Westminster Pulpit- G Campbell Morgan-6

 

  1. Sermons on Genesis through Nehemiah
  2. Sermons on Psalms through Song of Solomon
  3. Sermons on Isaiah through Zechariah
  4. Sermons on Matthew
  5. Sermons on Mark through John
  6. Sermons on Acts through Colossians
  7. Sermons on 1 Thessalonians through Revelation -  - Series on "Problems"

Source: BibleSupport.com 


SERMONS ON THIS PAGE: 

  • Acts 1:1. The Unstraitened Christ.
  • Acts 1:8. Power For Service.
  • Acts 2:3. Tongues Like As Of Fire.
  • Acts 2:4. The Filling Of The Spirit.
  • Acts 2:24. The Resurrection.
  • Acts 2:32. The Teaching Of The Resurrection.
  • Acts 2:33. The Holy Spirit Through Christ, In The Church, For The World.
  • Acts 5:32. Witnesses.
  • Acts 10:34, 35. Divine Selection.
  • Acts 16:25, 26. Songs In Prison.
  • Acts 17:29. Humanity And Deity.
  • Acts 19:2. The Lack Of The Spirit.
  • Acts 20:21. The Conditions Of Renewal.
  • Acts 20:24. The Evangel Of Grace.
  • Acts 20:28. Church Ideals: The Church Instituted.
  • Romans 1:4. Horizoned By Resurrection.
  • Romans 1:14. The Church's Debt To The World.
  • Romans 1:16, 17. The Power Of The Gospel.
  • Romans 3:26. The Justification Of The Sinner.
  • Romans 5:8. Amazing Love!
  • Romans 6:23. The Wages Of Sin--The Gift Of God.
  • Romans 8:2. The Spirit Of Life.
  • Romans 8:9. Life; In Flesh, Or In Spirit.
  • Romans 8:9. The Spirit Of Christ; The Supreme Test.
  • Romans 8:24. Hope.
  • Romans 8:32. Promise At The Cross.
  • 1 Corinthians 1:18. Power By The Cross.
  • 1 Corinthians 1:30. Wisdom: The False And The True.
  • 1 Corinthians 2:16. We Have The Mind Of Christ.
  • 1 Corinthians 6:12; 10:13. The Limitations Of Liberty.
  • 1 Corinthians 12:31; 14:1. Ambitions.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:14, 17, 19. If Christ Did Not Rise--What Then?.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:14. The Value And Proof Of The Resurrection.
  • 1 Corinthians 16:22. Maran Atha!
  • 2 Corinthians 4:5. Christ Jesus, The Lord.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17, 18. Holiness: Its Fruit.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:19. God In Christ.
  • 2 Corinthians 7:1. Holiness: Conditions.
  • 2 Corinthians 8:7. The Grace Of Giving A Million Shillings!
  • 2 Corinthians 11:5. The Great Apostle.
  • 2 Corinthians 12:9. The All-Sufficient Grace.
  • Galatians 5:7. Holiness: Hindrances.
  • Galatians 5:11. The Stumbling-Block Of The Cross.
  • Galatians 5:22-23. The Fruit Of The Spirit.
  • Galatians 6:9. The Well-Doing That Brings Harvest.
  • Ephesians 1:1; 5:3 Saints.
  • Ephesians 1:7. Pardon By The Cross.
  • Ephesians 2:10. His Workmanship.
  • Ephesians 4:9, 10. The Ascension.
  • Ephesians 5:16. The Opportunity Of Calamity.
  • Ephesians 6:13. The Victorious Christian Life.
  • Philippians 2:5. The Mind Of Christ.
  • Philippians 2:9-11; Ephesians 1:20-23 The Exalted Christ.
  • Philippians 2:15. Holiness: A Present Possibility.
  • Philippians 3:10. A Good Friday Meditation.
  • Colossians 1:14. Forgiveness.
  • Colossians 1:18. Church Ideals: The Church Governed.
  • Colossians 1:20. Peace By The Cross.
  • Colossians 1:21-22. The Atonement.
  • Colossians 1:27. Christ In You, The Hope Of Glory.
  • Colossians 2:6. How God Has Made Possible What He Requires.
  • Colossians 2:9. The Deity Of Jesus.

151 - Acts 1:1 -  The Unstraitened Christ 

The former treatise I made, O Theophilus, concerning all that Jesus began both to do and to teach. Acts 1:1

This at first sight appears a strange opening to a book, and yet it is perfectly natural when we remember that the writer had already written another pamphlet, which we know as the Gospel according to Luke. It is to that he makes reference when he writes, "The former treatise I made, O Theophilus, concerning all that Jesus began both to do and to teach."

To this link of connection I desire to draw your attention, in order that we may understand the true character of this book of the Acts of the Apostles, and from such understanding deduce certain lessons of profound and paramount importance to the whole Church of Jesus Christ.

First, Luke does not say in speaking of his previous pamphlet, "The former treatise I made, O Theophilus, concerning all that Jesus did and taught." He says, "The former treatise I made, O Theophilus, concerning all that Jesus began both to do and to teach." The story of Luke, as he gives it to us in the Gospel, is the story of the beginnings of the doing and teaching of Jesus.

Over twenty years ago one of the most brilliant of our journalists went to see the representation of the Oberammer-gau Passion play. When he came back he wrote an account of what he had seen, and he called the little book, "The Story that Transformed the World." I have no desire to be hypercritical, but while I greatly enjoyed reading the book, I join issue altogether with the suggestion of the title, that the world has been transformed by the telling of a story. I do not mean to say that the world has not been transformed. I hold that it has been transformed as the result of the coming of Christ, and the message and ministry of Christ in every successive century, but what I do say is that this transformation has not been brought about by the telling of a story. There never was such a story as the story of Jesus. Never was story so pathetic, so tender, so beautiful, so strong. But I do not hesitate to say that if there had been nothing more than a story it would have lost its power long ago. Men have not been remade, and nationalities reborn, and human society permeated with new influences and new thoughts and new conceptions by the telling of a story. How, then, has the world been transformed? The answer is suggested by the underlying truth contained in my text. The story is the story of the things He began to do and teach. The world has been transformed by the things He has continued to do and teach. The world has not been transformed by the telling of the story of a death and a life transcendently beautiful nineteen centuries ago. The world has been transformed by the living presence of the living Christ in every successive century. He began to do, and, thank God, He has never ceased doing; He began to teach, and, thank God, He has never ceased teaching. Christ did not pass away from the world when He ascended; He has been here ever since, and through every successive century He has been busy doing and teaching. Thus has the world been transformed. This congregation is not gathered round the memory of a Christ Who was. It is gathered round the presence of a Christ Who is. We are not here because of the pathetic and majestic and radiantly beautiful story of what happened nineteen centuries ago. We are here because Christ is here, the same living Lord, by the power of His Holy Spirit, doing things among men, still teaching men, even as of old.

What, then, is the book of the Acts of the Apostles? It is the first fragment of Church history. It is the first Chapter in the story of the things that Jesus has continued to do and teach.

Let us go back to the Gospel of Luke, to something that Jesus said while He was still among men:

I came to cast fire upon the earth, and what do I desire? I would that it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished! (Luk_12:49-50).

In these words our Lord declared that He had come to the world to pour on men a baptism of fire; He declared the supreme wish of His heart was that that baptism might be poured out, that that work might be accomplished; but He also declared He could not send the fire until He Himself had been baptized with a baptism toward which His face was set. What was that baptism? The baptism of the Cross. So that Jesus, in effect, stated that He could not do His greatest work until after the Cross, that He was straitened, limited, confined, and only beginning His doing and teaching. He could not carry either to consummation until He Himself had been immersed in the great baptism of death, the mysterious passion baptism of the Cross.

In the book of the Acts of the Apostles I stand by the side of Jesus and listen to Him after His baptism, after the Cross, and I do not hear Him saying, "I am straitened." I hear Him saying now, "John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence." The Cross being accomplished, the greater work begins.

From this beginning the book runs on. In the second Chapter we read, "And when the day of Pentecost was now come, they were all together in one place"; and the rest you know: the fire baptism came, and in its coming the little group of disciples were made one with Jesus as they never had been one with Him in the days of His flesh. Peter and James and John and the rest never knew Jesus perfectly until He was dead, buried, risen, ascended, and had poured on them the gift of the Holy Ghost. Then their eyes were opened, then their ears were unstopped, then their heart lost its frost and flamed with fire, then Peter ceased to be anxious about keys. He was prepared for the Cross, if by any means he could suffer and serve with Christ; and in the little company of disciples baptized with the Holy Ghost and fire Jesus found an enlarged sphere of operation. He began the mightier works which He could not do before, but which He had promised they should do when He had gone to the Father.

I love the Gospel story, for it gives me the beginnings of things, but when I come to the Acts of the Apostles I feel myself in the tremendous movement of the larger Christ, of the more infinite power, no longer straitened, confined, and shut up within Himself, but liberated through His passion baptism. Here I see Him moving to the greater works.

That is the significance of this introduction. Let us now look at it from another standpoint. If, indeed, I have in the Gospel the story of what Jesus began to do and teach, and if in the Acts of the Apostles, and all Church history, I have the story of what He continued to do and teach, it becomes manifest that there will be no practical and radical difference between the principles on which He began to do and those on which He has continued to do. In the Gospel I learn what is the passion of His heart, what is the intention of His purpose, and what is the manifestation of His power; and I may test my work, my responsibility, by asking the question, Am I living and serving on the same lines as did the Christ? What He did, He does, only with increased power. He began and He continues on the same lines.

I sometimes hear people say that what we need in Christian service is to see to it that we are on parallel lines with Jesus Christ. Again, I do not want to be hypercritical, but it is a very weak geometrical illustration. Parallel lines are lines which never come together. We do not want to be on parallel lines with Jesus. We want to be on His lines exactly. The perfect geometrical figures illustrative of the methods of God are always those of the pyramid or the square of the circle.

In this case take the circle. At the center is Jesus. In one of those inimitable sermons of Joseph Parker on Jesus in the midst, he spoke of Jesus as in the midst of the doctors, as crucified in the midst of thieves, as in the midst of two or three gathered together in His name, and, finally, as in the midst of the throne, a Lamb as it had been slain. Always in the midst, always at the center. Go back and take one prophetic word of the past, the word of Isaiah, "Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth"; in the center, God manifest in Christ; the circumference, "all the ends of the earth." Or come once more to the first Chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, and there find the same great figure. He stands, the center of a very small group of disciples, and they do not understand Him. They are asking foolish questions about the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel. Jesus is the center. What is the first circle? The disciples. To this first circle of men gathered round Him He says, "It is not for you to know times or seasons, which the Father hath set within His own authority. But ye shall receive power when the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be My witnesses." Where? Now watch the circles widening round Him. "In Jerusalem," that is the city close at hand; "and in all Judaea," that is the suburbs; "and in Samaria," that is the country lying out further still. Where does He finish? "Unto the uttermost part of the earth." Those are the circles which sweep around the Christ. How am I to serve the Christ? By serving Jerusalem. How am I to serve Jerusalem? By serving Judaea. How am I to serve Judæa? By serving Samaria. How am I to serve Samaria? By serving the uttermost part of the earth.

Do not forget that we have never obeyed Him yet. The vast part of the world has never heard the Gospel. How shall we fulfil all these responsibilities? By getting on parallel lines? No, by getting on the sane lines of service. The radii of a circle may be carried far, but they are the same lines at the uttermost circumference as those which rest in the center.

This is the truth which lies like a burden on my heart today, the great truth I want to bring to others, not so much for instruction as for encouragement. All He began to do He is still doing, and we are His fellow workers; all He began to teach He is still teaching, and we are His messengers.

In looking back at the story of Jesus as we have it in the Gospels, I find general principles of present value. When Jesus began, He attracted the multitudes; when Jesus began, He was attracted by the multitudes; when Jesus began, He knew the multitudes; when Jesus began, the multitudes knew Him.

First, Jesus began to attract the multitudes. Than this nothing is more obvious. Wherever He came in the days of His public ministry the crowds came too. He was weary and crossed the sea, and when the boat reached the other side of the lake they found waiting for Him vast multitudes who had run round the shore, outrunning the boat, in order to be there when He arrived.

On another occasion He said to His disciples, "Let us go into a desert place, and rest a while." They never reached the desert place; they got into the boat, and crossed the lake; but when they got to the other side vast multitudes were waiting for Him. They thronged Him, they "pressed Him," to use the expression of Mark.

The crowds who came to Jesus in the days of His flesh were not crowds composed of one particular class of people; rulers were in the crowds, fishermen, Pharisees, and publicans were in the crowds. There is a very popular fallacy abroad in the world that Jesus attracted persons of only one class, the poorer people, the working people. It is not true. Now some of you are thinking that "the common people heard Him gladly." Yes, and no! That passage has been much misquoted. To begin with, the Bible never insults that class of people by calling them common in our sense of the word common. That phrase occurs in the Gospel of Mark, and nowhere else. Read Mark's Gospel and put a pencil mark under this phrase "much people." It runs all through the Gospel. Mark seems to be a man always listening to the tramp of the crowds as they thronged on Jesus. Once, in the course of translating the Gospel of Mark, both King James's translators and the Revisers, for some reason, have rendered the same Greek phrase "much people" "common people"; it is exactly the same phrase. "Common" does not mean poor people, working people. It means all sorts and conditions of people, the mixed multitude, the common crowd. It is quite time we got rid of this fallacy; I am quite willing to grant that there were more poor people than rich, because there are always more poor than rich in the world, always more illiterate people than learned. But Jesus Christ attracted all sorts and conditions of people. He was the great Center of attraction. The one thing people could not do with Him was to let Him alone. Wherever He came they came, and they thronged after Him in the country places, in the cities, along the highways.

These were the beginnings. Has that ceased to be true? Has Jesus lost His power to attract, and to attract all sorts and conditions of men? I want to say to you, and I want to say it quietly and finally and deliberately and without apology, that Jesus Christ is just as attractive a personality in the twentieth century as He was at the dawn of the first in old Judaea. He still attracts men and women to Himself.

The problem of the empty church in the midst of a vast population in London, or anywhere else, has a deeper problem still underlying it, the problem of an absent or a hidden Christ. I do not care where it is, I do not care what is the class of people round about it. Find me any empty church in any populous district, and let Jesus Christ be seen and known and preached there, and men will still crowd to Him just as they always crowded to Him. I am not criticizing the ministry, I am criticizing the Church, and I say that wherever you find me the problem we are discussing in conferences and synods, it is not the problem of how to get the crowds into the church, it is the problem of how to show Christ in the church. He will get the crowd; He attracts men always.

Jesus may be hidden by priestism, by ecclesiasticism, by the sordid selfishness of people who take His name on their lips but lack His love in their hearts. He may be hidden by people who deny His Spirit in the way in which they refuse to welcome the outcast if the outcast enters the church. But let the great, warm, living heart of the Christ be shown, and the people will come. The things which hide Him eventually drive Him out. But let Him be present, managing the whole business, impulsing all the service, shining through the lovelit eyes of His own children, teaching in gentle language the broken-hearted sinner that comes within the building; let but Christ be seen in His people, let but Christ be manifested, and men will crowd to Him. Jesus is not the Saviour of a caste. He was never attracted by the broad phylactery or the wide border of the garment. He was never repelled by the beggar in rags. I was going to say He never saw the phylactery and rags, and yet He saw everything. In some senses, it is true, He did not see the garment, for, looking at the man, He did not see the accidental trappings of his birth; He saw the immortal soul that dwelt in his house of clay, and when He sees men through our eyes, and touches men with our hands, they will come with their woes and sin and sorrow.

It is not only true that He attracted the crowds, it is also true that He was attracted by the crowds. Where the crowds were He went. What drew Him to the great feasts in Jerusalem, the feast of Tabernacles, the Passover feast, and all the rest? I do not hesitate to say it was the crowd that drew Him, not the ceremony, which was effete, worn out, spoiled by the ritualism and the rationalism of His age. "When He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion." And I say it reverently of my Master, and yet it is true, He could not keep away from the crowds. I see Him one day, tired, going into a house to rest, and immediately after there is this very remarkable statement, "He could not be hid." Why not? Read on, and you will find why. Outside is the crowd, and in the crowd one poor woman is in need, and the sorrows of the woman and the surging sorrows of the crowd dragged Him from the house in order that He might help and serve. Oh, yes, and He was attracted by them as they were, sinful souls and ungrateful. He saw them not only as they were. He saw them as they might be, and He loved them in the midst of their sin and degradation, and what repelled others attracted Him.

Has Christ changed? Nay, verily. The most attractive center to Jesus Christ is not the church half empty. But the theater if it is full. I know men and women are there for amusement, sinning their life away. Thank God when a church has wisdom enough to say, We will reach these people. It shows the Church has caught the Spirit of the Christ. He is attracted by the people. There comes back to my mind a quaint old piece of poetry. It teaches a great lesson in simple form:

   The parish priest of austerity
    Climbed up in a high church steeple,
   To be nearer God, so that he might hand
    His word down to the people.
   And in sermon script he daily wrote
    What he thought was sent from Heaven;
   And he dropped it down on the people's heads
    Two times one day in seven.
   In his age God said, "Come down and die,"
    And he cried out from the steeple:
   "Where art Thou, Lord?" and the Lord replied,
    "Down here among My people."
    
That is the profound lesson of the life of Jesus. He did not climb away from people to drop the Gospel down on their heads. He is in the midst of the wounding and the woe and the weariness of this present day. Wherever you see a crowd of people the Christ is there. In the Labor Church He is there, not as the Head of the Labor Church, but He is there because men are there; in the fashionable West End, with its veneered rottenness and its cultured deviltry, because He loves the people; in the East, with its overwhelming despair and its terrible wail of suffering and sorrow, He is there. They abuse Him; it does not matter, He loves them. Where the crowds are the Christ is. If we want to live near to Jesus we must get near the crowds, get close by their sorrows, and feel them; near their tears, to dry them; under their burdens, to lift them.

Do not talk to me about coming revivals. The revival has come when the Church has caught the compassion of Christ, and is near the sorrows of the world to lift and heal them.

I go back to my book of Isaiah, and I read that the ancient people of God said, "Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord." And how did God answer them? He answered by saying, "Awake, awake, put on thy strength, O Zion, put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem." It is as though God said to His people, Do not ask me to awake; I have never been asleep. You must awake! And while today we cry, "Awake, O arm of the Lord," I hear the answer, I have never been asleep. I have never slumbered. It is you who must awake!

Let me take a step further. Not only is it true that Jesus attracted the crowds, and was attracted by the crowds; it is also true that He knew the crowds. He knew their possibilities; He knew their agonies. Jesus never upbraided the multitudes. He did upbraid the men whose false philosophies were ruining the multitudes; but He never upbraided the multitudes. He knew them in their sin and sorrow, knew them in their capacity, knew them perfectly. You remember the great word in the close of the second Chapter of John's Gospel, "Many believed on His name, beholding His signs which He did. But Jesus did not trust Himself unto them, for that He knew all men, and because He needed not that anyone should bear witness concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man." Every broken heart that came to Him, He knew it and all its sorrow.

He knows the crowds today. It was Charles Kingsley who said, "We may choose to look at the masses in the gross as subjects for statistics, and, of course, where possible, for profit, but there is One Who knows every temptation of each slattern and gin-drinker and street boy." Yes, He knows. But you say, Why emphasize it? Because I want to remind you that, knowing all, He loved men, thought they were worth dying for. Oh, God, help us to realize it. When you are tempted by some article in some brilliant magazine to think that the people are not worth living for and dying for, get back to the Christ, and remember that over all the woe and misery of London the shadow of the Cross is the greatest light that shines, as it tells us until this moment, whatever the people may think of Him, He reckoned that they were worth dying for. God help us to have the same estimate.

Finally, my brethren, not only is it true He knew them; it is true they knew Him. Not perfectly, I grant you, but they knew Him by name, by hearing, and by sight; and the more the multitudes of His day came to know Him with that keen, acute, mystic consciousness, the more they were dissatisfied with any save Himself. The Pharisees said, "The world is gone after Him." One came to Him when He came down from the mount of transfiguration, and said, "Master, have mercy on my son, my only begotten son; a devil vexes him sore, and I brought him to Thy disciples, and they could not cure him." But the man knew that Jesus could, and this consciousness of the power of Christ swayed the multitudes all through that region. You say that is changed. No, it is not. The multitudes today know the living Christ of God. Believe me, you cannot deceive humanity. They still know the difference between the method of the philosopher and the living, warm, powerful Christ; the multitudes know the difference between a stone, polish it as you will, and bread. And you may preach the Christ, Who is the Founder of a system of ethics, until your church is empty, and you may preach a cold, passionless Christ, Who is the ideal of perfection, until men are driven away by your preaching. But preach the Christ of the Cross and the warm mystery of His shed blood, and that Christ still attracts men, and saves men; and men know Him, and you cannot deceive the multitudes.

He began, and I hear Him speak as He begins. What does He say? "I am the Light of the world." But He is going away, and yet He is going away to come again, and to carry on His work. What does He say now? "Ye are the light of the world"; that is to say, we of the Christian Church, we of the Christian faith, are the instruments through which Christ elects, in great grace and mercy, to carry on His work.

Jesus wants to get to men through us. Are we at His disposal? It is a cheap and sentimental Christianity that sings songs about Heaven and hopes to get there. Are we saints, separated to Him? Are our feet ready to run on His errands? Are our hands ready to minister to His bidding? Are our eyes ready to flash with His love? Are we ready to suffer, to serve, and die with Him? That is the question.

He wants to get men to Himself through us. Are we likely to attract them? I am only asking the question; God help us to answer it alone. Is it possible that the men you pay wages to will be attracted toward the Christ through you? Dear Sunday-school teacher, has Jesus a chance to make the children in your class see how lovely He is?

He is waiting for our feet to run on errands, our hands to touch men with His love, our voices to sing with the tone of His infinite compassion, the Gospel of His grace. Are we at His disposal? That is the question of the hour. May God grant that we shall be able to carry on His victories until even His heart is satisfied.

152 - Acts 1:8 - Power For Service

Power For Service

But ye shall receive power, when the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judæa, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
Acts 1:8

If we know our Lord only at the Cross we know very much, but not all. And if we know Him only in the place of His resurrection, from external observation, we know very much, but not all. After both the Cross and the resurrection He said to the men with whom He had tabernacled for three years, "Tarry ye in the city, until ye be clothed with power from on high." His first command to them after resurrection—first in the order of their obedience, last in the order of His actual utterance—was not to go, but to wait; not to hasten, but to tarry. And in that fact lies great significance.

How shall we describe these men? Let us first remember that they were lovers of the Lord, and loyal to Him. I do not think their question was so ignorant as we sometimes imagine it to be. They were not ignorant of God's ultimate intention. They were ignorant of God's present method. They did not understand the meaning of the Cross. They had never understood it. They had shunned it from its first mention. Attempting to escape it, they had been scattered like chaff before the wind. But they had been gathered again by that inexplicable mystery of His resurrection, and they were perforce compelled to new loyalty to the One Who stood amongst them. That explains their inquiry whether He was now about to fulfil the prophecy of the ancient Scriptures. And "He said unto them, It is not for you to know times of seasons, which the Father hath set within His own authority." That answer was not a rebuke for their conception of the ultimate. He did not say that the Kingdom was never to be restored to Israel. It is as though Christ had said to these men, I am not authorized of My Father to give you any program, or calendar. The Father hath set the times and seasons within His own authority. Israel will be restored, the Kingdom will be set up, the whole earth must yet be brought into submission to the Kingship of God, and all the beneficent results must come, but it is not for you to know the times of these things.

What, then, was necessary? "But ye shall receive power, when the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judæa and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." From the viewpoint of the disciples at that moment this was a very unsatisfactory thing to say. Let us endeavor to understand what this meant to these men. How strange their experiences had been. He had disappointed them in His plan and method. They had been brought to despair by His Cross. Strange new hopes and expectations had arisen in their hearts in the light of His resurrection. These were all again extinguished when He said that it was not for them to know times or seasons. All He told them was that they were to be His witnesses, and in order that they might be, they should receive power. A program without a program! No details, no arrangements, none of the things we love so much, but only an attitude and an atmosphere, a duty and a dynamic, a responsibility and a resource! Witnesses in the power of the Spirit. Therefore, He said to them, Wait, tarry. He halted them upon the verge of their going, arrested them at the very moment when they would have been away to tell the mystic story of His resurrection. Just as He had demonstrated His Kingship by resurrection so that there could be no doubt to any honest mind, and they were anxious to tell the story, He said, No, not yet, you are not ready, you must wait.

For what were they to wait? The answer is in one word of the text, and that word I desire to emphasize, and deal with some of its suggestions: "power." "Ye shall receive power, when the Holy Ghost is come upon you." Now in order that we may understand the meaning of the power let us look at these men, for we shall understand the provision by a study of the lack. What did they lack? First of all, they needed a new intellectual power. The use of the word power in that connection is a perfectly accurate one, for we speak of a man of strong mind, and of the strengthening of the mind. These men at the moment lacked the ability to apprehend truth which it was necessary for them to understand if they were indeed to be witnesses of Jesus. This inability they had demonstrated by their attitude toward Him during His public ministry, and by the question they asked as they stood around Him in the light of His resurrection, power and glory. They were ignorant of the very things that they must appreciate intellectually if they were to accomplish the purpose of their Lord. They did not understand the meaning of the halt in the apparent progress of the King to the Kingdom. They did not understand the nature of the Kingdom. They had a correct idea of what its external manifestation would be; but they did not understand all that was necessary to the production thereof. They did not see that the King Who would set up the Kingdom toward which prophets looked, and of which seers sang, must begin, not at the circumference, but at the center. They did not understand that the first movement must be that of spiritual regeneration. They did not understand Him, they did not understand His Cross, they did not understand His resurrection. They did not understand what He was about to do. They needed a new intellectual power. Not long ere He had left them, in those wonderful discourses which are precious to us still, He had said that most remarkable thing, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now," which did not mean merely that He had to tell them of coming suffering, of which they would be afraid, but that the things which He had to tell their minds could not grasp. All through the ministry of Jesus He said things they never understood until the Spirit brought them to their remembrance, and they flamed in new light and meaning.

When I am told it is necessary for me to go back to the Gospels and confine my attention to them, I say I cannot do it. They are not complete, final, and perfect. These men in the olden days did not understand the meaning of the Cross. And we never find the Christ in all His fulness until we have passed through the preliminary and necessary study of the Gospels into the spacious and far-reaching splendor of the Acts of the Apostles, and the Epistles. They needed intellectual power, the quickening of the mind which should enable them to see to the heart of the spiritual mystery.

Then they needed also spiritual power, in the first and simplest sense of the word. Spiritual power as against the power of the carnal life and nature. In the Corinthian letter Paul carefully distinguished between these two things. "I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, as unto babes in Christ." These men were still in the grip of their own carnal nature, and in order to be witnesses they had to live before the world the life of spiritual victory. They had to manifest to men the fact that a life can be lived, which never answers the call of the flesh; that it is possible for man, and indeed, it is God's first Divine intention for man, that he should see the upper things, and not the lower; that he should—to use the Apostle's great word—keep the body under, which does not for a moment mean that he is to bruise and chastise and mutilate the body, but that it is to be kept in its proper place, that of subservience. These men had to live that life, and they were unequal to it. The desires of the flesh and of the mind were triumphing within them, and fleshly ideals had undoubtedly crept into their estimate of the work of the Christ. But there came a moment, to quote the great apostle, when he said, "Wherefore we henceforth know no man after the flesh: even though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now we know Him so no more." But these men had not yet come to that place of spiritual ascendancy and power. They were still living the carnal life, and they needed a power that should set them above the pull of the base and the low, and make them kings over the territory of their own being by spiritual appreciation and spiritual power.

These men needed a new power of the affection and of the will. They were going out to strange days, and He knew it right well. He had told them in some of His earliest discourses of what they would pass through after His crucifixion. He had told them that He would send them forth as sheep in the midst of wolves, that men would hunt and persecute them from city to city, and imagine they did God service; and they needed a new power of the affection and of the will, for the world would be against them. See how they had evidenced that need in recent days. No one can deny— and I always try to be careful here—that they loved their Lord. They loved Him with all the affection of their nature before the Cross, and yet when the storm burst about His sacred head, and all the malice of hell, expressing itself through men, was let loose upon Him, where were they? "All the disciples left Him, and fled." I am not inclined to blame them. I say it reverently that I am afraid I would have been one of the first to flee. Oh, it was a tragic hour! But they have to face the storm again. The world desiring to crucify Him will desire to crucify them, and if they incarnate His life of truth and perfection the spirit of evil will be against them. They are not going to an easy softness of life, but to heroism, and conflict, and danger; and if the old life was not strong enough to keep them loyal when He was the Center of the storm, how are they to be kept loyal when they themselves become the center of the storm? They need a new power of the affection and the will.

And, finally, they needed a new power which would be with them, and enable them to do the peculiar and remarkable work committed to them, because He had forbidden them to use the things which men usually consider powerful. They were to go and proclaim the Kingdom of God. They were sent forth to proclaim the fact that God's Kingdom centers around God's King, and that God had vindicated the Kingship of Jesus by raising Him from the dead. These men were not sent to preach a theory of God's Kingship. They were sent to bring men into the Kingdom. He did not send these men forth to preach a new philosophy, or a new theory. He sent them to compel wills, and bring men into subjection. And yet—He had already said in the tragic moment of His own rejection, "Put up again thy sword into its place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword"—they were not to win His victories by the un-sheathing of the sword. And no victory for Christ has ever been won in that way. To use the sword in order to establish His Kingdom is a blunder and mistake. And, moreover, they were not to establish His Kingdom by policy. They were not to seek the help of other forces, or enter into alliances with them. What, then, were they to do? Tell a story? That was all. The story of the risen, crucified, exalted, coming Christ. There is no government on earth that would not hold you in contempt if you suggested that they should extend their territory by telling a story. Here I do not desire to be misunderstood. They had a great deal more to do when the people, hearing the story, became obedient to it and submitted to the King. Then there was to be organization; then there was to be the realization of the Kingship of God. But the victories were to be won by the telling of the story. When Paul passed through those Greek cities, they said of him in Athens, "This babbler" cometh hither also. The word "babbler" indicates a teller of stories, and they so called him because he told them of Jesus and the resurrection. That is all these men had to do. They were to establish a Kingdom by telling a tale.

   Tell me the old, old story of Jesus and His love.

That is the Church's work. It is her initial work. Without banners, or flags, or trumpets, or policies, or sword, she is to go out and tell the story; to herald the evangel.

Now look at these men. Lacking intellectual power, they could not appreciate the meaning; lacking spiritual power, they were not free from the pull of the carnal; weak in their affectional nature, they were not strong enough to stand against the enmity of the world; and devoid of any power upon which they set any value, they were unable to accomplish His work. To them He said, Wait, tarry! It is not for you to have the calendar and the almanac and the program. These things are hidden in the authority of the Father. But you are to be My witnesses, and you will need intellectual power to witness as you should; you will need spiritual power, behind the witness of the lip there must be that of the life; you will need an affectional power if you are to be true to Me amid the storm and stress; you will need a new volitional power in the work committed to you.

We turn for a moment or two, then, to notice the nature of the power promised. We have been attempting to understand it by considering the lack. Now see how this promise of power meets all the need. The power in which these men were to do their work is in no sense of men, and yet it is to be closely united to men. The power in which the Christ triumphed through the testimony of the disciples, and the power in which He still triumphs through their testimony, is entirely apart from the men as to source, but it is closely united to man as to act. And here is the whole philosophy of Christian life, and of service especially. The Spirit of God can do the work of Christ in the world only through human instrumentality. Man can do the work of Christ in the world only through the power of the Spirit. He united forever the souls that trusted Him with the infinite Spirit of power. In them He found a medium for the Spirit to carry on His enterprises and accomplish His victory. In the Spirit He found for them the full and great and gracious equipment which would enable them to do all He was sending them to do. The Holy Spirit, said He, shall come upon you. That promise, so simple, and yet so sublime, stands over against the need of which we have spoken. They lacked intellectual power, but the Spirit knoweth the deep things of God, and discerneth all things. When He came to these men, at once the horizon was flung far back, and the opaque became trans-parent, and the bloody and brutal Cross flamed into the purple glory of imperial dignity and redemptive power. And no man filled with the Holy Spirit of God ever dares to speak of the Cross in the terms of the human only. These men saw the meaning, and all life was changed in its appearance when God by the Holy Spirit came into intimate and abiding relationship with them. God Himself was new. Christ was new, men were changed, the matters of the moment took on a different appearance. Wherever they looked, they saw the old things, but never again were they the same. Yea, verily.

   Earth's crammed with heaven,
   And every common bush afire with God;
   But only he who sees, takes off his shoes—
   The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries.
   
These men had been plucking blackberries! But when the Spirit came they saw the flaming bush! It was the same bush, and other men passed it by and saw it only as the scrub bush of the dreary desert, but they saw it flaming with meaning.

And the coming of the Spirit meant, not merely intellectual power, but also spiritual power. It was when their lives became suffused with that spiritual energy which is of God that they reached the plane of holiness of life and character. Holiness is never merely it, it is Him; never merely something into which a man forces Himself by self-will, but something into which a man forces Himself by self-will, but something into which a man comes by the unveiling of God by the Holy Ghost. And these men went out to show other men what human life might be, a triumph every day, not because they had won by struggling, but by yielding to the Spirit. They found a power mastering the carnal when the spiritual took possession of them.

And did they need a new power of the affection and the will? The coming of the Spirit meant this, that the love of God was shed abroad in their heart. Is not that another of the phrases that we have done despite to because we have treated it in a temporary and superficial and small way? The love of God was shed abroad in their heart, and when the Spirit came and dwelt in them, He brought God's love for Christ, and made it their love for Christ. And, oh, the change. I need not stay to illustrate it. The Acts of the Apostles is full of revelation. Peter had said, in the presence of the Cross—Spare Thyself! Not that, anything but the Cross. In this new book I turn to the fifth chapter, and I read that he counted it all joy that he was counted worthy to suffer for the Name. I do not read any more of men running from danger. I read of men telling indeed of their troubles, telling how they have been in peril from false brethren, and robbers, on land, and sea, receiving stripes forty save one again and again, being left mauled and half dead by brutal hands; but instead of hearing them speak of suffering in terms of complaint, I hear them say, I glory in my affliction. What is the reason? The Spirit has taken hold of their own weak though loyal affection, and has merged it into the affection of Deity, and the tides of God's love, flowing through them, make them stronger than all the forces that could be against them.

And finally mark this. They have no sword save the sword of the Spirit. They have no program save the orderliness of the Spirit. But when presently I watch these men begin that missionary progress, which has never been completed, and which we are so slow about, I see a group of men who do not impress their age by what they are in themselves. Brethren, remember this, the one thing that puzzled, supremely puzzled priests and Pharisees and rulers was how these men did these things. How do you account for it? was the question asked, and I hear their own answers, "We are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Ghost." That is the answer. One almost trembles as one reads the words. We have wandered so far from the apostolic conception that we dare hardly use them. I wonder if we dare open our next month's church meeting with the words, "It seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us." I am here for contemplation rather than application. But this is the ancient picture, and I look at the beginning of things, and I see Peter, rough, magnificent, impetuous Peter—I love him with all my heart—as he begins to talk, and I watch the curious multitude of Hebrews gathered from all the district around, listening to him, with their prejudices and pride, and I watch until I see them swept by the wind of God, and the cry goes up, and men and women are being gathered into the Kingdom.

   See how great a flame aspires:
    Kindled by a spark of grace,
   Jesu's love the nations fires,
    Sets the kingdoms on a blaze.
   To bring fire on earth He came;
    Kindled in some hearts it is...
   Oh, that all might catch the flame,
    All partake the glorious bliss."
    
How was it done? "We are witnesses, and so is the Holy Ghost." The saints in fellowship with the Spirit need neither sword, nor policy, nor patronage of earthly power. Their victory is an assured victory.

Did I say a moment ago I was not here for purposes of application? Suffer me one or two words by way of application. Christ's word to us here gathered, whether of this particular fellowship or of another, is exactly the same as to these first disciples. I cannot apply it in all its details. I need not. But He is saying to us, "It is not for you to know times or seasons." There are some who are always trying to arrange times and seasons. I have had a letter from San Francisco which tells me the Lord is coming in seven years, and I am to be ready for Him. I do not like to think He is seven years away. He is at the door. He may disturb me at my preaching. Whether He disturbs me at work or play, oh that I may be able to shout, "Amen, come, Lord Jesus." Burn your almanacs, and give up trying to deal with God's arrangements. What is your work? You are My witnesses, so says the King. Yes, but He is also saying this, You shall be endued with power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you. There is a difference between these men and us. They had to wait, for the Spirit was not yet given. You and I have not to wait. The Spirit is given. Yes, we must wait, unless we have the fulness of the Spirit. Unless we have put out of our life the things He forbids, I had better quit my preaching, and you your Sabbath-school Class, and every form of service. Unless we know the power, we had better tarry, but we need not tarry. The upper room at Pentecost was not more full of the Spirit than is this chapel this morning. O'er all the assembly He broods, close to every life is He. Oh, soul of mine, admit Him. And I can admit Him only as in absolute loyalty I crown the Christ, and give Him right of way o'er all the territory of my being. And if I do that, this Spirit, without sound of mighty rushing wind, without sign of fire, will fill and equip, and I, even I, oh, matchless grace of God, may be His witness too.

153 - Acts 2:3 - Tongues Like As Of Fire 

The Symbol of the Church

And there appeared unto them tongues parting asunder, 
like as of fire; and it sat upon each one of them.
Acts 2:3

The Day of Pentecost had come. The week of weeks had run its course. Nine and forty days had passed since Passover. Devout men from every nation under heaven were at Jerusalem for this Feast of Weeks, and in an upper room a few men, insignificant, and yet chosen in the economy of God as witnesses for the initiation of a new world movement, took part in the fulfilment of that of which Pentecost, the Hebrew Feast, had been but a shadow. The Teacher and Master of these men had been crucified at Passover, and by His crucifixion all their hopes had been destroyed, all their aspirations disappointed, their very faith in His ability to do what they had hoped He would do shaken to the foundation, indeed had collapsed. Their faith in Him personally had never faltered, their love of Him had never failed; but by that Cross it had been demonstrated to them in such a way that they found no appeal from the demonstration that He could not set up His Kingdom, and so they had been scattered.

Then the supreme and arresting wonder of the Resurrection had been the means of gathering them together again. By that Resurrection their Lord and Master was declared to them to be far more than they had ever dreamed. He was the Son of God in a profounder sense even than Peter had understood when at Cæsarea Philippi he had confessed His Messiahship. By that Resurrection they were, to use the language of Peter himself in one of his later letters, begotten again unto a living hope. Hope had failed, faith had faltered, love had lived; but now in the resurrection glory hope was renewed, faith in His ability to accomplish His purpose was renewed, and love became nobler, purer, finer.

For many days He had tarried, always near at hand, though mystically and strangely. Sometimes absent from them; and then swiftly and without notice, present among them, right there, where they thought He was not. At other times walking with them by the way, sitting with them at the board; and then suddenly absent from them, not there, where they were quite sure He was. Such were the strange comings and goings of the forty days, appearances and disappearances, appearances in order to strengthen faith and to reassure them that He was alive, disappearance in order to train them to do without the bodily manifestation and the bodily presence.

Then He vanished out of their sight, and for ten days they had been waiting in the upper room. Jerusalem filled with the crowds, devout men from every nation gathering there: Parthians, Medes, Elamites, all with different accents, from varied localities, gathered for the Feast of Pentecost, for the Feast of Weeks. But the central fact of this particular feast was not wrought out in the temple courts, but in the upper room. It was a moment and an event of untold importance in the history of humanity. We are not gathered here simply to recall to our minds something that happened, or that men imagined happened, two millenniums ago. That which began then is going on still. New forces then began to come into action in human history which within a generation touched the whole known world; they moved the Roman world to its center, influenced the Greek world throughout all its great cities, and scattered the Hebrew world, and, spreading through all these, made revolutions everywhere.

In that hour, in the upper room in Jerusalem, the results of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus were beginning to be applied to the experience of individual souls. The light that broke upon these men in the upper room in that hour was a light in which they saw their Lord as they had never seen Him. The sound of the mighty rushing wind that filled the house where they were assembled was in some mystic sense a tone in which all the voices of the past became articulate with a new message; they heard the voices of other days merging into the ultimate harmony of the speech of the Son. In that upper room all the values, the virtues, and the victories of the life and death and resurrection of the Lord were made to them more than theories, they were rendered experiences. They were in that hour brought into new and vital relationship with Him such as they had never known in the days of His flesh, nor could have known. In that hour was fulfilled the word which Christ Himself had spoken in the upper room, and which had filled them with trouble at the time, "It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go I will send Him unto you.... When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He shall guide you into all the truth.... He shall glorify Me: for He shall take of Mine, and shall declare it unto you." That promise was being fulfilled. The new economy of the Spirit of God in human history was beginning. The Church of God, the Christian Church of God, was born in that hour.

In this story there is no sentence or phrase which is not suggestive and worthy of the closest study. From it I select the one visible sign which was granted to these men in that hour of the new and special coming of the Holy Spirit: "Tongues parting asunder, like as of fire."

It is to be observed that the initial hours in this new economy were hours in which it was necessary that there should be certain signs drawing attention to the new facts and symbolizing those new facts. Thus there were the sound of the rushing, mighty wind, the sign of the disparting fire into the shape of tongues, and the accompaniment of the strange and wonderful gift of tongues, all which things were merely initial. All these things were sensual, that is, they appealed to the senses. They were introductory, initial, presently to be done away when the larger spiritual truth should be realized. That I think we need to remember. Just as, during the forty days prior to ascension there were signs appealing to the senses given to the disciples, the appearance and disappearances of Christ, all intended to train the disciples to do without these things; so in the first movements of the new era of the Spirit's operation there were signs granted, all intended to cease when they should no longer be needed. I believe that in the history of the Christian Church there have been eras when God has restored men by signs. He may be going to do it now, I do not know. But, remember, whenever it is so, it is in itself a sign of failure preceding it. Spiritual life on its highest level asks no sign, and needs none. Signs are only for the drawing of men spiritually dull into apprehension of spiritual things. God did, in the economy of infinite patience and unsurpassing grace, employ these signs at the beginning. From these earliest of signs, then, I take that of the visible token given to these men in the upper room.

Let us consider, first, the tongues which these men saw as being the true symbol of the Christian Church. Second, let us consider the material of the symbol, fire, in its valuable and important suggestiveness. Finally, let us consider the teaching of the fact that this is the symbol of the Church.

First, then, I ask you to observe that this was the moment when the Christian Church came into being. I would draw a most careful distinction between the Church and the Hebrew people. I know there are senses in which we may speak of them as constituting in a bygone economy the Church in the wilderness, the assembly, the ecclesia in the wilderness. But here was the birth of the Christian Church. In this moment the units were baptized by the Holy Ghost into unity. From this moment you have no longer a group of individual men brought near geographically, kept near sentimentally; but you have rather a number of units made near and one vitally by the baptism of the Holy Ghost. That is the Christian Church. The Christian Church is not a fortuitous concurrence of individuals admiring an ideal, or who decide, as among themselves, that they will obey an ethic. The Chris-tain Church is a holy company of men and women who have been baptized by the Holy Ghost into living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. That baptism of the Spirit took place in the upper room, and these men became the Church. Coincidentally with that baptism they saw tongues parting asunder, as of fire; and by that token God gave unto them, and unto us for all time, the true symbol of the Chris-tain Church. I sometimes feel that we have suffered almost incalculable loss in that we have forgotten this fact, and that the Church of God has made the gravest mistakes by selecting symbols other than the Divine one as representing herself and suggesting her nature and her mission. The Cross is not the symbol of the Christian Church; yet for generations we have made it our symbol, putting it upon our buildings, incorporating it into our art, wearing it as a sign. There are those who wear it as an ornament and at the same time live in ungodliness, that is blasphemy! I am not now thinking of these, but of devout souls who wear it as a sign. I think I am right in saying that the men's movement in the Episcopal Church wear as their sign a Maltese cross. There is a sense in which I like to see them, for I like anything that confesses definite Christianity—that is why I love the Salvation Army uniform—but the Cross is not the true symbol of the Christian Church. In the history of the Christian Church Satan never gained a more signal victory than in the hour in which he made men forget that the tongue is the true symbol of the Church.

Why is it that I thus affirm that the cross is not the symbol of the Church? Because the cross is not the final thing; absolutely necessary, no one will misunderstand me; but not final. The Cross was the instrument in time whereby sin did ultimately manifest itself, and God's central point wherein He did reveal the fact that grace is mightier than sin, and can triumph in love. "It is Christ that died, yea rather, is risen again." If you would have a truer symbol, something nearer to the actuality of the case, you must have a symbol, somehow, of an empty grave with the stone rolled away; but even that is not final. The symbol which suggests at once the nature and office of the Church is the tongue of fire.

Think with me of how simple and remarkable thing this is. Consider the symbolism of the tongue as apart from the fire. It is a theme I can only suggest, I have not the time, nor would it be the place generally, to discuss the power of the tongue. In the broadest outlook, I pray you remember that man is peculiar in his power in this fact, that he is endowed with language, and that through the medium of thought expressed in language, all things begin to be, of good and of evil, in human history. All the history of human advancement is the history of the use of the tongue. Behind it there is thought, but thought has ever been expressed powerfully and prevailingly by the tongue. Among men there are many different circumstances and surroundings, manners, and maxims and methods, laws and languages, but the fact of the ability to speak and to express by means of the tongue is universal.

Think for a moment of the power of speech. Think what a power the tongue has been in dealing with vast masses of people. Think of the more wonderful power of the tongue in dealing with individuals. Let me take an illustration from English political life. There is a man who is largely out of sight in English political life now, Joseph Chamberlain. I never heard him speak in public, that is my loss. Those who did, know how he was able to influence multitudes. But I have sat with him in quiet committee work, and there he was one of the strongest men in persuasive speech I have ever known. I have known him sit down with a committee of twelve men gathered around him, ten of whom came entirely opposed to his view. Before the hour was over twelve men voted for him. It was the power of speech, the power of a strong man, a strong thinker, having strong convictions, and able so to state his case as to communicate his convictions. You can have a strong man and strong thinking and strong conviction without persuading other men; but the power of speech is that of so presenting conviction and viewpoint as to capture other men. It is but an illustration. I take it from that sphere because I want to indicate the fact that this is one of the greatest powers of humanity, and because we have so largely lost sight of it in the Christian Church. The power of the tongue in the propagation of the evangel of Jesus Christ has been supreme. The history of preaching is in itself enough to make any man proud that God has called him to be a preacher. There is nothing mightier in the history of the world than the history of preaching. Let the mind travel back over the Christian era; mark the great hours, the new movements, the advancements, and you will always find the preacher there!

Think of the power of personal speech, expressing thought, repeating thought, arguing thought, until the central citadel is captured, bent toward the King, and made receptive of the evangel. There is no power like it. This whole company of men and women baptized into living union with the Lord Jesus Christ felt in the thrill of that new baptism the desire to speak, and the symbol of their new office was that of the tongues parting asunder, as of fire, and it sat upon each of them! The use of the tongue in the work of Jesus Christ is supreme, the Church's mission in the world is to make Him known, and she is to do it by the tongue, and that in a threefold exercise: the tongue of praise that sets His glory forth, the tongue of prayer that speaks to Him and through Him to the Father concerning all human need, the tongue of prophecy that declares to men the will of God. In that moment when the Spirit came there was created in history a new institute of praise, of prayer, and of prophecy. The Church of God became the central institute for the praising of His name, that in which all the praise of creation and of the world should become articulate. The Church of God became a new institute of prayer, that in which priests, intercessors, should find the right of way into the very sanctuary of the Most High to speak of the burdens of humanity, and plead the cause of the suffering and oppressed. The Church of God became a new institute of prophecy, an institute made up of men and women who should come from the secret place of the most high, where they had listened to the ways and the will of God, and passing out among men should proclaim that way and will, and declare the fact of His redemptive mercy.

But whether they praise or pray 01 prophesy, observe that the instrument is the tongue. In that symbol was focused the thought of the purpose of the existence of the Church on earth. The Church is to witness, to speak, in praise and prayer and prophecy, the great things into the experience of which she herself has come. That is the business of the Church, not the business of an order within the Church, but the business of the entire Church. Every individual member of the Church of Jesus Christ baptized into relationship with Him, sharing His life, feeling the thrill of His Spirit, desires to talk about it, unless that desire be quenched, refused, hindered until it perish. In that hour in which you first consciously yielded to the Lord, or felt the mastery of His Lordship, you desired to speak of the experience. I put it in the two ways because I think they cover two kinds of experience. There is a man here somewhere who could take me to the very spot where he gave himself to Christ, he could take me down to a pew in some chapel in the country and say, right there, on such a date, at such an hour, I gave myself to Christ. Another man here has no such experience, but there was some hour somewhere, somewhen, perhaps in the midst of ordinary life, when the consciousness of the relationship to Jesus Christ swept over his soul. Be the experience the first or the second, the first outcome of it was a desire to tell someone, generally the nearest and dearest; the father to tell his boy, the brother to tell sister, friend to tell friend, the desire to talk of these things. The tongue fired by the baptism of the Holy Spirit is God's method for proclaiming to the world the evangel of His Son, and it is the perpetual unchanging symbol of the Christian Church, the symbolic expression of the oft repeated word of our Lord, that we are witnesses.

Of course, as we have often seen, but which it is not our subject now to dwell upon, yet which ought to be mentioned, behind the witness of the lip there must be the witness of the life. But there must also be the witness of the tongue. Have you ever spoken to anyone about your Lord and Master? I should like to dwell upon it at some length. You will be very much surprised, if you begin to speak for your Lord, at how many men are eager to hear you that you thought cared nothing about Him. Talk to multitudes if God calls you; but if not, then to individuals: the power of the tongue in individual speech is ultimately more wonderful than the power of the tongue in dealing with vast audiences.

But now let us notice that the symbol is that of a tongue like as of fire. Let us read our Bibles accurately. Someone wrote to me recently that these were tongues of actual fire, and that men still received them, and knew it because they had experienced burning sensations in their bodies! As though men could ever apprehend a spiritual force carnally! It is the carnality of this modern movement that is its condemnation. "Like as of fire."

One's mind travels back through the Bible and remembers how perpetually and fittingly fire is the symbol of God. This was so in the burning bush, the bush that was burned with fire but not consumed. Out of the mystic flaming glory of the burning bush there came the voice, "Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground." When, presently, the devout, persistent inquirer asked what was the name of the God of the bush, the answer came, "I am that I am." The symbol of Himself by which He chose to arrest the attention of the shepherd in the wilderness was that of fire filling the bush, but not consuming it. The inclusive declaration of the New Testament is full of value: "Our God is a consuming fire." But if I would have the true interpretation of the fundamental suggestiveness of the symbol I go back once more to the passage I read from Isaiah, which can never be read, it seems to me, without producing in the soul a sense of majesty and awe. The young prophet was in the early part of his ministry, the throne of Judah was vacant for the first time in the life of the prophet: "In the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up." What was the consciousness that came to the prophet's soul in the presence of the unveiled glory of God? "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips." Then there flew one of the seraphim, and bringing the live coal from off the altar touched the lips of the man and said "Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged." After that came the challenge of God, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" and that man, his lips cleansed by fire, said, "Here am I; send me."

The symbolism of all that is not that the fire is mere inspiration or energy; it is a cleansing agent, it was to cleanse the lips of the man that the seraphim touched them with the live coal. Tongues of fire, the fire is that which cleanses the tongue. Let me read you something by way of contrast from the epistle of James:

"The tongue also is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how much wood is kindled by how small a fire! And the tongue is a fire; the world of iniquity among our members is the tongue, which defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the wheel of nature, and is set on fire by hell."

What a strange contrast! What an intended contrast! The tongue is an instrument, needing inspiration, always finding inspiration in fire to make it prevailing; and the fire is always either a polluting or a purifying force, which depends entirely upon whether the origin of the fire is the heaven of God or the hell that is underneath.

How powerful the tongue becomes when set on fire by hell. What mischief it can work in families! What mischief it can work in communities! What reputations it can blast and damn forever! What disaster it can work among the nations! A whispering tongue set on fire by hell can put two nations at war with each other.

Over against all that stands this symbol of the tongue of fire, holy fire, fire of the Divine Being, fire that cleanses, purifies, energizes, inspires with an influence high and holy and noble. What victories it can win! What breaches it can heal! What comfort it can bring! How it can knit man and man, and create the fellowship of believing souls! The tongue of fire—it must be of fire, and it must be of this fire.

That leads us to our last thought, the teaching of the symbol concerning the interrelationship between the tongue and the fire. The tongue is distinctly human, the fire is wholly Divine. The tongue of fire is the human instrument, surcharged, inspired by the Divine nature. It suggests the union of God and man for the specific purpose of witnessing, declaring, beseeching; as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. That can be said without producing any effect. It needs the tongue of fire to say it. The human word, the Divine power; the human speech and the Divine power, cleansing, revealing, persuading.

The phrase employed concerning the apportionment of the gift is suggestive. Tongues, plural, "like as of fire; and it," singular, "sat upon each of them." One fire parting asunder into tongues: "It sat upon each one of them," that is not merely a statement that upon each head there was a tongue of fire, but a statement that upon each head a tongue of that which was one fire.

Upon whom did the symbol rest? Upon men and women. And if you pass on, you have a quotation from Joel which Peter claimed to have been fulfilled in this experience: "Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.... Yea, and on My servants and on My handmaidens in those days will I pour forth of My Spirit." What a revolutionary thing the coming of the Spirit of God is!

"Your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams." Visions have to do with things that are still to come; dreams have to do with things that have happened. The old men in the power of the Holy Ghost shall speak of the past so as to enable us to understand it. The young men in the illumination of the Spirit shall speak of the future so as to enable us to act today. Tongues of fire.

What, then, are the great truths of this symbolism? That the Church is God's instrument of declaration and of witness. That every individual member of that Church is responsible in a measure for the proclamation of the power of the Holy Spirit. That human weakness is utter and absolute. That until there be the touch of fire there can be no proclamation that will prevail, but that there is no lack of equipment if we are in very deed children of God. Pentecost is not past; it is present. The day of spiritual power was not yesterday; it is today. While we have, and while we ask, no visible sign such as this, yet in this very hour of our worship we may have the presence and power of the selfsame Holy Spirit. In proportion as we realize what it is to be a member of Christ and of His Church, and are submitted to this indwelling Spirit, the Paraclete, the Advocate, the Comforter, in that proportion we shall be prepared to declare, announce, witness, and by the human tongue cleansed by the fire of God, inspired by the fire of God, He will win His victories and establish His Kingdom.

154 - Acts 2:4 - The Filling Of The Spirit.

The Filling of the Spirit

They were all filled with the Holy Spirit.
Acts 2:4

That is the central and supreme word about the day of Pentecost. The sound of the wind and the sign of the fire were symbolic, and not essential. The ecstatic speech in tongues was an outcome, temporary, transient, and of no permanent value for the purpose of the propagation of the Gospel; for they did not preach in tongues, they offered praises, through the very gladness of their hearts. The supreme fact of which both wind and fire were signs, and of which speech was an immediate outcome, was that recorded in the text; "They were all filled with the Holy Spirit." The verb here is a simple one, meaning exactly to fill, but it was used figuratively in the sense of imbuing, supplying, furnishing; and whereas none of these words would convey the full meaning, yet they may help us to an understanding of that meaning. They were all imbued with the Spirit, they were all supplied with the Spirit, they were all furnished with the Spirit.

The emphasis of our text is on the act rather than on the condition of repleteness which resulted. What Luke has chronicled for us here, to which he draws special attention, is that then and there, under the conditions described, this wonder took place. Suddenly these waiting people, the eleven apostles, with the women and the Virgin Mother, and our Lord's brethren in the flesh, those who had been waiting for ten days since last they looked on the glory of the risen face of Jesus, these people were suddenly caught up by the Spirit, penetrated through and through by the Spirit, brought completely under the power of the Spirit. They were now born of the Spirit into a new consciousness of their Master, of themselves, and of all things. Suddenly, and without being able to explain the how of the infinite mystery, they found themselves in a closer companionship with Jesus than they had ever known during the days of His flesh. Suddenly there began to break on them understanding of mysterious things which He had uttered in earlier days; there came to them unveilings of the meaning of things they had watched Him do, but which they had not understood. In that hour the enigma of His own Personality was in a measure solved.

In that hour, moreover, they came to new consciousness of themselves, saw their own weakness as they had never seen it, understood their own foolishness as they had never understood it, mourned over their past blunders, discovered how narrow and incomplete had been their highest understanding of their Lord's ministry as it had expressed itself ten days before, when they asked Him if He was about to restore the Kingdom to Israel. There broke on their astonished souls the vastness of His enterprise, the glory of His mission; they found their hearts stormed by the whole wide world, and Jerusalem was but the center of the concentric circles of Judea and Samaria and the uttermost part of the world to which they found themselves the appointed messengers of their Lord and Master.

In this hour all things became new. God was new, the world was new, and life was new. This little company had been walking in a wonderful light for three years, and yet, in this moment of Pentecostal effusion and spiritual illumination, they looked back, and, lo, the whole landscape was bathed in a glory they had never dreamed of and never before looked on. Life became a rapture, a delight, an infinite possibility; and they were conscious of a power driving them out in the Name and nature of their Lord and Master to begin the great work of proclaiming Him.

That was the daybreak of Christianity. In all the full meaning of our great word "Christianity" there had been none in the world until that moment, apart from Christ Himself. These men had never understood Him, they had never been brought into very close fellowship with Him, and, more than once, as we follow the story of His teaching of them, we are conscious of the sighs that escaped Him, and of His sense of limitation and inability.

Let us reverently attempt to meditate this morning on this experience; first, in its relation to the work of Christ, and, second, in its relation to the experience of the disciples.

Inclusively we may at once say that Pentecost in its relation to the work of Christ was the culmination of the earthly mission of the Son of God and the commencement of the heavenly mission consequent thereupon. An intelligent study of these Gospel narratives and of the fact of Christianity demands that we recognize the difference between the Gospel narratives and this brief story of the book of the Acts. We may remind ourselves that that difference is marked by the very way in which the beloved physician commenced this second treatise to his friend Theophilus. As Luke said to him, "The former treatise I made, O Theophilus, concerning all that Jesus began to do and teach," he suggested the incompleteness and imperfection of all that had gone before. It was complete and perfect in so far as it was within the will and economy of God, but the past had not reached completion. We may say, superlative as the declaration appears to be, that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Saviour of the World, began His work on the Day of Pentecost. Everything else was primary, preparatory, while necessary and fundamental. All through the public ministry, and even in the hour of the Cross, and beyond the Cross until He ascended on high, His own word will accurately describe His experience: "How am I straitened!" This is not for a moment to undervalue all that had preceded. Apart from that which had preceded, this Pentecostal effusion would have been impossible; apart from all that of which we have the narratives in our Gospels, we never could have had the wondrous apostolic service, or the early history of the Christian Church, of which the first fragment is written in this book of the Acts. So while this Pentecostal hour was the culmination of the earthly mission of Jesus, it was the commencement of the heavenly. From that moment in which the Spirit came and filled these men, may I reverently point out, the Lord Jesus could no longer say, "I am straitened." The bonds were broken, the barriers swept away, the limitations at an end, and Christianity began.

Let us trace the work of our Lord rapidly, as it is recorded for us in the New Testament. In order to do so we pass back into the heavenly places and the heavenly ages, recognizing that these are utterly beyond our final apprehension. We cannot express them, we cannot perfectly understand them, but for the illumination of our present life the veil has been drawn aside, and things have been revealed about that past. The very word "past" is a revelation of our human limitation, but we must employ it. Christ's ministry began, not on earth, but in heaven, began in that mysterious and wonderful self-emptying to which Paul referred when in his Philippian letter he spoke of Christ as being in the form of God, and yet not counting this equality with God a prize to be snatched at or held for His own enrichment. He emptied Himself.

I think it is well that we should immediately say that this is a declaration in the presence of which we must wonder and worship, and confess our inability finally to explain. Much has been said, especially in recent years, concerning that great kenosis, that great self-emptying of the Son of God, and much harm has been done by some interpretations thereof. We are warranted in saying of it so much as Holy Scripture says, that whatever functional relationship Jesus held with essential Deity He laid aside in the interest of humanity. He did not count His right of equality with God something to be held for His own enrichment, but laid it aside. Stooping from sovereignty to submission, from some form of manifestation suited to heavenly beings to a form of manifestation suited to man in the time of limitation, He took upon Him the form of man. As we thus see the work of the Son of God at its commencement as a self-emptying that laid aside all the rights of equality with God and laid aside all co-operation with the Spirit on the basis of equality, consenting in some infinite mystery to be born of the Spirit, and in its continuation consenting throughout the whole period of a life to be an instrument of the Spirit, we touch the profound and infinite things that lie behind the Pentecostal effusion.

The first fact in the ministry of the Son of God for human redemption was that self-emptying, and the final fact was that "they were all filled with the Holy Spirit." He first emptied Himself, and finally He filled these men with all the pleroma of Deity. This was a new activity in co-operation with the Spirit wherein, according to His own word, He did receive from the Father and pour forth on these men that infinitely mysterious and yet wonderful gift of the Spirit. Then the new day broke, the new life began, and the Christian fact was established in the world.

Between that first fact of self-emptying and that final fact of the filling of these men lay all the processes with which we are most familiar. First, the Incarnation, whereby God, veiled in flesh, manifested Himself to the sons of men; the patient ministry of word and work through which the will of God was revealed to men who had lost their understanding of it, and the glory and the grace of God, which were made to shine again, so that men, seeing these things, found Him. Centrally there was the infinite mystery of the Cross, and beyond it the Day of Resurrection, whereby the bonds of death were broken and the perfection of the atoning work was sealed. Finally there was the Ascension to the right hand of power.

Our Lord emptied Himself, He was made flesh, He went about doing and teaching, He bore our sins in His own Body on the tree, He broke the power of death and arose from among the dead, He ascended to the right hand of the Father, receiving gifts, yea, for the rebellious also; He poured out the Spirit, and "they were all filled with the Holy Spirit."

The blessing thus bestowed is suggestively described to us by certain phrases of the New Testament. The work of the Spirit is described as a baptism, as an anointing, and as a sealing. Men are baptized in the Spirit, men are anointed of the Spirit, men are sealed by the Spirit, and these three phrases describe different phases of the one great and inclusive fact. The filling is the supreme matter: the filling is baptizing, the filling is anointing, the filling is sealing.

The filling of the Spirit was, first of all, a baptism, by which phrase is suggested the death into life, which is the peculiar and fundamental fact of all personal Christian experience, a dying to the false life and rising to the true, a dying to sin and rising to holiness, a dying to the world so far as the world is separated from God, and a rising into the life of the ages which is the life of dominion over all the cosmos. Baptism stands as the sign and symbol of that passing from death unto life which is the fundamental fact in all Christian experience. In that moment when these men and women were filled with the Spirit they were baptized of the Spirit into life.

The anointing of the Spirit ever signifies the preparation of those who are baptized of the Spirit for service. It is the peculiar word of the old economy, made use of in the new, reminding us of that anointing for priestly function and all holy service which men in the old dispensation passed through. The Spirit anoints for service all whom He baptizes into life to the service of God.

The filling is also a sealing. The seal is the sign of a covenant. As the Spirit of God came to these men He came as the seal of a covenant between themselves and Him, a covenant by which they belonged entirely to God and God belonged wholly to them, placing Himself in all His wisdom and all His might entirely and absolutely at their disposal, lifting them to the height of interest in His purpose, descending to the level of interest in their enterprises. In that moment when they were filled with the Spirit, filled with the Spirit as the result of the perfecting of the work of their Lord and Master Christ, they were baptized from death into life, they were anointed for all enterprise and service, and the covenant made between God and themselves was sealed.

So we pass to consider the fact in the experience of the disciples. Here again we may inclusively declare that in this filling of the Spirit men on earth were joined to the Man at God's right hand. Paul writing to the Corinthian Christians said, "He that is joined unto the Lord is one Spirit." We do no violence to the declaration if we state the selfsame truth from another standpoint, and say, He that is of one Spirit with the Lord is thereby joined to the Lord. This is the mystic side of Christianity which we must not lose. If by the use of the word mystic I suggest something unreal, then I fain would change it. This is the actual essential central fact of Christianity. Who is the Christian man? That man who is living one life with the Lord of glory, not the man who has merely seen a vision of Christ and admires it, not the man who is sentimentally in agreement with the purposes of Jesus of Nazareth, but the man who, in an infinite mystery that is always beyond final explanation, does live one life with the Lord of glory.

"They were filled with the Spirit." The Spirit proceeding from the Father, from the Son, came to them, and in that moment they lived one life with Him, and that is the explanation of the things we referred to at the commencement; a new vision of themselves, His vision of them; a new vision of the world, His vision of the world; a new vision of God, His vision of God. Their eyes were strangely and wonderfully and actually illuminated by the light of His mind and outlook. They had the mind of Christ by the baptism of the Spirit of Christ. Not only is it true that they saw as He saw; it is also true that now through their eyes He was able to look at men, through their hands He was able to touch men, and by the cession of their feet to Him He was able to travel anew through Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth. They were joined to the Lord, and the limited and localized Body of Jesus of Nazareth was thereby immediately multiplied a hundredfold, and the multiplication has continued through the centuries. Every new man, woman, boy, girl won from the territory of the world into relation with Him has become a new Body for Jesus, in which He lives, through which He looks, in which He speaks, in which He travels, and through which He comes nearer and yet nearer to the wounds and weariness of humanity, healing the wounds and resting the weariness.

If this be true, we may pass with great solemnity and reverence over the pathway of this Man as we surveyed it, and declare that now in these men these essential things of His limited ministry are realized anew. These men were filled with the Spirit and lived one life with the Son of God. Then the first principle of their life is that of self-emptying. He emptied Himself; He did not consider that which was His by eternal right something that He must hold for His own enrichment, but laid it aside. That is the story of the Spirit-filled life, that is the fundamental fact in all true Christian life. If I affirm that in any hour, or by any experience, I have been filled with the Spirit and still live a self-centred life, I blaspheme against the Holy Ghost. He emptied Himself. He that is joined to the Lord is of one Spirit; he also empties himself.

Therefore these men filled with the Spirit of God became God—manifesting men. Said Paul to the Corinthians, "Your body is a temple of the Holy Ghost!" That is the meaning of Pentecost. It resulted in such capture of the bodies of men and women that through them in all their habits and all their ways, through all their lives, God shall be manifest to men. I know there is a lonely and unique meaning in the incarnation of God in Christ Jesus, but the great principle is continued through all the Christian era, and every Christian man and woman in their day and opportunity is an incarnation of Christ, Who is the incarnation of God. It was this which Peter meant when describing the Church of God he said, "Ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that ye may show forth the excellencies of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light."

To be filled with the Spirit is to be an instrument for the manifestation of God to the sons of men.

To be filled with the Spirit is to live the life of love and service, in word and in work.

To be filled with the Spirit is to share the suffering that saves. There are lonely and mysterious and infinite elements in the passion of the Son of God that are always beyond us and from which we receive the benefits of the eternal grace. But we can share in His saving work only as we share in His sacrificial love. The fulness of the Spirit is ability to suffer with Christ on behalf of men. The fulness of the Spirit is the unlocking of the gates of life, that the life may be poured out in work and weariness and toil and travail, through which, and through which alone, the Kingdom of God can come.

To be joined to the Lord is to be one spirit with Him, and therefore it is also to have fellowship in the deathless life, to be ready to say with Paul, As dying, but behold we live, as always bearing about in the body the stigmata of Jesus, and yet always being led in triumph in Jesus Christ, so that no forces can destroy. The fulness of the Spirit is the fulness of resurrection life in Jesus.

To be filled with the Spirit is not merely to share in the suffering of the Cross and the power of the Resurrection. It is to reign with Him as the ascended One, to sit with Him in the places of authority in the heavenlies, to wait patiently with Him for the ultimate victory, and all the while with Him to reign over circumstances and happenings and forces.

Again, to be filled with the Spirit is to be able to communicate the Spirit to others. Do you challenge that affirmation? Then I pray you think of our Lord's figurative teaching as given at the Feast in Jerusalem and recorded for us in the seventh chapter of John: "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his inner life shall flow rivers of living water." And John adds, "Thus spake He of the Spirit." There is no power for Christian service that does not consist in the communication of the Spirit of God to other people, and only as we are suffused in the power of the Holy Spirit can we become the media which communicate this Spirit of God to others. He that ascended on high and received the Spirit and poured it forth on others links us to Himself in this holy life so that we also receive the Spirit in order that we may pour it forth on others.

This Pentecostal effusion is not an event of two millenniums ago, but the perpetual rushing forth of the river of life proceeding from the throne of God by the way of the altar; and whithersoever the river comes, there is life. These rivers of living water are to flow from the saints, who themselves being filled to fulness and to overflowing communicate the gift to others.

All this great ministry of the Spirit is suggestively set forth in the symbolic language of the New Testament. The symbols of the Spirit in the New Testament are those of wind, springs and rivers of water, and fire—the great elemental forces. Each has its distinctive features. The wind is in itself the very element of life. The rivers of water are always those that bring satisfaction and renewal to everyday life. The fire is always the emblem of searching purification and of perpetual energy. These are the peculiar symbols that the New Testament employs to give us some understanding of the work of the Spirit. Let us note the ideas common to all these figures of speech, the wind, the water, and the fire. They are forces mighty and mysterious. They are forces capable of destroying life. We are familiar with the hurricane that sweeps the sea, the devastating flood that destroys everything in its path, the conflagration that leaves desolation behind it. Yet all these forces are necessary to life. They demand obedience in order to render service. Obey the law of any of these forces, and the force becomes your servant. Disobey the law of wind or water or fire, and you will be destroyed.

When these men and women were filled with the Spirit they entered not only into a realm of privilege, but also into the place of responsibility. What is our responsibility to the Spirit as suggested by the symbol of wind? That we live on the heights and inhale the breath of God. What is our responsibility in view of the filling of the Spirit as suggested by the symbol of the waters? That we live in the stream and drink. What is our responsibility in view of the filling of the Spirit as suggested by the symbol of the fire? That we dwell in fire, knowing that fire destroys nothing but that which cannot be permeated and filled with its own nature, and that we quench not the Spirit.

We have no responsibility in this Pentecostal age to seek or ask for the Spirit. Our responsibility is to discover the laws of the Spirit and obey them. In proportion as we are careless of the laws of the life of the Spirit the experience fades and the power recedes. In proportion as we obey, the experience grows and the power increases.

To some it may be that all this is an unknown tongue. To them, therefore, I bring the words of Jesus, words spoken to men who had not then received the gift of the Spirit: "If ye being evil know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him." That word is not for those who have received the Spirit, it is for those who never yet have received the gift. If you have never received the gift of the Spirit you may receive it by asking for it now. The Pentecostal effusion is not to be put back two thousand years as something dim and distant and far away. The river of God is moving, the winds of God are blowing, the fire of God is burning. Then, without sign or sound or confession made to men, ask the gift and receive.

Or it may be that having received, the vision has become dim and the forces weak. Then open again the eastern windows and yield the life once more to that Spirit Who needs no asking to enter but only the unlocking of the doors and the opening of the avenues of life. For those who thus yield there shall be repeated the experience of the first Pentecost, the baptism of fire that destroys the impure and energizes the life, the wind of God

    “that bloweth lustily
   Our sicknesses to heal;”
   
the flowing of the river that quenches our thirst, and then becomes the means of blessing through us to other men.

155 - Acts 2:24 - The Resurrection

The Resurrection

“... it was not possible that He should be holden of it.”
Acts 2:24

So far as the records of the New Testament reveal, these words constitute the first Pentecostal comment upon the fact of the Resurrection. They occur in the second part of the discourse delivered upon the Day of Pentecost by Peter. In the early part of that discourse, he set the things upon which men were looking and which were filling their hearts with astonishment, in relation to the prophetic writings of the Hebrew people. Having done this he commenced, "Ye men of Israel, hear these words..."; and then in brief and wonderful sentences, he told the whole story of the mission of Jesus. In this discourse concerning Jesus, there is a main line of argument twice interrupted by parenthetical explanation.

The words of my text constitute the first sentence in the first of these parentheses of exposition. Briefly, the discourse declared that Jesus of Nazareth was a Man, and that He was a Man approved of God unto those among whom He labored by the miracles and wonders which God wrought, approved that is as perfect in His humanity and therefore the instrument of those miracles and wonders and signs. Then the apostle declared that this man was delivered to death by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, and that He died at the hands of men who were without the law, to whom he had been handed over by the men of Israel. Thus he merged two truths concerning the Cross into one great declaration. It was the ultimate in sin, it was the ultimate in grace. The hands of lawless men crucified Him but this within the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.

He then proceeded to declare that God raised this Jesus from the dead and had exalted Him to His own right Hand, and that as the result of that exaltation, the Spirit had been poured forth.

The first word of comment, I say, on the fact of the Resurrection, is this word of my text, "... it was not possible that He should be holden of it." Its note was that of exultant triumph. Imaginatively one can almost hear Peter saying, "... it was not possible that He should be holden of it." He! and as he thus referred to Him, there was within him the memory of the years he had spent in His company, the shame and sorrow of his own denial, the exultant joy of his own restoration, and supremely the sense of the new life and hope that had come to him by the way of the Resurrection. The whole fact of the Person of his Lord, dawning with new meaning upon his soul as the result of that Resurrection, was in his mind as he said, "He!" It was not possible that "... He should be holden of it." In the presence of that Resurrection fact, which had changed the man at the very center of his being, he spoke of death almost surely with contempt. "It."

Notice the declaration itself, and broadly first of all. It was a declaration made by this man illuminated by the Spirit, seeing things as he had never seen them; that God raised Jesus because it was necessary that He should do so. We may be very bold at this point and declare that here Peter affirmed that God was bound to raise Jesus from the dead. The character of God was involved, the nature of His law was at stake, the interest of eternal order was implicated. "... it was not possible that He should be holden of it." That such an One as He should lie in the power of death irrevocably was impossible. "... it was not possible that He should be holden of it." Then, having said so daring and so bold a thing, he halted for argument; and for argument he turned to one of the Psalms with which these men of Israel were so perfectly familiar. Citing from the sixteenth Psalm in our arrangement of the psalter—not exactly as we find the words there but from the Septuagint Version, which is exactly the same in spirit and in truth—he gave these words as constituting his argument for the declaration he made.

   I beheld the Lord always before my face:
   For He is on my right hand, that I should not be moved:
   Therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
   Moreover my flesh also shall dwell in hope:
   Because Thou wilt not leave my soul in Hades,
   Neither wilt Thou give Thy Holy One to see corruption.
   Thou madest known unto me the ways of life;
   Thou shalt make me full of gladness with Thy countenance.
   
Then, proceeding, he gave the reason for this interpretation of the Psalm, declaring that when David wrote it, he was a prophet and had been lifted to the high places of vision. Looking down through the ages, he saw the fulfilment of God's Kingdom purposes, not in himself, not in his immediate successors, but in the Messiah, and singing through the ages he heard this song, the song of the Messiah.

In this Psalm then we have a revelation of the things that made the Resurrection necessary. First of all, without entering into a discussion as to the authorship of the psalm or as to its first meaning but accepting this inspired interpretation, let us look for a moment or two at its notes and declarations.

First observe the exultant joy of the singer.

   My heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
   Moreover my flesh also shall dwell in hope.
   
And again:

   Thou madest known unto me the ways of life;
   Thou shalt make me full of gladness with Thy countenance.
   
The reading of the sentence is sufficient to establish the accuracy of the suggestion, that the Psalm is full of exultant joy. Now let us divide these sentences into two parts. First these three:

   My heart was glad.
   My tongue rejoiced.
   My flesh also shall dwell in hope.
   
Second these:

   Thou madest known unto me the ways of life;
   Thou shalt make me full of gladness with Thy countenance.
   
Between the two sets of exultant notes, we find Hades, Sheol, the underworld of death and darkness, and so far as humanity was concerned, the underworld of despair; and through fear of which, man had all his lifetime been subject to bondage. The first assurances expressed in the declarations, "My heart was glad, my tongue rejoiced, my flesh shall dwell in hope," were assurances in view of Hades and the dark underworld. The second declarations, "Thou madest known unto me the ways of life, Thou shalt make me full of gladness with Thy countenance," are the result of the realization of the things anticipated. Here is a singer looking toward death who says, "My heart was glad, my tongue rejoiced, my flesh shall dwell in hope, for of this I am assured, Thou wilt not leave my soul in Hades, nor suffer my soul to see corruption." The soul was approaching Hades and the flesh the grave, and yet the singer sings:

   My heart was glad.
   My tongue rejoiced.
   My flesh also shall dwell in hope.
   
Then presently, without any reference to an historic event, the same voice is sounding on the other side of Hades.

   Thou madest known unto me the ways of life;
   Thou shalt make me full of gladness with Thy countenance.
   
Now note most carefully that Peter quoted this Psalm on the day of Pentecost as having reference to the Cross and Resurrection. Peter, who had shunned the Cross not for himself but for his Lord, looking back on his Lord's pathway, understood in a moment the attitude of Jesus during the dark days during which He was approaching the Cross; the attitude of mind out of which proceeded such words as these: "Now is My soul troubled"; and such words as these: "My joy I give unto you." Strangely conflicting and apparently contradictory things, which Peter and the rest could not understand, were uttered during that wonderful progress toward. Jerusalem which continued in spite of their dissuasions. Luke: has chronicled that when He knew the days were well-nigh come that He should be received up, He steadfastly set His Face to go. Peter, in the light of Pentecostal vision, discovered that in the heart of Jesus on all that shadowed pathway there was a song and this was the song:

   My heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced:
   Moreover my flesh also shall dwell in hope;
   
and at last Peter had heard spiritually, the song of the Lord upon the other side of Hades and the dark underworld:

   Thou madest known unto me the ways of life;
   Thou shalt make me full of gladness with Thy countenance.
   
Here then is more than the mere recitation of a poem. Here Peter had discovered the deep inner meaning of the death of Jesus and the Resurrection. In this song, he finds the clear declaration of the reason why Christ rose from among the dead.

We have then in the Psalm a revelation of the reason of the singer's joy. First: "I beheld the Lord always before my face." Second: "He is on my right hand, that I should not be moved." "Therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh shall dwell in hope."

Such an One as set the Lord always before him, such an One as knew God always at his right hand, was able to say, "Thou wilt not leave my soul in Hades, nor suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption." Running through the whole of that Psalm quoted by Peter is a recognition of that which the Bible forever insists upon and which our Christian religion insistently proclaims, the relation between sin and death. Why this hope in the presence of the underworld? Why this hope as approach was made to the deep darkness? "I have set the Lord always before my face. He is on my right hand, that I should not be moved." In that twofold declaration we have the real secret of that which Peter now declared. "It was not possible that He should be holden of it."

In this word of Peter then there is a declaration of our Lord's victory in the realm of sin, and by the citation of this Psalm we are given an analysis of that victory. It was a threefold victory that Jesus won over sin, a victory complete and making the Resurrection necessary.

First, the victory was victory over the possibility of originating evil. "I beheld the Lord always before my face" is; the note, not so much of Jesus in His humanity as of Jesus in His relation to God as His Servant. Second, victory over evil as suggested to the soul from without; "For He is on my right hand, that I should not be moved." That is victory within the realm of human life and human nature. Finally, victory over evil as responsibility assumed. For I pray you, that where there is victory as the Servant over the possibility of originating evil and victory as a Man over the assault of evil as from without, there is no place for death in the life of such an One. Yet He descended to death and passed to Hades. In that act, He assumed responsibility;

   He died to atone
   For sins not His own.
   
Following Him into that underworld of evil and knowing Him as He was revealed by the Spirit and seen in the light of the Resurrection, Peter rose to the height of supreme and final affirmation as he said, "... it was not possible that He should be holden of it."

Let us look a little more closely at these things. First, I have declared that here is the affirmation of victory over the possibility of originating evil; "I beheld the Lord always before my face." We gaze with this man Peter upon Jesus of Nazareth, and we see in Him what Peter saw in Him and what those writers saw in Him, a new Creation, a new Being in human history. Man indeed, yet more than Man; God indeed, but God subject instead of Sovereign. We see Him, the One Who being on equality with God did not consider that equality a prize to be snatched at and held for His own enrichment or aggrandizement; the One Who in some unfathomable mystery emptied Himself and took the form of a Servant. There we halt. That self-emptying was His abandonment of the form and activity of sovereignty and the assumption of the form and activity of subservience. I have already done in a passing phrase what I will now do quite definitely. I admit the mystery. I may be wholly wrong, but the growing conviction of my soul is that we never shall account for these things by human philosophies; but the fact is a declared one, that this Son of God, the eternal, immediate Divine manifestation of God to others, Himself did stoop and bend from the form of Sovereignty to that of Service. In that act, an opportunity was created for a new genesis of evil, for in the moment when a will is placed under control, the possibility of disobedience is created.

Let us illustrate here for a moment, not in the realm of our own human life, but in the realm of angelic life as that is revealed to us in the word of truth. In the Epistle of Jude, we find these words: "... angels that kept not their own principality, but left their proper habitation,..." That leaving of the proper habitation was not the penalty of sin but the act of sin. It was the volitional act whereby these angels exercised will as apart from the control of the Divine and in rebellion against the Divine.

It is impossible to conceive of a servant of God within whom that possibility does not exist. Now, listen to the language of the Psalm; "I have set the Lord always before my face." That is the language of One Who kept His principality by abiding in His habitation; the language of One Who never exercised His will under the constraint of personal desire; the language of One Who never turned His back upon God; "I have set the Lord always before my face." Therefore His heart was glad, therefore His tongue rejoiced, therefore His flesh dwelt in hope! Because He, in the divine economy and in the midst of those movements that came from the will of God, remained the Servant of God. He did not fall from His first estate by personal volition. There came no act of disobedience and no deflection from the high and awful integrity of unswerving submission to the will of God. That was perfect victory as the Servant of God.

The second phrase leads us a step further and perhaps brings us into more intimate relationship with the things of our own experience. Not only did He say, "I have set Jehovah ever before my face," but this also: "He is on my right hand, that I should not be moved." Quite simply we may declare that the first affirmation means, "I have not moved," while the second declaration is, "I have not been moved." The fall of Lucifer, son of the morning, was the fall of one who moved from his habitation. The fall of Adam was the fall of one who was moved from his habitation as the result of temptation from without. The fall of Satan, so far as that is revealed to us in Holy Scripture, was the fall of a servant in answer not to attacks from without, but to desire from within that turned his face from God. Said Jesus, "I have set the Lord always before My face." The fall of man was different. The sin of man was the response of man to the suggestion of evil that came from without. Now, says this Servant in the great Psalm, "He is on my right hand that I should not be moved." The vision here again is that of the Son of God, but also of the Son of Adam, united to the race. Mark the possibility created when He was born of the Holy Ghost and by the Virgin Mary. He came to stand where man stood at the beginning; not to stand where I stand by relationship to Adam, but to stand where Adam stood before Adam sinned; and therefore in the midst of opposing forces; in the midst of that dark underworld of evil. He came to stand in a place where it was possible to yield. Peter, looking back on the whole life, catches up the music of the Psalm and says the whole story of the Man Jesus is told thus: "He is on my right hand, that I should not be moved." He walked with God and so was upheld. He never exercised will under constraint of suggestion made by others whether high or low, good or evil. He never departed from the side of God, and all the allurements and all the assaults which were presented to His soul and beat against it from without, He mastered because He walked with God. Therefore His heart was glad, His tongue rejoiced, His very flesh dwelt in hope. Therefore, in Him there was neither fear of death nor anticipation of death as for Himself.

So we move to the last phase of this wonderful victory, the most wonderful of all for us men. Why was He glad? Read again the ancient song. He was glad because of the double triumph: "I have set the Lord always before me." "He is on my right hand, that I should not be moved." What was the chief cause of His gladness? Why was He glad because He had thus been victorious? He was glad because of the possibility created by this victory, of yet another victory more wonderful, more profound, more tremendous. He was glad because of the victory in life as creating the possibility of dying vicariously. He was crowned with glory and honor that He might taste death for every man; not because He tasted death for every man, but in order that He might do so. Death had no place in the order of His Being, but because His Being was perfect He was able to die for others. Consequently, there was not only the possibility of dying vicariously for others but of dying victoriously, knowing that when God carried Him into that realm in which He took over responsibility, He could not abandon Him. "... Thou wilt not leave my Soul in Hades,... Thou wilt not suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption...." Even when the soul is in Hades and the body is in the grave, even when the personality is severed and divided by the mystery of death and is thus found in the land of shadows and the place of corruption, even there God cannot abandon. "... Thou wilt not leave my Soul in Hades,..." nor "... suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption."

Now mark the fact of His dying and the element which we cited before in Peter's inspired declaration. He died by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, therefore He died in fellowship with God. The dying of Jesus was not conflict with God; it was no attempt in the darkness to persuade God to love, but rather cooperation in the darkness with God in order that Love might do His perfect work. Even in His dying He carried forward the double triumph of His living.

What was the first triumph? "I have set Jehovah always before my face...." Cooperation with His will, yielding to it, and never answering the desire of His own soul. Listen to Gethsemane! "... not My will but Thine be done!" It is the same triumph in the face of death.

What was the triumph of His human life? The refusal to listen to any voice that suggested that He should depart: from the Divine pathway. Listen to His answer to the suggestion that He should shun the Cross. "... Get thee behind. Me, Satan,... for thou mindest not the things of God, but the things of men." That answer was the measure of His devotion. So we see the double victory of His living operating in His dying, for in the mystery of death He is still, the Servant of God, originating no evil, and a Man in right relationship with God refusing to listen to the suggestion of evil.

Again, in His dying, we see Him in cooperation with God, assuming responsibility for the sin of the race, and therefore by His dying creating moral values at the disposal of the race. What then is the victory in the case of such an One? That Hades cannot hold the soul though it possess it, that corruption cannot touch His Body though they lay Him in the grave. We have in this Death and Resurrection of Jesus that in human history which is unique. We cannot account for it by our science, and our philosophies cannot explain it. It was God's interference; God's new mysterious redeeming act; that One died whom Hades could not hold nor corruption touch; and all because of the victory He won over evil in every form. Therefore to Him God made known the ways of life, He was made full of gladness with the countenance of God.

On that Resurrection morning, when He did first reveal Himself to Mary of Magdala and throughout the day to other individual souls and through the forty days of His appearing and disappearing, He was flinging everywhere the sunshine of the gladness of His own heart because of the victory that He had won in His mastery of evil. The risen Lord is Victor over every conceivable form of essential evil, over the possibility of primal genesis from within His own life as the Servant of God. "I have set the Lord always before my face..."; over the possibility of evil resulting from the assault that comes from without; "Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved;" and over evil as responsibility assumed. Resurrection demonstrated that victory; "... it was not possible that He should be holden of it." Had death held Him then God had been defeated, or God had been involved. It was not possible that He should be holden of it.

If He be Victor over every conceivable form of essential evil, He is Victor ultimately over all the results of evil, suffering, sorrow, and sinning, as well as sin. How long that ultimate day seems to us in coming! The consciousness of evil remains. We know it, for death and sinning are still with us, and evil lifts its proud head even today threatening goodness. Ah! But my brethren, when that consciousness of evil threatens to oppress the heart overmuch, let us ever condition it by this fact of His victory over evil at its heart and center, knowing that we are taking part in an administrative warfare. The central battle has been fought and won.

If He rose not, then we are of all men most pitiable, for we have seen a vision and indulged a hope which is false. But not with the gloomy foreboding of any such suggestion do we end this meditation, but as men and women who remind our heart amid the travail and the toil that He is risen, and that because it was not possible that He should be holden of death.

156 - Acts 2:32 - The Teaching of the Resurrection

The Teaching of the Resurrection

This Jesus did God raise up.
Acts 2:32

"This Jesus"! That opening word fastens attention upon a particular Person, and compels us to consider Him, even before we pay attention to the declaration of the apostle.

The lesson we read constitutes the second part of the first message delivered by an apostle of Jesus Christ after the Pentecostal effusion. Having claimed that this outpouring of the Spirit was in fulfilment of prophecy, Peter proceeded to declare that this fulfilment was the result of the mission of Jesus of Nazareth. Commencing with words intended to arrest anew the attention of his hearers, he said, "Ye men of Israel, hear these words," and his discourse then became descriptive of this Person and His work, up to the statement of our text, "This Jesus did God raise up." Thus, between the opening words of the paragraph which we read for lesson and those of our text, we have the picture of the Person to Whom reference is made by the text.

This description was first historic. Peter drew the attention of these people to One Whom they knew. "Jesus of Nazareth" was the name by which He was well known through all that region.

He reminded them next that the Person of Whom he was speaking was a Man separate and distinct from all other men in the perfections of His humanity, that having been evidenced by the wonders he had wrought, or more accurately, as the apostle put it, by the wonders God had wrought through Him. Finally, he further reminded them that they, the men of Israel, had delivered this Man over to the Gentiles, men without law, who crucified and slew Him. Of Him Peter declared, "This Jesus hath God raised up."

In the course of that description of the Person, the apostle claimed that He was in very deed that Messiah for Whom they had been looking, citing from their own psalms the words of David, and showing that the words David uttered could not have been fulfilled in the experience of David.

This Jesus Whom ye knew; this Jesus Whom ye slew; this Jesus Who is the Messiah for Whom you so long have been waiting; "This Jesus did God raise up."

Let us now consider what this act of God in the case of this Man really meant. Once in the history of the human race, a Man murdered by His enemies was raised from the dead, and exalted by God to the place of universal power. What is the significance of this fact?

Let me at once summarize the things I desire to say. The fact that God raised Jesus of Nazareth from among the dead signifies first, His absolute approbation of Him. It signifies secondly, His rejection of all other men. It signifies finally, the Divine appointment of the approved One to the right of restoring the rejected many.

Take the first of these facts, the Divine approbation of Jesus of Nazareth. I am constrained to say that this particular phase of our consideration needs emphasizing. Has it occurred to you, or am I wrong in my suspicion, that we are a little in danger of asking too constantly today whether Jesus satisfies us? Thank God for every man and woman in this house who can say, "Thou, O Christ, art all I want"; but that is not the profoundest question. If this Jesus is to be to me anything other than One Whom I admire, if He is to be to me the central force and fact of my religious life, the profounder question is, "What is God's estimate of Him?"

The whole story of Jesus presents constant and cumulative evidence of the Divine approbation of Jesus. There were remarkable signs of this at His birth. We very often speak of the humility of His coming, but that coming was accompanied by many wonderful signs. All the worlds known to men were moved there at. Angels broke silence and sang over Bethlehem's plain. Kings from afar were moved to follow the guidance of a star and to bring gold, frankincense and myrrh. The underworld of evil was shaken to its very center, and found earthly manifestation in the malice of a king and the murder of innocents. The world was not ready to receive Him, but the Divine approbation of the holy child was manifested by external and material signs of the most surprising nature.

Through the years of His public ministry that approbation was thrice declared. On the day of baptism a voice declared, "Thou art My beloved Son; in Thee I am well pleased." On the holy mount the voice declared, "This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him." A little nearer to the darkness of Calvary, when the Greeks were asking to see Him, out of His sorrowing soul there came the wail, "Now is My soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour. But for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify Thy name." The Heaven's silence was again broken, "I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again."

The Divine approbation was marked in all the miracles of Jesus. That to me is a subject full of fascination. The miracles do not prove His Deity, but the perfection of His humanity. Mark the carefulness of the apostle here when he said, "Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God unto you by mighty works and wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you." The doing of the wonders and signs was the evidence of the perfection of His humanity, not of His Deity. It was through the absolutely perfect Man that God was able to do works which were wonders and signs to imperfect men, because they were operations in realms higher than fallen man had yet discovered, but which were perfectly familiar to the perfect Man. In all these things, we have manifestations of the Divine approbation.

At His death supernatural seals were set upon Him, giving evidence of God's approbation. The quaking earth, the darkened sun, the yawning graves; these were all God's evidences that the thing being done was a thing of sin against the cosmic order.

