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Title: Expositions of Holy Scripture - Ephesians; Epistles of St. Peter and St. John
Author: Maclaren, Alexander, 1826-1910
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcriber's note:

   A number of typographical errors have been corrected, and two
   minor changes have been made to the book's formatting. There
   is a full list of emendations at the end. The book's inconsistent
   hyphenation has been preserved, with an educated guess made as
   to whether those hyphens appearing at ends of the line were
   intended by the author, or just added because the word was broken
   at that point.



EXPOSITIONS OF HOLY SCRIPTURE

ALEXANDER MACLAREN, D. D., Litt. D.

       *       *       *       *       *

EPHESIANS
EPISTLES OF ST. PETER AND ST. JOHN



New York
George H. Doran Company



_EXPOSITIONS OF HOLY SCRIPTURE_

ALEXANDER MACLAREN, D. D., Litt. D.

EPHESIANS



CONTENTS


                                                               PAGE
SAINTS AND FAITHFUL (Eph i. 1)                                   1

'ALL SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS' (Eph. i. 3)                            8

'ACCORDING TO'--I. (Eph. i. 5, 7)                               18

'ACCORDING TO'--II. (Eph. i. 7)                                 26

GOD'S INHERITANCE AND OURS (Eph. i. 11, 14)                     35

THE EARNEST AND THE INHERITANCE (Eph. i. 14)                    43

THE HOPE OF THE CALLING (Eph. i. 18)                            52

GOD'S INHERITANCE IN THE SAINTS (Eph. i. 18)                    62

THE MEASURE OF IMMEASURABLE POWER (Eph. i. 19, 20)              72

THE RESURRECTION OF DEAD SOULS (Eph. ii. 4, 5)                  81

'THE RICHES OF GRACE' (Eph. ii. 7)                              91

SALVATION: GRACE: FAITH (Eph. ii. 8, R.V.)                      98

GOD'S WORKMANSHIP AND OUR WORKS (Eph. ii. 10)                  108

THE CHIEF CORNER-STONE (Eph. ii. 20, R.V.)                     118

'THE WHOLE FAMILY' (Eph. iii. 15)                              128

STRENGTHENED WITH MIGHT (Eph. iii. 10)                         132

THE INDWELLING CHRIST (Eph. iii. 17)                           142

LOVE UNKNOWABLE AND KNOWN (Eph. iii. 18, 19)                   151

THE PARADOX OF LOVE'S MEASURE (Eph. iii. 18)                   162

THE CLIMAX OF ALL PRAYER (Eph. iii. 19)                        171

MEASURELESS POWER AND ENDLESS GLORY (Eph. iii. 20, 21)         180

THE CALLING AND THE KINGDOM (Eph. iv. 1; Rev. iii. 4)          194

'THE THREEFOLD UNITY' (Eph. iv. 5)                             203

'THE MEASURE OF GRACE' (Eph. iv. 7, R.V.)                      207

THE GOAL OF PROGRESS (Eph. iv. 13, R.V.)                       216

CHRIST OUR LESSON AND OUR TEACHER (Eph. iv. 20, 21)            224

A DARK PICTURE AND A BRIGHT HOPE (Eph. iv. 22)                 233

THE NEW MAN (Eph. iv. 24)                                      247

GRIEVING THE SPIRIT (Eph. iv. 30)                              262

GOD'S IMITATORS (Eph. v. 1)                                    270

WHAT CHILDREN OF LIGHT SHOULD BE (Eph. v. 8)                   277

THE FRUIT OF THE LIGHT (Eph. v. 9, R.V.)                       286

PLEASING CHRIST (Eph. v. 10)                                   295

UNFRUITFUL WORKS OF DARKNESS (Eph. v. 11)                      303

PAUL'S REASONS FOR TEMPERANCE (Eph. v. 11-21)                  313

SLEEPERS AT NOONDAY (Eph. v. 14)                               318

REDEEMING THE TIME (Eph. v. 15, 16)                            327

'THE PANOPLY OF GOD' (Eph. vi. 13)                             337

'THE GIRDLE OF TRUTH' (Eph. vi. 14, R.V.)                      343

'THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS' (Eph. vi. 14)               350

A SOLDIER'S SHOES (Eph. vi. 15)                                353

THE SHIELD OF FAITH (Eph. vi. 16)                              361

'THE HELMET OF SALVATION' (Eph. vi. 17)                        367

'THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT' (Eph. vi. 17)                        373

PEACE, LOVE, AND FAITH (Eph. vi. 23)                           381

THE WIDE RANGE OF GOD'S GRACE (Eph. vi. 24)                    391



SAINTS AND FAITHFUL

     'The saints which are at Ephesus and the faithful in Christ
      Jesus.'--Eph. i. 1.


That is Paul's way of describing a church. There were plenty of very
imperfect Christians in the community at Ephesus and in the other
Asiatic churches to which this letter went. As we know, there were
heretics amongst them, and many others to whom the designation of 'holy'
seemed inapplicable. But Paul classes them all under one category, and
describes the whole body of believing people by these two words, which
must always go together if either of them is truly applied, 'saints' and
'faithful.'

Now I think that from this simple designation we may gather two or three
very obvious indeed, and very familiar and old-fashioned, but also very
important, thoughts.

I. A Christian is a saint.

We are accustomed to confine the word to persons who tower above their
brethren in holiness and manifest godliness and devoutness. The New
Testament never does anything like that. Some people fancy that nobody
can be a saint unless he wears a special uniform of certain conventional
sanctities. The New Testament does not take that point of view at all,
but regards all true believers in Jesus Christ as being, therein and
thereby, saints.

Now, what does it mean by that? The word at bottom simply signifies
separation. Whatever is told off from a mass for a specific purpose
would be called, if it were a thing, 'holy.' But there is one special
kind of separation which makes a person a saint, and that is separation
to God, for His uses, in obedience to His commandment, that He may
employ the man as He will. So in the Old Testament the designation
'holy' was applied quite as much to the high priest's mitre or to the
sacrificial vessels of the Temple as it was to the people who used them.
It did not imply originally, and in the first place, moral qualities at
all, but simply that this person or that thing belonged to God. But then
you cannot belong to God unless you are like Him. There can be no
consecration to God except the heart is being purified. So the ordinary
meaning of holiness, as moral purity and cleanness from sin, necessarily
comes from the original meaning, separation and devotion to the service
of God.

Thus we get the whole significance of Christian holiness. We are to
belong to God, and to know that we do belong to Him. We are to be
separated from the mass of people and things that have no consciousness
of ownership and do not yield themselves up to Him for His use. But we
cannot belong to Him, and be devoted to His service, unless we are being
made day by day pure in heart, and like Him to whom we say that we
belong. A human being can only be God's by the surrender of heart and
will, and through the continual appropriation into his own character and
life, of righteousness and purity like that which belongs to God.
Holiness is God's stamp upon a man, His 'mark,' by which He says--This
man belongs to Me. As you write your name in a book, so God writes His
name on His property, and the name that He writes is the likeness of His
own character.

Note, again, that in God's church there is no aristocracy of sanctity,
nor does the name of saint belong only to those who live high above the
ordinary tumults of life and the secularities of daily duty. You may be
as true a saint in a factory--ay! and a far truer one--than in a
hermitage. You do not need to cultivate a mediæval or Roman Catholic
type of ascetic piety in order to be called saints. You do not need to
be amongst the select few to whom it is given here upon earth, but not
given without their own effort, to rise to the highest summits of holy
conformity with the divine will. But down amongst all the troubles and
difficulties and engrossing occupations of our secular work, you may be
living saintly lives; for the one condition of being holy is that we
should know whose we are and whom we serve, and we can carry the
consciousness of belonging to Him into every corner of the poorest, most
crowded, and most distracted life, recognising His presence and seeking
to do His will. The saint is the man who says, 'O Lord, truly I am Thy
servant; Thou hast loosed my bonds.' Because He has loosed my bonds, the
bonds that held me to my sins, He has therein fastened me with far more
stringent bonds of love to the sweet and free service of His redeeming
love. All His children are His saints.

The Old Testament ritual had one sacrifice which carried this truth in
it. It is the first prescribed in the Book of Leviticus, the ceremonial
book--namely, the burnt offering. Its especial meaning was this, that
the whole man is to be laid upon God's altar and there consumed in the
fire of a divine love. It began with expiation, as all sacrifices must,
and on the footing of expiation there followed the transformation, by
the fire of God, from gross earthliness into vapour and odour which
went up in wreaths of fragrance acceptable to God. So _we_ are to be
laid upon the divine altar. So, because we have been accepted in the
Beloved, and have received the atonement for our sins through His great
sacrifice, we are to be consecrated to His service and, touched by the
fire which He sends down, we are to be changed into a sweet odour
acceptable to Him as were 'the saints which are in Ephesus.'

II. Further, Christian men are saints because they are believers.

'The saints' and 'the faithful' are not two sets of people, but one. The
Apostle starts, as it were, on the surface, and goes down; takes off the
uppermost layer and lets us see what is below it; begins with the
flowers or the fruit, and then carries us to the root. The saints are
saints because they are first of all faithful. 'Faithful' here, of
course, does not mean, as it usually does in our ordinary language,
'true' and 'trusty,' 'reliable' and 'keeping our word,' but it means
simply 'believing'; having faith, not in the sense of _fidelity_, but in
the sense of _trust_.

So, then, here is Paul's notion--and it is not only Paul's notion, it is
God's truth--that the only way by which a man ever comes to realise that
he belongs to God, and to yield himself in glad surrender to His uses,
and so to become pure and holy like Him whom He loves and aspires to, is
by humble faith in Jesus Christ. If you want to talk in theological
terminology, sanctification follows upon faith. It is when we believe
and trust in Jesus Christ that all the great motives begin to tell upon
life and heart, which deliver us from our selfishness, which bind us to
God, which make it a joy to do anything for His service, which kindle in
our hearts the flame of fructifying and consecrating and transforming
love. Faith, the simple reliance of a desperate and therefore trusting
heart upon Jesus Christ for all that it needs, is the foundation of the
loftiest elevation and attainment of the Christian character. We begin
down there that we may set the shining topstone of 'Holiness to the
Lord' upon the heaven-pointing summit of our lives.

Note how here Paul sets forth the object of our faith and the
blessedness of it. I do not think I am forcing too much meaning into his
words when I ask you to notice with what distinct emphasis and
intentional fulness he employs the double name of our Lord here to
describe the object upon which our faith fixes, 'Faithful in _Christ
Jesus_.' We must lay hold of the Manhood, and we must lay hold of the
office. We must rest our soul's salvation on Him as our brother, Jesus
who was incarnate in sinful flesh for us; and we must also rest it on
Him as God's anointed, who came in human flesh to fulfil the divine
loving-kindness and purposes, and in that flesh to die. A faith in a
Jesus who was not a Christ would not sanctify; a faith in a Christ who
is not Jesus would be impalpable and impotent. We must take the two
together, believing and feeling that we lay hold upon a loving Man, 'bone
of our bone and flesh of our flesh'; and also upon Him who in His very
humanity is the Messenger and Angel of God's covenant; the Christ for
whom the way has been being prepared from the beginning, and who has
come to fulfil all the purposes of the divine heart.

And notice, too, how there is suggested here also, the blessedness of
that faith, inasmuch as it is a faith _in_ Christ. The New Testament
speaks in diverse ways about the relation between the believing soul
and Jesus Christ. It sometimes speaks of faith as being _towards_ Him,
and that suggests the going out of a hand that, as it were, stretches
towards what it would lay hold of. It sometimes speaks of faith as being
_on_ Him, which suggests the idea of a building on its foundation, or a
hand leaning on a support. And it sometimes speaks, as here, of faith
being '_in_ Him,' which suggests the folded wings of the dove that has
found its nest, the repose of faith, the quiet rest in the Lord, and
'waiting patiently for Him.' Such trust so directed is the one condition
of such tranquillity. Then, again, note a Christian is all that he is
because he is 'in Christ.' That phrase 'in Him' is in some sense the
keynote of this Epistle to the Ephesians. If you will look over the
letter, and pick out all the connections in which the expression 'in
Him' occurs, I think you will be astonished to see how rich and full are
its uses, and how manifold the blessings of which it is the condition.
But the use which Paul makes of it here is just this--everything in our
Christian life depends upon our being rooted and grafted in Jesus. Dear
brethren, the main weakness, I believe, of what is called Evangelical
Christianity has been that it has not always kept true to the
proportionate prominence which the New Testament gives to the two
thoughts, 'Christ for us,' and 'Christ in us.' For one sermon that you
have heard which has dwelt earnestly and believingly on the thought of
the indwelling Christ and the Christian indwelling in Him, you have
heard a hundred about the Sacrifice on the Cross for sins, and the great
atonement that was made by it. Those of you, who have listened to me
from Sunday to Sunday, know that I am not to be charged with minimising
or neglecting that truth, but I want to lay upon all your hearts this
earnest conviction, that a gospel which throws into enormous prominence
'Christ for us,' and into very small prominence 'Christ in us,' is lame
of one foot, is lopsided, untrue to the symmetry and proportion of the
Gospel as it is revealed in the New Testament, and will never avail for
the nourishment and maturity of Christian souls. 'Christ for us' by all
means, and for evermore, but 'Christ _in_ us,' or else He will not be
'_for_ us.'

III. Lastly, a Christian may be a saint, and a believer, and in Christ
Jesus, though he is in Ephesus.

Many of you know that probably the words 'in Ephesus' are no part of the
original text of this epistle, which was apparently a circular letter,
in which the designation of the various churches to which it was sent
was left blank, to be filled in with the name of each little community
to which Paul's messenger from Rome carried it. The copy from which our
text was taken had probably been delivered at Ephesus; and, at any rate,
one of the copies would go there. What was Ephesus? Satan's very
headquarters and seat in Asia Minor, a focus of idolatry, superstition,
wealth, luxury springing from commerce, and moral corruption. 'Great is
Diana of the Ephesians.' The books of Ephesus were a synonym for magical
books. Many of us know how rotten to the core the society of that great
city was. And there, on the dunghill, was this little garden of fragrant
and flowering plants. They were 'saints in Christ Jesus,' though they
were 'saints in Ephesus.'

Never mind about surroundings. It is possible for us to keep ourselves
in the love of God, and in the fellowship of His Son wherever we are,
and whatever may lie around us. You and I have too to live in a big,
wicked city, and to work out our religion in a society honeycombed with
corruption, because of commerce and other influences. Do not let us
forget that these people whom Paul called 'saints' and 'faithful' had a
harder fight to wage than we have, with less to hearten and strengthen
them in it. Only remember if the 'saints in Ephesus' are to be 'in
Christ,' they need to keep themselves very straight up. The carbonic
acid gas is heavy and goes down to the bottom of the cave, and if a man
will walk bolt upright, he will keep his nostrils above it; but if he
stoops, he will get down into it. Walk straight up, with your head
erect, looking to the Master, and your respiratory organs will be above
the poison. If we are to _be_ in Christ when we are in Ephesus, we need
to keep ourselves separate and faithful, and to _keep ourselves_ in
Christ. If the diver comes out of the diving-bell he is drowned. If he
keeps inside its crystal walls he may be on the bottom of the ocean, but
he is dry and safe. Keep in the fortress by loyal faith, by humble
realisation of His presence, by continual effort, and 'nothing shall by
any means harm you,' but 'your lives shall be holy, being hid with
Christ in God.'



'ALL SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS'

     'Blessed be God ... who hath blessed us with all spiritual
      blessings in heavenly places in Christ.'--Eph. i. 3.


It is very characteristic of Paul's impetuous fervour and exuberant
faith that he begins this letter with a doxology, and plunges at once
into the very heart of his theme. Colder natures reach such heights by
slow degrees. He gains them at a bound, or rather, he dwells there
always. Put a pen into his hand, and it is like tapping a blast furnace;
and out rushes a fiery stream at white heat. But there is a great deal
more than fervour in the words. In the rush of his thoughts there is
depth and method. We come slowly after, and try by analysing and
meditation to recover some of the fervour and the fire of such
utterances as this.

Notice that buoyant, joyous, emphatic reiteration: 'Blessed,' 'blest,'
'blessings.' That is more than the fascination exercised over a man's
mind by a word; it covers very deep thoughts and goes very far into the
centre of the Christian life. God blesses us by gifts; we bless Him by
words. The aim of His act of blessing is to evoke in our hearts the love
that praises. We receive first, and then, moved by His mercies, we give.
Our highest response to His most precious gifts is that we shall 'take
the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord,' and in the
depth of thankful and recipient hearts shall say, 'Blessed be God who
hath blessed us.'

Now I think that I shall best bring out the deep meaning of these words
if I simply follow them as they lie before us. I do not wish to say
anything about our echo in blessing God. I wish to speak about the
original sweet sound, His blessing to us.

I. And I note, first of all, the character and the extent of these
blessings which are the constituents of the Christian life.

'All spiritual blessings,' says the Apostle. Now, I am not going to
weary you with mere exegetical remarks, but I do want to lay stress upon
this, that, when the Apostle speaks about 'spiritual blessings,' he does
not merely use that word 'spiritual' as defining the region in us in
which the blessings are given, though that is also implied; but rather
as pointing to the medium by which they are conferred. That is to say,
he calls them 'spiritual,' not because they are, unlike material and
outward blessings, gifts for the inner man, the true self, but because
they are imparted to the waiting spirit by that Divine Spirit who
communicates to men all the most precious things of God. They are
'spiritual' because the Holy Spirit is the medium of communication by
which they reach men's spirits.

And I may just pause for one moment--and it shall only be for a
moment--to point out to you how in-woven into the very texture of the
writer's thoughts, and all the more emphatic because quite incidental,
and needing to be looked for to be found, is here the evidence of his
believing that the name of God was God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
For it is the Father who is the Giver, the Son who is the Reservoir, the
Spirit who is the Communicator, of these spiritual gifts. And I do not
think that any man could have written these words of my text, the main
purpose of which is altogether different to setting forth the mystery of
the divine nature, unless he had believed in God the Father, Son, and
Holy Ghost.

But, apart altogether from that, let me remind you in one sentence of
how the gifts which thus come to men by that Divine Spirit derive their
characteristic quality from their very medium of communication. There
are many other blessings for which we have to say, 'Blessed be God'; for
all the gifts that come from 'the Father of Lights' are light, and
everything that the Fountain of sweetness bestows upon mankind is sweet,
but earthly blessings are but the shadow of blessing. They remain
without us, and they pass. And if they were all for which we had to
praise God, our praises had need to be often checked by sobs and tears,
and often very doubtful and questioning. If there were none other but
such, and if this poor life were all, then I do not think it would be
true that it is

        'better to have loved and lost,
    Than never to have loved at all.'

It is but a quavering voice of praise, with many a sob between, that
goes up to bless God for anything but spiritual blessings. Though it is
true that all which comes from the Father of Lights is light, the
sorrows and troubles that He sends have the light terribly muffled in
darkness, and it needs strong faith and insight to pierce through the
cloud to see the gleam of anything bright beneath. But when we turn to
this other region, and think of what comes to every poor, tremulous,
human heart, that likes to take it through that Divine Spirit--the
forgiveness of sins, the rectification of errors, the purification of
lusts and passions, the gleams of hope on the future, and the access
with confidence into the standing and place of children; oh, then surely
we can say, 'Blessed be God for spiritual blessings.'

But if the word which defines may thus seem to limit, the other word
which accompanies it sweeps away every limit; for it calls upon us to
bless God for _all_ spiritual blessings. That is to say, there is no gap
in His gift. It is rounded and complete and perfect. Whatever a man's
needs may require, whatever his hopes can dream, whatever his wishes can
stretch out towards, it is all here, compacted and complete. The
spiritual gifts are encyclopædiacal and all-sufficient. They are not
segments, but completed circles. When God gives He gives amply.

II. So much, then, for the first point; now, in the second place, note
the one divine act by which all these blessings have been bestowed.

'Blessed be God who _has_ given'; or, still more definitely, pointing to
some one specific moment and deed in which the benefaction was
completed, 'Blessed be God who gave.'

When? Well, ideally in the depths of His own eternal mind the gift was
complete or ever the recipients were created to receive it, and
historically the gift was complete in the act of redemption when He
spared not His Own Son, but gave Him up unto the death for us all. A man
may destine an estate for the benefit of some community which for
generations long may continue to enjoy its benefits, but the gift is
complete when he signs the deed that makes it over. Humphrey Chetham
gave the boys in his school to-day their education when, centuries ago,
he assigned his property to that beneficent purpose. So, away back in
the mists of Eternity the gift was completed, and the signature was put
to the deed when Jesus Christ was born, and the seal was added when
Jesus Christ died. 'Blessed be God who _hath_ given.'

So, then, we may not only draw the conclusion which the Apostle drew,
'how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?' but we can
draw an even grander one, 'Has He not with Him also freely given us all
things?' And we possess them all to-day if our hearts are resting on
Jesus Christ. The limit of the gift is only in ourselves. All has been
given, but the question remains how much has been taken.

Oh, Christian men and women, there is nothing that we require more than
to have what we have, to possess what is ours, to make our own what has
been bestowed. You sometimes hear of some beggar, or private soldier, or
farm labourer, who has come all at once into an estate that was his,
years before he knew anything about it. There is such a boundless wealth
belonging by right, and by the Giver's gift, to every Christian soul;
and yet, here are we, many of us, like the paupers who sometimes turn up
in workhouses, all in rags, and with deposit-receipts for £200 or £300
stitched into the rags, that they get no good out of. Here are we, with
all that wealth, paupers still. Be sure that you have what you have. Do
you remember the exhortation to a valiant effort in one of the stories
in the Old Testament--'Know ye that Ramoth-gilead is _ours_, and we take
it not?' And that is exactly what is true about hosts of professing
Christians who have not, in any real sense, the possession of what God
has given them. It is well to ask, for our desires are the measures of
our capacities. It is well to ask, but we very often ask when what is
wanted is not that we should get more, but that we should utilise what
we have. And we make mistakes therein, as if God needed to be besought
to give, when all the while it is we who need to be stirred up to grasp
and keep the things that are freely given to us of God.

III. In the next place, notice the one place where all these blessings
are kept.

'Blessed be God who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in
heavenly places.' 'In heavenly places.' Now that does not merely define
the region of origin, the locality where they originated or whence they
come. It does do that, but it does a great deal more. It does not
merely tell us, as we often are disposed to think that it does, that
'every good and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh
down'--though that is perfectly true, but it means much rather that in
order to get the gift we must go up. They are in the heavenly places,
and they cannot live anywhere else. They have been sticking shrubs in
tubs outside our public buildings this last week. How long will they
keep their leaves and their freshness? How soon will they need to be
shifted and taken back again to the sweeter air, where they can
flourish? God's spiritual gifts cannot grow in smoke and dirt and a
polluted atmosphere. And if a professing Christian man lives his life on
the low levels he will have very few of the heavenly gifts coming down
to him there. And that is the reason--_the_ reason above all
others--why, with such a large provision made for all possible
necessities and longings of all sorts, people who call themselves
Christians go up and down the world feeble and poor, and with little
enjoyment of their religion, and having verified scarcely anything of
the great promises which God has given them.

Brother, according to the old word with which the Mass used to begin,
'_Sursum corda_'--up with your hearts! The blessings are in the heavens,
and if we want them we must go where they are. It is not enough to drink
sparing draughts from the stream as it flows through the plain. Travel
up to the headwaters, where the great pure fountain is, that gushes out
abundant and inexhaustible. The gifts are heavenly, and there they
abide, and thither we must mount if we would possess them.

