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Written by F.A.Chick   

THE GOSPEL  MESSENGER 

Dear Brethren.--I had thought when I began writing these reflections upon this subject to have embraced it all in one letter. The theme has grown very wonderfully in my mind as I have written, and I trust the Spirit has opened my mind to see a divine beauty in this scripture more than ever before. In my last letter I closed with some reflections upon the words in the 7th verse--' What I do thou knowest not now but thou shalt know hereafter.'

In the next verse Peter is recorded as saying, 'Thou shalt never wash my feet.' Dull and slow to learn (as are we all), he had not yet risen to a full understanding of this divine act. Still fleshly in comprehension, he COULD NOT understand how his Master and Lord could be to him a servant. The true Master and King is he who serves, but this he could not yet see. He would not hear; hesitated to wash the feet of his Lord. This to him would have seemed fitting. But for the Master to wash his servant's feet--this must not be. Yet herein lies the difference between the kingdom of heaven and all the kingdoms of a fallen world. Jesus, Lord of all, is among us as one who serves, and we recognize him not in such lowly, humble garb. We look for royal robes and power and rank and glory, and lo! we see an humble dress, and weakness, and humbleness, and shame. This is the kingdom of Christ. This is God manifest in the flesh. Peter had not learned this yet; but his spiritual gaze was clearer after awhile. Thou shalt never wash my feet! Another may, or I will wash my own feet, but THOU, NEVER! And yet, none but Jesus ever could really wash his feet. Only Jesus can really serve us. We can serve one another only as we have the free Spirit of Jesus formed in us.

Then the Lord answered, 'If I wash thee not thou hast no part with me.' Jesus said not 'if I wash not THY FEET,' but 'if I wash not THEE.' Why does the Lord change the mode of address ? It seems to me in order that he may call up to our minds that service which is more than all other service, that service which lies at the root of all, and without which there could be no other service rendered. WE MUST BE washed from head to foot, since from head to foot we are filthy and sick and diseased. Peter did not then see, but our minds are carried irresistibly to the cross and to the blood, and to the robes washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb. There was here an expression of that for which Jesus came, and which was before him in all his human life. 'Except I cleanse thee thou hast no part with me.' What poor, mean falsehood then, is that theory which would hold up the pride and religion and good works of men as being sufficient for their salvation! Except I WASH THEE thou hast no part in me. And it is so still. What we have of Jesus is what he is to us and what he does to us. Serving us he imparts himself to us, and so we become partakers of the divine nature. With ourselves, it is only as we serve men that they have any part in us. As brethren serving each other, we mutually have part in each other.

Now Peter, still quick and impulsive, with one bound, leaps over to the other side, and still errs in feeling and in judgment, and in language, and says, 'Not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.' But Peter did not need this. Only his feet needed cleansing. It seems to me that, symbolically, great and glorious truths of vital godliness are presented here. I think there is a reference to the cleansing power of the blood of Christ by which the whole man is washed from the only thing which can really defile--sin against God. This is the work of Jesus. And this he accomplished by being made in form as a servant, and by becoming obedient unto death. This being done once for all, needs not to be done again. By faith we personally and experimentally enter into possession of this infinite blessing once for all. However devious and :dark our path may be afterwards, we never pass beyond the strength and comfort of this hope. Having entered into it once, we never need enter it again, but must abide there forever. As Israel was sheltered by the blood of the paschal lamb, so does the blood of the Lamb of God shelter us forever. Peter had not yet come into the spiritual apprehension of this truth, and so on the one hand he says, 'Thou shah never wash my feet,' and then on the other, 'Not my feet only, but my hands and my head.' R~-ot only has Jesus wrought the atonement out for us forever, but by the same having word which has entered our hearts we have been purged from our former sins, and having come up out of this Egypt we shall see it no more. This work also Jesus has wrought within us. This also, Peter did not understand then. And we are also slow to learn. We occupy a new relation to God, and never can renew the old relation. Henceforth we are to be dealt with as with sons.