But the supreme sign, the final manifestation, the ultimate seal was this, that He did raise Him from the dead, and we must always add, what Peter immediately added, "Being therefore by the right hand of God exalted." Not merely resurrection from among the dead, but resurrection immediately followed by exaltation. Easter must be linked to Ascension before we understand perfectly the values of this demonstration. Others were brought back from death in the economy of God for purposes of His own, but only to pass back into death. Lazarus was raised by Jesus, but only to pass back into death and through death to the life beyond. The child of Jairus was raised from the dead, but to pass back into death again. This Man; raised in actual bodily life, not the same as that laid down, but different; exactly the same, but transformed; this Man never saw death again. He tasted death for every man. "Death no more hath dominion over Him." So we must ever add to the resurrection the fact of Ascension when we think of the Divine demonstration.

What then is this demonstration? The resurrection first attests to the perfection of the life of this Man. The resurrection declares in human history that this Man, rejected of men, is accepted of God; that this type of human life, for which the world cannot find any room, is God's type of human life.

What is the type? I can only state the great subject in phrases. God-centered; self-emptying; man-serving. That is the whole story of the life of Jesus. If as rapidly as memory can do its work, you will think of that story from beginning to end, you will find these things include all the facts; and the resurrection declared in the midst of human history, This is the Man of God's right hand. This is the Man of God's pattern, of God's purpose. This is the type of human life that satisfies God.

The resurrection further demonstrates the fact that in this Man the type was triumphant. There was never a single moment in His life when He moved from the true center of His life, which center was God Himself, He never became eccentric. I pause a moment because the worldly man calls the Christian man eccentric; while in reality it is he who is eccentric, away from the true center, not the Christian man. His life then was not eccentric; but always God-centered, though all the forces of the world, the flesh and the devil sought to draw Him aside, out of the true orbit of His life, or in the words of the writer of the New Testament concerning the angels, sought to make Him move out of His proper habitation. This Man was not only the type in the sense of being an idealist in His teaching, He was in His own life triumphant, and the resurrection is the great demonstration of God's approbation of that type of life.

The resurrection attests also to His accomplishment of purpose. Not only personal victory, but relative accomplishment. His purpose in the world according to His own teaching had been that of revelation and of mediation. He was in the world to reveal the Father, to bring men to the Father.

Did He succeed? Was the presentation of God which He made in life true? Was the unveiling of God which He suggested in death true? Has He mediated by true speech, and has He mediated in the mystery of that passion baptism prior to which He declared Himself straitened? Has He been successful? How shall I know? I stand in imagination on the eve of Easter day outside the tomb. I want to know whether He has succeeded in the purposes of revelation and mediation.

Angel hands roll back the stone, and I look in and see those graveclothes, and know that He is risen, and know not only that this is the perfect Man, but that this Man has fulfilled His purposes of revelation and of mediation.

Consequently, the resurrection attests to the completeness of His victory. It was a victory over death, and in this selfsame sermon Peter said, "It was not possible that He should be holden of it." This is one of the passages in God's word which I always wish I could recite with the emphasis which would express the emotion the words create in my own heart. I think there was a touch of contempt when Peter said "it" in reference to death; and infinitely more than a touch of reverence and of worship when He said "He," with reference to the Risen Lord. "It was not possible that He should be holden of it." Why not? Because He had dealt with sin, which is the sting of death. In some unutterable, unfathomable mystery in the darkness, He had taken its power out of death; by dealing with sin, He had robbed it of its sting, and made it forever more a porter at the gate of life. When I see Him raised, exalted, I know that He has won the final, perfect victory over sin, over sorrow, over Satan; and I know it, because I see His victory over death.

All that involves the second matter which I suggested. If God raised Jesus, He did by that act show His rejection of all other men. This is an aspect of the truth which we are in danger of overlooking. We cannot believe in the resurrection without, upon consideration, seeing how true this is. In accepting the perfect One, God rejected all imperfection. Imperfection is to be known by perfection. What is the perfect type? Life God-centered, self-emptying, man-serving. The imperfect type is life, self-centered, self-seeing, and self-serving. God rejects that type of humanity forever. I do not pause to describe the more vulgar manifestations of human sin. Let us keep on levels admittedly somewhat higher. Humanity may be cultured with the culture of the schools, refined with the refinement of aestheticism, but absolutely self-centered; and God rejects that humanity. Morality in the sanctuary is a thing of the spirit. Morality in the economy of God is conformity to the type of humanity revealed in Jesus. We are in danger of being satisfied with something that does not satisfy God in ourselves and in our fellowmen. By that resurrection of Jesus; by that stretching out of the right hand of the Almighty power, and the taking of this Man out of the grave, this Man Who was crucified because of the type He had revealed; by God's taking Him out of death and setting Him at His own right hand; He said to humanity: "This is the one and only type acceptable with God, this is the one and only type of human life that can find entrance into fellowship with God, here or hereafter." The resurrection of Jesus is the severest condemnation of everything else than that which He revealed to men as the true ideal of human life. So that when I am testing my own life, I do so, not by my neighbor, by my friend, or by the averages of failing humanity, but by the one and only Man upon Whom God has set His seal of resurrection.

That is human life. There is a side, in this matter, full of comfort and encouragement, for when by that resurrection, God set His seal upon the type of human life revealed in Jesus, He revealed to every human being the true meaning of human life. When I look upon this Son of man, risen from the dead, and when I contemplate His life in its beauties and perfections and glories, in those glories of grace and truth which John referred to, in all the rich and beautiful character of absolutely unselfish living, I not only know what God's ideal is, but I know of what I am capable by Divine creation. For that life God made me, not for a life of human refinement and human morality which is careless of the woes and wounds and weariness of humanity; not for that self-centered life which is of the very essence of devilism; but for fellowship with Himself and for service of my fellowmen; for that self-emptying which pours out life in order to help others. That is God's humanity, and He rejects every other type. For that He has made every one of us; however hard the heart may be, however blind the eyes in the presence of humanity's woes, however perverse the will that refuses to serve; the heart is made for compassion, the eyes are made for seeing, the will is made to be the driving power of sacrifice. So the resurrection, while it is condemnation of all failure, is the repetition of the fact that God made man for Himself, to be like Himself, in self-emptying love and in sacrificial service.

Finally, in accepting the work of Jesus, God refused all other methods of salvation. He said by the resurrection, "Neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved." But we would prefer to work out our own salvation. We would prefer to accept the great Ideal and see if it be not possible, without reference to the death and resurrection of Jesus, to work out our own salvation. God declares by resurrection that this is impossible, for every method of salvation attempted by man is doomed to failure and disaster.

By this resurrection God crowns Him Victor, and reveals the ultimate defeat of everything that is opposed to Him. Take one brief glance at the Cross in the light of resurrection. There, worldly power has won its victory over Him; there, worldly culture laughs at His folly, the Cross is foolishness to the Greek—and the Greeks are with us yet; there, ritualistic religion has put an end to the voice that spoke only of the spiritual, and to the Man who violated the traditions of men. Yet, in that Cross God has revealed to men that not by might of human effort, not by the culture of the human mind, not by religious observance of human invention can man come to victory, because these things have in themselves the elements of their own destruction.

The Resurrection is God's attestation of the perfect victory of His Son; His rejection of every other type, and of every other method of salvation.

The resurrection is the revelation of human failure, when we look back at the historic facts. When they nailed Him to the Cross, they did their last with Him. God never allowed another rude hand to touch the dead body of Jesus; only loving hands touched Him after He was dead, only the hands of loving disciples—secret disciples by the way, for in the day of unutterable tragedy all the confessors were gone—two secret disciples, Joseph of Arimathaea, and Nicodemus, took His body, and with loving touch laid it to rest in the tomb. This is a very gracious and blessed fact to my own heart. Man had done his worst, and his best; not even the disciples witnessed the resurrection. The resurrection was God's act, and in the very blindness which came to the disciples I have a revelation of God's rejection of humanity; they were not permitted to see Him rise.

Then notice how in that resurrection there was rejection of everything that rejected Him. The priests; if the matter were not altogether too sacred one could indulge in satire at the expense of the priests! They went to Pilate and said, "We remember that that deceiver said, while He was yet alive, ‘After three days I rise again’," and they asked for soldiers to watch the body of a dead Man! Was there ever such confession of impotence? Yet, in spite of their shrewdness, that He be not stolen, He went; went without the unwrapping of the graveclothes, without the rolling away of the stone, without the breaking of Pilate's seal! Wrapped in graveclothes, shut in by a rolling stone, sealed with the Roman governor's authority, watched by soldiers under the inspiration of the priests; but He rose! Therein was demonstrated the truth that God rejects Roman power, Hebrew priestism, Greek culture, and even disciples who were unable to follow. They were all rejected in that great hour of resurrection.

But there is infinite compassion in the story. There, is the unveiling of the Divine love. If God by that resurrection rejects men, why does He do so? Because they are failing to fulfil the meaning of their own lies, as well as failing to satisfy the intention of His will. He only rejects the failure in order that He may make again the marred vessels, restore the years that the cankerworm hath eaten, make the desert blossom as the rose! By way of rejecting me, a failure, He makes possible my remaking, in His own image and likeness.

That resurrection is the Divine ratification of the new and living way. It is the acceptance of the Man Christ Jesus in a representative capacity. That resurrection said to these disciples, and says to us today: "There was more in the Cross than you thought." The Cross; how they had shunned it; how they had been afraid of it from the first mention of it at Caesarea Philippi; through all those weeks how they had shrunk from it! The Cross scattered them, drove them away from Christ. Yet, by the way of resurrection they saw that there was profounder meaning in that Cross than they had known. By the way of resurrection the Cross was seen as something sufficient for rejected men. Take up the New Testament and read the epistles, and see what these writers say of the Cross. What gave them their belief in the Cross? The resurrection. There is no more remarkable word in the whole of them than that of Peter who preached this sermon on the day of Pentecost, when in his letter he declared that they were begotten again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The Cross was their despair; it became their hope when they saw it in the light of resurrection; the Cross was the place of defeat, but when they saw Him alive they knew that the Cross was the place of victory.

By resurrection God declares that the Cross has within it healing for all wounds. The risen Man is accepted as the Head of a new race; and the life which He liberated through the mystery of the Cross is accepted in Him as Firstborn, and in all the newborn who enter into life by the touch of this risen Christ. By the resurrection God declares that He accepts man in Christ, and in Christ alone. Crucified with Christ, risen with Christ, seated in the heavens in Christ; these are the apostolic words unveiling the true meaning and value and issue of resurrection.

By this resurrection then God declares to all men everywhere that the humanity for which He looks is the humanity of Jesus. Let us make this thing personal and immediate. Is my humanity His humanity? Are my motives His, my impulses His? If not, then know that this day of resurrection and light and glory is a day that declares my condemnation.

Tear up the New Testament, deny the resurrection, and I have nothing to say; but if this be the central, established fact of Christianity—I am not arguing it, I am accepting it, preaching upon the basis of its actuality—then know this, the resurrection is not merely a song in the night, it is the thunder of an awful severity, forevermore declaring that God will not be satisfied with imperfection or with any type of human life save that which approximates to the type revealed in Jesus.

But know this also, weary heart and disappointed man, confessing your sin; saying, as in the presence of the resurrection glory, "If that be God's accepted type then am I rejected, for I am unlike that"; know this, that resurrection declares to you that the Lord in the very mystery of His dying did make provision for your living. In the cosmic order He never ought to have died. Unless there be this profounder explanation of His dying which the New Testament offers, His dying is the most terrible reflection upon the government of the universe. When these things are seen in the light of the resurrection and we are able to say, "He loved me and gave Himself for me"; then the resurrection is a song and an evangel; the bedrock of my confidence, the refuge of my soul, the assurance in my heart that I am not deceived and that God can, and will, have compassion upon me, and receive me in Christ; and through Christ communicate to me the dynamic force I need for the Christly life.

The resurrection was the end of the first man, the first Adam, and the doom of all the race that sprang from Him. The resurrection was the acceptance of the second Man, the last Adam, and the birth of a new race. As we believe in Him, we receive His life and we are accepted in the Beloved.

The final note of the resurrection is that of hope for every man however bruised, however spoiled; however in the grip of vice, lust, passion, and sin; however disappointed with himself as he stands in the light of the revelation which Jesus has given to him of the meaning of his own life; for it declares that he can be remade. The resurrection is the proof of the evangel.

157 - Acts 2:33 - The Holy Spirit Through Christ, In the Church, For The World

The Holy Spirit Through Christ, In the Church, For the World

Being therefore by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath poured forth this, which ye see and hear.
Acts 2:33

Christianity's supreme credential is Christianity. Of all miracles it is the greatest. There are two historic facts which are indisputable: first, the death of Jesus, and, second, the Church of Jesus. Or to put that in another way, history attests the fact that somehow or other out of death came life, that after the death of Jesus there began in human history a new order of men and women, a new order of society, new ideals, new impulses, new forces. That is the supreme wonder. We look back again to the Cross of our Lord, and we may say of Him reverently in the language of the writer of the letter to the Hebrews concerning Abraham, but with more definiteness, Here is One, not only as good as dead, but dead; nevertheless, His thoughts, His teaching, He Himself, guide and govern those movements of the race which tend toward its perfection and its permanence. This is the supreme wonder, the wonder of all wonders.

When we turn to this last historic pamphlet of the New Testament and read the story of the new beginning of the Christian movement after the resurrection and ascension of our Lord we find the secret of the victories that have resulted. In this second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles we have the account of the first blaze of light, and the first thrill of power following the resurrection and ascension. The story is always full of fascination. We can never read this chapter without feeling the thrill of it, and the power of it. The ideals suggested and revealed constitute the reason of this perpetual appeal rather than the realization of these things by the men of apostolic times, for the book of the Acts is as surely a revelation of failure as it is of victory. I do not know how far it is wise to take comfort from that fact, but I do find my own heart perpetually comforted by it. In these days of lamentation and wailing over the failure of the Christian Church I go back to the beginning and find the same story still. Through all the centuries victories seem to have been in spite of unfaithfulness rather than as the result of faithfulness.

That which began at Pentecost is abiding. There is no need to pray for a new Pentecost. There can be no new Pentecost. Pentecost was the occasion when the Spirit of God came to create and abide with the Church of God, and He has never been withdrawn. This place of our assembly is as full of the presence and power of that Holy Spirit of God as was the upper room at Jerusalem. We may not hear the sound of a rushing mighty wind, but the Spirit is proceeding from the Father through the Son into the lives of believing men and women, and still is that selfsame Spirit poured upon all flesh.

Then it may be said, Where is the secret of present failure? How is it that we are not conscious of the same experience? In answer to that, two things must be said. First, that there were experiences of the day of Pentecost that were not intended to abide. Things that were necessary at the moment have passed, but the spiritual facts have not passed. We do not ask for the sound of the rushing mighty wind, we do not seek—if we have spiritual apprehension of the true meaning of this Pentecostal effusion—for manifest tongues of fire upon the heads of the assembled saints. But, second, we do ask for the power itself, and we do most earnestly desire to know something of the experience that came to these men, that filled them with ecstasy, with joy; that irradiated their faces and put songs on lips which had perhaps never sung before. We do desire to know the secrets of that power which made prophecy prevailing in those olden days and constrained men to obedience to the Lord Christ. To know the power of this Pentecostal effusion surely we must discover its laws, and any measure of present failure is the result of failure in that particular.

The first symbol of the Christian Church was the tongue of fire. The first experience of the outpoured Spirit was fulness of life and fulness of joy. This fulness of life and joy was expressed in that strange, I had almost said weird, manifestation in which men in various tongues praised God. The tongue was not a gift enabling men to preach or prophesy, it was a gift for praise. The first function of the Christian Church is that of praise. The first function of the Christian priesthood is eucharistic in the true sense of that great word, that of the offering of thanksgiving and praise. When the Spirit of life fell on these men their eyes were opened, and they saw as they never had seen, and understood as they never had understood, things concerning Christ and concerning God; and the multitudes listening heard them in their own tongues showing forth the mighty works of God. They had become a company of priests offering praise. In fulness of life there was fulness of joy, and out of that came the words which magnified the name of God, and sounded His praise abroad.

The first impression this Church produced on the city was that of mental arrest, they were compelled to consider; it was that of mental defeat, they were unable to explain; it was that of mental activity, they attempted to explain. The city was arrested, not by a preacher, but by a Spirit-filled church. That church, manifesting the fulness of its life in great joy, in great ecstasy, and in praise, created the opportunity for the Christian preacher to proclaim the evangel of Jesus.

The first activity in the power of the Spirit on behalf of men outside the company of the saints was that of this discourse of Peter. Observe the scheme of it. The people of the city said, "What meaneth this?" Peter replied, "Be this known unto you, and give ear unto my words," and then proceeded to detailed explanation, of which the central declaration was, "This is that which hath been spoken by the prophet Joel." The address culminated in the word of the text, "He hath poured forth this, which ye see and hear." The city said, "What meaneth this?" Peter replied, "Be this known unto you;....This is that;....He hath poured forth this."

Now let us confine our attention to the last word of the answer of Peter to the inquiry of the city. We shall dwell on the "He" and on the "this," speaking first of the relation of the Pentecostal baptism to Christ, and, second, of the meaning of the Pentecostal baptism for the world.

The relation of the Pentecostal baptism to Christ is most clearly declared. Having quoted from the prophecy of Joel and having declared that the signs which they saw and the circumstances in the midst of which they found themselves were in fulfilment of that prophecy, Peter arrested the attention of his hearers anew as he said, "Ye men of Israel, hear these words." Then in an orderly sequence he told the story of Jesus. First, he named the Lord, Jesus of Nazareth. This was His most familiar name, the one by which He had been known, the. one which had been used by the disciples in love, and by other men in contempt. Second, he declared the witness of the miracles to the perfection of His nature as he spoke of Him as "a man approved of God among you," not a man that God approved, but a man that God demonstrated "by mighty works and wonders and signs," not which He wrought, but "which God did by Him in the midst of you, even as ye yourselves know." The miracles and wonders were works of God wrought through the absolute perfection of Christ's humanity. Then, immediately, he came to the last fact of which these men had been conscious: "Him"—and after a parenthesis, "being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God," which the men who heard him certainly could not understand—"ye by the hand of lawless men did crucify and slay."

In these words so far the Apostle had massed all that these men knew of Jesus, the manifest things—Jesus of Nazareth, a Man demonstrated among you by God in miracles and wonders and signs, a Man crucified. Beyond this these men who listened were unable to go of their own knowledge.

But the Apostle had much more to say. He followed the mission of Jesus into spiritual heights which these men could not understand; he told them, if I may use the terms of time in relation to eternity, of the events which had followed the Cross, which for them had ended the career of Jesus, "whom God raised up"; and "being therefore by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath poured forth this." He has given to these men this fulness of life which expresses itself in the praises which have arrested the city, amazed, and made it critical.

As we read the story there is evident throughout conflict between grace and sin; the Divine activity beneficent in its intention toward men, and human activity in its intention hostile to God. As we watch the course of our Lord's ministry revealed in this wonderful paragraph we see Him as the center of perpetual conflict between sin on the one hand and the grace of God on the other.

Mark the movement of sin. Sin first expressed itself in blindness in the presence of the revelation of the life of Jesus; His words and His works witnessing to truth Himself demonstrated by God by the wonders He wrought; men were blind, not seeing, not understanding. Blinding their own eyes, hardening their own hearts, they moved ever more persistently into the mental mood of definite hostility. Sin expressed itself finally in the Cross, as there it refused the Kingship of the Christ. That Cross was man's answer to everything Christ had said, to His spiritual conceptions, to His severe and awful moral requirements, to His offer of pardon and of grace. The Cross of Jesus Christ is the very center and ultimate of human sin.

At that point in the history sin had done its worst, it had crucified the Lord of glory, and laid His body to rest in the tomb. Sinning man could do no more, he had become impotent, he had wreaked his vengeance on Jesus. One can hardly feel anything other than contempt for the rude superstition that watched the body of a dead man.

But now through all the movement observe the activity of grace. In the life of Jesus grace revealed God and the will of God concerning man. Through that life of Jesus God was calling man back to Himself. What of the Cross? Has sin there won a victory? Is that the ultimate word, is grace defeated, is the intention of God defeated? In the course of the declaration we find that which was a parenthesis so far as the men who listened were concerned, "being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God." None knew the Cross like that until after Pentecost. None saw the Cross so until he looked back at it in the light of the resurrection. But looking back through the resurrection and in the light of the Spirit, Peter and the rest saw God acting in the Cross in determined love, mastering sin in a mystery that baffles us, in darkness that we never can enter, darkness which has at its center light unapproachable. In that hour and mystery of the Cross God is seen dealing with the sin that had expressed itself ultimately therein, and so dealing with it as to be victorious over it.

We now take the next step as suggested in the address of the Apostle. The victory was won, the Lord was raised from the dead and exalted. Then followed the ascension. As in all reverence we follow the Man of Nazareth into the light and glory of the heavenly place, the Spirit through Peter interprets the activity of that sacred hour in words which entirely transcend our explanation. The declaration that the Lord "received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost" can be understood only as we follow our Lord into the light of the heavenly place and realize that He passed in as the representative One. In that moment man returned to God, and God returned to man in Christ. By the mystery of the wounds He bore He asked, as He said He would, for the Spirit that He might bestow it upon all trusting souls. Not by right of His sinless humanity did He claim the Spirit, but by the right of His passion. Not for Himself did He claim the Holy Spirit, for was not the whole history of His earthly career the history of fellowship with the Spirit? Born of the Spirit, baptized of the Spirit, in the power of the Spirit, He entered on His ministry. In the great mystery of the passion was it not also true that through the eternal Spirit He offered Himself to God? Now risen Man and ascended Lord, in the presence of God He received the Spirit as the representative of those whom He had left behind, representing them by the very wounds He bore, representing them by the passion through which He had passed. When the Father gave Him the Spirit, to use still this mystic figurative language, He gave the Spirit to Him as representing those for whom He had been wounded and bruised, whose place He had taken in the mystery of the Cross by which He had overcome sin. He represented humanity as humanity's Saviour. Then we reach the final word, descriptive of the final movement, "He hath poured forth this."

Thus the Spirit on the day of Pentecost came to these men in answer to the prayer of Jesus, not in answer to their praying, not even in answer to their obedience, but entirely and absolutely in answer to the request in heavenly places of Christ Himself, the One Whose wounds told the story of His conflict, and Whose presence there proclaimed the fact of His victory. The Spirit thus given through the Son united those on whom He fell to the Son in a life of absolute identity, ultimately making those to whom He came like the Son.

If we have received the Spirit we have received it from the Father and through His Son. If we who name His name are receiving His Spirit, we are receiving the Spirit through the Son, not in answer to our praying, not as a reward for some sacrifice we are making. All these may be conditions which we fulfil, but this great Pentecostal gift of the Spirit, making men and women one with the Lord, indwelling them so that the very life of the Lord is dominant within them, expressing the power of the Lord through them, is in answer to the prayer of the Lord and the result of what He did.

What, then, was the meaning and what the value of this Pentecostal baptism for the world? It was the creation of the Christian Church of God. That is a phrase I used carefully, the Christian Church of God. The Church of God, if you will; but there had been a Church of God in some senses before this. In the seventh chapter of this book of the Acts we have mentioned the Church in the wilderness, that is the assembly, the congregation, the ecclesia in the wilderness. This, however, was the Christian Church of God. It is an interesting fact that the phrase, the Church of Christ, is used only once in the New Testament, and then by an apostle speaking of local churches. This Church of God, the Christian Church of God, is a new entity, a new nation, a new people. The differences between this Church of God born at Pentecost and the Church of God existing before are vital differences, but we need not now stay to look at them. In that moment, when those who had been individual disciples were brought into living union with the Lord Himself and so into living union with each other, the Christian Church was born.

What, then, is the Church in the world, considering it as a whole? It is God's institute of praise, God's institute of prayer, and God's institute of prophecy. The whole Church is, first of all, an institute created to praise God. "Ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that ye may shew forth the excellencies of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light." The first purpose of the Church is that she shall praise God. I think we need to remember that in its first application and its simplest the first function of the Christian life is that of praising. Yet let us take the larger outlook. The Christian Church exists so to reveal God as to utter forth His praise, so to make God known to men who know Him not that in the presence of the revelation they may be filled with awe, and wonder, and amazement; so to make God known that God shall be attractive to humanity. Whether we are prepared to accept the declaration or not, the experience abides. Men of the world can know God only as God is revealed to them through His people. The Word of God can be powerful only as it is incarnate. Is not that the meaning of the central mystery of our holy religion? God came no nearer to humanity when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but He came into visibility, into manifestation. In proportion as in this Church of Jesus Christ His life is reproduced, God is being revealed anew. Our first business is that of praising Him, praising Him with lip and with life, in the actual songs we sing, in the hallelujahs we lift; praising Him by all the habits of our life, by the perpetual testimony of our ways as they announce the fact of His being, the fact of His love. That was the first effect the Church produced. Filled with life, light flashed from the eyes of the disciples, songs were on their lips, they magnified the mighty works of God, and the city was compelled to listen. In that hour of Pentecost God created for Himself by the coming of the Spirit through Christ a people for His own praise and glory, a kingdom of priests that they might offer to Him sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving. Unless Pentecost produces in our life fulness of joy and makes us a people filled with praise we are failing sadly. The first function of the Christian Church is that she should be to the praise of God.

In that hour, moreover, God created in the world a great institute of prayer, for the function of the priesthood is not only eucharistic, it is intercessory. By the coming of the Spirit He created a people able to pray. Surely this is what the Apostle meant in his Roman letter when he spoke of creation groaning and travailing in its pain, and then spoke of the Church in the midst of the groaning creation, the Church groaning and travailing together with creation in pain; and at last declared that "the Spirit maketh intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered." The Spirit of God understanding the pain of creation is grieved thereby, sorrow is caused in the very heart of God by the agony of humanity; that Spirit indwelling a company of people interprets to them the agony of creation, so that they enter into a new compassionate sympathy with all the suffering of the world, and thus in the midst of the groaning creation they constitute an institute of prayer. No man can pray for the world unless the Spirit interpret to him the world's agony, and the Spirit cannot interpret the world's agony to any man unless that man live in the midst of the world's agony. Not by retirement from the world, not by hiding away within a monastic institution, not by seeking to develop my own spiritual life by removing myself from the agony of the world, can I ever pray for the world; but because I live every day in the midst of its busy life, am close to it and know it, and because the Spirit of God in me leads me into the secret of the deepest meaning of the world's agony and pain so that I no longer treat it as a superficial disease that can be dealt with by the nostrums of humanity, but as a great heart trouble that needs blood and sacrifice to deal with it, am I able to pray. Out of that revelation of the meaning of the world's agony created by the Spirit in the hearts of believing men they are able to pray. The Church of God in the economy of God was created an institute of prayer.

But more, not for praise alone was the Church created, not alone for prayer, but also for prophecy, in the highest use of the great word, for proclamation. As with lip and life the saints praise, so by lip and life the saints should preach. The Spirit came uniting these men to the Lord, disannulling orphanage and canceling distance to make the risen and ascended Christ a living bright reality. By so doing He enabled these men to speak to the Lord familiarly as those who have constant comradeship with Him, and by so doing enabled them to reveal the Lord of Whom they spoke in tone and temper and habit and speech, and in all activity. Reverently and superlatively, He came to multiply and unite in the perfect Humanity of Nazareth all the scattered members of the one great Christ o'er all the earth that in the case of all of them, and not only in the case of the overseers, bishops, deacons, both by their preaching and their living they might show forth the glory of God and proclaim the power of His great evangel.

In conclusion, let us recognize that our possession of this power of Pentecost depends on our relation to Christ. Glancing at the description which Peter gave of the progress of our Lord toward the heights, we described it as a conflict between sin and grace. The question for our hearts is this, In such conflict, on which side are we? Axe we in true fellowship with God in the determination of His grace to deal with sin in its opposition to the way and will of God, refusing to come in obedience to the revelation of life, refusing to yield ourselves to the claims of the Christ? Such questions must be left unanswered in great assemblies. They are for answer only in the privacy of the individual life.

Perchance the question may be stated in another way. Let it thus be asked in individual lives. What is the influence we exert? The answer to that is the answer to the question whether or not we have this Spirit of Christ. "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." If any man be living still the life of blindness to all the will of God, the life of rebellion against the will of God, the life which in its practical activity refuses to crown Christ, that is demonstration of the fact that such a man lacks the Spirit of God. On the other hand, are we conscious that we have seen the glory, that in some measure at any rate already we have put the crown on the brow of Christ, and that the deepest passion of heart and life is to crown Him and make Him known to others? Then we may take heart and know by that sign that this Spirit of God has been given to us. As to whether we may be living in all the fulness and privilege of the Spirit is another question. The question that demands our earnest attention is, Are we ministers who praise His name in lip and life, do we know the secret of prayer that prevails in the midst of the world's agony, are we proclaiming the evangel in our words and in our works? If not, then let us search our hearts now and discover whether we have been self-deceived and lack the Spirit of God. As the Spirit comes we receive all that we need in order to praise and pray and prophesy. He comes in response to our belief in the living Lord at the commencement; He perpetually comes and proceeds, flowing in, filling and overflowing, in response to the attitude of belief maintained. The celebration of a festival is of no profit save as we yield ourselves to all the facts which we celebrate. May it be ours, then, to know that union with the Lord in life and service which can come only by the presence and power of the Spirit.

158 - Acts 5:32 – Witnesses 

Witnesses

We are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Ghost,
Whom God hath given to them that obey Him.
Acts 5:32

In these words Peter was the spokesman of the infant Church, and he was at once answering a challenge and declaring the solution of a problem. We can appreciate the words at their true value only by remembering the occasion upon which they were spoken. In the context a picture full of life and color is presented to the mind. Two groups of men are seen confronting each other. They constitute a striking contrast. On the one hand are all the men of light and leading and position in Jerusalem, "the high priest... and they that were with him... and the council, and all the senate of the children of Israel." On the other hand are men, not one of them known, save by virtue of their association with Jesus of Nazareth, toiling fishermen of the Galilean Lake, no schoolman in their number, no ruler, no priest. I leave it to your imagination to fill in the details, the magnificent robing of the priest and his friends, the phylacteries, and the faces with that fine expression that tells of culture and of strong and passionate conviction; and, on the other hand, the homespun and simple garments, the rough and rugged splendor of hard-working men, and all the light gleaming from eyes newly illumined.

The high priest has challenged these men, and is strangely perplexed. He has accomplished the death of the troublesome prophet of Nazareth, but a strange story is abroad, told first by the keepers of the grave, and then by the disciples who had been scattered by the crucifixion, that this Jesus is alive, that He has been seen. Of course, he considers it a wild and foolish superstition, but it is having its effect upon both the men who had followed Him in the days of His teaching and those who now heard their preaching. They had flung the ringleaders into prison, and in the morning had gathered together that they might deal with them judicially. The message had come that the prison did not contain the men, but that they were in the temple speaking "all the words of this Life."

And now the apostles stand arraigned before priest and rulers. The priest demands of them how they dare continue to preach in the name of Jesus. Peter speaking here, veritably ex cathedra, on behalf of the whole Church, declared in answer, "We must obey God rather than men."... "We are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Ghost, Whom God hath given to them that obey Him."

That was an answer to the challenge of unbelief within a few weeks after Pentecost. It is the answer to the challenge of unbelief today, or we have no answer. In this verse there is declared the function and the force of discipleship, the mission and the method of the Church. The function is declared in these words, "We are witnesses of these things." The force is announced in the words, "We... and so is the Holy Ghost." The mission of the Church, to witness to these things. The method of the Church, to act in perpetual co-operation with the Holy Spirit. Wherever the Church recognizes this as the function and force of discipleship, as the mission and method of her life, the same results follow as followed in Jerusalem. Wherever the Church wanders from this primitive ideal, the early results are wanting. Wherever the Church, and all the disciples that constitute the Church, remember that the main calling of the Church is witness, and that the one and only power of witness is co-operation with the Holy Spirit, then cities are filled with the doctrine, conviction of sin takes hold upon men. The Pentecostal result follows the Pentecostal method.

You will find in this picture, moreover, a contrast of mental attitude. On the one hand we see "the high priest... and all they that were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees)." Who were the Sadducees? I think, perhaps, there is no safer way to answer the question than to take the Bible declaration concerning them. "The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit." These were the men who challenged the apostles, rationalists, men who denied the supernatural element in religion. Resurrection, angel, spirit, they declared to be superstitions of a bygone age. On the other hand, a group of men who testified to the reality of these very things. Said the Sadducee, there is no resurrection. Said the apostles, Christ is risen. Said the Sadducee, there is no angel. Said the apostles, an angel opened the prison doors you shut, and let us out. Said the Sadducee, there is no spirit. Said the apostles, we have entered into partnership with the Holy Spirit. It was the beginning of the long struggle between rationalism and Christianity, the conflict between the affirmation of the spiritual as real and the declaration that there is no spirit, but that man lives merely in dust.

Rationalism is still saying there is no resurrection, not even of Christ; there are no angels, they belong to pictures, to art, and to little children's fancies; there is no spirit, the mind is everything. When you have said psychic, you seem to have said the last word of human intellectuality at the present moment.

On the other hand, the Church is still saying that Christ rose from among the dead; that angels are all "ministering spirits, sent forth to do service for the sake of them that shall inherit salvation," that men are essentially spirits, and that there is one Holy Spirit of God. These are the declarations of the Church, but how is she to demonstrate the truth of them? The text is answer. "We are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Ghost, Whom God hath given to them that obey Him." Then let us consider these two things, the Church's mission, and the method by which she is able to fulfil that mission.

The Church's mission is declared in that very simple sentence, "We are witnesses of these things." Where do you suppose Peter put the emphasis when he uttered these words? Let me say, first of all, that I am quite sure he did not lay it upon the personal pronoun. He did not say, "We are witnesses of these things." That is where he would have put it before Pentecost, and after Cæsarea Philippi. Not so now. The consciousness of personality expressed in the pronoun is lost in the sense of the importance of the witness to be borne. "We are witnesses."

I do not think we have yet reached the point of the true emphasis. I think if we had heard Peter that day speak we should have heard him lay the emphasis on "these things." What things? "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, Whom ye slew, hanging Him on a tree. Him did God exalt with His right hand to be a Prince and Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and remission of sins." That is the Evangel! Christ is risen. "God... raised up Jesus": Christ was crucified. "Whom ye slew, hanging Him on a tree": Christ is enthroned. "Him did God exalt to be a Prince and a Saviour": Christ is at work, to give repentance to Israel, and remission of sins." The risen Christ, the crucified Christ, the exalted Christ, the working Christ. "These things." "We are witnesses of these things."

That is the Church's mission. The Church does not exist to entertain the masses. She is unequal to competition with the theater. The Church does not exist to educate the masses: she must be interested in education, but this is not her supreme vocation. The Church exists to witness to "these things," the risen Christ, the crucified Christ, the enthroned Christ, the living and working Christ. The world does not want the Church. The Church cannot save the world. The world wants the things that the Church testifies of.

Alas, we have been so anxious about the structure of the lighthouse that we have forgotten often to see that the light is burning. We have been quarreling so busily and with such absolute abandonment concerning forms and garments that we have forgotten the men who wear the garments. We have been more anxious about trappings than about triumph. Find me a man who calls himself a Christian and does not witness to the risen Christ, the crucified Christ, the exalted Christ, the living, working Christ, and he is of use neither to God nor man. Find me a church where the resurrection light is not shining, where the passion of blood is not proclaimed, and the enthroned Lord is not revealed, and the working Lord is not felt, and it is a tomb, an insult to God and to man. "These things," that is the Church's business. "We are witnesses of these things."

Yet let us think of the word "witnesses." A witness is more than a man who talks. Indeed a man may talk and never witness in the New Testament sense of the word. It has been repeatedly pointed out that the word here translated, and translated uniformly throughout the New Testament "witness," is a Greek word which we have anglicized into our word "martyr"; "We are martyrs of these things." What is a martyr? We have come to use the word of such as seal their testimony with their blood. It is a beautiful word for such. When we speak of the "noble army of martyrs," who through flame and fire, through blood and suffering, proved their loyalty to Christ, let us remember that the fires did not make them martyrs. The fires did but reveal them to be martyrs. They were martyrs ere the fires were lit, or they would never have submitted to them. Every day of fiery persecution has been a day when martyrs have been revealed. What, then, is a martyr? He is a confessor. A martyr is one who is first convinced of truth, and then yields his life to the claims of the truth of which he is convinced, and who, therefore, is changed by the truth which he believes, and to which he has yielded himself. So that, finally, a martyr is a specimen, an evidence, a sample, a credential, a proof, a witness. We are the credentials of these things. We are the proof of these things. We say Jesus is risen from the dead. We say the risen Christ is the selfsame Christ Who was crucified. We say this Christ is exalted by God. We say this Christ is at work giving repentance and remission of sins. How are we going to prove these things? We are evidences. We prove the accuracy of our doctrine by the transformation of our lives. The apostle did not merely mean, as he stood in the presence of that august company of rulers and priests, that they bore testimony in words, that they were prepared to argue. He meant rather to say, You deny the resurrection; you deny the value we declare to have been created by the dying of this Christ Whom ye slew; you deny that Jesus of Nazareth is on the throne of God; you deny that He is alive and working in Jerusalem! Go back and think of us as we were, and behold us as we are. We are what we are by virtue of the things we declare. It is by the risen Christ Who was crucified, is exalted, and is at work, that we are what we are. Rationalism has no right to deny the accuracy of the supernatural claims of Christ until it can account for the wonders wrought in men and women who by Christianity have been changed from all that is base to everything that is noble, from being slaves to sin into being bond-slaves of Christ, from being men consumed by lust and passion to men consumed by zeal for the salvation of men and for the glory of God.

That is the supreme value of my text as it reveals the work of the Church. The Church confronts the age with living witnesses. If she has none, she is useless. If she has none, she has no argument. If she is not able to present to the age in all its rationalism and unbelief, men and women changed, remade, she has no argument to which the age will listen. Such a declaration as that reacts upon the heart and conscience of every Christian man or woman, or ought so to do. Am I a witness? I do not mean am I a preacher. Unless behind the preaching of my lips there is the testimony of my life, my preaching is blasphemy and impertinence. Unless my own life is changed and transformed and transfigured, a revelation of the fact of the risen, crucified, exalted, working Christ, my preaching is as tinkling brass and a clanging cymbal. So with all of us. Any recitation of creed is blasphemy unless the creed is alive in conduct. Your affirmation of the truth of the Christian facts is impertinence unless in the very fiber of your personality these things are wrought out and are shining through in revelation upon the age. "We are witnesses of these things."

I get back at last to the personal pronoun. "We are witnesses of these things." Who were they? As I have said, none of them counted at all by any of the ordinary standards of human measurement. They were fishermen. Do you not think that term was often used of them disdainfully in those days? These Galilean fishermen! Yet they were witnesses of such things as made them makers of empire, and revolutionaries who turned the world upside down! Not they, but the things through them. The very simplest of the men who answered the claims of the things, and became transformed thereby, became also a force. There is no man here so weak but that if these things are by him believed, and he by them is changed, he becomes appointed a witness in apostolic succession, in Christly fellowship, in actual co-operation with God, a part of the Divine movement for bruising the head of the enemy, and destroying the works of the devil, and bringing in the triumph of righteousness.

They were poor Galilean fishermen, of no account, of no value in themselves, but they live in the imagination of this age, while the priests are remembered by their garments and their phylacteries and their folly.

Yes, but how did they do it? "We are witnesses of these things: and so is the Holy Ghost, Whom God hath given to them that obey Him." The Spirit is witness of the things of Christ. Jesus ere He left His disciples instructed them concerning the days of His absence, and said of the Spirit, "the Paraclete... shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you.... He shall bear witness of Me,... He shall glorify Me." He declared that the mission of the Holy Spirit would be the interpretation of Himself. For the sake of the truth being remembered let me try to condense that great doctrine of the Spirit into two of the simplest of all sentences, so simple that there will be the same words in both, but differently arranged for the revelation of a different value.

   The Holy Spirit witnesses of Jesus only.
   Only the Holy Spirit witnesses of Jesus.
   
Think of the first. The Holy Spirit witnesses of Jesus only. How we forget it as Christian people! Christian people constantly pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit, and wait for His coming. In their minds there seems to be the idea that when the Spirit comes to them in fulness they will be conscious of the Spirit. There is no evidence of any such teaching in Scripture. If the Spirit come to us in all fulness, He will make us conscious, not of Himself, but of Christ. "He shall not speak from Himself... He shall take of Mine and declare it unto you," said Christ.

I would like to stay with that in all tenderness, because I think there are sincere souls being misled by their own thinking in this regard. It is not long since a young man came to me and said, I do not quite understand my relationship to Christ. I am a little puzzled by it. I have long been praying for the fulness of the Spirit, and waiting for it, and longing for it, and earnestly desiring it. I have heard of others who have received it, but it does not come to me. I began to talk to him, and I found that he thought when the Spirit came in fulness there would be a flash of light and glory, and a thrill and enthusiasm, and consciousness of fire and of the Holy Ghost. It is not so. All the while, through the days, weeks, months of his sincere seeking, this thing had been happening in his experience, Christ was becoming more precious than He was, far more real! The Spirit was there doing His work, unveiling Christ, yet this man did not recognize that the Spirit was fulfilling His one great function. The Spirit comes to witness to Jesus only. Once, tongues of fire and a mighty rushing wind, evidence to the senses of the coming of the Spirit. From that moment, straight on through generations, He has hidden Himself. The Spirit comes to reveal Jesus only. He has no other message, no other work than the unveiling of the face of Christ, in which we see the unveiling of the face of God.

Take my other sentence for a moment and consider it. Only the Holy Spirit witnesses of Jesus. Does this seem to contradict Peter's declaration, "We are witnesses"? By no means. How did they become witnesses? In the hour when they crowned Jesus Lord. Listen, "No man calleth Jesus Lord save by the Holy Spirit." I cannot make you call Him Lord. I can speak of His Lordship, of the perfection of His life, of the passion of His death, of the power of His resurrection, of the program of His reign, and you will hear it all and intellectually consent to the fact that He is Lord, but you never can look into His face and say, "Lord," save as the Spirit of God has unveiled His glory and captured your heart. It is the Spirit of God Who first reveals to the soul the Lordship of Jesus. So these men became witnesses because on the day of Pentecost they had seen Christ as they had never seen Him before. Think of it. They had looked at Christ for three years and had never, never seen Him. They had felt the touch of His human hand and never, never found Him. When the day of Pentecost was come, and the Spirit came as fire and power they saw Him and they became witnesses. Have you seen Him? It is only by the Spirit's unveiling of the face of Christ that He is ever seen, or that men become His witnesses.

When once the Lord has been seen and crowned there is a progressive operation of the Spirit in the life of the believer. The Spirit reveals the Christ to you in some new aspect as you read His Word, as you meditate upon Him, and the moment you see Christ in some new glory, that vision makes a demand upon you. What are you going to do with it? Answer it, obey it, and the Spirit realizes in you the thing you have seen in Christ. Disobey it, and the Spirit has no other message to you until you return to that point of disobedience, and have become obedient. I wonder if you will be patient if for a moment I pass from advocacy to witnessing. I remember with clear distinctness how more than twenty years ago I read a passage in Matthew's Gospel that I had read hundreds of times, but in that moment it flamed and burned before my eyes. It was this, "When He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion." I cannot give you what I saw. No man can pass these visions on. You must only hear me patiently, for the lonely vision is for the lonely soul. In that moment to which my own memory goes back, and which lives with me now, I saw the very heart of the Son of God, I saw that compassion as I had never known it, although I had been saved by it. A vision like that is not merely an illumination of the intellect for the entertainment or delight of the soul that sees it. It is a clarion call, a trumpet blast! It said to me—If you are His, and you share His life, you must answer His passion and be willing to follow Him in service which is sacrificial service. Now, let me drop the personal; granted that any man see that as I saw it that night, two pathways open out before him. It is the Spirit's unveiling of the compassion of Christ to the soul. What will the man do who sees it? He can stifle it, admire it merely, and never answer it, until the vision dim and die away, and the Spirit will have no more to say to him. Or he can answer it, give himself to sacrificial service, be willing to die in service, and then the Spirit will lead him further on to higher heights and deeper depths. That is but one illustration. The Spirit is always unveiling Christ. Your responsibility and mine if we would co-operate with Him in witness is that we obey when He speaks. When Christ is seen in a new light, the light is calling you to obey its claim. Answer it and you will become the thing you have seen. Deny it and you will sink to lower levels. This is His method, line upon line, here a little and there a little, grace for grace, beauty after beauty.

Man, you have never seen Christ, nor have I. I have seen something of Him, like a blind man waking to his first vision I have seen men as trees walking. I have seen more and more of the beauty of my Lord as the Spirit has unveiled Him, but I have never seen all the glory. I could not bear it yet. So little by little the Spirit patiently leads us on. Our responsibility is that when light comes we walk in it. When the trumpet call of truth sounds in our souls we must answer it. The Spirit's office—and He never fails—is to reveal Christ. Our duty is to answer the revelation, and when we do so, the Spirit becomes more than illumination, He becomes dynamic and makes us that which we obey.

Soul of mine, answer the light. Obey the Spirit. Do not resist, do not grieve, do not quench the Spirit, and thou, even thou, poor broken man of the dust, shall be made like Him. What is heaven, I pray you tell? Seeing Him and being like Him. To that goal the Spirit leads.

Now hear me as I say this in conclusion. It is when I act In co-operation with this Spirit Who reveals Jesus only, Who only reveals Jesus, that I become His witness. That brings me back to the emphasis I placed a few moments ago upon the word "witness." I pray you now place the emphasis upon "witness" by linking it with that other Witness. The Spirit witnessing in me, I become the instrument through which the Spirit witnesses to the world. Where? Anywhere. When? Everywhen. God deliver us from the heresy of ever imagining that we witness only when we are in the pulpit, from the heresy of imagining that what the world wants is more preaching. Preaching is of no use save as it makes living witnesses. How have I failed, how awfully have I failed, God have mercy upon me, if I have simply held you and interested you for this hour. But if I have sent you back to your office tomorrow, back to your store, back to your home, back to your place in the government, to be more like Christ, I have hastened the coming of the day of God, I have done something to bring the Kingdom in. He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers—to preach men to heaven? No, no! What, then? To perfect the saints to the work of ministering. The truth I preach is of value in the ultimate issue only as it is incarnate in the lives of the men who listen. London is perishing for lack of living witnesses. The world awaits the evangel of transformed, transfigured lives. Will you be a witness? You say, How can I? The answer is in the text, "the Holy Ghost Whom God hath given to them that obey Him." You have looked into the face of the Lord Christ. Intellectually, you have seen Him and have acknowledged that He is Lord. Crown Him. Submit to Him. Trust Him. Do it with something of heroism, I beseech you. Do it with something of daring, I implore you. The influence of the Church is sadly hindered, the world is sadly hindered by dilettante discipleship. Crown Christ. Obey Him. Cut the last shore rope that binds you to the old life. In the moment that you crown Him the Holy Spirit will baptize you into unity of life with Him, and you will become His witness.

159 - Acts 10:34-35 - Divine Selection 

Divine Selection

Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth Him,
and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to Him.
Acts 10:34-35

The training of the Apostle Peter for the fulfilment of his work in the world may be said to have consisted of a series of revelations of God in Christ, each successive one growing in value and in breadth. When our Lord first met him, he was apprehended by the Personality of Christ. Then, after a period of following Him as one of His disciples; listening to His teaching, watching His work, becoming more and more familiar with the marvel of His Personality; at Caesarea Philippi he made his great confession. Finally, by the way of the resurrection, he came to full apprehension of the truth concerning his Lord; as he himself said in one of his letters, he was born again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through that resurrection and all the glory that followed it, he discovered that Jesus was not only Messiah, according to his interpretation of that word, but that He was the Saviour of His people.

In the story which is told at length in the chapter from which our text is taken, we have the account of how he came to a still larger conception of God through the ministry of Jesus Christ. In the actual words of our text, we have his declaration: "I perceive that God is no respecter of persons."

His first meeting with Christ brought him no conscious vision of God. As he followed his Lord, heard His teaching, watched the wonder of His working, and at last saw that strange cross from which he had shrunk in dismay, transfigured by the glory and triumph of the resurrection, all the old, narrow prejudice concerning men vanished, by reason of the fact that he came to fuller, profounder understanding of the truth about God.

In the house of Cornelius he made still wider discovery, as his own words show. We need to study the declaration with solemnity, for while it breathes the very spirit of hope, it, nevertheless, utters a warning full of solemnity.

Let us hear the simple terms once more, "I perceive that God is no respecter of persons." That is the first matter. The second is: "In every nation, he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to Him." The first declaration sweeps away prejudices and barriers; the second sets up the severest of all tests. "No respecter of persons"; Cornelius the Gentile is to be received; but a respecter of character for the Hebrew by blood and ceremonial who does not fear Him, and does not work righteousness, is not acceptable with Him. The text, then, has its negative and positive values.

If the text were all, it is not characterized by comfort. While it seems as though barriers which we have erected are being swept away by its great and gracious declarations, we suddenly find that it is erecting another barrier. While the standards by which men receive other men are set aside, a new standard is erected, the standard by which God receives men; and while our hearts may at first be filled with comfort as we remember that God is no respecter of persons, if we look carefully at the second part of the declaration, we shall need something else, or we shall go away without comfort and without help. Therefore, let me immediately draw attention to the fact that the text without the context is not the gospel, is not the evangel. There is no good news in it if we remove it from its context. If we follow on, remembering that this declaration of perception on the part of Peter prepared the way for his declaration of the evangel, then we shall see the final value of our text.

Let us first notice particularly what is here revealed concerning the principle of Divine selection; God is "No respecter of persons," but He is the accepter of a certain type of character. Let us secondly consider what this text reveals incidentally concerning human rejection, that where that type of character is lacking, because God is no respecter of persons, He rejects. Finally, let us hear what Peter called the gospel of peace.

We begin, then, with the declaration of the text concerning the principle of the Divine selection. All that is necessary in this connection is emphasis and illustration of the declaration which the apostle made. First: "God is no respecter of persons." Second: "In every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to Him."

"God is no respecter of persons." This we have heard affirmed over and over again. In some senses we believe it; yet it is indeed the most startling and most gracious assertion. God is not a capricious selecter of men upon the basis of anything accidental in their circumstances. Things which appeal to men, make no appeal to God. God is not interested in any man because of his wealth. It is equally true that the poverty of the poor man makes no appeal to Him. No man of wealth is loved by God on account of his wealth. No poor man is more welcome in the presence of God than is the rich man. The morality of the moral—using these words in their commonly accepted sense—makes no appeal to God. Morality in the estimate of heaven is the application of spiritual convictions to everyday life. A great deal of the morality in which men make their boast is simply that habit of life which makes it possible for them to escape the grasp of the policeman. That morality makes no appeal to God. Neither, on the other hand, does the sin of the sinful make appeal to Him. I think that also needs emphasis. I have sometimes felt as though, especially in evangelistic preaching, we are in danger of so preaching the gospel as to lead men to think that it is the man who is steeped in vulgar pollution that makes especial appeal to God. It is not so. The status of the privileged, the destitution of the despised, make no appeal to Him. He does not select persons on the basis of any of the things that are accidental. God has no favourites among men. Temperament, capacity, tendencies, temptations; none of these creates a claim upon the Divine attention. God does not select men of given capacities; poets, artists, students, workers. He knows all these things. He is profoundly interested in them; they are His own creations in the lives of men. God is interested in every man because he is a man. Perhaps here, as everywhere, we may be helped by thinking of our Lord because He revealed the Father. In a certain sense, He never saw the garments that men wore. He was not attracted to a man because upon his brow and around the borders of his garment there were phylacteries of breadth and bulk. He was not repelled by the rags of a beggar. He saw neither the phylacteries nor the rags. The clothing was nothing, the man wearing the clothing was everything.

No man is acceptable to God by reason of any accidental thing. Some of you were born into such circumstances that it has been possible for you to become educated men and women. Some never had that opportunity. God is not attracted by the culture of the educated man. He is not attracted by the ignorance of the ignorant man. He is interested in the man.

He is no respecter of persons. He has no one nation that He loves more than the rest. That was the thing Peter had to learn. It was a surprising thing to Peter. Peter had believed that God loved Israel and no other nation. Upon the rock of that false conception, Israel went to pieces. Today, we often subconsciously imagine that God loves an Englishman better than any other man. Of course we know that it is not true. When the preacher refers to it we smile at it. Then let us remember it. God profoundly loves man because he is man. He is interested in man as man. Incidentals are not noticed. The essential is not only noticed, it is known, watched, dealt with. He is no respecter of persons.

Why all this emphasis? Because we err perpetually, both in thinking of other men and in thinking of ourselves, through interpreting the attitude of God toward humanity by our own attitude toward our fellow men. If you see coming into your assembly, said the practical and ethical writer of the New Testament, a man wearing goodly apparel, and shall hasten to find him the chief seat, you are violating the Christian principle. We still respect persons. If I may say this without being misunderstood, all the method by which the Church is specializing in its work in the homeland is illustration. Special missions for special kinds of men. I will not criticize you if you feel led that way, but I have very little use for the method. Find me a man, apart from the incidentals, of temperament, or birth, or calling in life, or capacity, and I will preach to him, I care not whether he be rich or poor, high or low, learned or illiterate, moral or debased. "God is no respecter of persons." He is interested in man as man; for He sees in every man, despite the purple or the rags, notwithstanding the culture or the vulgarity, His own image, His own likeness. He sees in every human life possibilities which if set in right relation to Himself will be for His glory. He knows that in the life of the man whom we hold in supreme contempt there are vast forces, which if they are rescued, redeemed, remade, will make heaven richer and all the ages more glorious.

Now let us take the second part of this declaration. If we left it there we might be inclined to imagine that the apostle meant that God receives men into fellowship with Himself, in spite of what they are in themselves. It might seem as though God looks at human life in all its incidentals as though the incidentals did not exist, dealing with humanity ideally, and not actually and practically. But that is not the declaration of my text. He selects. I am quite willing to use the other word; He elects. He does accept some, and reject others. There is a condition of life which He respects though He respects no person. There is a condition of life for which He has no respect.

What, then, is the condition that He respects, selects, elects? The apostle tells us. "He that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to Him." Simple words, but as I bring my soul to their test, as I compel my spirit to their measurement, I am appalled. "He that feareth Him." Let me take you back to definitions found in the Old Testament of what that means: "The fear of the Lord is to hate evil." "By the fear of the Lord men depart from evil." The fear of the Lord is a condition of the inward life, producing conduct in the outward life. The condition of the inward life is that of hating evil. The condition of the outward life is that of departing from evil. To fear the Lord is to be pure in heart. To fear the Lord is to be pure in conduct. If a man shall declare that he fear the Lord and love sin, he lies and the truth is not in him. If a man shall declare that he fear the Lord and shall continue in sin, persistently walking in the ways of evil, he is deceiving himself; he never deceives God. "He that feareth the Lord" is he upon whose spirit there forever rests the consciousness of God, in holiness, in truth, in absolute rectitude; a man in whose spirit there is perfect harmony with God. He loves the pure, the noble, the holy, and because of these things, hates the evil. As a result of this inward purity of heart, he departs from evil. Immediately, the second part of the definition follows, he that "worketh righteousness." The man who hates wrong departs from wrong, and does right.

How many of us are acceptable with God on the basis of that conception? All barriers of nationality, position, colour, sex capacity, are swept away, but this is erected. Character is supreme, character according to pattern; and the pattern is that of heart purity expressing itself in the life that departs from evil and does right. God is no respecter of persons, and no accident of birth or environment or temperament can exclude us from His attention, or prevent us from being received. Of whatever nation or people, or tongue or position in society—using the word in our degraded sense of it—we may come to Him; and as we come, the barriers men erect are gone; but a flaming sword is before us, we are halted; only those are acceptable who fear God, and do right. How many of us dare go on?

That leads me immediately to the second thought. In the light of the text, I am brought face to face with the appalling fact of human unfitness and consequent rejection. These are hard and fast lines of Divine requirement. No pity can overlook them. We cannot plead our weakness and folly, or our foolhardiness in the past, as excuse for the things which unfit us for the company and fellowship of God. I would put this case as superlatively as I can, and declare that if God can receive into fellowship with Himself, and hold in respect the impure, the vulgar, the demoralized, then He must be the Author of eternal disorder. It is because He is love, and His love is holiness and rectitude; and because His love is set upon the establishment of high and abiding conditions of life that this standard must be maintained. He cannot admit into His heaven the man in whose heart sin reigns supreme. Where is His heaven? Where He is. In London for the men and women who know Him and live in fellowship with Him. He cannot admit you thereto while evil reigns in your heart and sin is permitted, condoned, excused, persisted in. God help us not to hear this as a theory. It is a flaming fire. The thing in your life, in my life, permitted to remain, which we know is sinful; the evil that we do not hate, but love; the impure thing that we will not depart from, but give room to within the chambers of our personality; these are the things that shut us out from God. I affirm, therefore, that there is no comfort in this text if there be no more than the text.

That once again prompts me to go forward. This is not all that Peter said in the house of Cornelius. The background brings into living relief the gospel message. The sweeping simoon is followed by the gentle wind of God with healing in its every breath. If you think my language is overdrawn, or that there is over-emphasis in it, when I speak of the sweeping simoon, I can only say that that is how I feel. I speak with you more than to you. I will speak alone if you so will. In the sight of heaven I say if that text is all, then I am undone; I am excluded from the company and fellowship of God. I thought I was coming nearer when the Gentile might come as well as the Jew, I thought perchance there was an opportunity for me when I discovered that neither wealth nor poverty make appeal to Him. I was rejoiced to think that perchance I might be admitted to His fellowship when I discovered that it was not the man of special capacity whom He receives; and as I was coming, the light shone, and the word said, "He that feareth Him and worketh right." I am a sinning man, I have done the wrong. I will not waste your time or my own discussing and blaming my environment. I have done the wrong when I need not have done it. I have loved the evil and refused to depart from it. The stain and scar and paralysis of it are with me still. How am I to come? To me the declaration is a sweeping simoon, no song in it, no deliverance in it. It is awful with the awfulness of unsullied holiness, and unbending righteousness; and all I can do is put my hand upon my lip and cry unclean, unclean. I am a sinning man.

Let us hear the apostle finish. What is the next thing that he says? "The Word which He sent unto the children of Israel, preaching good tidings of peace by Jesus Christ"; and then the parenthesis which was necessary, because the word was said to Israel, and he was speaking in the house of Cornelius, "He is Lord of all"; no respecter of persons, rich or poor, bond or free, high or low, He is Lord of all, "That saying ye yourselves know, which was published throughout all Judæa, beginning from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; even Jesus of Nazareth." Why the introduction of that word "even"? Because Jesus of Nazareth is the Word of the gospel.

The declaration already made revealed distance and the necessity for reconciliation between God and man. Peter knew full well that such a declaration would halt the soul, and create a sense of conflict, distance, difficulty, estrangement, and therefore he went on: "the Word which He sent." I wonder sometimes why they have not capitalized that initial letter all through the Acts of the Apostles, "the Word which He sent." What is that? "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God... and the Word became flesh." The Word that was sent.

Let us group the things he said about the Word. He was perfect Man. He was anointed with the Holy Ghost and with power, and went about doing good. He was crucified. He was raised from the dead. He is appointed to judge. The perfect One, Who died, rose, and is Judge. And all this for what purpose? To grant unto men remission of sins. That is the gospel.

Let us see what it means in the light of the declaration of our text. God is no respecter of persons, but He does accept the man who fears Him and works righteousness, Now behold the Man. Here is the Type, the Pattern, the Revelation. This Man went about doing good. He feared God and hated evil; He departed from evil, and wrought righteousness. Mark, I pray you first of all, this great fact, that in the Person of Jesus presented by Peter upon this occasion you have the fulfilment of the ideal suggested in our text. He feared God and wrought righteousness. Do I need to stay to prove it? Surely not! I need hardly stay to illustrate it. Think of the life of Christ and see how true it is. He feared God and hated evil. He was "tempted in all points like as we are, sin apart." "Which of you convicteth Me of sin?" Such was the negative challenge which His purity made. Here is its positive challenge. "I do always the things that are pleasing to Him." He "went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil." Doing good, when? Always. That means He wrought miracles? Oh no, that is specifically stated afterwards. He went about doing good, all the time, everywhere, and in the records I challenge you to find me a single picture of Him when He was not doing good. Look through the window that Mark has opened for us, and see Him during the long years in Nazareth making yokes and ploughs and building houses, for the carpenter in Nazareth was the builder also; He was doing good as surely there, as when presently in the midst of the crowds He spoke and devils fled; He touched, and diseases vanished; He whispered, and the dead woke; doing good, doing right. A human life in the midst of my circumstances, in the midst of my temptations; but adjusted to the measurements of eternity, taking into account the infinite and eternal. That is the Pattern, and if that is all, I am more than ever filled with fear. The abstract terminology of my text appals me. The living revelation of that ideal paralyzes me with panic. I cannot so live. Oh my masters, you who tell me in this day that all I need to do is to preach Christ as an Example, you have never seen Him. I say that without any apology or reserve. The man who tells me that all I have to do is to follow Him, imitate Him, has never seen His glory. The perfection of the Son of God captures my mind, compels my admiration, and paralyzes my hope!

Is there anything else? Yes, there is another thing. They slew Him. But, there is still something more. God raised Him. The light of the resurrection flashes back upon the cross. I do not understand it. There is an awful, appalling mystery in the cross. I see more and more of its shame. I feel more and more the profundity of its agony. But there are depths I cannot fathom, heights I cannot reach, mysteries that overwhelm me. God raised Him. The light of resurrection is flashed upon the cross, the cruel, rugged, bloody cross has become beautiful with the promise of new life. I, rejected by the severity of God's holiness, see myself in the mystery of that dying; but I see my salvation in the triumph of that rising.

Preaching peace, this is the great evangel. Peace by the way of the cross. That risen One is demonstration of the fact that the cross is infinitely more than we can encompass by human measurement. It is a transaction with God, and of God; and God's final act is the resurrection, and in the words of Peter, the risen One is made "Judge of the quick and dead."

Oh trembling heart, affrighted by the severity of God's holiness, behold your Judge! He is wounded in hands and feet and side. I come to Him and look into His face, the face awful with the awfulness of holiness, and that shames me; yet I look at Him again and say, "Who loved me, and gave Himself for me"; and I am loosed from my sins through the mystery of what He is, and what He has done.

At that point I may begin my new life. Now I dare go back to my text. That is the character, and God has not abandoned it; He is still seeking it, but He has provided the force that will realize it in men who lack it.

Would God that the truth might take possession of your heart. You listen to me patiently, reverently, and say, I am with the preacher, I also have sinned. Then hear the preacher to the end, as he declares the whole message of the text. You can be all God demands through Jesus Christ the Lord. He will give you first of all in the deepest of your life the fear of God which will make you hate evil. Is it not so? Are there not hundreds of men and women who hate evil? The struggle is not over; the conflict is going forward; the battle is often fierce against the allurements and temptations of the world; but in the deepest of them there is the master-principle of the hatred of evil. Already they are beginning to depart from it. The principle of goodness is there, because Christ is there. Let Him have possession and He will never end until He lead you, and lead me, hopeless, helpless people; and present us in the unsullied and awful light of the holiness of God, without spot or blemish.

Let us submit to His measurement, and we shall be ashamed and condemned. Let us yield to Him, and we shall be remade and shall triumph.

160 - Acts 16:25-26 - Songs in Prison 

Songs in Prison

... about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns unto God, and the prisoners were listening to them; and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison-house were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened; and every one's bands were loosed.
Acts 16:25-26

This is an arresting and wonderful story, and the more carefully it is considered the more the wonder grows. At first we wonder at the singing. Then we wonder so much at that which inspired the singing, that we should wonder more if these men had not sung. At first we are amazed with the cheerfulness and heroism of these men, and then we find out that their singing was not abnormal but normal. It was not the result of a transient emotion. It was the expression of a constant experience of the soul.

Let us, then, first look at the picture presented by these two verses; second, recognize the one central value of the story in order that third and finally, we may consider some of its particular teaching.

These are the things that arrest attention. First the men, Paul and Silas, then the circumstances in the midst of which we see them, then their occupation in the midst of the circumstances and finally, the issue of the story as it is contained in all that remains of the chapter.

Paul and Silas were Jews and were held in contempt in Philippi because they were Jews, as is most evident from this story. Yet, as emerges in the course of the story, they were Roman citizens. But preeminently they were Christians, the one an apostle and the other a prophet.

Their ministry and their message necessarily challenged effete Judaism and paganism wherever they came. They were calling men to a new way of life both as to ideal and power. Consequently, wherever they went they created disturbances. "... These that have turned the world upside down have come hither also!" That is always the note of true Christianity. It always challenges effete religions and paganism. Organized Christianity which fails to make a disturbance is dead. It is equally true that they created love for themselves wherever they came. What tender heart affections fastened around this man Paul!

Now observe their circumstances at this time. "But about midnight...." That disjunctive sends us back as it suggests all that had gone before. They had been charged with sedition. They had been beaten with many stripes. Beating with rods was a terrible experience. When Paul was writing to the Corinthians, he referred to such beatings as amongst the things he had endured. "Thrice was I beaten with rods...." It was physical brutality of the worst kind. Their backs were bruised and bleeding and unwashed. They were cast into the inner prison, some inner chamber or dungeon from which light was excluded and probably almost all air was shut out. The final barbarity was that their feet were made fast in the stocks. All that before the "But." Immediately following it are the words, "At midnight!" That accentuates everything. It accentuates the loneliness, the weariness, the suffering.

We now come to that which is central; the occupation of these men. They were praying and singing hymns. This is not a description of two exercises. It does not mean that they were offering petitions and also singing hymns of praise. The word translated praying covers the whole ground of worship; asking for gifts, rendering of adoration, continued supplication, offering of thanksgiving. In this story the word "worship" is qualified by the word that follows. They were hymning the praises of God. The Greek word here employed is one that had long been reserved to represent the praises offered to heroes or gods or to the one God. The worship of these men was that of adoration. It was the expression of the gladness of their hearts. Two were gathered together in the Name and in the midst was the Lord; all unseen by the eyes of sense, unapprehended by any who were round about, undiscovered even after the jailer himself had come back to look at the prisoners. That Presence was the supreme sense of these men. They did not ask for anything, they gave. They were exercising their Christian priesthood on its highest level, which is not intercessory but eucharistic, the priesthood of thanksgiving. In the dungeon, in the darkness of the night, their feet fast in the stocks, their backs all bloody, they offered praises. They gave and their giving was the outcome of their gladness.

Immediately we ask, "What was there to make them glad?" I am inclined to answer the inquiry by saying that if we had asked them they probably would have said, "Nay, what is there to make us sad?"

Finally, we must glance at the issues. The prisoners were listening! Here again a word arrests us. It indicates attentive listening. It is a word that is almost invariably employed for that listening which gives pleasure, the word used when men listened to perfect music and were charmed by its sounds, or when men listened to some oration that swept them away.

In all this story there is revealed that which is peculiarly Christian, the victory of the soul over all adverse circumstances and the transmutation of all opposing forces into allies of the soul. Think of some of the sayings of this man Paul who sang that night. He (in paraphrase) says: "Tribulation worketh patience, therefore rejoice in tribulation." He says: "Afflictions work a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, therefore we will rejoice in our afflictions." Yet again he says: "Godly sorrow worketh repentance." These are all the things from which the soul of man shrinks; tribulation, affliction, sorrow! These things are made the allies of the soul, they work on behalf of the soul. Out of tribulation comes patience which leads on to confidence and hope of ultimate victory. Afflictions which can be dismissed in the light of eternity as light afflictions, which are but for a moment, are seen working out the weight of glory. Sorrows of the soul are working toward the change of mind which means its transformation into perfect harmony with the mind of Christ Himself. This is the central value of the story. This is the central truth concerning Christian experience.

What then was the secret of this experience in the case of these men? It was the outcome of their knowledge of God. He was known as compelling all things to work together for good to those who love Him. The experience is not stoicism. The Christian man does not say: "What cannot be cured must be endured." I am afraid I have often said it, but when I have done so, it has been because for the moment I have forgotten my Christianity. To say that what cannot be cured must be endured is paganism. It is wonderful that paganism ever climbed to that height. It is a great attitude, it is heroic up to a certain point, but it is not Christianity. Christianity does not say what cannot be cured must be endured; it says, rather, that these things must be endured because they are part of the cure. These things are to be cheerfully borne because they have the strange and mystic power to make whole and strong and so to lead on to victory and the final glory. Christianity is never the dour pessimism which submits. Christianity is the cheerful optimism which cooperates with the process, because it sees that through suffering and weakness, joy and triumph must come. That always and only results from a clear vision of God. Wherever this clear vision of God comes to the soul through Christ—through Whom alone it can come—there follows the ending of bondage to all secondary causes, and the sense of relationship to the primary and final cause is supreme. Two men were in Philippi, in prison, in the inner prison, in the stocks, in suffering, in sorrow! All true, but the final thing is not said. They were in God! Their supreme consciousness was not that of the prison, or the stocks, or the pain, but of God. They were not callous or indifferent; pain was pain to them; confinement was confinement; loneliness was loneliness; but they realized how all these things were yet held in the grasp of the King of the perfect order, Whom they knew as their Lord and Master and, consequently, they sang praises. They did not ask for anything, not even for an earthquake. They gave Him praises. That is Christianity. Because of this vision of God and because of this sense of the soul, the experiences which otherwise would have depressed and led to despair became wings of hope, the inspiration of song.

All this took place at midnight! That accentuates all the difficulty, the loneliness and weariness and pain. Yet the phrase is not really "At midnight." This very slight alteration in the Revised Version is not to be passed over lightly. "About midnight!" To these men midnight was not a definite moment at all. Midnight is never a stopping place. It is coming, and lo! it is gone before we know it. Time is transfigured. There is no long, deadly moment with all the agony of eternity pressed into it to these men. They are traveling, and they are traveling in the spirit of the hymn:

   We are marching through Immanuel's ground
    To fairer worlds on high.
    
Through Immanuel's land; not to Immanuel's land, but through it. John Bunyan puts the river his pilgrim had to cross in Immanuel's land. The pilgrim did not cross the river to reach Immanuel's land; the river was in it and ere he knew it, he had passed the river. So to these men all these things were in Immanuel's land. Midnight, that deadly hour, that most terrible hour, wherein some people seem forever to dwell; anticipation of it makes it a perpetual presence, and the memory of it an abounding agony. But for these men there was no such actual time. It was about midnight, and then they sang, and they sang praises to God.

What then are the things of value here for ourselves? In attempting to answer this inquiry let us keep our mind upon these men. First, we learn that men who sing while they suffer are men who have learned the profound secret that suffering is the method by which joy is perfected. That declaration is limited by human history as we know it. I am not prepared to say that we can make a statement like that, and apply it to the whole universe of God. It is conceivable that there may be abounding joys in God's great universe that have never been reached through suffering. I cannot tell. I do not know. I do not ask to know. I am dealing with humanity as the result of our own experience and in the light of the biblical unveiling. Suffering is always the method by which joy is perfected. In the midst of the Paschal discourses our Lord said: "... your sorrow shall be turned into joy." That is an entirely different thing from saying that your sorrow shall be exchanged for joy. Without desiring for a moment to be censorious in criticism, yet it is true that half our hymns suggest that we should look on to heaven where we shall find a joy which is a compensation for the sorrows of life. There is truth in that view, but it does not get to the heart of the Christian revelation. The truth is that all the ultimate joys of the heavenly state are joys that have come out of the agonies of the earthly tribulation. Is that a startling thing to say? Then listen to these most revealing words: "... Who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising shame...." With infinite reverence I say that He had never reached that joy save through His sorrows. That which was wrought out in the experience of our Lord on our behalf is a revelation of what all this pain means—this abounding, palpitating, poignant agony. Your sorrow shall be turned into joy. Again and again we have glimpses of it, outworking into the present of immediate experience. Look back over the years. There they are, travel-worn years; much of light is upon them, but much of darkness also; many days of triumph, marching with the band playing and the flags flying, and many days of disaster and defeat. Already you know that the greatest things of life have come, not out of the sunlit days, but out of the darkened hours. Your sorrow has already been turned into joy. When your sorrow that seemed unendurable at the hour, blossomed with beauty, your sorrow was turned into joy. Christianity as an experience is the ability to know that this will be so even while the agony is upon us, and so we are able to sing in the midst of it. Men who sing while they suffer are men who have learned the profound secret that suffering is the method by which joy is perfected in human life and human history.

But again, men who sing in prison are men who cannot be imprisoned. It was impossible to imprison Paul and Silas. But they were imprisoned. They could be shown in that prison, in that inner chamber, with their feet fast in the stocks. Ah, but they were not imprisoned. Fellowship with God is the franchise of eternity. You may put these men within your stone walls, you may make their feet fast in the wood of your brutal stocks, but they are not there. They are sitting with Christ in the heavenly places. They are ranging themselves with the living ones. They are swinging the censers of their heavenly priesthood in high and holy places. As to bodily presence, they are there in the prison, but as to spiritual essence they are with God. Men who sing in prison are men who cannot be imprisoned.

Therefore we may add: men who sing at midnight are citizens of that city of which it is said they need no light of sun or moon, for the Lord and the Lamb are the light of it. But they are in Philippi! Yes, as to bodily presence but not as to spiritual experience. Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees to find a city but never found it. He died without seeing it. Those who have followed in his steps have still been seeking it. It has never been found. It is not found yet. But it is clearly seen; it will be built; it will be established. Abraham lived in it though he never saw it; he walked its streets though it was never built; he held communion with its inhabitants though he never reached it. Paul and Silas, where are you living just now? In Philippi? No, in the City of God! In the City of God there is no night. These men were children of light, they were stars of the morning, and the morning stars sang together long ago, and they will sing together through all earth's midnight until the last shadow is melted. Men who sing at midnight are citizens of the city in which there is no night.

And finally, men who sing when their work is stopped are men whose work is never stopped.

They have put Paul in prison. His beloved work is stopped. He cannot preach in prison. But they sang praises, and the prisoners were listening. A man who can sing in prison is a man whose work is never done. When the missionary journey has to be abandoned and the preaching services are all canceled and there is nothing more to do, he will sing and the prisoners will hear his singing. The singing of a prisoner is a message to prisoners and they will listen. I cannot go any further. I do not know what happened to those prisoners afterwards. If you will allow the speculation, I believe that some of them were brought to Jesus Christ as the result of that singing. Cancel that if you do not agree. At least one man was won for Christ; the hard brutalized man who had been able to put these men in the stocks in the inner prison and leave them all bleeding from the rods and faint with loss of blood. He had left them and gone to sleep. He was asleep. If you want to know how brutalized he was, get that upon your heart. What is the next thing we see him doing? Washing their stripes, his whole nature revolutionized, his whole being completely changed with a suddenness equal to that of the earthquake that shook the prison to its foundations. He is washing their stripes; he is putting food before them. Men who sing in prison when their work is stopped are given to see that their work is never stopped; it runs on through bondage to liberty, and the gospel is preached anew.

All I have so far said has had to do with one verse of my text. There is another verse. "... suddenly there was a great earthquake; so that the foundations of the prison-house were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened; and every one's bands were loosed." That was very wonderful, but we will not dwell upon it. I made it part of the text in order to say that it does not matter. It does not at all affect our story. It does not rob from it; it does not add to it. The glory of our consideration is in the other verse. That earthquake does not always come. We shall miss a great deal if we imagine that when we are in prison and sing, there will be an earthquake. Prison doors may not be opened at all. Thousands have been left in prison and died there, but they sang, and they sang through until they joined the new song on the other side. That earthquake does not matter. Do not let us fix our minds upon the earthquake. Probably we shall never have a deliverance like that. That is not the point of the story at all. Two or three years passed away and Paul was in prison in Rome, and then he wrote to these very people, to this jailer, and these Philippians. Read his letter, the letter he wrote to these very people from another prison. It is a song from beginning to end. He was still singing, and there was no earthquake. But probably he was liberated. Yes, I agree. Possibly he expected to be liberated. Indeed, he surely did as that letter shows. But he was not singing because he was to be liberated. Read the letter through, and you will see that the inspiration of his song was not the expectation of deliverance. It was the realization while he was in prison of the fact that he was a prisoner of Jesus Christ. That is the secret of the singing in the Philippian letter. That sense of relationship to Jesus Christ transfigured everything else. The chain? He looked at it, but it flashed with light. He was the prisoner of Jesus Christ. Let us go on. Presently, he was in prison again, and he was never coming out, and he knew it. His last writing was the letter of a man in prison never to escape. He knew it perfectly well. Things had not gone well with him in the first part of his trial, and he was assured that the issue of the second part of it would be death. How then did he write? What is he doing? Listen to him for a moment:

For I am already being offered, and the time of my departure is come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day; and not to me only, but also to all them that have loved His appearing.

He was singing still; still an anthem, still a paean of praise!
They were very dark days. Listen!

Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me:... Demas forsook me, having loved this present world, and went to Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee; for he is useful to me for ministering. But Tychicus I sent to Ephesus. (It is colder here.) The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, bring when thou comest, and the books, especially the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil....

Do you see the conflicting circumstances? Was he singing now?

At my first defence no one took my part, but all forsook me: may it not be laid to their account. But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me; that through me the message might be fully proclaimed, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. The Lord will deliver me from every evil work, and will save me unto His heavenly kingdom: to Whom be glory for ever and ever....

He was singing still. Ah yes! and the singing that we have listened to in Philippi was before the earthquake. He had no idea that the earthquake was coming. He did not sing because he was to be let out of prison. He sang because prison did not matter.

   Your harps, ye trembling saints,
    Down from the willows take;
   Loud to the praise of Love divine,
    Bid every string awake.
   His Grace will to the end,
    Stronger and brighter shine;
   Nor present things, nor things to come,
    Shall quench the spark divine.
   When we in darkness walk,
    Nor feel the heavenly flame,
   Then is the time to trust our God,
    And rest upon His Name.
   Blest is the man, O God,
    That stays himself on Thee!
   Who wait for Thy salvation, Lord,
    Shall Thy salvation see!

161 - Acts 17:29 - Humanity and Deity 

Humanity and Deity

Being then the offspring of God.
Acts 17:29

The text occurs in the course of the address which Paul delivered on Mars Hill. I am quite conscious that Paul has been somewhat criticized for the method he adopted at Athens. It has been said that he attempted to adapt himself to local conditions and surroundings and signally failed. Moreover, it has been affirmed that when presently he wrote to the Corinthian Christians, and said, "I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified," he was in his own mind reflecting upon the mistake he had made when, coming to Athens, he had attempted to speak to the Athenian listeners in a language which they would be most likely to understand. I have made reference to this view of Paul's attitude simply to say that I hold it to be utterly unwarrantable and false. He always manifested his great sense of the need of adapting the manner of his message to the men who listened, while he was careful never to change its essential note or lower its highest claim by one single hair's breadth. I submit to you that when he wrote to the Corinthians, "I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified," he neither intended to put his message to them into comparison with his method at Athens, nor did he mean that the only message he had to deliver to men anywhere was the message of the cross. His reason for so writing was that they were still living a carnal life, and he could not pass away from the first principles of Christianity because they had not made response to the claims of that earliest declaration. The cross was not Paul's ultimate and final message. "It is Christ Jesus that died, yea rather, that was raised from the dead." All the spaciousness of his message was created by the fact that while he never forgot the fundamental truth of Christianity, that of the cross, he left the first principles and passed on to the perfection of teaching as he attempted to lead men to see how in resurrection life they had possession of all that was necessary for the realization of the purpose of God within them.

If Paul's method at Athens is not to be criticized, it must be examined and understood. I ask you to notice that in the words of the text, "Being then the offspring of God," the Apostle was reaffirming the truth of which these people were already in possession intellectually. He was protesting against their attempting to make to themselves likenesses of God. His whole spirit had been stirred within him as he found them to be not—as the Authorized Version incorrectly rendered it—"too superstitious," but "very religious." He discovered all through Athens evidences of the religious character of the people. That was the great thing which moved his heart. Their deep, underlying interest in religion was manifest in their temples, their altars, their idols. So much was this so that they had even erected an altar to "the unknown god." Recognizing the underlying religious capacity of the Athenians, Paul protested against the way in which they were attempting to satisfy it. He tells them God "is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live, and move, and have our being." This "unknown god" to whom you have erected an altar I declare unto you. You have said that I am "a setter forth of strange gods." I am the setter forth of the God to Whom you have already erected your altar. "He is not far from each one of us... as even certain of your own poets have said. For we are also His offspring."

Of set purpose, quietly and deliberately he reaffirmed this truth, and proceeded to make the application which was necessary at the moment. "Being then the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone," that is, we ought not to imagine that we can make something like Him of something which is less than ourselves. When you make likenesses of God in gold or silver or stone, you degrade the God Whom you yet know to be the One of Whom you are the offspring. So much for the setting of the text.

I bring you this message today, although its application is a different one. Being then the offspring of God, ye ought not to degrade yourselves by being satisfied with anything less than that which Christ laid down as the supreme and final injunction of His ethic, "Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Being then the offspring of God, the one true passion of every human life ought to be to become like Him, and so to be true to the underlying fact and force of personal life.

It is a great truth, though I am inclined to say, improperly used by some people. False deductions have been made from it, and still are being made, and because improperly used by some, it is feared by others. I believe that as we see this truth individually, we shall be prepared to listen to the call of Christ to come to Him for life; as we understand this truth collectively we shall be busy in the enterprise of making known the great Evangel to the men at home and in the far distant places of the earth. I do not hesitate to say that it is this conviction which is the driving inspiration of all my life and ministry and work.

Man is the offspring of God. What is this word "offspring"? It occurs about twenty times in the New Testament and is translated in seven ways. It is translated "race" seven times. It is translated "offspring," as in our text, three times; "kinds," three times; "kind," twice; "countrymen," twice; "stock," twice, and "kindred," once. You will at once see that running through all these words there is one thought, or one particular quantity, and it is to that I desire to draw your attention. I think perhaps we come nearer to the true sense of the Greek word here translated "offspring" by using the Latin word which has come into the common speech of today, genus. A genus includes all the species which, differing in proportion and color, are yet of the same life essence, and there you have the thought in the word translated "offspring."

I shall do no violence to the text if I change the word and say the poets declared and Paul reaffirmed that man is kin of God, that by first creation he is intimately related to God. Man is not in any essential power of his personality the creation of the devil. Man is in every essential power of his personality the creation of God. Every man is a thought of God, created, wrought out into visibility. Every man is made, according to the teaching of Scripture, in the likeness of God, in the image of God, and every man has entered into the power of his own life by the inbreathing of the breath of God. The life I live now—I am not speaking of my Christian life, that inner mystic life which gave me a new vision and a new understanding, and a new capacity for realizing myself—I am speaking of my first life—call it natural if you will—is God created. It is life which is kin to the life of God, so that when I am told that all humanity is of God, I am told that which is perfectly true according to the teaching of Scripture. Yet, let us follow this. Where does it lead us?

There are three lines I shall attempt to follow. First, the evidences of Deity in humanity. Second, the failure of the Divine in the human, and, finally, the restoration of man to God. To omit any one of these is to omit something of Christian truth and doctrine. To begin by the declaration of man's restoration to that which he has never lost is illogical and foolish. To begin by declaring that man has failed to realize the possibility of his own being, and to deny the possibility is again illogical. On the other hand, to begin by declaring that man is essentially kin of God, and to deny the fact of wrong and sin and evil, is to contradict the common experience of every man who has lived an ordinary life in the midst of the things of this world. The three things are necessary if we would understand what Christ has to say to this and every age concerning man.

First, then, the evidences of Deity in humanity. When Wordsworth sang

   Trailing clouds of glory do we come

   From God who is our home

he sang as one of the seers. A study of humanity in the light of God's self-revelation results in an almost overwhelming mass of evidence for the kinship of man to God. The ultimate conviction of such consideration is that all the essentials of humanity are kin to Deity. Only the accidentals are unlike God. Do not read into my word accidental anything less than ought to be in it. An accident may be a tragedy, a catastrophe. Only the accidentals are unlike God. Take some few of the evidences.

You will find in every human being a passion for life.

Have you ever asked yourself what the passion for life really means? How is it that everywhere, in all circumstances, in all ages, all men manifest a hunger for life; that the deep cries of humanity which are recorded for us in the simple terms of Holy Scripture are the cries of humanity everywhere; that when the young ruler looked into the face of Jesus and said, "Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit age-abiding life?" he was simply speaking out of the depth of his humanity? He was saying what every man says sooner or later. Wherever you find a human being you find a being in revolt against death asking for life. What is this passion for life? It is born of the consciousness of the infinite. It is born of the fact that in the soul of man there is a profound consciousness from which he never escapes, of the fact of age-abiding life. His mind encompasses infinitely more than he can understand. He tells you he cannot grasp the thought of the infinite either as to time or space; but the man who knows a thing is unknowable has grasped that thing. In the moment when I know that I stand at the center of infinite reaches and stretches and forces, there is born within me a passion to hold, to possess, to grasp. It is that which puts man into the attitude of revolt against death.

Wherever you go you will find men characterized by a passion for dominion. The campaigns of humanity demonstrate the truth of it. Man is forevermore attempting to win his territory and reign over it. Wherever you find me a man determined to hold the scepter I show you one of whom the psalmist sang long ago. "Thou hast made him but little lower than God"—for dominion. The passion for dominion which is in the human heart is demonstration of man's relation to God.

Again, wherever you find man, you find a thirst for knowledge. If you have any children in your home and will listen to them you will learn wonderful lessons. You will find in those days when they are first beginning to talk that the words which most often pass their lips are "Why?" "How?" "What?" In asking these questions the child proves its capacity for knowing, and if you will follow that child through all its years, to youth and manhood and even old age, you will find it asking the same questions. Man is asking to know. He begins as a little child: "Why do flowers grow, mother?" and when he is an old man he has not answered that question unless he has listened to Christ as He says to him, "Consider the lilies of the field. They toil not, neither do they spin, yet your Father garbs them with a glory which Solomon never knew." That is the answer. Christ summarizes all truth about knowledge when he says, "This is life eternal, that they should know Thee, the only true God, and Him Whom Thou didst send, even Jesus Christ." Wherever you see a man seeking knowledge—he may be seeking it wrongfully, but the fact that he seeks it demonstrates him the offspring of God.

Again, take man's eagerness to create. All the inventions of the centuries demonstrate man's eagerness to make a new thing. The artist will tell you that art is a passion for creation. The passion for the new is always evidence of man's desire to create. It may be journalism, it may be theology. Man, foolishly, or otherwise, is after the making of something new. The passion for creation is demonstration of man's kinship to God.

Take yet another illustration. The appreciation of beauty which you will find everywhere in the world is demonstration of the same thing, whether in art, sculpture, poetry, or music. Of course, I take it for granted that no one will say to me, "What has beauty to do with God?" If you do ask that question, I remind you of the words of the ancient prophet who, in an ecstasy of worship cried out, "How great is His goodness, and how great is His beauty." The admiration of beauty is everywhere. It is demonstration of the fact that humanity is offspring of God.

Take another illustration on a higher level. Man's admiration for goodness. You say, "Is that universal?" Absolutely universal. Remember, I said "admiration"! I do not mean that all men are good. Far from it. I do mean that you cannot find me a man in all the circle of your acquaintanceship who in the deepest of him does not admire goodness. He may affect not to admire it, but in the deepest of him he knows that it is high and noble. It is there—the conviction of the goodness of goodness, the beauty of holiness.

Once again, man's capacity for love is an evidence of his relationship to Deity.

None of these things has come into human life as the result of the influence of sin, evil, and the devil. All these are found in humanity as a whole. In some measure they are found in every man. In some men some one essential is more prominent than the others. These facts are demonstrations of the truth which the poets sang and which Paul reaffirmed, that man is the offspring of God.

If I sent you away with that as the only message I should be false not only to the Bible, but to all your experience. Think for a moment of the failure of the Divine in the human. When Heber sang

   Where all the prospect pleases
   And only man is vile,
   
he uttered the most tragic and awful truth. He sang a thing we would fain blot out of our hymnbooks, but we dare not. It is true. It is when I see man in his magnificence as offspring of God that I really understand his ruin. It is the sense of man's true kinship to God which reveals his awful failure as nothing else can do. Inter-human comparison may satisfy me, but this dignity of which I have been speaking demonstrates the degradation which I find all about me. If man is not kin of God in specific and special manner by creation, what is he? If he be merely of the dust and only of the dust, only so much related to God as the flowers are related to God, I quit my preaching. If that is all the truth about man, then man is doing very well. If indeed man is the outcome of the dust by the force of the one life common in the flower and man and God, then let me find an honest occupation; because man is climbing up, let me leave him to his climb. Why should I interfere? If that be true, there may still be room for the ethical cult, but the vocation of preaching the Evangel is a past vocation, and has been a ghastly mistake and an awful failure. But when I see in every human face the stamp of the image of God, and when I know that man is more kin of God than any other form of creation, then I begin to see man's degradation, and in every one of the illustrations I have taken to prove man's relation to Deity I have evidence of man's failure in that respect. Man's passion for life is confronted with the necessity for death, and he cannot by any means escape. Man's desire for dominion is defeated by a sense of slavery. The thirst for knowledge is intensified by the feverishness of agnosticism. Agnosticism never has been and never can be an intellectual resting place. No man who is an intellectual can rest there. He may have to declare his agnosticism, but it will make him more than ever restless. If he be indeed intellectual his thirst for knowledge is forever answered by a point beyond which he cannot go, until the Word of God has spoken the mystic secret in his ear.

Man's eagerness to create is ever unsatisfied in that nothing is ever new. The love of the beautiful is ever conscious of an unattained beauty, and here is the principal point, the admiration of goodness is the agony of inability to realize. Is it true that men everywhere see how good goodness is? It is equally true as Paul wrote—and he voiced not merely a theological creed but the actual experience of life—"The good which I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I practice." If it is true that when a man takes strong drink he is engaged in a quest for God—and I believe it is true—is he finding God that way? The man stooping over the stagnant pool is seeking water, but is he finding water? Is it not unutterable folly for that man to attempt to satisfy his thirst with the water of the stagnant pool when the living streams are gushing from the rock just at hand. All these are demonstrations of a degradation which needs some power to lift it. In every human life there is this paralysis. There is the vision of goodness but no virtue that can translate the vision into history. The capacity for love is ever suffering for lack of the final center. The sum total is failure. All fail in greater or less degree in every man. Flaming exceptions are all partial. Every demonstration of man's kinship to God is evidence of his degradation, his failure.

What message has the Christ of the New Testament to this double fact in human life? I make my answer first by saying that Christ recognizes the double fact. It was His recognition of the double fact which created the passion of His heart. When He saw the multitudes as sheep without a shepherd He saw them in their ruin, and at the back of the ruin He saw the Divine intention. Let no man imagine that he has recently discovered the fact of man's relationship to God. Christ proclaimed it long ago. He saw not merely the great capacity, He saw also its paralysis, and His heart was moved with compassion in the presence of it. The whole meaning of Christ's mission in the world is that He addressed Himself to the two facts, the fact of man's kinship to God, and the fact of man's degradation. When Isaac Watts sang,

   In Him the sons of Adam boast
   More blessings than their father lost,
   
he sang a solo with all the infinite harmonies of the Evangel sounding behind and through it. Jesus confronts man in his kinship and ruin and makes possible the realization of the kinship of God by the negation of the forces of wrong which have brought man to the place of degradation. How does He do it?

First, consider this fact. The things I have said of man are true of Christ in part, but only in part. The things I said first of man are all true of Him. The things I said of man secondly are not true of Him. Remember that first of all He realized all that which man feels himself capable of by creation, and yet never can realize in actual experience. Men feel the passion for life. Jesus possessed it so that He could say, "No one taketh it away from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again." They are words He actually uttered. If I cannot understand all the depth of their meaning, I can understand the first simplicity of them, and in that simplicity I find that Christ declares that no man can take His life from Him. In the laying down of it He will do it voluntarily and take it again. Did He take it again? On your answer to that question depends your relation to the Christian fact. If you say, No, then He did not rise. "Then is our preaching vain, your faith also is vain... we are of all men most pitiable." If you say Yes, He did take it again, then His taking of it again demonstrates the fact that He laid it down and that no man could have taken it from Him had it not been His will to lay it down.