Now that this understanding of the words is correct I think is clearly
shown by a verse in the next chapter, where we find the very same
phrase employed. In this connection the Apostle says that 'God hath
raised us up together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.' That is to
say, the true ideal of the Christian life is that, even here and now, it
is a life of such intimate union and incorporation with Jesus Christ as
that where He is we are, and that even whilst we tabernacle upon earth
and move about amongst its illusions and changing scenes, in the depth
of our true being we may be fixed, and sit at rest with Christ where He
is.

Do not dismiss that as mere pulpit rhetoric. Do not say that it is
mystical and incomprehensible, and cannot be reduced into practice
amidst the distractions of daily life. Brethren, it is not so! Jesus
Christ Himself said about Himself that He came down from heaven, and
that though He did, even whilst He wore the likeness of the flesh, and
was one of us, He was 'the Son of Man which _is_ in Heaven,' when He lay
in the manger, when He worked at the carpenter's bench in Nazareth, when
He walked with weary feet those blessed acres, when He hung, for our
advantage, on the bitter Cross. And that was no incommunicable property
of His mysterious nature, but it was the typical example of what it is
possible for manhood to be. And you and I, if we are to possess in any
measure corresponding with the gift of Christ the spiritual blessing
which God bestows, must have our lives 'hid with Christ in God,' and sit
together with Him in the heavenly places.

IV. Lastly, note the one Person in whom all spiritual blessings are
enshrined.

'In the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.' You cannot separate between
Him and His gifts, neither in the way of getting Him without them, nor
in the way of getting them without Him. They are Himself, and in the
deepest analysis all spiritual blessings are reducible to one--viz. that
the Spirit of Jesus Christ Himself shall dwell with us.

Now, that union by which it is possible for poor, empty, sinful
creatures to be filled with His fulness, animated with His life,
strengthened with His omnipotence, and sanctified by His
indwelling--that union is the very kernel of this Epistle to the
Ephesians.

I dare say I have often drawn your attention to the singular emphasis
and repetition with which that phrase 'in Christ' occurs throughout the
letter. Just take the two or three instances of it that I gather as I
speak. In this first chapter we read, 'the faithful in Jesus Christ.'
Then comes our text, 'blessings in heavenly places in Christ.' Then, in
the very next verse, we read, 'chosen us in Him.' Then, a verse or two
after, we have 'accepted in the Beloved,' which is immediately followed
by, 'in whom we have redemption through His blood.' Then, again, 'that
He might gather together in one all things in Christ, in whom also we
have obtained the inheritance.' I need not make other quotations, but
throughout the letter every blessing that can gladden or sanctify the
human spirit is regarded by the Apostle as being stored and shrined in
Jesus Christ: inseparable from Him, and therefore to be found by us only
in union with Him.

And that is the point of all which I want to say--viz. that, inasmuch as
all spiritual blessings that a soul can need are hived in Him in whom is
all sweetness, the way, and the only way, to get them is that we, too,
should pass into Him and dwell in Jesus Christ. It is His own teaching:
'I am the Vine, ye are the branches. Abide in Me. Separate from Me ye
can do nothing,' and get nothing, and are nothing.

Oh, brethren! it is well that all our treasures should be in one place.
It is better that they should all be in One Person. And if only we will
lay our poor emptiness by the side of His fulness there will pass over
from that infinite abundance and sufficiency everything that we can
require.

We abide in Him by faith, by meditation, by love, by submission, by
practical obedience, and, if we are wise, the effort of our lives will
be to keep close to that Lord. As long as we keep touch with Him we have
all and abound. Break the connection by wandering away, in thought and
desire, by indulgence in sin, by letting earthly passions surge in and
separate us from Him--break the connection by rebellion, by making
ourselves our own ends and lords, and it is like switching off the
electricity. Everything falls dead. You cannot have Christ's blessing
unless you take Christ.

And so, dear brethren, 'abide in Me and I in you.' There is nothing else
that will make us blessed; there is nothing else that will meet all the
circumference of our necessities; there is nothing else that will quiet
our hearts, will sanctify our understandings. Christ is yours if 'ye are
Christ's.' 'Of His fulness _have_ all we received,' for it all became
ours when we became His, and Christian growth on earth and heaven is but
the unfolding of the folded graces that are contained in Him. We possess
the whole Christ, but eternity is needed to disclose all the
unsearchable riches of our inheritance in Him.



'ACCORDING TO'--I.

     'According to the good pleasure of His will, ... According to the
      riches of His grace.'--Eph. i. 5, 7.


That phrase, 'according to,' is one of the key-words of this profound
epistle, which occurs over and over again, like a refrain. I reckon
twelve instances of it in three chapters of the letter, and they all
introduce one or other of the two thoughts which appear in the two
fragments that I have taken for my text. They either point out how the
great blessings of Christ's mission have underlying them the divine
purpose, or they point out how the process of the Christian life in the
individual has for its source and measure the abundances, the wealth of
the grace and the power of God. So in both aspects the facts of earth
are traced up to, and declared to be, the outcome of the heavenly
depths, and that gives solemnity, grandeur, elevation, to this epistle
all its own. We are carried, as it were, away up into the recesses of
the mountains of God, and we look down upon the unruffled, mysterious,
deep lake, from which come the rivers that water all the plains beneath.

Now of these two types of reference to the divine will and the divine
wealth, I should like to gather together the instances, as they occur in
this letter, in so far as I can, in the course of a sermon, touching
them, it must be, very imperfectly. But I fear that it is impossible to
deal with both the phases of this 'according to,' in one discourse. So I
confine myself to that which is suggested by the first of our two texts,
in the hope that some other day we may be able to overtake the other. So
then, we have set before us here the Christian thought of the divine
will which underlies, and therefore is manifest by, the work of Jesus
Christ, in its whole sweep and breadth. And I just take up the various
instances in which this expression occurs in a great variety of forms,
but all retaining substantially the same meaning.

I. Note that that divine will which underlies and is operative in, and
therefore is certified to us by the whole work of Jesus Christ, in its
facts and its consequences, is a 'good pleasure.'

Now there are few thoughts which the history of the world has shown to
be more productive of iron and steel in the human character than that of
the sovereign will of God. That made Islam, and is the secret of its
power to-day, amidst its many corruptions. Because these wild desert
tribes were all stiffened, or I might say inflamed, by that profound
conviction, the sovereign will of God, they came down like a hammer upon
that corrupt so-called Christian Church, and swept it off the face of
the earth, as it deserved to be swept. And the same thought of the
sovereign will, of which we are but instruments--pawns on its
chessboard--made the grand seventeenth century Puritanism in England,
and its sister type of men and of religion in Holland. For this is a
historically proved thesis, that there is nothing which so contributes
to the formation, and valuation of, and the readiness to die for, civil
liberty, as the firm grasp of that thought of the divine sovereignty.
Just because a man realises that the will of God is supreme over all the
earth, he rebels against all forms of human despotism.

But with all the good that is in that great thought--and the
Christianity of this day sorely wants the strength that might be given
it by the exhibition of that steel medicine--it wants another, 'the
good pleasure of His will.' And that word, 'good pleasure,' does not
express, as I think, in Paul's usage of it, the simple notion of
sovereignty, but always the notion of a benevolent sovereignty. It is
'the good pleasure'--as it is put in another place by the same
Apostle--'of His goodness.' And that thought, let in upon the solemnity
and severity of the other one, is all that it needs in order to make the
man who grasps it not only a hero in conflict, and a patient martyr in
endurance, but a child in his Father's house, rejoicing in the love of
his Father everywhere and always.

Paul would have us believe that if we will take the work of Jesus Christ
in the facts of His life, and its results upon humanity, as our
horn-book and lesson, we shall draw from that some conceptions of the
great thing that underlies it, 'the good pleasure of His will.' We stand
in front of this complex universe, and some of us say: 'Law'; and some
of us say: 'A Lawgiver behind the law; a Person at the heart of all
things'; but unless we can say: 'And in the heart of the Person a will,
which is the expression of a steadfast, omnipotent love,' then the world
seems to me to be a place of unsolvable riddles and a torture-house.
There goes the great steam-roller along the road. Everybody can see that
it crushes down, and makes its own path. Who drives it? The steam in the
boiler, or is there a hand on the lever? And what drives the hand?
Christianity answers, and answers with unfaltering lip, rising clear
above contradictions apparent and difficulties real, 'The good pleasure
of His will,' and there men can rest.

Then there is another step. Another form in which this 'according to'
appears in this letter is, if we adopt the rendering, which I am
disposed to do in the present case, of the Authorised Version rather
than of the Revised, 'according to His good pleasure ... which He hath
purposed in Himself.' The Revised Version says, 'Which He hath purposed
in Him,' and that is a perfectly possible rendering. But to me the old
one is not only more eloquent, but more in accordance with the
connection. So I venture to accept it without further ado--'His good
pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself.'

That brings us into the presence of that same great thought, which in
another aspect is expressed in saying 'His name is Jehovah,' and in yet
another aspect is expressed in saying 'God is love,' viz. the thought
which sounds familiar, but which has in it depths of strength and
illumination and joy, if we rightly ponder it, that, to use human words,
the motive of the divine action is all found within the divine nature.

We love one another because we discern, or think we discern, lovable
qualities in the being on whom our love falls. God loves because He is
God. That great artesian fountain wells up from the depths, by its own
sweet impulse, and pours itself out; and 'the good pleasure of His
goodness' has no other explanation than that it is His nature and
property to be merciful. And so, dear brethren, we get clean past what
has sometimes been the misapprehension of good people, and has oftener
been the caricatured representation of Evangelical truth which its
enemies have put forth--that God was made to love and pity by reason of
the sacrifice of the Son, whereas the very opposite is the case. God
loves, therefore He sent His Son, 'that whosoever believeth in Him
should not perish but have everlasting life,' and the notion of the
Cross of Christ as changing the divine heart is as far away from
Evangelical truth as it is from the natural conceptions that men form of
the divine nature. We shake hands with our so-called antagonists and
say, 'Yes! we believe as much as you do that God does not love us
because Christ died, but we believe what perhaps you do not, that Christ
died because God loves us, and would save us.' 'The good pleasure which
He hath purposed in Himself.'

Then, still further, there is another aspect of this same divine will
brought out in other parts of this letter, of which this is a specimen,
'Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His
good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself, that in the
dispensation of the fulness of the times He might gather together in one
all things in Christ,' which, being turned into more modern phraseology,
is just this--that the great aim of that divine sovereign will,
self-originated, full of loving-kindness to the world, is to manifest to
all men what God is, that all men may know Him for what He is, and
thereby be drawn back again, and grouped in peaceful unity round His
Son, Jesus Christ. That is the intention which is deepest in the divine
heart, the desire which God has most for every one of us. And when the
Old Testament tells us that the great motive of the divine action is for
'My own Name's sake,' that expression might be so regarded as to
disclose an ugly despot, who only wants to be reverenced by abject and
submissive subjects. But what it really means is this, that the divine
love which hovers over its poor, prodigal children because it _is_ love,
and, therefore, lovingly delights in a loving recognition and response,
desires most of all that all the wanderers should see the light, and
that every soul of man should be able to whisper, with loving heart, the
name, 'Abba! Father!' Is not that an uplifting thought as being the
dominant motive which puts in action the whole of the divine activity?
God created in order that He might fling His light upon creatures, who
should thereby be glad. And God has redeemed in order that in Jesus
Christ we might see Him, and, seeing Him, be at rest, and begin to grow
like Him. This is the aim, 'That they might know Thee, the only true God
... whom to know is eternal life.' And so self-communication and
self-revelation is the very central mystery of the will.

But that is not all. Another of the forms in which this phrase occurs
tells us that that great purpose, the eternal purpose which He purposed
in Christ Jesus our Lord, was that, 'Now unto the principalities and
powers in heavenly places might be known' by the Church 'the manifold
wisdom of God.' And so we get another thought, that that whole work of
redemption, operated by the Incarnation, and culminating in the
Crucifixion and Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ, stands as
being the means by which other orders of creatures, besides ourselves,
learn to know 'the manifold wisdom of God.' According to the grand old
saying, at Creation the 'morning stars sang together for joy.' All
spiritual creatures, be they 'higher' or 'lower,' can only know God by
the observation of His acts.

    ''Twas great to speak a world from nought,
     'Tis greater to redeem,'

and the same angelic lips that sang these praises on the morning of
Creation have learnt a new song that they sing; 'Glory and honour and
dominion and power be unto the Lamb that was slain.'

Thus to principalities and powers, a diviner height in the loftiness,
and a diviner depth in the condescension, and a diviner tenderness in
the love, and a diviner energy in the power, of the redeeming God have
been made known, and this is the thought of His eternal purpose. And
that brings me to another point which is involved in the words that I
have just quoted, which stand in connection with those that I have
previously referred to. The phrase 'eternal purpose' literally rendered
is, 'the purpose of the ages,' and that, no doubt, may mean 'eternal' in
the sense of running on through all the ages; or it may mean, perhaps,
that which we usually attach to the word 'eternal,' viz. unbeginning and
unending. I take the former meaning as the more probable one, that the
Apostle contemplates that great will of God which culminates in Jesus
Christ, as coming solemnly sweeping through all the epochs of time from
the beginning. In a deeper sense than the poet meant it, 'Through the
ages an increasing purpose runs,' and that binds the epochs of humanity
together--'the purpose of God in Christ Jesus.' The philosophy of
history lies there, and it is a true instinct that makes the cradle at
Bethlehem the pivot around which the world's chronology revolves. For
the deepest thing about all the ages on the further side of it is that
they are 'Before Christ,' and the formative fact for all the ages after
it is that they are _Anno Domini_.

And now the last thing that is suggested by yet another of these
eloquent expressions is deduced from another part of the same phrase.
The purpose of the ages is described as that which 'He purposed in
Christ Jesus our Lord.' Now the word 'purposed' literally is 'made.'
And it may be a question whether 'purposed' or 'accomplished' is the
special meaning to be attached to the general word 'made.' Either is
legitimate. I take it that what the Apostle means here is that the
purpose of God, which we have thus seen as sovereign, self-originated,
having for its great aim the communication to all His creatures of the
knowledge of Himself, and running through the ages, and binding them
into a unity, reaches its entire accomplishment in the Cradle, and the
Cross, and the Throne of Jesus Christ our Lord.

He fulfils the divine intention. There is that one life, and in that
life alone of humanity you have a character which is in entire sympathy
with the divine mind, which is in full possession of the divine truth,
which never diverges or deviates by a hair's-breadth from the divine
will, which is the complete and perfect exponent to man of the divine
heart and character; and that Christ is the fulfilment of all that God
desired in the depths of eternity, and the abysses of His being. Did He
will that men should know Him? Christ has declared Him. Did He will that
men should be drawn back to Him? Christ lifted on the Cross draws all
men unto Him. Was it 'according to the good pleasure of His goodness'
that we men should attain to the adoption of sons? By that Son we too
became sons. Was it the purpose of His will that we should obtain an
'inheritance'? We obtain it in Jesus Christ, 'being heirs of God, and
joint-heirs with Christ.' All that God willed to do is done. And when we
look, on the one hand, up to that infinite purpose, and on the other, to
the Cross, we hear from the dying lips, 'It is finished!' The purpose
of the ages is accomplished in Christ Jesus.

Is it accomplished with you? I have been speaking about the divine
counsel which is a 'good pleasure,' which runs through the whole history
of mankind. But it is a divine purpose that you can thwart as far as you
are concerned. 'How often would I have gathered ... and ye would not,'
and your 'would not' neutralises His 'would.' Do not stand in the way of
the steam-roller. You cannot stop it, but it can crush you. Do not have
Him say about you, 'In vain have I smitten, in vain have I loved.' Bow,
accept, recognise that all God's armoury is brought to bear upon each of
us in that great Cross and Passion, in that great Incarnation and human
life. And I beseech you, in your hearts, let the will of God be done
even as for a world it has been done by the sacrifice of Calvary.



'ACCORDING TO'--II.

     'According to the riches of His grace.'--Eph. i. 7.


We have seen, in a previous sermon, that a characteristic note of this
letter is the frequent occurrence of that phrase 'according to.' I also
then pointed out that it was employed in two different directions. One
class of passages, with which I then tried to deal, used it to compare
the divine purpose in our salvation with the historical process of the
salvation. The type of that class of reference is found in a verse just
before my text, 'according to the good pleasure of His will.' There is a
second class of passages to which our text belongs, where the comparison
is not between the purpose and its realisation, but between the stores
of the divine riches and the experiences of the Christian life. The one
set of passages suggests the ground of our salvation in the deep purpose
of God; the other suggests the measure of the power which is working out
that salvation.

The instances of this second use of the phrase, besides the one in my
text, 'according to the riches of His grace,' are such as these:
'According to the riches of His glory'; 'According to the power that
worketh in us'; 'According to the measure of the gift of Christ';
'According to the energy of the might of His power, which He wrought in
Christ when He raised Him from the dead.'

Now it is clear that all these are varying forms of the same thing. They
vary in form, they are identical in substance. What a Jew calls a
'cubit' an Englishman calls a 'foot,' but the result is pretty nearly
the same. Shillings, marks, francs, are various standards; they all come
to substantially the same result. These varying measures of the divine
gift which is at work in man's salvation, have this in common, that they
all run out into God's immeasurable, unlimited power, boundless wealth.
And so, if we gather them together, and try to focus them in a few
words, they may help to widen our conceptions of what we ought to expect
from God, to bow us in contrition as to the small use that we have made
of it, and to open our desires wide, that they may be filled.

I only aspire, then, to deal with these four forms which I have already
suggested.

I. The measure of our possible attainments is the whole wealth of God.

'According to the riches of His grace.' Another angle at which the same
thought is viewed appears in another part of the letter, where we have
this variation in the expression, 'According to the riches of His
glory.' 'Grace' and 'Glory' are generally opposed antithetically; in
this epistle they are united, for in the verse before my text I read:
'To the praise of the glory of His grace.' So the first thought is, the
whole wealth of God is available for every Christian soul.

Now it seems to me that there are very few things that the popular
Christianity of this day needs more than a furnishing up of the familiar
old Christian terminology, which has largely lost the freshness and the
power that it once had. They tell us that these incandescent burners,
that we are using nowadays, are very much more bright when they are
first fixed than after the mantle gets a little worn. So it is with the
terminology of Christianity. It needs to be re-stated, not in such a way
as to take the pith out of it, which is what a great deal of the modern
craze for re-statement means, but in such a way as to brighten it up
again, and to invest it with something of the 'celestial light' with
which it was 'apparelled' when it first came. Now that word 'grace,' I
have no doubt, sounds to you hard, theological, remote. But what does it
mean? It gathers into one burning point the whole of the rays of that
conception of God, with which it is the glory of Christianity to have
flooded and drenched the world. It tells us that at the heart of the
universe there is a heart; that God is Love, that that love is the
motive-spring of His activity, that it comes and bends over the lowliest
with a smile of amity on its lips, with healing and help in its hands,
with forgiveness for all sins against itself, with boundless wealth for
the poorest, and that the wealth of His self-communicating love is the
measure of the wealth that each of us may possess.

God gives 'according to the riches of His grace.' You do not expect a
millionaire to give half-a-crown to a subscription fund; and God gives
royally, divinely, measuring His bestowments by the abundance of His
treasures, and handing over with an open palm large gifts of coined
money, because there are infinite chests of uncirculated bullion in the
deep storehouses. 'How great is Thy goodness which Thou hast manifested
before the sons of men for them that fear Thee. How much greater is Thy
goodness which Thou hast laid up in store.' But whilst He gives all, the
question comes to be: What do I receive? The measure of His gift is His
measureless grace; the measure of my reception is my--alas!
easily-measured faith. What about the unearned increment? What about the
unrealised wealth? Too many of us are like some man who has a great
estate in another land. He knows nothing about it, and is living in
grimy poverty in a back street. For you have all God's riches waiting
for you, and 'the potentiality of wealth beyond the dreams of avarice'
at your beck and call, and yet you are but poorly realising your
possible riches. Alas, that when we might have so much we do have so
little. 'According to the riches of His grace' He gives. But another
'according to' comes in. 'According to thy faith be it unto thee.' So we
have to take these two measures together, and the working limit of our
possession of God's riches comes out of the combination of them both.

Let me remind you, before I pass on, of what I have already suggested is
but another phase of this same thought, Paul says in this epistle that
God gives not only 'according to the riches of His grace,' but
'according to the riches of His glory,' and that the latter expression
is substantially identical with the former, is plain from the
combination of the two in an earlier verse of this chapter: 'To the
praise of the glory of His grace.' Thus we come to the blessed thought
that the glory of God is essentially the revelation of that stooping,
pitying, pardoning, enriching love. Not in the physical attributes, not
in the characteristics of the divine nature which part Him off from men,
and make Him remote, both from their conceptions and their affections,
but in the love that bends to them is the true glory of God. All these
other things are but the fringes; the centre of glory is the Love, which
is the mightiest and the divinest thing in the Might Divine. The
sunshine is far stronger than the lightning, and there is more force
developed in the rain than in an earthquake. That truth is what
Christianity has made the common possession of the world. It has thereby
broken the chains of dread; it has bridged over the infinite distance.
It has given us a God that can love and be loved, can stoop and can
lift, can pardon and can purify. 'According to the good pleasure of His
goodness,'--there is the foundation of our salvation. 'According to the
riches of His grace,'--there is the measure of our salvation.

II. We have another form of the same measure in another set of verses
which speak of the present working of God's power.

The Apostle speaks in regard to his own apostolic commission of its
being given 'according to the working of His power'; and he speaks of
all Christian men as receiving gifts 'according to the power that
worketh in us.' So there we have a standard that comes, as it were, a
little closer to ourselves. We do not need to travel up into the dim
abysses above, or think of the sanctities and the secrecies of that
divine heart in the light which is inaccessible, but we have the measure
in ourselves.

The standards of length are kept at Greenwich, the standards of capacity
are kept in the Tower; but there are local standards distributed
throughout the land to which men may go and have their measures
corrected. And so besides all these lofty thoughts about the grace and
the glory which measures His gift, we can turn within, if we are
Christian people, and say, 'According to the power that worketh in us.'

Ah, brethren! there are few things that we want more than to revive and
deepen the conviction that in every Christian man, by virtue of his
faith, and in proportion to his faith, there is in operation an actual,
superhuman, divine power moulding his nature, guiding, quickening,
ennobling, lifting, confirming, and hallowing and shaping him into
conformity with Jesus Christ. I would that we all believed not as a
dogma, but realised as a personal experience, that irrefragable truth,
'Know ye not that the Spirit of Christ dwelleth in you, except ye be
reprobate?' The life of self is evil; the life of Christ in self is
good, and only good. And if you are Christian men, and in the
proportion, as I have said, in which you are living by faith, you have
working in your spirits the very Spirit of Christ Himself.

And that power is the measure of your possibilities. Obviously 'the
power that worketh in us' is able to do a great deal more than it is
doing in any of us. And so with deep significance the Apostle, side by
side with his adducing of this power as being the measure of our
possible attainments, speaks about God as being 'able to do for us,
exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think.' 'The power
that works in us' transcends in its possibilities our present
experience, it transcends our conceptions, it transcends our desires. It
is able to do everything; it actually does--well, you know what it does
in you. And the responsibility of hampering and hindering that power
from working out its only adequately corresponding results lies at our
own doors. 'A rushing, mighty wind'--yes; and in myself a scarcely
perceptible breathing, and often a dead calm, stagnant as in the
latitudes on either side of the Equator, where, for long, dreary days,
no freshening motion in the atmosphere is perceptible. 'A fire?'--yes;
then why is my grate full of grey, cold ashes, and one little spark in
the corner? 'A fountain springing into everlasting life?'--yes; then why
in my basin is there so much scum and ooze, mud and defilement, and so
little of the flashing and brilliant water? 'The power that works in us'
is sorely hindered by the weakness in which it works.

