents but was pardoned, but the justice of God knows no pardon for sinners who have no surety. You take care, sinner, if you have no surety: God’s justice will follow you eternally, crying, “Pay me that thou owest.” Man is in dreadful debt! Justice requires thankfulness from us for our natural faculties; yes, and even for every drop of cold water we are given and it is not every kind of thankfulness that will satisfy Justice. Poor indeed is the man who has the comforts of this world, but whose soul lacks this true thankfulness to God. God’s justice will follow him throughout eternity demanding the payment of that debt.
Now, the Saviour stood in the place of His people and became their surety. He suffered the punishment and experienced the misery and woe which they deserved for their sin. He “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). I am thinking of the nature of the compassion there is in God: He did not rest until it was revealed to sinners in the death of Christ. This is where it was revealed. You, who have not seen Divine compassion revealed in Christ’s death, do not know what that compassion is. There is nothing nearer to the Saviour than a poor soul groaning at His feet. When the Saviour was in the world and poor sinners were coming to Him with all their infirmities and afflictions, we see His holy compassion shown to them. And now, although He has gone from the world, He still has the same fellow-feeling as he had while He was personally on the earth.
Thus a sinful creature may lean upon Him, coming up from the wilderness. And, if he will lean upon Him, he will get out of the wilderness as surely as the church did. “Who is this?” But you, who are without grace, have not yet seen this compassion in the Saviour: the world is the object of your love. It is no wonder then that you are yet lost in the wilderness.
When we meditate also on the nature of Christ’s death we can see that a sinful creature may lean upon Him. It is evident that the soul’s salvation was wonderfully precious in the eyes of the Saviour when he would suffer what He did suffer for it. Man was the only creature with whom Christ chose to have fellowship. And man was thus chosen when he was a sinful, not when he was holy. The Scriptures tell us that “Christ died for the ungodly”, and that He “died for our sins”. Sin is of such a nature that it deserves death. There is such evil in the departing of the soul’s affections from God as is known to no one but God Himself. The soul’s turning away from the Creator deserves His wrath. There is as much evil in one sinful thought as would outweigh all the good ever done by holy angels. In sin there is that for which God’s glory demands death. Take the case of someone rising in rebellion against a king: the king’s glory demands the death of that person, and the king’s glory is safeguarded by the death of that person. Now, is it not most awful that the safeguarding of God’s glory requires the death of the sinner? Oh, unconcerned sinner, how awful is your state!
Until the soul sees that Christ stood in the place of the sinner and died for the ungodly, he will not be constrained by the love of Christ. “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. . . When thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand” (Isa. 53). It is by seeing Christ as the sin-bearer that the objects of His love come to be blessed with spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, and to be dying to themselves. It is no wonder then that the Apostle said, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” He saw how the Son of God stood in his place, and how therefore he was taken out of the hands of Justice. When Christ has done so much for sinners, may not a poor, sinful creature lean upon Him to take him up from the wilderness?
Christ has a right to take His people up from the wilderness because not only was He set apart in the eternal purpose to do so, but also because it is the fruit of His death. He Himself says, “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life. . .” (John 10:17). “The Father Himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God” (John 16:27). This is so, but it would have been inconsistent with His glory to save them unless Christ laid down His life for them; for the objects of His love were as deserving of damnation as are those in hell; but “therefore doth the Father love me because I lay down my life for the sheep”. In speaking of sacrifices, God says, “every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills” (Psl. 50:10). Man had nothing he could offer for himself. He had nothing but what he had from God. He did not even possess his own life. But Christ had all in Himself. He had life in Himself. In the moment in which His human nature was conceived it was united to His divine Person. Therefore, His life was His own, and He had a right to lay it down for the sheep. Wonderful are the words He spoke: “Lo I come: in the volume of the book it written is of me, I delight to do Thy will, O my God: yea, Thy law is within my heart” (Psl. 40:7,8). With regard to His people, the will of God is their sanctification (1 Thes. 4:3), that the image of God be restored in them, and that they be made “meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” fit for communion with Himself.