Man seeks dominion: He exercises dominion. Standing once upon the mountain heights, Christ said to a group of fishermen, "All authority hath been given unto Me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all nations." They started, and all the triumphs of Christianity have been won in the name and power of Christ. He rose from the dead and grasped the scepter of universal empire.

We speak of knowledge and the desire to know. Our knowledge is limited. Jesus said, "This is the age-abiding life, to know God." He also said, "Father, I have known Thee." He possessed the ultimate secrets. I speak of the desire to create: He said, "I make all things new." We speak of man's admiration for beauty and his inability to overtake it: He declared—and the centuries demonstrate the truth of it—"I am the bright and morning star." Other men admire goodness and cannot realize it. He stands challenging the ages by His words, "Which of you convinceth Me of sin?" "I do always the things that are pleasing to Him." Other men have capacity for love. He stands in the center, the flaming, eternal vision, and says, "I... abide in His love." So that all man is in kinship to God by first nature, this Man is. All that man is in degradation, this Man is not. Identified with the essential human nature of the sinner, He is separated by infinite distances from all the sin of the sinner and all the limitation of knowledge resulting from the sin of the sinner. The lonely Man! But I am not saved by that fact. The contemplation of the great ideal never communicates dynamic to a paralyzed man. I may gaze upon the beauty but I am not thereby transformed into it. I may see the perfection of His life, and all it does for me is to bow me to the dust in shame Have you seen it? Then do you not know it in your own experience? I say to you tonight, in the name of God, that the man who tells me that he has seen Christ, and hopes within his own life by some effort of his own to reach Him, has never seen Him.

To see the vision, to see the spotless, matchless purity, to see human life in Christ is to know how weak I am, how low I am in the scale, how far off I am from Him, it is to know the power of the poison that paralyzes me, and to cry out in agony of soul, "If that Man has done none other for me than to reveal to me the beauty of human life He leaves me upon the highway bruised and helpless."

Thank God, I have an Evangel! The Evangel tells me that this Man perfect in realization in His life entered into all the limitations resulting from sin, was numbered with the transgressors in birth and baptism, and all the circumstances of poverty and pain, and yet I am not so saved, for by sympathy no man can save his brother. I follow Him reverently until I see Him in the hour of a great cross—a cross that grows upon my vision in its height and depth, and in the wide sweep of its outstretched arms, the cross upon which I once saw the Galilean carpenter, but upon which I now see God manifest in flesh. There in the mystery of that cross I know that He has entered into the very place of the ultimate issue of my sin. When you are told that we of the Evangelical faith declare that one man by dying saved the race, say it is not true. We make no such affirmation. We do affirm that the one lonely Personality in all the ages Who was man and God, God and man, God-man, God manifest, by dying provided plenteous redemption for the whole race. There in the cross, in which there is wrought out into visibility the eternal verities which I never could have known otherwise, I see how I, kin of God, yet ruined, may lift my face again toward the light, for by the sacred, hallowed, overwhelming mystery of the cross I have life.

Every man is capable of Deity. When Christ calls He calls to the deepest in man. No man can realize the possibility of his first creation who has once sinned a sin that leads him into distance and paralysis, save as he is born again, born anew of the Spirit, and as he abandons himself to the grace of God.

162 - Acts 19:2 - The Lack of the Spirit 

The Lack of the Spirit

Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye believed?
Acts 19:2

"Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye believed?" not, "Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?" There is no warrant for the introduction of that word "since" into the Authorized Version. The tense is the same in both the verbs. "The Holy Ghost received ye when ye believed?" The only difference is that the one is a question and the other an affirmation. Received ye? Ye believed. This is a distinction rendered necessary by a difference. The introduction of the word "since" makes the Apostle's question mean, "Subsequently to believing, have ye received the Holy Ghost?" The inquiry which he raised really was, "Coincidentally with believing, did ye receive the Holy Ghost?" The Apostle's question was not whether these people had received a second blessing. It was rather an inquiry into the nature of the first blessing. An examination of the context will, I think, throw light upon the meaning of this question and enable us to make that personal and present application of it which is important to us.

Apollos was a Jew, that is, a proselyte, for he was an Alexandrian by race. He was "a learned man," and he was "mighty in the Scriptures." This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord, which does not mean that he was perfectly familiar with all the facts concerning the mission of Jesus. He had been, as the margin more accurately has it, instructed by word of mouth in the way of the Lord, and being fervent in spirit he spake and taught carefully the things concerning Jesus, not all of them, for he did not know all the things concerning Jesus, "knowing only the baptism of John." In all likelihood, upon some occasion Apollos had listened to the voice of the forerunner, had heard him as he foretold the coming of Another. He knew the One of Whom John spoke through what John had said, and he knew no more. He knew that One was to come after John, whose fan was to be in His hand, Who was to thoroughly purge His floor: One so Kingly that John said of Him that He was not worthy to stoop down and unloose the latchet of His shoe, One Who would baptize men with the Holy Ghost and with fire.

Knowing these things and being fervent in spirit, Apollos taught carefully what he knew. Listening to him were Priscilla and Aquila, who knew a great deal more than the preacher. They recognized his power and sincerity, but they knew his lack. I never know whether to admire Aquila and Priscilla or Apollos more for what follows. They heard him, and "took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more accurately." I admire them because they did not write letters to the newspapers about him, but took him unto themselves. I admire him because he was willing to listen to two persons who were members of his congregation. After this instruction he appears to have passed on to Achaia. There his message was changed. He knew far more than when he had begun to preach in Ephesus. "He helped them much that had believed through grace, for he powerfully confuted the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ."

He had persuaded men during the early days of his preaching to take a certain position—the one he himself had taken. He had told them about John and his message, about the One Who was to come after, the One Who was to come with His fan in His hand to purge His floor, to gather the wheat into a garner and to burn the chaff with unquenchable fire. Some of them had believed and had been baptized with John's baptism, but nothing more. No preacher ever lifts his hearers above the level of his own spiritual attainment.

When Paul came into contact with these men he saw that something was lacking. They had a great deal, but not everything. They had come a certain distance, but had halted. Paul discovered that they lacked the power of the Holy Spirit. There were certain inimitable evidences of the Spirit's presence in human lives which were lacking in these people, and he said to them suddenly, and I think with a note of surprise in his voice, "Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye believed?" They said, "We did not so much as hear whether the Holy Ghost was given," which does not mean that they did not know of the existence of the Holy Ghost, because John had preached the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and the fact that One was coming Who would baptize them with the Spirit. It does mean, as our rendering gives us to understand, that they had not heard whether the Holy Spirit was given. John's teaching had declared that it should be given, but they had not heard whether the promise had been fulfilled. Then Paul asked another question, "Into what then were ye baptized?" And they said, "Into John's baptism." "Then," said Paul, in effect, "if you were baptized into John's baptism, you have not been obedient to John's message. John told you that you must repent, but he also told you that you were to believe on the One who was to come." Then most evidently Paul told them He had come, told them the story of His coming, of His work, and led them further on. They were then baptized in the name of Jesus. It was an act of faith, and following that, Paul laid his hands on them, symbolically, not sacramentally, and in that moment, as they were baptized because they believed in the name of Jesus, while Paul's fatherly hands lay still upon them, the Holy Spirit fell upon them.

Now look and listen. They spake with tongues, they prophesied, and from that day forward no apostle could ask them, "Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye believed?" The signs have come. The evidences are present. The something lacking is lacking no more. The inner life bubbles up into joy, ecstatic speech, tongues. The inner life pours itself out in testimony, prophecy. They had received the Holy Ghost because they had believed on Jesus in all the fullness of the apostolic message concerning Him. They had not until that moment received the Holy Ghost, because they had believed on Jesus only within the narrow limits of John's message concerning Him.

Now, I think with the light of that context upon the text, we see how this may be a very pertinent and absolutely important question today.

I am speaking to an audience the vast majority of which believes in Jesus. There may be some few here who have lost their faith in Him, and have lost their faith in revealed religion. With all sincere and honest respect for them, they are outside the scope of my present message. Were I to go from pew to pew and speak individually to man, woman, and little child, asking the same question, "Do you believe in Jesus?" the answer would be naturally, honestly, truthfully, "Yes." Therefore I bring you the Apostle's question, "Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye believed?" Is your belief of that nature which has resulted in the actual reception in your own life of the Holy Spirit of God?

If in the economy of God some of these apostles of the Early Church were called upon to face congregations such as we have to face, I think they would pause in astonishment in the first ten minutes, and would say, "Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye believed?" There are hundreds and thousands of people who in some measure believe in Jesus Christ who have never received the Spirit, who have never been baptized with the Spirit, who have never been born again, for the terms are synonymous. Ethic without enthusiasm, principle without passion, desire without dynamic, negation of the wrong things without position in the soil of the new life—this is a perilous state in which to live. It is a perilous state because to continue in that state is to become in the one tremendous word of the writer of the letter to the Hebrews, "hardened."

The ethic merely accepted as true becomes traditional bondage. The principle obeyed with no passion of fire burning through it becomes heartlessness. Desire for the higher life and the broadening of the outlook long unfulfilled become cynicism. The negation becomes chaos. This is what is happening everywhere. You believe on Jesus, yes, and you believe on Jesus very reverently; you have never taken His name in vain. So far from that, you have always attended what we call the means of grace, you have sung the hymns of the sanctuary, you have attentively listened to the message delivered by the servants of God. You have come so far as to believe the ideals of Jesus, you accept them; but there is no passion, no fire, no force, no light upon the mountains, no song in the heart.

   Faultily faultless, icily regular,
    Splendidly null.
    
Dead while you live. Our churches are crowded with such people, who have never received the Holy Ghost, who, if you begin to speak to them, will say, "We are not sure about this doctrine of the Holy Ghost. We do not even know whether the Holy Ghost is!"

May I press the examination of this passage of Scripture a little further for our own profit. What was the fault of the attitude of these people? They had halted. John had pointed them on to Jesus. They had not fully obeyed. I do not know that it would be fair for me to criticize them or to attempt to say they were blameworthy in this matter. It may have been that they had never heard the final facts about Jesus. Perchance Apollos had never heard them. It may have been that in the darkness which resulted from the crucifixion all hope in Jesus had been eclipsed. They may have heard of the death of Jesus, and may have heard rumors of His resurrection. They may have said, "We are not certain that this is the One. John said there was One to come, but this may not be the One." Be all that as it may, this is certain, they had halted after repentance. They had never taken the second step which John had commanded—to believe on Him Who was to come. When Paul came he preached Jesus to them in all the fulness of the apostolic message. They went beyond the messenger John to One of whom he spoke, and thus passed into the realm of life. They no longer waited for the operation of the fan and the operation of the fire, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost, they gave themselves over thereto, and immediately they did so, they felt the burning of the fire, the sweeping wind of the fan, the touch of a new life. The horizon was flung back, the windows were opened, the thrill of life for which they had waited came to them when they abandoned themselves to Jesus Christ.

What is the one thing lacking in all such as believe in His ethic, in His ideal, who come so far as recognition of the beauty and glory of His purpose? In order to come into touch with His life, what is the one thing needful? Just the step further. Hand the life over to Him by an act of faith. In the case of these people it was an act which expressed itself in baptism. I do not think for a moment that the method of expression matters. I do think that the act of faith which drives a man to a method of expression is the important thing. I do not believe that these men received the Holy Ghost because they received water baptism. Nobody believes that the immersion in water was the medium of the baptism of the Spirit. By that baptism into the name of Jesus they gave expression to their faith in Christ. Answering that faith expressed in that act, the Spirit came upon them.

That is what you need. You have been for years on the confines of Emmanuel's land. You are familiar with all the songs, but you cannot sing them and feel the rapture of them. You are familiar with all the phrasing of Christianity, but it has never become the phrasing which beats your heart into infinite music. You need that faith which abandons itself absolutely and wholly, not to an ideal you would like to realize, but to a Person who will realize in you every ideal after which your heart is seeking. In order to receive the Holy Ghost we have to add to our conviction, confidence; to our repentance, faith; to our hope, appropriation, and all these things in relation to Jesus Christ. The living Christ has come. The Spirit has been poured out. Westminster Chapel, London, tonight is as full in every part of the Holy Spirit of God as was the upper room on the day of Pentecost. The mistake you have been making for years is that you have been waiting for Him to come in nights of prayer and lonely vigil, in speculative inquiry; waiting while you have been attending conventions and reading books about the Holy Ghost. The Spirit has come. He is here. Every man, woman, and little child in this house is surrounded by the beneficent Spirit of God, waiting to come in, waiting to teach you the deeper music of life, its vision and glory. "How is it that I do not feel the thrill and do not see the light?" you ask. Because you have never believed in Jesus Christ. Convinced of the perfection of His ideal, put confidence in Him, and rank yourself by His side and under His banner. Repenting of sin, changing your mind about it, trust Him to give you victory in every department of life. Hoping for a better day, appropriate the day that has come. Wishing that you could be delivered, be delivered now by trusting Jesus Christ. Just where you sit, hoping, wishing, wondering, cast yourself upon Jesus Christ and say, "Here I am, now, just as I am." The Spirit of God will bring the living Christ into your own inner experience. That will end your infidelity, your skepticism, your wonder. You will pass into the realm of life, and all the signs following will be granted to you.

What were the signs following? "They spake with tongues and prophesied." I am not going to inflict upon you any elaborate discussion as to that "spake with tongues." It was a repetition of the Pentecostal experience, and yet not a repetition, but to them the very Pentecostal experience. Just what Peter, James and John and the rest received at Pentecost these men received then. Just as Peter, James and John, waiting for the Spirit when Christ's work was done, received it, and immediately spake with tongues and prophesied, so these men who had been waiting, when they received the Holy Spirit, did the same thing—they spake with tongues. My own conviction—and here is a speculation with which you need not waste time—is that the miracle of Pentecost was not a miracle of talking in different languages, but of hearing in different languages. I believe these were the same tongues of which you read in Corinthians, notwithstanding other opinions. I believe the gift of tongues was the gift of ecstatic utterance, in praise, in prayer, in gladness. Somebody said, "Hallelujah," a little while ago, and you did not like it. I am afraid it was a sign that you have not received the Holy Ghost. I do not mean to say that if you have received the Holy Ghost you will say, "Hallelujah," but you will be in sympathy with the man who is bound to say it. The deadly dullness of half our services is proof of the fact that we lack the Spirit of God. If that fire is within me I burn, and, somehow or other, either in the volume of congregational song or some other way, it must flame forth. "They spake with tongues." They could not help it. Don't you, dear intellectual soul of this twentieth century, be cynical with the man who breaks out into tongues. You know the story; it is told of half a dozen different painters. I do not know of which one it is really true. I will fix it on Turner. He was showing one of his pictures to a friend, who said, "Oh, but that is not real. I have never seen colors like these." Turner replied, "No, but don't you wish you could?" Do you, in your cold intellectualism, say you never feel inclined to shout? Don't you wish you could? There is pathos in my question. The dead, hard, cold profession of the present day is tragic, pathetic. We need again to hear the outburst of song, of praise. When these men received the Holy Ghost they spake with tongues. There were only twelve of them most likely, all speaking the same language. The rigidity of repentance had merged into the renewal of remission. All the hardness of waiting and longing had passed into the gladness of receiving. That is the difference between believing in Jesus intellectually and believing in Him so that the answer is the answer of the Spirit creating ecstasy that speaks with tongues and conviction that utters itself in prophecy.

That was not the only sign. Read the chapter further, and you will find that these people created an atmosphere of apostolic testimony; they became a propagative center from which the Word of God sounded forth through all Asia. You will find also that they became the objects of imitation. You will find, finally, that their presence in Ephesus meant the undermining of idolatry, and presently we see the flaming fires at which men are burning the things of their witchcraft. Even until this hour the same thing is true. Let there fall upon us tonight the great constraint to go a little further, a little beyond the repentance which is change of mind about sin, a little beyond the long, lonely waiting for something that comes not, a little beyond into personal definite submission to Christ, what then? First tongues and then prophecy, and then an atmosphere in which the preacher can preach in the coming months so that men shall be saved, and then a propagative center from which the Word of God shall sound through all the neighborhood, then spurious imitation and the force that lights fires which destroy the witchery and wizardry which are cursing our age.

In the name of God do not let us talk of the Day of Pentecost as though it were a day that came and went nineteen hundred years ago. This is the day of Pentecost. The Spirit of God is here. If I am not singing, living, prophesying, it is because I am like the twelve men at Ephesus—I have come so far and have halted. Man, dare to go further. Add to your present position the final thing of belief in Jesus Christ.

If we have received the Spirit, there is yet responsibility. I can express it in one word, Yield. Take that step of faith in Jesus Christ tonight, and the Spirit will come upon you, and immediately you will feel the burning of the fire, the rising of the song, the driving of the power. In the name of God do not quench that fire. "Quench not the Spirit." Do not stifle that song. "Grieve not the Spirit." In the name of God do not resist that power. Resist not the Spirit. Hear the ancient words again, hear them upon the fringe of a new winter's work, while doors of opportunity are opening before you. "Quench not the Spirit." "Grieve not the Spirit." "Resist not the Spirit."

What answer do you give to the Apostle's question, "Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye believed?" If you say honestly, in this hour of clear vision, "No," then receive Him now. You say, "How can I receive Him?" Not by opening your heart to the Spirit, but by opening your heart to Jesus Christ. Not by believing that Christ is the perfect example, but by enlisting under His banner and putting your whole life at His disposal. By trusting Him for yesterday, today, tomorrow, and the infinite forever, with your whole life, physical, mental, and spiritual. If your answer to the Apostle's question be "Yes," then in God's name remember your peril, for we are all in peril. If we have received the Holy Ghost and the tongues have begun to speak and prophecy has begun, what is our peril?

That was the foundation of the Ephesian Church. It was a wonderful church, so great a church that Paul wrote the last flaming glory of his letters to it. But that is not all about the church. There is another letter to the Church of Ephesus, which the great Lord, believing in whom, they had received the Spirit, sent to them through John from Patmos. In that letter He says such tragic things as these, "I have this against thee, that thou didst leave thy first love." As God is my witness, I can hardly take up my Bible and read these words without my heart being ready to break. It is the sigh of Christ over the lost love of people who had received the Spirit, and who once had tongues and prophesied. Is Christ sighing over your lost first love? Some of you business men years ago, before you were so well off, felt the fervor and passion of the Spirit's power. Have you lost it? Are you just a wee bit impatient with me tonight because I have taken this line? You would not have been ten years ago. You have lost your first love.

What did Christ say to the church that had lost its first love? "Repent and do the first works." I love that. It is His new opportunity for backsliding souls. "Go back. Begin where you began before. Repent; change your mind once more. Get back to the place where you stood when you left me. Do over again the thing you did at Ephesus when the sky became glorious and the song burst forth." Will you do it tonight? Many of you, lost lovers of Jesus, are you coming to Him tonight?

Hear me again patiently. Do not think this harsh, unkind. I deliver it as the message that is on my heart. I am not half as anxious about you as I am about the multitudes who are outside. I want you in order to reach them. I would far rather see this place in ashes than see it the tomb of a dead, lifeless mob that admires Jesus and feels nothing of His life pulsating in them. We stand upon the threshold of tremendous opportunities. Are we ready for them? The question we are to ask our own souls is, "Did we receive the Holy Ghost when we believed?" If not, here and now, let us yield ourselves to Christ, and we shall receive. If we have received and have lost the thrill, and the saffron of morning has become the gray of eventide, let us go back. Though the way be rough, even though it means the cross, even if shame attend our going, let us go back to the first works, and out of the valley of humiliation shall rise Emmanuel's land of light and love and service for every one of us.

163 - Acts 20:21 - The Conditions Of Renewal 

The Conditions of Renewal

Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
Acts 20:21

We at once recognize that this is not a sentence, as a matter of fact, the text consists of two phrases, incidentally employed in the course of apostolic discourse. Paul halted at Miletus in order that he might meet the elders of the church at Ephesus and speak to them, as he did not expect to see them again. In the course of his address, delivered to those elders, in the interest of the church at Ephesus, and therefore as always, in the interest of Ephesus itself, he reviewed the ministry which he had conducted in that city during three years, reminding them that he had not shrunk from declaring to them anything that was profitable, teaching them publicly and from house to house, testifying to both the Jews and the Greeks of "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ."

In these phrases the Apostle summarized the burden of his message in Ephesus in so far as that message emphasized personal and individual responsibility concerning the gospel of the grace of God which he had proclaimed there. I have taken the words because they seem to me to give the simplest formula concerning human responsibility in the presence of the preaching of that gospel of grace.

You will immediately see that the terms are those of spiritual things, spiritual relationships. It is quite easy, I think, to discover behind the words the apostolic outlook, the apostolic conception. It is quite evident that these phrases take for granted certain facts, while they reveal the immediate responsibility of men. There can be no meaning in them apart from certain facts which most evidently were present in the mind of the Apostle, facts, moreover, which he took for granted as being received and believed in by those to whom at this particular moment he was speaking.

What, then, are these underlying facts? First, the fact of God; second, the fact of man's relationship to God; third, the fact of man's being out of harmony with God; and, finally, the fact that a man out of harmony with God is a failure.

If we blot God out of our thinking or out of our belief, then there is no meaning in this text at all. It is only as we become conscious that the deep, true thing concerning ourselves is that we have relationship with God, that such relationship is at fault, and that therefore we are at fault, that there can be any appeal in such phrases as these.

Let us, then, proceed on the assumption that we take for granted the God of the Bible, the God from Whom all things have proceeded, the God by Whose power all things are upheld, from Whose government nothing can ever by any possible chance escape.

Let us take for granted, in the second place, that man is spiritual, that the deepest, profoundest truth concerning man is that he is offspring of God, that the word which Ezekiel uttered long ago for the correction of false proverbs, "All souls are Mine," is a profound truth; that the deepest thing in each individual life is not the material, is not even the moral, but the spiritual; that, therefore, the things of change in the midst of which we find ourselves today cannot be the things which find us in the deepest of our lives; that, therefore, if we live only in relation to things seen and temporal, things that pass and vanish and perish even while we look on them, touch and handle them, we are ruining ourselves in that we are failing to realize the whole meaning of our lives.

Let us take for granted that we are children of the ages and not of the passing day, that we are in our essential being related to Deity and are not wholly of the dust; that to make the order of our life such as expresses itself in such words as, "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die," is to fail entirely to understand ourselves. Let us further take for granted that if these things be so, then we are moving inevitably toward some change through which we shall come to a yet clearer apprehension of the reality of spiritual things and stand in the light of the Divine presence, in the nakedness of our spiritual life, stripped of all those things which today hide the spiritual from us, hide us so largely from each other, and hide us so perpetually from ourselves. If someone should say, Why do you not say plainly that we are all going to die? I would reply, Very well, let it be so stated—we are all approaching death! What is death? Death is but transition. Death is but the process of change by which personality passes from existence limited, hindered, probationary, into that which is larger, where the light is clearer, and the understanding perfected, and being comes to its fulness in some form or fashion. The reason for the fear of death is simply stated: "The sting of death is sin; and the power of sin is the law." Men do fear death, all their lifetime men are subject to bondage through the fear of death. The fear of death that rests on the heart of humanity is born of the fact that man is conscious that if he pass away from this life, with its limitations, into larger life, he is unprepared, he has not taken sufficient account of the larger life, has neglected the true aspiration of his nature, has not turned a listening ear to the voice forever sounding within him that he is immortal, eternal. Man lives within the narrow realm of the things that are near, and when he approaches the end, or things of the end, and imagines himself as passing out to some bourne whence no traveler returns, to some unknown state of being, he is filled with fear because of sin.

What, then, is sin? I pray you notice most carefully that this fear of death is not peculiar to men and women who have been guilty of what we sometimes term vulgar sins. Indeed, it is strange and yet true that the vulgar sensualist is often free from the fear of death, and that because of that he has so completely blunted the spiritual sense in his sensuality that he has no consciousness of it whatever. The fear of death comes to finer souls—using the expression in the common language of our everyday speech.

What, then, is sin? Sin is failure. I use the word almost with bated breath, because to say that seems to rob sin of its terror. Yet consider it carefully. If the Bible, by the language of which it makes use, means anything, it conveys that idea. Confining ourselves for the moment to the New Testament, with which we are all familiar, the commonest Greek word for sin, hamartia, means coming short, missing the mark. It is a Greek word which was used when a marksman shot an arrow at a target and failed to hit the center. Sin is failure. Sin is being less than I ought to be. Sin is failure to realize the meaning of my own life. Sin is failure to realize the forces that are within me. It is this sense of failure, this sense of limitation, this inner conviction that perchance never expresses itself in the language of a preacher, but, nevertheless, haunts the soul; this sense that the years are wasted, that the energies of life have not brought any true return to the personality—it is all this that overshadows man when he thinks of death. It is the true Divine instinct within the soul telling it that when it sloughs off this mortal coil, and passes in the nakedness of its personality into the light of the uncreated beam, it will be seen crippled, dwarfed, atrophied, having failed to realize the profound meaning of life. That is the sense of sin.

There is in that sense of sin, moreover, the sense of pollution; or—use the word that helps you most—guilt, defilement, uncleanness. It is that sense that fills the heart with fear when death is spoken of.

For the sake of illustration, imagine a man who has no sense of failure, a man who has not failed, a man whose life has been clean, pure, straight, noble, and infinitely more than all these virtues, which mark conditions rather than realizations, a man who has found out the secret of his own being and has adjusted his life to its true center, who has filled his own vocation—that man never trembles at the thought of death. To him death is entrance on life. To him death is the hour in which, crossing the border line, he shall find himself in the presence of the uncreated beam. That is the goal of life, the high ecstasy toward which life is forever moving, the final moment when he will be able to stand unafraid in the presence of God and see the beatific vision, and find the last solution of all the problems of his own life as he rests in the presence of God. When such a man thinks of death, he says, "O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? The sting of death is sin; and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

In those final words of the apostolic challenge and affirmation I have introduced the gospel of grace, and the real meaning of the Christian fact.

It is in the presence of such conceptions as these that the phrases of my text begin to have meaning. As a man shall say, I believe in God, and I believe that I am indeed in His likeness and image, of His very being, offspring of Deity, and I am approaching the bound of life where the burdens of time are laid down, coming to the hour in which I pass out into the nakedness of my essential life into the very presence of God, and I am unprepared. Then he inquires, Is there any way by which I can be prepared? Is there any way by which I can overtake the tragedy of lost years and expended strength? Is there any way by which I can be born anew? Nicodemus's difficulty was not a surface difficulty: "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb, and be born?" That is, can he force himself back through the years and undo the things that have been done, and change the set and tendency of his life? Can he begin again? That is the great cry of the human soul when the soul comes to consciousness of God, of its own spiritual nature, of the fact that this life is transient, probationary, and that the revolving wheels of time are bearing it ever closer to the moment when it stands alone in the presence of the God from Whom it came. The Christian evangel is the answer to that cry.

What, then, is the way of salvation? We may omit from our consideration from this moment forward the man who has no sense of sin. I would do it respectfully, reverently, but I would say earnestly to that man, From now on I have no message for you. I am here as the messenger of my Master, and He Himself said: "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

What, then, shall I do to be saved? some soul is asking. It may be that the soul that asks will never utter those words in my hearing, will never make application with this great spiritual inquiry to any prophet, priest, or teacher. It is a question of the inner life. What, then, shall I do to be saved? The great phrases of the Apostle are the perfect and final answer, "Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ."

If we are to understand such simple phrases as these we must approach them in the simplest way. What is repentance? That is the first inquiry. Repentance is not self-reformation. Repentance is not sorrow for sin. Repentance is a change of mind, and a change of mind when it is true and deep necessarily and inevitably issues in change of attitude and change of conduct. The word of my text does not suggest sorrow—do not misunderstand me, I am not saying that repentance is unaccompanied by sorrow, but I want you to clearly understand that repentance is not sorrow. I have known men and women who have truly repented toward God, who at the moment had no deep sorrow for sin, but it came, and it grew and deepened with the passing years. I venture to affirm most solemnly, as a matter of profound conviction, that there are men who have been following the Lord Jesus Christ for half a century whose sorrow for sin is profounder now than when they commenced the Christian life. On the other hand, I have known men who have been genuinely sorry for sin but have not repented. There may be contrition, there may be lamenting over the thing done that cannot be undone, there may be the agony that cries out with Lady Macbeth,

         Out damned spot!
   Not all the perfumes of Araby will sweeten this little hand.
   
Yet there may be no repentance. Repentance is a change of mind. That is fundamental. The changed conception always expresses itself in change of attitude, and the change of attitude produces change of conduct. So that ultimately repentance is the turning of the back deliberately on everything that is out of harmony with the will of God. Fundamentally it is turning to God. This same Apostle, in one of the first, perhaps the very first, of his letters, that to the Thessalonians, gives a remarkable description of the commencement of the Christian life, "Ye turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven." In that description you have an exact account of what repentance is. It is turning to God.

But here is our difficulty. Let me say it with all the faithfulness of which I am capable: it is the peculiar difficulty of such a congregation as this. I have preached to congregations to whom the matter is understood in a moment, a congregation of men and women in the depths. It was quite easy to talk to them about repentance; such sinners understand that repentance means turning round and facing God. The difficulty in such an audience as this is that faces look up into the face of the preacher and say, Why emphasize this? We are not turned from God. But are we not turned from God? Godlessness has many manifestations. It is not the peculiar quality of the penitentiary. It is found in the university. It does not dwell alone in the slum. It is found in the suburb. It is not peculiar to vulgarized humanity. It is the more subtle wrong of cultured humanity. Godlessness! What is godlessness? Leaving God out of account in all the actualities of life. Intellectual search that does not take account of Him. Emotional outgoing that does not seek the purifying of His fire. Especially, the central volitional activity of choice that never thinks of Him until the choice is made. Life that lives as though there were no God and yet occasionally confesses God is godless. The man who conducts his business six days a week as though there were no God and comes here and worships, profanes the sanctuary and blasphemes. Repentance is turning round and facing God, recognizing the throne, submitting thereto, asking at the gates of the high place for the orders of every day and every hour. That is godly life. Repentance is toward God, the change of the mind back toward Him, that He may be taken into account; the change of the conduct so that it may square with that master conception of life that the will of God is supreme.

Let me say, further, that repentance is induced by the ministry of the Holy Spirit, but that repentance depends entirely on the choice of the human soul. It is induced by the Spirit. The Spirit of God induces repentance in the heart of a man by revealing to him the true nature of his sin, by revealing to him the attitude of God toward sin and toward himself. By the proclamation of the Evangel, by the enunciation of the Divine ethic, the Spirit induces man toward repentance. The Spirit reveals to man what sin is, showing him that sin mars the life, that no man can come to fulfilment of his own life who forgets God; that, because the very forces of life are God-created forces and life cannot come to highest realization or fullest meaning save within His will and under His law, sin therefore spoils the life. The Spirit reveals to man that such sin spreads insidiously. The forgetting of God which is casual becomes the forgetting of God which is habitual.

       Trailing clouds of glory do we come
         From God Who is our home,
         
and the little child, granted that its surroundings are what they ought to be, is familiar with God. How wonderfully familiar a little child is with God, but with the passing of the days there is, first, the casual forgetfulness, the failure to recognize God in the hour of volitional choice, then the forgetfulness that hardens into a habit until God is shut out of life, and the finest things of life are blunted, spoiled. The Spirit brings home to man this sense of failure.

I know the things whereof I speak; I know them in my experience, and I know them in this ministry of dealing with men and women personally that God has committed to me. Not many days ago a cultured, refined man, brilliant in scholarship, looked into my eyes, and I never shall forget the look of haunting fear on his face as he said, "Oh God, what a failure I am!" It was the sense of sin, of the spoiled life. I am inclined to think that this man might have said with the rich young ruler of old, in the presence of every commandment in the second table of the decalogue, I have broken none of them. It was the sense of failure that swept his soul. The Spirit of God thus brings a man—to use an old phrase, the phrase of our fathers, may it come to us with power—to conviction of sin.

The Spirit of God comes revealing to man not merely what sin is and that he is a sinner, but also revealing the attitude of God toward sin and the attitude of God toward the sinner. What has the Spirit to say concerning God's attitude toward sin? "Thou that art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and that canst not look on perverseness." What has the Spirit to say about God's attitude toward sinners? "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have eternal life." The attitude of God toward sin is that of relentless hostility, because sin spoils man. God's attitude toward the sinner is that of love stronger than death, mightier than the grave, so infinite and wonderful and profound that it stoops to the level of the ruined man, and, gathering to itself all the pain and agony resulting from sin, cancels it in the passion of His own heart.

By this ministry of unveiling the Spirit induces repentance, but if repentance be induced by the work of the Spirit it must be a human act. Here is the realm of tragedy. Men come to this point, the Spirit revealing the fact of sin to them—not always in the hour of Christian worship, sometimes suddenly unexpectedly, right in the midst of daily business, sometimes in the presence of a great bereavement, sometimes when hope is springing within them and some new joy is coming to them—and, tragedy of all tragedies, there are men who do not respond to the Spirit and decline to repent, and turn back again to the beggarly elements of sin. For the advantage of the moment, for the sup-posed advantage of the moment, they shut out the vision of the infinite and bend themselves to the immediate. That is what some of you have done over and over again.

Yet we must go further. A man repenting is not a man saved. I may turn my back on sin and my face toward God, resolutely and with determination; but something more is needed. Change of attitude does not undo the past, neither can it alter the nature. Given a man repenting in answer to the Spirit's illumination, what does he really need? What he needs most of all is forgiveness, absolution. He cries for forgiveness for the past, does not believe it possible at first, cannot see how he can be forgiven; but he asks it, and I believe I interpret the deepest feeling of your heart as I speak out of my own experience and say, If you could persuade me that God simply says, We will say no more about the past—then I want more than that! I want loosing from the past, some cleansing from its defilement, I want something that shall purge me as hyssop cannot. I want some hand to blot out the past.

I need more. I want to be sure, when I turn my face to God, that He will receive me again. I who have rebelled against His throne, I want to know whether He will take me home again. I need more than that. And here is the profoundest thing of all, to me at least, I want to know how I shall be able to manage to-morrow, for, so help me God, I speak out of my own experience, if salvation means simply sin forgiven, and I am left paralyzed, it is hardly worth while. I have to face the same temptations, Can I be enabled? I have to go back from this quiet hour in the sanctuary to the city, to hear the thousand siren voices, to be lured by the glitter of the straw in the dust! Can I be made strong so that I shall stand erect? Whether I look back or within or on, while I repent I am still a needy soul.

This sense of need is met in the Apostle's second phrase: "Faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." As he said the words I venture to affirm that before his eyes there gleamed the glory of Christ Himself, and he saw how that Christ stands confronting the repentant soul, bringing to that soul everything for which it asks. What about this past? "Who His own self bare our sins in His body upon the tree." I had better leave it there. To try to explain that would but be to darken counsel with a multiplicity of words. To attempt to tell how in some infinite transaction in the darkness God has made possible the blotting out of sin is beyond me and increasingly beyond me. The longer I live, the less I can understand its mystery and the more I know its power. Christ confronts the soul and says He will put His hand, His pierced hand, across the page of the past and blot it out.

What about God's acceptance of me? Christ tells me that I need have no fear in this matter, that God never turned His face away from me, it was I who turned my face away from Him. In the one matchless picture that Jesus gives us of the Father in that old familiar parable in the fifteenth chapter of Luke's gospel that fact is revealed: "While he was yet afar off, his father saw him, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." That is God. That is what Christ came to show us. Christ did not come to persuade God to love us, but to show us that God never ceased to love us. He did not come to make God change His mind; He came to make me change my mind, and to tell me that when I turn back to God, God is far more than halfway to meet me. Even the parable of Jesus breaks down—I say it reverently—for God in Christ came all the way to the far country to find me, and now

   My God is reconciled,
   His pardoning voice I hear.
   He owns me for His child;
   I can no longer fear.
   With confidence I now draw nigh,
   And Father, Abba Father, cry.
   
What about to-morrow? How am I to stand erect who have so often fallen by the way? How am I to master the things that so long have mastered me? Again the Christ stands before me and says, I Who have blotted out thy sin, I Who have revealed the Father to thee so that thou mayest know His face is toward thee still in love, "lo, I am with thee all the days." A quaint yet beautiful story comes to my mind. To an old Scotsman his master said one day: "Donald, I am going to give you that little cottage and bit of land for your own." The Scotsman looked into the face of his master and said, "Master, I don't think I want it." "Why not?" "Well, I have saved nothing, and I can't stock it, and I can't work it." "Oh," said the master, "I think we can arrange that. I will invest a little capital, and give you the stock." The man looked up into his master's face and said, "If it's you and me together for it I think we can manage." Christ says, I give you back your birthright, I bring you back to God, blot out your sin, readmit you to the fellowship that you turned your back upon. I say, I am afraid, I am weak, I have failed! He says, "I am with you all the days." Then, reverently employing my parable, I say, With Christ I can. "I can do all things through Christ which strengthened! me." If He will be with me in the coming days, then verily I can.

Faith is more than intellectual assent to the accuracy of a gospel. It is the venture of the soul on the gospel. Here is a check. I hold it in my hand signed. I believe in that check; but I really believe in it when I endorse it and cash it. Here is an enterprise. I believe in it. I really believe in it when I share in its processes. Then join it, and we shall know you believe in it.

    Venture on Him, venture wholly,
    Let no other trust intrude.
    
Look into the eyes of Christ and say, I repent, I turn to God, I come, oh, Christ, to Thee. I trust in Thy promise. I yield myself to Thy command. Lead on, and I will follow Thee. That is faith.

Wherever a man shall thus venture on the word of this Christ, having faith toward Him, having repented toward God, then life begins anew. If the vessel hath been marred in the hand of the Potter He will make it again another vessel.

164 - Acts 20:24 - The Evangel of Grace

The Evangel of Grace

The gospel of the grace of God.
Acts 20:24

The text is not a complete sentence; it is only a phrase, but what a phrase it is! The mere reading of it lifts the soul to the highest levels of thought; the horizons are set further back, and the sense of the spirit is that of space, beauty, and strength.

The three outstanding words suggest the supreme things of man's hope and confidence: Gospel, Grace, God. The seven words leave the three shining in a connected glory: "the Gospel of the Grace of God." The music is in an ascending scale. "The gospel," and the word is suggestive of hope and expectation, "of the grace," and immediately we are in the presence of the mystic melodies that merge into the ultimate harmonies: "of God," and once again the music ascends into the sublimity of unuttered silence. "The gospel of the grace of God."

"The gospel," good news as to the things that are possible to sinning men, to the sons of sorrow, to souls burdened with the silences of the unexplained things. Grace, the attitude and activity making these things possible to the sons of men. God, the source whence all the gracious gospel proceeds.

"The gospel of the grace of God"—not a sentence, but a phrase. Yet what a phrase, a phrase which is in itself a theme, a phrase which I reverently affirm might be written on the cover of the Divine Library as its title, "The gospel of the grace of God": a message, the supreme burden of all Christian preaching and teaching, from the days of our Lord Himself, through the period of apostolic exposition, and on through the centuries of prophetic utterance, evangelistic appeal, and perpetual application, and a burden to all such as have entered experimentally into the things suggested by the phrase.

The phrase was used by Paul at Miletus in his farewell to the elders of the church at Ephesus. He was on his way to Jerusalem. At the time his experience of the communion of the Holy Ghost was that of the Spirit's witness that bonds and affliction awaited him. The sky was dark with gathering clouds of trouble, yet he did not count his life dear to him, but he did count it of supreme importance that he should fulfil his ministry of testifying to the gospel of the grace of God. He had received that ministry in personal experience, and by the direct, immediate command of his Lord. This is his own account of how it was received: "The Lord said, I am Jesus Whom thou persecutest. But arise, and stand upon thy feet: for to this end have I appeared unto thee, to appoint thee a minister and a witness both of the things wherein thou hast seen me, and of the things wherein I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom I send thee, to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive remission of sins and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in Me." Thus, according to his own account, in those solemn hours of first communion with the risen and glorified Lord he had been called to testify to "the gospel of the grace of God." His first preparation for this work was his own experience of that gospel as it was revealed to him, not by an apostle, but in the Person of the Lord Himself. Now, after a period of well nigh a generation of faithful service, he was looking back over the way, and he crystallized the burden of his wonderful apostolic ministry into this phrase, "the gospel of the grace of God."

What is that gospel? The text does not declare it; the text refers to it. I cannot take this text and deal with it statement by statement; for while it is flashing with the splendor of the central words of Christianity, it makes no statement, but it assumes the burden of the apostle's ministry, the message of all Christian prophets, the great love story of the evangelists, "the gospel of the grace of God."

I have already touched on the significance of the words by way of introduction. I refer to them briefly again. The gospel is good news. There is not a note of anger in this message. There is no syllable of judgment within this gospel. It may be necessary sometimes to strike severer notes, and to tell foolish, wayward men what must be the inevitable result of refusing to listen to the message of the gospel; but no condemnation is in the gospel itself, it is the way of escape from condemnation. There is no judgment here, it is the message of the infinite compassion and mercy of our God.

It is good news of grace. Grace defies definition as surely as love defies definition, and as certainly as God defies definition. Grace is love in itself and in all its abounding activities, and love is God in Himself and in all His wondrous attributes. Who, then, can define grace? In its application to human need our fathers defined grace perfectly when they declared that grace is free, unmerited favor. But grace existed before favor was needed. Grace was in the heart of God before it was necessary that it should be operative in the interests of men. There is no definition of grace save by the way of the activity of grace. I know what grace is when I observe what grace accomplishes. I understand the real meaning of the grace of God only when I am brought to an apprehension of what grace does. So, leaving the word in its mystic glory, in that mystery which is revelation, and that revelation which ever enfolds itself again in infinite mystery, we proceed to inquire what grace has done for its own self-revelation.

I propose to say three things concerning this inclusive gospel. First, the gospel of the grace of God is a declaration concerning the attitude of God toward sinning men. Second, the gospel of the grace of God is a revelation of the activity of God on behalf of sinning men. Finally, the gospel of the grace of God is a proclamation of the fact that man, sinning man, may be accepted by God.

But let it be remembered that the gospel of the grace of God is centered in the Son of God, "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God," so opens one of the evangelists' stories. If it be the gospel of the grace of God it is the gospel of the Son of God. This good news to humanity has come through the Son of God. There is no gospel to be found anywhere for sinning men apart from the Son of God. There is no gospel in nature; law is there; beauty, glory, strength, are there. As I observe nature I discover God in His might and in His wisdom. I so discover God in nature that I am quite able to sing with the psalmist in profound astonishment,

   When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers,
   The moon and the stars which Thou hast ordained;
   What is man, that Thou are mindful of him?
   
The glory of God revealed in nature is such that I am amazed as I think within my own limited experience of myself that God can have any thought for me, or visit me; but when, turning my eyes from the wonders of the Divine revelation in nature, and looking within, I know my sin, not merely the inherited poison, but the actual rebellion, that I myself have chosen evil when I have known good, I turn back to nature and I ask for good news, I find that nature has no good news for the one who breaks law! To break law is to be broken by law. To sin against the rhythmic operations of nature is to be ground to powder by the magnificent forces of nature. There is no gospel in nature. Poets may tell you that nature weeps. Nature has no tears of pity for the breaker of law. We speak of the gentle kisses of the sun. The sun on the man who breaks law is scorching, flaming, destructive. There is no gospel in nature.

There is no gospel in human religion. Human religion may be perfectly sincere. Human religion may have certain values. These things I am not now discussing. But there is no gospel in human religion. The sincerest souls of men that have groped after some form of religion have confessed that they found no gospel. The ultimate note is always one of hopelessness. After many reincarnations the soul at last may reach forgetfulness, nothingness, loss of individuality! That is not a gospel. It may be the last speculation of despair; but there is no gospel in it. There is no gospel in human religion.

If we would have a gospel we must come to the Son of God, for it is only in and through Him that we hear its music, know its promise, or are brought to understanding of all its gracious facts and forces.

This gospel of the grace of God, which is the gospel of the Son of God, is the declaration of the attitude of God toward men. In this regard Christ is Revealer. Christ did not come into this world of ours in order to create a new attitude on the part of God toward man. He did not come to change the mind of God. He did not come to persuade God to be gracious. He did not come to propitiate God, and turn Him back again to the sons of men. He did not come to reconcile God to man. There is never a note in all the New Testament that declares He did. I care nothing for the casuistries in which you tell me that if I am reconciled to God it is the same thing. It is not the same thing. It is a fundamentally false conception of the mission of our Lord and of the terms of the gospel to declare that Jesus Christ came into human history to change the mind of God. He came to reveal to man the mind of God, to reveal the abiding attitude of God toward men. In Him God was unveiled, not changed. Through Him God spoke no new message, but the perpetual message of His heart. The gospel of the grace of God is first of all a declaration on the part of our Lord of the attitude of God toward men.

Is it possible to summarize that declaration in brief phrases? I shall attempt to summarize by saying that in the declaration there are three things. The gospel declares God's love for the sinner. The gospel declares God's hostility to the sin of the sinner. The gospel declares God's determinate counsel and purpose to make possible the canceling of sin, in order to gain the peace and the purity of the sinner.

In the first place, the gospel declares that God's attitude toward the sinning man is that of love. That is fundamental. All this gospel is contained in that one verse, the simplest and profoundest in all the New Testament, the most familiar to this congregation, and the least explored as to all its rich and varied values, "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son." The gospel reveals the fact that during these probationary days no man can put himself outside the love of God by whatever he may do. It is an old and familiar story; doubtless you have heard it from me: a Sunday-school teacher was asked by a boy in his class, Teacher, does God love naughty boys? The teacher said, No, certainly not. What blasphemy, unintentioned and quite thoughtless, but absolutely untrue! My dear Sunday-school teacher, that boy who worried you most today, God loves him, and loves him in his naughtiness. The gospel of the grace of God is, first, a declaration in the history of the world that God loves men however they have sinned, however far they have wandered, however deep the stain may be, however polluted is the heart. God loves men. Oh that we knew how to preach it, that we knew how to say it, that we knew how to proclaim it to men fast bound in sin and nature's night, this great and gracious fact, the first value of the gospel, its fundamental message: God loves the sinner in his sin.

If that be fundamental the resultant truth is that the gospel teaches us God's hostility to sin. That is not to contradict the first statement but to give true exposition to it. Because he loves man God cannot compromise with the poison that destroys. The intensity of the Divine hostility to sin is the Divine love for the sinner. The white heat of God's anger against every form of iniquity is the abiding fire of His infinite love for man. So that no man can be at peace with God and with sin at the same moment. The gospel declares that; that is its burden, its message. It was the message of the life of our Lord, the message of His perpetual teaching; it was the last and awful message of the Cross, that if a man be at peace with sin God is at war with him for very love of him. No man can be at peace with his sin and with God at the same moment. I do not say that no man can sin and be at peace with God. A man may be at peace with God, and yet blunder by the way, fall into sin, but the moment he has sinned the sin he is at war with himself and with his sin. That is evidence that he is at peace with God. The gospel reveals fundamentally the fact that God loves the sinner, and necessarily the resultant fact that God is at war with sin.

But that is not all the gospel declares concerning God. If the gospel did not reveal to us these attitudes, love toward the sinner, and hostility to sin, there is no message of hope in it. The attitude of God revealed in the gospel is an attitude essentially of purpose and of power in order that the sin against which His wrath is kindled may be removed, so that the sinner for whom His love burns may be delivered.

God cannot rest in the presence of sin without making possible its removal. That is the heart of the gospel, the reason of it; that is the grace of God. God hates sin, and therefore all the resources of His might and of His wisdom must provide a way of salvation, and the must depends, not on any human standard of right and wrong, not on any claim that man can have on God; the must depends on God's nature, His being, His heart; He must, because of what He is in Himself, make a way by which His banished ones may return, He must accomplish the possibility of human redemption. Grace in God is compassion, and compassion is sorrow, and compassion is passion in action.

The gospel of the grace of God is, first of all, a declaration of these attitudes toward men in their sin. It may be that unfallen angels need no gospel. It may be that in some sweet morning by and by, when we have done with the trammels of the flesh and have entered into that larger life, we shall discover other worlds peopled by wondrous beings of whom we have never heard, and of whom we have never dreamed, who never, never sinned, and therefore never needed a gospel. But the phrase of my evening message is a phrase for this world, sin-stricken, sin-smitten, a phrase for men who are conscious of evil in their own lives, of crimes committed, of sin permitted; and it unveils before the wondering and astonished sinner's sight the heart of God toward himself. Toward men who are out of time with the rhythm of the universe, who by their own pollution have introduced discord into its order. God is full of love, and hates only that in men which spoils them; and the moving of His compassion makes it necessary for Him—necessary, in order to be true to the profoundest, deepest things in His own nature—to make possible the putting away of sins that the sinner may be restored to the fulfilment of life.

Our second declaration grows immediately from our first. The gospel not only reveals the attitude of God, it declares His activity on behalf of sinning men. If compassion is passion in action, the gospel declares what that action is. Here, again, Christ is at the center. As He is the Revealer of the Divine attitude, He is the Redeemer in the Divine activity. He came to accomplish in time and in human history the determinate counsel of God in eternity. He came from the Father, into the world, and returned to the Father. He came from the Father in order to carry out in human history and in time and in human observation for the purpose of the capture of the human will the things which are in the very nature of God, and which in the presence of sin, are eternal verities and not merely the accidentals of time.

Man awakened to a sense of his spiritual life is always awakened to the consciousness of sin. Man awakened to the consciousness of sin through being awakened to a sense of his spiritual life, looks back, looks in, and looks on. He looks back and there is with him the burden of the past; he remembers the sins of the years, and asks what can he do with them. He looks within and is conscious of the importance of the present, the inability not to do again the thing he did yesterday. The sin of yesterday, how it burns; like a phantom of the night it haunts the soul; in the gay hour of brightness and frivolity the sin of yesterday passes before the vision, and the sun is eclipsed and the whole world is plunged in darkness. But the agony of all agonies is that the man, conscious of that sin of yesterday as guilt, is yet more conscious that it is in him as power mastering him. He vows in the silence of the night that he will never sin the sin again and ere twenty-four hours have passed over his head he has sinned it, and knows he will sin it again, and yet again.

The guilt of the thing done yesterday, God have mercy on my soul, how terrible a thing is that! It is that sense of sin that the greatest master of English poetry expressed in the tragic and awful language of Lady Macbeth, "Out, out damned spot." You do not need to go to a theater to see that acted, it is acted in your own soul. Yes, but keener than that, more terrible is this, that I shall put another stain there, and I cannot help it! That is the tragedy of sin.

With that sense of the past on the soul, and the sense of present incompetence weighing on the spirit, the eyes are lifted to the great future with its terrors; they are inevitable, they are the results of these things of yesterday and today, the guilt of past sin, the power of present sin; all the future is lurid with the gray of gathered thunder clouds. That is the tragedy of a soul conscious of sin! If the gospel is worth anything it must deal with all that.

"The gospel of the grace of God" first proclaims pardon for the sinner, the forgiveness of sins. You tell me it is a moral impossibility, and over against your moral impossibility I place the mystery of the Cross. If you can explain the Cross in the terms of time, if you reduce the Cross to the level of a Roman gibbet on a green hill in Palestine and a dying man, of course it can never deal with moral guilt to the satisfaction of a human soul, to say nothing of the satisfaction of an eternal, holy God. But when the Cross is seen as a mystery, a mere unveiling in time of that which is eternal in principle, an unveiling in the awfulness of a vulgar tragedy in blood of the breaking, crushed heart of the God Who suffers because men sin, then I begin to feel that the spot will come out, I begin to know what can be expressed only in the imperfect language of material symbolism, but which is in itself the essential mystery of redemption, "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin." The gospel reveals the Divine passion, pain, agony, sorrow, whereby the past is canceled, made not to be, put away, forgiven.

But that is not enough, I must be superlative; this is a superlative theme. I will speak for myself. Hear me as a witness rather than as an advocate. It is not enough that the thing I did yesterday is forgiven. Unless the power that compelled me to do it is broken within me, it is not enough. If the message for the past is the mystery of the Cross, the message for the present is the might of the resurrection. The one lonely, supreme event in human history is that He rose from among the dead, and that by way of that resurrection He revealed to men the fact, not only that His life was perfect, and that by His passion it is possible for Him to forgive sin, but that His life, perfect within itself, bruised in the mystery of the great atoning work, is liberated that it may be bestowed upon sinning men, that they may share His purity in power, and that by living relationship with the risen Lord they may obey His sweet and mighty word, "Go and sin no more." The gospel proclaims not merely pardon for the past, it proclaims power for the present. If not, it is not a sufficient gospel. But it is sufficient. The witnesses are here. It is not the habit to call witnesses in this building; I sometimes wish it were, but they are here, men and women, young men and young women, who know that the power of Christ is equal to snapping chains, putting out fires, and setting their feet in the high way of holiness that leads to life.

The witness of the power is the demonstration of the pardon. If I preached simply the great mystery of the Cross whereby men are pardoned, and then I saw men who professed to believe it continue in their sin, I would doubt my gospel. But when the process from pardon is that of power over sin, then I am convinced of the actuality of the pardon our Lord pronounces.

Finally, has the gospel anything to say to me about tomorrow? For I call the testimony of the saints, wherein I bear my part, that whereas we know the joy of sin forgiven and whereas in part we know the power that triumphs over sin, we also have to say, as this same apostle said when he wrote to his Philippian children, I am not yet perfected, I have not yet apprehended that for which I was apprehended in Christ. Is there to be ultimate deliverance? Is there to be a day of full realization? Will all the powers of my personality one day harmonize with the good and perfect and acceptable will of God? Let my question be answered from the same letter. He has already said, "Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect.... I count not myself yet to have apprehended." But he did not sit down and sigh. What did he do? "One thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on towards the goal." What goal? Read to the end of the great paragraph. He speaks of a day in which the Lord shall "fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of His glory." That is the last and final perfecting of the life. All my life, mysterious, complex, made more wonderful than ever by the revelation of His gospel, will harmonize with Himself, and I shall see God and be satisfied, and shall stand unashamed in the light of the heavenly spaces: "He shall present me faultless before the throne of His glory."

The last word may be spoken very briefly. "The gospel of the grace of God" not only reveals the attitude and proclaims the activity of God, it declares the acceptance of men by God; Jesus Christ is the Revealer and the Redeemer, therefore He is the Reconciler. He came to bring God to man's consciousness, and to bring man to God's fellowship. If God may be brought to the actual consciousness of man, then man will be brought to fellowship with God.

This phase of our gospel again is threefold. It declares, first of all, our reception by God in and through Jesus Christ, in Christ Jesus made nigh, accepted in the Beloved. Such are the rich and gracious phrases of the New Testament revelation.

It declares also our regeneration, re-creation. In Christ Jesus we are made one with the Father, "partakers of the Divine nature." He Who condescended in infinite mystery to tabernacle in flesh as the result of the operation of that incarnation consents to tabernacle in flesh today, "Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost?"

Consequently, acceptance with God means renewal in Christ Jesus; we are heirs of God, and therefore all His resources are at our disposal, and so we "grow up into Him in all things."

We may be acquainted with the terminology of the gospel, with the terms of the gospel, yet we may be lost. It is not enough to hear the evangel. It is not enough to apprehend some of its spacious meaning. If you will go back in that address of Paul to the elders of the church at Ephesus you will find the conditions on which men may enter on all the virtues and values of the great gospel. "Repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ," repentance, change of mind which is active, determined. The gospel is the message that calls men to that. "Faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ," the attitude and activity of risk, venture. The gospel is the argument for that.

What of my yesterday? Jesus promises me pardon, forgiveness. What of my present incompetence? He declares that He has power sufficient to enable me to go and sin no more. What of tomorrow? He illumines tomorrow with the promise of His own advent and of my resurrection and of ultimate fulfilment of all God's purpose in my creation.

Shall I venture on Him? Shall I make trial of His word? And the answer yes is the activity of faith. When a man hearing the gospel shall answer its call to repent, and its argument for faith, then, presently, "the gospel of the grace of God" shall be to that man not theory merely, but the joy of his life, the strength of his endeavor, the peace and assurance of his soul.

165 - Acts 20:28 - Church Ideals: The Church Instituted

Church Ideals:  The Church Instituted

The Church of God.
Acts 20:28

In the course of his charge to the elders of the Ephesian Church, Paul made use of this particular phrase; and I propose to spend four Sunday mornings in considering certain matters which it suggests; speaking of the Church of God as revealed in the New Testament as to its constitution, its government, its discipline, and its work; our theme this morning being that of the first of these four considerations, the constitution of the Church.

We are arrested in the first place by the word itself, which is by no means common in earlier books of the New Testament; being found in the Gospel of Matthew only twice, in the other Gospels not at all, and for the first time in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles in its fifth chapter. (In the Authorized Version, the word is found in the second chapter, where it declares that, "The Lord added to the Church"; but the reading of the Revision is "The Lord added to them"; and as a matter of fact the actual statement is that "The Lord added"; meaning, as I believe, that these people were added, not to the Church, but to the Lord.) At this point in the twentieth chapter is the final occurrence of the word in this book.

Let me remind you that our word Church has no true connection with the word of which it is a translation, save in a secondary sense. Our word is a word full of beauty, coming to us through Old English from the Greek word which signifies the Lord; our word, therefore, simply meaning the Lord's house. It was first used of the place where Christian people assembled for worship, and presently, came to be used in a higher spiritual sense of the people who assembled for worship in such a place.

The word in which we are now interested, the true word of the passage, the word of which Church is a translation, is a word occurring often subsequently, especially in the writings of Paul. The word "ecclesia" literally means called out, and is used of some company of people separated from others. In this Book of the Acts, it is used once of the congregation of the Hebrew people in the wilderness; and once it is used, though not there translated church, in the sense in which the men who first head it would be most likely to understand it, of the governing body in one of the Greek cities. On the occasion of the uproar at Ephesus there was called together the Church at Ephesus, not the Christian Church, but the Church of Ephesus, that is, the assembly, the governing body, in which no slave could possibly hold office.

Such is the word itself. Suffice it to say it is one of those words which Christianity apprehended, and transfiguring, consecrated to its own purpose. As to its essential meaning, it signifies a people called out into separation; and as to its uses, it suggested to the men who first head it, two ideas; the Hebrew idea of the congregation, the nation itself, the Theocracy, the people God-governed; and the Greek idea of a company of free men, elected to the business of civic government. The two ideas, therefore, most probably suggested by the word to the men who first head it from the lips of our Lord, were those of a people under the direct government of God, and a people exercising in the world an authority derived from their submission to the throne of God.

Now this word is used in our New Testament about thirteen times in its catholic sense, having reference to the whole Church of God; and about nine times in reference to the local assemblies of the people of God; the church in Thessalonica, the church in Corinth, the church in Ephesus, the church at Smyrna, and so on. Yet the words are used so interchangeably that it becomes evident that the New Testament writers always looked upon the local assembly as a microcosm of the catholic Church; and all the things declared concerning the catholic Church are true concerning the local assembly.

In approaching our study of the New Testament conception of the Church, we are compelled to take time with what is perhaps a somewhat old and often debated matter, that, namely, of the distinction that it is quite necessary to draw between the Kingdom of God and the Church of God.

There is a distinction, and before we can understand the nature or the function of the Church, it is necessary that we recognize that distinction quite clearly.

Let me begin with that very constantly recurring phrase of our Bibles, and that constantly recurring phrase of the present day, "the Kingdom of God," and inquire as to what it really means.

I personally am always a little afraid lest we read into it an altogether too narrow meaning. Consequently, let us first attempt to grasp something of the breadth and spaciousness of the suggestion of the phrase itself. So far as is possible, let us free our minds from all ordinary interpretation of the meaning of the phrase, from all application of the value of the phrase; and consider the phrase itself, in order that we may understand that to which it refers.

The Kingdom of God suggests first the actual rule and reign of God; secondly, the realm over which God rules and reigns; and finally—and it is within this final thought that we generally confine our thinking—the realization of this Kingdom in the history of men, and in this world in which we live. We pray "Thy Kingdom come," and our Master taught us so to pray; and when we pray, we are thinking of an actual and experimental and conscious establishment of His Kingdom in the world. It is right that we should so pray, we must continue so to pray, and we must work as we pray toward the establishment of the Kingdom. But there is a sense in which that Kingdom has already come, in which that Kingdom is already established. We come into the most true understanding of the teaching of our Bible when we remember that the phrase itself means the rule and reign of God. Included within the phrase is a theology, a science of God, a doctrine of God. It assumes the Divine transcendence, the fact that God is seated high above all the affairs of the universe. Included in it also is the fact of the Divine immanence, His nearness to and perpetual sustenance of every atom of the universe over which He sits enthroned. It involves also the doctrine of a personal God.

I know the difficulty of using the word personal in this relationship; a difficulty born of the fact that we are constantly postulating the Divine Personality upon the basis of our own personality, which I submit is a wrong process of reasoning. Personality is only perfect in God. It is never perfect in man. Man is but a shadow of the Divine, a likeness, an image, a representation; and so in the matter of personality there is imperfection in man, while there is perfection in God.

This phrase of the Kingdom of God involves the doctrine of the personality of God; intelligence, emotion, volition; all the essential things of our own personality, but in absolute and infinite perfection.

The phrase reminds us that of this universe, of which we know so little and can know so little, God is the Creator, the Sustainer; arranging beforehand, as Paul said in Athens, the bounds of human habitation; fashioning, as the writer of the letter to the Hebrews declared, all the ages as they come, giving them all their tones and qualities and quantities. The whole universe is the realm over which God reigns. The Kingdom of God is a fact established from which there can be no escape on the part of angels or men or demons. All are within the grasp of His government, all are compelled to yield themselves, whether willingly or unwillingly, to the sway of His power, and to the ultimate purposes of His wisdom.

These are the profoundest things, the most spacious things, suggested by a phrase which we too often use as though it only had reference to things of this earth.

And at last, the phrase does stand for the establishment in this world of the Kingdom, where today we are supremely impressed by sin, and sorrow, and sighing; there will be established the Kingdom of our God, a Kingdom of love and joy and peace, of perfect human well-being in individual and social, national and international relationships. The establishment of the Kingdom, or Kingship of God in the world, is the last idea suggested by the phrase itself.

Now this great thought is the fundamental truth of Biblical revelation. The first chapters of the first book in the Bible suggest these things preeminently. Whatever difficulties we may have concerning what we are pleased to speak of as the authenticity or the historicity of these chapters, at least we must be perfectly agreed that they teach that all things have had their origin in the will and by the power of this one God. That as I understand it, is the fundamental teaching of the earliest chapters of the Book of Genesis. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." And in all that remains of the Old Testament, that is the perpetual chord of the dominant strain; and all the music, sometimes in major and sometimes in minor cadences, is true to that underlying chord; proclaiming the throne of God, and the government of God. The whole history of the Hebrew people is the history of the creation of a people recognizing that fact; and by obedience to it come to power and influence in the world; or by forgetting it, becoming a people scattered and peeled over the face of the whole earth. This throne and government of God, this sovereignty of God, is the great truth that runs through all the Old Testament.

When I turn to the New Testament, I find that this is still the theme. The first word falling from the lips of the forerunner of the Christ is, "Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand." The first words falling from the lips of the Christ Himself as He commenced His ministry of preaching is, "Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand." The whole of His administration—judged by His ethical standards, and His spiritual interpretations, by His works as well as His words—circles around this one word, "Seek ye first His Kingdom, do His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." The supreme passion of His heart, as crystallized in the prayer which He taught His disciples, and which we constantly repeat, is the same. He did not teach us to pray first for the things we need individually, but for the coming of God's Kingdom in this world, and its establishment here.

If we watch the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, and observe His dealing with His own nation after the flesh, we find that there came a solemn and awful moment, when with quiet dignity, in the metropolis of the nation, and in the Temple, the center of the metropolitan life, He said this most significant thing to the rulers of the people, "The Kingdom of God shall be taken away from you, and shall be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof."

Or, if we remind ourselves of the first occasion upon which He used the word "Church," let us note very carefully, not all the values of His announcement, but one particular emphasis thereof. To the confessor Peter, He said, "I also say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." In other words, I will make My Church the standard of moral interpretation, binding or loosing the standards of conduct among the affairs of men; the keys of the Kingdom were thus committed to the men who for the moment stood as the sole representation of that Church which He was about to build.

Or, if we turn to those pages in the New Testament which deal with the sacred ministry of the Spirit, the fundamental fact is still that of the Kingdom of God; interpreted through the Christ as the Spirit unveils the Christ; realized within the Church as the Spirit creates a race of men who will say, in answer to all opposition and all persecution and all criticism, "We must obey God rather than men." That was Peter's answer on behalf of the apostles and the whole Christian community to the criticism and opposition and persecution of the Sadducean high priest and governing board. "How dare you," said the priest, "preach in the name of Jesus when we straitly charged you not to do so?" And the answer was, "We must obey God rather than men"; or, in other words, we are in the Kingdom of God, submissive to His throne, recognizing no other authority that we can allow to interfere as between us and Himself. We must obey God.

As we glance on at what the New Testament says concerning the future, we find that it declares that this Kingdom is to be preached and realized beyond the age of the Church; and eventually in one mystic passage the apostle declares that when He, the Lord Christ, has subdued all rule and authority and power to His own sway, having reigned until even death is put beneath His feet: then He shall deliver up the Kingdom to the Father, that God may be all and in all.

Now we come to the phrase, "The Church of God," which is not of the Old Testament, which no prophet ever understood; and to the fact, to which no prophecy of the Old Testament has any reference whatever; a fact hidden in the past, revealed in these times, the fact of the Church. The Church according to this New Testament teaching is an elect race, a company of people called out, and unified by a common life; to create which, Christ came, and the Spirit came to abide; an entity, which ultimately is to be complete within itself; an entity, the full and glorious vocation of which does not begin in this age, but in the ages to come; an entity, nevertheless, which has most intimate relationship with that Master principle of the Kingdom, to which we have been giving our thought; a company of those in the world today in whom that Kingdom principle is realized, through whom that Kingdom principle is manifested, through whom that Kingdom fact is to be propagated amongst men.

Let me again refer to words of our Lord already quoted: He said to the Hebrew people, "The Kingdom of God shall be taken away from you and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof"; and when Peter wrote his letter, he described the Church among other phrases, by this suggestive one, "a holy nation." The Church of God then is that holy nation in the history of the world; realizing the Kingdom principle; manifesting the Kingdom value; proclaiming the Kingdom fact; propagating the Kingdom forces.

Then if that be so, let us now ask, What is the constitution of this Church?

The two references made to it by our Lord I have already referred to, and do not propose to deal with at any length, but I am compelled to commerce with them, because in them I find in germ, all truth concerning this elect company, the Church. He said, "Thou art Peter"—and I should much prefer to render with absolute literalness of translation, "Thou art rock, and upon this rock I will build My Church." Do not forget to link that word of Jesus at Caesarea Philippi with the first thing He ever said to this man. When He first met him, He said, "Thou art Simon the son of John: thou shalt be called rock." At Caesarea Philippi He said, "Thou art rock, and upon this rock I will build My Church." What rock? That master principle which, obtaining in the life of this man, had changed him from weakness to massive and perpetual strength. Not the man, not the man's humanity, not the apostle, blundering and failing; but that principle which had made him rock. And what was the principle that had made him rock? His discovery of God in Christ, and of the administration of the Kingship of God in Christ; Thou art the Christ, that is, the Messiah; the Son, that is, One showing the essential being of the living God. So that the ultimate word in the confession of Peter was the living God; and he recognized in Jesus the revelation of the living God; the Son; and he recognized in Him, the administration of the will of the living God, the Messiah. Upon that rock, that essential rock of Deity, of Deity revealed, of Deity administered, so as to change Simon from the weak changing man that he was into the man of rock, "upon that rock I will build My Church."

Or more briefly, to take the second reference to the Church on the part of our Lord, when speaking of the Church's discipline and power in prayer, He declared, "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst." That reveals the fact that the Church consists of all those who are gathered about the living Lord, and who by the administration of His Holy Spirit share His very life and nature, and are the instruments of His discipline, as He is the medium of their prevailing prayer.

The next historic reference to the Church is found in the fifth chapter of the Acts. What has happened? Our Lord foretold the Church, and now I find the Church referred to as an existing entity; great fear came upon the whole Church when the fiery discipline that purged the fellowship of the presence of Ananias and Sapphira was manifested. Then suddenly, without introduction, the Church is referred to as existing. Whence came it? The answer is to be found in the second chapter of the book. By the coming of the Spirit upon a company of waiting disciples, that company was baptized into a living unity. They became one; they were joined to the Lord; and became one Spirit with the Lord; and being one Spirit with the Lord, they were also so with one another. It was a baptism into life, the dawn of a new light, the power of a new love taking possession of them; and the life was the life of the Christ; and the light was the light of the Christ; and the love was the love of the Christ. Not that they loved Him, but that He loved them, and that love took possession of them, and became the impulse of all their doing and serving and suffering. Behold in the upper room on the day of Pentecost, after the coming of the Spirit, a company of men and women, no longer geographically near to the Lord, for He was absent as to all human appearance and presence; no longer one sentimentally with the Lord; but one with Him by the mystic tie of spiritual life. His life and their life made one by the baptism of the Spirit. So the Church came to be.

In view of that, the apostle wrote that which we read as lesson in the Corinthian letter, "In one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many." That is the Church; the Christ Himself the Head; and all individual believing men and women, baptized by the Spirit into relationship with Him, the members; quite independent of nationality, Jews or Greeks; quite independent of social position, bondslaves or free men. The great baptism of the Spirit destroys the differences, and creates the unity; the great baptism of the Spirit whelms human life, and brings it to the realization of its own powers, by linking it to the Master life, the life of the Lord and Master Himself. So was the Church originally constituted. And so the Church has grown through all the ages.

Paul, when in the Ephesian letter, dealing with the great theme of unity, which is the theme of our morning meditation, said, "Giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit," and the great vision of the catholic Church filled his mind as he wrote that. Then he suddenly breaks it up, that we may see and understand it, showing us the way of entrance into this new and holy relationship; "one Lord," that is the Lord Jesus Christ presented to the vision of the individual man; "one faith," that is the faith of the man who sees the Lord, ventures everything upon Him, trusts in Him; "one baptism," that is the baptism of the Holy Spirit whereby that believing soul is made a member of that one Lord. So the Church has grown through all the ages. No man has ever been made a member of the Church by the vote of a Church meeting, or having his name written upon a Society Class book. All these things may be valuable in their place; but they are external and accidental. Men become members of this great Church of God when the Lord is presented, and they call Him Lord by Faith, and as a result of the Spirit's interpretation; and then by the Spirit's baptism are made sharers of His very life, sharers of His very nature.

And what is the purpose of this Church? Let Paul finish that which I have partially quoted in the Ephesian paragraph, and we shall know. "One God and Father of all, Who is over all, and through all, and in all." The Church is the one Body, the members and the Christ; the way into the Church, one Lord presented, one faith exercised, one baptism received; the issue of the Church, the Kingdom of God, "one God and Father, over all and through all and in all." The Kingdom of God realized, manifested, proclaimed.

Therefore, I am a member of this catholic Church, if I have believed on this one Lord, and have received the baptism of the Spirit whereby I am made a member of this Lord. The baptism of the Spirit is not a second blessing; the filling may be; the enduement for power certainly is; but we cannot interpret our doctrine of the Spirit, in the light of the New Testament, without recognizing that the baptism, the whelming into life, is in answer to that faith, whereby a man becomes a member of the Lord.

The first practical value of this teaching is that of a recognition on our part of the unity of the Church. Brethren, are we praying as we ought, for that recognition? Are we living as we ought in order to the realization of it? To the passage already twice quoted, let me refer again. "I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beseech you to walk worthily of the calling wherewith ye were called." And how shall we do it? First "giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace"; and I always feel that I want to change that translation a little. Not that it is inaccurate, but that we have such strange ideas of what keeping may mean. "Giving diligence to keep" does not mean to guard as with a garrison. That is the thought when Paul says, "I know Him Whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able to keep," the word there means to guard as with a garrison. But that is not the word here; and I do no violence, nay, I illuminate the passage by translating thus, "Giving diligence to keep in view the unity of the Spirit," not to create it. We cannot create unity; we can keep it in view, never forget it, and live in the power of the fact of it. Then remember, it is the unity of the Spirit, not the unanimity of the mind. There may be many mental moods and methods of approach to the great fact of the Lord Himself and His Church. Not the uniformity of the body. I care very little, less and less for that; but the unity, the oneness of the Spirit. In proportion as the Church of God comes to that recognition, that keeping in view, with the corresponding answer of life to the fact of the unity of the Spirit, in that proportion we shall be content to sympathize with the differing mental convictions and bodily manifestations that the Church may take. These are the great lessons of study; the unity of the Church, and the continuity of the Church, and the certainty that the Church will at last be completed, and be presented to the Father for all that high and awe-inspiring vocation that lies beyond the present age.

Another practical lesson that we need to remember is that membership of the Church consists in fellowship with the life of the Lord of the Church. That life is light, and all the outlook is changed wherever it comes. That life is love, and the central passion and impulse of life is changed wherever it comes.

We have no right to hold any lower conception of the Church than this; and no lower conception of the nature of Church membership than this; and if that with which I commenced be true, that the local church is, or ever should be a microcosm of the Church catholic, the realization within a limited area of all the great truth which applies to the whole fellowship; then the local church should be one consisting of all those who have seen this Lord, and yielded to Him; and who have received by the Spirit's baptism the gift of His life; and whose central, burning, consuming passion therefore is the Kingdom of God established in the individual life, revealed to the world, proclaimed to men; and toward the ultimate victory of which all endeavor is consecrated.

May we be, so much as is possible to us, such a church; and to this end, may we who form the fellowship, be such men and women as sharing His life, yield to it, for the glory of His name. Amen.

 

166 - Romans 1:4 - Horizoned By Resurrection 

Horizoned By Resurrection

Declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, 
by the resurrection from the dead.
Romans 1:4

These words constitute the second part of a double statement concerning one Person. That Person is indicated by a reference preceding the statement and by an explanation following it. The reference you will discover in the beginning of verse three:—"concerning His Son." The explanation is contained in the closing part of verse four:—"even Jesus Christ our Lord." Between this reference and this explanation we find the twofold statement concerning the Person thus referred to.

Born of the seed of David according to the flesh.
Declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.

If for purposes of illumination, I may take from each of the two parts of the words necessary to discover the simple contrast, we have this result. Paul says concerning this Person Whom he first designates "Son of God" and finally refers to as "Jesus Christ our Lord," two things. First, according to the flesh He was "born of the seed of David." Secondly, according to the spirit He was "declared to be the Son of God with power... by the resurrection from the dead."

The first part of the apostolic declaration is simple and needs neither argument nor explanation, "of the seed of David, according to the flesh." The second part of the declaration was sublime and it was impossible—if I may thus interpret the method of the apostle—for him to write the second part without some qualification. "Of the seed of David according to the flesh," is a perfectly simple and natural declaration; but when he turns to the other side, "according to the spirit," he has to qualify, "according to the spirit of holiness"; or even more accurately as I think, "according to a holy spirit." "According to the flesh" He was of the seed of David, and Paul knew that no argument of that fact was needed. But, "according to the spirit," the essential matter in that human life, there was a difference. The spirit of this Person was holy. All the values of this differentiation are discovered when we reach the eighth chapter of the epistle. Therein the apostle is careful to distinguish between flesh and spirit in every life. In flesh, and in spirit, are the two sides of every human life. They were both present in the life of Jesus. His flesh was "born of the seed of David." His spirit must be described. It stands alone. There never was such another. It was a holy spirit, the spirit of holiness. In flesh He was absolutely of our humanity. In spirit also, and yet different. Numbered with transgressors, separated from sinners. In flesh, of our humanity. In spirit essentially the same, but in character different—holy.

The evidence of His being of the seed of David was abundant and convincing. The evidences of His being the Son of God were abundant but not convincing. The evidence did not convince because those who observed were incapable of judging, for they were spiritually blind. The men who looked at Jesus in the days of His flesh were quite capable of judging material things, fleshly things; they could trace genealogies, and discover racial traits; "according to the flesh, born of the seed of David."

According to the spirit—they said He was a gluttonous man and a wine-bibber, the friend of publicans and sinners. They did not know Him. They could not be sure of Him. The evidence of Divine Sonship were those of holiness. His thoughts, His words, His deeds, all of them were the vehicles through which the essential and awful purity of God sounded and shone upon the ways of men. "When we shall see Him there is no beauty that we should desire Him." Not that He was devoid of beauty, but that men were so blind they could not see it. The evidences of fleshly relationship were abundant and convincing. The evidences of Divine relationship were abundant, but not convincing, because men had lost their spiritual vision and were incapable of judgment. If you object to that interpretation, how do you find it in the world today? Is the man of the world of today capable of judging of the beauty of holiness? Is not the sanctified life still the sport of the worldly man? If you dare to season your daily speech with the salt that tells that you have traffic with eternity, the worldly man sees nothing beautiful in it. He shrugs his shoulders. That is the new method of persecution, seeing that the rack has gone out of fashion. He smiles, and perhaps holds you in contempt. Some of you hold the saints in contempt because you are blind and cannot discover the beauty of holiness.

How shall this Man be proven the Son of God as well as Son of man, seeing that the holiness of His spirit does not appeal to men? "Declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." It is that declaration of the text which we are now to consider. In order to do so, confining ourselves entirely to this half of the great statement concerning the Person, we must carefully understand what this thing is that the apostle wrote. May I change the phrasing, not that I can improve upon it, but that sometimes by a change of words we are introduced to the meaning which we miss by very familiarity with the older formula. So I read the text thus, "Who was distinguished," and that word must not be taken in the general sense in which we speak of a man as being distinguished.

"Who was marked out as the Son of God with power through the means of the resurrection of dead ones?"

May I further change the text, this time not by translation in other words, but by paraphrase.

"The resurrection of dead ones set Him with powerful effect upon the horizon as the Son of God."

I do not suggest that that is translation, so those of you who are reading from the Greek New Testament need not be anxious. I do not intend it as interpretation. Those of you who are familiar with the passage in the Greek will discover that I have dared to take a Greek word and Anglicize it. What is this word "declared," "distinguished," "marked out?" It is the word from which we have derived our word horizon. What is the horizon? The boundary. What is a boundary? The end? By no means. It is the beginning. If only I could transport you to the sea, you would understand my text. Standing on the land's last limit there stretches the sea with its movement and its rhythm, its music and its laughter. What beyond? The horizon, the boundary. Is that the end? That is the beginning. Everything between me and the horizon I can comprehend. The mystery begins where the horizon bounds my vision. It is limitation. The limitation is only the limitation of my vision, not of the essential fact. According to flesh, everyone can read the story, "born of the seed of David." According to the spirit, "horizoned as the Son of God by the resurrection of dead ones." Resurrection demonstrated the essential truth concerning Him. Apart from the resurrection, He is "born of the seed of David"; a great and gracious fact, and no one imagines I am undervaluing it. My heart exults with the Apostle John who handled Him. I am glad that men of my kith and kin nineteen hundred years ago did actually lay hands upon the warm flesh of the Man of Nazareth. That, however, is not all. That is not the final fact. If you make that the final fact, your Christianity will be a diminishing quantity, losing all its essential virtue and all its power of victory; until presently you will put Him by the side of Confucius, Buddha, and the rest; a sorry spectacle over which angels might weep. There is something else. He is the Son of God according to the spirit of holiness; and He is demonstrated as such, horizoned as such, flaming out as the sun upon the horizon, and rising to meridian glory, by way of the resurrection. That is the supreme value of the resurrection. The resurrection is the unanswerable demonstration of the profoundest fact concerning the Christ, that, namely, of His Divine Sonship.

In order to gain appreciation of this, let me take you very quickly along three lines of consideration. First, the truth that Jesus was the Son of God, as apprehended before the resurrection. Second, the truth that Jesus was the Son of God, as apprehended after the resurrection. Third, the resurrection as the means of demonstration.

First, the truth as apprehended before the resurrection. That is to say, I suggest that we shall, for a few minutes only, put ourselves back among the disciples before that event happened which we celebrate today.

I take up my New Testament and go through the gospel stories and find three titles of Jesus constantly recurring, "Son of Man"; "Son of God"; and "The Son," without qualification. I have nothing to do with the title "Son of Man." That put Him into immediate relationship with humanity. I take the title "Son of God." Please forgive the statistical way of stating this, I only desire to leave an impression upon your mind. It occurs in Matthew nine times, in Mark four times, in Luke six times, in John eleven times. Of course some of those occasions overlap, it does not at all matter for my present purpose. I find in Matthew that He is called the Son of God six times by men, three times by devils. Mark records two occasions when men so designated Him, and two occasions when devils called Him "the Son of God." Luke gives one occasion when a man called Him that, and four when devils so named Him, and one when an angel declared Him to be the Son of God. I come to John and I find six occasions when man referred to Him as the Son of God, and five when He so named Himself.

Take the other title "The Son," more splendid perhaps than the other because of its independence of qualification. Adjectives are often the means of weakening the glory of substantives. The proportion in which we can use substantives alone, apart from adjectives, is the proportion of dignity of statement and suggestion. Matthew has the description "The Son" four times, Mark once, Luke three times, John fifteen times. That phrase, according to the records, never fell from the lips of devil, or man, or angel. It is the peculiar phrase of Jesus.

With these figures in your mind, let me take another survey of these gospels. Christ did claim for Himself, by direct use of the title and by constant assumptions of commonplace speech, that He was the veritable Son of God. That fact was attested in a supernatural way on two occasions, when heaven's silence was broken and the Divine voice was heard. "This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased" so at baptism; "This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him"; so on the holy mount. The fact was witnessed by devils, as when one said to Him, "I know Thee Who Thou art, the Holy One of God," and another "Thou art the Son of God," and yet another "What have I to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of the Most High God? I adjure Thee by God, torment me not." That fact was once confessed by a man amid the rocky fastnesses of Caesarea Philippi, when answering the challenge of Christ Himself he said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God."

If you will go over these occasions, I can but suggest the line, you will find that every confession of Sonship was closely associated with the thought of holiness. "My Son, in Whom I am well pleased," that is the declaration of His holiness. "I and the Father are one." "I do nothing of Myself, but as the Father taught Me, I speak these things.... I do always the things that are pleasing to Him," all that is the claim of holiness. "Thou art the Holy One of God," "Thou art the Son of God"; so evil recognized His holiness. And surely you will agree that Peter meant that when He said "Thou art," not the prophet foretelling, but the Messiah fulfilling.

That is a rapid survey of those days prior to the resurrection. What shall we say of it? The fact of His Divine Sonship was breaking on the consciousness of men. It was only the flush of dawn upon the dark sky. Men did not know Him as the Son of God. Peter confessed Him as the Son of God, but immediately afterwards rebuked Him, and by his rebuke demonstrated the fact that he had no full conception of the thing he had said. There He lived amongst men, holy, undefiled, spotless, pure, the Son of God; and they were puzzled, they wondered, but they did not fully comprehend.

Turn over the New Testament to the remaining part of it. How far was the truth of the Divine Sonship apprehended after the resurrection? To an audience such as I am addressing this morning, the inquiry carries its own answer. We know full well that all the thought of the other writings of the New Testament are saturated with the conception of the Divine Sonship of Jesus. It was the central conviction concerning Him. It was the constant reason of loyalty to Him. It was the persistent burden of testimony concerning Him. I will not weary you with saying things about that conviction. Let me rather end this section of our study with two quotations:

"Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in Him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things have been created through Him, and unto Him; and He is before all things, and in Him all things consist."

That is the vision of Jesus Christ which flamed upon the consciousness of believing men after the resurrection.

Or, take another quotation which you may consider anonymous or which you may attribute to the same pen, I care not:

"God, having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in divers manners, hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in His Son, Whom He appointed heir of all things, through Whom also He made the worlds; Who being the effulgence of His glory, and the very image of His substance, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had made purification of sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high."

I go back to these men before the resurrection and see that gleams were upon the sky. To repeat my own figure of speech, the flush of the dawn was upon the sky, but it was twilight. They were not sure.

On the other side of the resurrection, the sun is in the heavens shining in full glory. Christ is horizoned as the Son of God with power by the resurrection of dead ones, not by His own resurrection only, but by the resurrection of dead ones.

Let us go back again to the period before His cross. I have three stories of His raising the dead. First, the widow's son. What effect did that miracle produce? The people glorified God; they said, God has visited His people. They had not come to final doctrinal understanding of the Person of the Man Who had wrought the work, but when He raised the dead they said, God has visited us.

The resurrection of the son of the widow of Nain was evidence to them of the Divine presence, the Divine visitation, and therefore of holiness. When He raised the widow's son, a great man was in prison; "Among them that are born of women there hath not arisen a greater than John the Baptist." He had changed all the inspiration of a great public ministry which made kings tremble—for Herod heard him gladly at one time—for the dungeon and loneliness and questioning. I cannot help feeling that he had come to wonder whether, after all that, Jesus of Nazareth Whom he had named, was the actual One; but when he heard this, that one was raised from the dead, he sent his disciples to ask, "Art Thou He that should come, or look we for another?" It was this supreme miracle of resurrection which renewed questioning, wonder, hope, in his mind. Then presently He raised the daughter of Jairus in that inimitable word spoken, thrilling with the power of Deity: "Little darling, arise." The parents were amazed. That is all, but that is much. Amazed, they had touched the consciousness of power beyond the reach of humanity. Once again, Lazarus is dead, and they bring Him the news. What is His own account of the fact that He did not hurry, that He permitted Lazarus to die? This is it. "That the Son of God might be glorified thereby." "Declared to be the Son of God, with power... by the resurrection of dead ones." That is the supreme revelation. That is the supreme miracle.

But what next? The cross. What did that mean? All the fitful gleams of light which had been shining through Judaea, Peraea and Galilee, all the flush of dawning upon the eastern sky which the eager watchers had seen, went out, and never a ray of light remained. The sun was eclipsed in blood. According to the flesh, oh yes, we knew Him well, "Born of the seed of David," the genealogy is complete. We hoped, when He raised the daughter of Jairus, and the widow's son, and Lazarus, that He was more, but He is dead. You know the rest. We celebrate it this morning. He arose from among the dead. Many infallible proofs for forty days. He is horizoned. Horizoned as the Son of God.

   Lo, our sun's eclipse is o'er.
          Hallelujah!
   Lo, He sets in blood no more!
          Hallelujah!
          
The resurrection was the vindication of every claim He made; the demonstration of His Sonship; the revelation of His holiness.

According to flesh, "born of the seed of David." We can be accurate. According to the spirit of holiness, Who is He? There is only one way in which it can be proven, and that is by the resurrection of the dead ones. The son of the widow of Nain, the daughter of Jairus, and Lazarus. Yes, but He died. But He is alive forevermore. Take that away from me, my masters, and I renounce your bastard Christianity.

I have no hope if that be not so. "If Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, your faith also is vain... ye are yet in your sins." Blessed be God, why such supposition? He arose, and is alive!

The final demonstration is not yet. I am not coming to the supreme value of the plural in my text. "Horizoned as the Son of God, marked out as the Son of God, with power... by the resurrection of dead ones." The final demonstration will never be until the Advent, when not only the first fruits, but all the company are with Him, "The resurrection of dead ones."

   Ten thousand times ten thousand,
    In sparkling raiment bright,
   The armies of the ransomed saints
    Throng up the steeps of light;
   'Tis finished—all is finished
    Their fight with death and sin!
   Fling open wide the golden gates,
    And let the victors in.
   What rush of Hallelujahs
    Fills all the earth and sky!
   What ringing of a thousand harps
    Bespeaks the triumphs nigh!
   Oh, day, for which creation
    And all its tribes were made!
   Oh, joy, for all its former woes
    A thousandfold repaid!
    
The final demonstration will be in the resurrection of the saints. So that the resurrection of the saints is not the last thing, it is the beginning. Do not limit God and humanity by the end of this age, or by the millennium. Everything so far has been preparatory. Stretching away beyond me, I dream dreams of unborn ages and new creations, and marvellous processions out of the being of God, but through them all, the risen Christ and the risen saints will be the central revelations of holiness and of life.

That is the glory of the final resurrection. As so often, we leave the subject, not that it is exhausted. Suffer me this final word. The fact of His Divine Sonship demonstrated by the resurrection is the rock of our assurance. Said a man imperfectly knowing what he said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Answered Christ, "Upon this rock I will build My Church." The rock foundation of the Christian Church is this fact of His Divine Sonship, and so essential Deity lies beneath the Church, an impregnable rock. Thank God if we are built thereupon by sharing the very nature of this risen One.

Let us go away this morning rejoicing in the resurrection because it is the message of a great confidence. He is King, Priest, Warrior, and Builder, and all the great relationships are linked to His resurrection because He is demonstrated thereby as the Son of God.

His Kingship is an absolute monarchy. I have no anxiety about His reign. I believe in an absolute monarchy when we can find the right King. We have found Him.

As to His Prophetic mission, it is one of absolute authority. What He said is true. It cannot be gainsaid. All the words gathered from His tender lips, and printed here and preserved for us, are words which abide. "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My word shall not pass away." I have no intellectual quarrel with anything He says.

As to His Priesthood, the resurrection demonstrates its absolute sufficiency. Do you really believe that? Then why do you grieve God by this perpetual grieving over sin, and the declaration that you cannot believe He can forgive you?

   Grace there is my every debt to pay,
   Blood to wash my every sin away.
I know it because the Priest rose and entered in.

As to His triumph, He hath broken in pieces the gates of brass. He hath cut the bars of iron asunder. He hath triumphed gloriously, and He will win His battle and build His city. Then so help me God, as He will permit me, I fain would share the travail that makes His Kingdom come, entering the fellowship of His sufferings, for all the while the light of His resurrection is upon the pathway, and I know that at the last the things which He has made me suffer will be the things of the unending triumph.

I greet you this morning in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit! Seek not the living among the dead. He is risen, and because He is risen, we shall rise, and His victory and ours will be won.

167 - Romans 1:14 - The Church's Debt to the World

The Church’s Debt to the World

I am debtor both to Greeks and to Barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.
Romans 1:14

It is almost certain that Paul had never been to Rome when he wrote these words. A question naturally arises therefore as to the reason why he wrote this letter and sent it to the Christians there. Other of his epistles were directed to churches that he had visited, some of which he had founded, to all of which he had ministered. But he had neither founded nor visited the Church in Rome when this epistle was written and sent.

Nevertheless, Paul was a Roman citizen. A Jew he certainly was—by birth; as he said of himself, he was a "Hebrew of the Hebrews," that is, a Hebrew born of Hebrew parents; he belonged to the economy of Hebraism to the last and minutest detail—but he was a Roman, not by accident, or even by personal choice, but by actual birth. When an officer of that nation said to him: "With a great sum obtained I this citizenship," Paul answered, "But I am a Roman born."

He was a Roman, having all the rights and privileges of Roman citizenship. It is perfectly evident in the study of his life and writings that this fact affected his thinking and teaching. While he was a Hebrew pre-eminently, and while he was not unconscious of the Greek thought and culture of his age, in some ways Rome seems to have affected him more than all. He was a Roman of imperial mold, a statesman with a keen sense of the value of strategic positions, and able to carry on great enterprises. In a recognition of this fact we begin to understand the reason for his writing this letter. When to this we add the supreme matter that Paul was a commissioned apostle of Jesus Christ we have the full and sufficient explanation. His supreme consciousness, that is, the consciousness that most, constantly and consistently influenced him, was of his calling and commission by Jesus Christ. This did not make him unmindful of the other forces at work in his life. It rather sanctified them, and pressed them into the high and sacred service. There was no side of the apostle's life of which this inner fact did not take hold and make use. Paul the Apostle of Jesus Christ knew that Rome was the strategic center of the world. He was perfectly familiar with the fact that the world was borrowing Rome's language for commerce and learning, and culture from Greece. He was perfectly aware of the fact that the Hebrew system was the purest system of religion known to the world. But he also knew that from Rome the highways stretched out over the whole known world. Rome had flung out those long-reaching arms over all the lands in order that her cohorts and legions might ride along them. I think, then, that I can see Paul, the man of contemptible bodily appearance, who yet became so transfigured by his message that kings trembled as he preached—I see him looking at Rome, and saying: Oh, if I could but start the new enterprises of the Cross from Rome as a center. How that vast government, stretching out its scepter and taking hold of all things, would help me in prosecuting the great work of my life, to make the gospel known to the whole world. How well these great roads would do for the journeys of the missionaries!