III. In the third place another form of this measure is stated by the
Apostle, 'According to the measure of the gift of Christ.'

That means, of course, the gift which Christ bestows. It is
substantially the same idea as I have just been dealing with, only
looked at from rather a different point of view. Therefore, I need not
dwell upon its parallelism with what has just been occupying our
attention, but rather ask you simply to consider one point in reference
to it, and that is that, side by side with the reference to the gift of
Christ as being the measure of our possible attainments, the Apostle
enlarges on the Infinite variety of the shapes which that one gift
takes in different people. 'He gave some apostles, some prophets,' etc.;
one man receiving according to this fashion, and another according to
that, and to each of us the distribution is made 'according to the
measure of the gift of Christ.' That is to say, it takes us all, the
collective goodness and beauty of the whole community of saints, to
approximate to the fulness of that gift, and all are needed in their
different types and forms of excellence, sanctity and beauty, in order
to set forth, even imperfectly, the richness and the manifoldness of His
great gift. And so 'we all come'--there is a multiplicity--'unto the
perfect man, the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ'--there
is a unity in which the multiplicity inheres.

So try to get a little more of some different type of excellence than
that to which you are naturally inclined. Seek, and consciously
endeavour, to appropriate into your character uncongenial excellences,
and be very charitable in your judgments of the different types of
Christian conformity to Christ our Lord. The crystals that are set round
a light do not quarrel with each other as to whether green, or yellow,
or blue, or red, or violet is the true colour to reflect. We need all
the seven prismatic tints to make the perfect white light. The gift of
Christ is many-sided; try not to be one-sided in your reception of it.

IV. And now the last form of this measure is 'according to the energy of
the might of His power, which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him
from the dead.'

When we gazed upon the riches of God's grace, they were high above us,
when we looked upon 'the power that worketh in us,' we saw it working
amidst many hindrances and hamperings, but here there is presented to
us in a concrete example, close beside us, of what God can make of a man
when the man is wholly pliable to His will, and the recipient of His
influences. And so there stands before us the guarantee and the pattern
of immortal life, the Christ whose Manhood died and lives, who is
clothed with a spiritual body, who wields royal authority in the Kingdom
of the Most High. And that is the measure of what God can do with me,
and wishes to do with me, if I will let Him. Christ is my pattern, and
the measure of my own possibilities.

To be with Him, where and what He is, is the only adequate result of the
power that works in us, and of the process that is already begun in us,
if we are Christian people. You are sometimes--there is one eminent
example of it in that great Medicean Chapel at Florence--a statue
exquisitely finished in all its limbs, but one part left in the rough.
That is the best that Christian people come to here. Shall it always be
so? Do not the very imperfections prophesy completion, and is it not
certain that the half-finished torso will be carried to the upper
workshop, and be there disengaged from the dead marble and made to stand
out in perfect beauty and fullest completeness? Christ is the object of
our hopes, and no hopes of the Christian life are adequate to the power
that works in us, or to the progress already made, which do not see in
the 'energy of the might of the power' which wrought in Christ, the
example and the guarantee of the exceeding greatness of 'His power which
is to usward.'

And now, one last word. Besides all these passages which have been
occupying us, there is another use of this same phrase in this letter
which presents a very solemn and grim contrast. I can do no better with
it than simply read it: 'Ye were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein
in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according
to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now
worketh'--mark the allusion to the other words that we have been
referring to--'in the children of disobedience.' So there you have the
alternative, either 'dead in trespasses and sins,' whilst living the
physical and the intellectual life, or partaking of the life of Him 'who
was dead, and is alive for ever more'; either 'walking according to the
course of this world,' which is 'disobedience' and 'wrath,' or walking
'according to the power that worketh in us'; either 'putting on,' or
rather continuing to wear, 'the old man which is corrupt according to
the lusts which deceive,' or 'putting on the new man, which according to
God is created in righteousness and holiness and truth.' The choice is
before us. May God help us to choose aright!



GOD'S INHERITANCE AND OURS

     'In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, ... the earnest of
      our inheritance.'--Eph. i. 11, 14.


A dewdrop twinkles into green and gold as the sunlight falls on it. A
diamond flashes many colours as its facets catch the light. So, in this
context, the Apostle seems to be haunted with that thought of
'inheriting' and 'inheritance,' and he recurs to it several times, but
sets it at different angles, and it flashes back different beauties of
radiance. For the words, which I have wrenched from their context in the
first of these two verses, are more accurately rendered, as in the
Revised Version, in 'whom also we were made,' _not_ 'have
obtained'--'an inheritance.' Whose inheritance? God's! The Christian
community is God's possession. Then, in my second text, we have the
converse thought--'the earnest of _our_ inheritance.' What is the
Christian's possession? The same God whose possession is the Christian.
So, then, there is a deep and a wonderful relation between the believing
soul and God, and however different must be the two sides of that
relation, the resemblance is greater than the difference. Surely that is
the deepest, most blessed, and most strength-giving conception of the
Christian life. Other notions of it lay stress, and that rightly, upon
certain correspondence between us and God. My faith corresponds to His
faithfulness and veracity. My obedience corresponds to His authority. My
weakness lays hold on His strength. My emptiness is replenished by His
fulness. But here we rise above the region of correspondences into that
of similarity. In these other aspects the convexity fits the concavity;
in this aspect the two hemispheres go together and make the complete
globe. We possess God, and God possesses us, and it is the same set of
facts which are set forth in the two thoughts, 'We were made an
inheritance, ... the earnest of our inheritance.'

I. Now, then, let me ask you to look first at this mutual possession.

We possess God; God possesses us. What does that mean? Well, it means
plainly and chiefly this, a mutual love. For we all know--and many of us
thankfully can bear witness to the truth of it in our earthly
relationships,--that the one way by which a human spirit can possess a
spirit is by the sweet mutual love which abolishes 'mine' and 'thine,'
and all but abolishes 'me' and 'thee.' And so God sets little store by
the ownership which depends on divinity and creation, though, of
course, that relation brings with it a duty. As the old psalm has it,
'It is He that hath made us, and we are His'; still, such a relationship
as this, based upon the connection that subsists between the Maker and
the work of His hands, is so purely external, and harsh, and
superficial, that God does not reckon it to be a possession at all.

You perhaps remember how, in the great word which underlies all these
New Testament conceptions of God's ownership of His people, viz. the
charter that constituted Israel into a nation, He said, 'Ye shall be
unto Me a people for a possession above all nations, for all the earth
is Mine.' And yet, though that ownership and mastership extended over
everything that His hands had made, He--if I might so say--contemned it,
and relegated it to a secondary position, and told the people that His
heart hungered for something deeper, more real, more vital than such a
possession, and that therefore, just because all the earth was His, and
that was not enough to satisfy His heart, He took them and made them a
peculiar treasure above all nations. We have, then, to think of that
great Divine Love which possesses us when He loves us, and when we love
Him.

But remember that of this sweet commerce and reverberation of love which
constitutes possession, the origination must be in His heart. 'We love
Him because He first loved us.' The mirrors are set all round the great
hall, but their surfaces are cold and lifeless until the great
candelabrum in the centre is lit, and then, from every polished sheet
there flashes back an echoing, answering light, and they repeat and
repeat, until you scarce can tell which is the original and which is
the reflection. But quench the centre-light, and the daughter-radiances
vanish into darkness. The love on either side is on one side spontaneous
and underived, and on the other side is secondary and evoked, but it
_is_ love on both sides. His possession of us is, as it were, the upper
side, and our possession of Him is, as it were, the underside of the one
golden bond. It matters not whether you look at the stream with your
face to its source or with your face to its mouth, the silvery plain is
the same; and the deepest tie that knits men to God is the same as the
tie that knits God to men. There is mutual possession because there is
mutual love.

Then again, in this same thought of mutual possession there lies a
mutual surrender. For to give is the life-breath of all true love, and
there is nothing which the loving heart more desires than to be able to
pour _itself_ out--much rather than any subordinate gifts--on its
object. But that, if it is one-sided, is misery, and only when it is
reciprocal, is it blessed. God gives Himself to us, as we know, most
chiefly in that unspeakable gift of His Son, and we possess Him by
virtue of His self-communication which depends upon His love. And then
we possess Him, and He possesses us, not less by the answering surrender
of ourselves, which is the expression of our love. No love subsists if
it is only recipient; no love subsists if it is only communicated.
Exports and imports must both be realised in this sweet commerce, and we
enrich ourselves far more by what we give to the Beloved than by what we
keep for ourselves.

The last, the hardest thing to surrender, is our own wills. To give them
up by constraint is slavery that degrades. To give them up because we
love is a sacrifice which sanctifies, even in the lowest reaches of
daily life. And the love that knits us to God is not invested with all
its blessed possession of Him, until it has surrendered its will, and
said, 'Not as I will, but as Thou wilt.' The traveller in the old fable
gathered his cloak around him all the more closely, and held it the more
tightly, because of the tempest that blew, but when the warm sunbeams
fell he dropped it. He that would coerce my will, stiffens it into
rebellion; but when a beloved one says, 'Though I might be much bold to
enjoin thee, yet for love's sake I rather beseech,' then yielding is
blessedness, and the giving ourselves away is the finding of God and
ourselves.

I need not touch, in more than a word, upon another aspect of this
mutual possession, brought into view lovingly in many parts of
Scripture, and that is that there is in it not only mutual love and
mutual surrender, but mutual indwelling, 'He that dwelleth in love
dwelleth in God, and God in him.' Jesus Christ has said the same thing
to us, 'I am the Vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in Me
bringeth forth much fruit.' We dwell in God, possessing Him; He dwells
in us, possessing us. We dwell in God, being possessed by Him. He dwells
in us, being possessed by us. And He moves in the heart that loves, as
the Master walking through His house, as the divinity is present in the
temple, and as the soul permeates the body, and is sight in the eye and
colour in the cheek, and force in the arm, and deftness in the finger,
and swiftness in the foot. So the indwelling God breathes through all
the capacities, and all the desires, and all the needs of the soul which
He inhabits, and makes them all blessed. The very same set of facts--the
presence of a divine life in the life of the believing spirit--may
either be looked at from the lower end, and then they are that I possess
God, and find in Him the nutriment and the stimulus for all my being, or
may be looked at from the upper end, that He possesses me and finds in
me capacities and a nature the emptiness of which He fills, and organs
which He uses. In both cases mutual love, mutual surrender, mutual
inhabitation, make up God's possession of me and my possession of God.

II. And now let me point you in a very few words to some of the plain,
practical issues of this mutual possession. God's possession of us
demands our consecration. 'Ye are not your own, ye are bought with a
price,' therefore, to live for self is to fly in the face of the very
purpose of Christ's mission and of God's communication of Himself to us.
There are slaves who run away from their masters and 'deny the Lord that
bought them.' _We_ do that whenever, being God's slaves, we set up
anything else than His will as our law, or anything else than His glory
as the aim of our lives. To live for self is to die, to die to self is
to live. And the solemn obligations of that most blessed possession by
God of us are as solemn as the possession is blessed, and can only be
discharged when we turn to Him, and yield the whole control of our
nature to His merciful hand, believing that He has not only the right to
dispose of us, but that His disposition of us will always coincide with
our sanest conceptions of good, and our wisest desires for happiness.
Yield yourselves to God, for He has yielded Himself to you, and in the
yielding we realise our largest and most blessed possession. It is a
good bargain to give myself and to get God.

God's possession of us not only demands consecration, but it ensures
safety. Remember that great word, 'No man is able to pluck them out of
My Father's hand.' God is not a careless owner who leaves His treasures
to be blown by every wind, or filched by every petty robber. He is not
like the king of some decrepit monarchy, slices of whose territory his
neighbours are for ever paring off and annexing. What God has God
preserves. 'He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him
against that day.' 'They are Mine, saith the Lord, My jewels in the day
which I make.' But our security depends on our consecration. 'No man is
able to pluck them out of My Father's hand.' No! But you can wriggle
yourself out of your Father's hand, if you will. And the security avails
only so long as you realise that you belong to God, and are living not
for yourself.

Possessing God we are rich. There is nothing that is truly our wealth
which remains outside of us, and can be separated from us. 'Shrouds have
no pockets,' says the Spanish proverb. 'His glory shall not descend
after him,' says the grim psalm. But if God possesses me He is not going
to let His treasures be lost in the grave. And if I possess Him then I
shall pass through death as a beam of light does through some denser
medium--a little refracted indeed, but not broken up; and I shall carry
with me all my wealth to begin another world with. And that is more than
you can do with the money that you make here. If you have God, you have
the capital to commence a new condition of things beyond the grave.

And so that mutual possession is the real pledge of immortal life, for
nothing can be more incredible than that a soul which has risen to have
God for its very own, and has bowed itself to accept God's ownership of
it, can be affected by such a transient and physical incident as what we
call death. We rise to the assurance of immortality because we have an
inheritance which is God Himself. And in that inexhaustible Inheritance
there lies the guarantee that we shall live while He lives, because He
lives, and until we have incorporated into our lives all the majesty and
the purity and the wisdom and the power that belong to us because they
are God's.

But we have to notice the two words that lie at the beginning of our
first text--'_In whom_ we were made an inheritance.' That opens up the
whole question of the means by which this mutual possession becomes
possible for us men. Jesus Christ has died. That breaks the bondage
under which the whole world is held. For the true slavery which
interferes with the free service and the full possession of God is the
slavery of self and sin. Jesus Christ has died. 'If the Son make you
free ye shall be free indeed.' That great sacrifice not only 'breaks the
power of cancelled sin,' but it also moves the heart, in the measure in
which we truly accept it, to the love and the surrender which make the
mutual possession of which we have been speaking. And so it is in Him
that we become an Inheritance, that God comes to His rights in regard to
each of us. And it is in Him that we, trusting the Son, have the
inheritance for ours, and 'are heirs with God, and joint heirs with
Christ.' So, dear friends, if we would 'be meet for the inheritance of
the saints in light,' we must unite ourselves to that Lord by faith, and
through Him and faith in Him, we shall receive 'the remission of sins
and inheritance among all them that are sanctified.'



THE EARNEST AND THE INHERITANCE

     'The earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the
      purchased possession.'--Eph. i. 14.


I have dealt with a portion of this verse in conjunction with the
fragment of another in this chapter. I tried to show you how much the
idea of the mutual possession of God by the believing soul, and of the
believing soul by God, was present to the Apostle's thoughts in this
context. These two ideas are brought into close juxtaposition in the
verse before us, for, as you will see if you use the Revised Version,
the latter clause is there rightly paraphrased by the addition of a
supplement, and reads 'until the redemption of God's own possession.' So
that in the first clause we have 'our inheritance,' and in the second we
have 'God's possession.' This double idea, however, has appended to it
in this verse some very striking and important thoughts. The possession
of both sides is regarded as incomplete, for what _we_ have is the
'earnest' of the 'inheritance,' and '_God's_ own possession' has yet to
be 'redeemed,' in the fullest sense of that word, at some point in the
future. An 'earnest' is a fraction of an inheritance, or of a sum
hereafter to be paid, and is the guarantee and pledge that the whole
shall one day be handed over to the man who has received the foretaste
of it in the 'earnest.' The soldier's shilling, the ploughman's 'arles,'
the clod of earth and tuft of grass which, in some forms of transfer,
were handed over to the purchaser, were all the guarantee that the rest
was going to come. So the great future is sealed to us by the small
present and the experiences of the Christian life to-day, imperfect,
fragmentary, defective as they are, are the best prophecy and the most
glorious pledge of that great to-morrow. The same law of continuity
which, in application to our characters, and our work, and our daily
life, makes 'to-morrow as this day, and much more abundant,' in its
application to the future life makes the life here its parent, and the
life yonder the prolongation and the raising to its highest power, of
what is the main though often impeded tendency and direction of the
present. The earnest of the 'inheritance' is the pledge until the full
redemption of 'God's own possession.' I wish, then, to draw attention to
these additional thoughts which are here attached to the main idea with
which we were dealing in the last sermon.

I. And I ask you to look with me, first, at the incompleteness of the
present possession.

I tried to show in my last sermon how those great thoughts of God's
having us, and our having God, rested upon the three ideas of mutual
love, mutual communication, and mutual indwelling. On His side the love,
the impartation, the indwelling, are all perfect. On our side they are
incomplete, broken, defective; and, therefore, the incompleteness on our
side hinders both God's possession of us, and our possession of Him; so
that we have but the 'earnest' and not the 'inheritance.' That is to
say, the ownership may be perfect in idea, but in realisation it is
imperfect.

And then, if we turn to the word in the other clause, 'the redemption of
the purchased possession,' that suggests the incompleteness with which
God as yet owns us. For though the initial act of redeeming is complete,
yet redemption is a process, and not an act. And we 'are having' it, as
the Apostle says in another place very emphatically, in continual and
growing experience. The estate has been acquired, but has not yet been
fully subdued. For there are tribes in the jungles and in the hills who
still hold out against the reign of Him who has won it for Himself. And
so seeing that the redemption in its fulness is relegated to some point
in the future, towards which we are progressively approximating, and
seeing that the best that can be said about the Christian experience
here is that we have an 'earnest of the inheritance,' we must recognise
the incompleteness to-day of our possession of God, and of God's
possession of us.

That is a matter of experience. We know that only too well. 'I have
God'--have I? I have a drop at the bottom of a too often unsteadily held
and spilling cup, and the great ocean rolls unfathomable and boundless
at my feet. How partial, how fragmentary, how clouded with doubts and
blank ignorance, how intermittent, and, alas! rare, is our knowledge of
Him. We sometimes go down our streets between tall houses, walking in
their shadow, and now and then there is a cross street down which a
blaze of sunshine comes, and when we reach it, and the houses fall back,
we see the blue beyond. But we go on, and we are in the shadow again.
And so our earthly lives are passed, to a large extent, beneath the
shade of the grimy buildings that we ourselves have put up, and which
shut out heaven from us, and only now and then a slanting beam comes
through some opening, and carries wistful thoughts and longings into the
Empyrean beyond. And how feeble our faith, and how little of His power
comes into our hearts, and how little of the joy of the Lord is realised
in our daily experience we all know, and it is sometimes good for us to
force ourselves to feel it is but an 'earnest' of the 'inheritance'
that the best of us has.

'God has us.' Has He? Has He my will, which submits itself, and finds
joy in submitting itself, to Him? How many competitors are there for my
love which come in in front of Him, and we 'cannot get at Him for the
press'! How many other motives are dominant in our lives, and how often
we wrench ourselves away from our submission to Him, and try to set up a
little dominion of our own, and say, 'Our lives are ours; who is lord
over us?' Oh, brethren! we have God if we are Christians at all, and God
has us. But alas! surely all honest experience tells us that there are
awful gaps in the circle, and that our possession of Him, and His
possession of us, are wofully incomplete.

Now, let me remind you that this incompleteness is mainly our own fault.
Of course, I know that for the absolute completeness, either of my
possession of God or of His of me, I must pass from out this world, and
enter upon another stage and manner of being. But it is not being in the
flesh, but it is being dominated by the flesh, that is the reason for
the incompleteness of our mutual possession. And it is not being in the
world, but it is being seduced and tyrannised over by the influx of
worldly desires and thoughts, surging into our hearts, that drives God
from out of our hearts, and draws us away from the sweet security of
being possessed by, and living close to, Him. Death does a great deal
for a man in advancing him in the scale of being, and in changing the
centre of gravity, as it were, of this life. But there is no reason to
believe that anything in death, or beyond it, will so alter the set and
direction of his soul as that it will lead him into that possession of
God, and being possessed by Him, which he has not here. There are many
of us who, if we were to die this instant, would no more have God for
ours, or belong to God, than we do now. It is our fault if the circle is
broken into so many segments, if the moments of mutual love, communion,
and indwelling are so rare and interrupted in our lives. The
incompleteness which is due to our earthly condition is nothing as
compared with the incompleteness which is due to our own sin.

But this incompleteness is one which may be progressively diminished,
and we may be tending moment by moment, and year by year, nearer and
nearer, and ever nearer, to the unreachable ideal of the entire
possession of, and being possessed by, our God. There is a continual
process of redemption of 'God's own possession' going on if a Christian
man is true to himself and to that Divine Spirit which is the 'earnest'
of the 'inheritance.' Mark that in my text, as it stands in our Bibles,
and reads 'until the redemption,' there seems to be merely a pointing
onwards to a future epoch, but that, in the more accurate rendering
which you will find in the Revised Version, instead of 'until' we have
'_unto_,' and that teaches us that the Divine Spirit, which in one
aspect is the 'earnest of the inheritance,' is also operating upon men's
hearts and minds so as to bring about the gradual completion of the
process of redemption.

So, dear brethren, seeing that by our own faults the possession is
incomplete, and seeing that in the incompleteness there is given to each
of us, if we rightly use it, a mighty power which is working ever
towards the completion, it becomes us day by day to draw into our
spirits more and more of that divine influence, and to let it work more
fully upon the sins and faults which, far more than the body of flesh,
or the connection with the world which it brings about, are the reasons
for the incompleteness of the possession. We have, if we are wise, the
task to discharge of daily enclosing, so to speak, more and more of the
broad land which is all given over to us for our inheritance, but of
which only so much as we fence in and cultivate, and make our own, is
our own.

The incompleteness is progressively completed, and it is our work as
much as God's work to complete it. For though in our text that
redemption is conceived of as a divine act, it is not an act in which we
are but passive. The air goes into the lungs, and that oxygenates the
blood, but the lung has to inflate if the air is to penetrate all its
vesicles. And so the Spirit which seals us unto the redemption of the
possession has to be received, held, diffused throughout, and utilised
by our own effort.

II. Now, secondly, notice the certainty of the completion of the
incompleteness.

As I have already said, the clod of earth and the handful of grass, the
servant's wages, the soldier's shilling, are all guarantees that the
whole of the inheritance or of the pay will be forthcoming in due time.
And so there emerges from this consideration of the Divine Spirit as the
'earnest,' the thought that the present experiences of a Christian soul
are the surest proofs, and the irrefragable guarantees, of that perfect
future. We ask for proofs of a future life. They may be very useful in
certain states of mind, and to certain phases of opinion, but as it
seems to me, far deeper than the region of logical understanding, and
far more conclusive than anything that can be cast into the form of a
syllogism, is the experience of a soul which knows that God is its, and
that it is God's. 'I think, therefore, I am,' said the philosopher. 'I
have God; therefore I shall always be,' says the Christian. Whilst that
evidence is available only for himself, it is absolutely conclusive for
himself. And the fact that it does spring in the hearts which are
purest, because nearest God, is no small matter to be considered by men
who may be groping for proofs of a life to come. If the selected moments
of the purest devotion here on earth bring with them inevitably the
confidence of the unending continuance of that communion, then those who
do not believe in that future have to account for the fact as best they
may. As for us who do know, though brokenly, and by reason of our own
faults very imperfectly, what it is to have God, and be had by Him, we
do not need to travel out to dim and doubtful analogies, nor do we even
depend entirely upon the fact of a risen Christ ascended to the heavens,
and living evermore, but we can say, 'I am God's; God is mine, and death
has no power over such a mutual possession.'

The very incompleteness adds strength to the assurance, for the facts of
the Christian life are such as to demand, both by its greatness and by
its littleness, by its loftiness and by its lapses into lowliness, by
the floodtide of devotion that sometimes sweeps rejoicingly over the
mud-shoals and by the ebb that sometimes leaves them all black and
festering, a future life wherein what was manifestly meant to be, and
capable of being, dominant, supreme, but was hampered and hindered here,
shall reach its full development, and where the plant that was dwarfed
in this alien soil, transplanted into that higher house, shall blossom
and bear immortal fruits. The new moon has a ragged edge, and each of
the protrusions and concavities are the prophecy of the perfect orb
which shall ere long fill the night with calm light from its silvery
shield. The incompleteness prophesies completion.