And so in verse 10th, Jesus said, 'He that is washed needeth not, save lo wash his feet, but is clean every whit.' This work of' redemption and this work of regeneration have both been wrought out. And as has been said, need not to be done again. A new heart has been formed within the disciples. This work is compared to a washing. Every Jew was familiar with the symbolical meaning of their frequent ceremonial washings. The disciples would well know that they represented a cleansing from sin and guilt. This, as has been said, could never need be done but once. But what then ? We have our walk in the world, and the world is filthy, and our feet are not always well shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, and in our walk defilement occurs. Only the clean in lips, hands, heart, and feet can enter into the joys of the heavenly sanctuary. Isaiah, finding his lips defiled, cried, 'I am undone; woe is me!' And we, finding our feet defiled, also must cry, 'I am undone!' Our defiled feet shut us out from God. How shall we enter there? how shall we eat and drink at his table again? We must have clean feet. And so Jesus provides for this also; he takes water and washes our feet. The same word of life that cleansed us first must cleanse our feet. If the bodies are washed with pure water so must the feet be also. The cleansing done in the atonement is done forever, but this needs to be done again and again. And Jesus condescends to do this also. Day by day he applies the word of cleansing and saves us from the world--defilement--which we encounter every day. Oh, how good it is that the Master continues to do us this service! How different his Spirit from ours. We pass by our erring, defiled brother, on the other side; Jesus only comes still nearer. Sometimes we think that we desire to wash our brother's feet; but when once only, he says that we shall not wash his feet, we go away. Jesus did not so. How slow we are to learn of this meek and lowly one l

'And ye are clean, but not all, for he knew who should betray him, therefore he said, Ye are no[ all clean.' Surely this awful language shows that Judas had no part in him--had never been washed at all. At another time he said, 'One of you is a devil.' At another time he said, 'It had been good for that man had he never been born.' All the rest were included in his redemption. All the rest had begun to. drink in of his Spirit. One had not so near as to lie on his breast, but this man had no part in him. 'He was a thief.' Yet other thieves had been saved, and are still saved, but this man had absolutely no spark of the life and Spirit of Jesus in him. He became the very incarnation of diabolic evil, in that he, unlike Herod, Pilate, Caiaphas', and the rabble, had lived with Jesus and yet could betray him. In him was exhibited, as never before, how dead man is. In him was the truth clearly set forth, that only a miracle can put truth in the inward parts and cause a man to love God. .:%11 men are just as bad as Judas. He was chosen in order that ]n him we might read how evil we all are and tremble. Surely, if out ward religious associations and teaching could change the heart and make Christians of men, then Judas had long before been a true disciple. Here we learn the extent of all human depravity, and the necessity of the miraculous grace of God to save. Left to ourselves, we all had betrayed our Lord. Let us humbly adore that grace that has kept us!

One closing thought remains for me to say a word about Jesus said, 'I have given you an example that ye should do as I have done unto you.' And just before he said, 'If I have washed your feet, ye ought to wash one another's feet.' 'The servant is not greater than his Lord,' 'c. Into this part of his blessed work he permits us to enter. We may also serve one another. Are we doing so? I cannot give a ransom for my brother; I cannot wash him as Jesus does in the new birth, but I may wash his feet. Am I doing so? Am I among my brethren as one that serveth? The first thing is to have the Spirit of service. If we have this lowly Spirit we have Jesus. By this we may know the man in Christ. He is not a lord, but a servant. And yet by service he is great in the kingdom. Just as baptism avails nothing unless we are first dead to sin and alive to God, or as the supper avails nothing unless we see in it not ourselves, but Jesus, so the outward form of service avails nothing unless the Spirit has learned of the meek and lowly one. And to him that possesses this Spirit, there is always opportunity for service. If we cannot wash the face or hands, we may the feet. If the notable thing is not ours to do, the little thing will be at hand. May God give us all the joyful free Spirit of willing service! I feel sorry to close these reflections. May God make them a blessing to all. Let those of us who practice this as an ordinance show that we do not think that when this is done all is done, and let those of us who do not practice it as an ordinance show that we do have the Spirit of service.

Your remarks, Brother Respess, at the close of my last letter, fully express the feeling with which I trust I have written. May we all love each other with pure hearts fervently. As ever, your brother in hope, F.A. Chick.

Reisterstown, Md., January 4th, 1886.

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