When he said, "I must see Rome," he Was not impelled by the curiosity of the tourist. It was the passion of the missionary. It was the statesmanship of a man whose mind was imperial in its grasp, whose heart and will were dominated by the Christ and by His Cross. And so, when for a time he was prevented from going, he felt he must write his letter. He must at least see to it that the Christians in Rome had a clear statement of the great Gospel, and its message put in such form as to make it plain to their understanding. It is as though he had said: I will write the Gospel that Rome may have it; because if Rome has it, and it has Rome, the world must inevitably be reached by its messengers and its power. Of course, all this is simply the statement of the human side. Behind all this was the Spirit of God, leading and inspiring. In our text we have found the deep, underlying impulse of the letter. And what is it? "I am debtor." To change the form slightly, the Apostle declared: "I am in debt both to Greeks and Barbarians, to the wise and to the foolish."

This leads us to some further inquiries. What did he owe to the Greeks? Something of their ideals of culture? Very little, as his writings show, for, while it is certain that he was always under the influence of his early training in Tarsus, it is also notorious that Paul's classical quotations are very few, and perhaps, always incorrect. What did he owe to Barbarians? Nothing, surely, but their attempts to murder him. What did he owe to the wise? Certain it is that he had sat at the feet of Gamaliel, but there is very little doubt that he had paid in kind for all that he gained from Gamaliel. What did he owe to the foolish? Surely this is a mistake. He could not be in debt to the foolish!

So far, we are quite consciously missing the whole heart of his meaning. Let us attempt to express that meaning in other language. He meant: The Gospel has been committed to me for men; and so long as there is a Greek or a Barbarian, a wise man or a fool, who has not heard it, I am in debt. The Gospel has been committed to me not merely in order that I may hear its message, and obey it, and become a saved man. All that is true, but it is only preliminary, initial. The Gospel has been given to me for others.

Now we begin to reach the underlying impulse of Paul's life. We begin to understand its passion, its movement, its enthusiasm, its terrific drive. We sometimes talk about the terrific strain made on ministers in this age. The fact of the matter is that we hardly begin to understand strenuous service as compared with Paul's. Sometimes we are taken severely to task by well-meaning friends if we travel easily by train and preach twice during the week. There were no trains for Paul; there were no resting places for Paul. He crossed tempest-tossed seas and mountain ranges, and knew real perils on land and sea. What, then, was the driving force? Why hurry, Paul, why hurry? And he would have replied: I am in debt, and I must pay. I have a Gospel, an evangel, a message. Let me go and tell the men for whom it is intended. "I am debtor." There is the ring of tremendous responsibility in this. "I must see Rome." I am in debt to Rome. I have a Gospel for Rome. I am ready to preach it in Rome.

This is the language of the true Christian man in every successive age of the Church, and therefore it is the true language of the whole Christian Church. In broad principles, that word of Paul declares the attitude and responsibility of the Church to the whole world of men, irrespective of differences of birth or of attainment. The Church of God is in debt—in debt to the world. Not that the world has given the Church something for which she has to pay, but that God has given the Church something for the world.

But, you say, the world hates God. That is partly true; but it is yet more true that God loves the world. But, you say, the world will not have God. That is also partly true; but it is wholly true that God wants the world. And it is for that reason that He has given the Church something, not for her self, but for the world. If the Church appropriates this great evangel, and sings her songs about it, thanks God in her worship for what He has done for her, and stops there, she is playing the harlot, she is prostituting her very nature to base uses. I make no apology for these blunt and brutal figures of speech. They are the figures of the Old Testament prophet and of the New Testament apostles, and there is nothing I feel we need to have borne in on our hearts more than this, that until we take this Gospel and give it to the world we are dishonest—we are in debt.

Let us now take time to consider the nature of this deposit, which the Church has received for the world, in order that we may the better apprehend the character of our responsibility. Let me at once say that I am not using the word "deposit" at this point carelessly. In writing to Timothy, Paul said, "I know Him Whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able to guard that which I have committed unto Him against that day." The words, "that which I have committed unto Him," are exposition rather than translation. To translate more literally what the apostle wrote we may render the statement thus: "I am persuaded that He is able to guard my deposit against that day." Now, it will be seen at once that this may mean that He is able to guard that which I have deposited with Him, or it may mean that He is able to guard that which He has deposited with me. Both in the Authorized and Revised Versions the idea of the translators was that the apostle meant that Jesus was able to guard what the apostle had deposited with Him. I do not so understand the statement. It is out of harmony with the whole reason and purpose of the letter. I have no doubt that he intended to declare, "He is able to guard the thing He has committed to me." The idea was that the Lord had deposited something with the apostle, and that the apostle held the deposit in trust for others. Referring to this deposit, Paul said, I have had to suffer for it. I am not ashamed of it. My joy, my comfort is that if God has given me this sacred deposit He is able to guard it. There is no need for me to be anxious to guard the deposit of truth. God can do that.

This, then, is the sense in which I have used the word deposit, the sense in which the apostle uses it in this case, as of something deposited with him.

What, then, we may now inquire, is the deposit? In order to find the answer, I look at the text in the light of the context. "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it"—and there follows the description of the deposit of the great Gospel committed to him and the Church. First, there is a description in general terms—"It is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." That is the heart and center of the whole matter. Power unto Salvation! That is what our Gospel is. Not education, not entertainment, not social organization, save as it is true that all these grow from this root. Salvation in the New Testament almost invariably means rescue rather than amelioration. Rescue and all that naturally grows out of rescue. It is salvation from evil, both moral and natural. Salvation from the penalty of evil, salvation from the power of evil, salvation from the presence of evil.

These are the tenses of salvation. A man is saved from the penalty of evil in the moment in which he believes; he is saved from the power of evil by all the processes of sanctification; he will be saved from the presence of evil, finally, at the coming of the Lord Jesus. This, then, is our Gospel; it is a Gospel of salvation as justification, as sanctification, as glorification. It is the salvation of the spirit of a man, which is justification. It is the salvation of the mind of a man, which is sanctification. It is the salvation of the body of a man, which is glorification. It is a salvation which deals with the whole man: spirit, mind, and body. Thus the Gospel is essentially a message for such as are in need. It is the message of Christ, Who distinctly affirmed, "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." If for the sake of argument it be granted that there may be human beings who have no need of moral cleansing and spiritual renewal—we by no means say that this is so, but suppose that it were so—then they have no need of a Gospel, and our Gospel has nothing to say to them. On the other hand, those who know themselves spoiled, mastered, depraved by evil, are in need of a Gospel, and it is for such that the Church holds the Gospel as a deposit.

It is, moreover, the Gospel of salvation through the power of God and not through the power of man. There is a kind of evangelism much in vogue in certain quarters at the present hour which speaks of the conflict in every man between angel and beast, and which declares that man's hope lies in his power to destroy the beast and cultivate the angel. Well, all I can say is that I know all about the beast in my own life, but not so much about the angel. But: if this evangel says to me, All you have to do to be saved is to make the angel master the beast, then I declare it is no evangel, for I cannot do it. But if the evangel tells me that there is a power of God that destroys the beast by giving me a new life, which is the Christ life, then have I hope. The Gospel declares the possibility of salvation by the power of God. That is the deposit which creates our debt to the world.

Our context takes us a step further in the revelation of the nature of our deposit as it says: "For therein," that is, in this Gospel, "is revealed a righteousness of God by faith unto faith, as it is written, But the righteous shall live by faith. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men."

The Gospel, then, is, first, the announcement that righteousness has been revealed. That is the fundamental and inclusive theme of the Roman epistle. The righteousness of God has been revealed in a person. We often speak of the righteousness of Christ. That is not incorrect in some senses, but it is at least a suggestive fact that the Bible never speaks of the righteousness of Christ. It speaks of the righteousness of God, and Christ is that righteousness. If men want to know what righteousness is, they must know Christ.  They cannot have a true idea of righteousness until they know Him. Every other conception of righteousness is faulty and false. In Him alone the righteousness of God is revealed.

But, further, the righteousness of God is revealed in Christ not as pattern only, but also as power. The Gospel declares that the righteousness of God revealed in Christ is at the disposal of the man who needs salvation. Such a man may be saved on his side by the activity of faith, and on God's side by the bestowal of righteousness, a righteousness which gives him the pattern of his life, a righteousness which, through the mystery of Christ's dying, being communicated to the man, becomes the dynamic of his new life.

That is the Gospel which the Church holds as a deposit for the world. Oh, the music there is in it for my heart! I cannot read this great doctrinal treatise, argumentative and logical as it is, without the song born of the experience begotten of its teaching finding expression. I was lost, but there came to me the Gospel of salvation, and that Gospel of God's salvation was, first, the revelation of God's righteousness in Christ. That was a revelation of surpassing beauty, yet the unveiling filled my heart with fear and a new sense of my own failure and unworthiness. Then, while I looked and was afraid, behold, I saw that the hands were wounded, and the side; and I discovered that the infinite mystery of death admitted me into the infinite dynamic of life.

But it may be well that we inquire again, Why is such a Gospel necessary? And again the context gives us a complete answer in the words: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness." A revelation of righteousness was made necessary by the revelation of wrath. The revelation of righteousness by the law was in itself a revelation of wrath to the Jew, because the Jew had not obeyed the Law. The revelation of righteousness through conscience in the Gentile was a revelation of wrath to him, because he had not walked in the light of conscience. This Gentile application is most pertinent to ourselves. Let us consider it. Concerning the Gentiles the apostle declared—quoting the Authorized Version—that they were "men who hold the truth in unrighteousness." The Greek word means, to hold down, to imprison, to prevent its working. That was the reason of wrath. When is God angry with a man? When that man holds down the truth in unrighteousness. Let me attempt to express that in another way. God is angry with a man when he does not follow the dictates of his instructed conscience. In the case of the Jew the same principle obtained, but with another application. He was guilty of holding down, that is, of preventing the operation of the written law in his life. That to him was unrighteousness. The Gentile was held responsible for the measure of light which he had but did not follow. That was his unrighteousness. The Jew has sinned against law. The Gentile has imprisoned the truth in ungodliness and unrighteousness. Therefore the wrath of God is over both. Both Jew and Gentile need salvation in the sense of rescue.

The age has not changed—at least, if the age has, human nature has not. I have no care to argue with men whether they are sinners through Adam's fall. I hold that they are, but one note of the Gospel is that such race failure and pollution is accounted for, and atoned for, in the Cross. The point of human responsibility is that men have deliberately chosen darkness, even though the light, whether of law or of conscience, has been shining on them, because of which God's wrath is on them. Because of that they need salvation, and our Gospel deposit is the proclamation of the possibility of saving such. If wrath is revealed because of man's unrighteousness, righteousness is revealed as available for man by way of the infinite and superabounding grace of God. That is our deposit. It is committed to us. We are, therefore, committed to the work of proclaiming it to the world.

And now, finally, it must be remembered that this Gospel is for all men. In spite of all arguments to the contrary, that is the plain teaching of the New Testament. If I did not believe that I could never preach again. But there is no room for doubt or question. This Gospel is for all men, and for all men it is committed to us. This was made perfectly clear in the last command of Jesus to His first disciples. To them He said: "It is not for you to know time or seasons,... but ye shall be My witnesses." He then described the circles which bound the sphere of responsibility. Let us note them. "In Jerusalem"—that is the first circle, the city in which we dwell. "And in all Judea and Samaria"—this circle is wider, embracing our native land, and the country adjoining. The last circle is described in the words: "And unto the uttermost parts of the earth."

Jesus Christ, the Head of this church, is Head of the holy catholic Church. He stands in our midst, and He says to us: You are in debt to Westminster, to London, to England, to the uttermost part of the earth. So long as anywhere there is a man who has not heard that Gospel, we are in debt. So long as anywhere there is a soul underneath wrath for disobeying light, and we have joy and a glorious Gospel, we are in debt. For dealing with evil and all its issues this Gospel is sufficient. Every manifestation of evil is, therefore, a call to us. Personal evil, social evil, national evil, racial evil, are saying to us, Bring us your Gospel.

Oh, heart of mine, listen! Listen to the cry of the war. Listen to the cry of the woman on the streets. Listen to the cry of evil everywhere. What are these voices saying? You are in debt to us. You are in debt, for you have the Gospel. Bring it to us. The man of Macedonia is crying to us as clearly as he called to the apostle!

It is a great privilege to have such a deposit; but, oh it is a great responsibility! Debt is always dishonorable. A man is pitied when he is bankrupt; but if he has the money to pay, and he does not, then is he a rogue, and must be punished. We are not bankrupt. We have the Gospel that will meet the need of the age. If we hide it and keep it from this city, this land, this world, we are dishonorably in debt.

Suppose the Church fails to discharge this debt. Nay, let us close on a more personal note. Suppose I fail to discharge this debt. What then? Ah! what then? Have you ever asked yourself that question? Can any sin be greater than that of withholding a supreme remedy from supreme need? Have we ever asked ourselves which judgment is likely to be greater—judgment of the disobedient Church or judgment of the men who needed the Gospel and never had it because of her disobedience? If "holding down the truth in unrighteousness" brings the wrath of God, surely there is no sin so great as that of having this Gospel and not passing it on, telling it out. The Church's responsibility to the world is marked in these words. She is in debt to man because all her glorious evangel is hers for them. May God lay on us the burden of this duty, and send us out to discharge it. As the Church discharges this debt, she fulfils her mission in the world.

168 - Romans 1:16, 17 - The Power of the Gospel

The Power of the Gospel

For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is revealed a righteousness of God by faith unto faith: as it is written, But the righteous shall live by faith.
Romans 1:16-17

When Paul wrote this letter he had never visited Rome. He earnestly desired to do so, and expected that his desire would be fulfilled. That desire was created by the fact of his Roman citizenship, and by his interest in the Christian Church in Rome; and that more especially because he desired that the Church in that city should be an instrument for the evangelization of the Western world. Writing thus to the saints in the Imperial City, he declared that he was not ashamed of the gospel, and he gave his reasons.

The statement that he was not ashamed is in itself interesting. It is the only occasion on which we find Paul even suggesting the possibility of being ashamed of the gospel. I am perfectly well aware that this is a declaration that he was not ashamed, but why make the declaration? I think there can be but one answer, and it is suggested by the words immediately preceding the text: "So much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you also that are in Rome." The declaration that he was not ashamed of the gospel, with its implication of the possibility of being ashamed, was the result of his consciousness of Rome, of its imperial dignity, of its material magnificence, of its proud contempt for all aliens, of the vastness of its multitudes, of the profundity of its corruption. There was no question in his mind as to the power of his gospel, and yet we detect the undertone of inquiry as he wrote: "I am ready to preach the gospel to you also that are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel."

It is always easier to preach in a village than in a city, to the sweet, simple people of the countryside than to the satisfied metropolitans. Really it is not so, but the feeling that it is so invariably assails the soul of the prophet of God. In answer to that consciousness of his soul, or perhaps in answer to his feeling that such a consciousness might exist in the minds of the Roman Christians, Paul affirmed his readiness to preach the gospel in Rome also, declaring that he was not ashamed of it, and giving as his reason that this gospel was "the power of God unto salvation." The only justification of a gospel is that it is powerful. A message that proclaims the need for, and the possibility of, spiritual and moral renewal must be tested by the results it produces. A word devoid of power is no word of the Lord. A gospel that fails to produce the results it announces as necessary and as possible is no gospel. Is our gospel the power of God?

Let me say at once that the particular burden of my message this evening has come to me as the result of a long letter which I now hold in my hand, four closely written pages which I am not going to read to you in full, but which I have read again and again for my own soul's profit and examination as a preacher of the gospel, and from which I propose to read a few sentences. The letter refers to meetings which have been held in preparation for the winter's work:

You were saying on Tuesday evening that men were everywhere inquiring after reality, and I quite agree. We often hear about the dynamic of Christianity. There are youths and young men—I speak only of those about whose temptations I know something—who have to face temptations, and even this week have cried to the Lord Jesus for help and have tried the best they knew how to overcome, yet have failed. When a young man comes to me and asks where he can get the power to overcome, what am I to say? One did remark to me, "It is not a lack in our religion that it supplies no real power to overcome such-and-such temptations, temptations that cannot be avoided, and that have to be faced?" Men don't want a merely theoretic idea or ideas about the dynamic of Christianity. They want to realize how they can practically appropriate that dynamic. Careful Christian workers want to know how far, and in what way, they may safely encourage those spiritually sick and blind to hope for spiritual help after they have believed for the forgiveness of their sins; and experience shows it must not be a matter of mere inference, for inference would be likely to promise more than what seems to be genuinely realized. To hold out hopes that experience must disappoint is disastrous. Yes, it is reality men are longing for.

I believe that letter expresses the inquiry and the feeling of many souls. I think that my friend has fastened on a word that he knows I am peculiarly fond of, the word dynamic. I plead guilty; I love the word, and I use it a great deal, and I do so because it is a New Testament word. It is the very word of my text, The gospel is the power, δυναμις?, of God unto salvation. The letter of my friend is practically a challenge of the declaration of my text. The text says, "The gospel is the power of God into salvation." My friend suggests that there are men who have heard the call of Jesus, who have been obedient to it, and yet have not experienced that power. I am not going to argue the points of the letter, but rather to consider the statement of Paul, hoping and believing that in that consideration and in an attempt to understand the meaning of the great Apostle at this point there may be help for honest souls whose difficulty is voiced by the writer of the letter.

However, let me say to the writer of the letter, and to all such, that I agree that there is nothing more important today than that the Christian preacher and teacher should be real in the use of terms. But all who are making that demand must recognize the extreme difficulty of reality in terminology when dealing with spiritual forces that can never be perfectly apprehended. Whenever we have to deal with great forces we find ourselves in a similar difficulty. I am not an electrician, but I suggest a question whether the phrase, "to develop electricity," is an accurate phrase. I do not say that it is not, but I ask, Can you develop electricity? Is it not, after all, a word that we hazard until we come to fuller knowledge? Is there any man in this house, or in London, or in the world, who is prepared to tell us the last thing about electricity, not only what can be done by it, but also what it is? The moment we get into the realm of great forces which are intangible, imponderable, demonstrated by what they do, we are at least in danger of seeming to be unreal in our terms. We are dealing now with the most wonderful of all forces. At the close of our meditation undoubtedly there will be a sense in which some of the terms used will seem to lack reality. It is not that the force dealt with is unreal, but that it is so far beyond our final explanation that terms cannot be discovered which cover the facts of the case while excluding everything that should be excluded.

Confining ourselves now to the words selected, let us consider, first, the affirmation, "The gospel... is the power of God unto salvation"; second, the condition on which the power is appropriated, "to every one that believeth"; and, finally, the exposition of the operation which the Apostle added, "for therein is revealed a righteousness of God by faith unto faith."

First, then, as to the affirmation. Here many sentences are not necessary. The Apostle declares that "the gospel... is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." The power: that is something which produces results, something which is more than a theory, something which is mightier than a law, an actual, spiritual force, producing spiritual results, an actual power accomplishing things. What it is in itself may be a mystery; how it does its work may not be known; but the Apostle declares that it accomplishes certain things, and that we may know by the results it produces that the gospel is more than a theory, more than a law, that it is, in fact, a power. Moreover, he makes the superlative declaration that it is "the power of God." This is the superlative way of declaring its sufficiency for doing certain things. In quality it is irresistible, in quantity it is inexhaustible. Yet he declares further that it is "the power of God unto salvation." This at once defines and limits the power of the gospel. The gospel is the power that operates to this end alone. The gospel is the power which operates to this end perfectly.

The word "salvation" immediately suggests inquiring what the danger is that is referred to, for to know the danger is to know the scope of the salvation. Here, to summarize briefly, the danger is twofold: pollution of the nature, and paralysis of the will. In the presence of temptation men find that their nature is so weakened that they yield, and their will is so paralyzed that even when they have willed not to yield, still they do yield. That is the whole story of the danger. The Apostle declares that the gospel is "the power of God unto salvation," that is, for cleansing the nature from its pollution, and for enabling the will, so that henceforth a man shall not only will to do right, but shall do it.

It is perfectly clear, however, that the gospel operates in human lives only on the fulfilment of conditions. The gospel is not the power of God to every man. "The gospel... is the power of God to every one that believeth." The Apostle here recognized the human possibility, that is, a possibility common to all human nature, irrespective of race or privilege. "To the Jew first; and also to the Greek"; and to the Greek none the less and none the later. The conditions can be fulfilled by men as men, apart from the question of race or privilege or temperament. The gospel can be believed by the metropolitan or the provincial, by the dweller in Rome as surely as by the dwellers in the hamlets through which he had passed, by the learned and by the illiterate. Belief is the capacity and possibility of human life everywhere.

What, then, is this capacity? We must interpret the use of the word believe here by its constant use in the revelation of the New Testament. There must be conviction before there can be belief. Belief is always founded on reason. How can they believe who have not heard? The conviction is not necessarily that of the truth of the claim; it is not necessarily conviction that the gospel will work. There can be faith before I am sure that this gospel is going to work. Indeed, thousands of people have a profound conviction that the gospel will work who yet have never believed. The conviction necessary is that in view of the need experienced, and of the claim which the gospel makes, it ought to be put to the test. Jesus said to His critics on one occasion: "If any man willeth to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it be of God." Surely that was a perfectly fair test. He who puts the gospel to the test of obeying it will find out whether its claim of power be accurate. When a man is convinced that in the presence of his need and of the claim which the gospel makes he ought to put it to the test, he has come to the true attitude of mind in which it is possible for him to exercise faith. Faith, then, is volitional. That is the central responsibility of the soul. Faith is not a feeling that comes stealing across the soul. Faith is not an inclination toward the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith is that volitional act which decides in the presence of the great need, and in the presence of the great claim, to put that claim to the test by obedience thereto. Conduct is the resulting expression, which is conformity to the claims made by the gospel, immediate and progressive. Whatever the proclamation of the gospel says to the soul, the soul is to put the gospel to the test by obeying. Invariably in the actual coming of a soul to Christ under conviction of sin everything is focused at some one point; and when that is obeyed other calls will be made on the soul by this gospel, which is one of purity and righteousness, as well as of mercy and of love. Faith is that volitional act which puts the gospel to the test by obedience to its claims. That is the condition of appropriation.

The whole situation is illuminated for the inquiring soul by the explanatory word: "For therein is revealed a righteousness of God by faith unto faith." That is the exposition of what the Apostle has already written concerning the gospel, both as to the nature of the power that is resident in it and as to the law by which that power is appropriated in individual lives. The declaration that there is a revelation in the gospel of the righteousness of God does not mean that the gospel has revealed the fact that God is righteous. That revelation antedated the gospel; it was found in the law, it was found in human history, it was found everywhere in the human heart. Out of that knowledge comes the agony of soul that seeks after a gospel. The declaration clearly means that the gospel reveals the fact that God places righteousness at the disposal of men who in themselves are unrighteous, that He makes it possible for the unrighteous man to become a righteous man. That is the exposition of salvation. Salvation is righteousness made possible. If you tell me that salvation is deliverance from hell, I tell you that you have an utterly inadequate understanding of what salvation is. If you tell me that salvation is forgiveness of sins, I shall affirm that you have a very partial understanding of what salvation is. Unless there be more in salvation than deliverance from penalty and forgiveness of transgressions, then I solemnly say that salvation cannot satisfy my own heart and conscience. That is the meaning of the letter I received: mere forgiveness of sins and deliverance from some penalty cannot satisfy the profoundest in human consciousness. Deep down in the common human consciousness there is a wonderful response to that which is of God. Man may not obey it, but in the deeps of human consciousness there is a response to righteousness, an admission of its call, its beauty, its necessity. Salvation, then, is making possible that righteousness. Salvation is the power to do right. However enfeebled the will may be, however polluted the nature, the gospel comes bringing to men the message of power enabling them to do right. In the gospel is revealed a righteousness of God, which, as the Apostle argues and makes quite plain as he goes on with his great letter, is a righteousness which is placed at the disposal of the unrighteous man so that the unrighteous man may become righteous in heart and thought and will and deed. Unless that be the gospel, there is no gospel. Paul affirms that was the gospel which he was going to Rome to preach.

Then we come to a phrase which is full of light. He tells us that this righteousness therein revealed, revealed in the gospel, is "by faith unto faith," in which phrase he tells us exactly how men receive this power. He has already told us that it is to everyone that believeth, then he gives us an exposition of that phrase. As he has given us an exposition of "salvation" as the revelation of righteousness of God at the disposal of men, so now he gives us an exposition of the phrase "every one that believeth" in the phrase "by faith unto faith."

The phrase is at once simple and difficult. There can be no question as to its structure. Taking the phrase as it stands, and looking at it grammatically apart from its context, it is evident that the second "faith" is resultant faith. The faith finally referred to grows out of the faith first referred to. "By faith unto faith." It is an almost surprising thing how successfully almost all expositors have hurriedly passed over this phrase. What did the Apostle mean? Did he mean that is an initial faith on the part of man which results in a yet firmer faith? That is possible, but there is another explanation. I believe the Apostle meant that the gospel reveals a righteousness which is at the disposal of sinning men by the faith of God unto the faith of man. The faith of God produces faith in man. The faith of God. Ought such a phrase be used of Him? Verily, if faith be certainty, confidence, and activity based on confidence. The faith of God is faith in Himself, in His Son, and in man. On the basis of God's faith in Himself, and on the basis of His faith in His Son, and on the basis of His faith in man, He places through His Son a righteousness at the disposal of man in spite of his sin. That faith of God becomes, when once it is apprehended, the inspiration of an answering faith in man. Inspired by God's faith I trust Him. I act in consonance with the faith that He has demonstrated in human history by sending His Son, and by all the provision of infinite grace.

I take my way back from this epistle and observe once more the Lord Jesus as He revealed God to me, and that is what He always did in dealing with sinning souls. He always reposed confidence in them in order to inspire their confidence in Himself. If Thou canst do anything, said one man to Him; If thou canst...! All things are possible to him that believeth, was His answer. That was the Lord's declaration of His confidence in the possibility of the man who was face to face with the sense of his own appalling weakness. There are many yet more remarkable and outstanding illustrations in the New Testament. The Lord ever dealt with men on the basis of His confidence in them, in their possibility in spite of failure, always on condition that they would repose an answering confidence in Himself. A supreme illustration of this was afforded in the upper room on that last night when He was dealing with the disciples in the sight of His approaching departure. Mark most carefully His conversation with Peter. Peter, demanding to understand Him, in agony in the presence of the gathering clouds, said: Where art Thou going? Jesus replied: Whither I go ye cannot come now, but ye shall come hereafter. Again Peter asked: Why cannot I come now? I will follow Thee anywhere. I will die for Thee! Jesus replied: Wilt Thou die for me, Peter? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, the cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied Me thrice. Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me. If I go away, I come again to receive you to Myself. I go to prepare a place for you.

Take out of that conversation its central value. It is Christ's confidence. He said to Peter, in effect: I know the worst that is in you, the forces that you have not yet discovered that within four-and-twenty hours will make you a denier, cursing and swearing. I know the worst, but if you will trust Me I will realize the best in you. I know the best in you. I shall have perfect confidence in you, provided you will have confidence in Me.

Let me take a superlative declaration. Whatever we think about humanity, Christ thought it worth dying for! He believed in it, in spite of its sin, in spite of its unutterable failure. When He confronted sinning souls He believed in them. He knew their incapacity. He knew that of themselves they could do nothing; but He knew also that in them was the very stuff out of which He could make saints who would flash and shine in light forever. In spite of the spoiling of sin, there was that in them with which He could deal. If I may borrow an awkward word from the old theologians, God believes in the salvability of all men. God puts righteousness at the disposal of man by faith in Himself, in His Son, and in the man at whose disposal He places it. If that once be seen, men respond to that faith of God by faith in Him.

Let us come away from the realm of argument into the realm of experience. All true Christian workers, men and women who know what it is really to get into close touch with sinning souls, and into grip with the spiritual life of men, have learned that the way to lift men back out of the slough of despond is to let them see that Christian workers believe in them. The way to lift any woman back again out of the degradation into which she has come is to show her you know she is capable of the higher and the nobler in the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. "By faith unto faith." By faith a righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel. By the confidence which God reposes in Himself, and by the confidence He has in the possibility of every human life, He has placed righteousness at man's disposal through Christ. No man will ever avail himself of that except by faith. No man can appropriate the great provision save as he responds in faith to faith. As this faith of God in man is answered by the faith of man in God, then contact is made between the dynamic that is resident within Himself, and placed at the disposal of men by the mystery of His passion, and the weakness and incapacity of the human soul.

Such was the gospel of which Paul was not ashamed. Such is the gospel. The accuracy of the theory can be demonstrated only by results. That is the whole theme. I am here this evening to affirm once more—and I do it no longer as theory, I do it as an experience; I speak from this moment not merely as advocate, but as witness—that "the gospel... is the power of God unto salvation." However hard and severe the affirmation may seem at the moment, I am nevertheless constrained and compelled to affirm that if the gospel does not work, the failure is in the man, not in the gospel. If that be not true the whole Christian history is a lie. If that be true, then all the thousands and tens of thousands of human beings who for two millenniums have declared what the gospel has wrought in them have been woefully deceived, or have been most mysteriously perpetrating fraud throughout the centuries and millenniums. If it does not work, then that man who says that he has been delivered from besetting sin is a liar, and he is sinning in secret. Either this declaration is true, or the gospel is an awful deception, enabling men to hide secret sin. I pray you think again. If you have imagined that there is no dynamic in the gospel, think again, and examine your own life again, and find out whether or not you have fallen into line with the claims of the gospel and fulfilled its conditions. I assert that it is not enough that man shall hate his sin and cry out for help; he must put himself in line with the power that operates, he must fulfil the conditions laid down. It is not enough to submit to the Lord; a man must also resist the devil. It is not enough to resist the devil; a man must also submit to the Lord. There are men who submit and cry for help, but they put up no fight against temptations. They will never appropriate the power. There are men who put up a strenuous fight against temptations, but they never submit, never pray, never seek help. They will never find deliverance. "The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." The gospel is that wherein the fact is revealed that righteousness as a power is at the disposal of a sinning man by God's faith in that man, inspiring man's faith in God. If men would discover the power of this gospel they will do so as they submit to its claim immediately and thoroughly.

If this were the time and place, as it is not, I could call witnesses. They are in this house: men who have known the very temptations delicately referred to in this letter, subtle, insidious temptations; but who also know that the gospel has meant to them power enabling them to do the things they fain would have done, but could not until they believed in this gospel.

I would like my last note in this address to be an appeal to any man who is face to face with this problem. My brother, God believes in you, and that in spite of all the worst there is in you. God knows the worst in you better than you know it yourself, yet He believes in you; and because He believes in your possibility He has provided righteousness in and through the Son of His love and by the mystery of His passion. I want you to respond to God's faith in you by putting your faith in Him, and demonstrating your faith by beginning with the next thing in obedience. You also will find that the gospel is the power of God, not theory, not inference, but a power that, coming into the life, realizes within the life and experience all the things of holiness and of righteousness and of high and eternal beauty.

169 - Romans 3:26 - The Justification of the Sinner  

The Justification of the Sinner:  God's Difficulty—God's Solution

“... that He might Himself be just, and the Justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus.”
Romans 3:26

The measure in which we apprehend the meaning of the words of the text is the measure in which they challenge our belief. In the earlier part of the letter we find the teaching of the writer as to the attitude of God towards human sin. I content myself with one quotation; "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold down the truth in unrighteousness." The terrible conclusion of the writer as to the condition of the human race, a conclusion which he declared by quotation from one of the ancient psalms, is found in such words as these:

   There is none righteous, no, not one;
   There is none that understandeth,
   There is none that seeketh after God;
   They have all turned aside, they are together become unprofitable;
   There is none that doeth good, no, not so much as one:
   Their throat is an open sepulchre;
   With their tongue they have used deceit:
   The poison of asps is under their lips:
   Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:
   Their feet are swift to shed blood;
   Destruction and misery are in their ways;
   And the way of peace have they not known:
   There is no fear of God before their eyes.
   
By this writer, who first makes clear the attitude of God towards sin and then concludes the whole race as under sin, we are told that this God can be true to Himself in character and yet clear the members of this race from the guilt and penalty of sin.

If we take the declaration without due consideration of the conditions, we shall deny its accuracy. We shall declare that it is impossible for God to be just, that is, true to Himself in nature and character, and justify the ungodly, that is, liberate them from the responsibility or penalty and guilt of sin and treat them as just men. In our courts of law, justice and mercy can never act together. I am not arguing that there never should be clemency in the courts of law. I am not arguing that it may not be well in certain circumstances to extend mercy toward guilty people. I do declare, however, that in the exercise of mercy, there is the violation of justice. It may be that some man arraigned in an earthly court committed an act of wrong under extenuating circumstances that call for clemency and the court so acts towards him. That is not a violation of justice, for it is just that he should be pardoned, as when some man steals a loaf of bread for starving wife and children.

In the Hebrew economy, in the instructions to judges, this matter was most carefully stated, "If there be a controversy between men, and they come unto judgment, and the judges judge them; then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked." How then can God justify the wicked? How can God be just to Himself, and the Justifier of sinning men? The wonder is great, but the fact is gracious.

Let us consider this matter not theoretically merely, but in order to apply the truth to our own souls' need. Let us try to understand God's difficulty, and then let us consider so far as we may, knowing ere we begin that the light may be too bright for the feebleness of a sinner's sight, and that such a profound matter can be perfectly apprehended—God's solution of His own difficulty.

God's difficulty; to be Just and the Justifier of the sinner. God's solution of his own difficulty; God may "... be just and the Justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus."

We commence by reminding ourselves of the separation between man and God. We recognize at once the intimate relationship between man and God; that all men are offspring of God; that the deepest thing in human nature is not the fresh-life of which we have had our fathers after the flesh, but the spirit-life in which every man is offspring of Deity. In this recognition we are coming face to face with the nature of the separation of which we are to speak.

Passing quickly over the solemn ground, we remind ourselves of two things; the holiness of God and the depravity of man. The holiness of God is the supreme revelation of the biblical writings. It is, moreover, to all those who have eyes to see intelligently, the supreme revelation of creation. This is the apostolic argument in the earlier part of the letter. Paul declared that the Gentiles, the men without the particular revelation which had been granted to the Hebrew people, were nevertheless not without revelation for in nature the wisdom and power of God are clearly revealed. In those things also, we have a revelation of the holiness of God. Let us disabuse our minds of any preconceived notion of what holiness may be: not that our interpretations have been at fault, but that sometimes they have been altogether too partial. The holiness of God is demonstrated by all His works. In the Book of Psalms it will be found that those singers of the ancient times—wonderful singers expressing all the emotions of the human soul in the presence of God—constantly celebrated "... the wondrous works of God." The phrase runs through the psalter. The perfection of God is manifested in creation, is seen in form and color, is heard in sound, is detected by all the senses of men. The perfection of God is revealed in all the processes of creation: in those crises arid upheavals which fill the soul of man again and again with fear and dread but which in the last result are ever seen to move on toward something yet grander and more beautiful. No man has thought carefully in the presence of the wonderful evolutionary method of God in the created order—which, by the way, is only one method and does not account for everything—without having been impressed by the wonder of it all; the slow-moving processes ever onward and ever perfect in themselves and yet ever growing into more wondrous perfection, and then the clash, the upheaval and the new glory. God's creation uttereth forth His praise. "The whole earth is filled with the glory of God"; and perfection is holiness demonstrated through creation.

The holiness of God is demonstrated also in the perfection of His government; His government of the world in wisdom, in truth, in justice, and in power. These things are not always seen at near range. In many an hour of darkness and conflict we tremble and are afraid. Therein we foolishly judge Him by the limitation of our vision. If we wait but for a generation, and then look back to things that puzzled us, we always see that God has been over-ruling, out of all the chaos creating cosmos, out of disorder establishing order, in the graphic language of the ancient psalm, making "... the wrath of man to praise Him, and the remainder girding upon His thigh as a sword"—thus holding it in reserve. All this is but demonstration of the holiness of God.

To state the whole fact, again quoting from the ancient psalms, "As for God, His way is perfect....." Nothing imperfect is tolerated by Him. The autumnal fires destroy the effete beneficently to make way for new life and new beauty. These autumnal fires in nature are but the sacramental symbol of the fact of the Divine presence in which the whole creation ever exists. Scientists have described these fires by the technical term "eremacausis," which means quietly burning. These slowly-burning fires are ever purging nature's floor, and they constitute a fitting symbol of that presence of God everywhere that became clear to the vision of the ancient prophet when he said, "... who among us can dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?" All those who have looked upon human life clearly, carefully, and intelligently, and with spiritual perception, have seen that all our cities, all our nations, all our empires, are within His fire, which surely, ultimately destroys the effete, purifies the strong, and leads forward toward the ultimate consummation of absolute perfection. God's holiness is attested everywhere.

It is supremely declared in the biblical revelation. In the divers portions of the past, the supreme message is that of the holiness of God. In all the songs Divinely inspired, in all the prophecies Divinely taught, in the whole system of the law, the one monotonous message is this, "I, the Lord Thy God, am holy." All these divers portions of the past, however, are as nothing when put into comparison with the simple and yet sublimely complete message that He gave to men in the Person of His Son.

If there be one truth supremely manifest in nature, supremely declared in revelation, it is that of the holiness of God; that holiness that has no place for ultimate imperfection, that holiness that can only be satisfied with perfection in any and every realm, material, mental and moral. The unveiling of God in the Word, in all nature, and in all history, is the revelation of supreme holiness.

We turn from that thought, and we think of man. I will not again read the indictment of the apostle in this context. I only ask you to have it in mind. If inclined to challenge it at any point, I pray you before you pass your verdict, consider it with great care. Having myself done so, I declare that I am convinced that the picture is a true one.

Think of the depravity of human nature as it is revealed in unexpected ways. Man's depravity as revealed in the imperfection of his works even at their highest and their best. There is no true artist but will tell you that the finest creation of his mind and genius is failure. In the realm of art, we are in the realm of creation more peculiarly than in any other realm; yet art has always failed, and in its passionate desire for perfection it sometimes becomes grotesque and foolish. We smile today at some of the manifestations, but they are tragic manifestations of human failure. Futurism is a very modern revelation of man's failure, as well as of man's inherent capacity for creation and passionate desire for expression.

Man's failure is revealed also in his government. That I am not proposing to argue at any length. I take the widest outlook, I survey the centuries and declare that man has never yet governed perfectly. We have made our boast in our ability to govern, and at this moment are faced with a tragic situation in which the supreme, appalling revelation is incapacity for government so that lawlessness is permitted unchecked.

Humanity's failure is revealed as surely in the imperfection of its words and these again at the highest and best. Humanity's attempts at interpretation of the poets and the philosophers all fail, so that each succeeding generation comes up with a sigh and finds disappointment in the things that have been said and attempts interpretation once more and again fails.

Take the narrower outlook. Humanity spoils everything it touches of its own life. Business at this hour is full of things of defilement. I am not saying that no man in business is upright. I am not foolish enough to say such a thing; but I am saying that he finds it extremely difficult to be prosperous and upright at the same time. Commercial life is permeated with things of iniquity and evil.

Man spoils his own pleasures with evil. Things perfectly innocent and proper are defiled as man touches them. Tell me what there can be of evil in the racing of two horses mounted by men who almost seem part of them so perfect is their understanding of them? Yet, no reputable man cares to have his name associated with the turf! What can there be inherently evil in cards with pictures of kings and queens and knaves on them? They were invented to amuse a mad king! Yet they have been polluted and fair lives are being damned and ruined by gambling with them. These are rough and ready illustrations, but they are illustrations. Man touches religion itself, and it is degraded and so spoiled and made the means for the manifestation of an evil spirit in protested defense of itself. There is nothing more terrible than that in the whole history of religion that men defend the truth of God in a temper that is born in the pit.

If these are the general facts of the separation between God and man, think within a narrower circle of man's fear of God, man's dread of God, and man's dislike of God. Has man a dread, a fear, a dislike of God? There are thousands of homes characterized by all that is refined in the more modern sense of the word where the very name of God and religion are taboo. Men do not want to talk about God. I protest that it ought to be the most joyous thing in all the world to talk about God, that men should find their chief delight in talking together about Him. Those who really know our God delight to speak of Him, and there is nothing narrow in the speech and nothing mean in the conversation. It is broad with the breadth of His own beneficence and beauty and glory and glad with the happiness of the happy God. Yet men are afraid and will not talk of God but turn their back upon God because of an underlying consciousness of wrong and distance from Him. The reason of man's fear of God is not in God, it is in man. The men who have known God best have had the least slavish fear of Him and have exulted in their conversation concerning Him and their relation to Him. In the light of the Divine requirements as they have been revealed in the Scriptures of Truth—"And what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God"—what is there that makes men anxious not to have dealings with Him? Nothing other than that they have not done justly, have not loved mercy, and have not walked humbly with Him.

That God can justify sinning men and still be just Himself seems to us impossible. Let us remember that on the Divine side the difficulty is created by the desire of God. If God were other than He is, were God other than Love, His passion for perfection might be vindicated by my destruction. He might blot out the evil thing, sweep away the failing race. But listen to one or two very old and very familiar words, perhaps with a slightly altered emphasis; "... Adam,... Where are thou? Do you read that as though God were occupied in the work of a policeman? Then you blaspheme. That is not the cry of a policeman; it is the wail of a father. He did not want information as to the geographical location of a man who was hiding; that idea is absurd! The cry was the revelation of the spiritual agony of God in the presence of human sin. Listen to another of these words. It is the language of the broken-hearted prophet Hosea who learned God's pain by the tragedy in his own home, and it expresses that pain of God in presence of Israel's sin; "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim?" In the New Testament the whole truth is declared; "God so loved the world..."! That is the supreme fact; love craving for fellowship; God desiring the fellowship of His children; God wounded in His own heart, in His own being, and suffering in the presence of human sin.

Out of that love arises the difficulty of God. His desire is to justify the sinner, to make a way for His banished ones to return, to find a way back for Adam, to restore Ephraim to His original intention, to bring the world to Himself in spite of sin and wandering. That is the Divine desire, the Divine passion. How can He do it? God cannot exercise one attribute at the expense of another. He cannot deny justice when He acts in mercy. He cannot forget the requirements of law when love would operate.

Yet the difficulty is not merely in that God must vindicate law. The difficulty is deeper. He must vindicate law because of the nature of the law that He must vindicate. His law for man was love-inspired and so absolutely perfect that, being broken, results follow which are destructive of such as break it. Punishment is not additional to sin, it is inherent in sin. What a man soweth that he reaps. The harvest of broken law is not the harvest of anger, it is a harvest that grows out of man's own sinning.

Speaking within the limitation of the human outlook, therein is the supreme difficulty. The principle of law can be vindicated by the annihilation of the sinning man; but because law is inspired by love, and love is set upon the perfection of that man, and because the thing the man has done has within itself the elements of man's destruction, the love that inspires law must insist upon the law, while yet it feels out after the man. How can that law be met which has sprung from love, and how can that man be restored? How can this God of perfection be true to Himself and take sinning men back to Himself on the level of the righteous?

There is only one way. He must make them righteous. He must put righteousness at their disposal by some process so that it really becomes theirs, mastering them and dealing with all that which has resulted from their sin, restoring them to His holiness, upon the basis of some power that overcomes sin. Nothing short of that can satisfy the requirement of this God Whose desire is that of the restoration of man.

Again I ask, "How can this be done?" Nicodemus was not so great a fool as some people seem to think. I am weary of hearing men talk about him as though he were a flippant fool, an intellectual idiot! Nicodemus was a tremendous man, and our Lord dealt with him so. When he said, "... How can a man be born when he is old?" he was not trifling, but asking the most agonizing question a human soul can ever ask. When I have arrived at manhood, how am I to undo the past years and their influences. I am molded, fashioned; how am I to escape from myself? How can I begin again. It is one of the most terrific questions that was ever addressed to God in Christ. "... How can a man be born when he is old?" How can he have that justification that takes hold of the inner fact of his failing manhood and deals with it? That is the question.

The gospel we preach is not simple; it is profound. We do not ask you to receive the pity of God as though He would excuse you and admit you presently to heaven in spite of what you are. God cannot deal with men like that; has not done so and will not do so! He must justify and still be just! He cannot justify, unless He remains just. There is the problem and the difficulty.

Hear then God's solution of the problem; "... He might be just and the Justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus." At this point I call a halt of most serious importance and significance apart from which we shall be all astray within five minutes. We must first note Who this Jesus is, to Whom reference is made. Because I am dealing with Paul's teaching and argument, I go back to Paul's definition. His letter opens with it. He was filled with the consciousness of this supreme fact of the Person Who in Himself is of the very essence of the gospel.

"Paul, a bond servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, which He promised afore by His prophets in the holy scriptures, concerning his Son, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, who was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection of the dead; even Jesus Christ our Lord."

It is necessary that we go back to that passage to know Who this Person is. There is a racial aspect of humanity from which no individual escapes. This Person, born into this flesh, Who identified Himself with the race, was in essential spirit the Son of God. He came to dwell in flesh that had been the very instrument of sin. The Person toward Whom our faith is directed is not mere man of our humanity. He is Man of our humanity, but He is also One Whom we cannot dismiss by calling Him Jesus of Nazareth; we must also name Him Son of the Highest. We cannot account for Him wholly within the terms of our humanity; we must include within our thinking His relationship to Deity. That relationship is essential so that when we look at the Son we see, to borrow a phrase from another of the letters of the New Testament, "... God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself...." Therefore, upon all He said I must place the measurement of the Divine wisdom; upon all He did I must place the measurement of the Divine power. From the narrowed focus of His human life, I must look out into all the immensity of the Divine. When I see Him at work and listen to His speech, I know I am observing God and listening to God. His tears are the tears of God. His sighs are the sighs of God. His pain is the pain of God. This One Who was contracted to a span for human observation, brought down into human limitation for human outlook, is One in Whom all the fulness of the godhead dwelleth bodily. We shall never understand our redemption until we get this outlook upon the Redeemer. If you tell me Jesus was a Man Who persuaded God to love me, you are uttering that which is almost blasphemy. Jesus is God persuading me back to the love of God and enabling me to answer the persuading. Jesus is the name employed in the text; the sweetest, simplest, human name; employed in order that my frail finite mind may fasten and fix itself upon Someone Whom in measure I can understand, and having done so may find that I have been admitted into the spaciousness of all the eternal Deity. Paul says that in Him "... a righteousness of God hath been manifested,..." which means infinitely more than that God's righteousness is revealed in Him. The manifestation of righteousness in Jesus is the putting of righteousness at my disposal, not clothing me in it, but communicating it to me so that it becomes the inspiration of my life. This is done "... through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus...." The exposition of that term "redemption" is found in the words "a propitiation... by His blood." The word "propitiation" suggests something that covers the guilty person so that the results of sin do not fall upon the guilty head. "By His blood" brings us back to the tragic, awful symbol of the very pain and passion of God. Here is the Cross. Therein I learn what I cannot explain, that He bare my sins in His own body on the tree. How, I cannot tell! I could have explained it had it been the activity of man for I also am a man. When I discover that behind the revelation of the Man there is the activity of the God who out of love enunciated law and now out of love doth suffer the consequent penalty of broken law, then I feel that the Rock to which I come will hide me, for God will not violate His own holiness, and even though I cannot explain the method by which He justifies me, I know that seeing He has taken my burden, I may take from Him with humility the gift of pardon which His grace extends.

The way of appropriation is that of faith. The only unpardonable sin is to reject the offer of His grace. The only sin that hath no forgiveness is the rejection of the operation of the Spirit Whose office it is to reveal the things of Christ and place at our disposal all the grace He came to bring me. That unpardonable sin cannot be committed in an hour or a moment. It is not one act. It is persistent, definite, final refusal of Christ. There is no other sin that hath no forgiveness.

The Sabbath day is nearly done. We have been trying to face supreme things. The supreme things of life are those of relation to God. Does that need any arguing? I think not. In view of His holiness then let us ask, "Where do we stand?" To those who are conscious of wrong, of sin, of failure, and consequent lack of fellowship with Him, we bring now the message of the gospel. It is that God places at our disposal righteousness through Christ His own Son, places at our disposal righteousness which is the outcome of the redemption provided through propitiation. He has taken our place as to all the result of our sin and gives us His place as the result of that very suffering.

What shall we do? Shall we not trust Him? Shall we now come to Him saying:

   Nothing in our hands we bring,
   Simply to thy cross we cling.
   
In such trust we shall have that justification which He bestows while still just to Himself, and enter into the eternal peace.

170 - Romans 5:8 - Amazing Love! 

Amazing Love!

But God commendeth His own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

During the past week I received one letter which especially arrested my attention. It was unsigned, and I want to read it to you. It is very brief, very pointed, and seems to me to breathe the spirit of restless and disappointed rebellion. The writer says:

The writer begs leave to call to the Rev. Campbell Morgan's remembrance a statement he made last Sunday evening, viz., "My Friend has proved His love to me so as to bring conviction to my heart." Then why does He not convince every person of His love? Why is He not just to all?"

The text I have read tonight is my answer to that question, and I was very careful last Sunday night to state that fact. In speaking of my Friend I said two things concerning His love. First, He has declared His love to my surprise, and then I made use of these actual words:

He has demonstrated His love so as to bring conviction to my heart. Whether I have responded or not is not the question for the moment. I simply state the fact. "God commendeth His own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

Thus it will be seen that when I said that my Friend had brought conviction of His love to my heart I made the statement upon the basis of the text which I take tonight. I do not think the thinking of that letter is lonely, even though the writing of it is singular. I can well imagine that many people would go away last Sunday evening saying in their hearts practically the same things. "The Preacher declared that God had demonstrated His love to the conviction of his heart; but He has not done so in my experience, and if not, why not?" To that attitude of mind I want to say that the proof given to me of the love of God has been given to all. I did not mean to say that in some flaming vision of the night or apocalypse of the day God had done for me what He had not done for others. I suppose there are people even in this age who do see visions. I have never seen them. I suppose there are even today those who seem to hear, and perhaps do hear, voices which others do not hear. I am not one of such, and I should be very sorry for any man or woman to imagine that I intended to say that I had been privileged by God in any way that they had not. My Friend's proof of His love is given not to me alone, but to all men. No proof in mystic words spoken in loneliness to my own heart and no proof by some sudden and exceptional vision of glory could begin to be so conclusive to my reason as the great proof which belongs to all quite as much as it belongs to me. I venture to say—I know I speak within the realm of the finite, and limited and human, and yet I say it of profoundest conviction—God Himself could not have thought of any other way to prove His love so conclusive as the way He has taken. Will you let me, in all love and tenderness, and yet with great earnestness, say to you, my friend who wrote to me, and to all such, that if God's love has not carried conviction to your heart, I think it is because you have not taken time to consider that great proof? You have heard of it, you have sung of it. You could recite the proof texts, my text and the text in John, and many other such. "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." That is the proof. "God commendeth His own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." That is the proof. I have no other. Hear me, that is not idly spoken. I have no other. I do not find the proof of God's personal love to me in nature. There are proofs in nature when once I have found His heart of grace. Then every flower seems to me to sing of His love, and all the rhythmic order of the universe becomes one great anthem of His tenderness. I never heard the song of the flowers or the anthem of the universe until this proof had brought me low and convinced me of His love. I have no proof but this, and yet I say to you again, speaking experimentally, my Friend has proved His love to the satisfaction of my heart in such full and perfect measure that I have no alternative, so help me God, other than that of yielding myself to Him, spirit, soul, and body, lover to lover in an embrace that makes us one forever.

I cannot help thinking, if you will let me repeat it, that if this proof has not carried conviction, it is because you have not taken time to think of it and consider it. You may believe it theoretically. You may never have quarreled with the simple statement, with the perpetual, almost monotonous, message of the evangel; but have you ever considered the proof of God's love? To ask such a question as this, and to make such a suggestion as this, is, of course, at least to carry to your minds the thought that I am going to try to lead you in the way of consideration. So I am, and yet I feel I never had a harder task or a more impossible. What can be said when the Scripture has spoken? There is nothing to be added to the text. There is great danger of detracting from its infinite music by any attempt to analyze it and break it up. Oh that we may hear it sung into our deepest heart tonight by that infinite spirit of music, the Spirit of God. "God commendeth"—recommendeth, demonstrates, proves—"His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." I cannot add to that. There is nothing more to be said. It is the speech of infinite and eternal love. When I read it I am inclined to bow my head and say, "The Lord is in His holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before Him." Yet I must deliver my message, tremblingly and falteringly, and honestly wishing I need not say any more.

Notice first the persons involved in the declaration—God and the sinner. The spaciousness of the text is its difficulty. The infinite distances appall us when we begin to attempt to traverse them. We sometimes speak as though the supreme thought of distance were expressed in the words, "at the poles asunder." The poles asunder! That is but a handbreadth, but a span! God and the sinner. That is the supreme distance.

Notice, in the next place, the fact declared. Four words declare it. Four words that any little child who has been to school for one year could spell out—four words in our language all so tiny that a child can lisp them. Yet heaven is richer for their utterance, and all the thunder of the music of the seraphim is as nothing to that contained in them. All the mystery of human pain through piled up centuries is only palest gray by the side of the deep, dense darkness of this announcement, "Christ died for us." Finally, notice the truth declared in the text: "God commendeth His own love toward us." I cannot, I do not, believe that if you will quietly try this evening to traverse that threefold line of consideration you can write to me again and say, "God has not demonstrated His love to me."

Notice first the persons involved. How shall I speak reverently and yet with boldness of God? It seems to me that the great Apostle of love, John, the mystic, the seer, the man of vision, has given us in the briefest sentences the sublimest truths concerning God. I am not going to attempt to deal with these sentences, and yet I want to quote them. John tells us the story of the essence of deity in this brief word, "God is love." That is the subject in question tonight. John tells us the nature of God as well as His essence in words equally short and simple, "God is life." And once again John tells us the character of God in another sentence as simple, "God is light." How dare I drape such declarations with the verbiage of explanation? It seems to me as though the Spirit through the chosen apostle of love took up the simplest words of human speech and lifted them above all rhetoric and eloquence and explanation and exposition, and focused in them all the light and splendor and glory concerning God which it is possible for man to stand in the presence of and live. God is life, essential life, and in the word is included all the facts of power which we try to express in other ways: all the facts of wisdom which so often appall us when we have tracked its footsteps through immensity, and that overwhelming fact of His sovereignty which we are so slow to learn and acknowledge. God is life. Not that He has it, or has been it, or even lives it, but He is life. This I am not considering now, for it does not seem to me that we shall catch the marvel of my text if we simply consider the fact of the life of God as it is manifest in all power and wisdom and supremacy. To be told that a Being of infinite power loves is not astonishing, even though His love be set upon a finite thing. To be told that a Being of infinite intelligence loves does not appall me, even though His love be set upon some foolish creature of His own hand. To be told that a sovereign, supreme Being loves is not amazing, even though His love be set upon those who are subject to His throne. Therefore I pass from the sentence that speaks of the essence, "God is love," and the sentence that speaks of the nature, "God is life," to the final sentence which speaks of character, "God is light." The moment I have uttered it or read it, the moment the thought it suggests passes before me, I begin to be astonished at the declaration that He loves me.

"God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all." How shall I speak of that light and what it really means? It is best of all to catch the words of Holy Scripture and let them suggest, at least to my heart, something of the infinite and awful purity of God. He is holy and righteous. He is true and faithful. Holy—right in character. Righteous—right in conduct. True—the essential fact concerning Himself. Faithful—His loyalty, in all His dealings with created things to the uttermost bound of His universe, to that essential fact of truth in His own being. The God of the universe, infinite in power, infinite in wisdom, is, above all else, infinite in holiness. If the statement of the truth does not appall us it is because our sensibility to holiness is blunted by our own sin. If these words can easily pass our lips and we never tremble, the lack of trembling is evidence of paralysis in all the higher sensibilities of the spiritual nature. If only we knew what holiness meant, if we could understand what righteousness essentially means, if only we understood the real meaning of "truth in the inward parts," of faithfulness in the least detail of the activity of power, we should be appalled by the thought of the essential holiness of God. God, infinite in holiness. Let the broken and incomplete sentence suffice.

Then I pass to the end of my text and find this word "sinners." What are sinners? Those who in character are the exact opposite of God, though they are kin to Him by nature. Here is the marvel. By nature man is kin of God. Do not be afraid of the great word which the Apostle quoted on Mars Hill. By first creation man is "offspring of God," kin to God, related to God. As in His nature there is essential power, in my life there is power. As in His nature there is wisdom, in my life there are knowledge and wisdom. As in His nature there are supremacy and government, so in every human being there is the capacity for government, for man is the crown of creation, the king of the cosmos, made for co-operation with God in government and dominion over all the far-reaching life that stretches—a lost territory—beneath his feet.

Such is man in his nature. But what of his character? Though he is kin to God in nature, all his character is unlike God. Unholy instead of holy. Unrighteous instead of righteous. Untrue instead of true. Unfaithful instead of faithful. Contrary to God in choices and conduct. I am not going to discuss the theory of the "how," I am simply stating the fact of human life. Even though in these days some of us may be inclined to quarrel with the phraseology of sacred Scripture and the terminology of the older school of theology, the fact remains, men "go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies."

There is no man here who will test his past character and conduct—I will not say by the white light of God's existence, but by his own ideal of truth and uprightness and purity—and dare stand erect and say, "I have never sinned." There is no man in this house who dare say that, whatever his religion, or lack of religion. Men everywhere are ready to admit the fact of sin. We have been told quite recently that in these days men do not want to hear about sin, that men are putting sin out of their vocabulary as a word, and are attempting to put it out of their thinking as a fact; but they cannot put it out of your experience. Drop it out of your vocabulary if you will be so foolish. Cease taking account of it in your arrangements if you will be so mad. It will be the madness of the ostrich that hides its head in the sand of the desert and dreams it is unseen because it cannot see.

Now mark what this means as to contrast. By the highest standards of human experience the sinner ought to be objectionable and loathsome to God. Purity—and we are down on the low level of human thinking—does and ought to hate impurity. The man of high ideals must hold in supreme contempt the man of base and ignoble ideals. To me it is first of all inconceivable that infinite purity can care for me because I am impure. Apart from the cross of Christ you will never persuade me that God loves me. I am not blaming God for not loving me. I would not suggest that He ought to love me. I would not lend my lips to the blasphemy of saying that He ought to love me because He made me. He made me kin to Himself with environment in His own being and the inheritance of His own might, stronger than any other environment and inheritance I have entered into. Still, I am impure. I have been selfish, and sinful, and am undone in the fiber of my moral being, and it is inconceivable to me that the pure can love the impure. I cannot, save as His love enters into my life and enables me. The measure of my purity—it is faint, God knows—but the measure of it is the measure in which impurity is hateful. Here are the supreme mystery and the supreme miracle, not only of the evangel as it is declared, but of the experience of all such as share its mystery and become themselves like God in that they, too, love those who are unlike Him and unlike themselves. Mark the persons involved: God, infinite in holiness and purity and uprightness, and sinners such as are kin to Him in nature and utterly unlike Him and opposed to Him in character.

Now come to the fact declared in this text, the central fact of all your Bible. The fact, the first dreams of which you find in Eden, and the last glory of which flames in the Apocalypse. "Christ died for us." "Christ died." How am I going to speak of that? Do not be angry when I say that some of you are almost weary of hearing this. You are almost inclined to say, "Is this all? We know all this." We do not begin to know it. There is nothing else to say when this is said. Therefore, God help us to be careful how we say it, and how we hear it. The matter of first importance is that we are very careful what we mean when we say "Christ." It is of equal importance that we are very careful what we mean when we say, "died." If I take this simplest phrase in holy Scripture "Christ died," and utter the word "Christ," I think simply of a peasant of Galilee, and when I utter the word "died" I think of such a death as I have seen when my own loved ones passed, but I have not heard the music, have not seen the wonder, have not begun to understand how God commends His love.

With great solemnity, and speaking under deep conviction, I warn you never to forget that when you speak of Jesus you also speak of God. God was in Christ, not as He is in me even by His grace, but in that fuller and infinite sense which the Apostle expresses in the grandeur of that word in the Colossian Epistle. "It was the good pleasure of the Father that in Him should all the fulness dwell corporeally." Oh, I cannot understand it. No philosophy man ever invented can contain it. If you rob the word "Christ" of that significance your Gospel will fall to pieces. Remember that this is God in Christ. The Man of Nazareth, very man, perfect man, man as I am man, was God's revelation to me of Himself. The Son of God was incarnate in the Man of Nazareth, and the Son of God is today still related to that selfsame Man of Nazareth in the place where men gather in the home of God; but you have something larger here than the mere Man of Nazareth, you have Christ, and the name is the mystic symbol of Godhead bent in humility to redemption's work. Christ, the Son of God Who is of the essence of God, Who was with God in the measureless deeps and infinitudes of bygone eternity, Who was God, and Who, in a mystery profounder than the mystery of the rolling ages, became flesh and dwelt amongst men. "Christ"—do not put any small human measurement upon this word, or you will rob the evangel of its music. You may well sit down and tell me that God has not proved His love to you if you think little of Christ. It is little thinking of Christ that has degraded our conception of the meaning of His death. "Christ died," and if you stand in front of the Roman gibbet and watch the ebbing of the life of the man until presently you say, "He is dead," and if you imagine that is all that is meant, your eyes are very blind. You have seen very little. He Himself said that the physical is not death. He did not ever speak of such as death, but always as falling asleep. In His thinking and teaching, and in the Apostolic thinking and teaching which immediately succeeded it, death was something profounder than physical dissolution. What is death? Death is that in which a man may be, while yet alive, in the physical realm. A man can be dead in trespasses and sins. Death is that condition in which a woman may be while in the height of the London season. "She that giveth herself to pleasure is dead while she liveth." Death is not dissolution of the body. It is severance of the spirit from God, the sense of homelessness, the sense of friendlessness, the one all-inclusive agony of loss, of lack and failure. Christ—and do not forget the meaning of the word—died. Listen, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" The sense of homelessness, loss, the infinite agony of loneliness. But you say to me, "You told us a moment ago that this was God." Yes, I repeat it. Then you say, "What can He mean when He says, 'My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?' How can God say that to God?" Here are the mystery and the marvel of the unveiling of infinite love as you will find it nowhere else. I pray you do not imagine that this Person on the Cross is other than God. After hearing that human speech in which the Infinite and Eternal sobs itself out in the little language of a fallen race, what do I find? I find that God has lost Himself to find man. I find that God has gathered into His own consciousness the whole unutterable issue of sin. Christ died. He did not cease to be. God in Christ, Who had blessed men with a touch, and had wooed men with winsomeness, now dies as He finds the place of loneliness, of homelessness, of infinite lack. Yea, verily the old prophetic word is fulfilled there in the sight of heaven and earth and hell in the experience of God, "The pains of hell gat hold on me." "Christ died." And yet you say that God has not proved His love to you.

Now mark the infinite reaches of this Gospel—God and the sinner. We see the infinite gulf, and we state, according to the very highest and best conception we have of things, that God ought to count the sinner loathsome. What is the truth? When there was no eye to pity, His eye pitied. When there was no arm to save, His arm brought salvation. What is the truth? Hear it, man, woman, doubting of God's love. The God of infinite purity bent in the mystery of incarnation, and in the cross, to the condition of the impure. He gathered into His own experience and consciousness all the immeasurable and unutterable issues of sin. "God commendeth His own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." "Oh, for such love let rocks and hills their lasting silence break!"

"God commendeth His love." Can you explain to me in any other way than by the answer that love was the inspiration, the mystery of that descent and that great death? I say to you tonight that to me there is no other explanation of that death. "Scarcely for righteous man will one die: for peradventure for the good man someone would even dare to die." Such is the prologue of my text, and mark the emphasis, "But God commendeth His own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." "His own love"—there is no other like it. Here is the quality found nowhere else—"His own love." You cannot commend anyone else's love in this way. I ask you again, Does that truth prove anything other than love? You tell me that that truth is proof of God's righteousness. I tell you, No. You tell me that truth is proof of God's wisdom. I say, No, not supremely. You tell me that truth is proof of God's power. Not finally. Yet God's righteousness is vindicated in it, wisdom is manifested, power is operative. You tell me that the Atonement was necessary because of righteousness. And I say, No, God's righteousness might have been vindicated by the annihilation of evil. All the infinite righteousness of God might have been perfectly satisfied if He had swept out the things that insulted His righteousness. But listen, "How can I let thee go?" That is the language, not of righteousness, but of love. "He commendeth His own love." The Apostle understood the deep truth. Though this is the great Apostle of righteousness he does not say, "He commendeth His righteousness," but "He commendeth His own love toward us." I stand in the presence of my text, and in the presence of that eternal wonder, and I say my Friend has demonstrated His love to the satisfaction of my heart, and I know now that He loves me.

Surprised? Oh, my God, how growingly surprised I am. Amazing love! Why did He love me? I really do not know; but He did, and He does. Why should He care for me? I have been so selfish, so impure in my thinking and desire. Why I cannot tell; but this I know, He loves me. You may persuade me on many things, and you may dissuade me from some convictions; but I challenge you to dissuade me here. My Friend loves me. I am in His heart as well as in His power. I am in His love as well as in His light. You ask me how I know it, and I take you, not to the infinite spaces where stars march in rhythmic order, not to the hedgerow where God smiles in flowers; but to the rough and brutal cross of Calvary, to the hour of the dying of the Christ. "God commendeth His own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." My brethren, such love is royal, and royal love makes claims upon loyalty. What shall I do in answer to that love? We have often sung together:

       Were the whole realm of nature mine,
    That were a present far too small;
           Love so amazing, so divine,
    Demands my soul, my life, my all!
    
Have we not sung that wrong in two ways? Have we not sung it first as though we would say, I cannot give Him so great a thing as the realm of nature, I can give only myself to Him? That is wrong. It is wrong in His thinking if it is not in yours. He counts you, bruised and broken, sinful, dying man, He counts you more than the whole realm of nature. When one day He held the infinite balances in His hand, He said, "What doth it profit a man, to gain the whole world, and forfeit his life?" That is His estimate. God so loves you that He would not feel Himself enriched if he could save the whole realm of nature and lose you. How do I know that? Because He gave something infinitely more than the whole realm of nature, He gave Himself in His Son for you. If you want to know your value by the measurements of love, God measure you by Himself. When next you sing that verse, do not sing it as though you had nothing to give—if you have yourself to give. If you have yourself to give, give yourself. That is all He wants. Have we not sung that verse wrongly in the next place by singing, "Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all," without the answering abandonment? My brother, my sister, answer that love tonight, not only by singing of its demands, but by giving all you are to it. Give yourself, with all your wounds and bruises, with all your weakness and frailty. Answer that love, and that love will remake you until at last you shall be meet for the dwelling of the saints in light. May God in His infinite grace speak this word to us as no human voice can speak it.

171 - Romans 6:23 - The Wages of Sin--The Gift of God 

The Wages of Sin – The Gift of God

For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 6:23

In the previous chapter we considered the tremendous declaration of Paul that where sin abounds, grace does more exceedingly abound. Continuing in this chapter, we lay emphasis upon the individual and particular responsibility of that truth and upon the responsibility which it involves. There can be no statement more clear in this regard than that of the text. In these words we have the revelation of the alternative which is offered to every soul who has heard the gospel of the grace which abounds more exceedingly than all the multiplying of sin. To many men, that alternative has never been presented. There are those who sit in darkness and under the shadow of death in lands to which the gospel has never come. They are not in view when we speak of the alternatives of this text. There are multitudes of people in London who are not in view, for we make a great mistake if we imagine that London is evangelized. There are people in the west and in the east who know nothing of the gospel. The alternative of the text is that which is offered to a soul who has heard the gospel, who knows its terms, who is familiar with its message. Such a soul will either yield to sin, serve it, and earn its wages; or it will yield to God, receive His gift, and live. No soul can escape from sin. Sin is inherited. One of the first emphases of the gospel is the emphasis it lays upon the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and where this Lordship is truly understood, it becomes the revelation of sin in the life of the soul. A man may stand, by reason of his early education and training, under Mount Sinai without trembling. No man can come consciously into the presence of Jesus Christ without finding his own guilt and his own unworthiness.

But if this soul who knows the gospel cannot escape from sin, it is equally true that it cannot escape from the gift which is placed at its disposal in the gospel. The gospel is the announcement of the fact that God has placed at the disposal of every soul the gift of eternal life. A man can ultimately escape from either sin or grace, but not from both. He can escape from sin by yielding to grace, or he can put himself outside the operation of grace by yielding to sin.

This presentation of an alternative is according to the perpetual method of God. In this text there are two statements: first, "... the wages of sin is death"; second, "... the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." If I found these two statements entirely separated in my Bible, they would both remain true; but the fact that they are together is in itself more than a suggestion of the love of God. It is in harmony with His perpetual method. In nature every poison has its antidote. When we turn from nature to the literature of revelation, the whole message is concerned with the one poison and the one antidote. It is the literature which reveals the poison; it is the literature that declares the antidote. The Bible is not a Book that gives us any light upon the universe in detail. It tells us enough to compel us forevermore to set the universe to its uttermost bound in relation with the God from Whom it proceeds. The Bible has to do with a world where sin is, and if we want to know what is the nature of the poison that blasts life, we must turn to this literature. Outside it, we shall find the fact of sin recognized and called by all kinds of high-sounding names, but here it is stripped to the nakedness of its actuality.

But grace is here also; the antidote is discovered from first to last. The Divine compassion is its supreme message; the Spirit of God brooding over the chaos; the wealth of the love of the Eternal, demanding: "... Adam,... where art thou?" "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim?..." God is the God Who makes a way by which His banished ones may return; He is the God Who so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son.

In our consideration of this very old and familiar text, let us first observe the contrast in the alternatives; second, ponder the two courses described; and all that, in order that as God shall help us we may in this very hour face the crisis created.

First, then, as to the contrast. The very reading of the text suggests it, and a closer consideration of it shows how perfect it is. In the first part of the text we have three terms: wages, sin, death. In the second part we have three terms: a gift, God, eternal life. They stand over against each other in each case. Wages—a gift; Sin—God; death—eternal life.

What are wages? Wages are earnings. A man has a right to wages. Wages are the equivalent of work, or at least they ought to be. When a man takes his wages by common courtesy he will say, "Thank you." He really need not do so. He has nothing to thank any one for when he gets his wages. He has earned them. They are the answer in equity and justice to what he has already given in toil and in effort. Wages lie within the realm of law, or order, of accuracy, of justice.

What is a gift? The revisers have accurately translated the one Greek word by two words, for it is a word that emphasizes the freedom of the gift. What then is a free gift? Something that cannot be earned. That which no man can claim as his right. That which cannot be bought. A free gift must be received of grace, of favor, of love. A free gift is in the realm of grace.

Let us take the next stage of contrast: sin and God. In our text the term sin is in some senses qualified by the term wages. Its appeal is made personal and direct by that word. Sin is considered here as an individual act. It is the act of a free agent. It is not merely the missing of the mark; it is wilful missing of the mark. It is not merely failure; it is the choosing of failure. If wages be the payment for work, sin is the work that earns the payment. Here sin is considered as definite volitional choosing of the wrong with all which that involves of guilt and of paralysis.

Now what term is set over against sin? The term God. That is a very arresting fact. Even in the inspired writings in which the words were chosen under the direction of the Spirit of God we always find that when they are dealing with the things of God and Christ, language breaks down. Grace is bigger than literature; grace is mightier than language! In order to make this contrast complete, the lower level of perfect rhetoric and balance and proportion must be violated. It was easy to set the free gift over against the wages, but when we come to sin, the course of action demanding wages, what can be put over against it? No course of action is equal to dealing with sin. Then God is immediately placed in contrast with sin.

Another series of contrasts could be imagined. Let us consider them. It would be possible to say, and it would be a perfectly true thing to say: the wages of sin is death, but the wages of holiness is life. That is a perfectly balanced contrast in its entirety. But therein is no reference to a gift; the first set of terms do not constitute a contrast, but a similarity. The contrast in that statement is between sin and holiness and between death and life. That, however, is not the text. If we go back to primitive man in the garden, we may say that the alternative before him may thus have been stated: the wages of sin is death, but the wages of holiness is life. That is the alternative before a sinless being. It was so in the case of God's second Man, the last Adam, Jesus. In His case the wages of sin would have been death and the wages of holiness life. The text was not written for the sinless; it was written for sinning men. In their case we can understand the declaration, "... the wages of sin is death,..." But what alternative is offered to sinning men? The answer of grace is: "... the... gift of God is eternal life...." God puts Himself over against sin. In a man's new endeavor He does not say: the wages of sin is death, and the outcome of reformation shall be life. He does not say: the wages of sin is death, and the outcome of religious observance shall be life. These things are of no use. The man who is in the thought of God is a man who is incapable of reformation and whose religious observances would in themselves be sinful. Therefore, God put Himself over against sin. Sin—God. We are only looking at the terms, but mark the arresting grandeur of the contrast.

So we come to the last contrast in the text: death and eternal life. What is death? It is the end of sin, the righteous end. It is that which makes sin musical. It maintains the harmony of the universe. If in the universe of God, the breaking of a law could be permitted without check or hindrance, then all music would cease, the beauty missed, and the last victory never be won! Death is the necessary end of sin, the only answer to it, the only final harvest that men can reap who sow in sin. Death is that which every man chooses in the moment when he yields himself to sin. By that yielding, he chooses death, disintegration, corruption, ruin. To break law is to create anarchy; to create anarchy is to make hell necessary.

Over against death, our text places eternal life. Death is an end; life is a beginning. But life is more than a beginning; it is the energy for the development of that which is begun; it is the potentiality for the full realization of everything which is begun. The final contrast does not refer to the end only, but to the beginning also; not to the beginning only, but also to the end; not to the beginning and the end alone, but to the whole process of development.

Let us consider the two courses of life presented by this alternative. Here we must take them in the other order. First, we must consider the second part of the text:... the free gift of God is eternal life.... In our understanding of that, we shall find a new definition of sin which qualifies the first part of the text giving it a new meaning in view of God and His free gift. Sin, when the gospel is known no longer, consists of certain actions; it consists in the attitude of soul which results in these actions. No man who has heard this gospel will ever perish for the sins he has committed. If he perish, it will be because he has refused God's gift, the reception of which would have made him master over the sins that he has committed. Therefore, we must begin with the second part of our text.

Here, then, the first word to be considered is God. God is concerned of as One perfectly knowing the soul; as One Who is unutterably holy so that He cannot overlook sin or clear the guilty while the guilt remains; as One Who is unchangeably loving so that His love alters not when it alteration finds.

This God offers a free gift to the sinning man. That is to say, He offers a gift of His own will, a gift which is the result of His own operation, of His own passion. Moreover, He offers this gift as a free gift without any condition as to character in the person who is to receive it, without any pledge on the part of that person as to the future. God bestows His gift freely upon all such as will receive it. God does not ask that men bring a certificate of character with them. Neither does He ask us to make a pledge and a promise that we will always be good. He asks no such pledge; He asks no such promise. That is the grace of God. I speak in soberness of truth and under emotion when I say I would to God I knew just how to say "grace" as it ought to be said! Out of the very grace of His heart which in operation has involved His own unutterable pain and sorrow, God offers a free gift, and He offers it to a man without any promise whatsoever as to that man's character and without any pledge as to the future.

What, then, is this gift? It is the gift of life, age-abiding life. Our word "eternal," great and wonderful as it is, connotes in our thinking one element only, the element of quantity. The Greek word so translated has in it more than the element of quantity, though that is included; it rather suggests a quality which ensures the quantity. Literally, it is age-abiding life. Our imagination is helped by the writings of our New Testament. We may climb the heights, and watch the ages as they come and go. Glancing back over the few brief ages of the history of this world—for how few and brief they are in comparison with all the ages—we see the age of fellowship with God, the age of conscience, the age of law, and the age of grace that has lasted now for nearly 2000 years. Looking on, we see the age of the reign of Jesus with His saints for a thousand years, and the more wonderful age beyond the millennium, the age of the Kingdom of the Son and the City of God. There the Bible ends its revelation because there is not room to tell all the story. Paul climbed to a great height one day, and he tried to say something and broke down in magnificent poetry in the attempt as he wrote of "The generation of the age of the ages." In the light of that suggestion we see them coming, age after age, out of the fathomless Being of God, profound in mystery, glorious in strength, new ages of which we can but dream in the highest moments of our spiritual illumination. Age-abiding life is life that includes them all, persists through all, harmonizes with all. That is the gift which God gives a man without asking him for a certificate of character or any pledge for tomorrow.

This gift is that of life won out of death, and therefore in its reception the soul is pardoned and cleansed. It is life in union with the risen Lord and ascended Lord, and therefore it is the life of power equal to all the demands that can be made upon it in this and every succeeding age. It is life in fellowship with God; ultimately, therefore, it must prove itself to be a life of complete realization; the perfection of the individual instrument in spirit, mind and body, and the accomplishment of the purposes of God, not merely in the instrument, but through the instrument.

This, then, is one course open to every man and woman who knows the gospel. It begins with God. The soul comes to Him, yields to Him, puts itself in relationship with Him, blunderingly, tremblingly, it may be; not necessarily understanding the doctrines of faith, for no man was ever saved by understanding the doctrines of the faith; not necessarily at the moment accepting all evangelical theology, for that is too vast for immediate understanding, but by yielding to God as He has manifested Himself in Christ. There we begin. When we do so, we receive a free gift in which there are qualities of cleansing, of peace, and of pardon; and as we answer its call and its demands and its guidance through the running days and the multiplying years we are brought by it into the realization of the eternal purpose of God. That is one course open to every soul who knows the gospel.

What is the other? Here we begin at the point where the soul begins. The beginning is sin. Sin is rejection of the gift. I halt to remind you of the careful emphasis which I laid at the beginning on the fact that we are dealing only with those who know the gospel. To such, sin is rejection of God's gift. That is what our Lord meant when in His Paschal discourse He said to His disciples that when the Holy Spirit came He would convince the world of sin, of righteousness, of judgment. Concerning conviction of sin, He said: "Of sin, because they believe not on Me." For the man who has heard the gospel, that is the whole heart of sin, it is the whole reach of it. Included in it are the desires that inspire the rejection. Why do men reject the Lord Christ? Because there are certain desires clamant in their lives which they wish to satisfy and which they know they could not if they yielded to Him. The things thus done in answer to desire are done at last under compulsion. Men cannot cease if they would. All this multiplying of sin grows out of the central sin of the rejection of Christ. Let us state this from the positive side. If this gospel means anything, it means that if a man will yield to God, there is power in the gift of life which He bestows sufficient to break the power of canceled sin. Consequently, sin is the rejection of the remedy.

Where this sin is committed wages follow as the necessary results of the things we decided to do; the harvest that must come from our own sowing; that which is righteously due to us by reason of our choice; that which must come to us as the result of the false effort we are putting into life.

The wages are described by the one word, death. The only wages that sin ever pays are the wages of death. They are paid immediately and continuously. Do not confuse, I pray you, appearances with facts. Someone may say, "Sin pays more than that. Sin pays some men wonderfully!" Sin does pay some men wonderfully to all appearances, but the gains of sin are the destruction of the sinner, always, and that not ultimately merely, but immediately.

The man who imagines that riches gained in the nefarious practice, the blighting traffic by which he is damning others that he himself may get rich, constitute the wages of sin, is blind. He himself is dying and never more so than when he is counting his gains and imagining that they are the wages of sin. The wages of sin is death spiritually; this first. Eyes that cannot see God, ears that cannot hear His voice, the heart that is insensate to His nearness, the life that is untouched by the movements of His grace; this is to be dead in trespasses and sins, and this eventually will mean death, bodily and mentally as well as spiritually; and at last it will mean eternal death, age-abiding separation from God, the second death. The second death is the ending of the possibility of dying, and that is the ultimate in sin.

So we come face to face with the crisis. These two ways of life are before every one of us now. God is close at hand; nearer is He than breathing, closer than hands or feet;

   Circling us with hosts of fire.
   Hell is nigh, but God is nigher.
   
Sin is also with us, it is close to us, but God is nearer than sin. Sin is here in the sanctuary. Satan cannot be excluded from the sanctuary. He yet has access to the heavenly places. There will come the day when he shall be cast out finally, but that day is not yet. Sin is here. Sin is bargaining with souls, and souls are bargaining with sin even now, wondering whether or not they shall yield to God or sin.

These are the only alternatives open to every human being who knows the gospel. There is no middle way. Moreover, there is no hindrance either way except the hindrance created by the opposite. I can choose sin if I will. Grace will appeal to me, woo me, warn me, but it will not compel me nor can it. I can sin if I will and take the wages if I will and die if I will. Grace is here. I can yield to grace if I will. Sin will lure me and seek to blind me and traduce the God Who is near, but sin can have no power over me if I will yield to God. Sin cannot compel me. I can yield to God row and receive His gift now and begin to live now. And that, in spite of all the past. I do not want to know the past. I would not have you tell me the past. There is only One ear that ought to hear the confession of sin, and that is the ear of God. Perhaps someone is saying: "The past is indeed with me; the sin of it, the shame of it, the smirch of it, the contamination of it, the horror of it, and the paralysis of it, and my trouble is emphasized by the fact that I once yielded to Christ and walked in power, but I have turned my back upon Him." Even if that be so, God desires to blot it out like a thick cloud and banish that past. He offers His gift without any reference to the past.

But something else must be said. There is no guarantee that this offer will continue. Therefore, the question is immediate; which way of life shall we take? The debate goes on in the human soul more subtlely, more powerfully, more rapidly than any words of the preacher can describe. If this congregation could be seen from the higher heights, as the angels I think see it, what a battleground would be seen as to which way souls shall go.

The preacher's work is done. He must now stand aside, for there can be no final interference between the human soul and its own choice and its own destiny. Where God declines to interfere, who is man that he should endeavor so to do? Sometimes the preacher closes the Sunday night's service and goes away into quietness. He thinks of his congregation again; the congregation reverent, kind in their attention; then dispersing, passing along the streets in all directions, going into houses and closing doors. Such different places, so many different circumstances, such different consciousnesses, and yet, that whole congregation so scattered has been united by the service, all having taken action in the central dignity of their own humanity, all having made a choice, all having made a decision. If they are united thus, they are also divided into two companies: those who have accepted the gift and live; those who have sinned and are dying while they live. How shall we go? May God help us in the hour of our decision.

172 - Romans 8:2 - The Spirit of Life 

The Spirit of Life

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

Romans 8:2

The Spirit is described in the New Testament as "the Spirit of truth," "the Spirit of promise," "the Spirit of grace," "the Spirit of glory." "The Spirit of life" is a suggestive and comprehensive phrase, indicating the relation of the Spirit of God to all life. Two words are here placed together, both of which refer to life. The word "Spirit" suggests life at its very highest. Here, as always, where the reference is to God, the word indicates the originating cause. The word "life" marks rather a manifestation or a form of the essential than the origination and power thereof. This word translated "life" is a very interesting one. The Greek language is richer than ours in this particular, that it has more words than one to describe life. Where we use our word "life" to include many conceptions, there are at least two words in Greek literature, words that we have become familiar with by their adaptation into our language in scientific usage—the words bios and zoe, from which we have derived our words biology and zoology. These two Greek words indicate two thoughts about life, but in Greek classical literature they are other than the thoughts that they indicate in the New Testament. The order of suggestiveness is reversed in the New Testament, and this is an arresting peculiarity which demands attention. The Greek use of the word zoe indicated the purely natural—I may almost say the animal—side of life. The other word, bios, had in it something of an ethical value and a spiritual conception. In all Greek literature you find this contrast is maintained.

But when I take up the New Testament, uniformly I find the order is reversed, and when life is referred to by Jesus, by New Testament writers, the higher word in Greek thinking and Greek writing is relegated to lower uses and the lower word is elevated to higher uses.

Such a fact arrests attention, and a man is immediately driven to ask why this peculiar change—not a studied change, not a change of language adopted after some council had met and decided to adopt it. Then we might have questioned it. We are always open to question anything councils do. It was a change that came into the thinking of all Christian men so quietly, and yet so powerfully, that when you gather up the arguments of the Christian writings and put them into one, you find the strange uniformity. Jesus Himself, so far as the records reveal His teaching, adopted this change, and all the writers conformed to it. A new thought of life lies at the back of this change of word, a new conception of life is its originating cause. These New Testament writers saw life as the Greeks saw it, and yet quite differently. They saw the same things, the same men, the same women, the same animals, the same flowers, the same landscapes, the same seas, the same everything; and yet, without collusion, without decision of Pope, or Council, or Presbytery, or even Congregational Union—I suppose that was the only ecclesiastical court in existence then—without any of these things, I find these men made a change in terminology.

I believe the explanation will be found in the fact that the Christian man recognizes the original sanctity and holiness of every form of life. He has discovered that behind the "natural" of theology—even Paul's theology—is the "natural" of Divine intention, and the "natural" of Divine intention is holy, and is directly due, always and everywhere, in every realm of life, to the activity of the Spirit of God. Without resolution, without decision of Council, the early Christian consciousness made its protest against the idea that life in any form is essentially evil. The early Christian consciousness is perfectly plain in declaring that life has become evil, that man has fallen into willful and rebellious wrongdoing; and it is in this very epistle that you have the most glaring and terrible revelation in literature of what the heart of man is by the choice of his sin. Thus Christianity, powerfully and pervasively, has taken hold of a word in current Greek literature, which always had upon it the taint of sin, and changed its meaning because Christian thought has been remade by the advent and presence of Jesus Christ.

But now, concerning the conception that this presents to our view as Christians, the relation of the Spirit of God to all life is too often forgotten by Christian people. Let me make this broad and inclusive proposition. All life is due to the direct action of the Spirit of God. The Bible never loses sight of that fact. As we take up this ancient literature of the Hebrew people and study it, we find a recognition of the relation of God and the Spirit of God to all life. That is the meaning of the first chapters in Genesis. "In the beginning God created." "Darkness was upon the face of the waters," but "the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." The original creation has behind it a spiritual explanation. Travel back as far as you will through aeons you cannot measure, and Genesis still sings the anthem of the beginning, "in the beginning God created"; and when there was to be a remaking of a disorganized and chaotic world, again "the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." If you study this ancient literature you will find perpetually that the Hebrew heard the wheels of God in the thunder of the storm, and saw the flash of His chariot when the lightning illuminated the heavens. He saw at the back of all life the presence of the Spirit of God. The whole truth has been beautifully expressed by one of our more modern writers:

          One Spirit—His
   Who wore the plaited thorn with bleeding brows—
   Rules universal Nature! Not a flower
   But shows some touch, in freckle, streak, or stain
   Of His unrivalled pencil. He inspires
   Their balmy odors, and imparts their hues,
   And bathes their eyes with nectar; and includes
   In grains as countless as the seaside sands,
   The forms with which He sprinkles all the earth.
   
You say that is poetry? That is scientific fact to the Christian soul, and science is always poetic if you know it. Think of that conception; what is it? That all the fragrance of the flower is the result of the breathing of the Spirit of God, and every touch of delicate beauty upon its petal is the direct, immediate, actual, absolute workmanship of the Spirit.

That outlook is wide, and radiant, and spacious. Let us confine our attention to the thought suggested in this spacious outlook as it affects man. We suffer today from too constant contemplation of man as he is, and a consequent failure to understand man as God intended he should be. We have been gazing so long and so intently at ruin that we have forgotten the fair lines of the Divine ideal and the plan toward which God is moving and working in all such as are submitted to His Spirit.

In my Bible I have two glimpses of this in human life. The first is spoiled ere I can see it in perfection. The second grows with increasing glory the longer I gaze upon it. I have the "first Adam" and the "last Adam." When I look at the "first" I see the picture of what the Spirit of God means in human life.

You will remember verse 7 in Genesis 2, which runs thus: "Jehovah... breathed into his nostrils the breath of lives," that suggestive Hebrew plural which is used poetically to indicate the fact of spaciousness and breadth which cannot be expressed in the singular number—"the breath of lives; and man became a living soul." Man is made in the image of God and given dominion over the creation of God. There are no details. The broad poetic facts are stated in that chapter. I turn to chapter 2, and I do not find a contradiction, but an explanatory account of a certain fact and phase of human life which had not been dealt with fully in the first chapter. Here there is revealed to us the nature of man. Man is dust and Deity; of the dust, God in-breathed; linked to the material, offspring of the Spirit, of the earth, of the heavens. It is all poetry, but it is true poetry. Man becomes the conscious and capable ego, when by this mystery, baffling all explanation, the God of heaven by breath Divine makes man.

What is this man's consciousness? First, he is subject to the government of God. That is the first consciousness of personality, as Genesis reveals it. Secondly, he is conscious of the creation that he finds about him. He is able to name things, able to till the soil, able to touch the resources of nature and make them blossom more perfectly. He is a being capable of co-operation with God, and all this in the power of the Spirit.

But I turn from the story. It is disappointing, it is heartbreaking. Just as the glory of it is growing upon the imagination, the vision is clouded and spoiled, and we leave it, and, passing through the centuries, come into the presence of the "last Adam." The story of the human life of Jesus from beginning to its unending condition—for there is no end to it—is the story of this truth, that the Spirit of God is the Spirit of life. All the human life of Jesus, naturally—not supernaturally—was life in the Spirit. His very existence was by the Spirit. He was a Man of the Spirit by processes different from those by which man at first was man of the Spirit. But God may change his methods, and yet do the same thing in the underlying principles of His government in exactly the same way. Once again, the breath of God, and the dust of earth, and the "last Adam," come into human life. His was development in the power of the Spirit—physically, mentally, spiritually, not spiritually alone, but mentally and physically, developing, growing by this very spirit life which He lived.

In His ministry it becomes more patent. He was anointed for ministry by the Spirit of God. He went down into the wilderness to temptation, driven by the Spirit of God. He came out of the wilderness and went back again to ministry in the power of the Spirit of God. He wrought miracles, as the record declares, by this selfsame power of the Spirit. He came to the sublime mystery of His death, and we hear the word again, "through the eternal Spirit He offered Himself without blemish unto God." He came to the morning of resurrection, and by the power of that Spirit He took life again, and came back into human consciousness and being. He tarried for forty days among His disciples, and, as Luke, the accurate Greek, the cultured scholar, tells us, He instructed His disciples by the Holy Ghost long before the Spirit was poured upon them. I open the Gospel of John, and read: "In Him was life"—essential life—"and the life was the light of men." What is the life of Jesus? Spiritual life, not spiritual life as we too often use the phrase, as though it were something distinct from human life; but spiritual life in the simplest, and broadest, and profoundest sense of the truth that all life is life by the Spirit of God.

It is this conception which reveals how deadly and dastardly a thing sin is. If I had a life apart from the life of God and the Spirit of God, even then sin would be ungrateful. But when I find that the very life I live is by the Spirit of God, then how dastardly a thing it is to take this in-breathed life of God and use it for purposes that thwart Him, and hinder His Kingdom, and spread the poison all abroad amongst humanity, insulting His love, and hindering His purpose.

The life of Jesus is life in the Spirit from beginning to end, and when I read that "in Him was life, and the life was the light of men," I understand the evangelist to mean that if I want to know what life really is, I must look at Him—physically, mentally, and spiritually—and see this truth, that all life is by the Spirit of God. Man's being, in all its complex wonders, is the creation of the Spirit of God, and the proper use of all the powers of the being is possible only in submission to the Spirit of life.