And if the incompleteness is so blessed, what will the completeness be?
A shilling to a million pounds, Knowledge which is partial and
intermittent, like the twilight, as contrasted with the blaze of
noonday, Joy like winter sunshine as compared with the warmth and heat
of the midday sun at the zenith on the Equator. The 'earnest' of the
'inheritance' is wealth; the inheritance itself shall be unaccountable
treasure.

III. And so, lastly, a word about the completion of the possession.

The 'earnest' is always of the same nature as, and a part of the
'inheritance.' Therefore, since the Holy Spirit is the earnest, the
conclusion is plain, that the inheritance is nothing less than God
Himself. Heaven is to possess God, and to be possessed by Him. That is
the highest conception that we can form of that future life. And it is
sorely to be lamented that subsidiary conceptions, which are all useful
in their subordinate places, have, by popular Christianity, been far too
much elevated into being the central blessedness of that future heaven.
It is all right that we should cast the things which it is 'impossible
for men to utter' into the shape of symbols which may a little relieve
the necessary inarticulateness; but golden streets, and crystal
pavements, and white robes, and golden palms, and all such
representations, are but the dimmest shadows of that which they intend
to express, and do often, as is the vice of all symbols, obscure. We can
only conceive of a condition of which we have had no experience, by the
two ways of symbolism and of negation. We can say, 'There shall be no
night there; there shall be no curse there; they need no candle, neither
light of the sun; they rest not day nor night; there shall be no more
death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain,
for the former things are passed away.' But all these negations, like
their sister symbols, are but surface work, and we have to go deeper
than all of them.

But to possess God, and to be possessed by Him, and in either case
fully, perfectly in degree, progressively in measure, eternal in
duration, is the Heaven of heaven.

If that is the true conception of the inheritance, then it follows
indubitably that such a Heaven is not for everybody. God would fain have
us all for His there, as He would fain have each of us here and now, but
it may not be. There are creatures which live beneath stones, and if you
turn their coverings up, and let light fall on them, it kills them. And
there are men who have refused to belong to God here, and refused to
claim their portion in Him, and such cannot possess that true Heaven
which is God Himself. Then, if its possession is not a mere matter of
divine volition, giving a man what he is not capable of receiving, it
plainly follows that the preparation must begin now and here by the
incomplete possession of which my text is discoursing. And the way of
such preparation is plain. The context says: 'In whom, after that ye
believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.' Faith in
Jesus Christ, and trust in Him and His work as my forgiveness, my
acceptance, my changed nature and heart--is the condition of being
'sealed' with that Spirit whose sealing of us is the condition of our
love, our surrender, and mutual indwelling, which are our possession of
God and being possessed by Him, and are the condition of our future
complete possession of the 'inheritance.' We must begin with faith in
Christ. Then comes the sealing, then comes the earnest, then comes the
growing redemption, and in due time shall come the fulness of the
possession. 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ' if thou wouldst have the
earnest, whilst thou dost tabernacle in tents in the wilderness of Time,
and if thou wouldst have the inheritance when thou crossest the flood
into the goodly land.



THE HOPE OF THE CALLING

     'That ye may know what is the hope of His calling.'--Eph. i. 18.


A man's prayers for others are a very fair thermometer of his own
religious condition. What he asks for them will largely indicate what he
thinks best for himself; and how he asks it will show the firmness of
his own faith and the fervour of his own feeling. There is nothing
colder than the intercession of a cold Christian; and, on the other
hand, in no part of the fervid Apostle Paul's writings do his words come
more winged and fast, or his spirit glow with greater fervour of
affection and holy desire than in his petitions for his friends.

In that great prayer, of which my text forms a part, we have his
response to the good news that had reached him of the steadfastness in
faith and abundance in love of these Ephesian Christians. As the best
expression of his glad love he asks for them the knowledge of three
things, of which my text is the first, and the other two are the
'riches of the glory of the inheritance' and 'the exceeding greatness of
God's power.'

Now if we take the 'hope' in my text, as is often done, as meaning the
thing hoped for, there seems to be but a shadowy difference between the
first and the second of these subjects of the apostolic petition.
Whereas, if we take it as meaning, not the object on which the emotion
is fixed, but the emotion itself, then all the three stand in a natural
gradation and connection. We have, first, the Christian emotion; then
the object upon which it is fixed; 'the glory of the inheritance'; then
the power by which the latter is brought and the former is realised. We
shall consider the second and third of these petitions in following
sermons. For the present I confine myself to this first, the Apostle's
great desire for Christians who had already made considerable progress
in the Christian life, 'that they may know,' by experiencing it, 'what
is the hope of His calling.'

I. Now the first thought that these words suggest to me is this, that
the Christian hope is based upon the facts of Christian experience.

What does the Apostle mean by naming it 'the hope of his calling'? He
means this, that the great act of the divine mercy revealed to us in the
Gospel, by which God summons and invites men to Himself, will naturally
produce in those who have yielded to it a hope of immortal and perfect
life. Because God has called men, therefore the man who has yielded to
the call may legitimately, and must, if he is to do his duty, cherish
such a hope. It is clear enough that this is so, inasmuch as, unless
there be a heaven of completeness for us who have yielded to the summons
and obeyed the invitation of God in His Gospel, His whole procedure is
enigmatical and bewildering. The fact of the call is inexplicable; the
cost of it is no less so. It was not worth while for God to make the
world unless with respect to another which was to follow. It is still
less worth His while to redeem the world if the results of that
redemption, as they are exhibited here and now, and as they are capable
of being exhibited in this present condition of things, are all that are
to flow from it. It was not worth Christ's while to die, it was not
worth God's while to send His Son, there was no sense or consistency in
that great voice that echoes from heaven, calling us to love and serve
Him, unless, beyond the jangling contradictions, and imperfect
attainments, and foiled aspirations, and fragmentary faith, and broken
services of earth, there be a region of completeness where all that was
tendency here shall have become effect; and all that was but in germ
here, and sorely frostbitten by the ungenial climate, and shrivelled by
the foul vapours in the atmosphere, shall blossom and burgeon into
eternal life. The Christian life, as it is to-day, in its attainments
and imperfections, is at once the witness of the reality of the power
that has produced it, and clamantly calls for a sphere and environment
in which that power shall be able to produce the effects which it is
capable of producing.

God is 'not a man that He should lie, nor the son of man that He should
repent.' Men begin grand designs which never get further than the paper
that they are drawn on; or they build a porch, and then they are
bankrupt, or change their minds, or die, and the palace remains
unrealised, and all that pass by mock and say, 'This man began to build
and was not able to finish.' But God's designs are certain of
accomplishment. Unless we are to be reduced to a state of utter
intellectual bewilderment and confusion, and forgo our belief in His
veracity and resources to execute His designs, the design that lies in
the calling must needs lead on to the realm of perfectness. If we
consider the agent by which it is effected, even the risen Christ; if we
consider the cost at which it was accomplished, even the death on the
Cross, the mission of His Son, and His assumption of the limitations of
an incarnate life; if we consider the manifest potencies of the power
that He has brought into operation in the present Christian life; and if
we consider, side by side with these, the stark, staring contradictions
and as manifest inevitable limitations of the effects of that power, His
calling carries in its depths the assurance that what He means shall be
done, that Jesus Christ has not died in vain, that He has not ascended
to fill a solitary throne, but is the Firstfruits of a great harvest;
and that we shall one day be all that it is in the gospel of our
salvation to make us, unhindered by the limitations and unthwarted by
the antagonisms of this poor human life of ours. Unless there be a
heaven in which all desires shall be satisfied, all evils removed, all
good perfected, all ragged trees made symmetrical and full-grown, and
all souls that love Him radiant with His own perfect image, then the
light that seemed a light from heaven is the most delusive of all the
marsh-fires of earth, and nothing in the illusions of sense or of men's
cunning is so cruel or so tragic as the calling that seemed to be the
voice of God, and summoned us to a heaven which was only a dream.

II. And so, secondly, notice how this hope of our text is in some sense
the very topstone of the Christian life.

Paul has heard, concerning these people in Ephesus, of their faith and
love. And because he has heard of these, therefore he brings this
prayer. These two--the faith which apprehends the manifestation of God
in Jesus Christ, and the love which that faith produces in the heart
that accepts the revelation of the infinite love--are crowned by, and
are imperfect without, and naturally lead on to the brightness of this
great hope, Faith--the reliance of the spirit upon the veracity of the
revealing God--gives hope its contents; for the Christian hope is not
spun out of your own imaginations, nor is it the mere making objective
in a future life of the unfulfilled desires of this disappointing
present, but it is the recognition by the trusting spirit of the great
and starry truths that are flashed upon it by the Word of God. Faith
draws back the curtain, and Hope gazes into the supernal abysses. My
hope, if it be anything else than the veriest will-o'-the-wisp and
delusion, is the answer of my heart to the revealed truth of God.

Similarly the love which flows from faith not only necessarily leads on
to the expectation of union being perfected with the object of its warm
affection, but also so works upon the heart and character as that the
false and seducing loves which draw away, like some sluice upon a river,
the current of life from its true channel, are all sanctified and no
more hinder hope. Loving, we hope for that which, unless we loved, would
not draw desires nor yield foretastes of sweetness which, like perfumed
oil, feed the pure flame of hope.

The triad of Christian graces is completed by Hope. Without her fair
presence something is wanting to the completeness of her elder sisters.
The great Campanile at Florence, though it be inlaid with glowing
marbles, and fair sculptures, and perfect in its beauty, wants the
gilded, skyward-pointing pinnacle of its topmost pyramid; and so it
stands incomplete. And thus faith and love need for their crowning and
completion the topmost grace that looks up to the sky, and is sure of a
mansion there.

Brethren, our Christianity is wofully imperfect unless faith and love
find their acme, their outstretching completion, in this Christian hope.
Do you seek to complete your faith and love by a living hope full of
immortality?

III. Thirdly, notice how this hope is an all-important element in the
Christian life.

The Apostle asks for it as the best thing that can befall these Ephesian
Christians, as the one thing that they need to make them strong and good
and blessed. There are many other aspects of desire for them which
appear in other parts of this letter. But here all Christian progress is
regarded as being held in solution and included in vigorous hope.

Why is the activity of hope thus important for Christian life? Because
it stimulates effort, calms sorrows, takes the fascination out of
temptations, supplies a new aim for life and a new measure for the
things of time and sense.

If we lived, as we ought to live, in the habitual apprehension of the
great future awaiting all real Christians, would it not change the whole
aspect of life? The world is very big when it is looked at from any
point upon its surface; but suppose it could be looked at from the
central sun, how large would it appear then? We can shift our station in
like fashion, and then we get the true measure at once of the
insignificance and of the greatness of life. This world means nothing
worthy, except as an introduction to another. Not that thereby there
will follow in any wise man contempt for the present, for the very same
reference to the future which dwarfs the greatnesses and dwindles the
sorrows, and almost extinguishes the dazzling lights of this present,
does also lift it to its true significance and importance. It is the
vestibule of that future, and that future is conditioned throughout by
the results of the few years that we live here. An apprenticeship may be
a very poor matter, looked at in itself; and the boy may say What is the
use of my working at all these trivial things? but, since it is
apprenticeship, it is worth while to attend to every trifle in its
course, for attention to them will affect the standing of the man all
his days.

Here and now we are getting ready for the great workshop yonder;
learning the trick of the tools, and how to use our fingers and our
powers, and, when the schooling is done, we shall be set to nobler work,
and receive ample wages for the years here. Because that great
'to-morrow will be as this day' of earthly life, 'and much more
abundant,' therefore it is no trifle to work amongst the trifles; and
nothing is small which may tell on our condition yonder. The least
deflection from the straight line, however acute may be the angle which
the divergent lines enclose at the starting, and however small may seem
to be the deviation from parallelism, will, if prolonged to infinity,
have room between the two for all the stars, and the distance between
them will be that the one is in heaven and the other is in hell. And so
it is a great thing to live amongst the little things, and life gains
its true significance when we dwarf and magnify it by linking it with
the world to come.

If we only kept that hope bright before us, how little discomforts and
sorrows and troubles would matter! Life would become 'a solemn scorn of
ills.' It does not matter much what kind of cabin accommodation we have
if we are only going a short voyage; the main thing is to make the port.
If we, as Christian people, cherish, as we ought to do, this great hope,
then we shall be able to control, and not to despise but to exalt this
fleeting and transient scene, because it is linked inseparably with the
life that is to come.

IV. Lastly, this hope needs enlightened eyes.

The Apostle prays that God may give to these Ephesians 'the spirit of
wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,' and then he adds, as the
result of that gift, the desire that the Ephesian believers may have
'the eyes of their hearts enlightened.' That is a remarkable expression.
It does not mean, as an English reader might suppose it to mean, that
the affections are the agents by which this knowledge reaches us; but
'heart' is here used, as it often is in Scripture, as a general
expression for the whole inward life, and all that the Apostle means is
that, by the gift of the Divine Spirit of wisdom, a man's inner nature
may be so touched as to be capable of perceiving and grasping the 'hope
of the calling.'

Observe, too, the language, 'that ye may know the hope.' How can you
_know_ a hope? How do you know any kind of feeling? By having it. The
only way of knowing what is the hope is to hope, and this is only
possible by dint of these eyes of the understanding being enlightened.
For our inward nature, as we have it, and as we use it, without the
touch of that Divine Spirit, is so engrossed with this present that the
far-off blessedness to which my text refers has no chance of entering
there. No man can look at something beside him with one eye, and at
something half a mile off with the other. You have to focus the eye
according to the object; and he who is gazing upon the near is thereby
made blind to that which is afar off. If we go crawling along the low
levels with our eyes upon the dust, then of course we cannot see the
crown above.

We need more than the historical revelation of the light in order to
enlighten the inward nature. There is many a man here now who knows all
about the immortality that is brought to light by Jesus Christ just as
well as the Christian man whose soul is full of the hope of it, and who
yet, for all his knowledge, does not know the hope, because he has not
felt it. You have to get further than to the acceptance intellectually
of the historical facts of a risen and ascended Saviour before there can
be, in your heart, any vital hope of immortality. The inward eye must be
cleared and strengthened, cross lights must be shut out so that we may
direct the single eye of our hearts towards the great objects which
alone are worthy of its fixed contemplation. And we cannot do that
without a divine help, that Spirit of wisdom which will fill our hearts
if we ask for it, which will fix our affections, which will clear our
eyesight, which will withdraw it from seeing vanity as well as give it
reality to see.

But we must observe the conditions. Since this clearness of hope comes
not merely from the acceptance as a truth of the fact of Christ's
Resurrection and Ascension, but comes through the gift of that Divine
Spirit, then to have it you must ask for it. Christian people, do you
ask for it? Do you ever pray--I do not mean in words, but in real
desire--that God would help you to keep steadily before you that great
future to which we are all going so fast? If you do you will get the
answer. Seek for that Spirit; use it, and do not resist its touches. Do
not fix your gaze on the world when God is trying to draw you to fix it
upon Himself. Think more about Jesus Christ, more about God's high
calling, live nearer to Him, and try more honestly, more earnestly, more
prayerfully, more habitually, even amidst all the troubles and
difficulties and trivialities of each day, to cultivate that great
faculty of joyful and assured hope.

Surely God did not endue us with the power of hoping that we might fling
it all away on trivial, transient things. We are all far too
short-sighted; our fault is not that we do not hope, but that we hope
for such near things, for such small things, like the old mariners who
had no compass nor sextant, and were obliged to creep timidly along the
coasts, and steer from headland to headland. But we ought to launch
boldly out into mid-ocean, knowing that we have before us that star that
cannot guide us amiss. Do not set your hopes on the things that perish,
for if you do, hopes fulfilled and hopes disappointed will be equally
bitter in your mouths. And you older people who, like myself, are
drawing near the end of your days, and have little else left to hope for
in this world, do you see to it that your anticipations extend 'above
the ruinable skies.' _There_ is an object beyond experience, above
imagination, without example, for which the creation wants a comparison,
we an apprehension, and the Word of God itself a sufficient revelation.
'It doth not yet appear what we shall be.' God hath called us to His
eternal kingdom and glory; let us seek to walk in the light of the 'hope
of His calling.'



GOD'S INHERITANCE IN THE SAINTS

     'That ye may know what is the riches of the glory of His
      inheritance in the saints.'--Eph. i. 18.


The misery of Hope is that it so often owes its materials to the
strength of our desires or to the activity of our imagination. But when
mere wishes or fancies spin the thread, Hope cannot weave a lasting
fabric. And so one of the old prophets, in speaking of the delusive
hopes of man, says that they are like 'spiders' webs,' and 'shall not
become garments.' Paul, then, having been asking for these Ephesian
Christians that they might have hopes lofty and worthy, and such as
God's summons to them would inspire, passes on to ask that they might
have the material out of which they could weave such hope, namely, a
sure and clear knowledge of the future blessings. The language in which
he describes that future is remarkable--'the riches of the glory of His
inheritance in the saints.' He calls it God's inheritance, not as
meaning that God is the Inheritor, but the Giver. He speaks of it as
'in the saints,' meaning that, just as the land of Canaan was
distributed amongst tribes and families, and each man got his own little
plot, so that broad land is parted out amongst those who are 'partakers
of the inheritance of the saints in light.'

And so my text suggests to me three points to which I seek to call your
attention. First, the inheritance; second, the heirs; and third, the
heirs' present knowledge of their future possession.

I. First, then, note the inheritance.

Now we must discharge from the word some of its ordinary associations.
There is no reference to the thought of succession in it, as the mere
English reader is accustomed to think--to whom inheritance means
possession by the death of another. The idea is simply that of
possession. The figure which underlies the word is, of course, that of
the ancient partition of the land of Canaan amongst the tribes, but we
must go a great deal deeper than that in order to understand its whole
sweep and fulness of meaning.

What is the portion for a soul? God. God is Heaven, and Heaven is God.
No interpretation of 'the inheritance,' however it may run into cheap
and vulgar sensuous descriptions of a future glory, has come within
sight of the meaning of the word, unless it has grasped this as the
central thought: 'Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And there is none upon
earth that I desire beside Thee.' Only God can be the portion of a human
spirit. And none else can fill the narrowest and the smallest of man's
needs.

So, then, if there were realised all the accumulated changes of progress
in blessedness, and the withdrawal of all external causes of disquiet
and weariness and weeping, still the heart would hunger and be empty of
its true possession unless God Himself had flowed into it. It were but a
poor advancement and the gain of a loss, if yearnings were made
immortal, and the aching vacuity, which haunts every soul that is parted
from God, were cursed with immortality. It would be so, if it be not
true that the inheritance is nothing less than the fuller possession of
God Himself.

And how do men possess God? How do we possess one another, here and now?
By precisely the same way, only indefinitely expanded and exalted, do we
possess Him here, and shall we possess Him hereafter. Heart to heart is
joined by love which is mutual and interpenetrating possession; where
'mine' and 'thine' become blended, like the several portions of the one
ray of white light, in the blessed word 'ours.' Contemplation makes us
possessors of God. Assimilation to His character makes us own and have
Him. They who love and gaze, and are being changed by still degrees into
His likeness, possess Him. This is the central idea of man's future
destiny and highest blessedness, a union with God closer and more
intimate in degree, but yet essentially the same in kind, as is here
possible amidst the shows and vanities and wearinesses of this mortal
life. 'His servants shall serve Him, and see His face, and His name
shall be on their foreheads.' Obedience, contemplation, transformation,
these are the hands by which we here lay hold on God; and they in the
heavens grasp Him just as we here on earth may do. The 'inheritance' is
God Himself.

Surely that is in accordance with the whole teaching of Scripture, and
is but the expansion of plain words which tell us that we 'are heirs of
God.' If that be so, then all the other subsidiary blessings which have
been, to the sore detriment of Christian anticipation and of Christian
life in a hundred ways, elevated into disproportionate importance, fall
into their right places, and are more when they are looked upon as
secondary than when they are looked upon as primary.

Ah, brethren! neither the sensuous metaphors which, in accommodation to
our weakness, Scripture has used to paint that future so that we may, in
some measure, comprehend it, nor the translation of these, in so far as
they refer to circumstances and externals, are enough for us. It is
blessed to know that 'there shall be no night there'--blessed to grasp
all those sweet negatives which contradict the miseries of the world,
and to think of no sin, no curse, no tears, no sighing nor sorrow,
neither any more pain, 'because the former things have passed away.' It
is sweet and ennobling to think that, when we are discharged of the load
of this cumbrous flesh, we shall be much more ourselves, and able to see
where now is but darkness, and to feel where now is but vacancy. It is
blessed to think of the recognising of lost and loved ones. But all
these blessednesses, heaped together, as it seems to me, would become
sickeningly the same if prolonged through eternity, unless we had God
for our very own. _Eternal_ is an awful word, even when the noun that
goes with it is _blessedness_. And I know not how even the redeemed
could be saved, as the long ages rolled on, from the oppression of
monotony, and the feeling, 'I would not live always,' unless God was
'the strength of their hearts, and their portion for ever.' We must rise
above everything that merely applies to changes in our own natures and
in our relations to the external universe, and to other orders of
creatures; and grasp, as the hidden sweetness that lies in the calyx of
the gorgeous flower, the possession of God Himself as the rapture of
our joy and the heaven of our heaven.

And if that be so, then these accumulated words with which the Apostle,
in his fiery, impetuous way, tries to set forth the greatness of what he
is speaking about, receive a loftier meaning than they otherwise would
have.

'The riches of the glory of His inheritance'--now that word 'riches,' or
'wealth,' is a favourite of Paul's; and in this single letter occurs, if
I count rightly, five times. In addition to our text, it is used twice
in connection with God's grace, 'the riches of His grace' once in
connection with Jesus, 'the unsearchable riches of Christ'; and once in
a similar connection to, though with a different application from, our
text, 'the riches of His glory.' Always, you see, it is applied to
something that is special and properly divine. And here, therefore, it
applies, not to the abundance of any creatural good, however exuberant
and inexhaustible the store of it may be, but simply and solely to that
unwearying energy, that self-feeding and ever-burning and never-decaying
light, which is God. Of Him alone it can be said that work does not
exhaust, nor Being tend to its own extinction, nor expenditure of
resources to their diminution. The guarantee for eternal blessedness is
the 'riches' of the eternal God, and so we may be sure that no time can
exhaust, nor any expenditure empty, either His storehouse or our wealth.

And again, the 'glory' is not the lustrous light, however dazzling to
our feeble eyes that may be, of any creature that reflects the light of
God, but it is the far-flashing and never-dying radiance of His own
manifestation of Himself to the hearts and souls of them that love Him.
And so the 'inheritance is incorruptible and undefiled, and fadeth not
away'; not merely by reason of the communicated will of God operating
upon creatures whom He preserves untarnished by corruption, and ungnawed
by decay, but because He Himself is the 'inheritance,' and on Him time
hath no power. On His wealth all His creatures may hang for ever; and it
shall be as it was in the sweet parable of the miracle of old, the
fragments that remain will be more than when the meal began. 'The riches
of the glory of His inheritance.'

II. Now notice, secondly, the heirs.

The words of my text receive, perhaps, their best commentary and
explanation in those words which the writer of them heard, on the
Damascus road, when the voice from heaven spoke to him about men
'obtaining an inheritance among them that are sanctified.' It almost
sounds like an echo of that long past, but never-to-be-forgotten voice,
when our Apostle writes as he does in our text.