God’s power alone could not save souls. There had to be the shedding of blood. “Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins” (Heb.9:22). There was no blood in God: therefore He took to Himself a human nature, and in that nature He offered Himself up as a sacrifice in place of His people. It is no wonder that you, who found saving benefits in the word of God, would walk humbly and desire to do something to the glory of God in the world. Now, when He so humbled himself, may not a poor soul lean upon Him?
We may say that it was in order that the glory of the Godhead and the salvation of the soul might be brought into concord, that He suffered what He did suffer. The bringing of God’s glory and man’s happiness into concord was part of the joy which was set before Him, and for which He suffered the cross, despising the shame. It was part of the joy set before Him that the happiness of the soul should meet harmoniously with the glory of God; and we may say that Christ’s death was the meeting place. Similarly, in the intercession of Christ, it is the death of Christ that is the meeting place of the soul and God. You who are getting liberty at Christ’s feet, are having there the fruit of His intercession. The intercession of Christ results in the soul leaning upon Christ in the wilderness and in temptations.
If we keep in mind that it is from Christ’s death that the salvation of the soul flows, we shall see that God did not provide one drop of liberty for the soul, but through the death of Christ. That God would give the least liberty to the souls of those of you who are rejecting Christ would be against the glory of the Godhead. Your prayers cannot bring you liberty. You and your prayers will go to hell apart from your having Christ. Christ, “and Him crucified”, is the only means appointed by God for the salvation of the soul, and it is through Him alone that there is any liberty for a sinner. He alone is the medium through whom salvation comes to the soul. “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The poor woman who touched the hem of His garment and received healing could say, “He is God’s medium. I tried many other things, but Oh! He is God’s medium.”
From eternity past God had thoughts about the sinner, and purposes of mercy towards the sinner. “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, . .”(Jer. 29:11). God had thoughts of compassion, but these were hidden in Himself. It was through Christ that these purposes for the salvation of the soul were revealed and found their fulfilment. It was the eternal purpose of God that some souls should get a knowledge of the sweetness which is to be found in Himself. There are treasures of excellency in God, and it was in the eternal purpose that some should be brought to know this. Now it was through Christ that these treasures were to be revealed to the soul. It was from glory that this question came: “How shall I put thee among the children?” And there was nothing in heaven or in earth that would solve this but the death of Christ. Yes, Christ’s death solved the question; and, poor soul, it was through Christ’s death that there was the accomplishing of what was in the Divine purpose, and that the efficacy of the provision reached the soul. Although you would be as black as the leper, and unable to lift your eye; there is in Christ’s death what will meet your need.
There is a revelation of God’s attributes in the saving of the soul. There are attributes in the Godhead of which there would be no knowledge in the world, were it not for the salvation of the soul. In the salvation of the soul the mercy of God was made known; and the love of God was made known; but justice was also made known. With regard to the salvation of the soul, it was in the death of Christ that the attributes of the Godhead came to meet together in harmony. And how free grace shines forth in bringing the soul to know God, and to lean upon Christ. Oh, how grace will be shining in that gracious work!
Now it is by this leaning upon Christ, in the power of the Godhead, that the believer will endure to the day of his death. And you, who are professing godliness without understanding this, will wither away you will be without fruit in your soul and you will wither away. But it is by leaning upon Christ that God’s poor ones continue fruitful under every cross. At their death you will see them gaining victory over death, over sin, over hell: and gaining victory by their leaning upon Christ. An old believer under the power of godliness is wonderfully fair and comely. We saw many such; and it was by leaning upon Christ that they were so. And God sees the Church as perfectly secure because of the Person to whom He has entrusted her.
You who are leaning upon Christ are becoming more and more of the same mind as Christ is; you are being “changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18). “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” (Rom. 8:9). There is nothing good that one is able to do but by leaning upon Christ.
And it is at great cost that His people are carried through to the end. But Christ is as full of grace as He always was. Take the sun shining in the heavens, for example: although it has emitted so much light, it is as full of light as ever it was. So Christ is as full of grace as ever He was. When He is such, may not a poor, sinful creature lean upon Him to take him up from the wilderness? “Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness leaning upon her beloved ?”
* See A Faithful Ambassador is Health – A Sketch of the life of Rev. Archibald Cook of Daviot .