So that when we speak of regeneration, or of the filling of the Spirit, or of the anointing of the Spirit, or of spiritual life in the deepest and profoundest sense of the term, we are not asking men to enter a range or realm of life for which they were not made. We are calling them back to normality, to naturalness, to the fulfillment of the deepest and profoundest meaning of their own first creation. A man does not by his new birth become something other than himself. He becomes himself, as he never has been until by that new birth he finds himself. Not angels did Jesus Christ come to make; and if His terms are drastic and hard, if ere He can baptize a man with the Spirit of life the man must consent to death, it is in order that he may find by the same new life, not some foreign life, but his own life. If you differ from the exposition, hear the actual words: "He that loseth his life... shall find it," the very life he is willing to lose. The very life which I lose by submission to Him, the life which I deny in order that I may find Him as my Lord and King, is the life I find. The baptism of God's Holy Spirit, and the filling and the anointing of that Spirit mean, first, the correction of the thing that is wrong, the putting away of the sin, the breaking of the power of sin, the subjection of the rebellious territory to the power of the Lord. But they mean infinitely more. They mean the cultivation of the rebellious territory, they mean the restoration of the thing over which the weeds have spread themselves, and where the briars and the thorns are growing. Not merely that the desert life of man is handed over in order that it may be possessed by Him, but that the desert life, being possessed by Him, shall be made to blossom as the rose. Not that the dry and arid distances of the wilderness are simply to be given to Him, but that He will make run through them the rivers of God, which bring life wherever they come.

I do not want by any generalization to dissipate the impression on my own heart that I fain would transfer to yours. I mean that the Spirit of life brings a man into the realization of the highest and best of all the facts of his life. When this physical part of me is really handed over wholly to the indwelling King, because it is originally also of God, it finds itself, and lives at its highest and best.

The Spirit of God is the Spirit of life also in the mental sphere. It is only in the illumination of the Spirit that you obtain the finest literature, or the most perfect poetry, or the most matchless art, or the sublimest music, or the most correct science. Even the men who turn their backs upon revealed religion, in the measure in which they have been successful in music, art, poetry, or science, have been so in the life the Spirit created. Never forget that in the far country all that the prodigal spent was his father's property. You may be wasting your life, my brother, but the life you are wasting is the life God made, and the life you are wasting is the life which the Spirit of God has created and conditioned.

The second birth is that by which a man enters into the meaning of his first birth. Jesus Christ brings me by the Holy Spirit of His outpouring into an understanding of my own life, into realization of my own life, because He puts my life back into harmony with God. Regeneration is the first fact in the process by which the Spirit of life operates through grace for the renewal and restoration of man to the Divine intention.

There may be some of us who are very near, and yet have never had the baptism of this Spirit of life. Paul came down to Ephesus, and he found men naming the name of Jesus, and I do not know what he saw, but it is evident that he saw something that made him ask a very strange question. He said to them: "Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye believed?" "Why," said they, "we have not so much as heard that there is any Spirit given." Then his question, "Into what, then, were ye baptized?" And do not forget their answer: "Into John's baptism." Do not misuse that text to preach a second blessing. There is no such authority in it. These men had never been baptized with Jesus' baptism. They were men who probably had heard Apollos preaching the baptism of repentance only. Paul said, "There is more than repentance. There must be faith, and if there is faith in Jesus then there is the baptism of the Spirit, and in that moment they were baptized by the Spirit and entered into life."

Some of you may be as near as were these men of Ephesus. Some of you may imagine that you are Christians because you have gone as far as John's baptism can take you. You need to be born again, to yield yourself wholly to the Christ Himself, and believe on His name, and receive regeneration as a free gift of God's infinite grace. Wherever that is done, the Spirit of life, the Spirit to Whom you owe your first life, Whose dominion you have not recognized or acknowledged, Whose illumination you have lost, Whose energy you have so sadly failed to appropriate, will come back and remake you, not as an angel, but as a new man. God's meaning in you will be fulfilled as the Spirit of life takes possession of you.

But if we have received that Spirit, if we have yielded to Christ, and have been baptized by the Spirit into union with Him, the verse still has a call for us and a suggestiveness. Let us yield ourselves absolutely to the Spirit of life, that all His gracious purposes may be accomplished in us.

Do not let us be satisfied with so much of realization as will ensure us, as we think, entrance presently into the home of God. Rather let this Spirit of life, Who is in us, have perfect dominion, and then every part of the being—physical, mental, and spiritual, suffused with light, baptized with power—will begin to find out how broad, and generous, and spacious life really is.

173 - Romans 8:9 – Life: In Flesh, Or In Spirit

Life:  In Flesh, Or In Spirit

Ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you.
But if any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.
Romans 8:9

I propose this evening to consider the first half of this verse, postponing the consideration of the second half to our next Sunday evening.

Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. In that declaration is involved the truth, that He came to fescue man from the dominion of Satan, and to restore Him to the Kingdom of God. This involves another truth, that He does, moreover, restore man to the true balance and proportion of his own life.

The mission of Jesus Christ is not that of taking hold of human beings and changing their essential nature save as that nature has become polluted, spoiled, ruined by sin. Then He does completely change it, pardoning the sin, cleansing from pollution, remaking the ruin.

All these processes, of absolution, of cleansing, and of remaking, are in order to the restoration of man to the first Divine ideal. In this wonderful text, occurring in a supreme passage in the letter to the Romans, this truth of the restoration of man to the Divine original intention is brought before the mind, "Ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you."

The almost startling "if" in the midst of the text brings us face to face with the fact that it is possible to live a human life, in which the Spirit of God has no place; and yet the text, recognizing the Divine ideal for man, indicates the fact that in whosoever that Spirit dwells, there is restoration to the first Divine and original intention.

Let me draw your attention first of all to a very simple matter, which is nevertheless a most important one to our study. The Revised Version, when compared with the Authorized, has a certain difference which I hold to be all-important to the understanding of the real thought in the mind of the apostle when he wrote these words. The difference to which I refer is not a difference in phrasing. There are alterations and omissions, but none to which I desire to make any reference now. The difference is in spelling, and that in a very simple matter. In the Authorized Version the word spirit is spelled with a capital letter in the majority of instances. In the Revised Version it is spelled with a small letter in the majority of instances.

Let me confirm my examination of that fact to this text. Spirit of God dwelleth in you. But if any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." In the Authorized Version, in the three occasions where the word spirit is used in that verse, it is spelled with a capital letter. In the Revised Version the first occurrence is spelled with a small letter, and the second two with the capital letter. In the Authorized Version the thought of the verse is this. "Ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit," that is, the Spirit of God, "if so be that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you. But if any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." According to that spelling, in every case in that verse the apostle was referring to the Holy Spirit. The revisers have changed the spelling of the first word so that now the intention of the apostle as suggested is different, "Ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit," the reference being, not to the Holy Spirit, but to the spirit of man, "if so be that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you."

Accepting, without any doubt, after long and careful consideration of this whole passage, the spelling of the Revised Version, believing that the new spelling gives the most accurate interpretation; I shall ask you first to consider the facts concerning man by nature recognized by this passage, and secondly, to consider the fact concerning man by grace declared by this text.

First, then, the facts concerning man by nature which are recognized by this text. The essential nature of man is revealed by the terms, flesh and spirit. Human nature is a combination of flesh and spirit. Paul, referring to the whole of human personality in the great prayer for the sanctification of the Thessalonian Christians said: "May your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." Spirit, soul, body: that is a recognition of the threefold fact of human personality, physical, psychic, pneumatic. Consider that threefold division well, and see what it really means. Man is spirit and flesh; man has a mind, or consciousness. If the mind becomes blank, distorted; if a man shall lose his reason; he remains flesh and spirit; but by some failure of adjustment between the spiritual and the material the consciousness ceases, or is distorted. We call that madness. The essential fact in any human life is the spiritual fact, yet closely applied to that, and apart from it there is no humanity, there is the material fact. I lay that emphasis upon the fact that mind is a possession in order that we may recognize the fact that what a man's mind is, depends entirely upon whether he lives on the spiritual side, or on the fleshly side of his nature. Here are two men, put them side by side. They are both spiritual in nature; both have bodies; they live in the same street, in the same city, in the midst of the same surroundings, but their conceptions of everything are diametrically opposed. Their minds are entirely in opposition. One man looks at another man but he does not see what his friend sees. One man looks out upon the fields and the hills, but he cannot see what his friend sees. These two men are in this Church. They are sitting side by side, you and your friend, my brother. You are both spirit. You both have bodies. You both have minds.

That is the conception of humanity that lies at the back of this great statement of the apostle. The spirit is the essential. The body is the medium through which the spirit communicates with and receives communications from everything in the cosmos external to itself. The mind is the resulting consciousness.

Pass a step further. The apostle recognizes the fact that man can live in one of two spheres; either in the flesh, or in the spirit; on that side of his nature which is of the flesh, or on that side of his nature which is of the spirit. Mark the contrast between them. A man who lives in the flesh is a man who lives as though life were limited thereby. The man living in the flesh is near-sighted; according to Peter "seeing only the things that are near. He is deaf, he never hears the voices of eternity. He counts the man fanatical or deceived who declares that he does hear them. He is suffering from paralysis in the midst of life. Whatever path he treads he arrives presently at the place of darkness and disappointment. Notwithstanding every attempt to satisfy the clamant cry of his own life, he arrives presently at the place of thirst and hunger; he comes at last to the hour when the consuming consciousness of life is lust—I use the word most carefully, not in its application to one particular form of sin, but in its accurate description of the burning desire that has no satisfaction. The man who lives on that side of his nature, in flesh, limiting his outlook by flesh, comes presently to hardness of heart; to being without faith, without hope, without love either of God or of man. That is the flesh life. These are some things Paul tells us concerning it. To live in flesh is to mind the things of the flesh. May I attempt to illuminate that wonderful word by quotation from the words of Christ. At Caesarea Philippi He said to Peter in stern language, "Get thee behind Me, Satan: thou art a stumbling-block unto Me: for thou mindest not the things of God, but the things of men. Peter's protest was a protest of the flesh. It was the shrinking of the flesh in the presence of the pathway of sorrow. It was the protest of flesh against those spiritual conceptions that did not fear men who killed the body, but feared only such as could harm the soul. The man who lives in flesh, minds the things of the flesh.

I particularly desire that this should not be merely the discussion of a theory, rind out where you live. Take the week that has gone. I prefer to look back rather than on. By the grace of God next week may be better than last week, if we will have it so in His strength. For purposes of personal helpfulness let your eye range over the doings of the past days, and apply to them this very simple test, which though not entirely satisfactory, will be helpful for our present purpose. With what were you principally occupied during the days of last week. The test of the hours will help you. What shall we eat, and what shall we drink, and wherewithal shall we be clothed? How shall we be able to possess more of this world's goods? How shall we minister to the comfort of these bodies of ours? How shall we enter into the pleasures of life which are wholly of the flesh? Were these the master questions of the days? Perhaps not expressed so badly as I have expressed them, but still there, absolutely dominating the life. That is life in the flesh. The man who lives there minds the things of the flesh. What else says the apostle concerning this? "The mind of the flesh is death." "The mind of the flesh is enmity against God." The mind of the flesh is not subject to the law of God. The mind of the flesh cannot please God. That is to live in the flesh, as though there were no God, as though there were no eternity, and (as though life had nothing to do with any world but this, as though the last and ultimate limit were reached in the hour of death. The atheist declares that these things are so, and vast multitudes of men and women who never declare that they are so, yet live as though they were so. There are gradations of life in the flesh. There are manifestations of life in the flesh that to the common thinking of men are more vulgar than others, but in the sight of high heaven they are all on the same level. If a man lives a life of the flesh and gives himself up without reserve to all the vilest passions of his own debased nature, that is life in the flesh. Or if a man, for purely selfish purposes and selfish reasons, abstains from the vulgarities, but is without worship, has no upward look, no commerce with heaven, no recognition of a hereafter, no conception of any reality except the reality of today and the dust; he is living in the flesh as surely, and in the sight of high heaven with as pronounced vulgarity, as the man who gives rein to his lusts.

Here again I pray you do not misunderstand me. If there be no God, if there be no eternity, if there be nothing beyond the shadowy portal of the grave, well then we will make a great difference between these two men; and that is the human differentiation between respectability and vulgarity in sin. I am not here to make such differentiations. I am here viewing life in the light of this Book. I am here attempting to see humanity as it is seen from the heights and amplitudes of eternity. Life in the flesh. When you speak of your higher and your lower in that realm, you must find out how much higher or lower one is than the other, not by comparing the higher and lower in the flesh, but by comparing the whole flesh life with life in the spirit.

Turn then to the other side of the suggested picture, life in the spirit. That is life in which man recognizes that the essential part of him is spiritual, that he is not ultimately, finally, fundamentally of the dust, but of Deity; that this life is but school time, and probation, and preparation; and that all he feels within himself of essential life will come to its fulfilment and intensity beyond; the life which answers not the call of the flesh, but the call of the spirit.

All this study is illuminated by the Genesis story. There is a side of me that has come up out of the mystic, marvellous, creation of the material. I can touch the material and know it has to do with the dust. But there was a moment in the process of creation when God enwrapped that material, which in itself was infinitely higher than anything beneath it in the scale of creation, in His own breath, breathed into it forces eternal and spiritual. Thus man became a living soul. The gap between that God-breathed man and the highest form of life beneath him is the gap between eternity and time, between Deity and dust, between spiritual and material. Therein was the essential and final creation of man. A man can live on that side of his nature and what does it mean? Vision. I cannot use that word in that connection without there coming back to me a passage full of beauty and meaning in that great chapter in Hebrews describing the heroes and heroines of faith. This wonderful thing is said about one man, it is an illuminative truth, and thank God it describes exactly thousands of men today; "He endured, as seeing Him Who is invisible." If you are living in the flesh you cannot understand that, and you may just as well say so at once. You smile at it, and you pity the man who as you say thinks he sees the invisible. I want to tell you in all tenderness and gentleness, he pities you far more than you can pity him. This is not a dream. How do I know he sees the invisible? By the way he endures. The demonstration of the far vision is courageous endurance. I am not talking of a bygone age. I made my quotation from the days of old only because it has a living application. Such men are right here in this building. There are men and women here as I speak tonight who see far beyond the preacher; it would be a sorry business if they did not; they see Him Who is invisible. When my voice is no longer heard, the voices from the eternal still sound in their ears.

Life in the spirit means acuteness of hearing; a sense of power; a thrilling emotion; ecstasy and rapture, through all things and forevermore; courage of heart enabling men to endure. Life in the spirit is life indeed.

In the context, Paul describes the mind of the spirit more briefly than the mind of the flesh, and yet more inclusively. The man who lives in the spirit minds the things of the spirit, and what of them? The mind of the spirit is life and peace. If we divide this congregation by the standards of men we have all sorts of divisions, learned and unlearned, rich and poor, high and low, noble and ignoble. I protest unto you, my masters, in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that in the division of heaven we are in two classes, men and women who live in the flesh, and men and women who live in the spirit.

These are the facts recognized by my text. That a man can live in flesh with eyes shut to the eternities, with ears stopped to the voices of the infinite, and heart insensate to the nearness of God. A man can live on the spiritual side of his nature, seeing the invisible, hearing the unuttered, knowing the undiscoverable.

Now finally, I pray you notice what the text reveals concerning man by grace. That is the text. The other things have been inferences. This is declaration, revelation, affirmation. "Ye are not in the flesh but in the spirit, if—" I pause at that "if" before I pronounce the final words. I would ask you to notice how these first words make their appeal. "Ye are not in the flesh but in the spirit, if—" I speak to the men who are in the flesh, but who would fain escape the imprisonment of the flesh ere this service is over. I believe there are such here. You are in the flesh. You are saying, How can I escape this life, this prison, this bondage, this slavery to the flesh. Already my inner life is pining for something, and how I have tried to satisfy that burning thirst, that devouring hunger. Can I again cross over the line from flesh into spirit? "If so be that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you."

The mission of the Spirit of God is to restore man, first to a true relation to God, and so to the true balance and proportion of his own life. Are you living in flesh? Then hear me while I declare you are living an inverted life. The Spirit of God coming into the life of a man takes hold of that man and turns the whole life around, putting it back into harmony with the Divine ideal, putting it back into the essential meaning of its own being. Have you lived in the flesh? Then your life has been a disappointment. If some of you do not believe that yet, there are scores in this house who will bear witness to the truth of it, even though they have not yet yielded themselves to Christ.

The coming of the Spirit of God into the life of a man means that the spirit of man is taken out of the prison and put on the throne; that from that moment the man will live not in the consciousness of the near, but in the consciousness of the far, not in slavery to the cry of the flesh, but in obedience to the call of the spirit. It is by entering into the life of the Spirit of God that the change is wrought.

Let us look at this generally as I close. The test of Christian profession is in this text. If I live in the flesh I am not a Christian. I may sing all the songs in the hymn-book, and recite all the prayers that were ever written by other men, or composed by myself, study the whole Bible until I know its literature from cover to cover; but if I live in the flesh I come under condemnation. All that is the burden of the second half of my text, I utter it and postpone it. Remember that this text is the test of life. If I am living in the flesh then I am not living according to the possibilities of my own nature. I am something less than man, something lower than man, something infinitely beneath the potentialities of my own personality. This is the truth I would fain bring to the attention especially of young men in this day. Over and over again young men tell me they imagine Christianity means the ending of life. Man, it means the beginning. I mean that quite literally. It means the beginning of this life. You cannot live human life at its fullest in London if you are living in the flesh. All the gaud and glitter of things temporal are the devil's methods for drowning thought. The one thing you dare not do if you are living in the flesh is stay to think. You must away to the glaring lights and the clashing music and the paint. God help you, man. That is not life. Life in the flesh is life in prison, and in corruption. Life deteriorating, degenerating, dying, doomed, and presently damned. I pray you deliver yourself in this hour from soft conceptions of what you are doing, and come to see the horror of the whole business. You were made to lift your face to God. God has put eternity in your heart, so said the ancient preacher, and it is true. You can never satisfy the surging eternity of your own being with the nonsense of fleeting time. You can never satisfy the clamant cry of your deepest life in the painted glitter of the place of sin. Life in the flesh is disaster because it is failure.

The declaration of deliverance is here. I am flesh bound, flesh imprisoned, yes, but the I of me is not flesh. It is that which is bound, that which is imprisoned. It is myself, my spiritual nature, that which cannot die, that which presently, if I live in the flesh will pass out without a tenement into the eternities, naked, not clothed upon, having lost its way and its home. That is the essential of me and that can in these very moments, while the preacher utters his last words, in the case of every man and woman, come back into its true place through the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God is waiting to enter into fellowship with the spirit of every man, and make that spirit dominant in the life of the man, so that from that moment the flesh serves instead of masters.

The way of full life is here. The spirit of man in fellowship with the Spirit of God; then what? Then the flesh of man is ennobled because the flesh of man is used only under the direction and inspiration of the Spirit of God, and becomes the true medium through which the spirit of man enters into communication with all God's earth, and God's humanity, and God's heaven, and God's eternity.

Is that life possible? Here is the last word. Is it possible, says some man in this house, for me to be done with the flesh life and enter into the life of the spirit? Quite possible. How? By the reception of the Holy Spirit. How may I receive the Holy Spirit? In the Gospel of John is a wonderful story of how Jesus once stood in the midst of the thronging crowds at the feast of Tabernacles, on the last day, the eighth day, and He said, "If any man thirst let him come unto Me and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his inner life shall flow rivers of living water." Oh, you say, what did He mean by that? The next verse tells you, "this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believed on Him were to receive: for the Spirit was not yet given; because Jesus was not yet glorified." That declaration has a historic application and an immediate application; a personal application. Historically, it meant that until He was glorified by the way of the Cross and resurrection the Spirit could not come. The personal application, what is it? A man receives the Spirit in the hour in which he yields himself to Christ. Glorify Christ, trust Him, glorify Him with thy trust, glorify Him with thy submission, by yielding thy life to Him; then what? The answer to your faith in Christ is God's gift of the Holy Spirit. One Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ. One faith, faith in Christ, the faith of the man who, conscious of sin and weary of the flesh, yields to Him. One baptism, the baptism of the Spirit whereby that man receives the Holy Spirit. Mark the process. It is an old story.

You are once again confronted by the Christ of God, the Saviour of men. Will you trust Him? Will you believe in Him? Will you yield your life to Him? Do it now, right at this very moment. Take that life of yours, in the flesh though it be, and yield it to Him.

   Nothing in my hand I bring;
   Simply to Thy Cross I cling;
   Naked, come to Thee for dress;
   Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
   Foul, I to the fountain fly;
   Wash me, Saviour, or I die.

Will you so come? In the moment in which you do, He answers your coming by the gift of the Spirit. Though there be no tongue of fire, though there be no sound of a mighty rushing wind, God's Holy Spirit enters in, and His first work is to bring your spirit out of the dust and degradation of your fleshly life, and give it the consciousness of acceptance with God.

From that moment life is new, changed, different. You live then "as seeing Him Who is invisible," in the spirit instead of in the flesh, and under the discipline of His patient grace you will come at last to glorious fulfilment, in conformity to the life of the Son of God.

174 - Romans 8:9 - The Spirit of Christ; The Supreme Test

The Spirit of Christ; The Supreme Test

Ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you. 
But if any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.
Romans 8:9

Two weeks ago, we confined our attention exclusively to the first part of this text, "Ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you." This evening we consider the sequel to that subject by taking the second part of the verse, "If any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His."

Glancing at the verse in its entirety, we at once discover a significant and suggestive change in its expressions; "the Spirit of God," "the Spirit of Christ." Each of these phrases refers to the One of Whom we speak as the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit. This fact makes the change in the method of expression the more arresting. The second phrase has sometimes been treated as though it referred to the tone, the temper, the disposition of Christ only; so that one might read, "If any man hath not the disposition of Christ, he is none of His." While I hold that such interpretation is not final, nevertheless, I believe that to be the significance of the change of expression. Whereas the reference is undoubtedly to the Holy Spirit in the second part of the verse, as it is in the first part, the writer brings us in the second half, face to face with the fact that the indwelling of the Spirit of God does produce the mind of Christ. Speaking of the Spirit as the dynamic force of life, he uses the phrase "the Spirit of God." When desiring to deal with the result manifest in character, he uses the phrase "the Spirit of Christ." The first reminds us of the unseen and hidden secret, the indwelling Spirit of God. The second reminds us of the seen and manifest result, the Spirit of Christ.

The great secret of the beauty and glory of the life of Jesus of Nazareth was that He lived in fellowship with the Spirit of God. Born of the Spirit, sustained by the Spirit, led by the Spirit into the wilderness, He returned in the power of the Spirit to do His work, until He, "through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish unto God." He acted in constant cooperation with the indwelling Spirit of God, never resisting, never grieving, never quenching.

What then was the result of such living? The Spirit of God became manifest in the Spirit of Jesus. While the phrase does refer to the actual Person of the Holy Spirit, it refers, nevertheless, to that Person in the manifestation of character wrought out in the mind of Christ; in the tone, temper, and disposition of Christ. Therefore, these two phrases bring us to the consideration of the seen and unseen in the Christian life and character.

May we then, reverently and carefully, attempt to consider this second half of the verse as the test of our Christianity; bringing ourselves to its suggested measurements, yielding our lives to its proposed balances, in order that we may so discover whether or not we have the Spirit of God. The absence of the Spirit of Christ demonstrates the absence of the Spirit of God. The presence of the Spirit of Christ proves the presence of the Spirit of God. Therefore, this part of the text which seems so simple in statement, flames with light and is one of the most searching tests to be found in all the apostolic writings.

I want to say one or two preliminary words on the subject of the importance and nature of character. The character of a man is expressed through his spirit, through his tone, temper, disposition. You cannot express character by the utterance of words. You do not express character finally in any particular deed. The character of a man cannot be decided by the thing he says, neither can it be discovered by the occasional thing he does. The meanest man in London may give the largest gifts to philanthropic purposes. The most generous man may have nothing to give. The saint may be discovered over and over again in some unworthy fashion of speech. The most vulgar man may drop into the language of sainthood. A man's character is always revealed in his disposition. Character is what a man is. Doing, saying, and having, possess no beatitudes. Being is crowned with the seven-fold garland of the Sermon on the Mount. Therefore, let it be perfectly understood that the final truth about a man's character is known only to God. No man can know finally the truth about the character of his brother man. The searching I suggest for my own soul and for yours in the presence of this text is not an inquisition, or an investigation of my soul by another, or of your soul by the preacher. We come together into the presence of this declaration in order that in loneliness, as between ourselves and God, we may find out whether we belong to Christ or not.

Let us then, reverently inquire what was the Spirit of Jesus.

We want to discover the mind of Christ, the tone, temper, disposition of Christ; the quality of the Spirit of God as revealed through Christ; and in order to do this we must consider the spirit of the Man of Nazareth. Forgetting for the moment the supreme fact that the spirit He manifested was the Spirit of God, for in Him Deity was unveiled, we come to the human level and inquire, what was the mind of Jesus, what were its notes, its qualities?

You realize at once that the preacher has asked a question that is very difficult to answer, for how is it possible to express with anything like brevity or accuracy the truth about the Spirit of Christ? Ask me concerning His words, and I could give you some account of them, materially at least, realizing more and more their intense spiritual values and my inability to fathom their profoundest deeps. Ask me about His deeds, and I can follow Him from place to place, and tell you of the deeds done, and the wonders wrought, but to see the Spirit of Christ is more difficult.

I am impressed first by the fact that the Spirit of Christ was characterized by simplicity rather than by complexity. I am impressed secondly by the fact that the Spirit of Christ was characterized by serenity rather than by feverishness. I am impressed finally by the fact that the Spirit of Christ was characterized by sensitiveness rather than by callousness.

Simplicity. Allow me to attempt to illustrate what I mean by simplicity. Nothing impresses me more as I read the story of Jesus than the fact that He never seemed to need to prepare for any occasion. He was always the same, transparent, natural, simple. Complexity may be defined by another term, hypocrisy. The Spirit of Jesus was absolutely devoid of this in any form. His was the simple life, the life in which there was no twist, no iniquity. With an artlessness that arrests, He spoke the things of His inner life in the presence of men. He said things which from the lips of other men would have sounded of the very essence of egotism. Yet, in His own age, the things He said did not surprise. Standing one day in the midst of a critical, hostile crowd, Jesus said, "I do always the things that are pleasing to Him." Imagine any other man saying that, and let the man of your imagination be the man you think most of as a spiritual leader; what would be the result produced in your mind? From that moment you would begin to question his sincerity. Yet, in the Gospel of John the statement which follows that declaration is this, "As He spake these things, many believed on Him." That was the result of the transparent simplicity and honesty of Jesus. We may put the whole matter in quite another way, expressing it in fuller language in His own words, "I am the Truth." Not that I preach it, teach it, expound it, not even that I hold it, but that "I am the Truth." There was perfect harmony between every side of His nature. He had no hidden chamber, nothing secret. As I watch Him through all the story of His life, I am growingly impressed with the simplicity of His Spirit. I need not pause to say that simplicity does not mean superficiality, but transparency. If you think of a great pool upon the rocks, it is simple when you can see through the limpid waters all the things that lie upon the rock foundation. The Spirit of Jesus, the disposition of Jesus, was that of absolute, transparent simplicity.

Serenity. I am impressed increasingly by the serenity of Jesus, by the fact that in hours when all others seemed to be swept by storms, or moved by excitement, He alone was quiet, calm, and full of dignity. If ever the great word of Scripture was fulfilled in human life, "He that believeth shall not make haste," it was in Jesus' life. One pauses as the illustrative pictures pass through the mind. Let me take one of the last. If ever there was an hour in His life when one would have expected to see Him moved as by tempest, it was that hour in which He approached the Cross. Yet the one calm, dignified, unruffled man was Jesus. The Roman Procurator, used to scenes of the kind, able with an iron hand to quell rebellion, was strangely perturbed. The priests were roused to white heat in their anger. The populace, fickle as it always is, was clamouring for blood. The one silent, calm, serene Spirit was that of the Christ.

Sensitiveness. Jesus came into the presence of no natural emotion which He did not share. In the presence of joy, He was joyful. In the presence of sorrow, He was filled with sorrow. If He came into the presence of the brokenhearted, widowed mother, as she followed her only son to burial, all the sorrow of her heart entered into His. If He came to the house of the marriage feast, all the gladness and joy was in His own heart. He was keenly sensitive.

These are ultimately truths about the Spirit of God, truths about God Himself. "In Him there is no darkness at all." The whole nature and method of God is that of profoundest and almost overwhelming simplicity. God is not forever changing as man is. He abides unchanged through all the processes of human change. He is forevermore a fire, either destroying or purifying, according to the nature of that which comes within its sweep. He is forevermore the sun of life, either producing fruit or burning to destruction, according to whether it touches a tree planted by rivers of water or stubble.

I need not remain to argue the serenity of God. The fact is that in the day of clash and catastrophe He is still unmoved, unafraid. "He shall not fail nor be discouraged till He have set judgment in the earth," till He have established His law in the affairs of men. We are discouraged, we are full of feverish excitement, we must demonstrate in order to make people believe. The serenity of Jesus was the serenity of the Spirit of God, which is the serenity of God.

Moreover, the sensitiveness of Jesus was the sensitiveness of the Spirit of God, and the very sensitiveness of God Himself. Faber sang truly when he sang that earth's sorrows are most keenly felt in heaven. I venture to add the declaration on that earth's joys delight the heart of God.

This was the Spirit of Christ. Simplicity, serenity, and sensitiveness, have we these? If we lack them we lack the Spirit of Christ. If we have not the Spirit of Christ it is because we have not the Spirit of God, for He ever produces these very manifestations. "If any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His."

Where shall we apply the test? Let us understand that the examinations of God are never special, are never fore-announced. All the method of human examination is utterly different to the method of Divine examination. The tests of the spirit come not at the announced hour for which we may specially prepare, but in the ordinary pathway of human life, or perchance in some unexpected crisis. If the crisis be expected it ceases to be a day of testing. It is along the line of the commonplace that I am to discover what spirit mine is. I am to find out, not tonight in this sanctuary, whether I have the Spirit of Christ; it is impossible to do it here; it must be done tomorrow, in my home, in my office. The spirit of a man is tested in adversity of prosperity, in the place of obscurity, or the place of popularity, in time of defeat or the time of victory, and most often, amid the thousand and one trifles of the busy hours.

Let us observe in general terms how spirits are tested in such circumstances. It is the hour of adversity, storms are sweeping, so that we are inclined to say with Jacob of old, All these things are against me. That is the hour in which the spirit is tested. One man in such an hour gives way to despair, gives up the struggle. Another is characterized by his patience, by his quiet endurance. The one is fretful, quarrelsome complaining. The other is quiet and peaceful. What is the difference? It is the difference of spirit. It is the difference of tone, temper, disposition. One man is living in the flesh. The other man is living in the spirit.

Or it is the hour of prosperity when everything is succeeding. Everything touched turns to gold, success attends every effort. That is the place to try the spirit. In that hour, one man becomes noted for his arrogance, his overbearing disposition, his contempt for the man who fails. But another man in that hour is characterized by beneficence and a desire to hold out a helping hand to the man who is struggling. One man makes his prosperity the throne from which he grinds his fellow beneath him. The other makes prosperity the hearth to which he invites his neighbour to share his hospitality. What is the difference? It is the difference of disposition. I am prepared to say that in a sense neither man can help what he does. He is doing what he is. The profoundest fact concerning him and his character is being manifested.

Or again. Here are two men, both in the place of obscurity; suddenly removed, it may be—let me speak in the realm of my own calling, my own work, and leave you to make the application to yours—suddenly removed from the place of conspicuous service to some place of obscurity, like Philip taken from the rush and glory of a great revival in Samaria to the desert loneliness, to talk to one man riding in his chariot. One manifests bitterness, complains that the fates are against him, that men do not appreciate him, and spends all his days murmuring against the hardness of his lot. The other faces the desert and there sheds the fragrance of a sweet and beautiful content. I do not say he wastes his sweetness on the desert air, never was there such a mistake made. Sweetness is never wasted, even on the desert air. If some bird in its flight shall drop a seed on some fertile soil and it comes to flower, if no human eye sees it, God gathers the fragrance, and it is sweet and beautiful to Him. What is the difference between these two men? It is the difference of spirit.

Or, on the other hand, a man is brought from obscurity to popularity, to use the word of the world, and immediately becomes proud and distant, forevermore rejoicing in the fact that he has become conspicuous. Another put into the same position comes and brings with him all simplicity, all humility. Humility never announces itself. The man who tells you that he is serving God in his humble way is the proudest man for five miles round. Humility, like love, "vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly." In the light of conspicuous success, or popularity, the man of the Christ Spirit is simple, sweet and full of everything that woos men, soothes their weariness, heals their wounds, and helps them upon the way.

Yet again, it is the hour of defeat. One man becomes a coward and the other man becomes a hero. A hero in defeat, you say. Yea, verily. It takes more heroism to suffer defeat than to win a victory. There is a fine air of dignity about some men in the hour of defeat. When men go to pity them, or condole with them, they can do neither, because of the heroism with which they suffer defeat.

Or it is the hour of victory. One man becomes a tyrant and the other manifests great gentleness.

Or most often, amid the thousand and one trifles of life, the spirit we are of will manifest itself in the midst of the commonplace trifles of our own home life far more than anywhere else. I think I had better leave you to make the applications. The late breakfast may prove whether or not you are a Christian, more than the song in the sanctuary. I do not say that to make anyone smile. If you are laughing at your own folly, repent of it. Come to an understanding of the fact that a man is revealed, not on the public platform, you cannot know him there, but is revealed in the little incidental things of his home life. There are men to whom the papers would give whole columns of notice, but if we could have the story of their wives, and we never can, for woman is far too heroic, we would know them as non-Christian, notwithstanding all the papers say. It is the spirit, the tone, the temper, the disposition that is supreme. If any man have not the creed, not the orthodox view; No, "If any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His."

As I have already said, I am not bringing you to a judgment throne as though I were the judge. God forbid, I am a sinning man. I am not asking you to accept the opinion of friend or neighbour. I will not accept your opinion, I care nothing for it. I am absolutely independent of it. I have lost all fear of what you say or think concerning me. Nevertheless, in the inner secret shrine of my deepest life, I stand in the presence of His judgment bar, and I know that my relationship to Christ is tested by my spirit.

I do not think I would dare come to that text if it were not for the first part of it which we have already considered, "Ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you." I go back to it because there are those who are saying, Such a judgment seat as that condemns us! If our Christianity is to be tested not by our creed but by our spirit, then we are guilty. There are those who, saying that, are now inquiring, How can we have that Spirit of Christ? How can we become like Him? How can we be rid of the thousand and one hypocrisies that have blasted our lives, and find our way into the simplicity of absolute truth? How can we be freed from the dastardly conventionalities which make us lie in polite society, and find our way into the straight and enduring grandeur of simple truth? How can we find our way from the panic that so often seizes us, the feverishness that makes us impulsive, and makes us fail; into the quiet, dignified serenity of the Spirit of Christ? How can we escape the callousness that for long time has made us incapable of tears in the presence of sorrow, or of laughter in the presence of joy? How can we escape from the spirit which is the spirit of the self-centered, flesh-mastered life, and find the spirit which is the spirit of the God-centered life?

Now the inquiry is answered, "Ye are not in the flesh but in the spirit, if so be the Spirit of God dwelleth in you." Remember this; I say this especially to young men and women who are struggling toward the ideal, seeing it in its beauty; remember that you cannot create spirit by the government of externals. By saying I will never again speak an unkind word, you will not create the kind spirit. Sooner or later, the actual fact will flame out again. If your spirit is unkind, for a long time out of self-respect you may curb your tongue, and prevent the poisoned word, but the hour of provocation will come and it will break loose. Not by the government of externals is the spirit ever remade.

I go a step further than that. Not by admiration or imitation does reproduction ever result in matters of the spirit. There is the vision glorious, of the simple, serene, and sensitive Christ. I will admire it. I will imitate it. I will make Him my Exemplar. These things will never reproduce His likeness. There will be but bitter disappointment for the man who attempts imitation of Christ, apart from the necessary preliminary.

Then how can I have the Spirit of Christ? The Spirit of God is alone equal to producing the Spirit of Christ. "The fruit of the Spirit is love." Unless the Spirit of God is there, the Spirit of Christ will never be there. Unless the unseen Spirit is there, the manifest Spirit must necessarily be absent. So, therefore, that which we need in order that we may have the Spirit of Christ, is the Spirit of God Who clears the vision that we may see indeed the ideal, and Who does infinitely more, who supplies the virtue in order that we may imitate the ideal in strength. The indwelling Spirit of God transforms the spirit of man until it becomes in very deed the Spirit of Christ. Brethren, do you not know it is true? Have you not seen it so? Have you not seen the man fierce and unkind become gentle and patient by the indwelling of the Spirit of God?

Finally, let us remember that the matter of supreme importance is that of our spirit. What is your disposition? How many a man is blaming his father for his disposition. How many a man is saying, Everything is against me, I inherited this from my father. "The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge." Absolutely untrue. That proverb became current in the days when Israel sat by the waters of Babylon and mourned over their fathers' sins; until Ezekiel and Jeremiah alike nailed the bad coin to the counter forever by saying, This is not true, "Ye shall not have occasion anymore to use this proverb in Israel." If your teeth are on edge, you have been at the sour grapes! I grant you your evil disposition, but remember this, it can be changed, or I have no gospel. In its place there can be the very Spirit of Christ. That is the supreme matter. Oh, it is important what a man believes, or disbelieves; but these things are important only as they manifest themselves in works. The creed that does not blossom into conduct and become gracious character is of no value whatever. It is the spirit that matters. If that be true, how many un-Christly things are done in the name of Christ. I have heard the orthodox faith so preached as to drive men and women away from Christ. It is the spirit that matters.

This also let us remember. We too often attempt to correct the center from the circumference. Let us rather correct the circumference from the center, by handing over all our lives to the Christ Himself and so receiving the Spirit of God. When that Spirit of God is enthroned, we live no longer in the flesh but in the spirit, and then, not all at once, for the full fruitage of Christian character does not come in a moment to perfection; first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear; but when the Spirit of God is in the life there will be the first promise of the Spirit of Christ, and we shall "grow up in all things into Him Who is the head."

I urge that we all come to this judgment seat alone, when the service is over, when the preacher's voice is silent, when the associations of the sanctuary are gone; with our own New Testament let us go somewhere by ourselves, and let us inquire if we have the Spirit of Christ. If not, know that it is because we lack the Spirit of God; and knowing that, let us crown the Christ by trusting Him, and so receive His Spirit that we may become like Him.

175 - Romans 8:24 – Hope

Hope

       By hope were we saved.
Romans 8:24

The experience of hope is that of triumph over conditions and circumstances which are calculated to produce despair. Where there is no place for despair there is none for hope. If there is no danger of despair there is no possibility or necessity for hope. The old English word "hope," in all its mutations, has retained the sense of expectation, of something desired and not yet attained. The Greek word, of which it is a translation in my text, coming to us as it does from a primitive word meaning anticipation, and almost always anticipation with pleasure, has exactly the same significance. Indeed, the word is used in the New Testament invariably in the sense of anticipation with pleasure, and in the sense of desire. When that which is anticipated is realized, there is room neither for despair nor hope; when faith is lost to sight, then hope in full fruition dies; or, as the writer of this letter says in immediate connection with my text, "Hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopeth for that which he seeth?" This, then, is peculiarly a word for days of stress and strain. Hope comes to its brightest shining in the presence of the deepest darkness. The function of hope is conditioned by the prevalence of conditions making for despair. We need not enter into any lengthy consideration of the distinction between faith and hope. Hope is an aspect of faith. According to the Biblical presentation of faith, it will be perfectly safe to say that the soul of man, looking upward in faith, is conscious of perfect confidence; that the soul of man, looking onward in faith, is conscious of hope; that the soul, looking around in faith, is conscious of peace. Faith is an attitude of the soul, hope is the experience which that attitude creates with regard to the future.

The apostolic declaration is made in connection with an argument in the course of which conditions calculated to produce despair were most clearly recognized, and, indeed, described. The whole passage is one in which, in broad statement, the Apostle recognizes those things which persist until this hour: the trouble, the turmoil, the travail, the groaning of the world. "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together;... we ourselves groan within ourselves;... the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered."

The way in which hope saves will best be apprehended if we consider, first, the nature of the hope which is referred to by the Apostle; second, the foundation of that hope; and, third, the effects which that hope produces.

If we are to understand the nature of the hope referred to, we must begin by a yet more careful examination of the need for this ministry of hope. It is important that we recognize that it is discovered in the very conditions causing despair. By repetition of the quotations already made in a slightly different language I think we shall discover these conditions. "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now." "Ourselves also groan within ourselves." "The Spirit Himself maketh intercession with groanings which cannot be uttered."

The first of these declarations was the Apostle's recognition of the fact that the whole problem of pain and suffering, of evil in the widest sense is the problem which constantly assaults the soul of the man of faith in God. It may be well that we remind ourselves that pain presents no problem to any man except to the man who believes in God. Pain becomes a problem only in the presence of faith. When, ever and anon, some believer, it may be one whose faith at the moment is trembling, challenges the world's agony, the challenge is always uttered in the presence of the consciousness of God. When the soul cries out in revolt in the presence of the abounding suffering of men, the cry is always born of the wonder how God can permit this. There is no other problem. Blot God out of His universe and you will still have pain, but no problem to assault the soul. It is only faith that has to face this perplexity. It is Habakkuk who suffers most in the day of the declension of the people of God. It is Habakkuk who says, "Oh, Lord, how long?" I cry murder and Thou dost not hear. I cry violence and there is no answer. What is God doing?

It was Carlyle, rough, rugged, peculiar in many ways, and yet a man of the greatest faith, who, when Froude attempted to Comfort him by telling him that God is in His heaven, said, "Yes, but He is doing nothing." I never repeat that without being inclined to say to believing souls, Do not be angry with Carlyle. It was not true, God was doing something, but there is neither man nor woman in this house who has ever come very near, and remained near to the world's agony, who has not had that thought at some time or another. The whole creation groaneth and travaileth together in pain, and the proportion of our nearness to God is the proportion of our sense of this problem of pain, for it is the love of God shed abroad in the heart that renders the heart keen and sensitive to the world's agony. The heart of man, taught by the Divine love, questions the Divine love, until, presently, the heart of the man discovers that the very agony he feels which makes him question is the result of the presence in his soul of the God of love, and, indeed, it is an expression of God's own agony. It is when we become sensible of that prevalent pain that we need hope; and unless hope shall save us, then we shall indeed be lost.

The second state of the apostolic description, "We ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for our adoption, the redemption of our body," is one of the most illuminating sentences on personal Christian experience in all this writing. The Apostle here describes the increasing sense of failure and shortcomings, the cry and the sob that come out of life with intenser meaning as the years go on: "Wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me out of the body of this death?" It is the man who comes into the closest association with Christ who also comes to the acutest sense of his own defilement. We groan within ourselves in the baffling defeat of the soul in its attempt to reach the heights; we wait for the redemption of the body, conscious that the tabernacle in which the spirit dwells is the instrument of defilement for the spirit. It is in hours when the under side of our nature wins its victories that we cry out in agony and almost in despair. It is then that we need the gospel of hope.

Then we come to the last and highest word, most mystic and most difficult of interpretation, "The Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered." In that word we have a description, not merely of our sense of the general pain of the world, not merely of our sense of our own particular limitations and defeats, but of the Divine discontent which, within the soul of a man, makes him angry and puts him in agony; that knowledge of God which generates restlessness with everything that is unlike Him and unlike His peace; that hot turbulent protest of the soul against every form of wrong and of tyranny, against the conditions that blight and spoil the universe of God. The Spirit Who knoweth the deep things of God, the profound emotions of the Divine heart, touches the heart and spirit of a man with the selfsame feelings until the man himself rises unconsciously to a plane of prayer on which he expresses to God the things which God Himself is feeling.

Now, it is this sense of the world's pain, of our own pain, this sense of anger and agony born of our communion with God, that makes hope necessary. These are the things that fill the heart with despair.

What, then, is the hope? This, again, is a most necessary question for consideration, for if it be true that we are saved by hope, it is equally true that men are lost by hope. Unless the hope be true it destroys. The will-of-the-wisp creates a hope in the heart of the wanderer over the marshes, but it destroys him because it is not a true light. The lights lit by the wreckers along the Cornish shore in the olden days created hope in the heart of many a mariner, but they destroyed. And so, unless hope be true, it will not save, it will destroy.

The Bishop of Durham, Dr. Moule, in his "Commentary on Romans" in the Expositors' Bible, has suggested a translation of this text which is certainly illuminative. What he suggests is a fair implication of the text. He suggests that, instead of "We were saved by hope," we render here, "It is as to our hope that we were saved," as if the text should mean that we are saved as Christian men by hope because of the nature of the hope that is presented to us. What, then, is the Christian hope? If we go over these passages again, we shall find that in every case the hope is declared. What is our hope for creation? That it shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the children of God. That is one of the greatest sentences in all the writings of the Apostle. It presents a vision of the whole creation, ultimately led out from the bondage or corruption, of that which disintegrates, spoils, mars, ruins, into the liberty of the children of God. A doctrine of the world is involved in that statement, and it is the Biblical doctrine, the doctrine of the cosmos as under the dominion of man. The cosmos is seen suffering pain and tribulation, because its lord and master, man, has lost his scepter and his power to govern. That same cosmos will come at last to the realization of all its beauty and all its glory, because the children of God, men and women after the Divine image and likeness, and fulfilling the Divine relationship, will govern it, so that the creation will realize itself and pass out of corruption into full and complete realization.

The feeling of the poets helps us here. There lay the dead sea mew, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning sang,

   Our human touch did on him pass,
   And with our touch, our agony.
It was the symbol of the whole creation groaning and travailing together in pain.
Thomas Blake, the father of our Nature poetry, sang:
   A robin redbreast in a cage
   Puts all heaven in a rage;
   A dog starved at his master's gate
   Predicts the ruin of the State.
   
Superlative language, you say. The superlatives of earth are the positives of eternity. At last there will be no starved dog anywhere, no caged robin, no mauled sea mew, nothing left in creation which results from the misgovernment of men. Creation will escape its corruption and enter into the liberty of the glory of the sons of God.

We groan within ourselves, waiting—for what? The adoption, the redemption of the body, the ultimate mastering of the body that it may become the fitting instrument of the spirit. Or as Paul put it when writing to the Philippians of his personal experiences: He "shall fashion a new body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of His glory."

Concerning that groaning of the spirit, that restlessness of God interpreted to the soul and creating the agony and the power of prayer, what is our hope? The ultimate rest and joy of God in His completed work, which, perhaps, we most clearly express when we quote the prophecy and the promise concerning the Messiah Himself, that at last He shall see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied.

What are the foundations of this hope? Inclusively, we may say that our hope is set on God, and that through the unveilings of Himself and of His activity which have been granted to us in Christ. To say that is to say everything. God is our hope in the presence of the problem of pain. Our fellowship with Him has created the problem. Who is God? What is God doing? Is God doing anything? Does God care? These are all questions arising out of faith in God. Blot God out of the heavens, blot God out of the intellectual concept, say there is no God! What then? Ah! but our faith has created our problem, and we shall not solve our problem by denying the God Who created our problem. We have seen a universe in which pain is a wrong, but we should not have seen that if we had not seen God. Therefore, inquiring still more deeply, turning the soul back upon itself, facing the problem, we affirm that the very ultimate ground of hope is God, and that the unveiling of Himself which He has given us in Christ is the very inspiration of hope. It is out of that unveiling that hope comes back to us.

Let us inquire a little more particularly about the aspects of these unveilings which inspire hope. And, again, we will confine ourselves to this very passage, for in it the very foundations of hope are laid bare. I base my hope, first on the suffering of God, on the fact that the Spirit maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered; second, on the suffering of the saints, that they, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, suffer; and, finally, on the suffering of creation itself. In regard to the creation, the Apostle has linked another word to the word "groaning": "Groaneth and travaileth." It is the word that suggests birth rather than death. This is the wondrous alchemy of Christianity: pain is the ground of confidence that pain will end.

The first ground of hope is that of the suffering of God. "The Spirit maketh intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered." "He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit." "The Spirit searcheth the deep things of God." When we speak here of the Spirit we are thinking of God, and included in the thought is that of infinite wisdom, infinite love, infinite power. God, infinite in wisdom, therefore making no mistake; infinite in love, therefore never failing in love, for "Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds"; infinite in power, therefore able to do all that wisdom reveals and love dictates.

The revelation that is given to us of God in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is that He is conscious of this agony and is active in the midst of it. He, being the sum total of all things, and being more than all the things in which pain is to be found, has gathered the whole within Himself and knows it to its depths. When I look next on the problem of the suffering of the innocent with the guilty, let me remember I am looking on the problem of God's suffering. I admit that this is a problem, a profounder problem than anything London presents, or Europe presents, or the world presents. The problem of a suffering God is indeed profound! But there is a solution. It is the solution of a loving God expressing Himself in a thousand ways in every generation if men had but eyes to see, and ears to hear, and hearts to understand; expressing Himself assuredly in the suffering of every innocent soul that consents to suffering on behalf of the guilty; expressing Himself centrally, and this in some senses finally, in the Cross! You talk to me of the problem of evil in London. I take you to the Cross. There it is focused. You talk to me of the problem of those who suffer. It is centralized in the Cross. You talk to me of the problem of evil, evil winning, evil crushing good, evil mauling that which is high and noble. I take you to the Cross. There it is, in its vulgar tragedy, focused, centralized, made vulgar, as it is vulgar!

In that unveiling God has revealed the fact that wherever there is suffering, there is He also. He, the infinitely wise and loving and powerful, is conscious and active in the midst of all suffering.

On that I build my palace of hope. I stand in the midst of the world's agony, and I say this is also the Divine agony, and therefore my heart believes that at last, how, I cannot tell, by what methods, I do not know, but at last the very creation will be delivered from its corruption and find its way into the glory of the liberty of the children of that God Who has not absented Himself from human sorrow, but Who remains within it, gathering its most poignant power into His own being, and vicariously suffering in the midst of the universe blighted by sin.

If I pass from that wider outlook and look again at the saints, I build my hope on their suffering far more than on their rejoicing, for in their pain they are sharers of the Divine pain, making up that which is behind in the suffering of Christ, and having fellowship with His suffering. They are also sharers of the Divine power and of the Divine patience.

Who are the saints? Take any one Christian man or woman in the life of this city, or far away on the mission field; take an isolated case for the illumination of the general fact. What is this man? What is this woman? This is humanity reborn and regained for God. To use the word of Jesus, this individual is the seed of the Kingdom. New born souls constitute in earth's soil the seed of the coming Kingdom. Then I hear the word of the Lord spoken on another occasion, and I link it to this declaration: "Except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abideth by itself alone." By the suffering of the saints the Kingdom is to come.

This is very well as a general statement. Its particular and personal application must be reserved for loneliness. Let us get away presently, somewhere quite alone, those of us who are suffering in the cause of the Kingdom, or in fellowship with the Kingdom, or as the result of our loyalty to the Kingdom. Does there seem to be no connection between such suffering and the Kingdom? It is false seeming, for by that suffering, by that pain, by that anguish, we are in fellowship with God; and by that fellowship in pain the victory is to be won and the Kingdom is to come.

So with the whole creation. I remind you again in a passing sentence only of the suggestiveness of the word, "groaneth and travaileth together in pain." It is the word of birth pangs! The sobbing of creation, its sigh and its agony, are the declaration of its rebirth. "Behold, I make all things new," is the perpetual word of God. He makes all things new by the way of travail. Thus our hope is born of the transmutation of the causes of our despair.

What are the effects of this hope? I will speak of two only, one named in the immediate context, and one named by the Apostle John. The effects are patience and purity. "We with patience wait." "He that hath his hope set on Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure." What is patience? Patience is simply remaining under. Remaining under in order to bear. To attempt to withdraw is to leave God. If I am to be in co-operation with God in the processes that are to lead to the final restoration, I must stay in the midst, I must remain under; fellowship with God in service is patience, remaining under, not merely to bear but to lift. To save the life is to lose it, because to withhold the life from pouring out is to exclude God, Who is ever pouring Himself out in sacrifice. The mental experience of such fellowship is patience with God, patience with ourselves, patience with creation.

Patience means staying underneath, in fellowship with God, because of the assurance, not that at last I shall climb the height, but that at last He will perfect that which concerneth me.

The second effect of this hope is that of purity. "Everyone that hath this hope set on Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure." At your leisure, contrast the passage in John with the one in Romans, and see how close the thoughts lie to each other. Creation is waiting for the revealing of the sons of God, and we who are the children groan within ourselves waiting for the adoption, the redemption of the body, and the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. So run the thoughts of Romans. Then I turn to John, and I read, "Beloved, now are we the children of God, but it doth not yet appear what we shall be, for He is not yet manifested." There has been no manifestation yet of this sonship of God in all its finality and its glory and its beauty. But we know that when He shall be manifested as He is, we shall be like Him. Paul says that creation is waiting for the sons of God. John declares that the Son of God will be manifested with the sons of God. The man who has that hope set on God purifies himself, even as God is pure. The responsibility is that of purification, the type of purity is that of the purity of God.

If that were all, I hardly dare read the passage. Is there power for such purification? The Apostle goes on to declare that He was manifested to destroy the works of the devil.

And so, as we are conscious of the sorrows of the world, the perils threatening us in our home life, the perils of our prosperity, the persistence of pain everywhere, the failure and disappointment verging on despair, we are saved by hope! Our hope is built on Him Who is our God. Our hope, therefore, is based also on the very sense of defeat and despair and pain that cause our agony; for by these things men live, by these defeats they climb to the higher heights, by these bruisings and these batterings of the iron life is molded and shaped to the Divine purpose. The only man who has no hope is the man who has no God.

But that must not be the last note. The last note must be this: God is our abiding hope, and by hope we are saved.

176 - Romans 8:32 - Promise at the Cross      
      
Promises at the Cross

He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all,
how shall He not also with Him freely give us all things?
Romans 8:32

We now come to the last of these studies around the Cross of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, a series in which we have attempted to deal with some of the rich and gracious provisions of the Cross; here we shall consider some phases of that all-inclusive and plenteous redemption which God has provided for us through the Son of His love by the way of the Cross.

We have seen the Cross of Christ standing amidst human ruin and helplessness at the very center of redemption, and as the channel of power.

We have endeavored to watch the progress of its work in the experience of the soul who surrenders to Christ.

We have first seen how pardon is ours, that we "have redemption through His blood... the forgiveness of... trespasses"; we have seen how purity comes to us by the way of the Cross, seeing that our consciousness may be "purged from dead works to serve the living and true God" by that same most precious blood; we have seen how peace comes to us by the way of the Cross, for He "has made peace" by the blood of His Cross; and, last, we have considered how power comes to us, for "the Word of the Cross," the Logos of the Cross, "is the power of God to such as are being saved."

Let us once more take our stand by this selfsame Cross, and observe how it flings its light out on all the future, and on all possible needs and contingencies that may arise.

This is an aspect full of value to us. We are all growingly conscious of our limitation, of the fact that there are more things in heaven and earth than have been dreamed of in our philosophies. This growing consciousness very often affects our thought of, and relation to, spiritual things, the things of the soul, the things of redemption. There are moments when the trusting soul trembles through its own limitation of knowledge and vision.

Have there not been moments in your own Christian life when the very consciousness of the unending ages has been almost too great a burden to bear, when the consciousness of the illimitable spaces that lie unmeasured and immeasurable around you has almost crushed your spirit? We have all had such moments, in which we have asked questions about those ages, those spaces, those infinite things round about us, and there have been moments when we have asked questions about our own relationship to God in the light of these things.

Let us go back to the eighth chapter of Romans, and if there has seemed to be something of the nature of speculation in my introductory words, I want you to listen to Paul. These are some of the questions he asked: "Who is against us?" "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" "Who is he that shall condemn?" "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?"

It is impossible for any who know the Lord Jesus, and have come into the blessings that have lately occupied our attention to read those questions without the tone of challenge creeping into the very reading of them. I am perfectly sure that this was in the mind of Paul when he wrote them. "Who is against us?" "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" "Who is he that shall condemn?" "Who shall separate us?"

Remember where the great questions occur in the scheme of this epistle; they do not come in the early part in which the Apostle is dealing with the need for salvation, nor in the central part in which he is laying down the plan of salvation, but in chapter eight, the chapter of the final triumph, in which life in Christ is so wonderfully described, life by the Spirit, which is life in Christ; the chapter which, as so often has been said, begins, "no condemnation," and ends, "no separation." Beyond the first part of the chapter, beyond the present experience of the power of the Cross, these questions occur. To pardoned, purified souls, at peace and having power, all these questions come sooner or later. Happy and blessed indeed are the men and women who can face them as Paul faced them, so that in the asking of them there is a tone of challenge, the great ring of a sure triumph.

"Who is against us?" What attack may be directed against our souls? "Who shall lay anything" to our charge? Can any other accusation be brought against us? "Who is he that shall condemn?" "Who shall separate us?" They are all questions born of the soul's consciousness of limitation. We are coming day by day to have a widening conception of life; we are living in an age in which the universe is a great deal larger than it seemed to our fathers. The discoveries of science—I say nothing of their speculations, I am always willing to wait while they speculate—have put the horizon back much further than it seemed to be. Theories which sounded like speculations to them are now ascertained facts; indeed, so great has the universe become that some men deny the relationship of the individual to God. All this is born of the ever enlarging sense of the universe.

These widening conceptions of life, this deepening sense of personal frailty, lead us to ask such questions. Can anyone be against us? I know some of the foes, but are there others of whom I know nothing? I read in my New Testament of "principalities and powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world," and all this phraseology has grown in meaning with the passing of the years. I do not say it means more essentially, but it means more to us than it did.

As one in this little planet, one in this ever widening universe, ever widening to human conception, how do I know what lies beyond in the dim distances? Who can be against us? Is there some spiritual antagonism I have never yet faced, ready to attack me? Is there some accuser who will rise up and set my life in relation with other laws? Shall I find myself a sinner in some deeper sense? Is there any accuser? And the final throbbing, agonizing question, until we come to the Cross for an answer, is, "Who shall separate?" Can anyone?

Every question is in itself a demand, a reverent demand, the demand of the soul; and when I ask, "Who is against us?" I am asking for defense against all possibility of attack. When I ask, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" I am asking that my justification shall be a justification in the presence of any and every possible accusation. When I ask, "Who is he that shall condemn?" I am asking that my acquittal at the bar of Infinite Holiness shall be from any possible condemnation that may arise. When I ask, "Who shall separate us?" I am asking that my communion with God shall be so arranged that all need arising from the new nature and the new conditions and the new demands shall be met.

I tremble on the verge of the eternal, I am, in my own poor personality, afraid in the presence of the immeasurable and the infinite that stretches out beyond. I stand, a man, a speck amid immensity, and I do not know what cohorts are hidden behind the distant hills ready to come against me. I do not know what traducers may yet bring charges against me. Can anything separate me from the love of God?

These are great questions. They do not always take this form, but they come to us all, sometimes very simply, and perhaps, therefore, the more subtly, with more far-reaching and deep-searching agony of soul.

In view of such questionings the greatness of my text is revealed. It is an answer to one of the questions, but I take it because out of it come the values that answer all the questions. "He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not also with Him freely give us all things."

I suppose every man who preaches the Word sometimes feels as though there is nothing more to say when he has read his text. That is certainly how I feel about this. Note its historic basis, "He spared not His own Son." Notice its logical conclusion, "Shall He not freely give us all things?"

When God gave His Son, He gave His best; and now human language must be imperfect. He emptied heaven of its richest; He had nothing more worth the giving. He gave in that moment not something better than the rest by comparison, but something that included all. The Apostle here says, in effect, when God gave His Son, with Him "He freely gave us all things." It is not merely that if He spared not His Son He will give other things. It is really that when He gave His Son He gave all. Take another statement of this same Apostle, from his Colossian letter, which deals with the glorious Christ, and remember his words about Jesus, "Christ, Who is the Image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in Him were all things created... and He is before all things, and in Him all things consist." There is no far distant part of the universe of God that is not held together in orderly array by Christ. No mystic secret of the Divine procedure is unknown to Christ. No foe of humanity lurking in any of the infinite spaces that baffle and affright me is hidden from Christ. God gave His Son, and when He gave His Son, He gave the One in Whom all things consist, from Whom all things came, to Whom all things proceed. In originating wisdom and creating force and upholding power, He gave the sum total of everything when He gave Christ, so that when I ask a question about the infinite spaces I am asking a question about the things that are as familiar to Jesus as are the few grains of sand that I can hold in my hand and look at, and far more familiar, for I cannot tell you the deepest mystery of the grains of sand, and He knows the last mystery of all the universe. When I ask my question about the days that are coming, I am asking a question about things that He will make, for He it is Who fashions not only the worlds of matter, but the worlds of time, the rolling ages as they come. God has given this Son of His love—Framer of the Universe in infinite wisdom, Upholder of it on its onward course to the final goal—given Him freely for us all.

Now, the Apostle says, "Who is against us?" "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" "Who is he that shall condemn?" "Who shall separate us?" Notice the questions again, and notice them as they are set against the great declaration.

First, "If God is for us, who is against us?" How do I know God is for me? He gave His Son. There is no other demonstration. If you doubt the Cross you have no proof that God is for us. If you lose the sight of the Cross, and do not hear its message of the Divine good will and favor, there is nothing in Nature to show you God is for you. Nature is red in tooth and claw. We are told sometimes that it is kind, and so it is if we are kind to it; but offend it, break its laws, and it will crush you with merciless severity.

And this also is a merciful provision, for the crushing of anything effete is good for the things that remain. God by salvation has not come to save effete things as effete things. He has come to save things from effeteness and make them new. Nature will laugh in sunshine on the face of your dead child; there is no message in Nature that tells you that the God behind it cares for you.

But this man, weak and frail, suffering the loss of all things, the pity of all worldly-minded souls, says God is for him. How does he know? "He spared not His own Son." That is the infinite proof. The Cross is the revelation of the Divine interest. If I have that Cross, there God has given, in the mystery of that dying, His own Son, and I am prepared to challenge all the universe. "Who can be against me?"

As I learn the lesson and repeat the challenge there will come into it, not merely a tone of challenge, but the tone of contempt for everything that is against me. Circumstances are against me; let them be! God is against the circumstances! Another man says, My parentage is against me. God becoming your Father cancels the evil inheritance with which you entered into life.

But these are things of today. What lies beyond? I do not know. What infinite forces will be born in the new ages, the ages that will come fresh as the morning from the wisdom of God? What forces may be born with new principalities and new powers? Perchance some of them will be against me. It does not matter, they will be born of God, and God is for me, and the man who stands by the Cross of Jesus and knows that that is God's gift for his redemption knows that nothing can emerge out of the endless ages, or gather from infinite spaces, that can harm, because by that Cross he knows God is for him. Who can be against us?

As to accusation, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth." We must interpret this word of the Apostle by his previous use of the word in the same argument. How does God justify? "Being, therefore, justified by faith... we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom also we have had our access by faith into this grace wherein we stand; and... rejoice in hope of the glory of God." Who shall lay anything to my charge? It is God that justifies me. How? By that Cross of Jesus. You may lay to my charge what you will. You may see in me the imperfection that contradicts your sense of law. I am talking in imagination to the principalities and powers which may be created fifty millenniums hence. God has justified me by the Cross, which does not mean for one single moment that He has covered and excused my sin, but by the infinite mystery of the pain borne in that Cross, He has made my sin not to be, canceled it, put it away, and in this justification God acts, not out of pity, but on the basis of eternal justice and righteousness.

I challenge all the accusers. Who are you? Lay your accusation. Yes, it is true, perchance even in the holy service of today, perchance even in the service of the ages to come, there will be the falling short somewhere. I do not mean wilful sin. Do you not know that God charges the angels with folly? When I measure my service, even in the infinite hereafter, by the compulsion and propulsion and constraint of the Infinite love, I think that we shall always have to cast our crowns at His feet and say, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory." If someone shall lay a charge against me that the thing is not as high as it ought to have been, then in the infinite ages the Cross of the Christ abides, God's eternal provision, so that none can lay anything to the charge of such as He shall justify.

Or again, "Who is he that shall condemn?" "It is Christ Jesus that died, yea rather"—hear the music of it, if death were all, the condemnation would abide—"yea, rather, that was raised from the dead," and in the mystery, and miracle, and marvel of that resurrection there is the demonstration of the truth that the dying was efficacious, that in the dying He accomplished the purpose of His heart, in the dying He put guilt away and bore sin so that I need bear it no more. "Who shall condemn?" The soul, afraid of possible condemnation, hides again in the cleft of the rock, and points to the Cross and the empty grave, and says for evermore, By virtue of that Cross and that empty tomb, there can be no condemnation to the trusting soul.

Once again, "Who shall separate us?" Paul always seems to me, at this stage, as though he had climbed to some great height and was looking out on all the dimensions. "Death," he puts that first, because that is what men are so often afraid of as a separating force. "Life," which is far more likely to separate us than death, even though men do not fear it. "Angels, principalities," the whole world and universe of created intelligences. "Things present—things to come," in simple sentences he sweeps through all the ages. "Powers, height, depth."

Notice carefully this final phrase—"nor any other creation, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Did you notice the Apostle's outlook on all these things? "Death?" That is a creation. "Life?" That is a creation. "Angels" and "principalities?" Creations. "Things present?" Creations. "Things to come?" Creations. "Powers?" Creations. "Height?" Creation. "Depth?" Creation. All had issued from God. How can created things separate me, says the Apostle, from the Origin of the created things, seeing I am bound to Him through the work of Jesus, His own Son? I cannot be separated by things created by the Creator, for the Creator has bound me to Him by giving His Son, and brings me back with His Son into eternal union with Himself. "Who shall separate me?"

   Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
    My beauty are, my glorious dress;
   'Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
    With joy shall I lift up my head.
   Bold shall I stand in Thy great day;
    For who aught to my charge shall lay?
   Fully absolved through these I am
    From sin and fear, from guilt and shame.
   When from the dust of earth I rise,
    To claim my mansion in the skies,
   Ev'n then, this shall be all my plea,
    Jesus hath lived, hath died for me.
   Jesus, be endless praise to Thee
    Whose boundless mercy hath for me—
   For me, a full atonement made,
    An everlasting ransome paid.
   O let the dead now hear Thy voice;
    Now bid Thy banished ones rejoice;
   Their beauty this, their glorious dress,
    Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness.
    
The Cross of Jesus, the rough Roman gibbet, brutal Cross so far as man had anything to do with it; the Cross of nineteen hundred years ago, which was the manifestation of the great mystery and passion by which God redeems men, that Cross flames with a glory far greater than is needed to illumine the little while, and the here and the now. Its light fills all the universe; its glory rests on all the coming ages. At its birth every new-born age will be baptized in the infinite light that streams from the Cross of Christ. I do not know what they will have in them. One of the joys of the contemplation of the hereafter is that God is infinite in wisdom and power, and my own consciousness of eternal existence becomes bearable as I remember that there can be no monotony with God, always new ages, always new creations, always new manifestations of the one Eternal, incomprehensible Being Whom I call God.

And I do not know what, or how, how long, how brief, how great, how simple. But this I know, that by the Cross I have been brought into the love of God even though I was a sinner; and this I know that nothing He creates can ever separate me from Him Who does create. I know it by the Cross. "No man hath seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." When? By the way of the Cross. Men may know the exceeding power and wisdom of God if they study Nature, but they never find His heart.

There is only one way in which men find that—by the way of the Cross. But when a man comes that way, he comes at last to the point where he can write such a chapter as the eighth of Romans, and looking out from the midst of conscious weakness, out into the infinite spaces, as the questions throb through the mind, "Who?... who?... who?" He can answer them all with a quiet, calm assurance.

A man at the Cross challenges all attack, all accusation, all condemnation, all separation, and ends in the glorious declaration that none can be against, none can dare accuse, that none can condemn, that none can separate.

In conclusion, let me ask, what is the law of appropriation? There is no specific law of appropriation here; this aspect of promise leans back on God and the work accomplished in Jesus. Yet there is a law of appropriation; it is that of the realization of all that we have spoken of before. If I have never been to the Cross for its pardon, if I know nothing of the purity of consciousness that comes by it, if I am not now at peace with God, and within myself, therefore, if I know nothing of the power of the Cross in this life of probation, then the Cross brings me no promise, but condemnation.

The Cross of Jesus brings me all light, or banishes me to all darkness. Our fathers used to preach about the sin of rejecting Jesus. We do not hear very much about that today. And yet, believe me, it is the sin of all sins, it is the sin against the Holy Ghost. There is no sin so deep, so heinous, so awful as that. If I will not have its pardon, or its purity, or its peace, or its power, I cannot have its promise. Then if I ask this question, Who is against me? a myriad forces of evil charge on me to destroy me. If I ask, Who is he that lays anything to my charge? the great accuser stands before me and before God. If I ask, Who is he that shall condemn? the very God of love that would redeem, condemns. If I ask, Who shall separate me? I am separated by my own choice; and the question now becomes, Who can unite me? There is none can unite me if I reject the Cross of His dear Son.

Then let us rather come to the Cross, and in submission yield to its claim, and so receive its blessings.

   Beneath the Cross of Jesus
    I fain would take my stand—
   The shadow of a mighty Rock,
    Within a weary land;
   A home within the wilderness,
    A rest upon the way,
   From the burning of the noontide heat,
    And the burden of the day.
   O safe and happy shelter,
    O refuge tried and sweet,
   O trysting place where heaven's love
    And heaven's justice meet!
   As to the holy patriarch
    That wondrous dream was given,
   So seems my Saviour's Cross to me,
    A ladder up to heaven.
   There lies beneath its shadow,
    But on the farther side,
   The darkness of an awful grave
    That gapes both deep and wide;
   And there between us stands the Cross,
    Two arms outstretched to save,
   Like a watchman set to guard the way
    From that eternal grave.
   Upon that Cross of Jesus
    Mine eye at times can see
   The very dying form of One
    Who suffered there for me;
   And from my smitten heart, with tears,
    Two wonders I confess,—
   The wonder of His glorious love,
    And my unworthiness.
   I take, O Cross, thy shadow
    For my abiding place;
   I ask no other sunshine than
    The sunshine of His face:
   Content to let the world go by,
    To know nor gain nor loss—
   My sinful self my only shame,
    My glory all the Cross.
    
The Cross is God's giving, and the proof of His giving. His giving, "He spared not His Son." The proof of His giving, "Shall He not freely give us all things?"

The Cross is the place of my receiving. I look back, and the Cross brings me pardon. I look within, and the Cross brings me purity. I look up, and the Cross brings me peace, I look around, and the Cross is the Word of power. I look on and out at the infinite and unknown possibilities of eternity, and the Cross is the message of promise. Here and now, as I know my own life, as I know my own heart, I have no hope for today or tomorrow, for life or death, for time or eternity, but in the Cross of my Saviour. I have that hope, for

   In the Cross of Christ I glory,
    Towering o'er the wrecks of time,
   All the light of sacred story
    Gathers round its head sublime.
   When the woes of life o'ertake me,
    Hopes deceive and fears annoy,
   Never shall the Cross forsake me:
    Lo! It glows with peace and joy.
   When the sun of bliss is beaming
    Light and love upon my way:
   From the Cross the radiance streaming
    Adds more luster to the day.
   Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure,
    By the Cross are sanctified;
   Peace is there that knows no measure,
    Joys that through all time abide.

      177 - 1 Corinthians 1:18 - Power by the Cross 

Power by the Cross

For the Word of the Cross... unto us which are being saved... is the power of God.
1 Corinthians 1:18

The aspect of the Cross of Christ which is now to occupy our attention is one that has application only to a certain number of people, whom the Apostle refers to in the words, "to us which are being saved." We have spoken in this series of meditations first of pardon, and then of purity, and lastly of peace by way of the Cross.

We are now to speak of a third blessing—power by way of the Cross. We are often reminded of the fact that in the great experience of salvation there are tenses. I was saved; I am being saved; now is my salvation nearer than when I believed—that is, I shall be saved. The particular aspect of the Cross which is before our minds deals with the present and progressive tense of salvation. Pardon full, sufficient, perfect, is granted in the very moment in which we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Purity is in that selfsame moment placed at our disposal; whether we appropriate it or not may be another matter. Power is also at our disposal from that moment and ever onward, but we necessarily come to understand it and make use of it as we live the Christian life. The Word of the Cross is the power of God to those of us who are being saved. The soul pardoned and purified immediately confronts the future, and nowhere is weakness more keenly felt than at that moment. Often men are kept from that great act of surrender to Jesus Christ, which brings them into the position of pardon or purity, or of both, by fear of the future. And though men yield to the call of the Lord, and rejoice in the forgiveness of sins; even though they submit themselves wholly to Him, and claim the great purging of conscience which comes by such surrender; even though the great peace of God is in their hearts, yet when they face the future the sense of weakness comes, perhaps as never before. To that sense of weakness the Cross brings an evangel, and as by the way of the Cross I have pardon and purity and peace, so also by the way of the Cross—blessed be God!—there is power for me.

Let us think for a moment of the need of the soul pardoned, purified, at peace. The new relationship to Jesus Christ does not remove us out of all the old relationships. We are still left on the probationary plane. We shall live in the same store, the same workshop, even though our sins are for-Christ. We shall go back to business in the same office, the same store, the same workshop, even though our sins are forgiven. All the peculiar forces that have played on our personality prior to our relationship with Jesus Christ will still operate tomorrow, though He has forgiven us, purified us, and brought us into the place of peace. All the ordinary conditions and contingencies will recur to the soul that has come into new relationship with the Lord. The old temptations will come again, and will be felt far more keenly than they have ever been felt before. The old temptations will come through the old avenues; there are but three—the physical, the spiritual, and the vocational. Bread—that is the first; tampering with confidence in God—that is the second; attempting to possess the kingdoms in some other way than by treading the Divinely appointed pathway—that is the third. The devil has no other. These avenues are still open when I give myself to Jesus Christ. I still live within the physical tabernacle; I still am dependent on God for everything, and must live the life of trust; I still am called to Divine purpose in the world. And along every one of these avenues temptation will come to me, even though I am forgiven, purified, and at peace. My consciousness of temptation will be far keener than it ever has been; temptation will be more subtle; the tempter will be more busy. The devil is far more eager to spoil that new life dedicated to Jesus Christ than he is to pay any attention whatsoever to the souls that lie asleep in him.

Not temptation only, but suffering will still be my portion. Bereavements will come to me, as they come to others; defeat will sometimes overtake my endeavor, as it overtakes the endeavors of all men; treachery may lurk in the pathway to harm me; I am still in the place of tears, the place of suffering, the place of sorrow. Again, I am still in the place of joy. I now belong to Jesus Christ, but that will not rob me of the rapture of success; I have been pardoned and purified, and am at peace with God, but that will not interfere with the delight I have in the comradeship and friendship for others of my kind. I have indeed seen Him Whom to see is to find light and life and love and liberty; but there is still within me that which asks for gold on the morning sky. Hope will still take hold of every promise and build on it some great expectation. I am still in the midst of the old circumstances. I must still live the old life.

Once again, the dedication of my life to Jesus Christ, and all the answering blessings that come by the way of the Cross: these things do not remove me out of the place of mystery. I am still limited in my outlook. Phantoms will flit across the seas of life, threatening me and affrighting me; questions will still arise in the inner life as they did before. Yielded to Jesus Christ, I am not at the end of the questioning mind, I have not solved the last riddle or probed the deepest problem.

The man pardoned, purified, and at peace, abides in the place of peril. He must live where he lived, and as he lived, must strive for bread, and prosecute his business, and touch the world. At least, that is the Divine intention for him. And if any man shall attempt to live the Christian life by escaping from these conditions and hiding within stone walls, he will find that he has cut the very nerve of saintship, and has made it impossible to be all that Christ meant him to be. "As is the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters." Christianity is not an exotic which flourishes in hothouse atmosphere, separated from all difficulties. Christianity is a hardy perennial that blossoms among the thorns; and if a man moves from such surroundings he will move from the conditions that make him strong.

Yet it is not merely in order that we may meet these things that we need power. When we yielded ourselves to Christ, and received blessing at His hand, we were brought into a new realm of activity. New demands were made on us. When I come to the Cross and receive these benefits, I, by that reception, commit myself to its responsibilities. When I come to the Cross, and there, a lost and ruined soul, see that I am found and redeemed, in the act by which I receive the Christ I take the oath of allegiance to the One Who saves me. In that moment I commit myself to all the enterprises of God. He demands that what there is of my life shall be surrendered to Him, and that from that moment I shall be a worker together with Him, in fellowship, partnership with Him. From that moment I am to stand, wheresoever my lot may be cast, for righteousness, and not for policy merely—I am to put my whole life into the great business of bringing about a reconciliation of men to God. From that moment in which the blessings of the Cross become my own, my life is committed to the publication of the evangel of the Cross to all men; from that moment in which the compassion of God becomes my salvation, I am called on to live in the power of that compassion for the salvation of others. Standing on the brink of the new life of service, with its demands so great and wonderful, the soul says, "Who is sufficient for these things?" Pardoned, purified, at peace, I have to live and serve. How can I live and serve?

What I need is that there shall come into my life a new force that is equal to all the demands. Power to resist temptation, power to endure suffering equally, power to endure joy that I be not spoiled thereby, power to wait amid the mysteries until His light shall shine on the pathway.

For service I need power. If I am called to this new service I need the passive power that will enable me to stand four square to every wind that blows; I need the active power that will enable me to accomplish the work God puts in my hands as a saved man; I need persuasive power to constrain men to this selfsame Cross where I have found my blessings.

Now, I take up this letter to the Corinthians because in face of difficulties and divisions and misunderstanding the Apostle insists on this one thing, that "the Word of the Cross is the power of God."

Now, the question arises, simply and naturally in the heart of each one of us, In what sense can it be true that the Word of the Cross is the power of God to them that are being saved? Not merely the power which enables a man to find salvation, but the power that he needs to live this life, which is in itself a procession and probation of salvation. In what sense can the Word of the Cross be said to be power? If you approach from the standard of merely human intellectual strength you will come to one of two conclusions. You will come to the conclusion of the Jew or of the Greek. You will come to the conclusion that the Cross of Jesus is either a stumbling-block or utter foolishness. These are perfectly-natural conclusions. The Jew said the Cross is a stumbling-block, a skandalon, something in the way, over which men fall. Put the Cross into its relation to the life of Jesus as the Jew saw it. Take the disciples, not the great crowd that neglected Him: they learned of Jesus, and learned to love Him, and desired to follow Him. What was the Cross prior to Pentecost? It was a stumbling-block; the moment Jesus mentioned it they drew back from Him, and why? Because they thought the Cross would hinder, not help. There was no power in the Cross to the mind of Peter when he said, "That be far from Thee, Lord." It was the thing that ended power, that robbed Jesus of power to the thinking Jew unilluminated by the Spirit of God, who had never seen into the mystery. After the Cross and resurrection, when Jesus walked to Emmaus, two men talked to Him about the Cross. They said, "We hoped that it was He which should redeem Israel." In imagination I will join the group, and ask these men a question. Do you not still hope? No, we have lost our hope. What killed it? The Cross killed it. So long as He was careful, or seemed to be careful of Himself, so long as when men were angry He went away into the country and waited awhile, and went on with His teaching, we hoped; but when He became reckless and set His face to go to Jerusalem, and we could not dissuade Him, that Cross was the stumbling-block; there He fell, there our hopes were ruined. There is no other conclusion; they were perfectly right, judging by natural law.

Or if not, then what? Then, still within the realm of the natural, you say with the Greek, the Cross was foolishness. It means the same thing underneath. It is absolutely foolish to talk about a Roman gibbet lifting a man except that it may kill him. Foolishness to the Greek. When Paul began his ministry in the Greek cities he came to Athens, the center of the culture of the time. They said, "What would this babbler say?" I think that word "babbler" simply means, as they used it, this teller of tales. There were men who traveled through these Greek cities doing nothing but telling tales of travel, adventure, things seen in distant places; and the men of the time who listened had itching ears—and they have successors today— men always seeking for some new thing. When Paul came to tell them the story of how Jesus lived and was crucified and rose, they said: This is a tale, and it is just foolishness, we will amuse ourselves and listen to it. The Cross is still that today to some. There is nothing that vitalizes the intellect until you are born again; there is nothing in the Cross that helps on the redemption of the race until you are born again. It is a cold, dead, lifeless stumbling-block, and some men are doing their very best to get rid of it. I am therefore limited in all I say now. "To us which are being saved."

What is it to us who are being saved? "The power of God." What is the "power of God"? The "Word of the Cross." Not the preaching of the Cross—one of the most important changes in translation here—not the preaching, but the Logos, the Word, exactly the same phrase which you have in John's Gospel, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." "The Word of the Cross." It is not the preaching of the Cross that is the power. Thank God there is a sense in which the preaching of the Cross is the power of God; it is by the preaching, the heralding, the proclamation of the Cross that men find the Word of the Cross. But it is not the act of preaching that is powerful, it is the thing preached. Some years ago a theological professor said what seemed to be a smart thing to his class. He said, "Gentlemen, remember God has chosen the foolishness of preaching, not the preaching of foolishness." If he had looked a little more closely he would have found he was wrong. God has chosen the preaching of foolishness, foolishness to the Greek. What is this foolishness? "The Word of the Cross." Let us take the phrase and look at it for a moment, very reverently. "The Word," "The Word of the Cross."

Have you ever made anything like careful and patient study of what the Bible says about the "Word of God"? Have you ever taken that phrase and traced it through? The Bible says wonderful things about the Word of God. I go back into the Old Testament, and there is a wonderful amount of New in the Old. I turn to one of the Psalms and I read this:

   By the word of the Lord were the heavens made;
   And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.
   He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap:
   He layeth up the deeps in storehouses.
   Let all the earth fear the Lord.
   Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.
   For He spake, and it was done;
   He commanded, and it stood fast.
   
Listen to a statement of the New Testament, "Who being the effulgence of His glory, and the very image of His substance, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had made purification of sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." "He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast." "Upholding all things by the word of His power." Hear once again. An angel visitor is talking to the Virgin, and in the midst of her sweet and holy questioning he says, "No word of God shall be void of power." The word of man is a wish! The Word of God is a work! It is always so. I speak, and then I must do it; He speaks, and it is done. I utter a thought that is in my mind; it is a dream, a prophecy, a desire, a disappointment perchance. When God expresses Himself, the thing He expresses, is. The Word of God is the expression of God, the Speech, the Revelation, the uttering forth, the going out, and with the Word is the Work.

In the fulness of time "the Word was made flesh." And what did men do with that Word made flesh? They crucified Him. I know perfectly well that at this moment—God help us to be reverent—we are standing in the presence of the burning bush. It is well that we take our shoes from off our feet, and say to our hearts that we are looking on the ineffable glory, and cannot explain it. We stand and peer into the mystery, and never understand it; yet, I pray you, think a moment in the realm of analysis.

Reverently let me take that great Word of the Cross and see how power is in it, in the mystery of defeat, in the hour of dying, by listening to the words of the Word of the Cross. If you will take the words spoken by the Word in the supreme agony of the Cross, you will find every one of them tells of defeat and of victory, of weakness and of power.

"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." It is the word of an unutterable pain, but the pain is the plea that prevails.

"To-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise." It is the confession of defeat; not often have we said so, but you must take the word and put it into Jewish thinking. Paradise, what is that? The place of departed spirits, and men do not want to pass into the place of departed spirits. He says in effect: I am passing, I am a dying Man, I am going to Paradise. But you will not leave it like that; you know full well it is the passing of a King, that it is the voice of the Master of all defeat, that it is the voice of One Who in supreme defeat utters the word of an eternal victory, "To-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise."

"Woman, behold thy son," "Behold thy mother." His heart is bereaved, and He knows His mother's heart is pierced through with a sword, and yet He knows that there, through that bereavement and that agony and loss and suffering, the suffering of sympathy for His own mother, there He creates the new kinship, the new relationship, gives His mother a son in the bond of His love, such as she never could have had in any other way, gives Himself back to His mother through John in the new discipleship of John, and begins that gracious work that He has carried on ever since, of healing broken hearts with the new kinship, the new relationship, the new family of God. It is a great triumph through a great sorrow.

"My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" That forsaking that so appalls you as it appalls me, what is it but the way of approach? The forsaking is the pathway to fellowship.

"I thirst." Out of that thirst there springs the living water of which thirsty men shall drink, and never thirst.

"It is finished," and we sing of it tonight, not as the declaration of a Man who is beaten and defeated. We know the ending was the beginning. That is the dawning of the new order and the new life.

"Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit." The actual passing is the coming back to the Father. Take any of the words, and I will defy you to explain them. Crucified in weakness, and yet throbbing through the weakness rivers of power, which, by the way of the resurrection, have passed out into all human life. "The Word of the Cross" is "the power of God." He spake at creation; it was done. He spoke in Jesus, and it was done. Pardon and purity and peace, and all the power that man needs to live a life and render a service come by the way of the Cross.

Now, brethren, finally, how am I to realize this power as an actual positive fact in my own life? The abiding condition of the manifestation of Divine power is that of weakness. This, carried to its logical and proper conclusion, teaches us that the supreme condition for the working of the power of the Word of the Cross in our lives is that we know what it is to be crucified with Him, to enter into the place of death with Him. It is when I come to the point of the cessation of my activity in the power of the flesh, in the power of my own intellect, that the power of the Cross becomes operative in me, and through me. Here is where we stand away, and do not know His power, even those who are His. Someone writes me. I open the letter, and I read it. It is such an old story. It says: "I am a Christian, and have been one for long years, but I cannot overcome this temptation, this besetment. I want power to overcome." Or the letter says: "I have been trying to work for God for long years in the Sunday school, in the church, it may be in the pulpit, but there is no power. What am I to do?" And my answer in every case must be the same. "The Word of the Cross.... is the power of God."

But how am I to make contact with that power, that I may overcome? How am I to appropriate that power in order that I may serve in power? There is only one way, and it is that I get to the end of my own attempts to do without God, that God is able through the mystery of this power of the Cross to come into my life, and work in victory over temptation and sin, and in all the service that His will appoints. "I have been crucified with Christ," said the Apostle, and sometimes one is almost afraid to quote the passage, it has been quoted so often, it has been preached on so constantly. Yet never until I come there shall I know what power is in my own life. That great power of the Cross operates in and through only men and women who are content to die with Him, to be at the end of self, that He may be the one supreme enthroned and crowned Lord of the life. Oh, it is this dying that hinders us. These ambitions must be laid aside, these prejudices must be crucified, this pride must be humbled; that goal toward which I have been running, which is, in the last analysis, pure selfishness, must be swept away, and I must be willing to say, "I live, yet not I." It is that canceling of the "I" in the life of the Christian that creates contact with the power of the Cross. It is only as we are prepared to go down into the death of the Cross that we shall begin to find its dynamic and its thrill, and shall know its mastery in us, over all that is against us, and through us, over all that is against God. Thank God, it is the "Word of the Cross," and it is "the power of God." No human philosophy can explain it, and no human investigation along the lines of scientific method can account for it. Here the fact remains, and the simple illustrations are to be found everywhere. Here is a frail man, battered and bruised by his own sin, who comes at last to Jesus for pardon, claims His purity, finds the peace of God, and then goes out to begin his life anew. Beginning it anew, there is no dependence on himself. He says, "I have tried and failed; I yield myself to Him, willing to be nothing, sinking to the place where I count not my life to be anything. I cast ambition as dust beneath my feet, or, in the words of old, 'I lay my treasure in the dust,' and all I counted as dear is to be counted as dross and dung. I am nothing." Easily said, but not so easily consented to. It is when a man gets there—and now I am out of the realm of explanation, but I am in the realm of faith—that this great Word of the Cross, the Cross that is the death of sin, the Cross that cancels sin, the Cross that brings the power, begins to thrill and throb through that man's life. He is able to sin no more.

God is sufficient for all the life and service of His people. No exigencies can surprise Him, no combinations can defeat Him. But the element of human trouble and weakness has ever been the self-life. Where that ends, God, through the mystery of His Cross, the Cross of His Son, resumes His government, resumes His activity; then the life touches the place of omnipotence. I thank God for the pardon of the Cross. I thank God for purity that is mine by the way of the Cross. I thank God for peace; but, oh! sometimes—and I suppose it is because it is the last thing one thinks of in God's great gifts is always the best—this power that has come into the life and made it equal to the things to which it was unequal, this present power of God, how great and gracious a thing it is! If you and I, who tremble and are afraid as we face our surroundings and our service, will but consent to all that is meant by crucifixion with Him, we shall find that that Cross, which was a stumbling-block to Jew and foolishness to Greek, is to such as are being saved the power of God.

      

178 - 1 Corinthians 1:30 - Wisdom: The False and the True

Wisdom:  The False and the True

But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, Who was made unto us wisdom from God, 
and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.
1 Corinthians 1:30

Christ Jesus, Who was made unto us wisdom from God, 
both righteousness and sanctification and redemption.
A.V.

This letter of Paul was addressed to "the ecclesia of God which is at Corinth." There can be no full or final interpretation of it, save as we understand the significance of that introductory description. I do not feel that the opening verse is so arresting to us as it must have been to those who dwelt in Corinth. The Greek citizen would have said: What does this mean? I know what the ecclesia of Corinth is; but I know nothing about the ecclesia of God in Corinth.

It is that distinction which is important. The ecclesia in Corinth was the municipal authority. Every Greek city had its ecclesia. The ecclesia—I hardly like to put it this way, and yet the modern phrase will certainly help us—was the town council. The ecclesia, moreover, was composed of free men. No slave could become a member thereof. It was a called-out company, governing the life of the city.

Now let us come back to the epistle itself. Paul here made use of a term which our Lord Himself had employed, the explanation of which was the peculiar stewardship especially committed to him. He was pre-eminently the apostle of the Church. His Gospel was supremely that of the Church. Wherever he went he planted churches. As men believed in Christ he gathered them into fellowship, and thus constituted an ecclesia. The ecclesia of God in Corinth, then, was God's authoritative fellowship in Corinth, the fellowship of souls in Christ gathered together in order that God's voice might be heard, God's authority be found, and God's will be made known. When Paul wrote to the Church at Corinth he was not at all anxious about ecclesiastical order merely for the sake of ecclesiastical order. He was anxious about ecclesiastical order and life for the sake of Corinth. It was in order that the city might be reached, that the city might have a true light, and a true love, and a true life; he was anxious that God's fellowship of governing souls therein might be in such right relationship with God that their testimony might be a testimony of truth, and a testimony of power.

The city of Corinth at that time was noted principally for its schools of philosophy, for its luxury, and for its lasciviousness. It was the day of decadent philosophy in the Greek life. Intellectually, in Corinth it was the hour of debates, discussions, divisions, disputes. Men ranged themselves around emphases into sects, and parties, and schools.

Moreover, at the time this letter came to it, Corinth was morally depraved. The standard of morality was at the very lowest. It was degenerate, wallowing in bestiality.

And, once again, Corinth at this time was religiously materialistic. Men had fastened their faith on the idols they had erected. Men were living in the atmosphere of a Sadducean philosophy, a rationalistic philosophy; and religion was devitalized because it had become materialistic.

Now, when we take up this letter to the Corinthians, we discover that all these things in Corinth had invaded the Church of God in Corinth. The Church, which had been placed in Corinth in order to interpret to Corinth the will of God, had been affected, influenced, demoralized by the forces of Corinth. The Church that should have invaded Corinth, strong in her own essential life and light and love, had been invaded by Corinth, and her testimony had been weakened. The Church was affected by the spirit of the times, and was weakened in her influence.

Our text occurs in that section of the letter which is devoted to the intellectual condition of the church, resulting from the fact that she had fallen under the influence of the intellectual condition of the city. Throughout this section the apostle puts two things in contrast: the "wisdom of words," and "the Word of the Cross." Corinth was the center of the wisdom of words. The philosophical discussions were discussions around words. This spirit had come into the church. Men had listened to the different emphases of Christian teachers, and, disputing around these, some had said: We are of Paul; others, We are of Apollos; and yet others, We go back to the true foundation; we are of Peter. Lastly, there were those who said—it is wonderful how these things continue through the centuries—You are all wrong if you name these names; we are of Christ only. Here we find the spirit of disputation invading the church, and Paul dealing with this wisdom of words, proclaimed anew the Logos of the Cross. In the course of his argument he claimed that this is the true wisdom; it is the wisdom of God.

To the Hebrew, the Cross was a stumbling-block, something across the pathway of Hebrew progress. That is what all the Hebrew disciples had felt—Peter, James, and John—when they had protested against the Cross.

To the Greek the Cross was unutterable foolishness, characterized by a lack of intellectuality. A cross, a Roman gibbet, and a crucified man, and some empty talk about resurrection—unutterable foolishness!