Now what does he mean by 'saints'? Who are these amongst whom the broad
acres of that infinite prairie are to be parted out? The word has
attracted to itself contemptuous meanings and ascetical meanings, and
meanings which really deny the true democracy of Christianity and the
equality of all believers in the sight of God. But its scriptural use
has none of these narrowing and confusing associations adhering to it,
nor does it even directly and at first mean, as we generally take it to
mean, pure men, holy in the sense of clean and righteous. But something
goes before that phase of meaning, and it is this--a saint is a man
separated and set apart for God, as His property. That is the true
meaning of the word. It is its meaning as it is applied to the vessels
of the Temple, the priests, the services, and the altar. It is its
meaning, only with the necessary substitution of spirit for body, as it
is applied in the New Testament as a designation co-extensive with that
of believers.

How does a man belong to God?

We asked a minute or two ago how God belonged to men. The answer to the
converse question is almost identical. A man belongs to God by the
affection of his heart, by the submission of his will, by the reference
of his actions to Him; and he who thus belongs to God, in the same act
in which he gives himself to God, receives God as his possession. The
thing must be reciprocal. 'All mine is Thine'; and God answers, 'And all
Mine is thine.' He ever meets our 'O Lord, I yield myself to Thee,' with
His 'And My child, I give Myself to thee.' It is so in regard of our
earthly loves. It is so in regard of our relations to Him. And that
being the case, purity, which is generally taken by careless readers as
being the main idea of sanctity, will follow this self-surrender, which
is the basis of all goodness, everywhere and always.

If that be true, and I do not think it can be effectively denied, then
the next step is a very plain one, and that is that for the perfect
possession of God, which is heaven, the same thing is needed in its
perfection which is required for the partial possession of Him that
makes the Christian life of earth. And just as here we get Him for ours
in proportion as we give up ourselves to be His, so yonder the
inheritance belongs, and can only belong to, 'the saints.' So, then, one
can see that there is nothing arbitrary in this limitation of a
possession, which in its very nature cannot go beyond the bounds which
are thus marked out for it. If heaven were the vulgar thing that some of
you think it, if that future life were desirable simply because you
escaped from some external punishment and got all sorts of outward
blessings and joys, felicities and advantages, hung round the neck, or
pinned upon the breast, as they do to successful fighters, why then, of
course, there might be partiality in the distribution of the
decorations. But if that possession hinges upon our yielding ourselves
to Him, then there is not an arbitrary link in the whole chain. Faith is
set forth as the condition of heaven, because faith is the means of
union with Christ, by and from whom alone we draw the motives for
self-surrender and the power for sanctity. You cannot have heaven unless
you have God. That is step number one. You cannot have God unless you
have 'holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.' That is step
number two. You cannot have holiness without faith. That is step number
three. 'An inheritance among them that are sanctified'; and then there
is added, 'by faith which is in Me.'

It is clear, too, what a fatal delusion some of us are under who think
that we shall, and fancy that we should like to, as we say, 'go to
heaven when we die.' Why, heaven is here, round about you, a present
heaven in the imitation of God, in the practice of righteousness, in the
cultivation of dependence upon Him, in the yielding of yourselves up to
Him. Heaven is here, and by your own choice you stop outside of it.
There must be a correspondence between environment and nature for
blessedness. 'The mind is its own place,' as the great Puritan poet
taught us, 'and makes a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.' Fishes die on
the shore, and the man that drew them out dies in the water. Gills
cannot breathe where lungs are useful, and lungs cannot, where gills
come into play. If you have not here and now the holiness which knits
you to God, and gives you possession of Him, you would not like
'heaven,' if it were possible to carry you to that place, in so far as
it is a place. It is rather strange, if you hope to go to heaven when
you die, that you should be very unwilling to spend a little time in it
whilst you are alive, and that you should expect blessedness then from
that presence of God which brings you no blessedness now.

III. Lastly, we have here the heirs' present knowledge of their future
blessedness.

The Apostle asks that these men may know a thing that clearly seems
unknowable. It is an impossible petition, we might be ready to say,
because it is clear enough that there can be no true knowledge of the
conditions and details of that future life. The dark mountains that lie
between us and it hide their secret well, and few or no stray beams have
reached us. An unborn babe, or a chrysalis in a hole in the ground or in
a chink of a tree, might think as wisely about its future condition as
we can do about that life beyond. There can be no knowledge until there
is experience.

What, then, does Paul mean by framing such a petition as this? The
answer is found in noticing that the knowledge which he is imploring
here is a consequence of a previous knowledge. For, in a former verse,
he prays that these men may have 'the spirit of wisdom in the knowledge
of God'; and when they have got the knowledge of God he thinks that they
will have got the knowledge of 'the riches of the glory of His
inheritance in the saints.' Now, turn that into other words, and it is
just this, that the knowledge of God, which comes by faith and love
here, is in kind so identical with the fullest and loftiest riches of
the knowledge of Him hereafter, that, if we have the one, we are not
without the other. The one is in germ, the other, no doubt, full blown;
the one is the twinkling of the rushlight, as it were, the other is the
blaze of the sunshine. The two states of being are so correspondent that
from the one we draw our clearest knowledge of the other. There are
telescopes, in using which you do not look up when you want to see the
stars, but down on to a reflecting mirror, and there you see them. Such
a reflecting mirror, though it be sometimes muddied and dimmed and
always very small, are the experiences of the Christian soul here.

So, dear friends, if we want to know as much as may be known of the
blessedness of heaven, let us seek to possess as much as may be
possessed of the knowledge and love of God on earth. Then we shall know
the centre, at any rate; and that is light, though the circumference may
be very dark. Much will remain obscure. That is of very small
consequence to Hope, which does not need information half so much as it
needs assurance. Like some flower in the cranny of the rock, it can
spread a broad bright blossom on little soil, if only it be firmly
rooted.

The path for us all is plain. Come to Jesus Christ as sinful men, and
take what He has given, who has given Himself for us. Touched by His
love, let us love Him back again, and yield ourselves to Him, and He
will give Himself to us. They who can say, 'O Lord! I am Thine,' are
sure to hear from heaven, 'I am thine.' And they who possess, in being
possessed by, God Himself, do not need to die in order to go to heaven,
but are at least doorkeepers in the house of the Lord now, and stand
where they can see into the inner sanctuary which they will one day
tread. A life of faith brings Heaven to us, and thereby gives us the
surest and the clearest knowledge of what we shall be, and have, when we
are brought to heaven.



THE MEASURE OF IMMEASURABLE POWER

     'That ye may know ... what is the exceeding greatness of His power
      to usward who believe, according to the working of His mighty
      power, which He wrought in Christ.'--Eph. i. 19, 20.


'The riches of the glory of the inheritance' will sometimes quench
rather than stimulate hope. He can have little depth of religion who has
not often felt that the transcendent glory of that promised future
sharpens the doubt--'and can _I_ ever hope to reach it?' Our paths are
strewn with battlefields where we were defeated; how should we expect
the victor's wreath? And so Paul does not think that he has asked all
which his friends in Ephesus need when he has asked that they may know
the hope and the inheritance. There is something more wanted, something
more even for our knowledge of these, and that is the knowledge of the
power which alone can fulfil the hope and bring the inheritance. His
language swells and peals and becomes exuberant and noble with his
theme. He catches fire, as it were, as he thinks about this power that
worketh in us. It is 'exceeding.' Exceeding what? He does not tell us,
but other words in this letter, in the other great prayer which it
contains, may help us to supply the missing words. He speaks of the
'love of Christ which passeth knowledge,' and of God being 'able to do
exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think.' The power
which is really at work in Christian men to-day is in its nature
properly transcendent and immeasurable, and passes thought and desire
and knowledge.

And yet it has a measure. 'According to the working of the strength of
the might which He wrought in Christ.' Is that heaping together of
synonyms or all but synonyms, mere tautology? Surely not. Commentators
tell us that they can distinguish differences of meaning between the
words, in that the first of them is the more active and outward, and the
last of them is the more inward. And so they liken them to fruit and
branch and root; but we need simply say that the gathering together of
words so nearly co-extensive in their meaning is witness to the effort
to condense the infinite within the bounds of human tongue, to speak the
unspeakable; and that these reiterated expressions, like the blows of
the billows that succeed one another on the beach, are hints of the
force of the infinite ocean that lies behind.

And then the Apostle, when he has once come in sight of his risen Lord,
as is his wont, is swept away by the ardour of his faith and the
clearness of his vision, and breaks from his purpose in order to dilate
on the glories of his King. We do not need to follow him into that. I
limit myself now to the words which I have read as my text, with only
such reference to the magnificent passage which succeeds as may be
necessary for the exposition of this.

I. So, then, I ask you to look, first, at the measure and example of the
immeasurable power that works in Christian men.

'According to the working of the strength of the might which He wrought
in Christ'--the Resurrection, the Ascension, the session at the right
hand of God, the rule over all creatures, and the exaltation above all
things on earth or in the heavens--these are the facts which the Apostle
brings before us as the pattern-works, the _chefs-d'oeuvre_ of the
power that is operating in all Christians. The present glories of the
ascended Christ are glories possessed by a Man, and, that being so, they
are available as evidences and measures of the power which works in
believing souls. In them we see the possibilities of humanity, the ideal
for man which God had when He created and breathed His blessing upon
him. It is one of ourselves who has strength enough to bear the burden
of the glory, one of ourselves who can stand within the blaze of
encircling and indwelling Divinity and be unconsumed. The possibilities
of human nature are manifest there. If we want to know what the Divine
Power can make of us, let us turn to look with the eye of faith upon
what it has made of Jesus Christ.

But such a thought, glorious as it is, still leaves room for doubt as to
my personal attainment of such an ideal. Possibility is much, but we
need solid certainty. And we find it in the truth that the bond between
Christ and those who truly love and trust Him is such as that the
possibility must become a reality and be consolidated into a certainty.
The Vine and its branches, their Head and the members, the Christ and
His Church, are knit together by such closeness of union as that
wheresoever and whatsoever the one is, there and that must the others
also be. Therefore, when doubts and fears, and consciousness of our own
weakness, creep across us, and all our hopes are dimmed, as some star in
the heavens is, when a light mist floats between us and it, let us turn
away to Him our brother, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, and
think that He, in His calm exaltation and regal authority and infinite
blessedness, is not only the pattern of what humanity may be, but the
pledge of what His Church must be. 'Where I am, there shall also My
servant be.' 'The glory that Thou gavest Me I have given them.'

Nor is that all. Not only a possibility and a certainty for the future
are for us the measure of the power that worketh in us, but as this same
letter teaches us, we have, as Christians, a present scale by which we
may estimate the greatness of the power. For in the next chapter, after
that glorious burst as to the dignity of his Lord, which we have not the
heart to call a digression, the Apostle, recurring to the theme of my
text, goes on to say, 'And you hath He quickened,' and then, catching it
up again a verse or two afterwards, he reiterates, clause by clause,
what had been done on Jesus as having been done on us Christians. If
that Divine Spirit raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own
right hand in the heavenly places, it is as true that the same power
hath 'raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places
in Christ Jesus.' And so not only the far-off, though real and
brilliant, and eye and heart-filling glories of the ascended Christ give
us the measure of the power, but also the limited experience of the
present Christian life, the fact of the resurrection from the true
death, the death of sin, the fact of union with Jesus Christ so real and
close as that they who truly experience it do live, as far as the roots
of their lives and the scope and the aim of them are concerned, 'in the
heavens,' and 'sit with Him in heavenly places'--these things afford us
the measure of the power that worketh in us.

Then, because a Man is King of kings and Lord of lords; and because He
who is our Life 'is exalted high above all principalities and powers';
and because from His throne He has quickened us from the death of sin,
and has drawn us so near to Himself that if we are His we truly live
beside Him, even whilst we stumble here in the darkness, we may know the
exceeding greatness of His power, according to the working of the
strength of the might which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from
the dead.

II. Secondly, notice the knowledge of the unknowable power.

We have already come across the same apparent paradox, covering a deep
truth, in the former sections of this series of petitions. I need only
remind you, in reference to this matter, that the knowledge which is
here in question is not the intellectual perception of a fact as
revealed in Scripture, but is that knowledge to which alone the New
Testament gives the noble name, being knowledge verified by inward
experience, and the result of one's own personal acquaintance with its
object.

How do we know a power? By thrilling beneath its force. How are we to
know the greatness of the power but because it comes surging and
rejoicing into our aching emptiness, and lifts us buoyant above our
temptations and weakness? Paul was not asking for these people
theological conceptions. He was asking that their spirits might be so
saturated with and immersed in that great ocean of force that pours from
God as that they should never, henceforth, be able to doubt the
greatness of that power which wrought in them. The knowledge that comes
from experience is the knowledge that we all ought to seek. It is not
merely to be desired that we should have right and just conceptions, but
that we should have the vital knowledge which is, and which comes from,
life eternal.

And that power, which thus we may all know by feeling it working upon
ourselves, though it be immeasurable, has its measure; though it be, in
its depth and fulness, unknowable and inexhaustible, may yet be really
and truly known. You do not need a thunderstorm to experience the
electric shock; a battery that you can carry in your pocket will do that
for you. You do not need to have traversed all the length and breadth
and depth and height of some newly-discovered country to be sure of its
existence, and to have a real, though it may be a vague, conception of
the magnitude of its shores. And so, really, though boundedly, we have
the knowledge of God, and can rely upon it as valid, though partial; and
similarly, by experience we have such a certified acquaintance with Him
and His power as needs no enlargement to be trusted, and to become the
source of blessings untold. We may see but a strip of the sky through
the narrow chinks of our prison windows, and many a grating may further
intercept the view, and much dust that might be cleared away may dim the
glass but yet it _is_ the sky that we see, and we can think of the great
horizon circling round and round, and of the infinite depths above
there, which neither eye nor thought can travel unwearied. Though all
that we see be but an inch in breadth and a foot or two in height, yet
we do see. We know the unknowable power that passeth knowledge.

And let me remind you of how large importance this knowledge of and
constant reference to the measureless power manifested in Christ is for
us. I believe there can be no vigorous, happy Christian life without it.
It is our only refuge from pessimism and despair for the world. The old
psalm said, 'Thou hast crowned Him with glory and honour, and hast given
Him dominion over the works of Thy hands,' and hundreds of years
afterwards the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews commented on it
thus, 'We see not yet all things put under Him.' Was the old vision a
dream, was it never intended to be fulfilled? Apparently so, if we take
the history of the past into account, and the centuries that have passed
since have done nothing to make it more probable, apart from Jesus
Christ, that man will rise to the height which the Psalmist dreamed of.
When we look at the exploded Utopias that fill the past; when we think
of the strange and apparently fatal necessity by which evil is developed
from every stage of what men call progress, and how improvement is
perverted, almost as soon as effected, into another fortress of weakness
and misery; when we look on the world as it is to-day, I know not whence
a man is to draw bright hopes, or what is to deliver him from pessimism
as his last word about himself and his fellows, except the 'working of
the strength of the might which He wrought in Christ.' 'We see not yet
all things put under Him'--be it so, 'but we see Jesus,' and, looking to
Him, hope is possible, reasonable, and imperative.

The same knowledge is our refuge from our own consciousness of weakness.
We look up, as a climber may do in some Alpine ravine, upon the smooth
gleaming walls of the cliff that rises above us. It is marble, it is
fair, there are lovely lands on the summit, but nothing that has not
wings can get there. We try, but slip backwards almost as much as we
rise. What is to be done? Are we to sit down at the foot of the cliff,
and say, 'We cannot climb, let us be content with the luscious herbage
and sheltered ease below?' Yes! That is what we are tempted to say. But
look! a mighty hand reaches over, an arm is stretched down, the hand
grasps us, and lifts us, and sets us there.

'No man hath ascended up into heaven save He that came down from
heaven,' and having returned thither stoops thence, and will lift us to
Himself. I am a poor, weak creature. Yes! I am all full of sin and
corruption. Yes! I am ashamed of myself every day. Yes! I am too heavy
to climb, and have no wings to fly, and am bound here by chains
manifold. Yes! But we know the exceeding greatness of the power, and we
triumph in Him.

That knowledge should shame us into contrition, when we think of such
force at our disposal, and such poor results. That knowledge should
widen our conceptions, enlarge our desires, breathe a brave confidence
into our hopes, should teach us to expect great things of God, and to be
intolerant of present attainments whilst anything remains unattained.
And it should stimulate our vigorous effort, for no man will long seek
to be better, if he is convinced that the effort is hopeless.

Learn to realise the exceeding greatness of the power that will clothe
your weakness. 'Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created
these things, for that He is strong in might, not one faileth.' That is
wonderful, but here is a far nobler operation of the divine power. It is
great to 'preserve the ancient heavens' fresh and strong by His might,
but it is greater to come down to my weakness, to 'give power to the
faint,' and 'increase strength to them that have no might.' And that is
what He will do with us.

III. Lastly, notice the conditions for the operations of the power.

'To usward who believe,' says Paul. He has been talking to these
Ephesians, and saying 'ye,' but now, by that 'us,' he places himself
beside them, identifies himself with them, and declares that all his
gifts and strength come to him on precisely the same conditions on which
theirs do to them; and that he, like them, is a waiter upon that grace
which God bestows on them that trust Him.

'To usward who believe.' Once more we are back at the old truth which we
can never make too emphatic and plain, that the one condition of the
weakest among us being strong with the strength of the Lord is simple
trust in Him, verified, of course, by continuance and by effort.

How did the water go into the Ship Canal at Eastham last week? First of
all they cut a trench, and then they severed the little strip of land
between the hole and the sea, and the sea did the rest. The wider and
deeper the opening that we make in our natures by our simple trust in
God, the fuller will be the rejoicing flood that pours into us. There is
an old story about a Christian father, who, having been torturing
himself with theological speculations about the nature of the Trinity,
fell asleep and dreamed that he was emptying the ocean with a thimble!
Well, you cannot empty it with a thimble, but you can go to it with one,
and, if you have only a thimble in your hand, you will only bring away a
thimbleful. The measure of your faith is the measure of God's power
given to you.

There are two measures of the immeasurable power--the one is that
infinite limit, of 'the power which He wrought in Christ,' and the other
the practical limit. The working measure of our spiritual life is our
faith. In plain English, we can have as much of God as we want. We do
have as much as we want. And if, in touch with the power that can
shatter a universe, we only get a little thrill that is scarcely
perceptible to ourselves, and all unnoticed by others, whose fault is
that? If, coming to the fountain that laughs at drought, and can fill a
universe with its waters, we scarcely bear away a straitened drop or
two, that barely refreshes our parched lips, and does nothing to
stimulate the growth of the plants of holiness in our gardens, whose
fault is that? The practical measure of the power is for us the measure
of our belief and desire. And if we only go to Him, as I pray we all
may, and continue there, and ask from Him strength, according to the
riches that are treasured in Jesus Christ, we shall get the old answer,
'According to your faith be it unto you.'



THE RESURRECTION OF DEAD SOULS

     'God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved
      us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with
      Christ.'--Eph. ii. 4, 5.


Scripture paints man as he is, in darker tints, and man as he may
become, in brighter ones, than are elsewhere found. The range of this
portrait painter's palette is from pitchiest black to most dazzling
white, as of snow smitten by sunlight. Nowhere else are there such sad,
stern words about the actualities of human nature; nowhere else such
glowing and wonderful ones about its possibilities. This Physician
knows that He can cure the worst cases, if they will take His medicine,
and is under no temptation to minimise the severity of the symptoms or
the fatality of the disease. We have got both sides in my text; man's
actual condition, 'dead in trespasses'; man's possible condition, and
the actual condition of thousands of men--made to live again in Jesus
Christ, and with Him raised from the dead, and with Him gone up on high,
and with Him sitting at God's right hand. That is what you and I may be
if we will; if we will not, then we must be the other.

So there are three things here to look at for a few moments--the dead
souls; the pitying love that looks down upon them; and the resurrection
of the dead.

I. First, here is a picture, a dogmatic statement if you like, about the
actual condition of human nature apart from Jesus Christ--'Dead in
trespasses.'

The Apostle looks upon the world--many-coloured, full of activity, full
of intellectual stir, full of human emotions, affections, joys, sorrows,
fluctuations--as if it were one great cemetery, and on every gravestone
there were written the same inscription. They all died of the same
disease--'dead _through_ sin,' as the original more properly means.

Now, I dare say many who are listening to me are saying in their hearts,
'Oh! Exaggeration! The old gloomy, narrow view of human nature cropping
up again.' Well, I am not at all unwilling to acknowledge that truths
like this have very often been preached both with a tone and in a manner
that repels, and which is rightly chargeable with exaggeration and undue
gloom and narrowness. But let me remind you that it is not the
Evangelical preacher nor the Apostle only who have to bear the
condemnation of exaggeration, if this representation of my text be not
true to facts, but it is Jesus Christ too; for He says, 'Except ye eat
the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man, ye have no life in
you.' And I think that be He divine or not divine, His words about the
religious condition of men go so surely to the mark that a man must be
tolerably impregnable in his self-conceit who charges _Him_ with
narrowness and exaggeration. At all events, I am content to say after
Him, and I pray that you and I, when we accept Him as our Teacher, may
take not only His gracious, but His stern, words, assured that a deep
graciousness lies in these, too, if we rightly understand them.

Let me remind you that the phrase of my text is by no means confined to
Christian teachers, but that, in common speech, we hear from all high
thinkers about the lower type of humanity being dead to the loftier
thoughts in which they live and move and have their being. It has passed
into a commonplace of language to speak of men being 'dead to honour,'
'dead to shame,' 'dead' to this, that, and the other good and noble and
gracious thing. And the same metaphor, if you like, lies here in my
text--that men who have given their wills and inmost natures over to the
dominion of self--and that is the definition of sin--that such men are,
_ipso facto_, by reason of that very surrender of themselves to their
worst selves, dead on what I may call the top side of their nature, and
that all that is there is atrophied and dwindling away.

Unconsciousness is one characteristic of death. And oh! as I look round
I know that there are tens, and perhaps hundreds, of men and women who
are all but utterly unconscious of a whole universe in which are the
only realities, and to which it becomes them to have access. You live,
in the physical sense, and move and have your being in God, and yet your
inmost life would not be altered one hair's-breadth if there were no God
at all. You pass the most resplendent instances and illustrations of His
presence, His work, and you see nothing. You are blind on that side of
your natures; or, as my text says, dead to the whole spiritual realm.
Just as if there were a brick wall run against some man's windows so
that he could see nothing out of them; so you, by your persistent
adherence to the paltry present, the material, the visible, the selfish,
have reared up a wall against the windows of your souls that look
heavenwards; and of God, and all the lofty starry realities that cluster
round Him, you are as unconscious as the corpse upon its bier is of the
sunshine that plays upon its pallid features, or of the dew that falls
on its stiffened limbs. Dead, because of sin--is that exaggeration? Is
it exaggeration which charges all but absolute unconsciousness of
spiritual realities upon worldly men like some of you?

And, then, take another illustration. Another of the signatures of death
is inactivity. And oh! what faculties in some of my friends listening to
me now are shrivelled and all but extinct! They are dormant, at any
rate, to use another word, for the death of my text is not so absolute a
death but that a resurrection is possible, and so _dormant_ comes to
express pretty nearly the same thing. Faculties of service, of
enthusiasm, of life for God, of noble obedience to Him--what have you
done with them? Left them there until they have stiffened like an unused
lock, or rusted like the hinges of an unopened door; and you are as
little active in all the noblest activities of spirit, which are
activities in submission to and dependence upon Him, as if you were laid
in your coffin with your idle hands crossed for evermore upon an
unheaving breast.