All this Paul admitted; but, continuing, he declared that to us who are being saved, to those who having heard the evangel, have yielded themselves to it; to those who are determined to test the evangel, not by their own inability to understand it, as the Greek, not by their own prejudices as to a Divine economy, as the Hebrew, but by yielding to its claims and seeing what result it produces in the lives of others—to such it is the power of God and the wisdom of God.

In that connection Paul made this great declaration: "Christ Jesus. Who was made unto us wisdom from God, both righteousness and sanctification, and redemption." The text is the summarized word concerning Christian wisdom made by this Christian apostle in a Greek city. He admits that it is foolishness to the Greek mind, but he emphatically claims that it is wisdom.

We observe, further, that the text falls between two passages which constitute a contrast. The apostle first declared that we are not to glory in the things in which the world glories. He finally declared that we are to glory in the Lord. Between the two declarations he utters this word of wisdom, and declares that Christ Jesus is the Wisdom, and therefore as men know Him and come into living relationship with Him they have, on the foundation of the profoundest philosophy and the most perfect wisdom, the true cause for glorying. Such is the argument of the apostle.

For a moment let us glance at our text quite technically. There is a difference of opinion among expositors as to whether the apostle here refers to four values when he says, "Of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, Who was made unto us wisdom from God; righteousness, sanctification, redemption"; or whether he names one, Wisdom, and then gives the qualities of that wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification, Redemption. I am not going into any discussion on the point; but immediately assume the latter view, which I believe to be the true one, and that in our Revised Version we have a more illuminative translation than in the Authorized in this particular passage. But even this translation might be amended, so that the text should read: "Of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, Who was made unto us wisdom from God; both righteousness and sanctification and redemption." The apostle had said everything when he had written wisdom. What, then, is this wisdom? He immediately gives an analysis of it; righteousness, sanctification, redemption.

Now carefully observe—for this is most pertinent to our meditation—that if we take the text in this way, Wisdom as the one, Righteousness, Sanctification, and Redemption as the three in the one, we have matters that stand in immediate contrast to things already referred to.

God chose the foolish things of this world. What are they? The things of wisdom, that is, things of Christian wisdom, the foolish things of the world. God's wisdom is the Cross whereby Righteousness is made possible. God hath chosen the foolish things that He might put to shame the things that are wise, all the philosophies of men, which had not prevented Corinth becoming unutterably corrupt.

God hath chosen the weak things of the world. What are they? The things of righteousness, the things which in Corinth were held in supreme contempt as being weak: the things that men did not believe in, the things that men there did not take into account when arranging municipal or national affairs. Righteousness was at a discount, it was a weak thing. God hath chosen the weak things, that He might put to shame the things that are strong. All the things iin which men had trusted for the realization of human life individually, and socially, and nationally God will put to shame by the way of the things the world counts weak, which is righteousness.

Yet again, "the base things of the world, and the things that are despised." What are they? The things of sanctification, the things of holiness, the things of separation to God, the things of the spirit life, which the world looks on as despised things, base things, things not to be taken into account. God has chosen them.

Finally, "and the things that are not." What are they? The things of redemption, as the word redemption is used in my text. The particular Greek word here used is one that signifies the ultimate in redemption: resurrection, the renewal of humanity, and the realization of full spiritual life in a realm beyond the material. The world says, These things are not. There is no life beyond. There is no resurrection. There is no spirituality which will ultimately triumph so that life shall be renewed in larger meaning, and for fuller purpose. The things that are not, God has chosen these.

Christ has come into the world to make known God's wisdom to men, and to carry out its purposes for men. God's wisdom is expressed in righteousness, in sanctification, and in the ultimate redemption and realization of human Life. The foundation is righteousness, the process is sanctification, the ultimate goal is that of full and perfect redemption. The wisdom of God is a wisdom that deals with humanity in such a way as to be able to save it from corruption, to realize it, and to remake and glorify it. Therefore we will not glory in the philosophy of Corinth, which looks on the Cross of Jesus as foolishness; but we will glory in the Lord, through Whom God's wisdom is thus made manifest.

Let us pass over the text again in another way, taking the great words one by one. The word "wisdom" was the common word of Greek speech; but it is to be very carefully noted by the diligent student of Holy Scripture that this word is therein used only of God, or of good men, except where the sense is most evidently ironical. It is a word that stands for the highest thought in wisdom. It has reference to a clear intelligence, rather than to capacity for intelligence. It has reference to that insight and understanding which are essential and final wisdom. It is what the Greeks were seeking in all their discussions in the schools of Corinth. All their philosophies were attempts to be wise, to come to an ultimate knowledge of truth, to see things as they really are, and understand the deepest and profoundest secrets of life. Paul said that ultimate wisdom is not in man, it is in God; and he claimed that while men were disputing over the wisdom of words and looked on the Gospel as foolishness, while they looked in contempt on the Cross—in Christ and in his Cross the ultimate, final, clear, essential wisdom of God had found speech.

The test of Wisdom is that of the results produced; and the results produced by this Divine Wisdom may be expressed in these very words.

Righteousness. The word signifies in the New Testament, and from the pen of this Christian writer, perfect conformity to the Divine standard. Christ was that in Himself. He appeared in human history, One Whose whole human life was conformed to a Divine standard, to a Divine pattern; One, the keynote of Whose life had been struck in boyhood's years when He had stood in the courts of the Temple at Jerusalem and said, "I must be in the things of My Father." From that moment to the last the music of His life had been true to that chord of the dominant; it was a life adjusted to God; it was righteous life. And yet righteousness meant far more than that in the case of Jesus, and in the case of all Christian writers. We may illuminate its meaning by going back again to the New Testament story, and listening to the second of the recorded words of Jesus. As He came up out of the waters of baptism, baptized by the last of the Hebrew prophets, the Spirit descended upon Him. As He passed into the waters He said to John, "Suffer it now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness." That is one of the profoundest words, I reverently affirm, that ever passed His lips, a word not declaring that He was obeying a prophet, or keeping the law, but that He was fulfilling righteousness. How was He fulfilling righteousness? In that mystic baptism the Sinless was identifying Himself with sinning men and unveiling forevermore to the sons of men the fact that God's righteousness is not merely purity, integrity, but a passion of love that must find a way by which unrighteous souls may be made righteous. God's righteousness cannot be fully satisfied by the ninety and nine that need no repentance. It must go out after the one that is lost, and bring that one back again. God's righteousness can never find its ultimate expression in the vessels that were never marred in the hand of the potter; it can find its fulfilment only as it goes into the potter's field and gathers up the waste and broken materials, and makes them again conformable to Himself. Righteousness when we see it in Christ is far more than hard, cold, ethical accuracy; it is fire, passion, sacrifice to make failure a success, to uplift the fallen. There is ransom in it, redemption in it. Righteousness is not a pattern merely, but a potentiality; and a potentiality at the disposal of man through the infinite mystery of a passion and death that no man yet has fathomed.

The foolishness of all this to the Greek, and the foolishness of all this to the philosophy of the twentieth century, is self-evident. I am afraid that the philosophy of the twentieth century has so invaded the Church that there are people in the Church a little questioning, and inclined to think that it is all very foolish. Yet, I pray you, mark the wisdom of it in the long years. Admit all the failure of the centuries, recognize the sad fact that the Church of God has never yet come to the fulfilment of her own life, or of God's ideal for her; recognize it all, I say, and yet mark this fact, that through that Man of Nazareth, that central Person in human history, there has been flowing down the centuries, among all sorts and conditions of men, a new river of energy, which touching men, has made to live those who had been dead, remade those who had been ruined. Righteousness has been realized as the result of the work of the Christ.

This surely is "wisdom from God." That is not wisdom which merely erects its standard of life, and speaks of a high ideal, and gathers all who realize it into some select circle, while the flotsam and the jetsam are swept away to the sea of ruin. That is wisdom which fastens on the ruined and the spoiled, and remakes, remolds, revives, and gives back to humanity its lost sons and daughters, enabling them anew for life. Righteousness, then, is the first note of the Divine wisdom as an ideal and a dynamic.

Immediately following it, and expressing a process, we have the word sanctification, a word that signifies purification by separation to the will and service of God, a word that indicates the life as entirely at the disposal of God and harmonizing with God in His purity. This is the second fact in the mission of Christ. He was Himself sanctified, as He Himself did say; and He, taking hold of men, sanctifies them by putting them into that fellowship with God wherein they walk after Him and with Him, and rise into His life and into His light and into His love. Oh, soul of mine, the process is slow; I know it, not by observing others, but by living with myself! But however slow the process is, this also I know, that the passion for it is within the heart, and the aspiration of it is ever with the soul; and slowly, stumblingly, and, ah, me, shamefully, unworthily, we are yet growing up into Him Who is the Head, even Christ.

Redemption is the great word, a word signifying the final loosing of the life from everything which destroys it, the final loosing of humanity from all the things that break up and spoil. This word occurs only ten times in the New Testament. It is always used in connection with the thought of the ultimate victory. There is a sense in which a man is redeemed in the moment when he yields to Christ. There is a sense in which he will not find his full redemption until the work of God be perfected within him. That is the ultimate value. Given the righteousness which is in Christ, and the sanctification which is through Christ, the redemption by Christ is assured.

Let us take the thoughts and make them personal, particular, individual. What is righteousness? It is Christ imputed to me. No, my brethren, we cannot get away from that word! It is a great word, one that our fathers more often used than we do; but it is not the final word of Christian experience. When a man, not merely a sinner racially, but a sinner polluted and weakened by his own sin—such a man as knows sin in his own heart—when that man trusts himself to Christ he is not immediately conscious of the fulness of strength, for the habits of the Christian life have to be formed, just as evil habits had to be formed. Do not forget that. Here is a young man who gives himself to Christ, or a man far on in life, and he talks of the difficulty of being a Christian. Let such men remember that they have to form habits of Christian living as surely as they formed the habits that spoiled them. There is a growth into habit, and we must be patient in the process. Nevertheless, in the moment in which a soul casts itself on the unutterable mercy of God, in that moment Christ is imputed to that soul, and the spirit is immediately readmitted to fellowship with God. That is righteousness, Christ imputed to a man for the salvation of his spirit.

When, then, is sanctification? Not Christ imputed, but Christ imparted to the soul. Now we touch the realm of process and of development and of growth, the growing up in all things to Him Who is the Head, the growing in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the process of separation by which Christ is imparted to the life. This is the realm of slowness. This is the place where we mourn. It need not be so slow as it too often is. Do not let us excuse our slowness. I came across something in my reading recently, just a conversation between two people. One man said to his friend: "Well, you know, thank God, He knoweth our frame, He remembers that we are dust." "Yes," was the reply, "but we need not be any dustier than is necessary." We often quote a text like that, and then stay in the dust when we need not. But there is a necessary slowness in this process of sanctification as Christ is imparted. But slowness is not failure. The growth into Him is continuous. If we are Christian men and women we are growing more like Jesus—I will take the old, dear, sweet, ineffable name of the Nazarene—we are growing more like Him. Are we? There is no person more evangelical or orthodox in the universe than the devil! He holds no heresy, he knows all the truth. A man may know all the truth, and yet not be like his Lord. The thing that matters is that we should be actually growing up to Him in all things, that He should be imparted to us, that we look with His eyes, and become like Him, love-mastered, and light-illuminated souls. That is wisdom surely, God's wisdom in Christ, bringing men into conformity with Him Who was perfectly conformed to God; and so having them realize their own humanity.

Then shall come the hour, the final hour. How shall I speak of it, that final experience when Christ: shall be not merely imputed as righteousness, or imparted as sanctification, but implanted as redemption? That is the hour to which the seer looked forward when he said: "Beloved, now are we children of God, and it is not yet made manifest what we shall be. We know that, if He shall be manifested, we shall be like Him." That is the hour to which the psalmist of the old economy looked forward, not so intelligently perhaps, but with equal glory of expression, when he said: "I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness." Perfect redemption!

The Greek philosophers were unequal to producing these effects in human lives; and there came into Corinth an apostle of the Gospel, and he preached, and a few souls believed, and the process commenced. In their Church fellowship these souls became the new regenerative center for Corinth, if Corinth would but hear and obey. This is wisdom on the highest level, because it is not the wisdom of an idea that vaporizes, it is the wisdom of a truth that energizes, and, touching life, heals it and helps it.

We do not wonder that the apostle said: "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord." Christ is the Wisdom of God, and all earthly wisdom is but foolishness. The philosophies of men are vain when we come into the presence of corruption and sin, and the undoing of humanity! But when He comes, lo! the desert blossoms as the rose, the marred vessel is made again, and I, even I, withered, paralyzed, darkened in the mind, groveling in the dust, even I begin to breathe, live, hope, aspire, and climb. We glory in the Lord!

Christ is the Righteousness of God. All earthly strength and power will pass and perish. Man is unequal to the maintenance of himself, or of those relationships which make for permanence. This righteousness will take hold on the individual man, and will remake him as within himself, setting back into true proportion and balance his complex nature of spirit, mind, and body, until at last he himself shall be a veritable kingdom of God. By the multiplying of the number of such grows the Kingdom of God. We glory in the Lord!

Christ is the Sanctification of God. All earthly values fail, the things that the world counts of worth. The honored and the noble things of men are base and mean. It is true that the honored and the noble things of God are base and mean in the view of the worldly philosopher; but yet we know that at last purity will abide. We glory in the Lord!

Christ is the Redemption of God. All earthly hopes are doomed. The goals of men are but mirage. The final realization of the spiritual purpose, and the beatification of humanity in the Kingdom of God, this is the hope that burneth like a beacon and flasheth in perpetual glory. It is in the presence of this that we lift up the heart, and are assured. We glory in the Lord!

Our glorying in the Lord is vain save as we are abandoned to Him in will, and so co-operate with Him in power. Our position is sure. Our promise is certain. If we have believed in Him we are responsible only for the process. We shall demonstrate to our intellectual satisfaction the wisdom of the Gospel of the Cross only as we yield ourselves to its claim. In proportion as we do that it will produce in us the effects that demonstrate its infinite and abiding wisdom.

Let us, then, submit ourselves to that indwelling Spirit Who carried forward the process, and go forth, for our own lives, and for all our social outlook, and our racial hope, to glory in the Lord, Who is the Wisdom of God, "both righteousness and sanctification and redemption."

179 - 1 Corinthians 2:16 - We Have the Mind of Christ 

We Have the Mind of Christ

For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
1 Corinthians 2:16

This is one of the superlative apostolic claims for the Church of God. It has nothing to say of organization, of polity, or of methods of service. It is concerned with its philosophy, or wisdom, with that whole of truth which is to express itself through the organization to be the criterion of its polity, and to govern the method of its service.

These words were written to "the Church of God which is at Corinth... them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called... saints, with all that call upon the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, their Lord and ours." Such were those of whom Paul thought when he wrote the words: "We have the mind of Christ." At the time, Corinth was one of the wealthiest of the Greek cities; it was also a center of learning, a haunt of the schoolmen. Its abounding wealth made it a seething center of corruption, while the professed leaders of thought were engaged in disputes over terms, and thus were contributing nothing of moral value to the civic life. This letter of the apostle shows that the Church had passed under the baneful influence of this false wisdom, and to correct this the letter was written. Paul declared that his preaching to them had nothing in common with these things. The wisdom of those scribes, those disputers, was a wisdom of the world, and its rulers were coming to naught.

Moreover, there was no need for the Christian Church to be thus influenced. It possessed its own wisdom. There was a Christian philosophy which was a mystery, which had been hidden in the past, but now was revealed through the Spirit.

Now, the whole truth as to the fact of this wisdom and its possession by the Church is contained in our text: "We have the mind of Christ." This is as true today as at the time when Paul wrote the words. Leaving, then, all the apostolic application to the then existing conditions, let us consider the statement in itself, that we may apply it to our own conditions.

And this we shall do by giving attention to three matters suggested by the text: first, the Mind of Christ as the sum total of Wisdom; second, the Church of Christ as the depository of that Mind; and, third, the consequent Responsibility of the Church.

We begin, then, with this phrase of Paul: "The mind of Christ." In writing to the Philippians, Paul charged them: "Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." Now, the word of that Philippian letter and the word of this Corinthian letter are not the same. They have connections: there are vital relationships between the words both translated "mind"; but for the purpose of our present consideration we must keep them separate and not confuse the thoughts. The word in the Philippian letter which appears today as an abstract noun in our translation is, as many of you know full well, a verb. "Have this mind in you" might be rendered, Be thus minded, which means, Let your habit of mental activity be that of the Christ. The word there refers to an exercise of mind, an emotional exercise, and, consequently, an inspirational exercise, creating an activity: the mind of Christ, that emotional activity which was the inspiration of His self-emptying, His descent to the human level, and His final ascent to the throne of universal empire.

The word in our text is not this word. I say again that the underlying conceptions have close connection, but the word "mind" in our text refers to the understanding, the intelligence, and that not as capacity, but as consciousness. The mind of Christ here is not that instrument which enabled Him to apprehend, but the apprehension which resulted from the exercise of that instrument. The mind of Christ here refers to the whole knowledge of Christ as it produced emotion or feeling in Christ and resulted in definite choice of the will, not only the capacity for thinking, but the thought; not only the capacity for feeling, but the feeling resulting from the thought; not only the capacity for volition, but the definite choice made on the basis of emotion proceeding out of perfect knowledge. To summarize, the declaration here is that we have the knowledge of Christ, His consequent feeling, and His resultant will.

Passing, then, from that which is thus most technical, and yet most important, we will endeavor to understand the conception which is suggested by this pregnant phrase: "The mind of Christ."

Here we must first remind ourselves of the limitation of our consideration and of its unlimited inclusiveness.

First, its limitation. The conception is limited, and it was the limitation which caused the Greek philosopher to call the Christian philosophy "foolishness." That view of the Christian philosophy grew out of the fact that in all the presentation of that philosophy by apostles, evangelists, and prophets there was a clearly marked limitation. The limit of consideration is human failure. The knowledge of Christ, His emotion, His will, are seen only in relation to human failure; wisdom is conceived of only as it affects human failure. Consequently, the supreme sign and symbol of the Christian wisdom is the Cross of Jesus Christ. This is our limitation. When we quietly consider this phrase, and begin to think what the conception is, what is connoted by this wonderful bringing together of simple words, "The mind of Christ," we are compelled to remember that we can think only within this limited sphere of human failure.

Yet, finally, it is unlimited, for this central fact affects and includes all things, and the whole concept of Christian wisdom concerning human failure has at its heart a great belief that failure may be set right, and emerging out of that belief, we see the possibility of the full realization of the divine ideal, and so, at last, we discover that: the Christian philosophy affects all the facts of the universe. Was it not that profound conviction which moved the apostle when he wrote to the Colossians words which I venture to say to this day are full of glorious mystery, suffused with suggestions we hardly dare believe—when he said that Christ is to reconcile all things to Himself, not only things on the earth, but things in the heavens.

What, then, was the mind of Christ as finally revealed by the Cross? If the consideration is limited in the way I have suggested, it is yet so vast that there is the greatest difficulty in speaking of it, as there is initial difficulty in thinking of it. I shall attempt to speak only from the standpoint of personal apprehension and realization, for there must inevitably be infinitely more in the suggestion of the phrase than I have yet understood.

As I think of the mind of Christ, I find three supreme facts therein. First, there was the unfailing and undying sense of the beauty of holiness; second, there was the forever undisturbed conviction of the possibilities of all lost things, and, finally, there was the supreme and always victorious conviction of the glory of the work of realizing lost things, even at infinite cost, in order finally to establish the beauty which is the outcome of holiness.

In the mind of Christ—His outlook on things, what He thought of things, His conception of them—I find, first, the fact of His consciousness—and I borrow the phrase from the old Hebrew Scriptures because of its exquisite delicacy—of "the beauty of holiness." First of all, Christ knew God, had perfect knowledge of Him. It was out of that knowledge that there came His tremendous word on one occasion: "This is life eternal, to know Thee, the only true God." He had that knowledge, and, consequently, all things were viewed in their relationship to God. He never thought of man as separate. He saw the whole universe related to God. He knew God, and He saw everything in its relation to God. Therefore, He knew that the secret of beauty in flower and bird and man was holiness, and that the issue of holiness is always beauty. In Himself, wherever He has been understood and yielded to, He has proved Himself to be the fountainhead and inspiration of everything that is truly beautiful, and that because He lived in perpetual relationship to the God of Whom a prophet in a high ecstatic moment of vision said, "How great is His goodness, how great is His beauty!" He realized through all His thinking, never forgetting it, always declaring it, that only holiness is beautiful, that beauty is always holy, that at the heart and center of everything fair and beautiful in the universe is God. From the grasses that deck the field with beauty to the souls of men that worship in the high and holy place the reason of beauty is holiness, adjustment to the Divine will, articulation with the Divine thought, correspondence with the Divine character. The mind of Christ was, first of all, the perfect understanding of the relation of beauty to holiness. That was evidenced in all His living, in all His teaching, but supremely in the Cross.

Everything of refinement today in human hearts and lives has come from that Cross, that Cross in which He first, amid its shame and vulgarity, did vindicate the holiness of God, and, consequently, that Cross through which He was able to give to men a life that permeates their thinking and their acting, and that through every succeeding age will blossom into beauty, the beauty of holiness.

All this may be described merely as Christ's high idealism, His acceptation of all the things that are highest and best; but when He came into the world, what did He find? Beauty everywhere spoiled, because everywhere holiness was violated. Now, I inquire, how will this Man of such high and wonderful ideals look on such a world as this? The answer is that of the New Testament. He looked on the world, believing always in the possibility of restoring, renewing, regenerating, re-creating everything on which His eyes rested. As I said concerning His vision of the beauty of Holiness, that He knew God, so now I say concerning His conviction of the possibility of lost things, that He knew men. In a moment of rare insight John the Evangelist and apostle, the lover of the Lord, wrote these words concerning our Lord: He needed not that any should tell Him what was in man, for He knew man. A great generic declaration, not merely that He knew individual men, though that also was true, but that He knew humanity. In all our Lord's relationship with men He treated man as supreme in the universe; according to the conception of our Lord and Master, everything was beneath man in the scale of being. He believed that man, in spite of all that He saw in man of failure and ugliness and depravity and ruin, was capable of being redeemed, was yet worth dying for. From that standpoint if from no other, the Cross of Jesus Christ forevermore flings the light of hope across all human darkness, and writes hope on the face of the most brutalized countenance that my eyes have ever seen. For such a man also Christ died, and His dying was the outcome of His conception of the possibility of lost things.

In which is involved what I state separately. The final thing here in this wonderful mind of Christ was that He not only knew the beauty of holiness and forever acted on it, not only believed in the salvability of humanity and the possible restoration of all lost things; but that He considered that a self-emptying, which involved in it the unutterable and unfathomable darkness of the Cross and Death, was, nevertheless, the highest glory that could be granted unto Him and unto all who will come into association with Him. The glory of reclaiming lost things was the master inspiration of His mind in all His pathway through this world of ours. He emptied Himself! Inevitably, the words must be quoted here. Why? It was an action of mind growing out of a mind which ever conceived the connection between beauty and holiness, which believed in the salvability of the lost, which considered no suffering too great that results in such saving. The master passion of His heart, then, was to glorify God in saving man, to realize the beauty that is conditioned by holiness, in the desert, in the barren soil, where the briars and weeds are, to realize the glory of the rose and the myrtle tree. In order to do this He counted it all glory to suffer. He was crowned with glory and honor, says the inspired apostolic writer, that He might taste death for every man. The crown of glory and honor was not that of His sinlessness, nor of His ideals; it was the high and holy authority which He received from His Father to lay down His life, that He might take it again on behalf of the lost.

Reverently we turn from that principal thought to the declaration of the text. The Church of God is the depository of the mind of Christ. "We have the mind of Christ." The statement gives us pause. We are a little afraid, and we begin to look around and wonder. I ask you to postpone all such halting and all such inquiry—perfectly right and proper and necessary presently—and to consider the declaration in itself. The Church of God has the mind of Christ; she thinks with Christ; the measure in which she does so is the measure in which she also feels with Christ; and the measure in which she is true to her thinking with Christ, and her feeling with Christ, is the measure in which she chooses with Christ. The Church of God has the capacity to see with Christ, to feel with Christ, to choose with Christ. This is true, not only as to capacity, but as to consciousness. The Church of God knows what Christ knows: the beauty of holiness. She feels what Christ feels: the possibility of the lost. She wills with Christ: to suffer in order to save.

The Church knows the beauty of holiness. Alas, and shame on us, that we do not always do the things we know. We know the beauty of holiness. The Church also feels the possibility of lost things. In spite of its theology, the whole Church knows and feels the possibility of lost things. And, again, the Church chooses, in the measure in which she really is true to her Lord, the glory of the Cross to rescue man, not His Cross only—His Cross supremely—but her own cross, in fellowship with His sufferings, in making up that which is behindhand in His suffering. The Church expresses the mind of Christ not when she asserts, I am rich and increased in goods and have need of nothing, but when she is out in the wilderness, seeking the lost, pouring out her life blood in the business of bringing the wounded and the bruised and the spiritually halt to spiritual life.

I am perfectly well aware that it may be objected today that all this is so ideally, but not actually. I reply it is actually so, if not actively; and it is actively so whenever the Church is truly loyal to her deepest life.

Disloyalty to these truths presently destroys the capacity for them, and there is such a thing as cutting out the fruitless branch that it may be burned with fire because it is fruitless. If we come from the catholic outlook to the individual, the question is, Have I the mind of Christ? Do I see the beauty of holiness as He saw it? Do I believe, as He believed, in the possibility of saving the lost? Am I ready, as He was ready, to pour out my life in sacrifice, that the great work may be done? That is the test of Church membership, and there is none other. It is the final one for the true Church, the mystic Church, the Church whose membership is known to God.

If this be a fact how are we to account for it? The Church shares the life of Christ. Now, what are the elements in the Christ life? Light first, love also, liberty consequently. The Life of Christ being Light, His thought is of the beauty of holiness; His Life being Love, His feeling is of the possibility of lost things; His Life being Liberty, His choice is being bound on the Cross by love, that He may be the Saviour. The Church shares that life. This is the condition of entrance to the Church. A man becomes a church member, not by being baptized either in infancy or in adult years, not by the vote of a church meeting, not by writing his name on a roll. He becomes a member of the Church by being born again, by receiving the new life, the very Life of Christ. Consequently, if I am a member of the Church, then in me is this Life: light, which reveals the beauty of holiness; love, that brings conviction of the possibility of lost things; liberty, in which I am free from bondage, that I may be bound with Christ to the altar of sacrifice on behalf of others.

This is so, moreover, because the Church, thus sharing the Life of Christ, is ever taught by the Spirit, by Whom her members are born into her most holy communion, by Whom she is always indwelt, and Whose one mission is to reveal and realize the things of Christ. So we have the mind of Christ.

Finally, I will indicate lines of consideration, rather than follow them, on the subject of the consequent responsibilities of the Church. These are threefold, and result from the facts we have been attempting to consider. The Church is responsible, first of all, for continuing to proclaim by her doctrine and her conduct Christ's ideal, the ideal of the beauty of holiness. The Church is responsible for continuing consistently to announce His confidence, and to act in accordance therewith in the salvability of lost things. The Church is responsible, finally, for being His instrument to express through her activity His activity, the activity of sacrificial service.

I say the Church is responsible, first, for proclaiming His ideal of truth as the foundation of all order, of justice as the law of life, of righteousness as the one strength of peace. The Church cannot neglect these fundamental matters. The Church can never consent that in the interest of freedom from suffering, in the interest of the cessation of conflict, these things should be denied. In proportion as she is true to the mind of her Lord, the Church of God stands for truth and justice and righteousness.

But the Church is also called on to announce our Lord's confidence in the salvability of the lost. She must declare the possibility of the emergence of a new order whenever humanity is plunged in such a cataclysm as that in which we are today involved. In the midst of an hour when it seems as if ideals were gone, hopes were lost, and all the progress of centuries was being destroyed in blood and fire and vapor of smoke, what is the Church to do? She is to declare that these very things, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke, are the signs of the day of the Lord. She is to declare that out of chaos cosmos must come. By her sacred and solemn minstry she is called on to lift her anthem in the day of defeat to declare

               That cannot end worst which began best,
               Though a wide compass first be fetched.
      She is called on to
             Argue not
         Against Heaven's hand or will, nor bate a jot
         Of heart or hope; but still bear up and steer
         Right onward.
   
That is the Christian message. The Christian Church is to declare anew the hopefulness of Christ, that out of the worst must come at last the realization of the highest and the best.

The Church is called on to express our Lord's activity. That activity is self-emptying, ceaseless service forevermore made intense and powerful by the element of sacrifice. The Lord was concerned not only about the salvation of a man's soul, He was also concerned about opening blind eyes, and giving steadiness to palsied limbs, and comforting broken hearts. The Church of God is called on supremely to fulfill that function. I thank God for the measure in which the Church is doing that work today, and for the measure in which the whole nation, as beyond the Church, is learning the lesson of the Church and is doing that work. For some of us just now the mind of Christ is revealed in bandages, and in visiting the fatherless and orphans. Oh, dear Christian woman, do not undervalue your service as, with smiling face and cheery words, you pass from bed to bed in a hospital. That is Christian service.

In conclusion, the supreme matter of the moment for those who have the mind of Christ is that they shall bear testimony to holiness as right relation to God, and of holiness as the one and only condition of beauty. Not by the victory won by the sword will beauty be re-established. That is for the moment necessary with a ghastly necessity; but unless spiritual idealism shall go beyond it, and men everywhere shall see that not by victories won over each other, not by policies arranged as between each other, but by restored relation to God, there can be no beauty. The new internationalism may be as ghastly as the old, unless it is the outcome of relating men to God. The work of the Church is to insist on that, and on the possibility of realization in spite of the darkest outlook. Therefore, the Church is to say that nothing which is salvable is to be destroyed, nothing that can be saved must be destroyed.

The Christian Church has also to teach men the glory of working toward the end of saving the things that may be saved. And because we want to see the saving of things that may be saved, peace must be on the basis of righteousness, and in its making the element of sacrifice must be included.

Finally, mark this word, this apostolic word—mark it well and consider it in all planning and arranging. The rulers of this world who know not this wisdom will come to nought; but the rulers of the world who learn this wisdom, this mind of Christ, will come to victory, and the victory shall be that of the beauty of holiness.

180 - 1 Corinthians 6:12; 10:13 - The Limitations of Liberty 

The Limitations of Liberty

All things are lawful for me; but not all things are expedient. 
All things are lawful for me; but I will not be brought under the power of any.
1 Corinthians 6:12

All things are lawful; but not all things are expedient. 
All things are lawful; but not all things edify.
1 Corinthians  10:23

The Apostle Paul was preeminently the apologist of Christianity. His mind was naturally alive to all the thinking of his own age. Its Hebrew training made him familiar with the highest religious conceptions. Its Roman sympathy caused his vision of empire. Its Greek interest made him conscious of the philosophies of the intellectual world. Yet his relation to Christ affected, rather than was affected by, all these things. To him the essential in each was included in the Lordship of Jesus and thereby redeemed. His message, therefore, was perpetually paradoxical, as he admitted, and then denied the ideals of his own age. He was the uncompromising foe of the tyranny of the Hebrew priests, and yet he argued passionately for the priesthood of the saints. He most evidently admired the far-reaching splendor of the Roman Empire, but for him it needed correcting, until it should become a commonwealth, answering the law of One Head and feeling with the fervor of one heart. He was captivated by the analyses of life and the mysteries of the Greek philosophies, but for him the former needed restoration to naturalness, and the latter purification by light. In Christ this man found the truth lying at the base of all error, and his teaching was uniformly directed to the work of correcting error by the declaration of the truth. It is this method which obtains in the two verses which I have read as text. They occur in a letter written for the correction of the life of a Christian Church in a Greek city. This letter reflects as in a mirror the conditions obtaining in Corinth at the time. The false conditions in the Church were caused by the fact that the Church had passed under the influence of the city. In the divisions which had sprung out of discussions around the "wisdom of words" is seen the counterpart of the philosophic discussions then obtaining in Corinth. The lack of discipline which was cursing the Church was the reflex of the toleration of impurity in the life of the city. In the lawsuit which the Apostle condemned I see the shadow of the ceaseless litigation which had become almost a method of amusement in the Greek cities. The prevalent impurity within the Church which he so sternly denounced was possible in the atmosphere of the corrupt life of the city. The disorderly observance of the Lord's Supper by these Christians reflects the degradation of religious rite and ceremony in the Greek temples. In the violation of love against which he so strongly protested is manifest the selfishness prevalent among men outside. Finally, in the difficulties about the resurrection which he combatted in so stately and magnificent an argument, is discoverable the effect in the thinking of the Christian people, of the materialization of ideals which characterized Greek thought. The cause of these conditions of life was very largely the Greek conception that man was independent of all law external to himself. This was the Greek idea of liberty. It was expressed in a proverb which, being translated, runs: "Man is the measure of all things." Within the circumference of that conception men were living and claiming liberty, declaring all things were lawful unto them. It was a doctrine of liberty. Paul affirmed it, and corrected it. When the Greek philosopher declared all things were lawful, Paul answered, "All things are lawful for me; but—"

There are two matters for our consideration. First, the Christian affirmation of liberty—"All things are lawful." Secondly, the Christian description of limitation—"All things are lawful; but—" First, then, the Christian affirmation of liberty—"All things are lawful." Notice the inclusiveness of the affirmation. Here I must trespass on your patience while we look carefully at words, for if words be indeed the channels through which truth is conveyed, we need carefully to examine them, or we may miss the truth they are intended to convey. The Apostle made use of one word, panta. We must understand what it means if we are to perfectly realize the measurement of Christian liberty. It is the plural form of a Greek word which simply means "all." Theyer tells us that when the word stands in the plural without the article, it means all things of a certain definite totality, or the sum of things, the context showing what things are meant. In this Epistle the expression "all things" occurs no less than thirty times, and every time it is necessary, according to Theyer, to interpret the meaning by the context. I have been making a careful selection of the occasions in which the widest use is made of "all things," and I shall ask you to traverse the ground in order that we may know what the Apostle meant thereby.

First, let us remember that when the Greek used this phrase and declared "all things are lawful," he referred to the sum total of material things and moral values, and all the forces of life of which he was conscious. How, then, did Paul use the term "all things"? We are not left to speculation. In the third chapter is his own definition. "Wherefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours," and then there is a parenthesis evident in the fact that the main argument is taken up at the twenty-third verse, so that if you read directly from that central word of the twenty-first verse to the end of the twenty-third verse, you will find the main statement, "All things are yours... and ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's." Between the first affirmation, "All things are yours," and the latter words there is Paul's exposition of his own use of the phrase, "all things" "whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come." Not only, therefore, does the Apostle include all that the Greek philosopher included, but he sweeps out into a realm that far transcended anything that the Greek philosopher saw or understood. "All things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas." The naming of these men is the naming of emphases of truth for which they stood. Every system of thought is yours. Again, "the world" is yours, with all its forces, and its movements. And "life," which you are perpetually attempting to analyze and account for; and "death," which to you is but a cessation of life, and a mystery, both are yours, that is "things present," an inclusive phrase which is the boundary of the thinking of the Greek philosopher; and things to come, which Greek philosophy denies, but which Paul includes in his "all things." Thus, when Paul wrote, "all things are lawful to me," he included all the schools of thought, and the world, and life, and death, and things present, and things to come. Then notice the claim in its nature as well as in its inclusiveness, "All things are lawful." Here, again, we take the word "lawful," and ask what its real meaning is. The root idea of the word is that of being out upon the public highway. It is the opposite of imprisoned. With regard to all things, I have liberty, I am not in prison, I am not shut away from any of them. I am on the great highway walking amidst them, and I am free. I have power and authority in respect to these things; they are permitted to me. He thus affirmed the freedom of the Christian man with regard to all things in the universe of God—material, moral, and spiritual. If we are to understand what the Apostle means there must be contextual exposition. You will find in the fifteenth verse of the second chapter a principle of discrimination. "He that is spiritual judgeth all things." The Christian man in the midst of things lawful to him does not take them promiscuously, but with discernment. He puts upon things lawful to him the measurement of the infinite. He that is spiritual judgeth or discerneth all things. Further on, we have a balance of relationship. "All things are yours" is not his last word, for he adds, "and ye are Christ's and Christ is God's." The final thing for the Christian man is not the all things which are lawful, but the Christ who reigns over him, and God Who is at the back of the Christ. It is a great cosmic conception which the Apostle gives us here. First, the infinite God, then Christ, then the Christian man, and, finally, all things stretching out beyond him, the man recognizing that he is crowned in the midst of all things, but never forgetting that he must exercise the principle of discrimination in dealing with them.

Then, in the eighth chapter at the sixth verse, is a great philosophy of the universe. "Yet to us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we unto Him." I go a little further, and I see this cosmic conception still dominating his thought, for in chapter nine and verse twenty-five I read, "And every man that striveth in the games is temperate in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible." That defines the attitude of Christian endeavor in the midst of all things. In the tenth chapter at the thirty-first verse, "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." This is the law of action in the midst of the all things which are lawful. At last, in the twenty-seventh and twenty-eighth verses of chapter fifteen, I find Paul's vision of consummation. "He put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He saith, All things are put in subjection, it is evident that He is excepted who did subject all things unto Him. And when all things have been subjected unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subjected to Him that did subject all things unto Him, that God may be all things in all things." That is one of the most magnificent and stately passages in the whole of the Apostolic writings, and I can only hope that its majesty may break upon our consciousness as we read it. If we take these passages—and I am perfectly conscious that what I am saying is calculated rather to provoke thought, after the service, for I cannot cover all the ground tonight—we shall discover the Apostle's conception of "all things." It is as wide as the universe. It sets the horizon far back and widens the outlook, making the magnificence of Greek philosophy appear poor in comparison with the tremendous sweep of the Christian conception. Standing related to all, he says, "All things are lawful for me." There is nothing essential to the universe that I have not liberty to use. By hint and suggestion, he shows the relationship existing in the universe—God, Christ, the Christian man, and everything beyond him. He declares the direction that everything is taking in the universe, all things centering in the Christ, to be finally presented to the Father, until at last God shall be in all things, and all things shall find in God their perfect fruition. I interpret the Apostle's word only by his own writing; I would not have dared to say he meant so much if I had not taken all his argument and followed the movement of the phrase to this great consummation. The Christian man stands at the center of the universe, of the present and the coming things, known and unknown, material and moral and spiritual, and he is Christ's and Christ is God's.

Now notice the limitation of Christian liberty. It is threefold—

   "... But not all things are expedient."
   "... But I will not be brought under the power of any."
   "... But not all things build up."
   
This is the threefold test of how far I may use the things lawful. The test of personal progress—not all things are expedient. The test of authority—I will not be brought under the power of any. The test of social relationship—not all things build up.

First, the test of personal progress. Not all things are expedient. I think the word is almost unfortunate, not in its first meaning but in its present-day use. We have come to speak of a thing as being expedient when it is a thing that pays, without reference to principle. That is the degradation of the word. The word simply means foot free, set at liberty. The figurative idea of the word is that of freedom to make progress upon a pathway. The thing that is expedient is the thing that hastens the traveler upon his journey. The Greek word means "to carry together," that is, to co-operate, and the best translation you can possibly have of the word is "profitable." The profitableness is to be tested by the lawfulness already considered. Paul stands in the center of the universe, and he says all things are lawful to me. Art is lawful; also music, science, games, meats—all are lawful. But some of the things that are lawful are not expedient; they will not hasten the running; they will not minister to the progress; they will not make for development into perfect union with the cosmic order, which centers in Christ and God. That is the first principle as to the thing we may do, or may not do. There are a thousand things lawful to me in London that are not expedient, that will not help in my progress, that will not make me any stronger for the ultimate issue—things that will not minister to my strength for co-operation with Christ and God. All things are lawful, but not all things are expedient. Something is expedient for you that is not expedient for me; something is expedient for me that is not expedient for you. Every man stands alone in the great cosmic order, and every man must find his own relationship to lawful things, first by this principle: Is this something which ministers to my development so that I may fill my place in God's ultimate will and intention?

Secondly, there is the test of authority. "I will not be brought under the power of any." As a matter of fact, in the Greek there is here a distinct play on words which is not apparent in translation, nor is it possible to express it in English exactly. I may suggest it by saying, All things are in my power, but I will not be brought under the power of any, or perhaps by saying, All things are permitted me, but I will not ask permission of any. Here, again, is a great principle. The man submitted to Christ must submit to nothing else. The man under the authority of Christ must have no other authority over his life. Man must test relationship to all things by this principle, this thing is lawful but it must not master me. This thing comes within the scope of the universe, into which I am brought to have dominion over, never to be dominated by. Perhaps if I leave the principle there it is hardly helpful, so I take a simple illustration or two. What is the true relation of the Christian man to money? Money is lawful, but I will not be brought under the power of money. What is the relation of the Christian man to knowledge? Knowledge is lawful, but I will not be a slave of knowledge. What is the relation of the Christian man to love? Love is lawful to me, but I will not be brought under the power of love. The Christian man asserts his liberty by recognizing its limitations; his liberty to use anything perishes when the thing he uses becomes his master and he becomes its slave. This is a wonderfully searching principle if we will but have it so. This thing is lawful to me, but if this thing, habit or friendship, or manner of thinking, or passion of living, masters me, then have I not lost my liberty? And is not the fact that a man loses his liberty when he is brought under the power of anything a revelation of the necessity for the testing of liberty by this principle? I sometimes think I would have these words, "All things are lawful for me; but I will not be brought under the power of any," printed so that every young man could see them rather than any others. All things are yours, but ye are Christ's. Keep that balance of relationship and you are safe; change it and you are in peril. One is your Master, even Christ, and all things are lawful to you, but you must not let them master you; for if once the innocent, legitimate, proper thing becomes master it is no longer innocent, it is absolutely illegitimate, it is unutterably improper. Love, for father, mother, wife or child, becomes improper when a man is so brought under the power of it that he no longer yields first allegiance to the throne of the Christ and the throne of God.

One other test: "Not all things build up." That is the test of social relationship, and my reason for saying so is the context. "Let no man seek his own, but each his neighbor's good." Here, again, is a limit on my liberty. All things are mine, but there are some things which if I take and use I shall not build my neighbor up by so doing. Such things are not lawful. I beseech you notice carefully that this goes infinitely beyond what the Apostle has said in another letter, "Destroy not thy brother, for whom Christ died." This is more. He not merely says that the thing which is lawful to me becomes unlawful if it destroys my brother, but that the thing which is lawful to me becomes unlawful if it does not build up my brother. As a Christian man I am to recognize that over me are Christ and God, and under me all things—Paul, Apollos, Cephas, the world, and life and death, things present and things to come; but I am not to indulge in any of them save as I bear in mind that side by side with the necessity for my own advancement is the necessity for contributing to the building up of my brother's strength, and the thing that builds not up is not lawful to a Christian man.

This great affirmation of the Apostle makes it necessary for us as Christian men to assert our liberty, our possession of all things. That man is sadly mistaken who imagines that we as Christian men are excluded from anything that is essential to the universe of God.  All things are lawful. We make a yet more terrible mistake if we imagine that we may exercise our liberty by indiscriminate use of the things that are lawful. The tender, strong love of God in Christ lays restrictions on our liberty; first, things lawful are to be exercised for our progress toward Christ's consummation; secondly, things lawful are to be kept under us while we are under Christ; and, finally, in the great, far-stretching universe, in which all things are lawful, we make illicit use of the lawful things if we ever forget for a passing moment that we cannot live alone, that our brother's life and our brother's edification are part of our responsibility. I thank God for the breadth and the narrowness of Christian liberty, and I pray that we may ever remember that there are limits to the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and that to keep within the limits is to live in spacious liberty.

181 - 1 Corinthians 12:31; 14:1 – Ambitions 

Ambitions

... desire earnestly the greater gifts. And moreover a most excellent way show I unto you. 
Follow after love....
1 Corinthians 12:31 and 1 Corinthians 14:1

We are all familiar with the word "Ambition." Coming to us from the Latin, it has acquired a significance quite other than that of its first meaning. Quite literally, it simply means going round. In process of time, it came to signify going round for votes. Today, it stands for that mood of the soul which makes a man go round for votes; today it stands for earnest desire, especially desire for honor in some form. Thus it will be seen that the word originally described a method, an action; while today, it is used rather of a purpose, an inspiration.

The question which has been under consideration this month by our young people has been: "What would you consider the greatest honor that could come to you; and why?" It will immediately be recognized that the purpose of the question was that of discovering the ambitions which are inspiring their lives, or which ought to inspire their lives; for it is possible for a person to cherish an ambition which is not an inspiration but which is a dead weight. The answers which I have received have been most interesting, and in some ways I cannot help saying remarkable; but I will come to them presently.

Let us first take time to consider this subject of ambition, as to its place, its peril, and its power in human life. This we shall do in the light of the text selected. I recognize that there are far larger values in this text than I intend to deal with. There is, however, exactly the light we need if we are finally to understand the proper place and power of ambition in human life.

In considering this, therefore, we will first of all dwell with some technical care upon the word of which the apostle made use, and which the revisers have translated "desire earnestly"; and King James translators, "covet." It is one word in the apostolic writing. It is the Greek word from which two well-known words in our English language have been derived. I refer to the words "zealous" and "jealous." Zealous is a word full of suggestiveness, its root idea being that of fire, of passion. Zeal is the driving force in endeavor; jealousy is that which guards the way. Thus in our two words, we have two aspects of the same central thought. The activity suggested by the word is that of mental approbation which expresses itself in strenuous endeavor. The idea is expressed exactly by our modern use of the word "ambition." It is a strong desire to obtain position, power, honor, in the best sense of that word honor.

There is a prevalent notion that ambition is wholly evil. You will remember what Wolsey said to Cromwell:

   Cromwell, I charge thee, fling away ambition.
   By that sin fell the angels; how could man, then,
   The image of his Maker hope to win by it.
   
Or, again, Mark Antony:

   ... The noble Brutus
   Hath told you Caesar was ambitious;
   If it were so, it was a grievous fault;
   And grievously hath Caesar answered it.
   Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest
   (For Brutus is an honourable man;
   So are they all, all honourable men),
   Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral
   He was my friend, faithful and just to me;
   But Brutus says he was ambitious;
   And Brutus is an honourable man.
   
In each of the quotations the conception is that ambition is evil. This is not necessarily so. The fundamental principle of society is that of individual self-preservation and self-realization. There will be no perfected society that is not made up of perfected individuals. A chain is as strong as its weakest link. A castle is as strong as its least-guarded door. If in society there are links that are weak, society is weak. If in the great household of men there are individuals that are imperfect, then the household of men remains imperfect. Perfect units are needed for the perfect unity. Therefore, the ultimate purpose of individuality is not individuality, but the realization of the commonwealth. The ultimate reason why every man must be perfect is not that the man should be perfect, but that the community should be perfect. Therefore, every individual must aim at high things, noble things, and desire honor. This is ambition in its simplest, purest form; and this is not evil, but wholly good.

There is one brief prophecy in the Book of Jeremiah, a simple prophecy among the great utterances of the prophet of thunder and of tears, a prophecy uttered to one man, to Baruch, the man associated with Jeremiah in his work. The heart of the prophecy is contained in these words: "... seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not;...." Jeremiah did not tell Baruch that he was not to seek great things; he told him he was not to seek great things for himself. There in a flash we have the revelation of the difference between true and false ambition.

That reveals the peril of ambition. When the whole is lost sight of and its well-being is not sought, ambition becomes deadly. Then action growing out of it becomes cruel and ruthless. When a man seeks great things for himself, what cares he how many suffer so that he succeeds; how many are downtrodden so that he may rise; how many are flung out by the whirling wheel, so long as he arrive at the goal? Such ambition is the spawn of hell, the progeny of Lucifer who fell from his high estate by ambition that was entirely self-centered.

When a man seeks great things, not for himself, but in the interest of the community, then ambition is godly, sacred, pure, the inspiration of all that is noble.

To desire honor for oneself without reference to its effect upon others is wholly evil. Along that line all despots have climbed to the thrones from which they have crushed and cursed humanity. But to desire honor for oneself in order that the honor gained may be made the occasion of help and blessing and healing is the very way by which—I say it reverently, but I say it—our Lord and Master has climbed to the throne of universal empire and will at last heal all wounds, end all weariness, wipe away all tears, and lead the race into the beatific Kingdom of God.

Therefore, true ambition is a great and gracious power. To desire, to covet in that sense, is necessarily to strive. Thus it becomes the secret power which contributes to the realization of the commonwealth itself.

The great subject of the apostle in this letter was that of the Christian church; he was dealing with its unity and its diversity; with the fact that it is unified by the indwelling Spirit of God, with the fact that it is diversified in all those gifts which the Spirit of God bestows upon the individual members of the church; all which gifts are bestowed in order that those possessing them may exercise them, not for the benefit of themselves, but for the benefit of the church. Whenever Paul dealt with the church in this world, he dealt with it as realizing and revealing the Kingdom of God, the true social order, that which is to be established here in the world. Paul ever saw the church in this world as the instrument of the Kingdom and its revelation, because within itself the Kingdom principles are realized. Therefore, to members of the church he said: "Covet, desire with passion, the best gifts, not that you may hold high position and become famous, but that you may minister to the good of the whole church, and that the commonwealth may be realized most perfectly because of the gift which has been bestowed upon you."

In the church, therefore, and in the Kingdom of God, individual members are to be ambitious; they are to desire gifts as capacities for usefulness; and the very possession of such gifts is honor of the highest kind. In the Christian atmosphere, everything is conditioned by a man's relation to his fellow man. In the atmosphere created by the teaching of Christ and the presence of His Spirit, honor consists in the ability to serve. True honor within the church of God, within the Kingdom of God, is the possession of that, the use of which helps others and blesses them. Finally, the apostle teaches that the one true way of ambition is the way of love.

From that survey of the subject, let me turn to the answers to the question. I have received one hundred. A few missed the point of my question. One or two filled up their paper preaching against the sin of desiring any honor at all! That was due to their very limited conception of what honor means. If honor meant what they thought it meant, I should agree with all their preaching.

The majority, however, answered quite naturally. My purpose now is to group these answers generally, selecting one or two for special treatment in order that I may say some final words of counsel and help.

There were certain conspicuous facts in the answers received. The first was the almost remarkable unanimity of unselfishness of motive. To be mathematical, out of the hundred, that was true of at least seventy-nine of the answers. The answers that were of a more personal nature, nevertheless, revealed desires on a singularly high level. Among the hundred answers, there was one note of despair, and to that one note of despair I shall come in the last five minutes. The others I have grouped, and will deal with them so, saying one or two brief words in each case.

Twenty-two young people declare in one form or another that the highest honor which could be conferred upon them would be that of ability to help those who are in need. In many ways this desire was expressed among those twenty-two answers; but the desire to help the needy, the wounded by the way, the weak, the crippled, was found in answer after answer, and when I read them alone quietly, they moved my heart singularly.

The chances are everywhere! You can realize your ambition if that is it. Do not make the mistake of nursing an ambition, which does not become an inspiration to activity. Do not sit down and sigh for some great opportunity of helping the needy in some large and magnificent way. Remember Charles Kingsley at this point:

   Do the thing that's nearest,
    Though it's dull at whiles;
   Helping when you meet them,
    Lame dogs over stiles.
    
That is a perfect and magnificent piece of Christian philosophy. Never shall I forget sitting in this pulpit and listening once to Dr. Broughton as he preached from a group of texts. When he read them, I remember I could not think what he would make of them "... as He went..."; "... as He passed by..."; "... as He was in the way!..." That great sermon was intended to show that nearly all the works of Jesus were wrought as He was going to some place, on the way. Thank God for your ambition to help. You will have a chance before you get home if your eyes are open. By the way, the ambition may be in part realized; and if you will begin then that ambition will be the dynamic of service that moves in rhythmic harmony with the highest intention and activity of God.

Nineteen answers expressed this same desire only perhaps in a more essential way; to be able to win souls for Christ. Can there be any higher honor than that?

Again I say to you knowing how difficult it may seem to you to be, yet it is true; your chances are all about you. I venture to say to anyone who has that ambition, if you will dare to begin with all courtesy and sanity, with all manliness and womanliness and naturalness, you will be surprised to find that the very people you were afraid of have wondered why you never spoke about Christ before.

Eight declared that no greater honor could be conferred than a distinct call to enter the mission field.

I want to suggest to those who wrote that, that they take time to consider quietly whether it may not be that they have had the call. I will say no more about it than that. If not, unless you are quite sure about it, keep and guard as a sacred thing the sense that it would be an honor if it were conferred upon you. Remember, that if He is not calling you to go to the mission field, He is calling you, as His child, to hold the ropes for those who are there and to help in the great work that they are doing.

Six declared in different ways that their supreme ambition was that of pleasing Christ.

Five expressed the same thing in another way, by definitely saying that no higher honor could come to them than to hear Jesus say at the end of life, "... well done...."

How inclusive that is! And yet how searching! Let me say to my own heart and to such we may rest assured that Christ will never look into our eyes and say "... well done..." unless it has been well done! Then let us also remember that in order that things may be well done, He says, "... lo, I am with you all the days...."

Six answers, all of them from women, touched my heart. They said that there could come to them no greater honor than that of having committed to them the care of little children either in the homeland or in heathen countries. That is a great, gracious, beautiful, motherly desire, coming up out of the hearts of these girls and women.

Let me say to these that there are crowds of little children that they may care for near at hand. It is a great ambition. The first word of the final high commission of Jesus to Peter, in the shimmering light of morning, as it played upon the Galilean Sea, was this: "... Feed My lambs."

From thirteen came the answer that the highest honor that could come to them would be that of love, issuing in marriage; with the dignity of fatherhood, motherhood, and home. I thank God for every answer so honestly written. The theme is too big for me to begin to deal with here. Let me only say to all who feel that, the sense is a sacred one; guard it. You have noticed, if you have read the Song of Solomon carefully, that three times in the course of the great love song, the voice of a singer is heard who is not one of the chorus, but who sings a recitative, and these are the words:

   I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem...
   That ye stir not up, nor awaken love,
   Until he please.
   
Thus in the midst of the music there is a pause, and the voice of the singer is heard in warning. At the end of the marriage, following the wooing, before the betrothal, and in the midst of the united life, that revealing caution is uttered. I would that interrupting charge could be written in letters of gold and hung in every hall in which young people assemble. In the presence of the glory of love, it warns them not to trifle with that most sacred thing in life. It is a great ambition. I thank you, my brothers and sisters, who wrote for my eyes without your name appended that thought which you nurse within your heart; the great honor of the marriage relationship, of the making of home, and of caring for your own children. Never allow anyone in your presence to speak even flippantly of the great subject. Cherish the ambition; only do not wake up love until it please, and ever remember that the crowning glory of parenthood is the exercise of one of the most distinctively divine powers bestowed upon humanity.

All of these were expressions of desire that life may be of help and blessing to others.

Then I had a group of those that were more personal, but none the less high and beautiful. There was one answer which gave me pause; I am not quite sure about it, and therefore, I do not want to be unfair. One man wrote and expressed the wish that the day might come when his name should appear in the King's birthday list of honors, giving as his reason that such an appearance would be a proof of integrity on his part recognized by the nation. It made me pause, because I am not sure that its meaning is always as it appears. That is what it ought to mean. I take his wish at that high level. Perhaps that was the most selfish thing I read, yet the motive was not low; it was high.

One was a pathetic answer; hardly an answer, yet sincere. "The highest honor that could come to me would be that someone could make it possible for me to believe in God." That is pathetic, but it is full of hope. A man who will write that is on the highway to the light. As I have often said before, and I say again, the agnosticism that is an agony, is a birthpang; presently there will be the light! The agnosticism that is a pleasantry is a profanity. When a man flippantly tells me he is an agnostic and smiles, I know him to be an ignoramus and a fool, for agnosticism is never the final resting place for the honest man. I would counsel that one to cherish the ambition and make the ambition find an answer.

Someone quoted the verse from Proverbs, "A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches...." That is scriptural. Nothing could be better than that, only it must be remembered that Scripture must be defined by Scripture. What does Scripture mean by a good name? A good name is like ointment poured forth! The woman breaking the alabaster box of ointment upon the feet of Jesus is the illustration. The biblical good name is not a name of hard equity and righteousness. It is like ointment poured forth. It is the good name of the soul that gives, serves, and spends.

Someone else wrote this, and here again is a strange piece of wistfulness. "I should consider it the highest honor possible if only I could see a miracle wrought through my faith and my prayers!"

Here, again, is a soul feeling after great things, and again I say, guard the ambition, only consider the statement most carefully. Remember this: "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of," and understand that you cannot measure the influence of your prayer by anything that appears. That is not a demonstration of the greatness of prayer which is startling and wonderful. Think again in this realm, my friend. I would not dampen that ardor or speak slightingly of the desire, but I would ask you to consider it.

Then I got one that was touching and beautiful. I think a hundred could have written it, but one girl wrote: "The highest honor that could come to me would be to know that in my life my mother's prayers are answered!" I know what your mother prayed for you; I know what mothers pray for us; I am with you! If presently, for it has not been so yet, if presently all my mother prayed for me can ever be true of me, that is the greatest honor I want. Cherish that ambition, live toward it, strive toward it! That ambition will be the inspiration of great living and of great service.

Another wrote, "The highest honor that could come to me would be to be loved and trusted by all in sorrow." Is not that fine? Let me ask you a question. Who is your neighbor? That question was asked quite cynically of Jesus, and you remember how He answered it. He did not tell the man who His neighbor was; He gave him the parable of the good Samaritan. Do you want to be loved? Then love! Pour out your love on some needy soul, and the answering love will satisfy you.

Another answer was written by a woman. "The highest honor that could come to me would be to have good health and a strong spiritual life." I am ambitious for these things.

I wondered as I read that, how much pain lay behind it, how much weakness and suffering. If I could find that woman and talk to her alone, I would say this to her: "Whom He loveth He chasteneth." There is a profounder meaning in your pain and weakness than yet you know! God grant you His peace!

It seems to me it is good thus to ask ourselves what our ambitions really are, and then to ask why we have such ambitions. I suppose soldiers are ambitious for the Victoria Cross. Well, they can buy them! They are worth about 7 1/2 d., I believe, as metal. But it is not the Victoria Cross men are eager for, but the thing that it signifies; the heroism that deserves it! If we have discovered what our ambition is, let us submit that ambition to the apostolic test. Love must lie at the heart of it, or it is a perilous and evil thing. If the ambition stand that test, if the reason why I desire this or that thing as an honor, is the love within me, then let me cherish my ambition, cling to it; let me be jealous and zealous in the prosecution of that which will issue in the realization thereof.

If our ambitions do not stand the test, what shall we do? Begin all over again by coming to the Christ Who sees the whole. His ambition was to reach the throne of universal empire as Saviour. The throne of universal empire, as empire, did not satisfy Him; He had that; but He "... emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross." What took Him thus down? Ambition! "Wherefore also God highly exalted Him, and gave unto Him the name which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow,... and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord...." The name He won and bore aloft to the throne of imperial, universal power was Jesus, and the name Jesus He bears because "... it is He that shall save His people from their sins." His ambition was to sit upon the throne, not as sovereign merely, but as Saviour. To that Lord, let us come, and to that One, let us yield ourselves, that we may re-adjust our ambitions.

Now in conclusion, someone wrote upon the answer paper these words from Jean Ingelow:

   To strive—and fail. Yes, I did strive and fail.
    I set mine eyes upon a certain night
   To find a certain star—and could not hail
    With them its deep, set light.
   Fool that I was. I will rehearse my fault;
    I, wingless, thought myself on high to lift
   Among the winged. I set these feet that halt
    To run against the swift.
    
That is a note of despair which suggests there was honor coveted and not won; ambition cherished but never realized; and the writer seems to me to be settling down upon that terrible disappointment.

Seeing you chose to express yourself in poetry, let me answer you in poetry. Let me ask whoever wrote that answer to take Robert Browning's Grammarian's Funeral, quaint, peculiar, strange in many ways, but wonderful poetry. Read this, and read it all:

   That low man seeks a little thing to do,
    Sees it and does it;
   This high man with a great thing to pursue,
    Dies ere he knows it.
   That low man goes on adding one to one,
    His hundred's soon hit;
   This high man, aiming at a million,
    Misses an unit.
   That, has the world here—should he need the next
    Let the world mind him!
   This, throws himself on God, and unperplexed
    Seeking shall find Him.
    
That is finer philosophy than the other. What did you tell me, that you set your eyes upon a certain night to find a certain star, and you could not hail them with its deep-set light? You did better than you knew probably. The only wrong you have committed is that of imagining that you did not attain that toward which you were aiming. It is the aim, the ambition, and the consecrated activity that grows out of it, which matter! No, who is there here among us who has ever seen anything of the real glory luring him or her to the heights who has already reached them?

We had better get back to the Bible. This man Paul when he had been three-and-thirty years following Christ, wrote his autobiography in a love letter, for the Philippian letter is preeminently a love letter. In the third chapter we have these words, and here is nothing finer in literature:

"Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect: but I press on, if so be that I may lay hold on that for which also I was laid hold on by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself yet to have laid hold: but one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal...."

Mark his attitude, dear friend of mine who wrote that poetry. Take heart! The night is black, the stars are not seen, but they are there! Keep your eyes toward them, and presently, ere you know it they will be seen! Or, it may be that you will never see them, because while you look, the morning will break and the stars are never seen when the sun is shining!

182 - 1 Corinthians 15:14, 17, 19 - If Christ Did Not Rise--What Then? 

If Christ Did Not Rise--What Then?

If Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, your faith also is vain.... If Christ hath not been raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.... If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, 
we are of all men most pitiable.
1 Corinthians 15:14; 1 Corinthians 15:17; 1 Corinthians 15:19

In these words we have the Apostle's estimate of the place and value of that great event which we commemorate today in common with the whole Catholic Church of Jesus Christ. It is a most startling statement, made without apology and without condition. Everything depends upon this one central fact: a risen Christ, or empty preaching and false faith, and a state of abject misery. This man did not think for a single moment that there could be any continuity of the Christian fact and force if the resurrection were disproved. Now, we must understand in considering so startling a declaration as this that we do not occupy exactly the same ground as Paul did when he wrote these words. The difference between his position and ours is a very great one in some respects. He wrote these words somewhere about a generation after the death of Jesus. The Gospel stories were not all then in circulation, but men had gone out from Jerusalem through Judea and Samaria, and with new force and power from Antioch to the regions stretching beyond, and as they had passed out they had everywhere told the same story of Jesus of Nazareth, who had lived a sinless life, had died a sorrowful death, and had risen again in power and in glory. A generation only had passed. Consequently Paul's statement in this letter to the Corinthian Christians, who were familiar with questions rife in Corinth concerning the possibility of resurrection under any circumstances, makes its appeal to a generation of experience, and therefrom gathers its greatest force as a challenge. We go back to these words and read them with a slightly different accent. Their essential meaning is not changed, but we are not gathered together at the close of one generation of the telling of the story of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus. The generations have multiplied themselves into centuries, and the centuries have rolled onward until nineteen have run their course, and through all of them the messengers have been pressing on, telling the same story with like results. Consequently, there is something less of the argumentative in the text for us than for the men of Corinth. We take these words and read them, and there is but one conclusion. The Apostle says if Christ did not rise, then "preaching is vain"; but preaching has not been vain, therefore Christ was raised. He says, if Christ hath not been raised, "faith is vain"; but faith has been fruitful for nineteen centuries, therefore Christ hath been raised. He says, if Christ hath not been raised, "we are of all men most pitiable"; but we decline the pity. We have marched through nineteen centuries with banners floating and songs lifted, and today we are a jubilant host raising songs of gladness that thrill through all the world. We are not pitiable, and with charity and tenderness, and yet with scorn, we decline the pity of the man who lives in dust and ashes. Therefore Christ hath been raised. If these conclusions are not right, then the Apostle's statement was wrong; he made a false deduction. According to the statement he made, the victory of preaching, the fruitfulness of faith, and the jubilation of the Church are final evidences of the fact of Christ's resurrection. We believe that they are. I submit to you that the surest evidence of actual and positive resurrection from the dead is not documentary evidence, is not argumentative evidence, and I will include in that the sermon I am about to preach. The final evidence is the Church, that holy company of men and women, and, thank God, little children, gathered from among all nations, irrespective of geographical boundaries or temperaments, or times or seasons, gathered as the result of the foolishness of preaching Christ crucified and risen. The supreme demonstration of the fact of the resurrection is in the fruitfulness of faith. Faith has fastened upon the Evangel, with what result? Impurity has perished, and purity has resulted. Selfishness has been smitten to death, and sacrifice has been the order of life. Bonds have been broken, and men have gone forth into freedom. Faith has taken hold upon this Evangel of the resurrection and believed it, and, lo, chains have fallen, the burden has rolled down the hill into the valley, and Christian has set his face toward the Celestial City with a new song and a new victory. The final demonstration of the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the joy of the Church: may I pause to say, alas, and alas, that we give so little of it to the world! We ought to be a singing people. We do occasionally hear people break out into song about their household duties, and in the streets, but all too seldom. One of the greatest curses of our age is that we are afraid that kind of thing is not respectable. Do not ever again hush the emotion that wells in your heart, whether you are in the train or on the street, or wherever you are. It is not that the song is not there, but we have tried to check it with respectability. In spite of all false checks, however, we are a singing people. You talk to me of musical London. There is more singing in the sanctuary than anywhere else. You tell me of the development of music in the history of the ages. There is no music yet quite equal to "The Messiah." When you have sung your Hallelujah Chorus, let there be silence. The Church has given the world its music. We are not pitiable. I claim that these things are the final demonstration of the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Understanding, therefore, that we approach our subject from a slightly different standpoint, having all the added testimony of the passing centuries, I yet desire to take you back to Paul's affirmation, and, if I may, intimate the changed position we occupy by slightly changing the form of his declaration. To indicate the fact that we are looking back rather than that we stand in the presence of a newborn Gospel, I want to consider this theme thus—if Christ had not been raised, what then? Was Paul right when he said that faith would have been fruitless? Was Paul right when he intimated that upon the very children of song there must have come an inevitable sadness which would have made them the most pitiable men in the world? Was he right? I affirm at once that I believe he was absolutely right. Let us think of it for a few moments.

Suppose Jesus had not risen from the dead, what would it have meant so far as He Himself was concerned, so far as His work was concerned, so far as His avowed purpose to build His Church was concerned?

If Jesus Christ had not risen, what would it have meant so far as He Himself was concerned? It would have proved, first, that the greatest claims He ever made were valueless. It would have resulted inevitably in the demonstration of the fact that the work upon which He set His heart in absolute sincerity of endeavor He was utterly unable to accomplish. If Jesus of Nazareth, Whom they "slew, hanging Him on a tree," and Whom, with tender, loving solicitude, some disciples robed for burial and laid in the tomb, never came out of that tomb, what then? Then the greatest claims He made were valueless. I do want to state this carefully. I will not even suggest that the claims He made were false, that is to say, I will not hint that when He made them He did not mean them. I cannot consent to adopt that position even for the sake of a passing argument. But I say they were valueless, and all He meant to do according to His own teaching He failed of in His dying. He said to the crowds when they criticized Him for that first cleansing of the Temple, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." They did not at the moment understand Him. The interpretation of His meaning came by way of the resurrection. He said upon another occasion to the cynical seekers after a sign: "There shall no sign be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet.... For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale; so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." He said upon another occasion, speaking in the hearing of the critical multitudes, "I lay down my life that I may take it again. No man taketh it away from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment received I from my Father." None of these things was true in issue unless He rose again. According to the appearance of things, if you deny the resurrection, His life was taken from Him by cruel hands that mastered His weakness and hammered Him to the cross with brutal nails, and He never took it again if He never rose. If I had been, which is not at all likely, more patient than His own disciples, I might have waited for the three days to pass, and if the seal had still been upon the tomb and the Roman cross successful, I should have gone away with agony in my soul. I should have said, He meant to come back, but He is as frail as I am. He is mastered as I shall be mastered. He is beaten. If He did not rise, His own supreme and glorious claims are all valueless.

If He had not risen, what would it have meant concerning Himself and His actual work from the standpoint of the history which has been written for us of those days? When He was crucified all the little company of people that had been gathered about Him left Him. I am not criticizing them; the more I know of my own heart, the less I can do that; I am stating the fact. One disciple betrayed Him, another denied Him, then at the end of three years' public ministry we have the whole tragic story in this one sentence, "They all forsook Him and fled." That is the end of the whole thing—unless He came back. The reverberation of the hammer that drives the nails is the thunder that scatters His followers. They have all gone. The Christian ideal has perished. It was fair and glorious and beautiful. It captured a few hearts and held them, but it is over. He is dead. He is in the tomb. "They all forsook Him and fled," not through lack of love, but because they felt that He could not do the things they had hoped He was going to do. With the death of Jesus the whole movement is at an end. Men are hurrying back to fishing nets, to farming, to sit at the receipt of custom, to hide the shame and disgrace of having associated themselves with a Man, Who, however good, was still a failure. If Jesus had never been raised from the dead, there in Joseph of Arimathaea's garden lay the dust of the fairest dream that ever broke upon the throbbing, surging heart of humanity; but it was past; the whole thing was absolutely over. It was merely that the great dreamer had been murdered, and that is the only meaning of His cross.

We talk of the atonement. We do not perfectly know all its method and its meanings, but we know its victory. Where is the Atonement if this man has gone down to death to abide in death? Where is the proof that in the death grapple in the darkness betwixt old systems and the Word, the Word was triumphant? He hated sin. He claimed to be sinless. He flung Himself against sin. He made other men ashamed of sin; they blushed in His presence, and blanched with fear as the lightning of His denunciation smote them in their hypocrisy. But sin is still rampant. Sin has smitten Him to death. Sin has laid its grasp upon Him and has put Him in the tomb. He is mastered by sin. How can He break my bond, or set me free, or blot out my transgressions? If He rose not, preaching is empty. If He rose not, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins, held by them, bound by them, mastered by them, damned by them.

If He rose not, His was an ordinary death, and the doctrine of justification is unutterable nonsense. Men often say about existence beyond death, "No one has ever come back to tell us." If He rose not, that is true. There is no certainty of the life beyond if He came not back.

There would have been no justification, and there would have been no song in the cemetery if He had not come back.

If He had not risen, what of the Church? The Church could not have existed. Two things have made the Church. First, the Church consists of a multitude of people who have seen the vision of perfect life. Secondly, the Church consists of a company of people who have received power to enable them to realize the pattern. Jesus was at once pattern and power. Pattern in the glory of His life, power by the fact of His resurrection. If He rose not from among the dead—and now hear me carefully—I affirm that the Church has lost her pattern. Deny the resurrection of Jesus, and I can no more admire the beauty of His life. But you say to me, "Why not? You have already admitted that He may have meant well." Think again. The things He uttered were things in which He, with great distinctness, laid claim to such relationship to God as no other man ever laid claim to. If men murdered Him and He remained under the bands and bonds of death, no more able to break them than other men, then He was none other than other men. We are compelled ultimately to the conclusion that unless He was the Son of God, He lacked modesty, He lacked meekness, He lacked in the deepest fiber of His personality the simple elements of truth. He was the Son of God or the most disastrous deceiver that ever trod the earth. If you put Him in the grave and leave Him there, murdered by other evil men, and never see Him rise again, then He was indeed only man as I am man, and if He was only man as I am man, I repeat, He was the most successful, the most awful, and the most tragic impostor that ever trod the earth. How is He demonstrated the Son of God? By the resurrection from among the dead!

Once again, if Christ did not rise, what did happen? The living Church proves that something happened. What did happen? How were men deceived? I take the Bible up and find the story, and read the things these men affirmed to be true. You say they are not true, that He never rose, that He never presented Himself in that upper room while the doors were closed, that He never stood upon the shore and built a fire and prepared breakfast for cold, tired fishermen, that Mary never saw Him, but that she saw the vision of her own imagination. Tell me, then, what did happen? I have been told that the whole thing was a fraud, that the disciples invented the story to save themselves. But from all earthly standpoints the invention of that story ruined them. If they had abandoned the story they could have saved themselves. All the persecution, all the stripes, all loss and agony came because they would say, "He is alive." I think that needs to be stated today, and to be carefully considered. If the Christians going back to the Temple had said, "We have found a new system, a new ethical teacher, and we propose to form a school around His name," Judaism would never have been angry. It would have taken them in, and there might have been a School of Jesus to this day within the Hebrew economy. Judaism flung them out because they said, "He whom ye slew is alive." I submit to you that they lost everything from the worldly standpoint, and I have yet to be convinced that for nineteen centuries men would continue to suffer pains, imprisonments, loss, agony, death for a lie. Men will occasionally surfer a little while for a lie, but if this thing were a fraud, either cowardice or courage would have declared it ere many years had passed. Cowardice, to escape the scourge, the dungeon and the cross, or courage, as conscience awoke, would have said, "The thing is a lie." The first witness was Peter himself, when, as is chronicled in the fifth chapter of Acts, he stood before the High Priest—who was a Sadducee, believing neither in resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit—and said, "The God of our Fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew, hanging Him on a tree. Him did God exalt with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and remission of sins." And hear him now, "We are witnesses of these things." By which he meant not merely, "We are the men who talk about these things," but rather, "We are His proofs, His credentials, His arguments." He meant to say to the rationalism of his own age, as it was represented by the High Priest, "You have no right to deny the fact of the resurrection until you have accounted for the change that has been wrought in us by our belief in it." When you tell me the story of the resurrection was a fraud, it was a fraud which made men pure and strong, and this is to reveal the absurdity of the charge.

If it was not fraud, what then? To take only one other suggestion, I am told it was a visionary appearance. We are told that people see what they expect to see, and I believe there is a great deal of truth in that. I have been for a great many years looking for a ghost, and I have never seen one. I have not joined the Society for Psychical Research, although I am greatly interested therein. I have read all Mr. Stead's ghost stories. I have walked churchyards at night and seen all sorts of uncanny things, but I have never yet seen a ghost. I will tell you why: I never expected to see one. Some of you who have seen one may pity me. You did expect, and you saw it. That is it. So I am told today by a cheap philosophy that these people saw what they expected to see. They thought about Jesus and hoped to see Him. They thought they saw Him, and there He was. But the facts are against that. They did not expect to see Him. They were startled when they did see Him. The most astonishing thing that ever came to them was the news that others had seen Him, and Thomas was not alone when he said, "Except I see and feel I shall not believe." They did not expect Him. And it was to men not expecting that He came. And it was a man who did not expect who said, "My Lord and my God." The visionary appearance argument does not hold, because you cannot deceive five hundred people with a visionary appearance. If it had been only the women, Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James, Joanna, and Salome who saw Him, these latter-day philosophers might have had some ground. I hardly like to admit it, but you remember that the two men walking to Emmaus said, "Certain women of our company amazed us... saying,"—and that emphasis lasts until this moment. Yet be very careful how you use the emphasis. Augustine said a very beautiful thing of Mary of Magdala, that she was Apostola Apostolorum, because she was the first sent with the Gospel of the Resurrection. Do not forget this. Sometimes when you are struggling along by logical processes your wife will see the thing long before you. Do not be angry because women see more than you do. But it was not to women only that Christ appeared, but to five hundred brethren at once! Did you ever hear of five hundred people being deceived in that way, and they not for long? But five hundred people at once on a mountain side in broad daylight cannot be so deceived. That idea must be absolutely abandoned.

If you say it was a lie I can at least argue with you, but when you suggest that it was a visionary appearance you make an appeal to a credulity that I do not possess.

I end where Paul ended his argument, "Now hath Christ been raised from the dead." The testimony of the disciples, already referred to, is our first line of proof. These varied appearances, the unequivocal testimony of the witnesses in spite of their own previous unbelief, involving all manner of persecutions, upon the basis of which they suffered, and served, and won, that is the first line of proof, but not the final one. The testimony of Paul himself is also proof. Paul is such a living force today that in one of the most recent books issuing from the more rationalistic side of theological thinking it is suggested that Christianity is more the religion of Paul than of Jesus. I do not quote that as accepting it—I think it is unutterable folly—but to show the influence this man has exerted on the thinking of the centuries. We all know how he sought letters from the High Priest which should empower him to send to prison and death men who believed in the resurrection, and in the Corinthian letter he tells how "last of all, as to one born out of due time, He appeared to me also." One has heard in these recent days that what happened on the road to Damascus was that Paul had an epileptic seizure in a thunderstorm. Supposing that were true, then I should set to praying for epilepsy and thunderstorms at once. Oh, the unutterable folly of it. What changed this man? What made Saul the persecutor, the champion of the old, into Paul the flaming missionary of the new? He saw Jesus and heard Him, and found out that He whom he had thought of as dead was alive, and so forevermore the motto of his thinking and preaching was, "It is Christ Jesus that died, yea rather, that was raised from the dead."

The final line of defense is that to which I referred at the beginning—the Church of Christ today. Its very existence demonstrates the fact of the resurrection, or else you have this strange anomaly in human history, a great institution making always for purity born in a lie, for it was the proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus that gathered the scattered disciples together.

There is another demonstration of the fact of the resurrection which is personal. Individuals who trust Him share His life, and that life is manifest as it masters them and changes them, until today on thousands of faces wherever you go you may see the very lines of the grace and beauty of the Son of God. There are men and women here tonight by the hundred able to bear witness, and if there were no other, hear me as I speak reverently and make my boast in the Lord—I know He rose, for His life has come into this poor life of mine, and while mine has still much to do, His is already changing it, and forces that harmed are mastered, and new desires, new aspirations, new outlooks are mine. If Jesus were only such as I am, a man who died and passed to the dust in Joseph of Arimathaea's garden, He could not do these things. I can admire the genius of Milton dead, but I cannot share his life and see the vision he saw. I can admire the very melancholy of Dante, but I cannot see with his eyes. Jesus has come into me, and I have seen the Father to be what Jesus said He was, and my brother to be what Jesus said He was, and the world to be what He said it was. I know that Christ rose, because His life is in me. I am not admiring a dead thinker. I am living and walking and singing in comradeship with the living Christ.

Christ is risen! Our preaching is not vain. Pardon follows it. Peace comes after it. Power results from it. Your faith is not vain. The Living Person is the demonstration of its truth. The proof of pardon is in your heart, though it defy logical statement; the pledge of immortality makes you challenge old death as he rides upon his pale horse. These are the final proofs. Preaching is not vain. Faith is not fruitless. We are not pitiable.

We go back once again in thought to the grave in the garden and look at it that we may believe, that we may preach, that we may sing. Oh, wonderful garden, wonderful grave.

   Seals assuring, guards securing,
   Watch His earthly prison.
   Seals are shattered, guards are scattered,
   Christ hath risen!
   Now at last, old things past,
   Hope and joy and peace begin;
   For Christ hath won
   And man shall win!
   Where our banner leads us
   We may safely go;
   Where our Chief precedes us,
   We may face the foe.
   His right arm is o'er us,
   He our guide will be.
   Christ hath gone before us;
   Christians, follow ye!

183 - 1 Corinthians 15:14 - The Value and Proof of the Resurrection

The Value and Proof of the Resurrection

If Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, your faith also is vain.
1 Corinthians 15:14

Strauss, who was one of the most brilliant of the critics of Christianity, and one of the most unbelieving of the apologists of Christ, declared the resurrection to be the center of the center. That declaration harmonizes with the view of the greatest exponent of the Christian faith in apostolic times. "If Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, your faith also is vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we witnessed of God that He raised up Christ: Whom He raised not up, if so be that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, neither hath Christ been raised: and if Christ hath not been raised your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most pitiable." No language can be clearer. The resurrection is the groundwork of faith because all else in connection with the affirmations of Christianity must be interpreted by it. If Christ hath been raised, then evangelical Christianity is true. If Christ hath not been raised, then all other matters of our faith are misinterpretations. If Christ hath not been raised then God was no more manifest in flesh in Christ than in other men. If Christ hath not been raised then the teaching of Jesus has no other authority than the authority of His own personal conviction, and must be tested by subsequent thinking and speculation. If Christ hath not been raised then the Cross of Calvary was nothing more than the tragic ending of a mistaken, if noble life. All the values of evangelical Christianity are dependent on interpretations of the person and mission of Jesus resulting from acceptation of the central fact of His resurrection.

I desire to speak first of the place of the resurrection in the economy of redemption, as revealed in the Scriptures of Truth; and second, of the values of the resurrection as a basis of faith for all such as are crying out after purity, and after God.

First, then, the place of the resurrection in the economy of redemption. The Christian religion is pre-eminently a religion of redemption. Its whole message may be summarized in the words of our Lord concerning Himself, "The Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost." That tells the story not merely of the mission of Jesus, it reveals the real meaning of the Christian religion. It begins with man as incompetent, and has to do with the method of his saving, his remaking. That is the distinctive note of Christianity. In that it is differentiated from any and every other religion of which the world has ever known anything. Other religions are ethical, and attempt to interpret to men the higher ideals of life. In so far as they do so they also have Divine authority. Yet others insist upon the necessity of man's culture of his own life, and almost invariably tell him with strange, weird, awful honesty, that his endeavor will be of no avail. The Christian religion comes to man everywhere, and says in effect, Thou art lost, but mayest be found. Thou hast failed, but thou mayest succeed. Thou art ruined, but thou mayest be redeemed. The content of the Christian religion is the declaration of pardon, and of power, and of peace.

In the Bible there is one central figure, and one central truth. The central Person in the Bible is Jesus of Nazareth, called as to person, Son of man and Son of God; bearing as supreme title, indicating the meaning of His mission, the Christ of God. There can be no intelligent study of the Bible that does not show the pathways since His life in the world started with that life, and owe their direction to His indication and His impulse.

The Christian religion may be summarized in one very brief sentence, "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself." I therefore take the life and ministry of Jesus and divide it into four parts. First, there is the fact of incarnation. Second, there is the ministry of His life, His teaching, and His deeds. Third, there is the Cross. Ultimately, there is the resurrection. Let us interpret these facts by the supreme word, "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself." To do so is to recognize that the whole life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth was an unveiling of the truth concerning God. God was speaking out into speech that men could understand the infinite and eternal things concerning Himself. In the incarnation God did not come any nearer to humanity than He had been before. I go back into the twilight of the Old Testament, and I find the stupendous recognition of the nearness of God to human life. When the prophet at the Babylonish court charged the king with sin, he said, "The God in Whose hand thy breath is, and Whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified." The Psalmist declared, Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, Thou understandest my thought afar off.... Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there: If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, Thou art there." The singers and the writers of the past were thus conscious of the nearness of God. Paul speaking in the midst of the culture of Athens, said to the philosophic Greeks, "In Him we live, and move, and have our being." Men knew the nearness of God, but they did not know the God to Whom they were near. The incarnation was not the method by which God came nearer to humanity, but the method by which He came into the observation of humanity, and took the speech that man was able to understand. The Word, inarticulate through the far-flung splendor of the ages, became flesh, became articulate in human speech and human accents and human tones, in order that men might hear in their own language the infinite truth concerning God. By way of the incarnation God came into human observation; came into such form and fashion that the men who had ever lived in His presence, whose breath had been in His hand through all their lives, might listen and understand, might see and comprehend. That is the first fact in the ministry of Christ.

The second fact is exactly true to the same underlying principle. I follow Him through all the years of His private life, along the pathway of His public ministry; and as I do so I am coming to the knowledge of God. God is revealing to me His thought for me, His purpose for me, the meaning of the breadth, beauty, and beneficence of His government. I do not wonder, as I ponder the words of Jesus that have been preserved for me by the inspired writers, that men exclaimed, "Never man so spake." Was the message a new message? Was God giving us a new thought? Had God changed His mind? By no means. In Christ He said the thing that He always thought and intended, but He so said it that man might understand it. Through all the ministry of Christ I have the unveiling of the will of God for human life. Observe Him, moreover, in His attitudes toward men. His awful severity against sin, His gracious tenderness toward the sinner, unveil the attitude of God toward sin, and toward the sinner. The words that passed His lips, that scorch me even until this hour, are the words of God about sin. The words that passed His lips, and which woo and win me toward His heart for rest and healing, are the words of God toward me the sinner.

Now, reverently, one step further. As I stand in the presence of the Cross, I must recognize that the Crucified One is the same Person that I have looked upon in the years of public ministry, the same Person Who is described as the Word made flesh. If "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself" when He came into human life, and as He passed along the pathway of human teaching, it is still true that "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself" in the Cross. In that Cross is unveiled before humanity the grace of God, operating through suffering, toward the restoration of man. The Cross of Jesus Christ, according to the interpretation of the New Testament, was not the place where one Jesus of Nazareth, Who was also God in Christ, wrought out into human visibility the infinite and unfathomable mystery of that passion and pain whereby it is possible for God to take back the sinning man and remake him.

So, finally, when I come to the final fact of the resurrection, it is the revelation of the strength of God accomplishing the utmost purpose of His will. I go back to some of the ancient words concerning Him. Hear this, for instance, "In all their affliction He was afflicted." There are those who believe that from that passage a negation has been omitted and that what was actually written was this, "In all their affliction He was not afflicted." I do not say that is an accurate statement, but admitting it for the moment, see what is said. "In their affliction"—He was in it, He shared it, He passed through it with them—but He was not afflicted, He was not beaten down, overcome, defeated. Even if we take the gracious statement as it stands it has the same significance. "In all their affliction He was afflicted.... He bare them, and carried them all the days of old." I reverently come to the Cross and there I see unveiled the mystery I can never explain. I will not attempt to interpret it by the words of Scripture. The great herald of Jesus Christ said, "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world." The apostolic writer said, "His own self bare our sins in His own body upon the tree." Still believing that this is God in Christ, I am face to face with the tremendous declaration that God is bearing the sin of the race. The resurrection demonstrates the fact that He was equal to the burden; that He carried it; that He dealt with it as He intended to deal with it; and therefore the writers of the New Testament invariably when they speak of the resurrection speak of it as the manifestation of the might of God. The apostle declares to us that He was "declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection of the dead; even Jesus Christ our Lord." The Resurrection is the revelation of the strength of Deity; the revelation of the fact that if He was oppressed, burdened with the passion of human sin, He was not overcome thereby; that in the process of bearing the burden He accomplished His purpose, and came at last to ultimate victory. Peter had the same vision of it when He declared, "It was not possible that He should be holden of it." So that the place of the resurrection in the economy of redemption is that of demonstration of the fact that all God thought for human redemption, all God attempted in the mystery of His own being for human redemption, He accomplished.

In the incarnation the fact of God was manifest. By the pathway of Christ's public ministry the will of God was interpreted. In His crucifixion, the grace of God was unveiled. In the resurrection, the victorious strength of God was manifest. The importance of the resurrection is at once evident. Take the first three facts away from the fourth, and what is the result? He claimed identity with the Father, "I and the Father are one." He claimed authority from the Father for all He taught, "I do nothing of Myself, but as the Father hath taught Me, I speak these things." He claimed co-operation with the Father in His work, "My Father worketh even until now, and I work." I come to His Cross and I see Him die. I watch them as they bear Him tenderly and reverently, and place Him in the rock-hewn tomb, and I stand outside that tomb in the garden, and see the great stone rolled to the entrance and the seal of the Roman government placed upon it. Now, what of His claim to identity with the Father? What of His claim to authority from the Father? What of His claim to co-operation with the Father? "If Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, your faith also in vain." If there was no resurrection all the things declared are discredited. If there was resurrection these things are demonstrated. The whole Christian religion depends upon the fact of the resurrection of Christ. If He never rose, then the story of the incarnation is a myth. If He never rose then I have no demonstration of the authority of His teaching. If He never rose, then His dying was no more than the dying of Thomas Cranmer. If He rose, then by that resurrection His Person is revealed as other than the person of Thomas Cranmer, His life as different from the life of other men, His teaching as having Divine authority, and His Cross as having some infinite value and meaning. Everything depends upon the resurrection.

Paul did not end with a hypothesis. His ultimate word is, "But now hath Christ been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of them that are asleep. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive." The infinite music of the Gospel singing itself through Paul's heart, he declares the possibility of human redemption, basing his conviction, his testimony, upon the great and gracious fact that Jesus Christ rose from among the dead.

Degrade Christ from the place that He has occupied in evangelical Christianity, from that conception which has made the Church what she has been through the centuries; speak of Him merely as on the level of other men, and you have lost your revelation of God, and your ethical authority, and your salvation by passion and suffering and death; and in order to do this you are compelled to deny the actual historic fact of the resurrection. Let that fact of actual resurrection be admitted, and it interprets all the other facts, and explains the history and mystery of the conquest of Christianity through the centuries. "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself," revealing His nearness in the fact of incarnation, interpreting His will in the teaching of Jesus, making visible the awful mystery of His passion in the presence of sin, by the Cross; demonstrating the might by which He accomplishes the redemption, in the greatness and glory of resurrection.

Now let me turn to the second line of consideration, which is the personal application of that already taken. What is the value of the resurrection as a basis of faith? In order that we may see that let me ask you to think of Jesus before the resurrection as to the claims He made in the presence of human life, as to the purpose He declared He had in view, and as to the promises He definitely made to men as He taught amongst them.

Of His claims, I will refer to only one. In differing ways He deliberately claimed that He and He alone could lead the soul of man to God. There are many texts. Let me take you to that oldest and most familiar, which we generally begin to recite thus, "Come unto Me." That is not the commencement of the declaration. Jesus did not begin there. He began thus, "All things have been delivered unto Me of My Father: and no one knoweth the Son, save the Father; neither doth any know the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal Him." To whom will the Son reveal the Father? In a moment the answer to our inquiry comes, "Come unto Me." By all of which Christ meant to say, first of all, that what humanity needs in its restlessness is to find God. If you would cure the feverishness of life you must lead men to God. Now, mark His claim. "Neither doth any know the Father save the Son." Blasphemous audacity, or Divine Gospel, one of the two! He claimed to be the Revealer of the Father. He declared that His mission was that of leading souls to God.

What did He say concerning His purpose? He declared that He could accomplish His purpose only by dying, and whenever He referred to His dying He referred to His rising again. By many a hint in earlier days of His ministry, by clear and definite declaration in the midst of hostile crowds, by careful and patient instruction to His own disciples, He affirmed the necessity for dying, and declared that if He died He would rise again. I say by many a hint in the earlier days of His ministry. Take two illustrations. When He cleansed the temple and they inquired, "By what authority doest Thou these things?" He answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up"; referring to His body, as the inspired writer declares later. On the housetops at night, with the wind sighing through the streets of Jerusalem, an inquiring soul said to Him, "How can these things be?" Jesus said, "Ye must be born anew." This man asked, How can a man blot out the past and begin again? Jesus said in answer, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth may in Him have eternal life." Life shall come through death was His answer to the inquiry of Nicodemus. If you question the interpretation of these particular passages then come to the set and definite discourse chronicled in the tenth chapter of John's Gospel. There is nothing more wonderful in all the discourses of Jesus than that. He said, "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd layeth down His life for the sheep.... I lay down My life, that I may take it again. This commandment received I from My Father." Or if you turn from the public declaration, which perhaps has in it still something of mystery, then follow the last weeks after Cæsarea Philippi, and listen attentively. "From that time began Jesus to show unto His disciples, how that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised up." How often we read that carelessly. If you tell me that was simply the conclusion of a far-seeing soul, if you tell me that Jesus was such as I am, a child of His own age, blundering His way on with great honesty, and seeing that at last these men would kill Him, and that He is now taking His disciples into His confidence and saying, Well, I see how it will all end, they will kill Me. I have been true to My teaching, and when I go to Jerusalem I know they will kill Me—then how do you explain the last thing, "and the third day be raised again"? If you study your New Testament carefully you will discover that He never spoke of His death to His disciples but that He also spoke of His resurrection. I challenge you to find a single exception. In those last weeks, over and over again, He called them to Him and always seems to have been seeking their sympathy, as He told them of the Cross; but He always told them also of the resurrection. Of course, if you question the accuracy of the records, and tear up the New Testament, do not come and hear me preach. I have nothing to preach but this Book. I have no authority other than this. I am not here to defend its authority. That is demonstrated by nineteen centuries of victory in the moral realm.

I come once more to the tomb. He is dead. He is in the tomb. I come as a sinning man. I come as a man who has to say, "The good which I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I practise... to me who would do good, evil is present." I come as a man who would say to all philosophers: do not discuss how the poison came into my blood; it is here, mastering me; I have sinned; I have seen the fair vision of His teaching and I desire it, but I cannot realize it; I am a sinner with guilt and pollution upon me. This Man said He would lay down His life for me, and take it again that I might share it. This Man said I might be born again by the mystery of His dying. He declared emphatically that He must die and be raised again. He is dead. If He do not come out of that tomb I will not say that He was a deceiver, but He was deceived. If He do not come out of that tomb, the thing He thought to do He has been unable to do. I cannot put it less reverently than that, but I must so put it. I stand in the presence of that sealed tomb of Jesus and say, Is He coming back? If He do not come forth, then though He laid down His life, He cannot take it again; the burner has been too much, the desire too mighty, the great dream of redemption of man by the laying down of His life and taking it again that they may share it, a great dream, but nothing more. If that stone remain there, and Jesus is held captive, then there is no pardon for my guilty soul, and no life for my paralyzed humanity. "If Christ hath not been raised... your faith also is vain, void; ye and it is true in my heart and life.

"But how hath Christ been raised from the dead?" In the moment of that resurrection all the claims of His life and teaching are vindicated. When I see Him come back from the grave I know full well that what He said is true. I know He laid down His life and has taken it again. In the mystery of that death, I cannot enter into the awful chambers of its loneliness, I am forevermore excluded. I cannot understand it or explain it, but I know there has been—

   One death grapple in the darkness 'twixt old systems and the Word.

Between the Lord of life, and death, and sin. If He did not rise again, then death won, and sin won. If He hath been raised, then He won and death is vanquished, because sin is spoiled. Then the sinner has found his Redeemer. If He took His life again, to share it, then I know that His dying was victorious dying; and the value of His dying He makes over to me for pardon; and the virtue of His life He makes over to me for power, and the presence of my risen Lord shall forevermore be the method of my victory.

I make the application of the great fact of resurrection in the words of this selfsame apostle in his epistle of salvation. Hear them, "If thou shalt confess with my mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be put to shame." Why does the apostle put the resurrection there, why not the Cross? Why did he not say, If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that He died for thee, thou shalt be saved? Because that will not satisfy reason, and so creates no basis for faith. Death apart from resurrection makes no appeal to my confidence. Death in the light of the resurrection is that in which I put my trust. I come into the presence of the death of Christ while the light of His resurrection plays upon it, and I say, He loved me and gave Himself for Me; He was wounded for my transgressions, He was bruised for my iniquities; the chastisement of my peace was upon Him and with His stripes I am healed. It is all night if He rose not. It was a tragic death, awful death, a death of failure, as other deaths have been. In the light of resurrection I know it was a death triumphant, a death of accomplishment, a death of victory in the process of which He procured for me the pardon that my sinning heart needs, and the power my weakened life demands.

184 - 1 Corinthians 16:22 - Maran Atha! 

Maran Atha!

If any man loveth not the Lord, let him be Anathema Maran atha.
1 Corinthians 16:22

These words do not constitute a malediction. If you are inclined to question the accuracy of that statement notice what the Apostle himself says about them. "The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand. If any man loveth not the Lord, let him be Anathema Maran atha. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen." They are not a malediction, but part of a salutation.

Yet they are words of astounding severity and scorching heat, and are indeed words intended to make men stop and think, words gaining heat and force from the fact that they are surrounded by loving, tender, gracious words of salutation. They are a statement of a logical and inevitable sequence. If a man do not love this Lord Jesus "let him be anathema. Maran atha."

This is the close of a letter written to a Christian church, a church which had departed from the simplicity of Christ Jesus, a church which had lost its power of testimony in the midst of a great and wealthy city. This letter was written to correct the failure of such a church because its testimony was paralyzed, and it had ceased to be influential on account of its shortcoming and failure. The city of Corinth at this time was the home of learning and of wealth. It was full of a false wisdom or culture. Factions and rivalries existed throughout the city. The school men were quarreling amongst themselves concerning emphases and diversifications of ideas on nonessential things. Intellect was more highly esteemed than morality. Consequently there was abounding looseness of moral standard. Selfishness was dominant. There were a few wealthy people, living in luxury, while beneath them was a great mass of men and women in slavery. There was a popular denial of immortality. In one word, tragic and terrible, Corinth as a city was materialized, and the Church of Jesus Christ had been contaminated by all these things. Instead of fulfilling its mission as salt, and being pungent, antiseptic, it had lost its savor. Instead of being light, shining clearly, rebuking the darkness and guiding stumbling men back into the way of perfection, the light had become darkened. To correct the carnality which lay at the root of the spiritual failure in the church, this letter had been written. In imagination I see the apostle, suffering in all probability from such nearness of sight that he could hardly see what he wrote, taking from the hand of his amanuensis the pen, and writing, "The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand. If any man loveth not the Lord, let him be anathema. Maran atha. The favor of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen."

So the great letter closes. That is the setting of my text. We must see it there if we would understand its meaning. The Apostle writing to a church of Jesus Christ, to men and women called saints, says in effect, "The claims of Christ are such that if they be once known and appreciated, and yet the heart does not answer in love, which is for ever more the inspiration of loyalty, then there is nothing for such a heart save that it shall be accursed, anathema." After the statement, to emphasize it, to defend it, to vindicate it, he writes, "Maran atha."

I have already several times recited those two words. Let me now say by way of explanation, before we proceed to a closer examination of them, that the Apostle in their use here defends the thing he has already said. That is their intention. He is not declaring that if men do not love Jesus Christ, when presently the Christ comes they will be accursed. They are already accursed. They are in the place of the curse. They are in the grip of the curse. Therefore, before we can understand the first part of our text we must understand the second part of it. Before we can fully appreciate what the Apostle meant when he wrote, "If any man loveth not the Lord, let him be anathema," we must inquire what he meant when he wrote, "Maran atha."

Therefore, I ask you, first, to consider with me the great fact: "Maran atha," and, second, the sequence: "If any man love not the Lord, let him be anathema."

There is great gain in the fact that our revision has written two words and not one, "Maran atha." There are certain things concerning these two words which are indisputable. There are other things which are doubtful, about which no final, dogmatic word can yet be said. There are two interpretations of their meaning. One affirms that they mean, "The Lord cometh." The other affirms that they mean, "The Lord has come." You will see that the difficulty arises concerning the tense of the verb. There is no difficulty concerning the substantive, the subject "Maran," the Lord; but whether the word "atha" means "cometh," or "has come," cannot be dogmatically affirmed. The central principle is not interfered with whichever interpretation be correct. I am not proposing for a single moment to argue as between the two. I will say, in passing, I am personally convinced that the words mean "The Lord has come," and that here the reference is not specifically and immediately to the second Advent but to the first, and yet to the second also. According to all the New Testament writers, the first involved the second. If you believe the words mean "The Lord cometh," then you also hold the fact of the first Advent. "The Lord cometh" for "the Lord has come." If you hold that the words mean "the Lord has come," then you also see that they mean the Lord is yet to come again, for He Who has come "shall appear a second time, apart from sin... unto salvation." The second Advent includes the first. The grace of the first demands the glory of the second. These words constituted a form of Christian salutation in the early days. Whether they meant "The Lord has come" or "the Lord cometh" matters nothing. The early Christians greeted each other in the market place or on the highway, saying, "Maran atha," and the reply would be "Maran atha." Whether the Advent referred to is past, or to come, the truth insisted on is that the true Lord is manifest—has been manifested or is to be manifested. The fact is not one of date, but of the manifestation in human history of the one supreme, lonely, imperial Lord of men, "Maran atha." The Lord has come, is coming: the Lord is coming, has come. The text summons us to the judgment seat of the one perfect Lord of men. When the Apostle with his own hand—stumblingly perchance, and in those large characters to which he referred in another letter—is writing his salutation, he sees his Lord. He has been following Him for years along the perilous and rough pathway. He saw Him first on the way to Damascus and he heard His voice. He has become familiar with Him. He knows Him for what He is. No other teacher divides his attention. No other lord makes demands upon his loyalty. He is the one Lord Jesus Christ, and Paul writes to these people in Corinth, "If any man loveth not the Lord, let him be anathema," and then, as though he had said, "He is the Lord, and He is revealed as such," he writes, "Maran atha." So finally he brings the saints of Corinth, and all Corinth, to confront the one Lord, and he says in the presence of that Lord, "Hear this, ye sons of men, if ye love Him not, ye are accursed." Logically, necessarily accursed. Not to love Him is to love the base, the mean, the ignoble. "If any man loveth not the Lord, let him be anathema. Maran atha." It is the great cry of a loyal soul bowing in adoration in the presence of the supernal royalty of the King.

The central fact suggested therefore is that of the Lordship of Christ.

This Lord Jesus Christ is Lord in a threefold sense. On His head are many diadems, but for us men, for the purposes of our salvation, I propose to speak of three only. He stands absolutely alone as Lord—first, as presenting a perfect pattern of human life; secondly, as paralyzing the paralysis which prevents men realizing the pattern; and, finally, as providing for men the power by which they may become what He reveals to them they ought to be. The territory covered by these three suggestions is small. I turn away from all the glorious diadems which rest upon His brow, and of which I might speak, because I want to speak of His Lordship as it presents itself to the needs of sinning men. I want us to see Him as the one Imperial and only Lord of the man who knows his sin and fain would escape it.

In the first place, I say He is royal in Lordship because He presents to men the perfect pattern of human life. I am not going to defend that statement. All I intend to do is to ask, What is this pattern He presents? What answer has Christ given to the old question of the psalmist, "What is man?" Christ's answer to that question is a threefold one. By His teaching He first of all declares that man is the offspring of God, that man is not of dust but of Deity, that in every man there is that which cannot be slain by the physical hand of his fellow man. "Be not afraid of them which kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do." According to His teaching, every man—the question of his bruising and battering and spoiling by sin is not now being discussed, in spite of these things—every man is a child of the eternities, offspring of the spiritual, in the deepest essence of his being related to God and eternity. That is Christ's first word about man. Then He has also revealed to us the fact that man is a being who can realize himself only within the realm of one simple and sublime law of conformity to the will of the One Who created him. By all His teaching He arrested the wandering will of man, and attempted to readjust it to the will of God. By all the deeds through which He manifested His thought and purpose for man, He sought to bring him back from the trackless desert of his own self-chosen wandering to the straight and narrow pathway of the good and perfect and acceptable will of God. So that Jesus said, and still says to men, "You can find your rest only in the will of God. You can find the answer to the deep questionings of your own life, you can find satisfaction for the perpetual sign of the deepest in you only as you find your way back again to God, and hand to Him your life, and choose His law as the law of your life.

Finally, Christ taught that man is created for service. He is an instrument for carrying the will of God beyond the circle of his own personality. That indeed is the teaching of the whole Bible. Man was not the final flower of Eden. He was its master. Man was not put into Eden for decorative purposes at the close of the great procedure. He was put in to dress it, to keep it, to govern it in co-operation with God. We have strange notions about the Garden of Eden. There are people who imagine it was an actual garden such as we see in this country of ours, beautifully laid out with flower beds and paths. Nothing of the kind. It was a rough bit of soil full of potentiality, blossoms in it, fruit in it, magnificence in it, glories in it, but not manifest. What were they waiting for? The touch of God's partner, man. God put man into the garden to dress it and keep it. Christ emphasized that in all His teaching: "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister."

The great ideal of Jesus concerning man is that he is spiritual in essence, perfected within the law of God, and created for co-operation with God. He Who revealed that as the pattern of human life is the Master Teacher of the ages. I defy you to find me any such conception anywhere else. Other men have not dreamed of such things as these. Other teachers have said wonderfully luminous things concerning man, but they were all things of dust compared to these. He came to men, the Man of the home-made garment and little Nazareth, and in simple sentences and childlike speech He uttered great philosophies of human life, which have taken hold of the hearts of men; and we bow before Him as we say "Maran atha," the Lord, for none other has ever spoken of the possibility of human life as He spoke of it.

Had that been all He did, it would have been a great thing, but for me it would have been an awful tragedy. In the discovery of the spirituality of my being I should have found that I was orphaned, the offspring of God, and unable to find my Father. If I had found that my life could be conditioned only by the law of God I should have found that I was absolutely ruined, for I could not discover the law of God for me.

If I had been taught that I was created only for service I should simply have stood gazing out upon a lost dignity, for I had lost the secret of co-operation and fellowship with God, and the very garden of Eden would have answered me, not with flowers, but with the thorns of the wilderness. If this Man be Lord only by revelation of the pattern, He is Lord, I bow to Him, but bowing to Him I am undone.

He therefore presents Himself in a new aspect of His Lordship as the One Who touches with a strange and mysterious power the paralysis of man which prevents him realizing the purpose and ideal, until the paralysis itself is paralyzed, and man is set free. He comes to destroy the destroyer. The conception of man as material is forever more destroyed. From the lawlessness which had become another law working in my members and making it impossible for me to obey the law of God He sets me free. The self-life which had prevented my realization of God's purpose in serving God He crucifies. The process is not easy. But this is how He arrests me. He takes hold of me and reveals to me the pattern until I am ashamed, and just as I am hopeless, He touches me with some new power, and I feel that the forces which prevented my realization are relaxing their hold upon me, and if a man is saved by hope, I begin to hope. If a man is saved by faith, upon the basis of my hope I fling my trust out toward the Lord Who has revealed the pattern and has touched me with power. If a man be saved ultimately by love, I rise from hope through faith to love, and "if any man loveth not the Lord, let him be anathema."

Am I a spirit? He brings my spirit back into relation with the one eternal Spirit, and I live. Is it necessary for me to find the law of God. He presents Himself to me and says, "Follow Me. I am the Word, the incarnate revelation of the will of God, the thought of God rendered visible to thine eyes. Thou hast wandered away from the Father's home; follow Me; step by step, line upon line, precept upon precept I will lead thee in the way of His appointment." You can fling away the Ten Commandments then as an external law which you are attempting to obey: "I will write His law upon thy heart. I will come and dwell with thee. I am with thee all the days. I will lead thee step by step through all the pathway. I will be to thee the law of God which thou hast lost."

Finally, He communicates to me the energy of the Spirit, and out of the mystery of His Passion He gives me power. Out of the darkness of His death He gives me the light of life, and the life of light. So He confronts me not merely as pattern, but as power; not merely as revelation, but as energy. He brings to me in my loneliness and in my wandering all I need.

"Maran atha." The Lord, the only One Who has any right to such a title, the imperial, lonely, splendid, royal Lord, has come, is coming—which you like, both if you please. Between the "has come" and the "is coming," the Lord is here. In the words of the Apostle, in the presence of His royal Lord Jesus the Revealer of the ideal, the Destroyer of the paralysis, the One Who communicates power, in the presence of this Lord who has in His government everything that sinning man needs. "If any man loveth not the Lord, let him be anathema."

I return to the statement which constitutes the first part of my text. "If any man loveth not the Lord, let him be anathema." This is wholly in view of the Lordship of Jesus. I can imagine that someone here is at once startled and alarmed by the peculiar term of the Apostle, "If any man loveth not." Some soul trembling upon the very brink of yielding to the Lordship of Jesus may say, 'I do not love Him.' Why did the Apostle use that word? He did use that word, and as a matter of fact, if you would rightly understand this passage, as Mr. Rotherham, in his Emphasized Bible, has beautifully and as I think accurately rendered it, you must read, "If any man dearly loveth not the Lord." It is the thought of supreme affection for the Lord Who lays His claim upon man and demands his allegiance. Yet I recognize the difficulty. Why does the Apostle use this word? Do not forget he is writing to saints, to such as have heard the Word and have yielded obedience thereto, and have already come into some measure of light, and he mentions the ultimate stage in relation to Jesus. What are the matters which precede love? I take you back for a moment to his letter to the Romans. In the course of that letter concerning salvation Paul wrote these words, "Belief cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." That is how you would state the Gospel to the man who has not yet obeyed it. Take that verse and state it in the other order. "The Word of Christ," that is, the whole Evangel. What then? Hearing it. What then? Faith in it. In the Corinthian letter, writing to saints, he takes all these things for granted, as though he had said, 'You have heard the word of Christ. You have believed the word of Christ. If any man do not love Him, then let that man be accursed.' That is to say, in the thinking of the Apostle, if the Word be presented and if the Word be heard and be obeyed—and of set purpose I substitute the thought of obedience for that of faith, for the only faith that saves is the faith of obedience—then necessarily, always, absolutely without exception, the experience of the obedient soul is the experience of love. This word of the Apostle indicates the final stage in the relation. I do not mean that it is postponed. There is some soul who has come into this house tonight. You hear the Word of Christ, the Word of His Lordship. You hear it, you believe it obediently, submit yourself to it in all honesty, then at once you will begin to love Him. Love comes in the pathway of obedience. You do not love Him, you tell me. Then where have you failed in this order? Have you never heard the Word of Christ? That can hardly be true of anyone here. You have heard it now. The Word heard, what will you do with it? Will you believe it? I do not mean theologically. I do not mean intellectually merely. I do not mean, Do you assent to the fact of His Lordship? I mean that first, for there can be no submission on the part of any honest man to any but absolute royalty. I cannot be loyal to inferiority, so help me God. My King must be royal. He must appeal to all that lies within me and demand my loyalty by what He is in royalty. Have you seen the Royalty? Do you know that this Christ is the one Lord of men? Will you obey? If you say No, you pass away, it may be in reverent recognition of His imperial majesty but without one pulse of love. Do you say Yes? Then you will begin to love Him tonight. I do not say, "Perhaps," or "Peradventure," or "It is reasonable to suppose." I affirm it dogmatically. No man can see the light and obey it without feeling the love.

Hear me again for a moment. How will that love first manifest itself? Not in your consciousness always as love for Him, but far more commonly in your love for someone else, and your desire to bring that one to Him. The first movement of the love of God in the soul of man, woman, or little child, is a love impulse which drives that one out to bring in someone else. Do you not at once see what that proves? Father, tonight you obey, and immediately you think of your boy, and your heart says "I would fain bring him to Christ." You love your boy, and if you love him you would hardly lead him to any but the One you loved supremely. You demonstrate your love for Christ by the love which drives you to bring someone else to Him.

When obeying, you begin to be anxious about father, mother, wife, husband, child; it demonstrates the fact that although you have hardly dared say it, yet in your heart there has come love for the Christ.

Thus the Apostle is stating the logical sequence. If a man is separated from the Lordship of Christ of his own will and choice, then he has no true vision of his own highest possibilities, he has no understanding of life's truest laws. There is within that man no force making for perfection and permanence. That man is already in the grip of destructive forces. If you turn your back upon Christ when He has shown you the spirituality of your being, what have you done by that action? You have consented to the materialistic conception of your own life which proceeds to corruption. If you turn your back upon Christ when He reveals Himself to you as the revelation of the will of God, then you turn your face toward lawlessness which lies at the root of all evil and calamity; you are already in the grip of disintegration and break-up. If you turn your back upon Christ when He calls you into service and co-operation with God, then your life henceforth must circle around your own selfish desire and motive and lust. The self-centred man has created for himself the grave in which he must lay his own individuality. So that if any man love not the Lord, it needs no Apostle to curse him, but it does need that the Apostle with the pen of inspiration should write that he is already accursed. "If any man loveth not the Lord, let him be anathema."

As the old year passes away from us and we come again to the turn of the highway and to another mile post, this message is alive and as real in London, in Westminster Chapel, as when the Apostle wrote it upon parchment for the Corinthian Church centuries ago. Here and now and everywhere, "If any man loveth not the Lord, let him be anathema." He is in the grip of destructive forces; and all the subtlety of his brain, the cleverness of his intellect, and ingenuity of his mind cannot deliver him from dire and irremediable ruin. "If any man loveth not the Lord, let him be anathema." Hear it, ye sons of the new age. My brothers, sisters, living in the midst of our boasted civilization and progress, "Maran atha." There is but one Lord. There is but one Master of men. There is but one Revealer of the true ideal. There is but one Redeemer of failure. He is here in spiritual power and presence, in our very midst tonight. Do you love Him? Are you loyal to Him? Have you crowned Him? If from the heart even tremblingly there comes the answer Yes, then the last part of this verse is reversed. 'If any man love the Lord, let him be blessed' and blessed is he! Already in him there burns the light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. Already in him operate the forces which at last will bind the universe about the feet of God in perfect and eternal harmony. Already in him thrills the love that cometh forth from God and returneth back to Him in the cycle of the centuries. Blessed art thou, brother, sister, mine, in the midst of the burden-bearing and strife and toil, testing and tempting, if thou hast crowned this Christ, all hell cannot destroy thee. All the forces of evil in the universe cannot accomplish thy undoing.

If your answer is No, already the touch of eternal death is upon you. Already the break-up that ends in the eternal and infinite disorder is within your soul. "Maran atha." I bring you this final word. Back again to the Lord, the one and only Lord of men. "The Word is nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is the word of faith, which we preach." You are familiar with it. Will you obey it? If never before, now answer it obediently.

Oh that all alone, forgetting your past history, and present difficulty, and neighbor and friend whom you have brought with you to the sanctuary, oh that now you would look into the face of the one Lord Jesus Christ and say to Him simply as a child, with all the courage and conviction of your manhood, "I will trust in Thee and follow Thee, Thou Lord and Master of men." Then He will enwrap you with His love, and lead you in His light, and bring you into His life.

185 - 2 Corinthians 4:5 – Christ Jesus, the Lord 

Christ Jesus, the Lord

For we preach... Christ Jesus as Lord....
2 Corinthians 4:5

There is no human interest with which Christianity does not deal. It comes in love with light and life to the whole circumference of things. It speaks with authority concerning all the facts of the material and moral universe.

As to the material, Christianity first halts men on the threshold of investigation and conditions their attitude through all the processes by affirming God in the language in which the Book of the Christian opens, "In the beginning God..."; it also declares that His glory is the consummation of purpose in the material realm.

In the moral realm, Christianity declares the eternal principles which are the standards of creed, and therefore of character, and ultimately therefore of conduct.

These imperial values of Christianity in the abstract are the direct issue of the supernal royalty of Christ. The it in Christianity is the result of the Him. Christianity is Christ crowned.

Christianity is the religion of a Book of which Christ is the one Subject. Christianity is the religion of this world, and because of this world Christ is at once the Source, the Sustainer, and the Goal. Christianity is the realization of truth in the material, moral, and spiritual realms, and Christ Himself is Truth. It follows as a necessary sequence that for the creation of Christian conditions in life, personal, social, national or racial, there must be submission to Christ. Therefore, the message of the Christian pulpit, of the Christian church, is that indicated by the words of my text, "For we preach... Christ Jesus as Lord...."

To that theme I invite your attention, and I shall ask you to follow me along three lines of consideration; first, of the person of this Lord Christ Jesus; second, of His purpose; finally of His power.

What, then, is the Person of the Lord as presented in the New Testament? The apostle speaks of Him here as Jesus. Who is Jesus, according to the gospel narratives? I am not now going to argue for the truth of the things affirmed. I simply desire to state them.

Jesus of Nazareth was directly created by God through the agency of the Holy Spirit. Just as the first man according to the account of Scripture was created from the material, so was the second Man; only, instead of the dust of the ground, the seed of the woman was made the basis of the Divine creation. He came into human history a Man of humanity and yet distinct from it; not by the will of man nor by the act of man, but by the will and act of God; peculiar, different in that creation, and yet identified with humanity in all the essentials of human nature. This is the Man to Whom Paul is referring when he says, "... we preach... Christ Jesus as Lord...."

I go back again to the gospel stories, and as I carefully observe Him in the doings and teachings of His human life there are certain things which impress me.

The first is that He was a Man whose life was perfectly adjusted toward God and therefore perfectly adjusted toward His fellow men. He always spoke of God with reverence, and yet with almost amazing familiarity; spoke of Him as His Father, made incidental references to Him which showed that in His conception God was touching all life at every point. Flowers; your Father clothes them. Sparrows; your Father is with them when they die. Children; their angels do always behold the face of the Father in heaven. All through His speech we find Him recognizing God; familiar with God; seeing God everywhere. All these beatitudes of this ethical manifesto may be woven into a perfect chaplet, the first resting place of which is on the brow of the Man Who uttered them. And this is conspicuously true of the one which says, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." He was a Man always in the presence of God, always conscious of Him, seeing Him everywhere, and that without a trace of fear in His heart.

Therefore He was a Man Whose life was perfectly adjusted toward His fellow men, in righteousness, in truth, in simplicity, in strength, in sympathy.

The Man presented to our vision in the New Testament was also a Man perfectly balanced within Himself, a Man in Whom there was nothing grotesque. Any man who develops one side of his nature at the expense of all the rest is grotesque. In Christ I see Man perfectly balanced with all essential qualities developed. I would like to take time to defend that statement, especially with regard to the physical. I differ entirely from the conceptions of most of the great artists concerning Jesus Christ. Have you ever seen a picture of Christ that satisfied you? I never have. The majority of artists have presented Him as weak, anemic. Hoffmann satisfies me most. Yet I would add to his portrait a physical Christ of greater beauty. It may be objected that the Scriptures say, "... when we see Him there is no beauty that we should desire Him." That does not mean that He was devoid of beauty, but rather that men were so blind that they could not see it. Moreover, the thought of the prophet there was surely spiritual rather than material. Still another declares His face was more marred than any other. Yes, but have you never seen a beautiful face marred with lines of sorrow and suffering? I believe that in His physical life, Jesus was a Man of great and perfect dignity of beauty.

Turning to the mental side, we cannot but be astonished by the dignity and grandeur of His mental conceptions. Take an illustration on a low level. Clever men constantly endeavored to entrap Him in His talk. Do we ever find Him entrapped? I am overwhelmed again and again, not by His adroitness as though He were subtle and cunning, but by the transparency of His mental method with men, until at last it is written, "... no man after that durst ask Him any question."

If I turn to the spiritual, no argument is needed. His conceptions of God, of the eternal ages, of man's spiritual nature; His interpretation of all the things of the eternities are final. No man has gone one single inch beyond His thinking about God and eternity.

While He was thus perfect in each side of His manhood, He was most perfectly balanced and perfectly fulfilled the functions of human life. No ascetic was He. The men of His own age said He was a gluttonous man and a winebibber. So freely did He mix with men in the ordinary affairs of everyday life that the religious teachers of His age imagined that He was an utterly irreligious man.  Yet as we look at Him, we see a Man; King of the race, perfect in His Manhood.

Whatever your difficulties may be concerning the doctrines of the Catholic church, I challenge you at this point; find me a man in all history or in imaginative literature who begins to compare with Him. If He never lived, the men who dreamed Him were the greatest dreamers the world has ever seen. They have presented to us One Who in the ideal His life presents, holds enthraled the honest admiration of all men in this and every age.

This, however, is not the final thing the Scriptures say of Him. They declare Him to be the Son of God, not as other men are the sons of God, but in a peculiar and mystic relationship which is revealed to us in the writings of this same man Paul as in none of the other writings of the New Testament. In the Philippian letter when declaring how He came into human observation, Paul says that originally He was in the form of God; that He did not count that high, exalted method of manifestation a prize to be snatched at for self-enrichment, and then that He took the form of a servant. In reading that passage we must keep the mind fixed carefully on the one Person referred to from beginning to end. There is no change of nature suggested in the process described. It is the same Person Who, being in the form of God, came into human observation by taking another form—not another nature but another method of manifestation, a method adapted to human comprehension, and was made in fashion as a man. Therefore, when I look at the Man of Nazareth in the light of New Testament teaching, I see not only perfect humanity, but veiled Deity; the Son of God incorporated in human life as never before; able to act with God for men for specific purpose.

What does the New Testament say concerning the office of this Person? First, that He came for revelation of God through a channel within the possibility of human comprehension. He came in order that men might look upon One of their own kind and so see God Whom they had never seen.

I think it well to make this distinction. By incarnation God did not come nearer to men. He came into observation. God has always been near man.

There are men today who know God. There are also men who do not know God. God is no nearer to the man who knows Him than to the man who knows Him not. It is true of all men and women that in God they live and move and have their being.

Go back to the palace of King Belshazzar, and see him carousing with his lords, violating all the laws of decency. Now watch the mystic handwriting upon the wall, and hear the charge against him, "... the God in whose hand thy breath is,... hast thou not glorified." Belchazzar's breath, foul with obscenity, in the hand of God! No man gets away from God. In God every man lives and moves and has his being, yet men today have no knowledge of Him, no consciousness of Him. In Christ, God came out of His hiding place that men might see Him. In our thinking of God, we may build up our conception upon the basis of that perfect humanity. Throw out the lines into eternity, and they include all the truth about God. The tears of Jesus are the revelations of the agony of God. The tender touch of Jesus is that by which man knows how gentle God can be. The stern severity of the words that scorched like fire as they fell from the lips of Jesus unveil God's holiness and His wrath abiding upon sin. The wooing, winsome words in which He called to weary and heavy laden men were the very speech of God calling men back to His bosom, back to His heart. He came for revelation.

He came for more. He came according to the teaching of the New Testament for redemption; redemption wrought through His identification with sinning men to the last issue of their sin. I know how incomplete that statement is, yet ponder it well. I listen to that strangest, profoundest word that fell from the lips of Jesus as He was dying on Calvary, "... my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" I am always afraid to begin to interpret the meaning of those words. The very question they ask suggests mystery even in the mind of the dying One, and who am I that I should try to unveil the hidden mystery? Yet, listening to the words, they forevermore suggest to me the ultimate issue of sin. It was the language of sin in its last experience. It was the language of sorrow at its profoundest depth. It was a word which expressed the most unutterable experience that ever comes into human life, the experience of an unexplained mystery of silence. He was identified with man in his sin to its last issue. In the transaction of the Cross He so dealt with sin that I come to that Cross, and while men are discussing the atonement, I know that my sins are not merely pardoned, but canceled, made not to be. In the presence of that Cross I find that heart's-ease, notwithstanding sin, which I can find nowhere else.

So that this Man upon Whom we look, perfect in His humanity, mystic in His Deity, flaming in His revelation of God; in deep, dense darkness that I can never fathom, so wrought that this poor, broken heart, buffeted by reason of its sin finds healing and rest.

That is the Person presented in these gospel stories; presented finally in the full dignity of this great and wonderful description, the Lord Jesus Christ. Of Him the apostle says: "... we preach Christ Jesus as Lord...." Lord by the victory of life and death; Lord by the appointment of God; Lord by the administration of the Holy Spirit.

Let me now pass to a brief word as to the purpose of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the teaching of Scripture.

What was the passion of Jesus Christ? I am not now referring to the ultimate mystery of that passion baptism whereby He redeemed men. What was the master-passion or the master-motive of the life of Jesus? That is not an easy question. I sometimes think we find the difficulty of it if we ask it about ourselves. What is our master-motive? There is one in every human life. We give as reasons for the things we do things which are not the reasons for the things we do. We give second or third causes for the things we do as final. They are not. If we could get back to the underlying conception of life that masters us, we should have the true answer.

What was the underlying conception of Jesus, the motive of everything, the master-passion of His life? I answer the inquiry in one brief phrase, the Kingdom of God. To some that may seem a very insufficient answer. The reason is that we have taken the phrase the Kingdom of God and materialized it until we imagine it only refers to the establishment of a beneficent order in the world. The phrase is greater than that. To say the Kingdom of God is to say everything. To say that the master-passion, the motive of the life of Jesus was the Kingdom of God is to touch the deepest, profoundest thing in all His life. We might be inclined to say that the motive of His life is best stated in His own words, "... the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost." That, however, was not the deepest thing. He was full of compassion for men, but there is a profounder depth. The deepest thing in His life was expressed in prophetic language long before He came in flesh, and this is it: "... I am come to do thy will, O God." He emphasized it in the prayer He taught His disciples. He said, "... when ye pray, say Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed by Thy name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth." He came not so much to save men as for the glory of God. We are all in danger in these days of laying the emphasis elsewhere. No one will imagine I am undervaluing His compassion. But that ministry which culminated in the Cross was for the glory of God and the establishment of His Kingdom; for the vindication of God's character in the world and the universe in answer to the slander which lies at the heart of evil. The Devil came into human life by slander; "... hath God said...?" and there lurked in the question the suggestion that God was withholding something good from humanity. Jesus Christ came to give the lie to that lie; to reconcile to God all things in earth and in heaven. Not merely this little planet of ours, but the whole universe was involved and touched by the ministry and passion of this King of the race.

The master-passion of Christ, then, was that of the Kingdom of God. His motive in all that He does for me is that I should be in that Kingdom, submitted to it, realizing it, manifesting it. That is His passion for the world at large. It is His motive in all His ministry in the wide universe of God. That is a great declaration in the writings of Paul in which He speaks of the day when "... he shall deliver up the kingdom to God." For that day He came, He lived, He toiled, He suffered, He died, He rose, and He waits in patience, and at last He will see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied; not merely when He has redeemed humanity, but when He delivers the Kingdom to His Father. The master-passion of all the life and ministry of Jesus is that of the Kingdom of God.

While that is the ultimate purpose, notice, still within the thought of purpose, His method so far as we are concerned. I do not think that can be better stated than in the line of the hymn:  “He is my Prophet, Priest, and King.”

Take these three words, and think of all they suggest.

The work of the prophet is that of declaration, proclamation, revelation. So He began proclaiming, declaring, revealing, and He said enough. Obey His words in your life, and your life is in the Kingdom of God. Obey His words in civic and national life, and they alike conform to the Kingdom of God.

Never forget that even in these days when men are denying certain facts concerning Him, denying the supernatural facts which we believe lie at the heart of our religion concerning this Lord Christ, they are still claiming that the Sermon on the Mount is a perfect law of life. It was His proclamation of the Kingdom of God. That marvelous and awe-inspiring ethic was His prophetic forthtelling to the world of the will of God. He was a Prophet proclaiming.

He was also a Priest. If the word "prophet" suggest proclamation, the word "priest" suggests propitiation. Again we have a word which we need to use very reverently. It proclaims His work in redemption. As I affirmed concerning His prophetic work that He said enough, so I affirm concerning His priestly work that He did enough. There is nothing to be done beyond that which He has done. I do not want to argue it. If I did and were to test the declaration by the witnesses, thank God, they are here. I could call witnesses to the truth of it. He breaks the power of canceled sin and sets the prisoner free. The thing that mastered me, gripped me, poisoned me, the thing I could not escape from, He has overcome, and it is underneath my feet. I have been made master of the very forces which mastered me. He has provided redemption, plenteous redemption. He not only said enough, He did enough.

Finally, He is King. That is administration, realization. Men say He is not crowned. Let there be no sigh when you say it. Hear the ancient prophetic word, "He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till He have set judgment in the earth; and the isles shall wait for His law." "We see not yet all things put under Him.... But we see Jesus...." To see Jesus is to be perfectly sure that His work as King will be brought to ultimate victory because of His work as Prophet and as Priest. What, according to Scripture, is His program? The day of grace, the day of judgment following it, and then the establishment of government and the handing of the Kingdom to His Father. The day of grace is that in which we live. There is a day of judgment coming. I do not mean a day of twenty-four hours, an assize. I mean a method of judgment in the world for the establishment of His Kingdom. We half-quote a great many passages of Scripture. Do you remember when Jesus was reading in the synagogue from the prophecy of Isaiah concerning His own ministry, where He stopped? He read these significant words: "... to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord...." and He closed the Book. Reverently, let me open the Book again at the verse where He closed it. What do I find? After the words "the acceptable year of the Lord" there is a comma, and then "... the day of vengeance of our God...." As surely as He came to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, He will come to proclaim the day of vengeance of our God. How long the day of judgment will last, none can tell. It will in all probability be brief, for judgment is ever His strange act. But it must come. I have no greater comfort than to believe that. It is for that day of judgment I as often pray as for any tender, merciful deliverance of the saints. What this world supremely needs is the rod of iron, which is not a rod of cruelty but an inflexible rod of strict and absolute justice. He is coming so to reign. I at least cannot lose the vision of the coming reign when I think of this King. It is in His program. It is not the last method. There are other methods, other dispensations stretching away beyond. It is not for us to waste time speculating. Our duty is to fulfil our present responsibility which is that of preaching the gospel of His grace, for the gathering of His own, and for the preparation of the world for that larger establishment of the Kingdom that lies beyond.

Finally, as we have tried to glance at the Person and to consider the purpose, let me in a last word speak of the power of this Lord Christ. What is the nature of the power of the King? First it is spiritual in essence, dealing fundamentally with the deepest facts of the human life, and second, it is regenerative in operation.

Spiritual in essence. They wanted to make Him King while He was upon the earth on the basis of material supply, but He would have none of it. He fed the multitudes, and they desired to take Him by force and make Him King, but He hurried His disciples away across the sea, and Himself climbed the mountain. He will never be made King on that basis. There are men today who would make Him King if He would find them work, and give them food, and supply all their material needs. He will do all that when they come into the Kingdom, but He does not begin there. He begins not with the incidental of the flesh but with the essential of the spirit. He comes to set up God's Kingdom not by force of arms, by policy or cunning, by bribery or corruption, but by dealing with the spiritual center of life, by bringing the being back into right relation with God.

On the basis of the remade, reborn spirit of man, He reconstructs everything else. So He has proceeded through the centuries, and we count His method slow. The slowness of God is due to the longsuffering of God. It is also on account of the fact that He must begin with the spiritual fact at the center. So He begins with me. It is sometimes argued as to whether heredity or environment is the stronger force. I am perfectly in sympathy with the view that environment is a far stronger force than heredity, but environment is not enough. Put a man in an environment, and you may lift him just a little higher. It is very valuable, but you cannot remake the man by environment, and unless you begin with something in the man that is essential he will degrade the new environment into which you put him. Jesus Christ is a King Who begins with the essential fact. He is not going to be made your King by bribing you with bread and work. He claims the allegiance of the spiritual essence of your being, and when He gets it, then, according to His own great word, "... seek ye first His kingdom... and all these things shall be added unto you." He has never yet failed in His promise. He begins at the center with the spiritual life. There are men who have lost consciousness of their own spiritual nature, men who have no vision of God, and who say, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." He comes to such lives, to such spiritual natures as have lost consciousness of God and of themselves, and what is His first business? To quicken them. "... you hath He quickened,..." That is the first thing. He brings a man to the consciousness of God and of his own spiritual life. In the same moment and upon that basis, He begins the great work of reconstruction. Regeneration means the destruction of the destroying forces and the reconstruction of the essential nature of man. So Christ comes to carry out this work. That is the nature of His work.

Again, what is the extent of His work? It is limitless and it is limited. It is limitless as it proceeds from the spiritual to the material. There is no point that it does not touch. The remade man in his spiritual life is a man who is rendered capable of the reconstruction of his mental life. The remade man in spiritual life is a man capable of reconstruction in his own physical life. He will also go into the wilderness and make it blossom as the rose; He will go into the midst of groaning creation and heal it.

Christ begins in the center, and from that regenerated center, the forces of renewal pass out through all the life. Remade spiritually, renewed mentally, with all the forces of your physical life under the control of the Spirit, your home will become a different home, the neighborhood in which you live will feel the influence of your life. Waves of influence proceeding from reconstructed spirituality will pass out through the whole world.

In what sense is He limited? As to the nature of the effect He produces in the life of men. I do not say He is limited in the production of effect, but that He is limited in the nature of the effect He produces. You cannot come face to face with the Lord Christ and be the same afterward. You can, however, decide what the nature of the effect He produces is going to be upon your life. You come face to face with Christ and with His claim, and then you make your choice, and on that choice depends the nature of the effect He produces. His gospel is a savor of life unto life or of death unto death.

Even if you have seen nothing in Him save the life of ideal beauty, then what are you going to do with it? To accept it is to follow Him and to be remade by His power. To refuse is to choose the low and to be degraded. Christ is limited by our choice, our decision, our will.

Let my last word be this about His power. His power is inevitable. It is beneficent if we so choose; it is destructive if we so choose. "... we preach... Christ Jesus as Lord...." We preach Him not as One Who lived and died and passed away but as the living One. The mystic touch of His hand is still upon our hearts. We are conscious of our nearness to God, to the great Revealer, the great Redeemer.

Let us crown the Person of the Lord and so know His power working in our lives, and from henceforth share His purpose and by falling into line we march with Him toward the goal of the ages, the establishment of the Kingdom of God.

I pray those of you who have known Him longest join with me and crown Him anew and so anew receive His power and as never before be one with Him in the passion of His heart to see the Kingdom established.

And you who never yet have crowned Him, now, in the silence, without sign or sound or symbol, do this and you shall know His power, and cooperate in His purpose.

186 - 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 - Holiness: Its Fruit 

Holiness:  Its Fruit

Wherefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; 
behold, they are become new. But all things are of God.
2 Corinthians 5:17-18

The words, "he is" which appear in our Bibles are supplied, and do not exist in the actual text. Our revisers have suggested an alternative reading, "there is a new creation." I venture to adopt that partially, omitting the words "there is," and reading the text thus, "Wherefore if any man is in Christ, a new creation, the old things have passed away; behold, they are become new. But all things are of God." The phrase "a new creation" is thus placed in apposition to the phrase "in Christ"; and is an exposition of it. If any man is in Christ, he is therefore a new creation.

What then is the difference between that new man, and the man he was before? It is expressed on the negative side in the words "The old things are passed away." The apostle is careful at this point not to create the possibility of a false impression. "The old things are passed away; behold they," the same things, "are become new." What, then, is the difference on the positive side? "All things are of God." In his letter to the Romans, when dealing with man in his sin, by citation from the Psalms, the apostle describes the attitude of the sinner in the words, "There is no fear of God before their eyes." Let us put the final sentences of that description into immediate opposition to my text.

Their feet are swift to shed blood;
Destruction and misery are in their ways;
And the ways of peace they have not known;
There is no fear of God before their eyes (Rom_3:15-18).

If any man is in Christ a new creature; the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new. But all things are of God (2Co_5:17-18).

The contrast is graphic. By bringing together these two passages we see exactly what the difference is, or ought to be, between the Christian man and the man who is not yet a Christian.

In this fourth study of our series on the subject of holiness we are to consider its fruit. In his Roman letter Paul charged his readers, "Have your fruit unto sanctification," that is, "Have your fruit unto holiness." What is that fruit? What are the manifestations of holiness of character?

Holiness results in the passing of all the distinctive excellencies of Christianity from the realm of theory into that of experience. The ideal which we have seen and admired will become the real in actual life, in the measure in which we are holy in character.

I am conscious that such a statement may make it appear as though holiness were the privilege of the few, rather than the possible experience of all who share the life of Christ. There are one or two simple things which therefore need to be clearly stated at this point. First there can be no holiness save by the work of the Holy Spirit in the life. Second, granted the work of the Spirit, the normal Christian life is holy life, and the measure in which we fail of holiness is the measure in which we fail of Christianity. Yet here again extreme care is necessary. I would not have that misinterpreted to the discouragement of any struggling soul. I do not deny your Christianity any more than I deny my own, because neither you nor I have yet realized the character of holiness in all its fulness; yet you will admit, if you think carefully, that the measure in which we lack holiness is the measure in which we lack the true normal Christian character. Holiness is not the preserve of an aristocracy in the family of God, in our ordinary sense of that word "aristocracy." The whole family of God is an aristocracy, or ought to be. Aristocracy, what does it mean? Forgive me if I am elementary enough to remind you that the root significance of the word is best strength. That is what an aristocracy ought to be, and the best strength of the world ought to be the Christian men and women of the world. Holiness as a blessing, second or otherwise, is not the privilege of a select or elect few. It is the normal life of the Christian, according to the purpose and power of God. Holiness is not ultimate perfection. Holiness is the condition which makes it possible for us to "grow up in all things into Him, which is the Head." Holiness is not perfection of consummation. It is simply health in the spiritual life.

Our text indicates a line and suggests a method by which we may understand the fruit of holiness. "If any man is in Christ, a new creation; the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new." He will still live in the same house, in the same city, with the same people; following the same profession, the same business, but everything will be changed. The old things are passed away, because he is himself a new creation. If the old things have been made new because the man in Christ is made new, and his vision is therefore new, what are the new things? The whole change is summarized in the words of the apostle, "All things are of God." Let us now inquire quite simply how that works out.

The first change is one of personal consciousness. In order that we may see the difference, let us consider a man who is not yet a Christian—and I do not propose taking that man on the lowest level, that is, measuring by the ordinary standards of observation; I desire rather to look at the man of the world, the man who is not a Christian, on the highest level attainable by him. What are the dominant notes in the consciousness of such a man? May I rapidly state them and then dwell on each for a moment or two. Love of self, admiration of the world, passion for ownership of goods, great love for kindred and friends, patriotism.

Now, "if any man is in Christ, a new creation; the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new. But all things"—these very things—"are of God."

Love of self. I begin there because that is the root principle of all godless life. If I talk of admiration of the world, passion for the ownership of goods, love for kindred and friends, patriotism, we are all ready to admit that all these things are admirable; but the most selfish man is ever ready to denounce selfishness in other people. I am increasingly impressed with the fact that selfishness is a hateful thing to the mind of humanity, unregenerate or regenerate, and yet it is the master passion of all life apart from Jesus Christ. It has many means of expression, self-indulgence, self-consideration, self-consciousness, but the man of the world is inevitably self-centered. All the circles are drawn around self; the home, society, the nation, the world.

Admiration of the world. That always means admiration of something in the world that is a little out of reach. The man in the slum gazes occasionally on the man who lives in the West End, and admires—however much he professes not to—his luxury, and would obtain it if he could, notwithstanding all he declares to the contrary. The man who is higher in the social scale looks still a little higher, and admires what he sees. There is an old proverb, which I quote, and leave you to think about when you are alone, "A nod from a lord is breakfast for a fool." There is a great deal of philosophy in it. Men look a little up, and a little further up; and will scheme and plan, and even put their wealth at the disposal of kings in order that it may be said that they are the companions of kings. Kings see the glory of the world and forevermore are seeking for that enlargement of empire that ministers to pride. Come with me back to the desolate wilderness, and look at one lone Man facing the great foe of the race, who showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, and offered to give Him all if only He would give him homage. That temptation in the wilderness was the dragging out into clear daylight of the perpetual methods of Satan. Men everywhere are admiring the world.

Passion for the ownership of goods. I need not in this particular age dwell on that. It is the driving force of this feverish age. The mere passion for possession has caused war. That is an ultimate statement, which I do not now stay to deal with more fully. No one denies that a man of the world desires power.

Love of kindred and friends. That is a gracious and beautiful thing, I freely admit; and it exists among men of the world quite apart from Christianity.

Patriotism. That is love of fatherland, love of one's own country, the love which calls forth the long letters about lost ideals and new ideals, and the necessity for teaching our children the fact that they must sacrifice themselves for the making of their country.

Now at once I may be challenged, by those who in astonishment inquire if I intend to affirm that holiness means that these things cease? Let us be perfectly clear about this. I mean only, but I mean certainly exactly, what the apostle says, "If any man is in Christ, a new creation; the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new; but all things are of God."

To begin at the center. The man in Christ Jesus is no longer self-centered, but God-centered. Let the writer of this letter tell us his own experience in language we have quoted so often, and never perhaps yet perfectly understood, "I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live." I have not lost my identity, but it is changed. My personality has not ceased to be, but it is remade. "I live" is the declaration of the positive immediately following the affirmation of the negative. Let us still be careful, for the apostle continues, "Yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me." That is true of the normal Christian life. That is the central thing in holiness. In order to bring men to that the words of Jesus were perpetually severe. "If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me." We quote that searching word and even sing it, but it does not bite, and burn, and break us as it ought to do. That word ought to put every one of us on the cross. "Let him deny himself." The Christian man is a man who at the center of his own being is no longer enthroned, having dominion over his own life, but a man who has put Christ on the throne. That is the fundamental difference.

Then as to the world this selfsame writer says, "the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified unto me, and I unto the world." Does that for a single moment mean that he had lost interest in the world, and the affairs of the world? Nay verily, for this is the man who interprets for the Christian Church, and for all time, if we will but listen to it, the agony of the world, "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain." Here, then, is the difference. Holiness of character means, first of all, the circumferencing of the life around the center, Christ, and then that the world is seen as it really is. Tinsel is known as tinsel, and the touch of decay is seen on all the glory that men admire. Nevertheless, behind the false the true glory is discovered. The Christian man is the man who has lost his admiration for the coronet because he is conscious of the aching brow on which it rests. The Christian man has no eyes for the purple, because the eyes of his heart see the broken heart underneath it. It was Henry Ward Beecher who said that Paul had no love for Greek art because he did not describe a Greek temple in any of his epistles. I do not believe that for a moment. I think he was a master of architecture. If you study his description of the building of the Christian Church it is the language of a man who knew a great deal about architecture. When Pausanius came to Athens he described the temples and buildings, and wrote of the culture and poetry; but only one brief, palpitating account is given by Luke of Paul in Athens, and this is it. "His spirit was in a paroxysm as he beheld the city full of idols." The Christian man does not withdraw himself from the world, has not lost his sense of beauty in the world; but he sees the world's agony, and is so busy attempting to deal with it that he has no admiration for the glitter and tinsel of the things wherewith the men of the world, hungry all the time for God, are attempting to satisfy themselves. His admiration for the world is over.

Ownership of goods. The Christian man believes that Christ knew exactly what He was talking about when He said to His disciples, "Lay not up for yourselves treasure upon the earth"—mark the fine satire of Jesus—"where moth and rust doth consume, and thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven." The Christian man has lost his passion to own goods for the sake of the power such possession gives him, because the possession of Christ gives him a new and beneficent power. The Christian man will no longer devote himself wholly, absolutely, utterly, to the work of amassing wealth simply to possess it. That does not mean for a single moment that the Christian man will not be a successful man of business; that he is to count himself somehow doing wrong if his enterprises succeed. It does mean that the Christian man will never deviate one hair's breadth from the line of rectitude in order to make wealth; and it does mean that when he has made it he says forevermore, This is the means by which I may lay up treasure in heaven. "Make to yourselves friends by means of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when it"—the mammon—"shall fail, they"—the friends you have made—"may receive you into the eternal tabernacles." If you are wealthy men, and Christian men, your wealth is your opportunity to make a fortune, only the dividends are postponed to the other side. What are the dividends? Men and women you have helped. Souls that by the proper use of your wealth you have uplifted. Boys and girls you have delivered from that hell of time and eternity to which they were going but for your help. To put the whole case into a sentence, the man of the world amasses wealth until wealth holds him; the Christian man may be successful in business, but he forevermore holds his wealth in trust for his Lord. That is the difference.

Concerning the love of kindred and friends, many people are troubled by the words of Jesus, "He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me." "If any man cometh unto Me, and hateth not his own father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple." Does this mean that the life of holiness is a life of hardness, a life out of which all human affection passes? To ask the question is at once to have a negative reply. Jesus Himself so loved the will of God that He said, "Who is My mother, and who are My brethren?... Whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in heaven, he is My brother, and sister and mother." Yet, in His dying agony, with the awful passion of the world's redemption breaking His heart, He thought of His mother, and handed her over to John to love her and take care of her. He Who did that does not mean that we are to cease to love father or mother, wife or children, brothers or sisters. The man of the world for the love of the one whom he loves will in the hour of crisis often do the sinful thing; but the Christian man will not allow love of father or mother, wife or child, to make him disloyal to his Lord and to truth. That is the difference.

What of patriotism? Does the Christian man cease to be patriotic? By no means, but he has a new outlook on national life and national greatness. He insists that "righteousness exalteth a nation; but sin is a reproach to any people." The Christian man forevermore lives there. He does not care at all how big the empire may be, but he does care enormously whether it be pure. I am going a step further than that. The Christian man in the fulness of Christian experience ceases to be particularly anxious about the national greatness of his own people in his passion for the national greatness of all peoples. When leaving His disciples, Jesus Christ said, "All authority hath been given unto Me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and disciple the nations." The Christian man recognizes the right of the other nations as well as that of his own. He cannot have any interest in anything that goes to the making of his own nation if by making that nation great some weaker people is harmed and hurt and downtrodden. "He made of one every nation of men." Jesus Christ today loves as devotedly, as passionately, as perfectly the nation lowest in the scale of civilization as the highest: the German as much as the Englishman, the Boer as much as the Briton. The measure in which we are Christian men is the measure in which we climb this height of the recognition of the oneness of humanity, and entertain a great love for it.

What has all this to do with holiness? Everything, because it has to do with righteousness. There will be no righteousness in our dealing with men unless there be this holiness of character, the tides of the Christ life surging through the life of His child, creating His consciousness in the presence of all these things. The old things are passed away. No longer self-centered but Christ-centered, therefore the master passion of the life not to please self but to please Him. The old things are passed away, therefore no longer admiration of that which is superficial in the glory of the world, but the recognition of the tremendous beauty and glory of the world that God has made, together with recognition of its pain and suffering; and an earnest desire to hold out a helping hand to those who need. No longer a passionate desire to amass a fortune; but diligence in business in order that there may be possession of wealth to use for the glory of God in the good of humanity. No longer that inordinate love of kindred and friends that will permit us to do the wrong thing; but a tender love of kindred and friends, the outcome of devotion to Jesus Christ, so strong that no wrong thing can be done even for father or mother, wife or child. No longer patriotism that sings songs of war and of the greatness of one nation, but the great world-interest that takes all men into its heart and seeks to make great its own nation in order that it may uplift and ennoble the nations of the world.

As I understand the teaching of the New Testament, this is holiness. It is that inward grace of character which is not weak, soft, anaemic, able only to sing songs of spiritual experience and to see visions of the heaven which is not yet. It is that inner refinement of heart and life and soul which comes from the indwelling Christ, and makes the life strong in its relationship to the world.

That leads me to my final word. Holiness is a life of usefulness. The unalterable and unchanging purpose of God is the accomplishment of His purposes through His people. That is rendered possible through holiness of character. Cleansed vessels are the vessels that Jehovah makes use of. "Be ye clean ye that bear the vessels of the Lord," was the word of the Hebrew prophet. "Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, And touch no unclean thing," is the word of the Christian apostle. It is through holiness of character that I become a vessel ready to the hand of God for the accomplishment of His will. Surrendered instruments are those which He employs. Not only is it true that clay cannot say to the potter, What formest thou? It is true that the instrument through which he will form and fashion the clay must be plastic in his hand even as the clay is. Believing souls He trusts. The measure of my confidence in Him is the measure of His confidence in me. Let me put that in this form. Are you a man that God can trust? You are if you are a man who can trust God. Trust, again let me remind you, is not merely singing the song that declares your confidence, but it is the life of obedience that relies on God. "He made known His ways unto Moses," gave him the program of events; "His acts unto the children of Israel"; they had to wait and walk step by step. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him." Has God ever told you a secret, something in your inner life that has become a flaming, fiery passion? You spoke of it and the world crucified you for doing it. The men to whom God has whispered His secrets of ultimate purpose and present plan are men absolutely at His disposal, and they have had to suffer in the world, but by their suffering the Kingdom is coming. If I want to find a highway along which God is moving toward ultimate victory I shall follow the tracks where I discover the blood of martyrs. He can tell me His secret only as I trust Him wholly.

Holiness is the work of the Spirit. When I am willing, He baptizes me into union with the life of Christ. He seals me as the property of God. He anoints me for all service. The ultimate argument for the holy life is not the perfection of life, but the fact that life being rendered perfect, becomes God's instrument in the world. That, I think, is the final appeal. In the light of that appeal my heart says,

   Lord Jesus, I long to be perfectly whole,
   I want Thee forever to live in my soul;
   Break down every idol, cast out every foe:
   Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
   
That, not merely that I may be whiter than snow, but that through me may flow the river, and from me may flash the light, and by me may be exercised the very power of Christ for the lifting of men and the bringing in of His Kingdom.

187 - 2 Corinthians 5:19 - God in Christ

God in Christ

God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.
2 Corinthians 5:19

The hour of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth was that in which the Light that lighteth every man came into the world. To describe the event in terms which suggest its value in the economy of God, I should be inclined to speak of it as the last crisis in the Divine procedure. By last, I do not mean to suggest that there will be no other, but rather that there has been none since.

Every student of the Bible will recognize that God's methods with man have been ever those of process and of crisis. Long periods of preparation have led up to some moment when, by a new and independent activity on His part, a new departure in human history has been made.

Without staying to argue that, at any length we must recognize, if we read the Scriptures carefully, that this has been the method of God in all human history and in all creation. Just as in the poetry and accuracy of the first chapters in our Bible we see some Divine act that we cannot perfectly understand, leading on to processes which we can follow, until we reach another crisis, when there is another act full of mystery followed by succeeding processes, so not only in creation, but also through all God's dealings with men, this process is discoverable. And so far as Scripture has revealed anything of the future, it clearly leads us to expect that the next crisis will be that of the second advent of our Lord. Today, we are living in that period of process which lies between the last crisis, that of the first advent, and the next crisis, that of the second advent.

If I were asked for the briefest declaration of Scripture, setting forth the meaning of the Christian economy, including these advents and all that lies between them, both as to its method and its purpose, I should not hesitate to quote this text: "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself."

While not dealing in detail with the mystery of the method of the first advent, while not describing in detail the processes of the life of Jesus, while not describing in detail the processes of the years multiplying themselves into centuries, and the centuries into millenniums following that advent, and while not dealing in detail with the mystery of the method of the second advent, it gathers the whole fact into one brief and comprehensive declaration, "God was in Christ"—that is the method; "reconciling the world unto Himself"—that is the purpose.

Our purpose in this meditation is to dwell upon the method, referring only to that purpose of reconciliation so far as is necessary for our interpretation and full understanding of the method.

"God was in Christ." That is the initial and supreme wonder of our holy religion. I am anxious, that I may be able by the Spirit of God, to lead you a little beyond the first and simplest things, to the profounder sublimities of the first advent. We speak of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, and that alone is a wonderful story. But I am anxious that we should recognize that in the birth of Jesus of Nazareth there was something far more wonderful than the birth of a man, far more remarkable than the coming into human life of another human being. That assuredly did happen, infinite though the mystery may be, and forevermore transcending our comprehension of how He was human, and yet more. Nevertheless, the fact abides that the birth of Jesus was much more than the birth of a man.

While our eyes are fixed in meditation, and in adoration, upon the Child held in His mother's arms in helplessness, having gold, and frankincense, and myrrh offered to Him by the Persian Magi, which He at the moment, in His simple humanity, did not understand the value of, yet, let us recognize that we are gazing upon One in Whom God is beginning a new movement and a new method. Our eyes are allowed to rest for a moment in imagination upon the Person of a little Child, of Whom the deepest and profoundest truth is declared in the words of my text, "God was in Christ."

Let us first think, in a few brief and quiet moments, of a preliminary matter. What was the position of the world without that Christ? What did men know of God, or what could they know of Him apart from Christ? Secondly, we will turn to the more positive consideration of this declaration, "God was in Christ." Finally, in one word of application, we will consider the declared purpose of the mystery, "reconciling the world unto Himself."

Our first consideration then, which is preliminary, and of the nature of background to the foreground of consideration, is that of human thought about God, apart from Christ. Theologians have told us that man's thoughts of God are necessarily anthropomorphic. May I put that into another sentence? Man's thoughts of God are necessarily the result of man's consciousness of himself. Man does—and now I use the word man in its generic and broadest sense—man does think of God; and, thinking of God, he does so upon the basis of his own personality and consciousness. There can be no escape from this; man can only argue of God from what he is in himself, and every idea of Deity that possesses the mind of men—and will you allow that word possesses now to be a perpetually present tense, having application to past and present conceptions—results from this one line of activity. Man projects into immensity the fact of his own personality, and calls the result God. I do not care for the moment whether you think of the most depraved or degraded form of religion, using the terms of our usual speech, or whether you think of your own religion; the same thing is true.

All our conceptions of God, to go back to the word of the theologians, are anthropomorphic. I am not speaking, of course, of a man as he appears to his brother men. I am not speaking of that which is external, and physical, and material, and unimportant—transient, and therefore not important, and only in that sense unimportant. I am speaking of man in the essential facts of his personality. And man does necessarily take these essential facts, when he thinks of another Being, and project them into immensity. His conception of that other Being, greater than himself, is that, nevertheless, of his own nature, it is created on the pattern of his own personality.

Think of the essentials of human life, and I am going to take the very simplest—the essentials of which every child is conscious. The first word of human consciousness is "I am," and when that word of human consciousness is analyzed, these are the terms of its expression: "I know," that is mind; "I will," that is choice; "I can," that is force. These are the simplest things of human consciousness. Man takes these ideas of experience, and projects them into immensity, and so constructs his idea of God. Mind, infinite knowledge; will, supreme choice and consequent government; force, absolute ability. These things underlie all streams of religious thinking. Wherever religion has placed at its center, personality as Deity, it has been because man has taken of himself, and has imagined something of the same pattern, the same nature, the same kind, but vaster and greater.

Now mark what man has been doing. In every case, apart from Christ and apart from His ministry, man has projected himself into immensity, and consequently, he has projected into immensity all that is in himself. In every case, therefore, there has been an amplification of failure. Self-centered life flung out into immensity postulates a self-centered God. All the things of human limitation, resulting from human sin, abide in human conceptions of God, apart from that which has come into the world through Christ. An enlarged conception of mind, an enlarged conception of knowledge, based upon man's own consciousness of knowledge, which is limited, creates an imperfect conception of knowledge. Man has never come, apart from Christ, to a consciousness of full and final and perfect knowledge of God and consequently, man persists in his attempts to deceive God. When man attempts to deceive God, he, by that very action, reveals the fact that he does not believe that God knows all and perfectly.

The whole system of sacrificial worship in other religions is that of attempting to persuade God to change His mind, and alter the method of His procedure.

Or, if man thinks of will, his will is capricious and revengeful, and he flings that out into immensity, and his conception of God is upon the pattern of what he is in himself.

Consequently, in all religions other than the Christian, through all the ages, the deities postulated are grotesque representations of humanity. The underlying ideals revealed in the deities referred to in the Old Testament—Moloch, Baal and Mammon—continue this statement; the deification of the emotional in Moloch, of the intellectual in Baal, of force and power in Mammon. In every case, at the back is a human being, and the monster that is worshiped is but the projection into infinity of the failure of the human being.

The gods of ancient Greece and Rome, or the gods men worship today—sensuous gods, vindictive gods, lazy gods, trivial gods—prove the same truth. We only know these things because we see them in another light. We see these gods by comparison with the one God Who has been revealed to us.

But when, apart from revelation, man seeks a deity, he evolves his conception of deity from himself; he must think of that being upon the pattern of what he is in himself. And so, to make the illustration simple, given a man trying to think of God, he thinks of himself, and then of someone as himself, but vaster; but the things he sees in himself, his evil as well as his good, the wrong as well as the right, the meanness as well as the nobility, are all present in his god, and the visions of men apart from the Christian religion are filled with deities, grotesque and enlarged limitations of man in his failure and in his sin.

My youngest friend will allow me a simple illustration, and the older ones will be patient. You have but to think of a magic lantern. Here you have a small picture, and you look at it, and on it is the figure of a man. You put it in the lens, and away yonder on the sheet is the same man, magnified. But it is the same man, it is the same picture, and if here in the lens the picture be that of a man twisted and distorted and grotesque, the picture there on the sheet is twisted and distorted and grotesque. That is exactly what men have done in their creation of gods. Take all the gods of the heathen world and trace the lines, and you will find they are focused in the men who imagined them.

But, you tell me we have grown away from these ideas; you tell me there are a great many men in the world today who do not claim to be Christian, who yet have a wonderfully true and accurate idea of God, of His uprightness, and beneficence, and tenderness, and holiness; you tell me there are men who will not accept the Christian doctrine of incarnation, who yet have a beautiful ideal of God. I know it, but whence came it? Every advance in man's conceptions of deity is Christian, even though the men who hold the new and higher view do not name themselves Christian.

It is almost a grotesque way to state it, and yet you will catch my meaning, when I say that I am perpetually inclined to say to the men who have these high and noble ideals of Deity, but who deny my Christ, what Samson said to the Philistines: "If ye had not plowed with my heifer, Ye had not found out my riddle."

In the light of these considerations, we turn to the declaration of the text, "God was in Christ." This, then, is the meaning of incarnation. God answers the human necessity; enshrines Himself in humanity; thinks, speaks, chooses, acts through human channels; comes into the very midst of human history, after man had begun to write that history; and thus gave humanity the one and only Man from Whom the lines flung out into immensity include God as He really is.

All that was found in the perfect manhood of Jesus may be projected, and the result will be the truth about God. Fall back if you will upon my simple illustration of the camera. See in this same picture of your New Testament that which you put into the lens, and when the light shining through it projects the figure full of truth and unsullied splendour on the canvas, I see God. Every line is a line of beauty, and every expression of the face is full of beneficence, and yet of righteousness. I come back to this Man of the New Testament, and I follow Him and watch Him, and I take the things I see and fling them out, and I find God. I will take, for illustration, these selfsame things to which I have made reference—the mind, and the will, and the force. Now I must leave you to wander at will, through these gospel stories, and I hope some of you may, and watch the working of the mind of the Master, anywhere and anytime; and when you do so, let the lines pass out until they fill the infinite spaces, and you will have found the working of the mind of God. Observe Him in the hour of His choices, anywhere and anytime, and then fling the lines out into immensity, and you have discovered the good and perfect and acceptable will of God. Mark every effort of Jesus, every putting forth of strength. See it in its purpose, watch it in its method, observe it in its victory, and fling the lines out, and you will find that He is vindicated in what He said. "My Father worketh even until now, and I work." There is perfect harmony between the two.

Mark well the mind of Jesus in its essence by observing its activities; it encompassed vast eternities, and compressed him into the simple speech of childhood. I have taken up an old sea-shell, and have put it to my ear, being told when I was a boy that if I would I could hear the ocean. Of course I heard it; the shell was made by the ocean, fashioned by the ocean, was of the ocean, and the ocean of the atmosphere repeated the action of the atmosphere of the ocean, and I heard the sweep and the music of the sea in the shell. Quite reverently—the figure is an imperfect one, I know—I put my ear and listen when this Man speaks, and He speaks in little words, all human language: "Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls." Oh, my masters, put that shell to your ear this morning, and the infinite speech of eternity is singing itself through your soul, and as you obey you find rest.

So there came into human history two thousand years ago, a Man through Whose personality, whether of mind, or of will, or of force, I fling the lines out into immensity, and the result is God. A new revelation of man has resulted in a new revelation of God.

At the back of all the activity of this Man, love was the motive. The expression of His activity was service rendered to others, and all the way I see Him flaming in white hot anger against everything that bruises and hurts; and whether I watch Him taking children in His arms and blessing them, or watch Him when in quiet dignity He pronounces the eight woes upon a guilty city, it is ever the vision of God that is breaking on my life. "God was in Christ," and what is the result? We have found God, and He is a God of joy and a God of sorrow, a God intimately interested in all the details of human life, a God forever active; and all these things I have come to know through the Child, and Boy, and Youth, and Man of Nazareth.

Did I say that God answered man's method, that man's method is that of projecting man into immensity, and God adopted it? And did the way in which I said that make it appear as though God were turning from His own first purpose, and accommodating Himself to human failure? By no means. That is God's return to first purpose. He made man in His own image and after His own likeness. And man, true to himself, might have flung out upon the canvas of eternity his own image, and have found God. The most intimate relationship existed between man and God in the Divine economy. But, when man shut his eyes to the farflung vision, and began to live as though that upon the earth which was material was the whole of himself, then he became distorted, iniquitous—exactly the same meaning is in the two words—sinful, sensual; and then, lifting his eyes to the heavens, were shadows indeed, and all his knowledge of God was based upon the knowledge of his fallen self, and was evil. But in Christ, we have the very effulgence of His brightness, and when all that He is in humanity is seen and enlarged, we have found God.

And one final word as to the purpose, "reconciling the world unto Himself." Man's misconceptions of God have resulted in man's hatred of God. I want you, if you will, to think of that, and think of it carefully. You tell me that the carnal mind is enmity against God, and I agree with you. But I ask you, Why is the carnal mind at enmity against God? And from the very letter of Paul that declares that the carnal mind is enmity against God, I make another quotation. The carnal mind does not know God, nor can it. It is at enmity against God. Yea, verily, I need not argue it; I need not argue it in London. But whence the enmity? The enmity is the outcome of ignorance. You say we are far away from the idolatry of our Hebrew Bible, with its Baal and Moloch and Mammon. I am not sure, but I will not press that. We are far away from the idolatries of ancient Greece and Rome. Again I am not sure, but I will not argue it. But you are not far away, or humanity is not far away from its hatred of God. It does not express itself in brutal and vulgar language always. It expresses itself in the West End in the fact that the name of God is tabooed, and you must not mention Him. Men do not love God. Why not? They do not know Him. The old German sang well and truly, and you remember Wesley's magnificent translation:—

   O God, of good the unfathomed sea,
   Who would not give his heart to Thee?
   
And whenever a man gets that vision of God, he gives his heart and everything else to Him.

But though humanity has had a revelation of God in incarnation, the incarnation as revelation does not reconcile men to God, neither can it. The birth of Jesus was the birth of a Man perfect in Himself, but other men will not be reconciled by that birth. The old prophet saw far beyond his own age, and I quote you his language: "When we see Him there is no beauty that we should desire Him." Do you imagine for a single moment that the prophet meant that there would be no beauty in the Servant of God when He came? I do not so read the prophecy. There was no beauty that would appeal to men. Why not? Because they are blind and cannot see. And here is the root of the trouble with the world.

"God was in Christ" is a great word, the meaning of which is not exhausted by the birth and life of Jesus. We must go on, and include the cross. The cradle demands the cross; or else I have seen a Man, strangely other than I am, and I shall hate Him because His purity rebukes my impurity, and His spacious, spiritual and eternal conceptions are a perpetual rebuke to my clinging to the dust of my materialism and the devilish sin that I love. Such hatred was the cause of His crucifixion. That is why they crucified Him.

And then, to face another mystery as infinite as the first, God in man suffered, as man apart from God suffers. And out of that came the fulfilment of all that began on the morning of the birth of Jesus. And when at last, by the infinite mystery of that dying, the life of that selfsame Christ is communicated to men, they see Him as they had never seen Him, and they find God as they had never found Him, and in the vision there is at once illumination and energy.

So that brethren—let us remember this also—while we sing our carols at Christmastide and rejoice in the presence of the Child, not by His coming, not by the beauty of His Babyhood, the strength of His Manhood, the glory of His moral character are we saved, but by that final mystery to which this all led, the mystery of His cross; and by the way of His death I find my way back into His life for illumination and for energy. It is thus that we find God, and not only find Him intelligently, but find Him in victorious relationship and fellowship; and, to use the daring and marvelous and awe-inspiring language of Peter, we are made "partakers of the Divine nature."

And so we have attempted to look a little beneath the surface, and have been compelled ultimately to look at something infinitely beyond the birth and life of Jesus. We know God through Jesus. No other interpretation is correct. How important then that we should know the Christ and know Him intimately. And to do it, brethren, we must begin at His cross. He is known, not by outward contemplation, but by inward revelation; and that inward revelation comes to the men who meet Him at the one trysting-place He has provided—His cross. And so I leave you at the cross, for there we must begin, and by the mystery of its cleansing tide and its regenerating forces we come into sympathy with Jesus, the Man of Nazareth, and find our God, and so our peace.

188 - 2 Corinthians 7:1 - Holiness: Conditions 

Holiness:  Conditions

Having therefore these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
2 Corinthians 7:1

In the first study in this series on Holiness I attempted to answer the inquiry, Is holiness of character possible in the present life? declaring that the New Testament affirms its possibility. We now take one step further, and consider the teaching of the New Testament concerning the conditions on which we may live the life of holiness.

We already have insisted that according to New Testament teaching holiness is a condition of character. It is not necessarily the consummation of character. In other words, holiness is perfect health of soul rather than its ultimate perfection.

Starting with the great declaration made in the prophecy of Zechariah concerning the mission of the coming Messiah, that "He shall deliver us from our enemies, that we may serve Him in holiness and righteousness," we sought to discover both the difference and the relationship between holiness and righteousness. Holiness is rectitude of character. Righteousness is rectitude of conduct. Holiness as rectitude of character is the possible present experience of the children of God because it is the will of their Father that they should be holy; because in order to make them holy Christ came: and because the object of the Spirit's work in them is the realization of that good, and perfect, and acceptable will of God. At the close of last Sunday morning's service one of my deacons drew my attention to a very remarkable and beautiful definition of holiness from the pen of John Morley. I want to read it to you. It appears in the latest volume of Miscellanies:

It is not the same as duty; still less is it the same as religious belief. It is a name for an inner grace of nature, an instinct of the soul, by which, though knowing of earthly appetites and worldly passions, the spirit, purifying itself of these, and independent of all reason, argument, and the fierce struggles of the will, dwells in living, patient, and confident communion with the unseen Good.

When you have written Good you have written God: when you have written God you have written Good. Mr. Morley writes Good where we would write God. I have no desire to discuss the attitude of Mr. Morley. Such writing as that bids me forevermore suspend my judgment. I do not believe we are so far apart as some imagine. That is the finest brief exposition of what holiness is that I have ever seen. Nevertheless, what is not told me in that exposition is what I supremely Want to know. Is holiness an instinct of the soul in some, and therefore forevermore impossible to others? How can I get into such "living, patient, and confident communion with the unseen Good" as to enable me in the spirit to purify myself of earthly appetites and worldly passions, and so live in the power of that unseen grace? The description is a beautiful one. It is the description of a man who has seen; but there is no explanation of how a struggling, sin-sick soul like myself can find its way into that experience. I am not criticizing Mr. Morley. He made no attempt to unlock the secret. He described the grace. It is, however, at this point that Christianity delivers its central message, and it is here that I find the supreme and lonely splendor of the Christian religion. It comes to men who are in all respects unlike that description, and declares to them that they also can be made holy, and that not by effort of the will, not by struggling as within themselves. How, then? The answer to that inquiry is the theme of this meditation.

"Having therefore these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." This verse stands as the first of the seventh chapter in our Bible; but it ought not to be the first verse of a new chapter; it is the completion of the previous chapter. Its central injunction is "let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit"; the basis of the apostolic appeal is, "Having therefore these promises"; the issue of the cleansing enjoined is, "perfecting holiness in the fear of God." Let us turn to the basis of appeal. It is that because by it we are driven to inquiry concerning the promises to which the writer makes reference.

"Having therefore these promises." What promises? We turn to the words at the close of the previous chapter. I take out quite bluntly and somewhat awkwardly the actual promises to which the apostle is making reference. "I will dwell in them.... I will walk in them.... I will be their God.... I will receive you... I will be to you a Father.... you shall be to Me sons and daughters." "Having therefore these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves." These promises fall into two series. The first series reveals the secrets of strength. "I will dwell in them"; God's promise to be resident in His people. "I will walk in them"; the symbolic language that tells that the resident God is also active in His people. "I will be their God"; the final word in the first movement in the series of promises indicating that the God resident and active is governing as Sovereign, as absolute Lord. These are the promises. "I will dwell in them... I will walk in them... I will be their God."

Then the second series in the group indicates the method by which we enter into this experience, "I will receive you... I will be to you a Father." Remember that promise of Fatherhood is not a promise of philanthropy in our sense of the word merely. It is not a promise that God will open an orphanage and act as though He were our Father. That promise has in it all the deep, mysterious, fundamental values of evangelical Christianity. The word of the ancient economy was gracious and beautiful, "Like as a Father pitieth." But this is not that. This is more than that, "I will be a Father." I will give you of My very nature. You shall partake of it, be related to Me by that intimate bond which is the result of regeneration. And "you shall be to Me sons and daughters." "Having therefore these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."

I am very conscious of how hurried and fragmentary a method that is in dealing with the promises. I have gone back to them only that we may remember them. I may summarize them, and make this declaration. In order to perfect holiness by fulfilling the personal responsibility of putting away all defilement of flesh and spirit, there must first be the immanent and indwelling God. Where that is so human responsibility begins in the matter of holiness. In other words, I have no right to speak to a man whose whole life is being lived away from, apart from, in rebellion against, God, and charge him to be holy. He has no responsibility concerning holiness. He cannot be holy. To the children of God the appeal may be made. To those who have been received, to those to whom He has become in the new and mystic and gracious and spacious sense of the New Testament a Father, to those who are in very deed His sons and daughters, partakers of His life, sharers of His nature, heirs of all that He is, to those there is responsibility—we must begin there. It seems to me that such a declaration is at once a word full of comfort, and a word that burns and searches and scorches like a fire. Have we struggled along after this ideal of holiness—whether we call it by that name or not matters very little? Have we seen something of the fair vision described in the paragraph I read to you from the pen of a man who honestly, sincerely, is not sure of the things which we do most surely believe? Have we seen the vision, have we struggled after it, but never attained to it? Then let us earnestly inquire whether we have ever begun at the right point by the reception of the life of God. On the other hand, are we indeed struggling after the ideal, knowing that we are children of God? Then let us take heart, "Having therefore these promises." Yet we must not forget that there is the process, "let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." The first great necessity is personal, actual, definite relationship with God. The indwelling God is the secret of holiness in human character, and consequently also the energy of righteousness in human conduct.

These things being granted, let us now consider this injunction, "let us cleanse ourselves." What are the conditions upon which we may do this. They have often been enumerated. I do not propose to do any other than to take certain old words of which we have all made use for very many years. These are the conditions. Conviction, renunciation, surrender, and faith. The first is the reason of the rest. The last is the power in which the others are carried out.

Let us leave the central two, and take the first and last, conviction and faith. In certain senses they are identical. Still, the two words do indicate two phases of the one tremendous fact. Conviction is the first thing, and conviction is faith. Yet there may be conviction without that activity of faith which brings us into the realization of all that which our heart is seeking. Faith is conviction, but it is conviction active. The faith that saves, faith in the initial stages of the Christian life and all the process of discipline of Christian life is not conviction merely; but yielding to, obedience to, abandonment to conviction. Where conviction is answered by active obedience, there you have faith that brings into living contact with all the resources of power. There are certain things that one is compelled to repeat again and again in very many connections. The faith that saves is not faith about, but faith into. Those familiar with the Greek New Testament will remember how perpetually we have the use of the preposition eis with the accusative, which indicates motion into. Belief into is more than belief about. Belief about is conviction. Belief into is conviction compelling activity. Belief about is conviction of the light. Belief into is walking in the light. There must first be conviction if there is to be holiness. There must also be faith, that is, obedience to conviction.

Now the two words, "renunciation" and "surrender," are valuable because they indicate the activity of faith following upon conviction. Conviction is God's gift. It comes like a flash of lightning to the soul of man, unsought, unexpected, uncompelled by mental activity. The great conviction comes in the midst of a service, comes in the silence of our own home, comes when and where we least expect it. I recently had a conversation with one who told me she had been brought up in another faith, in a home that knows nothing of Christ and will not have anything to do with Him. She read, The Wide, Wide World, years ago, and there was born in her heart the conviction that it was desirable to be as good as Ellen. It was forbidden her to read or know anything about Christ, but some years after she read Emerson's essays. Again she saw this selfsame Christ, saw Him portrayed as perfect Man. Then said she, "I will read my New Testament on that basis. I will not think of Him as Christ but as a great man." So she read the New Testament. When she put it down she said, "He is not merely a man, but my Lord and my God." Conviction came when she read The Wide, Wide World. It was a strange way. I am not advising anyone to look for conviction in fiction. But God does avail Himself of many ways. Through that book there came the conviction of the beauty of holiness to this girl. That is the first thing. It comes in many ways, but it must come.

It is important that we should know what this conviction really means, and therefore we recall the words of Jesus. Speaking of the Spirit of Truth, He said, "He, when He is come, will convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment; of sin, because they believe not on Me; of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye behold Me no more: of judgment, because the prince of this world hath been judged." Mark in the briefest way the meaning of that great declaration. This is the threefold conviction that always precedes holiness. The conviction of sin is conviction as to what it really is, rejection of God. The conviction of righteousness is conviction of its possibility because the Man Jesus has overcome all enemies, and passed triumphantly to the presence of God. The conviction of judgment is conviction of victory. The prince of this world is judged, and therefore all our enemies are defeated. This is the preliminary conviction. I repeat that we cannot compel it. It comes in the darkness of some lonely night, in the midst of the great multitude, by the silent voice of Nature, in the thunder or in the lightning. Until there is that conviction there can be no holiness. I am bound once again to repeat that we cannot compel it. It is the gift of God. I pause resolutely, carefully at this point, for someone will say, For that conviction I am waiting! Are you quite sure? Will you be perfectly honest? Has it not already come? The moment we recognize that this conviction is the gift of God we are in danger of making that fact the way of escape from responsibility. We are in danger of saying that we cannot be holy because we have never had that conviction.

Let us be honest and sincere. In the hidden secret shrine of our inner spiritual life have we not already seen the sinfulness of sin? Has no profound conviction ever come to us of the exceeding beauty of holiness? It may be that as I read that brief extract from John Morley we said, Yes, in the deepest of our souls. If so, that was the hour of conviction, if it had never come before.

That conviction having come, there must be obedience to it. That is faith. Faith, in the presence of sin, expresses itself in renunciation and by surrender. We have read the great promises.

Side by side with the promises, there are injunctions and conditions. These injunctions and conditions teach what is meant by renunciation:

Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers: for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? or what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what portion hath a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement hath a temple of God with idols? for we are a temple of the living God; even as God said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore

   Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord,
   And touch no unclean thing;
   And I will receive you,
   And I will be to you a Father,
   And ye shall be to me sons and daughters.
   
This is not my imagination. This is the word of inspiration.

It is an explanation of the meaning of renunciation, and is closely connected with the great promises. It is a call to renunciation of all known wrong. "Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate," that is, separate from sinning men and women; "touch no unclean thing," that is, renunciation of all known sin. If we would perfect holiness in the fear of God we are called to immediate and irrevocable renunciation of all that we know to be out of harmony with the mind and will of our Lord. Do not let us misplace the emphasis of this word of the apostle, for I think that by so doing we rob it of its strength. He does not say, If you will have no fellowship with evil things you shall become a temple of the living God. His declaration is rather, Have no fellowship with them, because you are the temple of the living God. To me the difference is almost overwhelming in intensity of appeal. If I am told that I am to perfect holiness, that I am to have no fellowship with sin and evil things, in order to become the temple of God, I am filled with fear because I am so weak and frail. That, however, is not the apostolic method. He reminds me, first, of the strength which is mine, and then urges me to Holiness. Because we are temples of God, we are not to desecrate the temple. God is in us. We are not to insult the Indweller by the retention of things that are unlike Him. This is the groundwork of appeal.

Because of these facts we are called on to put away all the things we know to be wrong, in our friendships, in our habits, in our inner thinking. These things must be put away or there can be no perfecting holiness. The threefold definition of sin is very familiar. Sin is transgression of the law. Sin is neglect to do right. The questionable thing is sin whether it have the appearance of good or evil. We are to decide by that threefold definition of sin what things need to be put away. The things we know to be wrong. The things we have neglected to do which are right. The things about which we are doubtful.

Of all these there must be renunciation. "Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate; and touch no unclean thing." There must be no excuse, no compromise, no delay. When we deal with sins God will deal with sin. When we resolutely determine to put away the things we know to be sinful He will purify the center and create in us that grace of holiness which expresses itself in graciousness and rectitude of character.

How are we to know the things that are to be put away? "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine upon thee." This is the testing promise. If we desire to know we must awake from our lethargy, sleep, carelessness; awake from the influence of opiates that have made us lack sensitiveness to the will of our God, awake and put ourselves honestly confronting Christ, and He will shine upon us, and in the shining luster of His glory we shall discover the things that are unlike Him, and those are the things that are to be put away.

No man imagines it is possible to live the holy life if he is resolutely keeping sin in his life, something in his habits, his home, or his business. We know that these things grieve the Lord. We excuse them, and holiness is never perfected, and we lack the grace and loveliness of character which ought to be the testimony to the power of our Lord because we have not yet begun to be determined to renounce the hidden things of darkness and to put out of our lives the things that are unlike our Master.

Beyond renunciation, there must be surrender. By that I mean the yielding of ourselves up to God. In the first letter to these Corinthian Christians the apostle uses these words, "Know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have from God? and ye are not your own; for ye were bought with a price: glorify God therefore in your body." In the letter to the Romans he says, "I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship." I deliberately adopt the marginal reading there. That is a wonderful verse. Study its psychology. "I beseech you... to present your bodies." Your body is not you. The apostle is not dealing with the body, he is dealing with the essential man. Or in the Corinthian epistle, "your body is a temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you... glorify God therefore in your body." You glorify God in it: you are not it: you indwell it. The body is the tabernacle, the tent of the man, not the man. I pray you mark the significance of this, and see the reason for laying emphasis on these two passages. What is surrender? To give myself over to the Lord. That is, all my spiritual life. How am I to do that, or demonstrate that I have done it? By presenting the body in which I dwell. That is spiritual worship. We thought spiritual worship consisted in singing hymns and praying. All these things are spiritual, or should be, but spiritual worship is the body dedicated to the Lord.

   Take my hands, and let them move
   At the impulse of Thy love;
   Take my feet and let them be
   Swift and beautiful for Thee.
   
That is surrender. That is not merely that my hands and feet are at His disposal, but that I am His, and that I indicate to Him and to the world my abandonment by putting the members of my body at His disposal and refusing to allow brain, or heart, or head, or hands, or feet to act save under His command and in His sacred service. The intellect, emotion, will surrendered, and consequently the whole body acting under His direction.

The putting away of the evil thing and surrender to the Lord of the body are the only conditions. Wherever these conditions are fulfilled the promises are fulfilled. "Having therefore these promises"—"I will dwell in them... I will walk in them... I will be their God... I will receive you... I will be to you a Father, and ye shall be to Me sons and daughters." Where the evil thing condemned is put away and the whole life is surrendered, God has His chance. That is what He wants.

Heart of mine, this is the trouble with thee, thou hast not given thy Master His chance. I have locked up some chamber in the temple. I have barred Him from entering into some activity of the mind. I have retained some place in my emotional nature for other than Himself. I have not given Him his chance.

Do we desire the holy life? Here are the conditions. Conviction He gives. That we are to respond to by the faith that renounces evil, puts away sin, abandons the life to Him. Holiness is not realized by my endeavor, but by His working in me, when I have given Him His chance.

May God lead every one of us not merely to conviction, but to the faith that renounces the things He disapproves, and surrenders to Him all that is His by the indwelling of His Spirit.

189 - 2 Corinthians 8:7 - The Grace of Giving a Million Shillings! 

The Grace of Giving a Million Shillings!

See that ye abound in this grace also.
2 Corinthians 8:7

The passages read for our lesson had so evidently a local and immediate application that they seem to have very little value for us. I am glad that the local coloring has faded, because in proportion as that is so the lines which are vital and essential stand out in clearer relief. I need hardly remind you that if a great deal of this is of the nature of faded color, there are things that none of us would care so to describe. For instance, no one would say that the color is faded from this statement, "Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might become rich." Because of that one verse the chapter is worth reading; worth reading if only to see the use the apostle makes of that great truth; for it is a significant fact that the verse with which we are all so familiar, the verse that is enshrined in the very heart of the Christian Church, is one that occurs in the midst of a chapter which we have admitted is full of local coloring. In that fact there is revealed a method of apostolic writing and teaching that I am very anxious we should constantly recognize. These New Testament teachers never dealt with local matters by local methods; they forevermore brought to bear upon the temporal, the eternal. Whenever they touched something that was the subject of a day or of an hour, they did it in the atmosphere and spirit of the eternities. Not merely when they wrote to saints, calling them to the life of full sanctification; not merely when they wrote the great document of human salvation; but when they wrote about the relation between husband and wife, between fathers and children, between masters and servants; and when they had to do with so commonplace a matter as a collection, they adopted the same method. They corrected the wrong things of the passing moment by bringing them to the measurements of the undying ages. All false conduct which they desired to set right, they approached with eternal and abiding principles.

Because I am desirous that we should understand the place of giving in Christian life, I want to speak of the New Testament ideal thereof.

The chapter from which the text is taken clearly sets forth that ideal. The source of Christian giving is suggested in the opening verse, "Brethren, we make known to you the grace of God which hath been given in the churches of Macedonia." The grace of God bestowed upon His people is the source of all giving. The spirit of giving is also revealed. The Macedonian Christians were eager in their desire for fellowship. They gave beyond the expectation of the apostle, in that they gave themselves to God, and then gave themselves to the Lord's service, and consequently, not merely out of their wealth but out of their poverty, they gave more than they were able. The method of giving is revealed in the same words. They gave themselves, and their gifts followed. Finally, the great arguments for giving are stated. The first is that of the things they possessed, "Ye abound in everything." Notice that the everything in the apostolic thinking does not take into account what some men may have lacked, material wealth. "Ye abound in everything, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all earnestness, and in your love to us." Upon the basis of that abounding wealth he appealed to the Corinthian Church, "See that ye abound in this grace also." His final argument is that of the verse which we read, "Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might become rich." The word here translated "poor" occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It is the strongest use of the word that it is possible to make. It indicates absolute pauperism. He became so poor that He had absolutely nothing more to give away. The local coloring has faded, thank God that it has, for the living figures and abiding principles and eternal realities flame upon the page in all the greater brilliance and radiance for the fading of the local colors.

Some five or six years ago, in a Northfield Conference, Mr. John Willis Baer, who was then Secretary for Christian Endeavour for the world, was conducting a question box. He took out of the box the question, "How shall we raise money for Foreign Missions?" His answer was as quick as the crack of a pistol, and as forceful: "Don't raise it, give it." In that answer is the solution of the whole problem which confronts us at the present hour. If funds are lacking to carry on the work of God in the far distant places of the earth, it is because the Church has become so busy raising money that she has ceased to give it.

Every method for raising funds for Missions that is spectacular, worldly, and commercial, I hold to be out of harmony with the will of God, and in the long issues calculated to hinder and not to help. If we can but return to the simple and profound principles of the New Testament in the matter of giving, we shall never have to call a halt, or beckon the workers back, in order that we may close fields into which they have entered because the Church at home is not conscious of an opportunity, or is not ready to sacrifice in order to enter a field.

What is the basic principle of giving? It is declared in one word, which I have already quoted in this chapter. I take it out of its context. It does not belong only to this chapter, for it is stamped upon the pages of the New Testament. It is the word "fellowship." "Beseeching us with much entreaty in regard of this grace and the fellowship." If we may but come to an appreciation of the meaning of that word in all its applications, we shall have touched the profoundest basis. What is fellowship? Those of you who worship here regularly must be patient if I now repeat in this connection what I have said in other connections. The word translated "fellowship" is one of the richest words in the New Testament. So rich in suggestiveness is the Greek word "Koinonia," that not even the revisers found it possible to express it in all connections by one English word. When I take up my New Testament I find the same Greek word is translated "communion, communication, distribution, fellowship." I find, moreover, that its kindred word, "Koinonos," is translated "partaker, partner." Whereas there is something very dull in the repetition of a group of words like that, the very repetition helps us to see the richness of the word. There is one passage in the New Testament which admits us to the heart of its meaning. It occurs in connection with that fascinating picture of the early church, when it is declared that the disciples had "all things in common." The Greek word so translated is the root from which our word fellowship comes. Fellowship with God, therefore, means that God has placed all His resources at our disposal, and that we, dare I say, have placed all our resources at His disposal? I dare not; I dare say only that we ought to place all our resources at His disposal. That is exactly what the apostle meant when he wrote to the Corinthian Christians, "We make known to you the grace of God... ye abound in everything... see that ye abound in this grace also." The grace of God to you is that He has put all His resources at your disposal. Your grace is to be manifested in that you put all your resources at His disposal. That is perfect fellowship. Tell me, if the whole Christian Church understood, and lived in the power of such fellowship, would there be any need to ask the patronage and help of godless men to carry on godly work? Would there be any need whatever to recall from the field loyal hearts who are suffering and serving, but who must be brought home owing to lack of funds? This is the difficulty. God has put all His resources at our disposal, but we have not put our resources at His disposal. That is the foundation principle that ought to underlie all Christian giving.

Let me break up that foundation principle into two working principles: "Ye are not your own; for ye were bought with a price," and "Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." If in the consciousness of fellowship with God, if in the activity of placing at His disposal all our resources, we remember that we ourselves are not our own, but His; and if in all the activities of everyday life we make His glory the one supreme, master-passion, then we are applying these working principles, and we shall find that they will produce all that is needed for the doing of God's work in the world.