There is another illustration that I may suggest for a moment. Decay is
another characteristic and signature of death. And your best self, in
some of you, is rotting to corruption by sin.

Ay! Dear brethren, when we think of these tragedies of suicide that are
going on in thousands of men round about us to-day, it seems to me as if
the metaphor and the reality were reversed; and instead of saying that
my text is a violent metaphor, transferring the facts of material death
and corruption to the spiritual realm, I am almost disposed to say it is
the other way about, and the real death is the death of the spirit; and
the outer dissolution and unconsciousness and inactivity of the material
body is only a kind of parable to preach to men what are the awful
invisible facts ever associated with the fact of transgression.

There are three lives possible for each of us; two of them involuntary,
the third requiring our consent and effort, but all of them sustained by
the same cause. The first of them is that which we call life, the
activity and the consciousness of the bodily frame; and that continues
as long as the power of God keeps the body in life. When He withdraws
His hand there comes what the senses call death. Then there is the
natural life of thinking, loving, willing, enjoying, sorrowing, and the
like, and that continues as long as He who is the life and light of men
breathes into them the breath of that life. And these two are lived or
died largely without the man's own consent or choice.

But there is a third life, when all that lower is lifted to God, and
thinking and willing and loving and enjoying and aspiring and trusting
and obeying, and all these natural faculties find their home and their
consecration and their immortality in Him. That life is only lived by
our own will and it is the true life, and the others are, as I said, but
parables, and envelopes, and vehicles, as it were, in which this life is
carried, that is more precious than they. In the physical realm,
separate the body from God, and it dies. In the natural conscious life,
separate the soul, as we call it, from God, and it dies. And in the
higher region, separate the spirit, which is the man grasping God, from
God, and he dies; and that is the real death. Both the others are
nothing in comparison with it.

It may co-exist with a large amount of intellectual and other forms of
activity, as we see all round about us, and that makes it only the more
ghastly and the sadder. You are full of energy in regard to all other
subjects, but smitten into torpor about the highest; ready to live, to
work, to enjoy, to think, to will, in all other directions, and utterly
unconscious and unconcerned, or all but utterly unconscious and
unconcerned, in regard to God.

Oh! a death which is co-existent with such feverish intensity of life as
the most of you are expending all the week at your business and your
daily pursuits is among the saddest of all the tragedies that angels are
called upon to weep over, and that men are fools enough to enact.
Brother! If the representation is a gloomy one, do not you think that it
is better to ask the question--Is it a true one? than, Is it a cheerful
one? I lay it upon your hearts that he that lives to God and with God is
alive to the centre as well as out to the finger tips and circumference
of his visible being. He that is dead to God is dead indeed whilst he
lives.

II. Now, notice, in the second place, the pitying love that looks down
on the cemetery.

'God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us.'
Thus the great truth that is taught us here, first of all, is that that
divine love of the Divine Father bends down over His dead children and
cherishes them still. Oh! you can do much in separating yourselves from
God through selfishness, selfwill, sensuality, or other forms of sin,
but there is one thing you cannot do, you cannot prevent His loving you.
If I might venture without seeming irreverent, I would point to that
pathetic page in the Old Testament history where the king hears of the
death, red-handed in treason, of his darling son, and careless of
victory and forgetful of everything else, and oblivious that Absalom was
a rebel, and only remembering that he was his boy, burst into that
monotonous wail that has come down over all the centuries as the deepest
expression of undying fatherly love. 'Oh! my son Absalom, my son, my son
Absalom! Oh! Absalom, my son, my son!' The name and the relationship
will well up out of the Father's heart, whatever the child's crime. We
are all His Absaloms, and though we are dead in trespasses and in sins,
God, who is rich in mercy, bends over us and loves us with His great
love.

The Apostle might well expatiate in these two varying forms of speech,
both of them intended to express the same thing--'rich in mercy' and
'great in love.' For surely a love which takes account of the sin that
cannot repel it, and so shapes itself into mercy, sparing, and
departing from the strict line of retribution and justice, is great. And
surely a mercy which refuses to be provoked by seventy times seven
transgressions in an hour, not to say a day, is rich. That mercy is
wider than all humanity, deeper than all sin, was before all rebellion,
and will last for ever. And it is open for every soul of man to receive
if he will.

But there is another point to be noticed in reference to this wonderful
manifestation of the divine love looking down upon the myriads of men
dead in sin, and that is that this love shapes the divine action. Mark
the language of our text, in which the Apostle attributes a certain line
of conduct in the divine dealings with us to the fact of His great love.
Because 'He loved us' therefore He did so and so. Now about that I have
only two remarks to make, and I will make them very briefly. The one is,
here is a demonstration, for some of you people who do not believe in
the Evangelical doctrine of an Atonement by the sacrifice of Jesus
Christ, that the true scriptural representation of that doctrine is not
that which caricaturists have represented it--viz. that the sacrifice of
Jesus Christ changed in any manner the divine heart and disposition. It
is not as unfriendly critics (who, perhaps, are not to be so much blamed
for their unfriendliness as for their superficiality) would have us to
believe, that the doctrine of Atonement says that God loves because
Christ died. But the Apostle who preached that doctrine and looked upon
it as the very heart and centre of his message to the world here puts as
the true sequence--Christ died because God loves. Jesus Christ said the
same thing, 'God so loved the world that He sent His Son, that whosoever
believeth on Him should be saved.'

And that brings me to the second of the remarks which I wish briefly to
make--viz. this, that the Divine Love, great, patient, wonderful,
unrepelled by men's sin, as it is, has to adopt a process to reach its
end. God by His love does not, because He cannot, raise these dead souls
into a life of righteousness without Jesus Christ. And Jesus Christ
comes to be the channel and the medium through which the love of God may
attain its end. God's pitying love, because 'He is rich in mercy,' is
not turned away by man's sin; and God's pitying love, because 'He is
rich in mercy,' quickens men not by a bare will, but by the mission and
work of His dear Son.

III. And so that is the last thing on which I speak a word--viz. the
resurrection of the dead souls.

They died of sin. That was the disease that killed them. They cannot be
quickened unless the disease be conquered. Dear brethren, I have to
preach--not to argue, but to preach--and to press upon each soul the
individual acceptance of the Death of Jesus Christ as being for each of
us, if we will trust Him, the death of our death, and the death of our
sin. By His great sacrifice and sufficient oblation He has borne the
sins of the world and has taken away their guilt. And in Him the inmost
reality of the spiritual death, and its outermost parable of corporeal
dissolution, are equally and simultaneously overcome. If you will take
Him for your Lord you will rise from the death of guilt, condemnation,
selfishness, and sin into a new life of liberty, sonship, consecration,
and righteousness, and will never see death.

And, on the other hand, the life of Jesus Christ is available for all of
us. If we will put our trust in Him, His life will pass into our
deadness; He Himself will vitalise our being, dormant capacities will
be quickened and brought into blessed activity, a new direction will be
given to the old faculties, desires, aspirations, emotions of our
nature. The will will tower into new power because it obeys. The heart
will throb with a better life because it has grasped a love that cannot
change and will never die. And the thinking power will be brought into
living, personal contact with the personal Truth, so that whatsoever
darknesses and problems may still be left, at the centre there will be
light and satisfaction and peace. You will live if you trust Christ and
let Him be your Life.

And if thus, by simple faith in Him, knowing that the power of His
atoning death has destroyed the burden of our guilt and condemnation,
and knowing the quickening influences of His constraining love as
drawing us to love new things and make us new creatures, we receive into
our inmost spirits 'the law of the spirit of life' which was in Christ
Jesus, and are thereby made 'free from the law of sin and death,' then
it is only a question of time, when the vitalising force shall flow into
all the cracks and crannies of our being and deliver us wholly from the
bondage of corruption in the outer as well as in the inner life; for
they who have learned that Christ is the life of their lives upon earth
can never cease their appropriation of the fulness of His quickening
power until He has 'changed the body of their humiliation into the
likeness of the body of His glory, according to the working whereby He
is able to subdue even all things unto Himself.'

Brethren! He Himself has said, and His words I beseech you to remember
though you forget all mine, 'He that believeth in Me, though he were
dead, yet shall he live, and he that liveth and believeth in Me shall
never die.' 'Believest thou this?'



'THE RICHES OF GRACE'

     'That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His
      grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus.'--Eph. ii. 7.


One very striking characteristic of this epistle is its frequent
reference to God's purposes, and what, for want of a better word, we
must call His motives, in giving us Jesus Christ. The Apostle seems to
rise even higher than his ordinary height, while he gazes up to the
inaccessible light, and with calm certainty proclaims not only what God
has done, but why He has done it. Through all the earlier portions of
this letter, the things on earth are contemplated in the light of the
things in heaven. The great work of redemption is illuminated by the
thought of the will and meaning of God therein; for example, we read in
Chapter i. that He 'hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in
Christ, according as He hath chosen us in Him,' and immediately after we
read that He 'has predestinated us unto the adoption of children by
Jesus Christ according to the good pleasure of His will.' Soon after, we
hear that 'He hath revealed to us the mystery of His will, according to
His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself'; and that our
predestination to an inheritance in Christ is 'according to the purpose
of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.'

Not only so, but the motive or reason for the divine action in the gift
of Christ is brought out in a rich variety of expression as being 'the
praise of the glory of His grace' (1-6), or 'that He might gather
together in one all things in Christ' (1-10), or that 'we should be to
the praise of His glory' (1-12), or that 'unto the principalities and
powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold
wisdom of God.'

In like manner our text follows a sublime statement of what has been
bestowed upon men in Jesus, with an equally sublime insight into the
divine purpose of thereby showing 'the exceeding riches of His grace.'
Such heights are not for our unaided traversing; it is neither reverent
nor safe to speculate, and still less to dogmatise, concerning the
meaning of the divine acts, but here, at all events, we have, as I
believe, not a man making unwarranted assertions about God's purposes,
but God Himself by a man, letting us see so far into the depths of Deity
as to know the very deepest meaning of His very greatest acts, and when
God speaks, it is neither reverent nor safe to refuse to listen.

I. The purpose of God in Christ is the display of His grace.

Of course we cannot speak of motives in the divine mind as in ours; they
imply a previous state of indecision and an act of choice, from which
comes the slow emerging of a resolve like that of the moon from the sea.
A given end being considered by us desirable, we then cast about for
means to secure it, which again implies limitation of power. Still we
can speak of God's motives, if only we understand, as this epistle puts
it so profoundly, that His 'is an eternal purpose which He purposed in
Himself,' which never began to be formed, and was not formed by reason
of anything external.

With that caution Paul would have us think that God's chiefest purpose
in all the wondrous facts which make up the Gospel is the setting forth
of Himself, and that the chiefest part of Himself, which He desires that
all men should come to know, is the glory of His grace. Of course very
many and various reasons for these acts may be alleged, but this is the
deepest of them all. It has often been misunderstood and made into a
very hard and horrible doctrine, which really means little else than
all-mighty selfishness, but it is really a most blessed one; it is the
proclamation in tenderest, most heart-melting fashion of the truth that
God is Love, and therefore delights in imparting that which is His
creatures' life and blessedness; it bids us think that He, too, amidst
the blessedness of His infinite Being, knows the joy of communicating
which makes so large a part of the blessedness of our finite selves, and
that He, too, is capable of being touched and gladdened by the joy of
expression. As an artist in his noblest work paints or chisels simply
for love of pouring out his soul, so, but in infinitely loftier fashion,
the great Artist delights to manifest Himself, and in manifesting to
communicate somewhat of Himself. Creation is divine self-revelation, and
we might say, with all reverence, that God acts as birds sing, and
fountains leap, and stars shine.

But our text leads us still farther into mysteries of glory, when it
defines what it is in God that he most desires to set forth. It is the
'exceeding riches of Grace,' in which wonderful expression we note the
Apostle's passionate accumulation of epithets which he yet feels to be
altogether inadequate to his theme. It would carry us too far to attempt
to bring out the whole wealth contained in these words which glide so
easily over unthinking lips, but we may lovingly dwell for a few moments
upon them. Grace, in Paul's language, means love lavished upon the
undeserving and sinful, a love which is not drawn forth by the
perception of any excellence in its objects, but wells up and out like a
fountain, by reason of the impulse in its subject, and which in itself
contains and bestows all good and blessing. There may be, as this very
letter shows, other aspects of the divine nature which God is glad that
man should know. His power and His wisdom have their noblest
illustration in the work of Jesus, and are less conspicuously manifested
in all His work; but His grace is shrined in Christ alone, and from Him
flows forth into a thirsty world. That love, 'unmerited and free,' holds
in solution power, wisdom and all the other physical or metaphysical
perfections belonging to God with all their energies. It is the elixir
in which they are all contained, the molten splendour into which have
been dissolved gold and jewels and all precious things. When we look at
Christ, we see the divinest thing in God, and that is His grace. The
Christ who shows us and certifies to us the grace of God must surely be
more than man. Men look at Him and see it; He shows us that grace
because He was full of grace and truth.

But Paul is here not propounding theological dogmas, but pouring out a
heart full of personal experience, and so adds yet other words to
express what he himself has found in the Divine Grace, and speaks of its
riches. He has learned fully to trust its fulness, and in his own daily
life has had the witness of its inexhaustible abundance, which remains
the same after all its gifts. It 'operates unspent.' That continually
self-communicating love pours out in no narrower stream to its last
recipient than to its first. All 'eat and are filled,' and after they
are satisfied, twelve baskets full of fragments are taken up. These
riches are exceeding; they surpass all human conception, all parallel,
all human needs; they are properly transcendent.

This, then, is what God would have us know of Himself. So His love is at
once the motive of His great message to us in Jesus Christ, and is the
whole contents of the message, like some fountain, the force of whose
pellucid waters cleanses the earth, and rushes into the sunshine, being
at once the reason for the flow and that which flows. God reveals
because He loves, and His love is that which He reveals.

II. The great manifestation of grace is God's kindness to us in Christ.

All the revelation of God in Creation and Providence carries the same
message, but it is often there hard to decipher, like some
half-obliterated inscription in a strange tongue. In Jesus the writing
is legible, continuous, and needs no elaborate commentary to make its
meaning intelligible. But we may note that what the Apostle founds on
here is not so much Christ in Himself, as that which men receive in
Christ. As he puts it in another part of this epistle, it is 'through
the Church' that 'principalities and powers in heavenly places' are made
to 'know the manifold wisdom of God.' It is 'His kindness towards us' by
which 'to the ages to come,' is made known the exceeding riches of
grace, and that kindness can be best estimated by thinking what we were,
namely, dead in trespasses and sins; what we are, namely, quickened
together in Christ; raised up with Him, and with Him made to sit in
heavenly places, as the immediately preceding clauses express it. All
this marvellous transformation of conditions and of self is realised 'in
Christ Jesus.' These three words recur over and over again in this
profound epistle, and may be taken as its very keynote. It would carry
us beyond all limits to deal with the various uses and profound meanings
of this phrase in this letter, but we may at least point out how
intimately and inseparably it is intertwined with the other aspect of
our relations to Christ in which He is mainly regarded as dying for us,
and may press upon you that these two are not, as they have sometimes
been taken to be, antagonistic but complementary. We shall never
understand the depths of the one Apostolic conception unless we bring it
into closest connection with the other. Christ is for us only if we are
in Christ; we are in Christ only because He died for us.

God's kindness is all 'in Christ Jesus'; in Him is the great channel
through which His love comes to men, the river of God which is full of
water. And that kindness is realised by us when we are 'in Christ.'
Separated from Him we do not possess it; joined to Him as we may be by
true faith in Him, it is ours, and with it all the blessings which it
brings into our else empty and thirsting hearts. Now all this sets in
strong light the dignity and work of Christian men; the profundity and
clearness of their religious character is the great sign to the world of
the love of God. The message of Christ to man lacks one chief evidence
of its worth if they who profess to have received it do not, in their
lives, show its value. The characters of Christian people are in every
age the clearest and most effectual witnesses of the power of the
Gospel. God's honour is in their hands. The starry heavens are best seen
by reflecting telescopes, which, in their field, mirror the brightness
above.

III. The manifestation of God through men 'in Christ' is for all ages.

In our text the ages to come open up into a vista of undefined duration,
and, just as in another place in this epistle, Paul regards the Church
as witnessing to the principalities and powers in heavenly places, so
here he regards it as the perennial evidence to all generations of the
ever-flowing riches of God's grace. Whatever may have been the Apostle's
earlier expectations of the speedy coming of the day of the Lord, here
he obviously expects the world to last through a long stretch of
undefined time, and for all its changing epochs to have an unchanging
light. That standing witness, borne by men in Christ, of the grace which
has been so kind to them, is not to be antiquated nor superseded, but is
as valid to-day as when these words gushed from the heart of Paul. Eyes
which cannot look upon the sun can see it as a golden glory, tinging the
clouds which lie cradled around it. And as long as the world lasts, so
long will Christian men be God's witnesses to it.

There are then two questions of infinite importance to us--do we show in
character and conduct the grace which we have received by reverently
submitting ourselves to its transforming energy? We need to be very
close to Him for ourselves if we would worthily witness to others of
what we have found Him to be. We have but too sadly marred our witness,
and have been like dim reflectors round a lamp which have received but
little light from it, and have communicated even less than we have
received. Do we see the grace that shines so brightly in Jesus Christ?
God longs that we should so see; He calls us by all endearments and by
loving threats to look to that Incarnation of Himself. And when we lift
our eyes to behold, what is it that meets our gaze? Intolerable light?
The blaze of the white throne? Power that crushes our puny might? No!
the 'exceeding riches of grace.' The voice cries, 'Behold your God!' and
what we see is, 'In the midst of the throne a lamb as it had been
slain.'



SALVATION: GRACE: FAITH

     'By grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of
      yourselves: it is the gift of God.'--Eph. ii. 8 (R.V.).


Here are three of the key-words of the New Testament--'grace,' 'saved,'
'faith.' Once these terms were strange and new; now they are old and
threadbare. Once they were like lava, glowing and cast up from the
central depths; but it is a long while since the eruption, and the
blocks have got cold, and the corners have been rubbed off them. I am
afraid that some people, when they read such a text, will shrug the
shoulder of weariness, and think that they are in for a dreary sermon.

But the more familiar a word is, the more likely are common ideas about
it to be hazy. We substitute acquaintance with the sound for penetration
into the sense. A frond of sea-weed, as long as it is in the ocean,
unfolds its delicate films and glows with its subdued colours. Take it
out, and it is hard and brown and ugly, and you have to plunge it into
the water again before you see its beauty. So with these well-worn
Christian terms; you have to put them back, by meditation and thought,
especially as to their bearing on yourself, in order to understand their
significance and to feel their power. And, although it is very hard, I
want to try and do that for a few moments with this grand thought that
lies in my text.

I. Here we have the Christian view of man's deepest need, and God's
greatest gift.

'Ye have been saved.' Now, as I have said, 'saved,' and 'salvation,' and
'Saviour,' are all threadbare words. Let us try to grasp the whole
throbbing meaning that is in them. Well, to begin with, and in its
original and lowest application, this whole set of expressions is
applied to physical danger from which it delivers, and physical disease
which it heals. So, in the Gospels, for instance, you find 'Thy faith
hath made thee whole'--literally, '_saved thee_' And you hear one of the
Apostles crying, in an excess of terror and collapse of faith, 'Save!
Master! we perish!' The two notions that are conveyed in our familiar
expression 'safe and sound,' both lie in the word--deliverance from
danger, and healing of disease.

Then, when you lift it up into the loftier region, into which
Christianity buoyed it up, the same double meaning attaches to it. The
Christian salvation is, on its negative side, a deliverance from
something impending--peril--and a healing of something infecting us--the
sickness of sin.

It is a deliverance; what from? Take, in the briefest possible language,
three sayings of Scripture to answer that question--what am I to be
saved _from_? 'His name shall be called Jesus, for He shall save His
people from their sins.' He 'delivers'--or saves--'us from the wrath to
come.' He 'saves a soul from death.' Sin, wrath death, death spiritual
as well as physical, these are the dangers which lie in wait; and the
enemies which have laid their grip upon us. And from these, as the
shepherd drags the kid from the claws of the lion or the bear's hug, the
salvation of the Gospel wrenches and rescues men.

The same general conceptions emerge, if we notice, on the other
side--what are the things which the New Testament sets forth as the
opposites of its salvation? Take, again, a brief reference to Scripture
words: 'The Son of Man came _not to condemn_ the world, but that the
world through Him might be saved.' So the antithesis is between judgment
or condemnation on the one hand, and salvation on the other. That
suggests thoughts substantially identical with the preceding but still
more solemn, as bringing in the prospect a tribunal and a judge. The
Gospel then reveals the Mighty Power that lifts itself between us and
judgment, the Mighty Power that intervenes to prevent absolute
destruction, the Power which saves from sin, from wrath, from death.

Along with them we may take the other thought, that salvation, as the
New Testament understands it, is not only the rescue and deliverance of
a man from evils conceived to lie round about him, and to threaten his
being from without, but that it is his healing from evils which have so
wrought themselves into his very being, and infected his whole nature,
as that the emblem for them is a sickness unto death for the healing
from which this mighty Physician comes. These are the negative sides of
this great Christian thought.

But the New Testament salvation is more than a shelter, more than an
escape. It not only trammels up evil possibilities, and prevents them
from falling upon men's heads, but it introduces all good. It not only
strips off the poisoned robe, but it invests with a royal garb. It is
not only negatively the withdrawal from the power, and the setting above
the reach, of all evil, in the widest sense of that word, physical and
moral, but it is the endowment with every good, in the widest sense of
that word, physical and moral, which man is capable of receiving, or God
has wealth to bestow. And this positive significance of the Christian
salvation, which includes not only pardon, and favour, and purity, and
blessedness here in germ, and sure and certain hope of an overwhelming
glory hereafter--this is all suggested to us by the fact that in
Scripture, more than once, to 'have everlasting life,' and to 'enter
into the Kingdom of God,' are employed as equivalent and alternative
expressions for being saved with the salvation of God.

And that leads me to another point--my text, as those of you who have
used the Revised Version will observe, is there slightly modified in
translation, and reads 'Ye _have been saved_,'--a past act, done once,
and with abiding present consequences, which are realised progressively
in the Christian life, and reach forward into infinitude. So the
Scripture sometimes speaks of salvation as past, 'He saved us by His
mercy': sometimes of it as present and progressive, 'The Lord added to
the Church daily those that were (in process of) being saved': sometimes
of it as future, 'now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.' In
that future all that is involved in the word will be evolved from it in
blessed experience onwards through eternity.

I have said that we should try to make an effort to fathom the depth of
meaning in this and other familiar commonplace terms of Scripture. But
no effort prior to experience will ever fathom it. There was in the
papers some time ago an account of some extraordinary deep-sea soundings
that have been made away down in the South Pacific, 29,400 feet and no
bottom, and the wire broke. The highest peak of the Himalayas might be
put into that abyss, and there would be hundreds of feet between it and
the surface. He 'casts all our sins,' mountainous as they are, behind
His back 'into the depths of the sea'; and no plummet that man can drop
will ever reach its profound abyss. 'Thy judgments are a great deep,'
and deeper than the judgments is the depth of Thy salvation.

And now, brethren, before I go further, notice the--I was going to say
theory, but that is a cold word--the facts of man's condition and need
that underlie this great Christian term of salvation--viz. we are all in
deadly peril; we are all sick of a fatal disease. 'Ah!' you say, 'that
is Paul.' Yes! it is Paul. But it is not Paul only; it is Paul's Master,
and, I hope, your Master; for He not only spoke loving, gentle words to
and about men, and not only was grace poured into His lips, but there is
another side to His utterances. No one ever spoke sadder, sterner words
about the real condition of men than Jesus Christ did. Lost sheep, lost
coins, prodigal sons, builders of houses on the sand that are destined
to be blown down and flooded away, men in danger of an undying worm and
unquenchable fire--these are parts of Christ's representations of the
condition of humanity, and these are the conceptions that underlie this
great thought of salvation as being man's deepest need.