The principle for practical application is found in the first passage I read. I think it is well that I read the actual words again. "Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come." To me, to read that, and then to think of the habit of the Church in raising money, is to see how far we have wandered from the apostolic ideal. The only use the churches through this country seem to have today for the preacher is for him to visit them in order that there may be a collection. Out of twenty-five letters I receive asking me to preach, I am safe in saying that twenty of them say, "We are in need of funds, and your visit will enable us to raise them." The apostle says "that no collections be made when I come." In order that it may be so, the true method of giving is stated. The giving of the Christian man is to be personal; let every man. It is to be regular, upon the first day of the week. It is to be perpetually readjusted, according as God has prospered. I hear a great deal about the tithing of incomes. I have no sympathy with the movement at all. A tenth in the case of one man is meanness, and in the case of another man is dishonesty. I know men today who are Christian men in city churches and village chapels, who have no business to give a tenth of their income to the work of God. They cannot afford it. I know other men who are giving one-tenth, and the nine-tenths they keep is doing harm to their souls.

Turning from the principles, I want to say a few words about laws and regulations. We are to arrange our substance as Christian people on the basis of recognition of the fact that all is His. Consequently, it is not that I am to give Him a tenth or a part, and hold the rest to spend according to the dictates of my own desire. The Christian man must recognize that not a tenth, but ten-tenths, belong to God. He has no right to spend anything save in accordance with the Divine will. May I put the case quite simply for the youngest Christian here. Out of my income I am to spend so much on food, clothing, shelter, mental culture, recreation, and all to the glory of God. If the method of my eating is not for the glory of God, then I waste God's money. If the method of my dress is not according to the glory of God, then I violate the principle of Christian life and of Christian giving. I must do all to the glory of God. In order to be giving directly and immediately to the actual work of God, therefore, there must be a recognition of stewardship, and that means careful disbursement, not only of your hundreds and thousands, or millions, but of your pence and shillings. We have no right to disburse money without investigation. If your conscience is not at rest about a society, you have no right to buy off a collector with a subscription. We need a new sense of stewardship in the heart and conscience of Christian people in all of this matter.

If we lift this whole question on to this level, certain things will happen. First of all, we shall be forever at an end of spasmodic giving in this missionary matter. When once the Church comes to the sense of responsibility on the basis of fellowship, and on the principle of stewardship, we shall never again hear of the annual missionary Sunday. The whole of our churches are under the curse and ban of it, both in regard to information, inspiration, and giving. Systematic and regular giving will cancel all spasmodic giving, which creates crises, and hinders the work of God.

Again, if these principles once be recognized and acted upon, there will be an end forever of that carelessness which never readjusts conditions. There is someone who has been giving to a missionary collector a guinea subscription for the last twenty years. Twenty years ago that man's income was not a fifth of what it is today, yet he is going on in the same way, a guinea a year! To come to the consideration of these things in the light of the New Testament ideal, will mean constant readjustment, sometimes lessening your giving in honesty, or increasing it in response to the increasing prosperity of the days.

If in the Christian Church at this hour, in this country, there could but be the realization of this New Testament ideal and these New Testament principles, the result would be that of making forever unnecessary all questionable methods of raising money. What is the reason that the missionary societies lack funds? Is it that the Church lacks fulness of life? Or is it that the Church has become lamentably ignorant of New Testament teaching? Or is it both? Are not these two things very closely interrelated?

In a word or two let me illustrate the application of these principles. I maintain that every Christian Church should put first things first. I maintain that it is of the very essence of the Church's life that the first of her income should be spent, not on herself but on the work of her Lord, and not on the work of her Lord at her doors, but on the work of her Lord in the far distant places of the earth. It is not for any reason of sentiment or purpose of boastfulness, but because we believe it is the Divine order, that out of all collections taken in this church the first tenth is set aside for missionary work. As I say to my friends in the provinces when they come to Westminster and put a sovereign on the plate, two shillings of it goes to missionary work beyond our own borders.

There is a peril in that which we need to recognize and avoid. The peril is that when this is done the Christian men and women in the church may imagine that their individual responsibility is fulfilled. By no means. I pray you think carefully; if we had not tithed our income for these three years would you have given any less to the collection? I trow not. Your giving has been the giving of your worship, your expression of gratitude to God for the benefits He has conferred upon you. The giving of the tithe is the giving of the corporate church, and not the giving of the individual members. Think of it carefully, and see that your individual responsibility abides. Tithing of collections must not be allowed to weaken personal responsibility.

As in the church life first things should be put first, so also in personal stewardship, first things must be put first. Note that the Corinthians did this. Paul says, "Now concerning the collection." When? Immediately after the great passage on the resurrection, the chapter of the final issues of Christ and Christianity, the chapter that climbs the heights until the challenge to death is heard; "O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? The sting of death is sin; and the power of sin is the law: but thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not vain in the Lord. Now concerning the collection." Put the collection in the full tide of your spiritual life. Put the collection in full relationship to the highest, noblest doctrines of the faith. Hold your offering in the supernal light of the resurrection of the Son of God. Put your giving in relation to the life that was won out of death.

The inspiration of giving must be the grace of God, the love of God. There comes back to me a story, I cannot forbear telling it even though perchance I may have told it before, because it had such an effect upon my own life. Hudson Taylor told me this story the last time I saw him in this world, the story of how, long years ago, there came into his room, on his birthday morning, his own little girl, and she brought in her hand a most mysterious-looking arrangement, so mysterious that Hudson Taylor did not at all know what it was. She said, I have brought you a birthday present. He took it in his hand and looked at it. It was a matchbox, into one end of which she had driven a knitting needle, and into the other end a pin, and had somehow fastened some cotton to the pin and to the top of the knitting needle. Being only a man, and not a mother, he said to his girlie, "Well, darling, what is this?" "Oh, father dear," she said, "I knew it was what you would like. It is a missionary ship."

There is the whole philosophy of Christian giving. The heart of the child knew full well the love of her father's heart, knew that the thing he most longed to possess was a ship, and she made one for him. There is no one in this congregation who will dare to laugh at that missionary ship.

The years passed, and there came a day when the girl had grown to womanhood, and once again she came to her father in China on his birthday, and she said, "Father dear, I have brought you something for your birthday," and he said, "What is it?" She continued, "I want to introduce to you the first Chinese woman that God has used me to lead to Christ." The potentiality of that Chinese convert lay in that matchbox, knitting needle and pin.

There is the plane of Christian giving. What does God want? What is His heart set upon? Before every present you buy which is worth anything, you say: I wonder what he wants. I wonder what would please her. That is the true genius of giving. That is what the child did before she made the ship. Such giving comes out of real love.

If we could but get the Church here! If instead of desiring to keep up an appearance of respectability there were a great, passionate, surging love for God and the things that God loves, all our financial problems would be at an end, and then as young men and maidens come up and ask to be sent out—and they are coming all the time—we would not have to tell them there is no place for them, no method of training them, but out of the fulness of funds we could get them ready, and send them forth to the work of evangelizing the world.

My last word to you is of our own Society in this respect. Doubtless many of you know that the London Missionary Society is asking that before the last day of March there should be given to it from the churches of our order a million shillings. I know perfectly well how easily people say, Another appeal! and down it goes into the waste-paper basket.

I wish you would think about that appeal. What does it mean? It is an appeal for money to wipe out a deficiency which at the present moment is £37,000, and before the end of the year in all probability will be £50,000. How has this deficiency come about? I reply at once, the deficiency is due to the success of the work. The deficiency is due to the fact that God has answered prayer and blessed the workers. We have sent forth workers into the distant fields. They have succeeded. If they had failed there would be no deficiency. I want you to think carefully of this when you are facing the subject of missionary giving, that planting a missionary, or a mission station, means not merely the amount needed to support him or it for a year, but more the next year, and more the following year if he succeeds. I have in my hand an article which appears in the January number of the London Missionary Society's Chronicle, in connection with this appeal, which I propose quoting to you. It puts the whole case in a nutshell. The writer says:—

The deficits have occurred because the Board has been sanguine enough to "Budget for a Rise" in its income, which "rise" has not been realized, at least to the extent anticipated. But surely, after such experience, twice or thrice repeated, this habit of "Budgeting for a Rise" ought to have been discredited? Well, the Directors have, after all, but afforded another example of the triumph of Hope over Experience. Though having had experience that the income had not risen as expected, they still hoped that it would do so. Who can blame them for persisting, at least for a while, in the belief that the churches would not allow the rose tree to be cut down on the very day when it was blooming?

That is the whole story of the deficiency. Do not blame the Mission House. You business men, if you are at all anxious about the Mission House, investigate its methods and discover that the cost of administration in the London Missionary Society is under two shillings in the pound, which amount includes all secretaries' salaries, the whole administration, and the cost of all the literature issued. It is a smaller amount than is spent by any of the other large Missionary Societies. Do not blame the Mission House. Do not blame the missionaries for succeeding. Blame the Church, that she is out of fellowship with her Lord, that she is not true to the doctrine of fellowship, that while God has placed all His resources at her disposal, she has not placed all her resources at His disposal.

Supposing these million shillings are not forthcoming, what then? The result must be curtailment. There must be the closing of some part of the field that we are at present occupying. It means cutting down the rose tree somewhere in the day of its blossoming! Is that to be our reply to the opening doors of opportunity?

I came, as you know, back to my work this winter from one month spent in going to different places on this great missionary enterprise. When I went out for that month's campaign, I stipulated, as did my brethren, that I was not to talk about money. I did that because I believed, as I still do believe, that the true way of dealing with the financial problem is by deepening the spiritual life of the Christian Church; but when the hour has come that the Board has to consider whether it must cease work begun, and call men and women home, in the name of God, it is time we spoke of finance; and I have tried to put this subject where I think it ought to be put, on the highest level and on the profoundest foundations.

And what does it all come to in the end? What is to be the reply of this congregation to that appeal? In the light of that appeal, as it covers the churches of England and Wales, before the end of March, in addition to the subscriptions of our members, in addition to the tithe, we at Westminster ought to send to the Mission House £200. It could be done, it will be done without any difficulty, if we all will put this matter on the basis of the New Testament ideals. Let no youth or maiden, no man or woman, who can only give out of poverty, withhold the shilling because it is only a shilling, and let those whom God has blessed with more, exercise that same function of stewardship, and give as in the presence of your Lord.

To me it would be almost heartbreaking if we had to close any field, or call back any workers when as never before the Master is opening up the world and bidding us enter in. It would be to the great joy of my heart if this congregation made its response without any organized collecting. I very much shrink from that. I hope it will not be necessary. If we will all send in our penny or sixpence, or shilling, or pounds, or scores or hundreds of pounds, during the next three months it will be easily accomplished.

I do desire that at Westminster, where God has so graciously blessed us, we shall make our response to our Society and help them at this time.

I thank you for the patience with which you have heard me. Believe me, I have spoken out of my heart. I now leave the matter with you.

190 - 2 Corinthians 11:5 - The Great Apostle 

The Great Apostle

I am not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.
2 Corinthians 11:5

This claim of Paul occurs in the midst of which he was evidently ashamed, but which was necessary in defense of truth. There is no surer sign of modesty than the absence of mock modesty. When a man is able to boast in vindication of his appointment to service by his Lord he proves his humility.

The greatness of Paul as an apostle is now conceded, yet during his exercise of the apostolic vocation he had perpetually to defend his right to the title. In his letters, sometimes with a touch of satire, he defended his apostleship against the misunderstanding—that is the kindest word to use—of the other apostles. In the Galatian letter he declared that he went up to Jerusalem and gained nothing from them. He referred to those whom he found there as persons "who were reputed to be somewhat," then absolutely denied that they ministered to him in any way, either by original authority, or subsequent counsel. He received his Gospel from his Master. He received his commission from his master. He did his work under his master's immediate direction. He remitted his case and cause to his master's judgment.

In defense of his apostleship he always adopted two lines of argument. First, he insisted upon his Divine appointment. Second, he claimed that the fulfilment in his ministry of the true apostolic function proved that Divine appointment.

Wherein lay the greatness of this apostle? The simplest and most inclusive answer to that inquiry is to be found in a statement of the deepest facts of His life in its relation to Christ. I desire now to make that statement quite briefly and only by way of introduction, for I propose another method of approaching the subject. I cannot, however, entirely pass over these fundamental and inclusive matters.

The greatness of the apostle was created in the first place by the absoluteness of his surrender to Jesus. On the way to Damascus, surprised, startled, and stricken to the earth by the revelation of the living Christ, he in one brief and simple question handed over his whole life to Jesus. "What shall I do, Lord?"

The greatness of Paul as an apostle is further to be accounted for by his attitude, consequent upon that surrender, toward all the things of his former life. "What things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ."

Finally, his greatness is to be accounted for by the resulting experience which he crystallized into one brief sentence, "To me to live is Christ."

These things being stated and granted, I desire to consider certain attitudes of the mind of this man which reveal the strength which made him the great apostle, the pattern missionary for all time. These attitudes of mind are revealed, not so much by the formal statements of his writings, as by the incidental and almost unconscious utterances thereof. I particularly desire to make clear my own discrimination between these two things. In his letters there are certain paragraphs which are formal statements concerning himself. I do not propose turning to these for this reason—I say this with all respect to Paul, and with recognition of the fact that these are inspired writings—men do not reveal themselves in their formal utterances half so clearly as in their incidental words.

I have recently been going through the writings of Paul, and gathering out some of the incidental things he uttered concerning himself. I propose to take seven of them, without any set sequence or order, hoping the effect may be cumulative, helping to an understanding of the attitudes of mind which made this man a great apostle.

The deepest thing in human personality is not mind, but spirit. The spiritual life of Paul commenced when he said, "What shall I do, Lord?" was continued when he said, "What things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ"; was perfected as Christ was formed in him and shone out through his life. That is the spiritual fact. I desire now to deal with the mental, that is, with the attitudes of mind which were natural to him, and which were baptized by the Spirit into life and fire and power.

I

In the midst of his classic passage on love, he declared, "Now that I am become a man, I have put away childish things" Comparing love with knowledge, and showing how knowledge passes away, the richer and fuller forevermore making obsolete the smaller and the incomplete, by way of illustration he wrote, "Now that I am become a man, I have put away childish things," or, more literally, "I have made an end of childish things." In that declaration there is revealed an attitude of mind, consisting of a sense of proportion. It is a recognition of the fact that the ways of a child are right for a child, but that the ways of a child are wrong for a man. There are men who when they become men do not put away childish things. There are people who make advance in certain directions, and carry up with them into the raw region of their life things which ought to have been left behind. Should the butterfly cling to the shell in which it had been but a grub, what disaster! When it became a butterfly, it put away the things of the former life. "Now that I am become a man, I have put away childish things." That is to say, toys gave place to tools. Playtime was succeeded by worldtime. Instruction began to express itself in construction. This is a principle of greatness in all Christian service, and lack of it is inimical to progress. It is a sense of proportion and readiness to answer new conditions whenever they arise.

II

My second illustration is taken from the Galatian letter, "I conferred not with flesh and blood." That is a revelation of the sense of spiritual compulsion. He had already declared that he had received a double unveiling of Jesus Christ. Mark the twofold fact. Christ was unveiled to him, and in him. He had seen a vision of Christ external to himself on the way to Damascus, and he had seen a vision of Christ as part of his inner, deepest and profoundest life. That vision, that unveiling of Jesus Christ, became the master principle of his life. In a moment all the lower motives were canceled. The spiritual truth breaking in upon his soul by the revealing of Christ to him and the revealing of Christ in him came not only as light but as fire, not only illuminating, but destroying every other motive that existed within.

Now mark the fine scorn of his word, "I conferred not with flesh and blood," that is to say, material motives at their very highest and best were forevermore out of court and out of count. "I conferred not with flesh and blood," quite literally, I did not take advice from flesh and blood, I did not take counsel with flesh and blood, did not seek the guidance of flesh and blood. First, his own flesh and blood. He never took counsel with his material life from the moment when God revealed His Son in him. He took counsel with the revealed Son. He did not take counsel with the apostles of flesh and blood. He took counsel only with the spiritual truth which had broken upon him through the inner and spiritual conception of Christ.

III

Turn to another of these declarations, "I know how to be abased and I know also how to abound." That is a sense of detachment from circumstances. Did ever apostle pass through more varied circumstances than this one? Was ever man less affected by them than he was?

This is not the detachment of absence. That is the ascetic, monastic ideal which is anti-Christian. The man who says, I will escape the possibility of abasement, the possibility of abundance by hiding myself from the commonplace affairs of life, is not realizing the apostolic ideal, which is ability to stay in the midst of circumstances of abasement and to dwell amid abundance.

Neither is it the detachment of indifference. It is not the stoicism of the Greek which steels the heart and says, Abasement shall not affect me, abundance shall not appeal to me. Far from it.

It is rather the detachment of mastery and of use. "I know how to be abased, and I know also how to abound." I am not afraid of abasement. I will not escape from it. I am not afraid of abundance, I will not avoid it. I do not imagine that in the hour when my Lord gives me abundance there is something wrong in my inner life. "I know also how to abound." I know how to suffer hunger. I know how to suffer need. Abasement without dejection. Abundance without tyranny. That is one of the greatest sentences Paul ever wrote as revealing his absolute triumph in human life. It is the picture of a man so absolutely detached from all the circumstances of his life that he was able to take hold of them and press them into the making of his own character, and, what is more, into the service which his Master's will had appointed. This is one of the statements of Paul of which I hardly dare to speak, so little do I know it personally, so difficult do I find it to be. Where was the secret? How was it this man could say such a thing. Follow right on and he tells you. "I can do all things in Him that strengtheneth me." It is the Christ-centered life. That is the spiritual fact. I refer to it only that we may find the secret of this mental attitude which is so difficult, nay impossible, to cultivate, which can come only as Christ within becomes in very deed the Master of the whole life. Whenever Christ does become the Master of the life you will find a servant who says, I cannot hurry from abasement, "I know how to be abased." I do not fear abundance, "I know also how to abound." You cannot turn my feet out of the way of His commandment by hunger, I know how to suffer hunger. You cannot quench my zeal for His service by giving me fulness. I know how to be filled. I am so detached from circumstances that I can master them.

IV

I come now to the very heart and center of the references which reveal his greatness as an apostle. In that wonderful Roman letter—introducing the subject of the salvation of God—he made three personal references within the compass of a few phrases. "I am debtor... I am ready... I am not ashamed." "I am debtor," the Gospel is a deposit which I hold in trust. "I am ready," the Gospel is an equipment so that I am able to discharge my debt. "I am not ashamed," the Gospel is a glory, so that if I come to imperial Rome, sitting on its seven hills, I shall delight to preach the Gospel there also. In each case the personal emphasis reveals the sense of responsibility. "I am debtor." Here you touch the driving power of the man's life. Here you find out why he could not rest, why the very motto of his missionary movement was "the regions beyond," why he traversed continents, crossed seas, and entered into perils on perils. He felt that while anywhere there was a human being who had not heard the evangel, he was in debt to that human being.

"I am ready." I suppose you have all read what Artemus Ward said about the American War Between the States. He said he had already donated several brothers and cousins to the war, and he was prepared to donate a few more. How many of you have donated other people to missionary enterprise? Paul said, "I am ready." "I am not ashamed." You tell me we must cancel the capital "I." Yes, nail it to the cross and let it emerge in resurrection glory.

V

In the same letter I presently find this man writing another revealing sentence. "I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ." I do not know that there is anything other than silence possible in the presence of that. There have been endless attempts made to account for it, and to explain it, usually to explain it away. It has been said that the Apostle did not really mean that he wished he were accursed from Christ. Then, in the name of God, why did he write it? If language means anything, he meant exactly that. "I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ for my brethren's sake, my kinsmen according to the flesh." How is this to be accounted for? It can be accounted for only by declaring that it is the mental attitude which grows out of the fulness of spiritual life, of which Christ is the fountain. Again, go back in memory over the argument. He had stated the great doctrine of sanctification. He had climbed up out of the unutterable ruin of human sin until he had come to that height at the close of the eighth chapter in which he said that nothing can "separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Immediately the shout of personal triumph merged into the cry of a great sorrow, "I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ for my brethren's sake." How are we to account for it? Only thus, he is now speaking with the tongue of Christ, feeling with the heart of Christ. He is a man surcharged with the Christ-life. It thrills and throbs through every fiber of his being. If that be so, I have no further difficulty, for He Who knew no sin was made sin for me. Here is a man in whom His life is dominant, in whom the Christ passion is moving and burning. What is the mental attitude now? Utter and absolute self-abnegation. "I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ." It is the sense of compassion.

VI

I turn to another passage which stands in almost brutal contrast to the one at which we have just been looking. "I resisted him to the face." Who is this that he resisted to the face? Peter. Why did he resist Peter to the face? Read the story carefully. Not because Peter had been preaching a false doctrine. He had done nothing of the kind. Peter, to whom first had come the commission to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, having come down to these Gentile Christians, had sat down at the table with them quite naturally. But there came down certain men from Jerusalem, and when they came Peter declined to sit down with the Gentiles. Paul calls his action by the right word, dissimulation, positive dishonesty. I pray you notice carefully what this means. Paul saw that Peter insulted truth in the commonplaces. He would never have insulted truth in a great crisis. Peter argumentatively and theologically would have defended the liberty of the Gentile quite as eagerly as would have Paul, but under stress of conventionality he conformed to the false thinking of the Judean visitors by refusing to sit down with the Gentiles. Paul's anger here is a finer revelation of loyalty to truth than any lengthy treatise. I will put that in another form. His attitude toward Peter is the supreme vindication of the honesty of the Galatian letter. Had he written his Galatian letter, a powerful treatise in defense of the liberty of the Christian, and yet had lightly passed over Peter's dissimulation, I would have been compelled to doubt his sincerity. Here, again, I remind you of the principle enunciated at the beginning of this study. A man is revealed in the commonplace thing, not in the crisis. Paul, when he saw Peter violating truth in the commonplace, resisted him to the face, because he was to be blamed. An apostle violating truth in the commonplace is not to be excused because he is an apostle. In all probability Peter was one of those to whom Paul referred as those who were "reputed to be somewhat." The "somewhat" that he seemed to be could not save him in the presence of this man in whom the truth reigned supremely, who would not deviate by a hair's breadth from loyalty to it. No man is great who excuses the violation of truth in the commonplaces of life. "I resisted him to the face."

VII

One more illustration, "I must also see Rome." That was not the feverish desire of the tourist. He was himself a Roman citizen, and was conscious of the far-reaching power of the Roman empire. He knew full well how the influence of the capital city spread out over all the known world. He was perfectly well aware that the Roman highways extended in every direction, and Roman rule was everywhere. It was the strategic center of the life of his age. "I must also see Rome." I must go to Rome, and from that great center send forth this selfsame evangel, this Gospel message.

It is exactly this sense of method which the Church has so perpetually been in danger of losing. Take one illustration of what I mean from home missionary work, and another, a living one at this moment, from the foreign field. The home illustration is to be found in the perpetual habit the Church of God has had of abandoning some building at the center of a vast population. When the Church of God abandons some strategic center it is because she has not the apostle's sense, "I must also see Rome," I must be at the heart of the world's movements, I must take this Gospel into the very center where the tides of life are throbbing, and from which the influences which make or mar men are proceeding. Take the other illustration, from the foreign field. If the Church of God did but know its day and opportunity it would fasten its attention at this hour upon Japan. China is waking from her long, long slumber, and the question of the politician is not the question of the Christian. The question of the politician is, "What shall we do with China?" The question of the Christian is, "What will China do with us?" for I believe the Christian man climbs to the highest height and sees things more clearly. That is the question of the future. Remember, finally, China is not going to be influenced by us. If she desires Western civilization she will certainly choose to take it from her neighbor and kin, Japan. If we did but know the hour of our visitation and opportunity, we should evangelize Japan, and especially in the centers of learning, for from them are going forth the men who will presently effect the molding of China. The Church today ought to be restless through all her missionary societies, and her great cry ought to be, "I must see Japan." It was a great sense of method. It was the word of a man who thought imperially in very deed and truth, and who knew that to be at the center of empire with the message of the Gospel was to affect the uttermost part of the earth.

Let me gather up in brief sentences these sayings and their values. First of all, I find a sense of proportion which made Paul willing to pass on into new light and new conditions and forget absolutely the things of the past. "Now that I am become a man, I have put away childish things." Then I find the sense of spiritual compulsion which made him magnificently, even satirically, independent of the counsel of flesh and blood. "I conferred not with flesh and blood." Then I find that splendid detachment from circumstances which meant mastery of circumstances. "I know how to be abased, and I know also how to abound." Then I find that sense of personal responsibility which made him say, "I am debtor... I am ready... I am not ashamed." Then I find that overwhelming sense of compassion which made him say, "I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ." Then I find the sense of stern loyalty to truth which made him resist Peter to the face—"I resisted him to the face." Finally, I find that sense of method which made him put into a sentence the burning desire of his heart when he said, "I must also see Rome."

Truly this was the great apostle, the great pattern for all time of those who would desire to be apostles, messengers, missionaries of the cross of Christ.

Yet I am compelled to return to the fundamental statements with which I began. If these are the mental attitudes, what is the spiritual fact? "To me to live is Christ." So that as I look at Paul, the apostle, the missionary, the last thing I have to say is not of the great apostle, but of the great Christ, the One Who took hold of this man, and revealing Himself within him, unveiling His glory to his inner consciousness, drove him forth, and made him such as he was. Christ diffused through Paul will not help us. It is good to see Paul, to know what Christ can do; but we must indeed get to Christ Himself if we would enter into fellowship even with Paul. If the vision of the great apostle shall drive us to his Lord, then how great and gracious will be the result. If we will but make his surrender, "What shall I do, Lord?": if we will take up this attitude toward the things we have counted best, counting them but loss that we may win Christ: if we will but enter into the experience which he expressed in the words, "To me to live is Christ"—what then? First, He will not make us Pauls, but He will make us His own. Though He may never send us over continents and among such perils, all that matters nothing, for it is local, and incidental merely. He will send us where He would have us go, and He will make us what He would have us be, and through us—oh, matchless wonder of overwhelming grace—the light of His love may shine, and the force of His life may be felt.

We cannot have this Christ-life within us without having clear vision, and without having driving compassion, and without having the dynamic which makes us mighty. We cannot have Christ within us and be parochial. Christ overleaps the boundaries of parish, society, and nation, and His clear vision takes in the whole world. If Christ be verily in us we shall see with His eyes, feel with His heart, be driven with His very compassion.

   "If I have eaten my morsel alone!"
    The patriarch spoke in scorn;
   What would He think of the Church, were He shown
    Heathendom, huge, forlorn,
   Godless, Christless, with soul unfed,
   While the Church's ailment is fulness of bread,
    Eating her morsel alone?
   "I am debtor alike to the Jew and the Greek,"
    The mighty apostle cried;
   Traversing continents, souls to seek,
    For the love of the Crucified.
   Centuries, centuries since have sped;
   Millions are famishing, we have bread,
    But we eat our morsel alone.
   Ever of them who have largest dower
    Shall heaven require the more.
   Ours is affluence, knowledge, power,
    Ocean from shore to shore;
   And East and West in our ears have said,
   Give us, give us your living Bread.
    Yet we eat our morsel alone.
   Freely, as ye have received, so give,
    He bade, Who hath given us all.
   How shall the soul in us longer live,
    Deaf to their starving call,
   For whom the blood of the Lord was shed,
   And His body broken to give them Bread,
    If we eat our morsel alone?

191 - 2 Corinthians 12:9 - The All-Sufficient Grace 

The All-Sufficient Grace

My grace is sufficient for thee.
2 Corinthians 12:9

This phrase forms part of a story in the life of one man. It is, however, a great word, revealing a profound philosophy of life, unfolding the deepest truth concerning God; in the knowledge of which life finds the place of peace and rest; and becomes powerful and influential in service. It is remarkable how these words have taken hold upon the heart of humanity. I think that as a general rule it is not wise to differentiate as to the value of particular portions of God's Word, and yet there are outstanding passages which all men seem to know and love. These passages are those characterized by simplicity of statement and sublimity of meaning. This is one of them. "My grace is sufficient for thee." Upon that great word many a weary head has rested; many wounded hearts have been healed by it; discouraged souls have heard its infinite music and have set their lives to new endeavor until they have become victorious. Yet, in common with other passages of a similar quality, I believe that multitudes have been helped and comforted by this word who never have discovered its deepest meaning; for in proportion as the soul trusts in God, God communicates to that soul strength and comfort, even though His promise be not perfectly apprehended intellectually.

All of us, with perhaps some very rare exceptions, accept the truth of these words. If I thus admit that there may be some who are a little doubtful in the deepest of their heart about the strict accuracy of this declaration, I am perfectly sure that such doubt arises from some present sorrow, some overwhelming pain, some deep and profound consciousness of perplexity. It is especially for such that these words are precious. In order that they may see it and know its truth, let us examine the statement carefully.

May I first of all briefly remind you of what the text does not mean. Perhaps I ought to put that a little more carefully. Allow me to remind you of something which does not exhaust the meaning of the text, though it may be contained therein. This word came to the apostle as a veritable word of God, quieting his life, making all its turmoil pass into peace. It means far more than as though God had said to His child, The circumstances in which you find yourself are very hard and very difficult, and very trying, but I will help you to bear them. It does not for a single moment suggest that the adverse circumstances are outside the Divine government. The meaning of the grace of God here is far profounder, far more startling, and full of comfort. God is not saying to His servant, It is very hard and very difficult, and very trying: if it could have been avoided it would have been better, but seeing that it cannot be avoided, I am with you, I am going to help you, to strengthen you.

Is not that what we have thought this text meant? Even if it meant only that it would be worth while trusting it; but that is not the fulness of it, that is not the simplest of it; therefore it is not the sublimest.

The text means this, if I may put it broadly first and then examine the accuracy of the interpretation afterwards. That stake in the flesh, that messenger of Satan, is in My grace. It is part of My method. The stake in the flesh is sent. The messenger of Satan is My messenger. This is not something that is against you, but for you. This hard and difficult and trying circumstance is not something outside My province, My economy, which you must overcome with My help: it is of My purpose, it is in My plan. I am high enthroned above all the powers of darkness, and to the trusting soul Satan himself is compelled to be a means of My grace. All your suffering is in My economy. I have poised in My own hand the weight of your burden and know it. Everything that is imposed upon you is under My control. "My grace is sufficient for thee." It is enough for you to know that what you are suffering is part of My discipline, evidence of My love.

In order that we may see that this is indeed what Paul meant when he wrote this word as being God's message to him, first notice the context. Concerning the apostle's experiences as here described there are a great many questions which I do not propose to answer. It is always unwise to attempt to understand things which we are told cannot be understood. It is not very long ago that someone asked me, half incredulously, Do you really believe that Paul was caught up into the third heaven? My answer was, Certainly I believe it. Well, but how? You do not expect me to know how, when he did not know himself. He distinctly wrote, "Whether in the body, or apart from the body, I know not." The things of which he was perfectly sure were that he was caught up into the third heaven, and that he saw and heard, and that upon his lips the seal of a solemn and necessary silence was set. He did not know how, but he knew the fact.

Again, there has been great curiosity as to what he saw and what he heard, notwithstanding the fact that he tells us he heard things "which it is not lawful for a man to utter." There is a book of the visions of Paul, and we are told that in the house of Saul of Tarsus there was discovered a marble casket in which was a writing declaring the things he saw and heard. I hope and believe we have grown out of all such foolishness as that. They were unutterable things. The value of them was undoubtedly manifest in his after life.

Probably the experience came to him at Lystra, for he was there about fourteen years prior to the writing of this letter. They stoned him with stones and left him for dead, and it may be that when the men had left him for dead, bruised and battered by their dreadful stones, the Master caught him up and gave him visions. I do not know. I dare not say that it was so. It may have been so. But how he went, or what he saw, and what he heard are not revealed things; consequently they are not for us. They are among the secret things that belong to God.

And yet again many people are attempting to discover what this stake in the flesh was, and again I say to you that if we were meant to know, that also would have been told us. His word is that it was a stake for, rather than in, the flesh. The thought is really that of crucifixion, of suffering in the flesh, and actual and positive physical affliction. It was a stake for the flesh, and it was a messenger of Satan to buffet. There you have the two ideas of abiding affliction, the thorn, the stake in the flesh, and the repetition of trial, the messenger of Satan to buffet. Physical and mental affliction. Then we are told by the apostle why this stake in the flesh came to him, why this messenger of Satan came to buffet him. It was in order that he should not be exalted overmuch by reason of the revelation which had been granted to him in that great hour when he was caught up into the third heaven and saw and heard things which it was impossible for him to utter. There is a specific purpose, and will you notice that when Paul wrote his letter he knew this.

Then he tells us how he "besought the Lord thrice that it might depart" from him. That prayer was finally answered by the voice of God in his soul, speaking the words, "My grace is sufficient for thee." When the prayer was answered he wrote, "There was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, that I should not be exalted overmuch."

While the apostle was praying for the stake in the flesh to be removed, and for the messenger of Satan to be withheld, I do not think he could possibly have written, "There was given to me a thorn in the flesh." When he wrote these words he had come to understand that the thing he wanted to get rid of was part of the Divine purpose for him. The writing of that sentence, "There was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me," was subsequent to the great answer of the text. The purpose is now clearly revealed, a thorn in the flesh for a specific purpose. His prayer for its removal has issued in his understanding of this fact, that whatever it was, it was sent, given, appointed; that whatever form the buffeting of the angel of Satan took, it was part of God's appointment, something that God Himself had sent to Paul.

But we must get behind to the consciousness of the apostle ere he understood the meaning of the stake in the flesh, ere he understood the meaning of the buffeting of Satan's messenger. There he was, having seen a great vision, yet suddenly depressed by pain and suffering, both physical and mental. Out of the consciousness of his pain, out of the very fierce agony of His suffering, he cried to God and asked that this might be removed from him, that he might be delivered from the stake and from the angel messenger of Satan who buffeted him. To that condition of mind this word of God came, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for My power is made perfect in weakness."

Now, notice the effect of the word. "Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." It is so easy to read and so difficult to enter into that spirit. "Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may cover me." Heart of mine, attend these words. "Wherefore I take pleasure in weaknesses." He does not say, I endure them, I bear them, I suffer them, I am resigned. No, "I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake: for when I am weak then am I strong." This is a change from complaint and petition for the removal of these things to a song of triumph in the midst of them, and over them. I see, first of all, a man pleading with great earnestness and great sincerity that he might be delivered from the pain and burden and unrest. Suddenly, I find a man who no longer asks that these things be taken from him, but says, "I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses." I take pleasure in these things, not in the fact that power is given to me to bear them but in the things themselves. I take pleasure in my suffering. I rejoice in my weakness. I sing a song of gladness because of the injury. This is something infinitely beyond the experience of the man who is thankful because God helps him to bear the thing which cannot be escaped. This is the expression of a philosophy that is infinitely removed from that which expresses itself in the words, "What cannot be cured must be endured." Somehow, this man has come to say concerning the thing he wanted to be rid of, I ask no longer to be rid of it, I glory in it! The stake in the flesh is no less painful, but I am glad of the pain. The buffeting of Satan's messenger is no less terrible, but I rejoice in the buffeting. Here is a man who has seen in his pain something of value, who has discovered that the very cross from which he would have escaped is of value, something that he cannot afford to be rid of. "I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses." Notice, he begins with "Wherefore," and the "wherefore" drives me back to the preceding word, "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses," and that drives me back to my text. It is this vision of the purpose of the stake and of the messenger of Satan as the apostle declares it, the vision resulting from the word spoken in the text, that sends me back to the text itself that I may ask, What does this mean?

What was it that turned this man's dirge into a song? What was it that changed this man from a good man praying to be delivered from pain into a man singing a song of gladness because he suffered pain? Here is the answer. "He hath said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee." I submit to you that must mean far more than that God said to him, This thing cannot be avoided, but I will help you to endure it.

Let us take the simple word of the text and look at it. "My grace." What is the meaning of this great word? Who shall answer that question? The word runs through all the New Testament. We see it everywhere, first shining and flaming in revealed glory in the face of Jesus Christ, and then proving to be that root principle out of which the ultimate glory will blossom, the grace of God. Who shall exhaust it? Let us take the word itself. The root idea is that which is pleasing to God. The thought lying at the back of the word is that of the Divine complacency. When grace becomes a river flowing from the throne of God over the life of man it is a beneficent, healing river always, because it is a river which, coming from the throne, accomplishes the will of the throne, and brings into the ordinary life of man the purpose and thought of God which is forevermore a purpose and thought of love. The grace of God. If we accept the old theological definition of the word, that grace is unmerited favor, remember that is only a partial definition. That is the definition of what grace is in activity toward man. Grace exists before it becomes a favor given to anyone. Grace is the fact of the heart of God. You may spell it in the four letters which give you the great word "love." It is essentially the truth concerning God. He is the God of all grace, and we need to remember that as well as to remember that the thing which helps and blesses us is the grace of God. Grace means that which gives pleasure to God, the thing that delights Him, the thing that gives complacency to God Himself. Nothing gives the heart of God pleasure except that which is an activity of love for the blessing of others. God finds His delight forevermore in loving, and in the presence of need, in healing and restoring and blessing, so that the essential grace of God's character becomes a river of healing and of life wherever it flows forth.

"My grace," that which pleases Me, that which comes to you out of My heart, that which reaches you through My love, as a part of its process.

"My grace is sufficient." That is to say the region of the Divine complacency is the region of power forevermore. If a man be where God loves to have Him, he is in the place of power even though at the moment it should be the place of pain.

Let us take two illustrations from the Scripture. I go back to Nehemiah. Ezra had been reading the law of God. Its sense had been given, the interpretation given, the meaning and method explained to the listening people, with what result? The people were filled with sorrow and grief, and the voice of lamentation was raised, and we hear the voice of a people stricken and afflicted. For that there were two reasons: first, the severity of the law, and, second, their consciousness of sin and failure. These people were listening to the law of God—do not miss this—and as they heard it read and explained, they wept and were sorrowful. "Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto him for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy unto our Lord; neither be ye grieved; for the joy of the Lord is your strength. So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, Hold your peace, for the day is holy; neither be ye grieved. And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them" (Nehemiah 8:10). Mark the change. The people heard the law and wept; but when Nehemiah said to them, "The joy of the Lord is your strength," they went away full of mirth. "The joy of the Lord is your strength." Do not let us spoil a great word by superficial exposition. Nehemiah did not mean to say to them, If you will but be happy, you will be strong. He meant to say, Do not be afraid of this law of God. The thing that gives God satisfaction, the thing that makes His heart glad, is your strength—your strength lies in the keeping of His law, and as you give Him joy, you get His joy and so you will become strong.

Take another illustration from the Old Testament of the same great principle, the strange and somewhat startling statement of Isa_53:10. "It pleased the Lord to bruise Him: He hath put Him to grief: 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." It is a somewhat difficult passage, and one that certainly cannot be interpreted to mean that God took any personal delight in the suffering of Messiah. "It pleased the Lord to bruise Him" means that it was part of the Divine economy, it was a thing that was necessary, it came into the operations of God, a necessary part of them, that the Son of His love should be bruised, so it pleased the Lord to bruise Him. Out of that bruising came the victory of Messiah so that He prolongs His days and sees the pleasure of the Lord prosper in His own hands. To the Messiah—I say it reverently, and yet it is true, for here we touch the profoundest illustration of our text—to the Messiah the joy of the Lord, which was represented to Him by pain which He endured, was His strength through His realization of the fact that in the midst of the tragedy of His pain He was co-operative with God in the victory by which He leads the long procession of trusting souls into liberty and into light. It was not that He was helped in the Cross to endure something which was outside the Divine economy. It was rather that in the mystery of the Cross He was having the most perfect fellowship with God, dwelling in His pleasure, in His love, in His provision.

To go back from that supreme height of illustration to the actual word of the text, "My grace is sufficient for thee." It is enough for you to know that you are in the place that pleases Me, in the place of My joy, in the place of My appointment. Someone says, I cannot understand how God could be pleased in the suffering of His servant, or how God could be pleased or have joy in the thorn in the flesh and the messenger of Satan. He had such pleasure because He knew that through the process of pain there should come the very power for which His servant was seeking. He had His watchful eye fixed upon the ultimate issue, and He delighted in the processes because of that which was to come out of them. It was that in the great word which He spoke to Paul which turned his dirge into song, his complaint into thanksgiving, his restlessness into perfect peace, without the removal of the actual pain. It was the consciousness that this pain also was part of his Father's tender provision for his own making and his own perfecting which created the comfort of the message, "My grace is sufficient for thee."

Let us now turn from the examination of the text in its context to consider what it teaches us. First is this truth, that "God is love." He is a God of grace, therefore His arrangements for my life are all of love and are all of grace. Every pain that comes to me is a part of His economy, and therefore it is precious pain. The apostle says that the stake in the flesh was given him, that the messenger of Satan was sent not of Satan or of human malice, but of his Father. Until he saw that the pain came from his Father he prayed, naturally and rightly and beautifully, that it might be removed; but when God had spoken in his soul, and he came to understand that the pain also was part of the Divine provision, he sang in the midst of it, he triumphed over it, he rejoiced in it. He made the very suffering the reason for song. Therefore the supreme anxiety of every life should be to be in God's grace, that is, in His will, in His law, in the place that pleases Him. The joy of the Lord, the thing that satisfies Him, is for me the place of my strength whether it be pleasant or painful, rough or smooth, dark or light. Whatever His will appoints is manifestation of His grace, and in that will is the realm, the region, of my strength. Consequently, there should be no anxiety in the life of trusting souls other than that of finding out where God would have us be. The grace of God may be for you, for me, who knows, the stake in the flesh. It may not be that. It may be quite other. The grace of God for some of us is not the thorn, the process that is a lingering agony in the life, but the rose blossoming and blushing in beauty. Do not imagine that God's only method of grace is the method of the thorn. I think it is more often the method of the flower. Do not imagine that God's only method is the method of the storm. I think it is more often the method of the sunlight. I think nature, even in our own land, is often a parable to us of God's method. We are always complaining of the rainy days: but count them and you will find that they are fewer than the sunshiny days. I am not saying we are to seek for pain, that we are to inflict pain upon ourselves. That is the devil's method of stirring up a sensual spirit, not of creating a spiritual sense. God's grace may be a thorn. It may not. It may be cloud. It may be sunshine. It may be a rough pathway. It may be a smooth pathway. It may be through a sea tempest tossed, or it may be by the still waters and through green pastures. The thing we are taught by this word is that the fact that it is His grace is sufficient. I am to rest in His provision, to rest in what He appoints for me, to sing my song, not because I am free from pain, but because He wills that I should be free from pain. If I can sing the song of health and strength and freedom from pain and care, then presently, if for some reason other than I know, He sends me the stake in the flesh and weakness, I shall be able to keep on singing. The reason of man's gladness must be that he is where God would have him be. Delight in your circumstances and they will soon change and your delight will vanish. Delight in the will of God and the darkest day cannot shut out the light from your life.

Reverently let me say this. Suppose before the apostle had discovered this word of God to him, suppose his prayer had been answered and the stake had been taken away, and the messenger of Satan had come no more. What then? When the stake in the flesh was removed and the messenger of Satan came no more, the ministers of God's grace would have been absent.

Somewhere in this house there is a broken, bruised soul. Have you, oh, brother, sister mine, been crying out that God would deliver you from this pain? May God help you to learn the deeper lesson. Do not think the preacher is telling you that he has learned it. I do not know that I have, but I am praying God to teach it to me. It may be, dear heart, that in the very pain which is laid upon you is the thing which is making you as nothing else could. Miss Ellen Thorneycroft Fowler, in one of her little poems, reminds us that the gates of heaven are gates of pearl, and she says:

   A pearl is found beneath the flowing tide,
    And there is held a worse than worthless thing,
   Spoiling the shell-built home where it doth cling—
    Marring the life near which it must abide.
   The everlasting portals are of these,
    To teach us that perchance some heavy load—
   Some cross 'gainst which so sorely we have striven,
    That seems to mar our lives and spoil our ease—
   May bring us nearer to the saints' abode,
    And prove at last the very "Gate of Heaven."
    
Do you tell me this morning, dear bruised and broken heart, that your life is spoiled by pain and suffering, physical or mental? God speaks to you and says, "My grace is sufficient for thee." God's fires never harm God's saints. They purify the saints. The pain into which he brings me is pain, a stake for the flesh, actual suffering, a messenger of Satan to buffet and bruise; it is real suffering. "My grace is sufficient." What His will appoints is best. There are many instances of people having prayer answered not for their blessing. I read in the Psalms, "He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul." It is possible to have an answer that is not a blessing.

Jesus lay asleep in the hinder part of the vessel. A storm of unusual violence arose. Even the men who were accustomed to storms were afraid, and they wakened Him and rebuked Him, saying, "Master, carest Thou not that we perish?" What did He do? Heard their prayer and answered it. He came to the edge of the boat and looked out over the troubled waters and said, very literally, "Be muzzled." Was not that an excellent thing to do? It was an excellent thing if these men could not climb any higher, but there was something better they might have done. They might have said, Let Him sleep on.

   No waters can swallow the ship where lies
   The Master of ocean, and earth, and skies.
   
It is easy to criticize them. Most probably I should have wakened Him, but that does not prove that it would have been right. He rebuked the winds and the waves, and then said to the men, "Why are ye fearful? Have ye not yet faith?" I would rather weather the storm and miss His rebuke. I would rather come through the storm without disturbing Him. I pray Him to teach me the lesson. I want to be able to say, Thy grace is sufficient, and if Thy grace is storm or pain or weakness, then that, and not escape from trouble, is the better way. I would hear His voice saying, "My grace is sufficient for thee," until I can say, "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses.... I take pleasure in weaknesses."

My last word is not to those who are in sorrow, but to those who are not. It is a word I have already said, and I would repeat it with emphasis. Do not say, I cannot be a saint unless I have a stake in the flesh. The philosophy of this text for you is this, that you are to live in the sunshine and sing among the roses. Rejoice, young man, in thy strength. If it is His will that yours should be a flowery pathway, pluck the flowers and live among their fragrance, and when presently the sun is o'ercast and the last rose of summer fades, if you have learned how to abide in His will in the sunshine you will be triumphant in the shadow.

192 - Galatians 5:7 - Holiness: Hindrances 

Holinesss:  Hinderances

Ye were running well; who did binder you that ye should not obey the truth?
Galatians 5:7

This is an outburst of appeal in the midst of an argument, and incidentally reveals a failure which has many other causes and manifestations than those with which this particular letter deals. The causes in this case were Judaizing teachers. The manifestations were that these people were going back into bondage, putting their neck under a yoke from which they had been set free. The actual failure the apostle described in the words: "Ye were running well; who did hinder you?" There had been a slackening of the pace, a relaxing of endeavor. These people were characterized by dimness of vision, weakening of virtue, and absence of victory. Their Christian life was not what it ought to be, and that fact troubled the heart of the apostle. He was never anxious about orthodoxy of intellect, except as it affected orthodoxy of heart and of life. If he was eager that the one and only Gospel should be preached, with an almost fierce invective cursing the men who preached "another Gospel," it was not an intellectual anger growing out of a conviction that he alone was right, but an anger born of his conviction that when men ceased to obey the truth the fine bloom was brushed from their characters, and they themselves suffered deterioration.

In this final study in the subject of holiness, let us give ourselves to personal examination, turning from theory to experience. We have defined holiness as that rectitude of character which issues in rectitude of conduct. We have declared that we believe holiness of character to be possible because it is the will of God for His children, because the work of Christ was in order to produce it, and because the ministry of the Spirit is for the administration of the work of Christ, and so for the realization of it. We have declared that the New Testament teaches that the conditions are those of renunciation of known wrong, the absolute surrender of the life to the Lordship of Jesus, and quiet, restful trust in Him. We have, moreover, considered the character of holiness in contrast to that of the man who lacks it as the selfless life, Christ-centered, and therefore love-centered and light encompassed, the character full of beauty.

Immediately we turn from theory to experience we face the fact of how far we are from realizing the character of holiness. We have seen the vision, but we have not gained the victory, and Paul's inquiry is one that we may pertinently apply to ourselves, "Who did hinder you?" In other words, if holiness be necessary to righteousness, if holiness be possible in the economy of God, if holiness be possible on the fulfilment of conditions, if holiness of character be that fair and gracious attitude of spirit which the New Testament reveals, and we lack it, why do we lack it?

In attempting to answer this inquiry, I propose first to deal with some of the answers commonly given, and, second, to examine the suggestiveness of Paul's inquiry as revealing the true answer.

It is often affirmed that the teaching of Scripture does not warrant the expectation that such character is possible to us here and now.

That statement is already answered by the teaching of the New Testament which we have considered. Nevertheless, the position is maintained on the supposed authority of certain passages of Scripture which do seem to call in question the possibility. I cannot, in the course of one brief study, touch on all of these passages, but there are three principal ones which we may take by way of illustration. There is, first, the passage in the Roman letter at the close of the seventh chapter in which the apostle says: "I am carnal, sold under sin.... To me who would do good, evil is present." All the statements of that closing paragraph are constantly quoted, and are sincerely and honestly adduced as arguments against the possibility of having holiness of character here and now. I hope I am making myself clear that in any attempt to deal with this objection I approach the subject in sympathy with those who feel the difficulty. Some of the sweetest Christian people I have ever known have quoted that paragraph to prove it was impossible to be holy even while they were already holy.

Then there is the autobiographical message, in which Paul distinctly and clearly says: "Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect... I count not myself yet to have apprehended... but I press on, if so be that I may apprehend that for which also I was apprehended by Christ Jesus," thus disclaiming perfection.

And, finally, there is the passage in which John says: "If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous One."

How shall we answer the sincere and honest difficulty of such as refer us to these or similar statements? First, by declaring, as a canon of interpretation, that no isolated passage or passages of Scripture can contradict its general teaching. If for a moment we could stand clear of examination of isolated passages, and think of the one message of the Bible to men, what would it be? "Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy." Or if we could gather up into one brief and comprehensive sentence the whole force of Christ's message to men, to His own disciples, how should we express it? "Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." I also have quoted isolated passages, but I have done so because I believe they express the whole burden of the message of the Word to men. Never from beginning to end does it excuse anything sinful in the life. It tells the story—thank God that it does—of men of like passions with myself; and it tells the story of their sin. It is one of the peculiar beauties of the Bible that if it presents a man, it presents him as he is. When an artist painted Cromwell, and painted out all the roughnesses on his face, he daubed the canvas, and said: "Paint me blotches and all, or paint me not at all." In the Bible men are painted blotches and all. But if the experience revealed in the Bible is the experience of men who failed and fell, how do we know that they failed and fell? What do we mean by failing and falling? We see the failure because we also know the ideal which the Bible reveals. All the things which in the lives of these men were wrong we know to be so because the standard set up is that of perfection. Dr. Margoliouth, in his book, Lines of Defence of the Biblical Revelation, has a remarkable passage about David, as being a man after God's own heart. Dealing with those who declare that a man who sinned as David sinned with Bathsheba could not have been a man after God's own heart, he asks if it is conceivable that any other Eastern monarch of that particular age would have taken up the position of penitence and contrition that David did, and declares that the excellence of David is seen in his attitude in the presence of sin.

The application of that illustration in the present argument is that we know the sin of David because we know the purity of the Divine ideal for him. His action is counted sinful by men who accept the Divine standard of holiness. We know the wrong of every man whose life story is told in the Bible, because we know also what God's thought for man is.

The Bible presents one Figure, Whose humanity was according to the Divine purpose and pattern, and I see the failure of all others because they stand in the fierce light of the purity and the holiness of that Life.

While that is the revelation of Scripture, taking it in its entirety, it cannot be that any single passage to be found in all its course can contradict that great ideal, or declare to men that the holiness which the Bible demands is not possible to them.

But there is another way in which this difficulty is answered. If we take each of these passages carefully, we shall see that none of them really contradicts the teaching of the Bible. It is very unfair to read the closing part of the seventh chapter of the letter to the Romans without running right on into that which follows. I read the solemn words: "I am carnal, sold under sin.... That which I do, I know not: for not what I would, that do I practise"; and so on and on, until at last the whole agony of the experience described expresses itself thus: "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me out of the body of this death?" But the passage does not end there. The answer is immediately given. "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." Then going back, and summarizing the whole description that has preceded that answer, the apostle writes: "So then I myself with the mind serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin." Yes, but the apostle does not end even there. Read right on: "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death." We are perfectly well aware of the fact that expositors differ entirely as to whether, in the closing part of the seventh chapter, Paul is describing an experience prior to regeneration, or an experience after regeneration. For a moment I do not care which. I admit the experience at the closing part of the seventh chapter. There is an experience which a man voices thus: "To me who would do good, evil is present. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man; but I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind"; but it is not the ultimate experience of Christianity. The ultimate experience of Christianity is this: "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death." We have no right to quote as descriptive of the normal Christian life a passage that describes an experience from which the next passage declares deliverance to be possible. The apostle is leading us through the struggle that we all know to the revelation of the victory that we all may know if we will.

Again, in the Philippian passage, whereas it is true that the apostle says, "Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect... I count not myself yet to have apprehended," he also says: "One thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal"; and holiness is perfectly described in those words. When he says he has not yet apprehended, what does he mean? Follow his statement to its end, and the answer is given. "Who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of His glory?" That is to say, the work of Jesus Christ in a man will never be ultimately perfected until he sees Christ face to face with no veil between, with all the limitation of the present life forever over. The ultimate in my Christian character lies beyond this life in the spacious and far-reaching mystery of the life to come. Holiness today is not perfection of consummation, but it is perfection of condition. It is the right attitude of a human life. Holiness does not mean that there can be no advancement. Holiness is the condition for advancement, that health of the spiritual life which makes growth possible. And this is what the apostle is teaching in the Philippian letter; he is healthy, but not full-grown; holy, but not glorified.

Or if we turn to the passage in the letter of John, it is quite true John wrote words of comfort, even for sinning believers: "If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous"; but is it fair to make an "if" a permission? What are the words immediately preceding? "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye may not sin." I submit to you, and leave my argument at that point, that it is quite unfair to quote the gracious provision made for sinning souls as an argument in favor of the impossibility of holiness. Constantly I have to thank God that it is written, "We have an Advocate with the Father"; but if I make—hear me patiently and carefully—if I make the fact of the advocacy of Jesus an excuse for sin, I am guilty of the most terrible treachery and blasphemy. "These things write I unto you that ye may not sin"; but the "if" which follows is not an argument, declaring that sin is necessary.

It is declared by others that the experience of Christian people does not warrant the expectation.

I speak to my own heart as also to yours when I say, in answer to that declaration, that it is a reflection on those who make it. If we say that we do not believe holiness to be possible because we have never met people who are really holy, in all kindness but in all earnestness I declare that declaration to be a reflection on the company we have been keeping, or a revelation of our own spiritual blindness. I think that is the difficulty very often when a man says he has never known men and women who lived holy lives. There was a day when a prophet, depressed by overwork, said: "I only am left. I am not better than my fathers." And what was the answer? "Yet will I leave me seven thousand... which have not bowed unto Baal." Let us make no mistake. There are multitudes of holy men and women—men and women of beautiful, Christly character, the very salt of the earth, its gracious light. How is it, then, that people say there are no holy men and women? No one will deny that Jesus of Nazareth was holy; yet the men of His own time said of Him: "Behold, a gluttonous man and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!" What was the meaning of such criticism? An ancient prophet of Israel declared, concerning the coming Messiah, "There is no beauty that we should desire Him." Do you imagine for a moment that the prophet meant the Messiah would lack beauty? By no means. What then? That men would be so blind that they could not see it. Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, declares that the spiritual man is spiritually discerned; and if you have seen a holy man, it was because his holiness was discerned of your own spiritual life. If you fail to discover the beauty of holiness, it is because you are unholy.

I have seen a novice in an art gallery criticizing a picture by a great master, and I have been sure of this, that while he thought he criticized the picture, the picture really criticized him. When I am told that there are no saints, I reply that the saints are close by our side, living in our home, touching us every day; but we are color-blind, and the blue and the scarlet and the purple and the fine-twined linen have no loveliness for us because the dust of death is in our eyes.

But even if it were true that holy men and women are not to be found, then remember this, that prevalent imperfection is no justification of imperfection. Is there no holy man in your circle of acquaintance? Then you be the first. Oh, but it is objected, what other men have not been we cannot be. That we do not believe in any other realm of life. If our argument is that what no man has done, no man can do, then no master picture will ever be painted, no mountain will ever be climbed, no discovery will ever be made! All high things are made possible by the men and women who lead, who make highways, who blaze their way through forests that have never before been traversed. Be a pioneer and leader. Dare to stand alone. All the resources of God are at your disposal. Take hold of them, or, rather, let them take hold of you and be the first.

There are others who say that holiness is not a condition to be professed; that if they had the experience they would not talk about it.

My answer to that is this: Holiness does not need to be talked about; it talks. You remember Emerson's words—I do not quote the ipsissima verba, but the spirit of what he said—"I cannot hear what you say for listening to what you are." I repeat, holiness does not need to be talked about; it talks. I quite agree with you that the nearer a man lives to his Lord, the less he announces his nearness in actual words; but the more evident it is in tone and temper, and these are the things of holiness. But I pray you, do not urge the fact that if you possessed it you would not talk about it as an indication of the impossibility of possessing the character of holiness. Holiness is a rare and beautiful spirit which permeates and pervades the whole life, and sheds its fragrance everywhere. I remember twenty years ago, in a home in which I was staying, that in one room I always detected the fragrance of roses, and I said to my host one day, "I wish you would tell me how it is that I never come into this room without seeming to detect the fragrance of roses." He smiled, and said: "Ten years ago I was in the Holy Land, and while there I bought a small phial of otto of roses. It was wrapped in cotton wool, and as I was standing here unpacking it, suddenly I broke the bottle. I took the whole thing up, cotton wool and all, and put it into this vase." There stood a beautiful vase, and he lifted the lid, and the fragrance of the roses filled the room. That fragrance had permeated the clay of the vase, and it was impossible to enter the room without consciousness of it. If Christ be in us, the fragrance of the Rose of Sharon will pervade and permeate our whole life. We need not talk about it; but if there be no fragrance, the reason is not that if there were you would not talk of it.

There are yet others who say that they have no desire for the character described.

That is a most terrible confession. The death of desire is the prelude of death. Let any who lack desire ponder carefully the words of Jesus: "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled."

In conclusion, let us examine the actual wording of Paul's inquiry. Mark well the preliminary affirmation: "Ye were running well." That to me is a most suggestive statement, and it is true of every Christian man and woman. The beginning of Christian life is ever characterized by desire and endeavor after holiness. When we begin to live a Christian life we see the goal, and we take a corresponding attitude. The men and the women who today decide for Christ hand their lives over in order to be what? That they may be holy. There is vast territory to be subdued, enemies to be fought and mastered, much to be done; but they see the vision, and they fall in line.

"Ye were running well." What is the trouble with you? You are a member of a church, you are still a Christian man, I do not question it for a moment, but all the bloom has gone from your character. You have become hard and mechanical and indifferent. There was a time when you sighed over your own shortcoming and failure, but not now. Why not?

"Ye were running well." Every man who first sees the face of Jesus enters into a measure of the experience of holiness. The vision of His face, the glory of His own purity is in itself an inspiration which is of the nature of holiness. Why the failure?

Now, notice the apostle's final admission, "that ye should not obey the truth?" In that phrase you have the revelation of the whole secret of arrested development and failure. If I—who have seen the face of Jesus, and have desired to be like Him, and have set my face in the attitude He demands—am faltering in character, it is because I have refused to fulfil the conditions. There is something in my life that I retain which I know is unlike Him, and contrary to His will. There is some command He has laid on me which I have not obeyed. There broke on my vision some morning a great light on the hills, calling me to climb and leave the valleys, and I lingered in the valleys until the light on the hills had faded. That is the secret. The new-born soul possesses the character of holiness; but let that new-born soul turn the back on light, disobey in any particular the Word of the Lord, turn for a moment the face from the gleaming glory of the ultimate ideal, and the result is a weakening and a relaxing of effort, and the character suffers deterioration. The blame is never on Him; it is always on us.

Thus we end this whole series with the central inquiry of this text. "Who did hinder you?" That is a purely personal inquiry. I can do none other than repeat it in your hearing. You must answer it alone. Perhaps "Who did hinder you?" Perhaps "What did hinder you?" Perhaps "Who?" Some person, some friend, father, mother, wife, child, lover, partner in business? "Who did hinder you?" Or perhaps what? What enticement of the world, the flesh, the devil? Some short cut to a kingdom of power, some deft manipulation of truth that was not all a lie, some lowering of the high standard of the ideal in order to make a momentary gain which was wholly of the dust. What did hinder you?

I repeat, the preacher can only inquire. It is not for me to hear the. answer, but the answer must be given in the light and in loneliness. But I pray you remember this, that holiness is not merely a privilege, it is a duty. To fail is to fail of the realization of your own life. I mention that only to dismiss it, for it is the lowest argument of all. The most weighty argument is that to fail of holiness is to defame Christ on the highways and in the city. You name His name, but if your children see in you unloveliness of temper, God help you; you had better quit naming His name, and give your child a chance.

That is the terror of this whole matter. I do not know; sometimes I wonder whether I am quite right about this, but I cannot help it. I must be true to conviction. I am more and more anxious that men should see that the reason of their Christianity is not their salvation, but their influence on other men. You defame Christ if you name His name and sing His song, and do not realize His character. And to fail of holiness is to wrong the world, to dim the only light it has, and make the salt, the aseptic salt that should give goodness its chance, savorless. And mark the infinite satire of Christ. "If the salt have lost its savor, wherewith shall it be seasoned? It is fit only to be cast out and trodden under foot of man." And that is what happens to Christian men and women who name the name of Christ, and are not salt. They are trodden under foot of men; they are despised by their day and generation. The world itself holds us in supreme contempt if we profess to be Christian and are not holy.

What, then, ought to be the immediate outcome of this series of studies? That we should answer this question, Who or what hath hindered you? that in some hour of quiet meditation and loneliness we should drag into the light the thing that hinders—friend, habit, or enticement—and that we should put it away. To that exercise may this series of studies lead very many of us for the glory of Christ.

193 - Galatians 5:11 - The Stumbling-Block of the Cross

The Stumbling-Block of the Cross

The stumbling-block of the Cross.
Galatians 5:11

The Authorized Version reads, "the offence of the Cross." The apostle was arguing that if he would but preach circumcision, he would no longer be persecuted; if he would conform to the method of those Judaizing teachers whose influence he was combating, the stumbling-block of the Cross, that in the Cross which offends, would be done away, and consequently persecution of himself would cease.

Perhaps a third translation of the passage may be permitted, "the scandal of the Cross." This would undoubtedly shock our sensibilities, and yet it is really in harmony with the thought of the writer. The Greek word skandalon indicates a stone of stumbling, something over which men fall, something that does not aid progress, but rather prevents it. There can be no doubt from the whole context that the Apostle was referring to a prevalent antipathy to the Cross itself, and especially to the Cross as the center of a religion. The offense of the Cross, the stumbling-block of the Cross was, as I have already said, even more literally and bluntly, the scandal of the Cross. In the early days of Christianity a stigma attached to the followers of the Nazarene, particularly on account of the Cross. It was something so utterly and absolutely unheard of that religion should be centered in a Cross; and whether to the Jew, the Roman, or the Greek, the Cross was a stumbling-block, a scandal, an offense, something utterly and absolutely objectionable. To the Jew the Cross meant disgrace, for it had been associated with the breaking of law, and its penalty: "He that hangeth is accursed of God." To the Roman the Cross was an indication of defeat, and there was no crime in Rome equal to the crime of defeat. To win was everything. To lose was disgrace, and the proud patrician Roman, looking upon Jesus crucified, held Him in supreme contempt because He was beaten. And to the Greek the Cross was the utterest degradation. To the Greek who stood for the perfecting of individualism, for the ideal man, in form and feature and fashion—for every man aimed at perfection—for a man to be nailed to a Cross, and to be mauled in his death, was disgusting. To preach the Cross to the Jew was to preach the instrument with which the lawbreaker was punished. To preach the Cross to the Roman was to preach to a victorious people the instrument of defeat. To preach the Cross to the Greek was to preach to people who were seeking for perfect individual culture, the most disagreeable and disgusting method of death and failure. A stigma was attached to the religion of Jesus because at its very heart and center stood this Cross.

And yet, brethren, all this was superficial and sentimental objection. To understand the real meaning of the offense of the Cross we must inquire why this Man of Nazareth was nailed to it. I propose, then, to speak about this offense of the Cross: first, as to its real meaning in those olden days; and, second, whether the offense of the Cross has ceased, whether the age has really outgrown its objection thereto.

First, then, let us look back. Standing in imagination on the green hill outside the city wall, and looking upon the Man of Nazareth Who hangs upon that Cross, we ask this one question, Why have they crucified Him? And I think we shall find that the deepest offense of the Cross existed before the Cross, and that the Cross was the outcome of it. That in Jesus against which Hebraism, calling to its aid Roman power, flung itself in fury existed before they erected the Cross, and the Cross was the most logical outcome of the offense.

Let us look carefully. The Cross of Jesus, viewed from the human side, was man's answer to all that He was, and all that He taught. Jesus of Nazareth was the most revolutionary Teacher the world has ever seen, because He was the supreme Voice and Life in the proclamation of the truth of Divine government and Divine order. In His return in life and teaching to the first laws and principles of God's humanity He was a perpetual protest against the then existing order of things; and to the men of His own age there was but one alternative, either to accept His teaching and economy, and reverse theirs, or to murder Him and silence His voice, and be rid of Him. It was the offense which His conception of things gave to their conception of things that erected the Cross.

Did you ever quietly sit down alone to ask yourself the question I have propounded? Why did they crucify Christ? Have you ever considered that it was an infinite puzzle to the Roman procurator? He came to his own conclusion after a while, and he shrewdly approached the truth. He came to the conclusion that for envy they had delivered Him. He did not reach the deepest meaning of their determination to crucify Him when Pilate said that. Their envy grew out of something deeper. In public examination and private interview Pilate attempted to understand the meaning of the malice that was manifesting itself in hounding this Man to death, and he signally failed. In his failure there is cause for our closer investigation. Why did they crucify Him? We must find our answer in His teaching. He spoke out of the sense of eternity to the capacity for eternity in the heart of man. You may characterize the teaching of Jesus by borrowing a great phrase from the Old Testament and applying it in a new connection, "Deep calleth unto deep." When men heard Him they did not understand Him perfectly, but they felt, somehow, that He had spoken to the very depth of their personality. When He came down from the mountain multitudes followed Him, and were astonished at Him, for they said, "He taught them as One having authority, and not as their scribes."

What, then, was the difference between Him and the scribes? He spoke out of the sense of the relation of the infinite and the spiritual to the finite and the material. He set the measurement of eternity upon passing time. Wherever He went He said, "Repent," which meant, Change your mind, your thinking is wrong, your action is wrong, you have departed from the center of things, your measurements are false, your balances are evil, your judgments are perverted! He flung against the materialized age the force of His spiritual conception. He made heaven's light break upon earth's darkness. The voice of God sounded again in the deeps of human nature, and o'er all the region as He passed, men felt the atmosphere of heaven enwrapping them, and they hurried after Him, for never Man spake as He spake. That is the deeper secret in the ministry of Jesus. He was a voice from God, nay, the very Word of God incarnate, speaking in the syllables of human speech, and yet with all the force of infinite truth. What are men to do with that truth? My brethren, then as today, men standing in the presence of Christ have but one alternative. They must do one of two things. They must either crown Him or crucify Him. There is no middle course. And if you ask me why they crucified Christ, I tell you it was because they declined to submit themselves to the spiritual conceptions which He proclaimed, because they would have none of His views of things, because in their deepest heart, notwithstanding all their religiousness, they were godless. And when they silenced that voice, they silenced the voice of the infinite. When they took that Man to the Cross, they flung out the One Who had offended them by revealing the fact that all their thinking and all their life were false.

And yet again. The Cross of Jesus viewed from the Divine side was the logical issue of His own teaching. He Who might have summoned the legions of heaven to His side submitted to the Cross, and so by a mystery of healing love transformed the world's curse into God's benediction.

   The very spear that pierced His side
   Drew forth the blood to save.
   
All this was utterly beyond their comprehension. All this they could not answer, nor did they see the faintest gleam of its light. They were scandalized in Him, and crucified Him; and the Cross became the stumbling-block, the offense, the scandal of the age.

This is a very general statement. Let us try to look at it a little more closely. I must content myself with a mere summary of the cardinal truths that He came to reveal to men in His teaching and life. He came, first, to reveal to men the character of God. He revealed to man the truth that God is love. And, my brethren, let no one misunderstand that statement. May I not take it for granted that there is no need for me to say that when you have said that you have said everything, and having said everything, nothing must be omitted from the thinking? When I say that He came to reveal God as love I do not mean to say He revealed the fact that God is tender, and pitiful, and gracious, and compassionate at the expense of holiness and righteouness and truth. There is no fiercer fire burning in the universe of God than the fire of God's love; and if you could for one moment persuade me that God was merely a God of pity, then you would persuade me that the whole fabric of the universe is unsafe. He came to show men that God is love, and He revealed the love of God not merely in the tender, sweet, and gentle words that perpetually fell from His lips, but in the fiery, white-hot scorn that He poured forth as a lava flood against some, for you never find Jesus angry but that if you track His anger back to its source you will find His anger proceeded from His love. Perhaps the simplest illustration is the best. He was angry—do not forget it, my masters, He was angry when He said, "Suffer the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto Me: for of such is the Kingdom of heaven." We nearly always repeat that word as though it was some soft sweetness falling from His lips. Put the thunder in the next time you repeat it, or you miss something. The disciples were preventing the children. The disciples imagined He could have no time for children, and He was angry when He said, "Suffer the little children, and forbid them not," and there was thunder in His voice. Why was He angry? Because a little child was to be kept away from Him, and the thunder was as much an expression of His love as the sweet winsomeness of the permission given to the children to come. When I see Him with those bairns in His arms, and His dear hands upon their heads, and His face wreathed in laughter as He looked into their eyes, I see His love no more than when He rebuked the disciples for preventing their approach. Or when He said, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" I listen and I hear Him finish His sentence, and I find the reason of the thunder, "Ye shut the Kingdom of heaven against men." At the back of all the anger is love, and He came to reveal God to man as the God of love in all the fulness of the word.

In His teaching moreover, He revealed the fact of God's actual and positive and present interest in all the affairs of human life. Men had relegated God in their thinking to the position of an abstraction that formed the basis of a creed, but He brought Him back into the position of continuous conduct. He said, God clothes lilies, and is with the dying bird; He is everywhere, He knows all you have need of, and He is holding His court of investigation in the deepest thinking of your life. He taught us the immanence of God, and the activity of God, and the government of God in the last detail of human life.

Then He taught men the truth of the supremacy of character. In the great Beatitudes of His great Manifesto He pronounced no single blessing on any man for having anything, or doing anything. All the Beatitudes are chaplets placed upon the brow of character.

Again, He came to reveal to men the true social order. He revealed the whole fact of the social order in half a dozen sentences. I think I may say in one of them, and that will be quite sufficient for our illustration. "Whosoever would be first among you shall be your servant." It is well that we should think in the presence of that in order that it may sink into mind and heart. If we would be great we must strip ourselves of our purple, and gird ourselves and serve somebody else. That is radical. It goes to the roots of things, and drags down the man high and lofty in the dignity of position, and makes another man great and mighty because he is serving someone else. Build your social order upon that conception, and you will have found the golden age for which men long have been looking, but which has not yet arrived.

Notice still further how He defended the dignity and the rights of men against all forms of tyranny and oppression. Listen to His Woes. He began His ministry with "Blessed." He ended it with "Woe." Over against the eight Beatitudes are the eight curses. It is an interesting study. But listen to the Woes. They are all hurled against men who tyrannize and oppress; and the whole teaching of Jesus concerning man is that a man has no right to bind himself beneath tyranny and be content. The teaching of Jesus is that there may be a good deal of incipient blasphemy in the popular idea that a man should stay in the position wherein he was born, and be content. The teaching of Jesus is that every man has inherent rights, and any man who comes between the individual and the throne of God is to be dealt with drastically, and the Woe that falls from the lips of incarnate purity is pronounced against him.

These were some of the things that Jesus taught. Now, for a moment look at the time in which He lived. It was a time characterized by the degradation of religion. There was a clouding of the Divine by the false interpretation of the men who professed to understand the Divine. The high priest was a Sadducee. The Sadducee was a rationalist in religion. The Sadducee, to take the Bible definition, was a man who did not believe in resurrection, or in spirit, or in angel. And the high priest was a Sadducee, and the men associated with Him were either Sadducees or Pharisees, men who were professing to interpret God, and all the while were hiding God, until all through that age there was a widespread infidelity, which was the revolt of the heart of man against the blaspheming of God that existed in high places. And into the midst of this age, hiding God by its very religion, Jesus came to unveil Him. Do you wonder that the religious leaders of the movement crucified Him?

Or move a step forward and see the age in the matter of government. Government was based upon expedience, upon policy. Far and wide, o'er all the earth the iron rule of Rome obtained, and the proud Hebrew was bowing his neck to that rule. Everywhere government was based upon might. Jesus came down into the midst of it all, and revealed the fact that the only government to which man ever ought to submit himself is the government that is based upon right, and that is the one and only government of God. He came and preached, as we have said, the supremacy of character in an age characterized by Pharisaism, which He described as being a whited wall, while within there was corruption and rottenness. In that age He came to preach the new order, the one social order of service, as the way to greatness, when all around vested interests were grinding men, and men were being taught that their only safety lay in their submission to the things that oppressed them. Around Him was an enslaved democracy, wickedly content, easily led. An enslaved people, and Jesus Christ came and exercised His ministry in the midst of it. As you look back at the age, and listen to the teaching, you are driven to the conclusion that the only place for Truth amid such conditions was the scaffold. The very genius of such a condition as existed in those days expressed itself in the Cross of Jesus.

And now I come to my second inquiry. Having seen the reason for the offense of the Cross, then we are inclined to say, Everything is changed now. That is what I want to ask, and my preliminary inquiry respects the Cross itself. Has the Cross altered in its essential meaning? Has truth changed? Has Christ gone back upon any positions of His earthly life and teaching? My brethren, I must apologize for these questions. The very asking of them seems to me to smack of blasphemy. He is, as is God, unchangeable, "the same yesterday, today, and forever." Everything that He announced as truth when He was here is truth now. He has no new message to this age. I will not say if Christ came to London He would thus preach. It is a supposition I am always in revolt against. Christ is in London, and He is so speaking. Whether we hear or not may depend upon ourselves, but everything He said in the days of the Judean and Galilean and Perean ministry He is saying here and now.

Then my question must proceed a step further. Has the age altered? I am not proposing to discuss the age in any application other than that important to ourselves. What are the forces in the midst of which we are living today. There is still abroad the spirit of Sacerdotalism, which veils the face of God, and libels Him before humanity. I am not speaking of the Sacerdotalism of any section of the Christian Church, but of that general attempt, that cursed, and damnable attempt that is still prevalent, to stand between the individual soul of man and God. It is not the peculiar property of any one Church. It is to be found almost everywhere. You find it in Romanism. The very genius of Romanism, that with which I quarrel, is its dogmatic avowal that it interprets God to me. Personally I do not quarrel with the Romanist who wants candles and incense, and vestments. My quarrel is with the man who says to me, We represent God, and unless you see God this way, you cannot see Him. My quarrel with him is not merely because he makes such a puerile claim, but because when he tells me he is revealing God he is hiding God.

But there is not merely the Sacerdotalism of Romanism, but of Angelicanism, and also that of what is called Modernism in Biblical interpretation, the new priestism of scholarship, which tells the people that they must accept the views of experts on the meaning of its message, or whether it is true. All this is resulting in the veiling of the face of God.

And there is yet another form of priestism which I would speak of as Holinessism. Let no one imagine I am saying anything to undervalue holiness; but this movement which consists in a scheme of teaching, and a mechanical arrangement for blessing, interpreted by teachers who interfere in my life, and tell me what I am to do or not to do, is priestism clothed in a new garb. The terrible part of all this is that man is crying for an interpretation of God, and his crying is the result of his sin; and instead of turning to the one Interpreter, and one Priest, he will accept the view of anybody. We are in the midst of an age overshadowed by Sacerdotalism in one aspect or another, and men are not seeing the clear and open vision of God as they ought to see it.

And if you come to the question of human government, how many of us believe in God? There is not a government in the world at this hour that believes in God absolutely and utterly. There is not a government in the world at this hour that will not weaken in loyalty to righteousness at some point of policy. Where is the government that believes in God first and last? Do not let us waste time in discussing governments. How about ourselves? How far do we believe in God? How many business enterprises do we enter upon, purely upon the basis of profit and loss? My brethren, vested interests are still enthroned, and we will have it so. Men are still enslaved, waste and want abound on every hand. I need not stay with its description. What I want to say is this, that everything that Jesus stood for, and everything that the Cross really means as to deep underlying principle, is as unpopular today as when Jesus was crucified. The age is not Christianized. Thank God, there are Christian people in the age, and, thank God, their influence has forced men to certain Christly acts in the age. But the thinking of the age, the planning of the age, the policy of the age are not Christian, and the scandal of the Cross has not ceased. This living Christ of God, dying on the Cross, is as much crucified in our midst today as He was of old. But the working out of a principle into human observation upon the green hill far away did not exhaust the principle, and the principle obtains at this moment.

If we have really any fellowship with Him, we stand where He stood. We stand for the things that He stood for. Identification with Jesus in the Cross does not mean that from the Cross I merely obtain the benefit which is to be an assurance against hell and insurance of heaven. It means that life is identified with Jesus in the protest against the veiling of the face of God, and in determined and constant unveiling of that face before men. Has He no voice today? Is there no way in which He can make Himself heard? It is His will that His people should speak for Him, and the only way in which they can do so is the way of the Cross. To speak for Jesus out of the midst of His Cross in experimental identification with Him therein will bring men to a Calvary of persecution and ostracism today as ever. But if it bring us there, our chief joy will be that in that ostracism we have touched the inner meaning of fellowship with Jesus Christ. Oh, that we may not only look upon the Cross as something outside ourselves, but that we may press to the heart of it, to be identified with all it stands for, and bear the offense, the shame, the scandal of it.

   I take, O Cross, thy shadow,
    For my abiding place;
   I ask no other sunshine than
    The sunshine of His face;
   Content to let the world go by,
    To know no gain nor loss,—
   My sinful self my only shame,
    My glory all the Cross.
    
It is for us to ask ourselves, How far in us are the things for which Jesus stood, and which led Him to that Cross, obtaining and being manifest in the affairs of men? For as the Cross of old set its doom upon selfishness and unveiled the face of God, and, blessed be His name, made it possible for every man to have free access to Him, so the Cross stands for these things today, and while in all the wooing tenderness of the mystery of love as therein revealed we call the wounded and the halt, and the lame and the burdened, and the oppressed to that Cross for healing, by that selfsame Cross we are to be the sworn foes of all the forces that are against God and against humanity.

194 - Galatians 5:22-23 - The Fruit of the Spirit

The Fruit of the Spirit

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance; against such there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23

"The fruit of the Spirit is love." While perhaps the sublimest statement the Bible contains concerning God is the brief monosyllabic declaration of the Apostle of love, "God is love," I am inclined to think this is the sublimest statement it makes concerning the issue and finality of Christianity.

It is quite impossible to exhaust so broad and spacious a statement in one meditation. If we take the widest outlook, that of the purpose of God in the race, Christianity will have won its victory finally and perfectly when love becomes the sole law of life and conduct. It is certainly true in the narrower realm of the Church, in which is deposited and through which is communicated the dynamic which moves toward the larger realization, that in proportion as Christ's Church lives in love it is able to fulfill its mission in the world. Again, Christianity wins its final victory in the individual life when that life becomes love-mastered, love-driven. That is the first meaning of the text, although I have set it last in order.

The Apostle here has been describing the difference between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. He gathers up the whole truth into this one brief sentence, which he afterwards explains by the other words which lie within the compass of my text. Everything is written when this is written, "The fruit of the Spirit is love."

Let us examine this statement in three ways, passing very rapidly over the first two and giving the greater part of our time to the last.

The declaration is, first of all, a revelation of the method of Christianity in its use of the word "fruit." "The fruit of the Spirit is love." It is, in the second place, a revelation of the dynamic of Christianity in the use of the word "Spirit." "The fruit of the Spirit is love." And, finally, it is a revelation of the issue of Christianity in its use of the word "love." "The fruit of the Spirit is love."

Our thoughts gather round the three outstanding words, "fruit... Spirit... love," the first indicating the method, the second revealing the power, and the last declaring the issue.

"The fruit of the Spirit is love." The word "fruit" presupposes life. There can be no fruit apart from life. The word "fruit" indicates cultivation. Fruit comes to perfection only in answer to the touch of cultivation. Fruit, finally, suggests sustenance. Fruit is a food. In these simplest thoughts concerning the word we have a revelation of the whole method of Christianity.

Fruit suggests life. The Apostle writes, "the works of the flesh," but "the fruit of the Spirit." As my friend, Samuel Chadwick, of Leeds, once forcefully put it, "The word works suggests the factory: the word fruit suggests the garden."

Works, the works of men, are always operations in the realm of death, and they forevermore contain within themselves the elements of disintegration. Fruit is always an operation in the realm of life, containing within itself the power of propagation.

The finest works which man has ever wrought are all operations in the realm of death. If your quickly moving mind questions me about the flowers and tells me that they are man's work, I reply that it is where man's work ceases and God's begins that life proceeds. Man's work is always an operation in the realm of death. Take the building in which we are gathered. It is useful, necessary, proper, but it could not be erected save as man handled dead materials. The tree in the forest with its rising sap and its budding life was no use to the builder. It must die before man could begin his work. Man's works being operations in the realm of death, they contain within themselves the elements of break-up. While this building was being erected, long ere the builder put on the final stone with rejoicing, old mother nature with mossy fingers had begun to pull it down, and, notwithstanding the fact that we have reconstructed it, she is busy destroying it at this moment. As quickly as man works, his work crumbles and passes. That is the figure the Apostle used when he was speaking of the flesh. The works of the flesh are operations in the realm of death. The finest thing a man can do within his own self-centered life is a thing of decay and break-up, which perishes and passes and cannot abide.

Fruit is an operation in the realm of life, that mystic fact, which we all know by observation and none of us knows by final analysis and explanation. Life is of God as much in the flowering of a daisy as in the blossoming of stars. It owes its origin to God as surely in the sparrow as in the seraph. Fruit is God's work. You may paint fruit, but it fades upon your canvas though you mix your colors with the skill of a Turner. You may make your fruit of wax, but it perishes, notwithstanding the fact that you put it under a glass case. Fruit has in it the properties of perpetual life: "the tree bearing fruit, wherein is the seed thereof, after its kind." There is the potentiality in all fruit of unceasing propagation. It is a thing of life. Christianity is a thing of life. The love which is its final fruitage cannot be manufactured; it must grow, and it must grow out of the principle of life.

Fruit implies cultivation. There can be no perfection of fruit without cultivation. Let the tree in your garden run wild, never use the pruning knife, and all the fine quality of the fruit will pass away from it. The fruit of Christianity, which is love, comes to perfection only by the processes of cultivation, not your cultivation, but Jesus'. "I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman... ye are the branches." Let me turn aside for one brief, passing message to some heart in trouble. You are passing through the fire, you are overwhelmed with sorrow. You crept up to the assembly of the saints feeling inclined to say, "Has God forgotten me? Why this pruning, this beating, this buffeting?" Hear this: The perfection of Christian character comes only by cultivation. "My Father is the husbandman." He holds in his hand the pruning knife. "All chastening seemeth for the present to be not joyous, but grievous: yet afterward..." God help you to look to the afterward, and to know this, "whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth," and to see that by these processes of cultivation He is perfecting the fruit.

Finally, fruit suggests not merely life and cultivation, it suggests sustenance—sustenance for God. "God is love." God's heart hungers after love. God can be satisfied only with love. Listen to the wailing minor threnody of the old Hebrew prophets. They are from beginning to end the sighing of God after the love of His people. I shall never forget what a revelation of God came into my own life when a few years ago I gave myself to the study of their writings. I had thought of them as men of thunder and found them to be men of tears. I had thought of them as men of wrath, uttering denunciation of sin and proclaiming the terrible judgment of God's holiness. They are all that; but I found that at the back of all the thunder was the infinite disappointment of God because men did not love Him. "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim?" That is the cry of a Being hungry for love. If you go a little further back in your Bible to the old story in Genesis, you find God saying to Adam, "Where art thou?" That is not the arresting voice of a policeman. It is the wailing voice of the Father Who has lost His child. God is hungry for love. Take a figure nearer home. We believe He is here in this house. He has come to His garden. He is among the branches of His own vine. What is He seeking? Love. The proportion in which he finds love in your heart, dominating, flourishing, mastering, is the proportion in which God is satisfied with you. The fruit of the Spirit which is for the sustenance of God's own heart in its hunger is love.

Pass to the second of these thoughts, and I dismiss this even more rapidly. Our text is a revelation of the dynamic of Christianity in the use of the word "Spirit." Let me only take the thought that Christianity is a life. How is life generated in man? By his being born of the Spirit. If that life needs cultivation toward perfection, how is it cultivated? By the ministry of that Spirit Who is grieved when we violate the law of love. If Christianity is indeed the fruit which is sustenance for the very hunger of God's heart, how does it come to its perfect fruitage? Only as my spirit becomes by close identity the very Spirit of Jesus Christ. "If any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." But if he have the Spirit of Christ it is the Spirit of love, and God finds the answer to His hunger in me as He finds Christ formed in me by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The fruit comes through the life which the Spirit gives. The fruit is cultivated toward perfection by the Spirit in all His tender, gracious work in the heart. Love is sustenance for God's hunger, and it is His Holy Spirit in perfect co-operation that makes my spirit Christ's Spirit, and the fruit for which God seeks.

Now we come to that which is the plain meaning of the text. "The fruit of the Spirit is love." I can well understand that some of you are saying, "Why do you take this one word 'love'?" Because when this one word is uttered there is no more to say. It is perfectly correct to take all the words which follow. The Apostle wrote them under inspiration and with deep significance. You will see at once there is difficulty in the text. It reads, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance." You feel there is difficulty in saying, "The fruit of the Spirit is," and then reciting nine words. Men have recognized the grammatical difficulty of the "is," and quote the passage, "The fruits of the Spirit are..." That is grammatical. That reads smoothly. Hence the popular supposition that there are nine fruits of the Spirit.

But we have no right to interfere with the text in that way. Our business is to find out what the text really means. The Apostle wrote, "The fruit of the Spirit is love..." It is one, not nine! It may be objected that the affirmation does not remove the difficulty in the text. The one thing in your Bible which is not inspired is the punctuation. If I were writing this text out for myself I would feel I was perfectly warranted in changing the punctuation, and I would read it like this: "The fruit of the Spirit is love," and then I should indicate a pause by some means other than a comma, say a semicolon and a dash, and then read on: "joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance." The Apostle reaches his climax, and he writes the full and final fact concerning Christian experience in the words, "The fruit of the spirit is love." Then there breaks upon his consciousness the meaning of love, and in order that we may not treat the word as a small word, that we may not pass it over and imagine there is nothing very much in it, that it is merely a sentimental word, he gives us the qualities and quantities and flavors of the fruit by breaking it up into its component parts. To change the figure, the Apostle writes the word "love," and there surges through his soul all the harmonies of the Christian life. It is a great orchestra—love—and he listens and picks out one by one the different qualities of the music, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance.

If you have love you have all these things. If you lack love you lack them all. If that can be proved, then I think it is proved that love is the all-inclusive word, and the words which follow break it up and explain its meaning.

"Joy." This is a commonplace word. It does not signify an ecstasy which occurs once, and passing leaves the soul on a deader level than it occupied before it came. It does not indicate one of those red days in one's life aflame with high passion. These are not to be undervalued; but this word does not indicate any such experience. "Joy" is a simple word which means cheerfulness, gladness, common delight, that peculiar and wonderful quality which, present in the life, transmutes everything into light and peace and happiness; that consciousness in the life which sings through all the livelong day; that happy cheerfulness, alas! too sadly absent from our life today, which sings in the midst of a November fog just as much as on a glorious June day. What is equal to keeping a man cheerful in all circumstances? Nothing other than love. I make no apology for taking my illustration from that wonderful realm—the newborn love of youth and maiden, of Christ and the Church, of the bridegroom and the bride. It is God's own illustration. I read in the old prophets, "I will betroth thee unto Me forever." Let such love take possession of the heart of youth and maiden, and they are perpetually cheerful. You button your coat around you and say, "It is a drab day." They say, "No, it is saffron." If you say the sky is gray they say it is purple. They are cheerful from morning to night with the cheerfulness which comes with love's first young dream. If you would be cheerful through all vicissitudes of life you must have love in your heart. Love is a singer that never tires. Love is a nightingale which sings while the sun flames, and keeps singing when the rains descend. Joy is love's consciousness.

"Peace" This word indicates not stagnation, but the peace which follows battle—the harmony of opposing forces. What is equal to making peace after battle? Nothing other than love. Two nations are at war. The stronger defeats the other by force, and I take up my newspaper and read that peace has been declared. Is it peace? For all national and political purposes, yes; but in the deepest fact of things it is not peace. If—and it is a great if—the stronger nation can so deal with the conquered nation as to make that conquered nation feel that the conqueror loves it, then you will have peace. Two people are at strife in the Church. Forgive the illustration, but these things do exist. They come to me as their pastor and say, "We have settled this business." "How have you settled it?" I ask. "We have agreed that it cannot be settled, so we have decided to bury it and never talk of it again." Then, in God's name, dig it up. That is not peace. The buried hatchet can always be unearthed. Learn to love, and you will have peace. Peace is love's confidence.

"Long-suffering." May I put that in another form and say long-temperedness. I very seldom find people who easily understand that word. Let me suggest another, "short-temperedness." I find most people understand that. Long-temperedness is the exact opposite of short-temperedness. Long-temperedness is the great and marvelous quality which endures. You heard the great love poem which I read to you from the Corinthian letter, "Love suffereth long." That is the same word. Love is long-tempered. That is not all Paul said. "Love suffereth long and is kind." That is the marvel of it. You have suffered long, the sense of your own dignity has made you silent; but there comes a day when you say, "I have suffered this long enough, and now..." We all know what you mean. That is not love. "Love suffereth long and is kind." Love is the overplus of patience. Can you think of anything else that would make you long-suffering? I suppose you will agree with me that the most long-suffering people in the world are mothers. Why? I can give you the answer in a word. Because they love. There are all sorts of foolish proverbs abroad. Men tell me that love is blind. Nothing of the kind. Love sees most keenly and acutely and correctly. You tell me I am wrong, and say, "Look at that woman. Her son is going wrong. We have seen it for a long time. She is blind. She does not see it." Let me tell you she saw it long before you did. Then you say, "Why does she not heed us when we try to tell her?" Because "love beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." That is the story of a mother's love. That is long-temperedness. Long-temperedness is love's habit.

"Kindness." The Greek word here is one which refers not to sentiment, but to service. Kindness is usefulness in a good sense, and always in small things. The word "kindness" refers to that attitude of life which makes men see the little thing which, being done, will minister to some other soul. I submit to you, is there anything equal to maintaining you in the kindness of doing little things except love? I am afraid it must be granted that there may be motives for great philanthropies other than that of love. Amos was a wonderful prophet, and he, when he was dealing with the men of his day, said, "They proclaim freewill offerings and publish them." Love is not necessarily behind the published gift. It is told of Sir Moses Montefiore that after he had passed away there was found a little book in which were entered gifts which far surpassed those which had been publicly acknowledged during his lifetime. On the front page of this book these words were written, "The gifts which men acknowledge do not count in the ledgers of heaven." That was Hebrew, but it was coming very near to the heart of Christianity. Here is a young man who, if he were talking to me, would tell me he loves his mother. He would even tell me that he was willing to die for her. Nonsense! Stay at home tomorrow night and read to her for half an hour. Kindness is the willingness to do simple things to help other people. When Jesus approaches a