It goes far deeper down than any of the superficial constructions of
what humanity requires, which are found among non-Christian, social and
economical, and intellectual and political reformers. It includes all
that is true in the estimate of any of these people, and it supplies all
that they aim at. But it goes far beyond them. And as they stand
pottering round the patient, and administering--what shall I say? 'pills
for the earthquake,' as we once heard--it comes and brushes them aside
and says, 'Physicians of no value! here is _the_ thing that is
wanted--salvation that comes from God.'

Brother! it is what you need. Do not be led away by the notion that
wealth, or culture, or anything less than Christ's gift to men will meet
your necessities. If once we catch a glimpse of what we really are,
there will be no words wanted to enforce the priceless value of the
salvation that the Gospel offers. It is sure to be an uninteresting word
and thing to a man who does not feel himself to be a sinner. It is sure
to be of perennial worth to a man who does. Life-belts lie unnoticed on
the cabin-shelf above the berth as long as the sun is bright, and the
sea calm, and everything goes well; but when the ship gets on the rocks
the passengers fight to get them. If you know yourself, you will know
that salvation is what you need.

II. Here we have the Christian unfolding of the source of salvation.

'By grace ye have been saved.' There is another threadbare word. It is
employed in the New Testament with a very considerable width of
signification, which we do not need to attend to here. But, in regard of
the present context, let me just point out that the main idea conveyed
by the word is that of favour, or lovingkindness, or goodwill,
especially when directed to inferiors, and most eminently when given to
those who do not deserve it, but deserve its opposite. 'Grace' is love
that stoops and that requites, not according to desert, but bestows
upon those who deserve nothing of the kind; so when the Apostle declares
that the source of salvation is 'grace.' he declares two things. One is
that the fountain of all our deliverance from sin, and of our healing of
our sicknesses, lies in the deep heart of God, from which it wells up
undrawn, unmotived, uncaused by anything except His own infinite
lovingkindness. People have often presented the New Testament teaching
about salvation as if it implied that God's love was brought to man
because Jesus Christ died, and turned the divine affections. That is not
New Testament teaching. Christ's death is not the cause of God's love,
but God's love is the cause of Christ's death. 'God so loved the world
that He gave His only begotten Son.'

When we hear in the Old Testament, 'I am that I am,' we may apply it to
this great subject. For that declaration of the very inmost essence of
the divine nature is not merely the declaration, in half metaphysical
terms, of a self-substituting, self-determining Being, high above
limitation and time and change, but it is a declaration that when He
loves He loves freely and unmodified save by the constraint of His own
Being. Just as the light, because it is light and must radiate, falls
upon dunghills and diamonds, upon black rocks and white snow, upon
ice-peaks and fertile fields, so the great fountain of the Divine Grace
pours out upon men by reason only of its own continual tendency to
communicate its own fulness and blessedness.

There follows from that the other thought, on which the Apostle mainly
dwells in our context, that the salvation which we need, and may have,
is not won by desert, but is given as a gift. Mark the last words of my
text--'that not of yourselves it is the gift of God.' They have often
been misunderstood, as if they referred to the faith which is mentioned
just before. But that is a plain misconception of the Apostle's meaning,
and is contradicted by the whole context. It is not faith that is the
gift of God, but it is salvation by grace. That is plain if you will
read on to the next verse. 'By grace are ye saved through faith, and
that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works lest any man
should boast.' What is it that is 'not of works'? Faith? certainly not.
Nobody would ever have thought it worth while to say, 'faith is _not_ of
works,' because nobody would have said that it _was_. The two clauses
necessarily refer to the same thing, and if the latter of them must
refer to salvation by grace, so must the former. Thus, the Apostle's
meaning is that we get salvation, not because we work for it but because
God gives it as a free gift, for which we have nothing to render, and
which we can never deserve.

Now, I am sure that there are some of you who are saying to yourselves,
'This is that old, threadbare, commonplace preaching again!' Well! shame
on us preachers if we have made a living Gospel into a dead theology.
And shame no less on you hearers if by you the words that should be good
news that would make the tongue of the dumb sing, and the lame man leap
as a hart, have been petrified and fossilised into a mere dogma.

I know far better than you do how absolutely inadequate all my words
are, but I want to bring it to you and to lay it not on your heads only
but on your hearts, as the good news that we all need, that we have not
to buy, that we have not to work to get salvation, but that having got
it we have to work thereafter. 'What shall we do that we might work the
works of God?' A whole series of diverse, long, protracted, painful
toils? Christ swept away the question by striking out the 's' at the end
of the word, and answered, 'This is the _work_' (not 'works') 'of God,'
the one thing which will open out into all heroism and practical
obedience, 'that ye believe on Him to whom He hath sent.'

III. That leads me to the last point--viz. the Christian requirement of
the condition of salvation.

Note the precision of the Apostle's prepositions: 'Ye have been saved
_by_ grace'; there is the source--'Ye have been saved by grace,
_through_ faith'--there is the medium, the instrument, or, if I may so
say, the channel; or, to put it into other words, the condition by which
the salvation which has its source in the deep heart of God pours its
waters into my empty heart. 'Through faith,' another threadbare word,
which, withal, has been dreadfully darkened by many comments, and has
unfortunately been so represented as that people fancy it is some kind
of special attitude of mind and heart, which is only brought to bear in
reference to Christ's Gospel. It is a thousand pities, one sometimes
thinks, that the word was not translated 'trust' instead of 'faith,' and
then we should have understood that it was not a theological virtue at
all, but just the common thing that we all know so well, which is the
cement of human society and the blessedness of human affection, and
which only needs to be lifted, as a plant that had been running along
the ground, and had its tendrils bruised and its fruit marred might be
lifted, and twined round the pillar of God's throne, in order to grow up
and bear fruit that shall be found after many days unto praise, and
honour, and glory.

Trust; that is the condition. The salvation rises from the heart of God.
You cannot touch the stream at its source, but you can tap it away down
in its flow. What do you want machinery and pumps for? Put a yard of
wooden pipe into the river, and your house will have all the water it
needs.

So, dear brethren, here is the condition--it is a condition only, for
there is no virtue in the act of trust, but only in that with which we
are brought into living union when we do trust. When salvation comes,
into my heart by faith it is not my faith but God's grace that puts
salvation there.

Faith is only the condition, ay! but it is the indispensable condition.
How many ways are there of getting possession of a gift? One only, I
should suppose, and that is, to put out a hand and take it. If salvation
is _by_ grace it must be '_through_ faith.' If you will not accept you
cannot have. That is the plain meaning of what theologians call
justification by faith; that pardon is given on condition of taking it.
If you do not take it you cannot have it. And so this is the upshot of
the whole--trust, and you have.

Oh, dear friends! open your eyes to see your dangers. Let your
conscience tell you of your sickness. Do not try to deliver, or to heal
yourselves. Self-reliance and self-help are very good things, but they
leave their limitations, and they have no place here. 'Every man his own
Redeemer' will not work. You can no more extricate yourself from the
toils of sin than a man can release himself from the folds of a python.
You can no more climb to heaven by your own effort than you can build a
railway to the moon. You must sue _in forma pauperis_, and be content to
accept as a boon an unmerited place in your Father's heart, an
undeserved seat at His bountiful table, an unearned share in His wealth,
from the hands of your Elder Brother, in whom is all His grace, and who
gives salvation to every sinner if he will trust Him. 'By grace have ye
been saved through faith.'



GOD'S WORKMANSHIP AND OUR WORKS

     'We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works,
      which God hath before ordained that we should walk in
      them.'--Eph. ii. 10.


The metal is molten as it runs out of the blast furnace, but it soon
cools and hardens. Paul's teaching about salvation by grace and by faith
came in a hot stream from his heart, but to this generation his words
are apt to sound coldly, and hardly theological. But they only need to
be reflected upon in connection with our own experience, to become vivid
and vital again. The belief that a man may work towards salvation is a
universal heresy. And the Apostle, in the context, summons all his force
to destroy that error, and to substitute the great truth that we have to
begin with an act of God's, and only after that can think about our
acts. To work up towards salvation is, in the strict sense of the words,
_preposterous_; it is inverting the order of things. It is beginning at
the wrong end. It is saying X Y Z before you have learnt to say A B C.
We are to work downwards from salvation because we have it, not that we
may get it. And whatever 'good works' may mean, they are the
consequences, not the causes, of 'salvation,' whatever that may mean.
But they are consequences, and they are the very purpose of it. So says
Paul in the archaic language of my text--which only wants a little
steadfast looking at to be turned into up-to-date gospel--'We are His
workmanship, created unto good works'; and the fact that we are is one
great reason for the assertion which he brings it in to buttress, that
we are saved by grace, not by works. Now, I wish, in the simplest
possible way, to deal with these great words, and take them as they lie
before us.

I. We have, first, then, this as the root of everything, the divine
creation.

Now, you will find that in this profound letter of the Apostle there are
two ideas cropping up over and over again, both of them representing the
facts of the Christian life and of the transition from the unchristian
to the Christian; and the one is Resurrection and the other is Creation.
They have this in common, that they suggest the idea that the great gift
which Christianity brings to men--no, do not let me use the abstract
word 'Christianity'--the great gift which _Christ_ brings to men--is a
new life. The low popular notion that salvation means mainly and
primarily immunity from the ultimate, most lasting future consequences
of transgression, a change of place or of condition, infects us all, and
is far too dominant in our popular notions of Christianity and of
salvation. And it is because people have such an unworthy, narrow,
selfish idea of what 'salvation' is that they fall into the bog of
misconception as to how it is to be attained. The ordinary man's way of
looking at the whole matter is summed up in a sentence which I heard not
long since about a recently deceased friend of the speaker's, and the
like of which you have no doubt often heard and perhaps said, 'He is
sure to be saved because he has lived so straight.' And at the
foundation of that confident epitaph lay a tragical, profound
misapprehension of what salvation was.

For it is something done in you; it is _not_ something that you get, but
it is something that you become. The teaching of this letter, and of the
whole New Testament, is that the profoundest and most precious of all
the gifts which come to us in Jesus Christ, and which in their totality
are summed up in the one word that has so little power over us, because
we understand it so little, and know it so well--'salvation'--is a
change in a man's nature so deep, radical, vital, as that it may fairly
be paralleled with a resurrection from the dead.

Now, I venture to believe that it is something more than a strong
rhetorical figure when that change is described as being the creation of
a new man within us. The resurrection symbol for the same fact may be
treated as but a symbol. You cannot treat the teaching of a new life in
Christ as being a mere figure. It is something a great deal more than
that, and when once a man's eye is opened to look for it in the New
Testament it is wonderful how it flashes out from every page and
underlies the whole teaching. The Gospel of John, for example, is but
one long symphony which has for its dominant theme 'I am come that they
might have life.' And that great teaching--which has been so vulgarised,
narrowed, and mishandled by sacerdotal pretensions and sacramentarian
superstitions--that great teaching of Regeneration, or the new birth,
rests upon this as its very basis, that what takes place when a man
turns to Jesus Christ, and is saved by Him, is that there is
communicated to him not in symbol but in spiritual fact (and spiritual
facts are far more true than external ones which are called real) a
spark of Christ's own life, something of 'that spirit of life which was
in Christ Jesus,' and by which, and by which alone, being transfused
into us, we become 'free from the law of sin and death.' I beseech you,
brethren, see that, in your perspective of Christian truth, the thought
of a new life imparted to us has as prominent and as dominant a place as
it obviously has in the teaching of the New Testament. It is not so
dominant in the current notions of Christianity that prevail amongst
average people, but it is so in all men who let themselves be guided by
the plain teaching of Christ Himself and of all His servants. Salvation?
Yes! And the very essence of the salvation is the breathing into me of a
divine life, so that I become partaker of 'the divine nature.'

Now, there is another step to be taken, and that is that this new life
is realised in Christ Jesus. Now, this letter of the Apostle is
distinguished even amongst his letters by the extraordinary frequency
and emphasis with which he uses that expression 'in Christ Jesus.' If
you will take up the epistle, and run your eye over it at your leisure,
I think you will be surprised to find how, in all connections, and
linked with every sort of blessing and good as its condition, there
recurs that phrase. It is 'in Christ' that we obtain the inheritance; it
is 'in Christ' that we receive 'redemption, even the forgiveness of
sins'; it is in Him that we are 'builded together for a habitation of
God'; it is in Him that all fulness of divine gifts, and all blessedness
of spiritual capacities, is communicated to us; and unless, in our
perspective of the Christian life, that expression has the same
prominence as it has in this letter, we have yet to learn the sweetest
sweetness, and have yet to receive the most mighty power, of the Gospel
that we profess. 'In Christ'--a union which leaves the individuality of
the Saviour and of the saint unimpaired, because without such
individuality sweet love were slain, and there were no communion
possible, but which is so close, so real, so vital, as that only the
separating wall of personality and individual consciousness comes in
between--that is the New Testament teaching of the relation of the
Christian to Christ. Is it your experience, dear brother? Do not be
frightened by talking about mysticism. If a Christianity has no
mysticism it has no life. There is a wholesome mysticism and there is a
morbid one, and the wholesome one is the very nerve of the Gospel as it
is presented by Jesus Himself: 'I am the Vine, ye are the branches.
Abide in Me, and I in you.' If our nineteenth century busy Christianity
could only get hold of that truth as firmly as it grasps the
representative and sacrificial character of Christ's work, I believe it
would come like a breath of spring over 'the winter of our discontent,'
and would change profoundly and blessedly the whole contexture of modern
Christianity.

And now there is another step to take, and that is that this union with
Christ, which results in the communication of a new life, or, as my text
puts it, a new creation, depends upon our faith. We are not passive in
the matter. There is the condition on which the entrance of the life
into our spirits is made possible. You must open the door, you must
fling wide the casement, and the blessed warm morning air of the sun of
righteousness, with healing in its beams, will rush in, scatter the
darkness and raise the temperature. 'Faith' by which we simply mean the
act of the mind in accepting and of the will and heart in casting one's
self upon Christ as the Saviour--that act is the condition of this new
life. And so each Christian is 'God's workmanship, created in Christ
Jesus.'

And now, says Paul--and here some of us will hesitate to follow
him--that new creation has to go before what you call 'good works.' Now,
do not let us exaggerate. There has seldom been a more disastrous and
untrue thing said than what one of the Fathers dared to say, that the
virtues of godless men were 'splendid vices.' That is not so, and that
is not the New Testament teaching. Good is good, whoever does it. But,
then, no man will say that actions, however they may meet the human
conception of excellence, however bright, pure, lofty in motive and in
aim they may be, reach their highest possible radiance and are as good
as they ought to be, if they are done without any reference to God and
His love. Dear brethren, we surely do not need to have the alphabet of
morality repeated to us, that the worth of an action depends upon its
motive, that no motive is correspondent to our capacities and our
relation to God and our consequent responsibilities, except the motive
of loving obedience to Him. Unless that be present, the brightest of
human acts must be convicted of having dark shadows in it, and all the
darker because of the brightness that may stream from it. And so I
venture to assert that since the noblest systems of morality, apart from
religion, will all coincide in saying that to be is more than to do, and
that the worth of an action depends upon its motive, we are brought
straight up to the 'narrow, bigoted' teaching of the New Testament, that
unless a man is swayed by the love of God in what he does, you cannot,
in the most searching analysis, say that his deed is as good as it ought
to be, and as it might be. To be good is the first thing, to do good is
the second. Make the tree good and its fruit good. And since, as we have
made ourselves we are evil, there must come a re-creation before we can
do the good deeds which our relation to God requires at our hands.

II. I ask you to look at the purpose of this new creation brought out in
our text.

'Created in Christ Jesus unto good works.' That is what life is given to
you for. That is why you are saved, says Paul. Instead of working
upwards from works to salvation, take your stand at the received
salvation, and understand what it is for, and work downwards from it.

Now, do not let us take that phrase, 'good works,' which I have already
said came hot from the Apostle's heart, and is now cold as a bar of
iron, in the limited sense which it has come to bear in modern religious
phraseology. It means something a great deal more than that. It covers
the whole ground of what the Apostle, in another of his letters, speaks
of when he says, 'Whatsoever things are lovely and of good report, if
there be any virtue'--to use for a moment the world's word, which has
such power to conjure in Greek ethics--'or if there be any praise'--to
use for a moment the world's low motive, which has such power to sway
men--'think of these things,' and these things do. That is the width of
the conception of 'good works'; everything that is 'lovely and of good
report.' That is what you receive the new life for.

Contrast that with other notions of the purpose of revelation and
redemption. Contrast it with what I have already referred to, and so
need not enlarge upon now, the miserably inadequate and low notions of
the essentials of salvation which one hears perpetually, and which many
of us cherish. It is no mere immunity from a future hell. It is no mere
entrance into a vague heaven. It is not escaping the penalty of the
inexorable law, 'Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap,' that
is meant by 'salvation,' any more than it is putting away the rod, which
the child would be all the better for having administered to him, that
is meant by 'forgiveness.' But just as forgiveness, in its essence,
means not suspension nor abolition of penalty, but the uninterrupted
flow of the Father's love, so salvation in its essence means, not the
deliverance from any external evil or the alteration of anything in the
external position, but the revolution and the re-creation of the man's
nature. And the purpose of it is that the saved man may live in
conformity with the will of God, and that on his character there may be
embroidered all the fair things which God desires to see on His child's
vesture.

Contrast it with the notion that an orthodox belief is the purpose of
revelation. I remember hearing once of a man that 'he was a very shady
character, but sound on the Atonement.' What is the use of being 'sound
on the Atonement' if the Atonement does not make you live the Christ
life? And what is the good of all your orthodoxy unless the orthodoxy of
creed issues in orthopraxy of conduct? There are far too many of us who
half-consciously do still hold by the notion that if a man believes
rightly then that makes him a Christian. My text shatters to pieces any
such conception. You are saved that you may be good, and do good
continually; and unless you are so doing you may be steeped to the
eyebrows in the correctest of creeds, and it will only drown you.

Contrast this conception of the purpose of Christianity with the far too
common notion that we are saved, mainly in order that we may indulge in
devout emotions, and in the outgoing of affection and confidence to
Jesus Christ. Emotional Christianity is necessary, but Christianity,
which is mainly or exclusively emotional, lives next door to hypocrisy,
and there is a door of communication between them. For there is nothing
more certain and more often illustrated in experience than that there is
a strange underground connection between a Christianity which is mainly
fervid and a very shady life. One sees it over and over again. And the
cure of that is to apprehend the great truth of my text, that we are
saved, not in order that we may know aright, nor in order that we may
feel aright, but in order that we may be good and do 'good works.' In
the order of things, right thought touches the springs of right feeling,
and right feeling sets going the wheels of right action. Do not let the
steam all go roaring out of the waste-pipe in however sacred and blessed
emotions. See that it is guided so as to drive the spindles and the
shuttles and make the web.

III. And now, lastly, and only a word--here we have the field provided
for the exercise of the 'good works.'

'Created unto good works which God has before prepared'--before the
re-creation--'that we should walk in them.' That is to say, the true way
to look at the life is to regard it as the exercising-ground which God
has prepared for the development of the life that, through Christ, is
implanted in us. He cuts the channels that the stream may flow. That is
the way to look at tasks, at difficulties. Difficulty is the parent of
power, and God arranges our circumstances in order that, by wrestling
with obstacles, we may gain the 'thews that throw the world,' and in
order that in sorrows and in joys, in the rough places and the smooth,
we may find occasions for the exercise of the goodness which is lodged
potentially in us, when He creates us in Christ Jesus. So be sure that
the path and the power will always correspond. God does not lead us on
roads that are too steep for our weakness, and too long for our
strength. What He bids us do He fits us for; what He fits us for He
thereby bids us do.

And so, dear brother, take heed that you are fulfilling the purpose for
which you receive this new life. And let us all remember the order in
which being and doing come. We must _be_ good first, and then, and only
then, shall we _do_ good. We must have Christ for us first, our
sacrifice and our means of receiving that new life, and then, Christ in
us, the soul of our souls, the Life of our lives, the source of all our
goodness.

    'If any power we have, it is to ill,
     And all the power is Thine to do and eke to will.'



'THE CHIEF CORNER-STONE'

     'Built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ
      Jesus Himself being the chief corner-stone.'--Eph. ii. 20 (R.V.).


The Roman Empire had in Paul's time gathered into a great unity the
Asiatics of Ephesus, the Greeks of Corinth, the Jews of Palestine, and
men of many another race, but grand and imposing as that great unity
was, it was to Paul a poor thing compared with the oneness of the
Kingdom of Jesus Christ. Asiatics of Ephesus, Greeks of Corinth, Jews of
Palestine and members of many another race could say, 'Our citizenship
is in heaven.' The Roman Eagle swept over wide regions in her flight,
but the Dove of Peace, sent forth from Christ's hand, travelled further
than she. As Paul says in the context, the Ephesians had been strangers,
'aliens from the commonwealth of Israel,' wandering like the remnants of
some 'broken clans,' but now they are gathered in. That narrow community
of the Jewish nation has expanded its bounds and become the
mother-country of believing souls, the true 'island of saints.' It was
not Rome which really made all peoples one, but it was the weakest and
most despised of her subject races. 'Of Zion it shall be said,' 'Lo!
this and that man was born in her.'

To emphasise the thought of the great unity of the Church, the Apostle
uses here his often-repeated metaphor of a temple, of which the Ephesian
Christians are the stones, apostles and prophets the builders, and
Christ Himself the chief corner-stone. Of course the representation of
the foundation, as being laid by apostles and prophets, refers to them
as proclaiming the Gospel. The real laying of the foundation is the
work of the divine power and love which gave us Christ, and it is the
Divine Voice which proclaims, 'Behold _I_ lay in Zion a foundation!' But
that divine work has to be made known among men, and it is by the making
of it known that the building rises course by course. There is no
contradiction between the two statements, 'I have laid the foundation'
and Paul's 'As a wise master-builder I have laid the foundation.'

A question may here rise as to the meaning of 'prophets.' Unquestionably
the expression in other places of the Epistle does mean New Testament
prophets, but seeing that here Jesus is designated as the foundation
stone which, standing beneath two walls, has a face into each, and binds
them strongly together, it is more natural to see in the prophets the
representatives of the great teachers of the old dispensation as the
apostles were of the new. The remarkable order in which these two
classes are named, the apostles being first, and the prophets who were
first in time being last in order of mention, confirms this explanation,
for the two co-operating classes are named in the order in which they
lie in the foundation. Digging down you come to the more recent first,
to the earlier second, and deep and massive, beneath all, to the
corner-stone on whom all rests, in whom all are united together.
Following the Apostle's order we may note the process of building;
beneath that, the foundation on which the building rests; and beneath
it, the corner-stone which underlies and unites the whole.

I. The process of building.

In the previous clauses the Apostle has represented the condition of the
Ephesian Christians before their Christianity as being that of strangers
and foreigners, lacking the rights of citizenship anywhere, a mob
rather than in any sense a society. They had been like a confused heap
of stones flung fortuitously together; they had become fellow-citizens
with the saints. The stones had been piled up into an orderly building.
He is not ignoring the facts of national, political, or civic
relationships which existed independent of the new unity realised in a
common faith. These relationships could not be ignored by one who had
had Paul's experience of their formidable character as antagonists of
him and of his message, but they seemed to him, in contrast with the
still deeper and far more perfect union, which was being brought about
in Christ, of men of all nationalities and belonging to mutually hostile
races, to be little better than the fortuitous union of a pile of stones
huddled together on the roadside. Measured against the architecture of
the Church, as Paul saw it in his lofty idealism, the aggregations of
men in the world do not deserve the name of buildings. His point of view
is the exact opposite of that which is common around us, and which,
alas! finds but too much support in the present aspects of the so-called
churches of this day.

It is to be observed that in our text these stones are, in accordance
with the propriety of the metaphor, regarded as _being_ built, that is,
as in some sense the subjects of a force brought to bear upon them,
which results in their being laid together in orderly fashion and
according to a plan, but it is not to be forgotten that, according to
the teaching, not of this epistle alone, but of all Paul's letters, the
living stones are active in the work of building, as well as beings
subject to an influence. In another place of the New Testament we read
the exhortation to 'build up yourselves on your most holy faith,' and
the means of discharging that duty are set forth in the words which
follow it; as being 'Praying in the Holy Spirit, keeping yourselves in
the love of God, and looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.'

Throughout the Pauline letters we have frequent references to
_edifying_, a phrase which has been so vulgarised by much handling that
its great meaning has been all but lost, but which still, rightly
understood, presents the Christian life as one continuous effort after
developing Christian character. Taking into view the whole of the
apostolic references to this continuous process of building, we cannot
but recognise that it all begins with the act of faith which brings men
into immediate contact and vital union with Jesus Christ, and which is,
if anything that a man does is, the act of his very inmost self passing
out of its own isolation and resting itself on Jesus. It is by the vital
and individual act of faith that any soul escapes from the dreary
isolation of being a stranger and a foreigner, wandering, homeless and
solitary, and finds through Jesus fellowship, an elder Brother, a
Father, and a home populous with many brethren. But whilst faith is the
condition of beginning the Christian life, which is the only real life,
that life has to be continued and developed towards perfection by
continuous effort. 'Tis a life-long toil till the lump be leavened.'

One of the passages already referred to varies the metaphor of building,
in so far as it seems to represent 'your most holy faith' as the
foundation, and may be an instance of the doubtful New Testament usage
of 'faith,' as meaning the believed Gospel, rather than the personal act
of believing. But however that may be, context of the words clearly
suggests the practical duties by which the Christian life is preserved
and strengthened. They who build up themselves do so, mainly, by keeping
themselves in the love of God with watchful oversight and continual
preparedness for struggle against all foes who would drag them from that
safe fortress, and subsidiarily, by like continuity in prayer, and in
fixing their meek hope on the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto
eternal life. If Christian character is ever to be made more Christian,
it must be by a firmer grasp and a more vivid realisation of Christ and
His truth. The more we feel ourselves to be lapped in the love of God,
the more shall we be builded up on our most holy faith. There is no
mystery about the means of Christian progress. That which, at the
beginning, made a man a Christian shapes his whole future course; the
measure of our faith is the measure of our advance.

But the Apostle, in the immediately following words, goes on to pass
beyond the bounds of his metaphor, and with complete indifference to the
charge of mixing figures, speaks of the building as growing. That
thought leads us into a higher region than that of effort. The process
by which a great forest tree thickens its boles, expands the sweep of
its branches and lifts them nearer the heavens, is very different from
that by which a building rises slowly and toilsomely and with manifest
incompleteness all the time, until the flag flies on the roof-tree. And
if we had not this nobler thought of a possible advance by the
increasing circulation within us of a mysterious life, there would be
little gospel in a word which only enjoined effort as the condition of
moral progress, and there would be little to choose between Paul and
Plato. He goes on immediately to bring out more fully what he means by
the growth of the building, when he says that if Christians are in
Christ, they are 'built up for an habitation of God in the Spirit.'
Union with Christ, and a consequent life in the Spirit, are sure to
result in the growth of the individual soul and of the collective
community. That divine Spirit dwells in and works through every
believing soul, and while it is possible to grieve and to quench It, to
resist and even to neutralise Its workings, these are the true sources
of all our growth in grace and knowledge. The process of building may be
and will be slow. Sometimes lurking enemies will pull down in a night
what we have laboured at for many days. Often our hands will be slack
and our hearts will droop. We shall often be tempted to think that our
progress is so slow that it is doubtful if we have ever been on the
foundation at all or have been building at all. But 'the Spirit helpeth
our infirmities,' and the task is not ours alone but His in us. We have
to recognise that effort is inseparable from building, but we have also
to remember that growth depends on the free circulation of life, and
that if we are, and abide in, Jesus, we cannot but be built 'for an
habitation of God in the Spirit.' We may be sure that whatever may be
the gaps and shortcomings in the structures that we rear here, none will
be able to say of us at the last, 'This man began to build and was not
able to finish.'

II. The foundation on which the building rests.

In the Greek, as in our version, there is no definite article before
'prophets,' and its absence indicates that both sets of persons here
mentioned come under the common _vinculum_ of the one definite article
preceding the first named. So that apostles and prophets belong to one
class. It may be a question whether the foundation is theirs in the
sense that they constitute it, an explanation in favour of which can be
quoted the vision in the Apocalypse of the new Jerusalem, in the twelve
foundations of which were written the names of the twelve apostles of
the Lamb, or whether, as is more probable, the foundation is conceived
of as laid by them. In like manner the Apostle speaks to the Corinthians
of having 'as a wise master-builder laid the foundation,' and to the
Romans of making it his aim to preach especially where Christ was not
already named, that he might 'not build upon another man's foundation.'
Following these indications, it seems best to understand the preaching
of the Gospel as being the laying of the foundation.

Further, the question may be raised whether the prophets here mentioned
belong to the Old Testament or to the New. The latter alternative has
been preferred on the ground that the apostles are named first, but, as
we have already noticed, the order here begins at the top and goes
downwards, what was last in order of time being first in order of
mention. We need only recall Peter's bold words that 'all the prophets,
as many as have spoken, have told of the days' of Christ, or Paul's
sermon in the synagogue of Antioch in which he passionately insisted on
the Jewish crime of condemning Christ as being the fulfilment of the
voices of the prophets, and of the Resurrection of Jesus as being God's
fulfilment of the promise made unto the fathers to understand how here,
as it were, beneath the foundation laid by the present preaching of the
apostles, Paul rejoices to discern the ancient stones firmly laid by
long dead hands.

The Apostle's strongest conviction was that he himself had become more
and not less of a Jew by becoming a Christian, and that the Gospel which
he preached was nothing more than the perfecting of that Gospel before
the Gospel, which had come from the lips of the prophets. We know a
great deal more than he did as to the ways in which the progressive
divine revelation was presented to Israel through the ages, and some of
us are tempted to think that we know more than we do, but the true
bearing of modern criticism, as applied to the Old Testament, is to
confirm, even whilst it may to some extent modify, the conviction common
to all the New Testament writers, and formulated by the last of the New
Testament prophets, that 'the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of
prophecy.' Whatever new light may shine on the questions of the origin
and composition of the books of the Old Testament, it will never obscure
the radiance of the majestic figure of the Messiah which shines from the
prophetic page. The inner relation between the foundation of the
apostles and that of the prophets is best set forth in the solemn
colloquy on the Mount of Transfiguration between Moses and Elias and
Jesus. They 'were with Him' as witnessing to Him to whom law and ritual
and prophecy had pointed, and they 'spake of His decease which He should
accomplish at Jerusalem' as being the vital centre of all His work which
the lambs slain according to ritual had foreshadowed, and the prophetic
figure of the Servant of the Lord 'wounded for our transgressions and
bruised for our iniquities' had more distinctly foretold.

III. The corner-stone which underlies and unites the whole.

Of course the corner-stone here is the foundation-stone and not 'the
head-stone of the corner.' Jesus Christ is both. He is the first and
the last; the Alpha and Omega. In accordance with the whole context, in
which the prevailing idea is that which always fired Paul's imagination,
viz. that of reconciling Jew and Gentile in one new man, it is best to
suppose a reference here to the union of Jew and Gentile. The stone laid
beneath the two walls which diverge at right angles from each other
binds both together and gives strength and cohesion to the whole. In the
previous context the same idea is set forth that Christ 'preached peace
to them that were afar off (Gentiles) and to them that were nigh
(Jews).' By His death He broke down another wall, the middle wall of
partition between them, and did so by abolishing 'the law of
commandments contained in ordinances.' The old distinction between Jew
and Gentile, which was accentuated by the Jew's rigid observance of
ordinances and which often led to bitter hatred on both sides, was swept
away in that strange new thing, a community of believers drawn together
in Jesus Christ. The former antagonistic 'twain' had become one in a
third order of man, the Christian man. The Jew Christian and the Gentile
Christian became brethren because they had received one new life, and
they who had common feelings of faith and love to the same Saviour, a
common character drawn from Him, and a common destiny open to them by
their common relation to Jesus, could never cherish the old emotions of
racial hate.

When we, in this day, try to picture to ourselves that strange new
thing, the love which bound the early Christians together and buried as
beneath a rushing flood the formidable walls of separation between them,
we may well penitently ask ourselves how it comes that Jesus seems to
have so much less power to triumph over the divisive forces that part us
from those who should be our hearts' brothers. In our modern life there
are no such gulfs of separation from one another as were filled up
unconsciously in the experience of the first believers, but the narrower
chinks seem to remain in their ugliness between those who profess a
common faith in one Lord, and who are all ready to assert that they are
built on the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, and that Jesus
Christ is from them the chief corner-stone.

If in reality He is so to us, and He is so if we have been builded upon
Him through our faith, the metaphor of corner-stone and building will
fail to express the reality of our relation to Him, for our corner-stone
has in it an infinite vitality which rises up through all the courses of
the living stones, and moulds each 'into an immortal feature of
loveliness and perfection.' So it shall be for each individual, though
here the appropriation of the perfect gift is imperfect. So it shall be
in reference to the history of the world. Christ is its centre and
foundation-stone, and as His coming makes the date from which the
nations reckon, and all before it was in the deepest sense preparatory
to His incarnation, all which is after it is in the deepest sense the
appropriating of Him and the developing of His work. The multitudes
which went before and that followed cried, saying, 'Blessed is He that
cometh in the name of the Lord.'



'THE WHOLE FAMILY'

    'The whole family in heaven and earth.'--Eph. iii. 15.


Grammatically, we are driven to recognise that the Revised Version is
more correct than the Authorised, when it reads 'every family,' instead
of 'the whole family.' There is in the expression no reference to the
thought, however true it is in itself, that the redeemed in heaven and
the believers on earth make up but one family. The thought rather is,
that, as has been said, 'the father makes the family,' and if any
community of intelligent beings, human, or angelic, bears the great name
of family, the great reason for that lies 'in God's paternal
relationship.'

But my present purpose in selecting this text is not so much to speak of
_it_ as to lay hold of the probably incorrect rendering in the
Authorised Version, as suggesting, though here inaccurately, the thought
that believers struggling here and saints and angels glorious above 'but
one communion make,' and in the light of that thought, to consider the
meaning of the Lord's Supper. I am, of course, fully conscious that in
thus using the words, I am diverting them from their original purpose;
but possibly in this case, open confession, _my_ open confession, may
merit your forgiveness and at all events, it, in some degree, brings me
my own.

I. Consider the Lord's Supper as a sign that the Church on earth is a
family.

The Passover was essentially a family feast, and the Lord's Supper,
which was grafted on it, was plainly meant to be the same. The domestic
character of the rite shines clearly out in the precious simplicity of
the arrangements in the upper room. When Christ and the twelve sat down
there, it was a family meal at which they sat. He was the head of the
household; they were members of His family. The early examples of the
rite, when the disciples 'gathered together to break bread,' obviously
preserved the same familiar character, and stand in extraordinary
contrast to the splendours of high mass in a Roman Catholic Cathedral.
The Church, as a whole, is a household, and the very form of the rite
proclaims that 'we, being many, are one bread.' The conception of a
family brings clearly into view the deepest ground of Christian unity.
It is the possession of a common life, just as men are born into an
earthly family, not of their own will, nor of their own working, and
come without any action of their own into bonds of blood relationship
with brothers and sisters. When we become sons of God and are born
again, we become brethren of all His children. That which gives us life
in Him makes us kindred with all through whose veins flows that same
life. It is the common partaking in the one bread which makes us one.
The same blood flows in the veins of all the children.

Hence, the only ground on which the Church rests is this common
possession of the life of Christ, and that ground makes, and ought to be
felt to make, Christian union a far deeper, more blessed, and more
imperative bond than can be found in any shallow similarities of aim--or
identities of opinion or feeling. The deepest fact of Christian
consciousness is the foundation fact of Christian brotherhood; each is
nearer to every Christian than to any besides. A very solemn view of
Christian duty arises from these thoughts, familiar as they are:

    'No distance breaks the tie of blood,
     Brothers are brothers ever more.'

and every tongue is loud in condemnation of any man who is ashamed or
afraid to recognise his brother and stand by him, whatever may be the
difference in their worldly positions. 'Every one who loveth Him that
begat, loveth Him also that is begotten of Him.'

II. The Lord's Supper as a prophecy of the family at home above.

The prophetic character was stamped on the first institution of the
Lord's Supper by Christ's own words 'until it be fulfilled in the
kingdom of God,' and by His declaration that He appointed unto them a
kingdom, that they might eat and drink at His table in His kingdom. We
may also recall the mysterious feast spread on the shore of the lake,
where, with obvious allusion both to his earlier miracles and to the sad
hour in the upper room, he came 'and taketh the bread and gave it to
them.' Blending these two together we get most blessed, though dim,
thoughts of that future; they speak to us of an eternal home, an eternal
feast, and an eternal society. We have to reverse not a few of the
characteristics of the upper room in order to reach those of the table
in the kingdom. The Lord's Supper was followed for Him by Gethsemane and
Calvary, and for them by going out to betray and to deny and to forsake
Him. From that better table there is no more going out. The servant
comes in from the field, spent with toil and stained with many a splash,
but the Master Himself comes forth and serves His servant.

In the eternal feast, which is spread above, the bread as well as the
wine is new, even whilst it is old, for there will be disclosed new
depths of blessing and power in the old Christ, and new draughts of joy
and strength in the old wine which will make the feasters say, in
rapture and astonishment, to the Master of the feast, 'Thou hast kept
the good wine until now.' There and then all broken ties will be
re-knit, all losses supplied, and no shadow of change, nor fear of
exhaustion, pass across the calm hearts.

III. The Lord's Supper is a token of the present union of the two.

If it thus prophesies the perfectness of heaven, it also shows us how
the two communities of earth and heaven are united. They, as we, live by
derivation of the one life; they, as we, are fed and blessed by the one
Lord. The occupations and thoughts of Christian life on earth and of the
perfect life of Saints above are one. They look to Christ as we do, when
we live as Christians, though the sun which is the light of both regions
shows there a broader disc, and pours forth more fervid rays, and is
never obscured by clouds, nor ever sets in night. Whether conscious of
us or not, they are doing there, in perfect fashion, what we imperfectly
attempt, and partially accomplish.

    'The Saints on earth and all the Dead
     But one communion make.'

Heaven and earth are equally mansions in the Father's house.

To the faith which realises this great truth, death dwindles to a small
matter. The Lord's table has an upper and a lower level. Sitting at the
lower, we may feel that those who have gone from our sides, and have
left empty places which never can be filled, are gathered round Him in
the upper half, and though a screen hangs between the two, yet the feast
is one and the family is one. Singly our dear ones go, and singly we all
shall go. The table spread in the presence of enemies will be left
vacant to its last place, and the one spread above will be filled to
its last place, and so shall we ever be with the Lord, and the unity
which was always real be perfectly and permanently manifested at the
last.



STRENGTHENED WITH MIGHT

     'That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory; to
      be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner
      man.'--Eph. iii. 16.


In no part of Paul's letters does he rise to a higher level than in his
prayers, and none of his prayers are fuller of fervour than this
wonderful series of petitions. They open out one into the other like
some majestic suite of apartments in a great palace-temple, each leading
into a loftier and more spacious hall, each drawing nearer the
presence-chamber, until at last we stand there.

Roughly speaking, the prayer is divided into four petitions, of which
each is the cause of the following and the result of the
preceding--'That He would grant you, according to the riches of His
glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner
man'--that is the first. 'In order that Christ may dwell in your hearts
by faith,' 'ye being rooted and grounded in love'--such is the second,
the result of the first, and the preparation for the third. 'That ye may
be able to comprehend with all saints ... and to know the love of Christ
which passeth knowledge,' such is the third, and all lead up at last to
that wonderful desire beyond which nothing is possible--'that ye might
be filled with all the fulness of God.'

I venture to contemplate dealing with these four petitions in successive
sermons, in order, God helping me, that I may bring before you a fairer
vision of the possibilities of your Christian life than you ordinarily
entertain. For Paul's prayer is God's purpose, and what He means with
all who profess His name is that these exuberant desires may be
fulfilled in them. So let us now listen to that petition which is the
foundation of all, and consider that great thought of the divine
strength-giving power which may be bestowed upon every Christian soul.

I. First, then, I remark that God means, and wishes, that all Christians
should be strong by the possession of the Spirit of might.

It is a miserably inadequate conception of Christianity, and of the
gifts which it bestows, and the blessings which it intends for men, when
it is limited, as it practically is, by a large number--I might almost
say the majority--of professing Christians to a simple means of altering
their relation to the past, and to the broken law of God and of
righteousness. Thanks be to His name! His great gift to the world begins
in each individual case with the assurance that all the past is
cancelled. He gives that blessed sense of forgiveness, which can never
be too highly estimated unless it is forced out of its true place as the
introduction, and made to be the climax and the end, of His gifts. I do
not know what Christianity means, unless it means that you and I are
forgiven for a purpose; that the purpose, if I may so say, is something
in advance of the means towards the purpose, the purpose being that we
should be filled with all the strength and righteousness and
supernatural life granted to us by the Spirit of God.

It is well that we should enter into the vestibule. There is no other
path to the throne but through the vestibule. But do not let us forget
that the good news of forgiveness, though we need it day by day, and
need it perpetually repeated, is but the introduction to and porch of
the Temple, and that beyond it there towers, if I cannot say a loftier,
yet I may say a further gift, even the gift of a divine life like His,
from whom it comes, and of which it is in reality an effluence and a
spark. The true characteristic blessing of the Gospel is the gift of a
new power to a sinful weak world; a power which makes the feeble strong,
and the strongest as an angel of God.

Oh, brethren! we who know how, 'if any power we have, it is to ill'; we
who understand the weakness, the unaptness of our spirits to any good,
and our strength for every vagrant evil that comes upon them to tempt
them, should surely recognise as a Gospel in very deed that which
proclaims to us that the 'everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the
ends of the earth,' who Himself 'fainteth not, neither is weary.' hath
yet a loftier display of His strength-giving power than that which is
visible in the heavens above, where, 'because He is strong in might not
one faileth.' That heaven, the region of calm completeness, of law
unbroken and therefore of power undiminished, affords a lesser and
dimmer manifestation of His strength than the work that is done in the
hell of a human heart that has wandered and is brought back, that is
stricken with the weakness of the fever of sin, and is healed into the
strength of obedience and the omnipotence of dependence. It is much to
say 'for that He is strong in might, not one of these faileth;' it is
more to say 'He giveth power to them that have failed; and to them that
have no might He increaseth strength.' The Gospel is the gift of pardon
for holiness, and its inmost and most characteristic bestowment is the
bestowment of a new power for obedience and service.

And that power, as I need not remind you, is given to us through the
gift of the Divine Spirit. The very name of that Spirit is the 'Spirit
of Might.' Christ spoke to us about being 'endued with power from on
high.' The last of His promises that dropped from His lips upon earth
was the promise that His followers should receive the power of the
Spirit coming upon them. Wheresoever in the early histories we read of a
man who was full of the Holy Ghost, we read that he was 'full of power.'
According to the teaching of this Apostle, God hath given us the 'Spirit
of power,' which is also the Spirit 'of love and of a sound mind.' So
the strength that we must have, if we have strength at all, is the
strength of a Divine Spirit, not our own, that dwells in us, and works
through us.

And there is nothing in that which need startle or surprise any man who
believes in a living God at all, and in the possibility, therefore, of a
connection between the Great Spirit and all the human spirits which are
His children. I would maintain, in opposition to many modern
conceptions, the actual supernatural character of the gift that is
bestowed upon every Christian soul. My reading of the New Testament is
that as distinctly above the order of material nature as is any miracle,
is the gift that flows into a believing heart. There is a direct passage
between God and my spirit. It lies open to His touch; all the paths of
its deep things can be trodden by Him. You and I act upon one another
from without, He acts upon us within. We wish one another blessings; He
gives the blessings. We try to train, to educate, to incline, and
dispose, by the presentation of motives and the urging of reasons; He
can plant in a heart by His own divine husbandry the seed that shall
blossom into immortal life. And so the Christian Church is a great,
continuous, supernatural community in the midst of the material world;
and every believing soul, because it possesses something of the life of
Jesus Christ, has been the seat of a miracle as real and true as when He
said 'Lazarus, come forth!' Precisely this teaching does our Lord
Himself present for our acceptance when He sets side by side, as
mutually illustrative, as belonging to the same order of supernatural
phenomena, 'the hour is coming when the dead shall hear the voice of the
Son of God and they that hear shall live,' which is the supernatural
resurrection of souls dead in sin,--and 'the hour is coming in the which
all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth,'
which is the future resurrection of the body, in obedience to His will.

So, Christian men and women, do you set clearly before you this: that
God's purpose with you is but begun when He has forgiven you, that He
forgives you for a design, that it is a means to an end, and that you
have not reached the conception of the large things which He intends for
you unless you have risen to this great thought--He means and wishes
that you should be strong with the strength of His own Divine Spirit.

II. Now notice, next, that this Divine Power has its seat in, and is
intended to influence the whole of, the inner life.

As my text puts it, we may be 'strengthened with might by His Spirit _in
the inner man_.' By the 'inner man' I suppose, is not meant the new
creation through faith in Jesus Christ which this Apostle calls 'the
new man,' but simply what Peter calls the 'hidden man of the heart' the
'soul,' or unseen self as distinguished from the visible material body
which it animates and informs. It is this inner self, then, in which the
Spirit of God is to dwell, and into which it is to breathe strength. The
leaven is hid deep in three measures of meal until the whole be
leavened. And the point to mark is that the whole inward region which
makes up the true man is the field upon which this Divine Spirit is to
work. It is not a bit of your inward life that is to be hallowed. It is
not any one aspect of it that is to be strengthened, but it is the whole
intellect, affections, desires, tastes, powers of attention, conscience,
imagination, memory, will. The whole inner man in all its corners is to
be filled, and to come under the influence of this power, 'until there
be no part dark, as when the bright shining of a candle giveth thee
light.'

There is no part of my being that is not patent to the tread of this
Divine Guest. There are no rooms of the house of my spirit into which He
may not go. Let Him come with the master key in His hand into all the
dim chambers of your feeble nature; and as the one life is light in the
eye, and colour in the cheek, and deftness in the fingers, and strength
in the arm, and pulsation in the heart, so He will come with the
manifold results of the one gift to you. He will strengthen your
understandings, and make you able for loftier tasks of intellect and of
reason than you can face in your unaided power; He will dwell in your
affections and make them vigorous to lay hold upon the holy things that
are above their natural inclination, and will make it certain that their
reach shall not be beyond their grasp, as, alas! it so often is in the
sadness and disappointments of human love. He will come into that
feeble, vacillating, wayward will of yours, that is only obstinate in
its adherence to the low and the evil, as some foul creature, that one
may try to wrench away, digs its claws into corruption and holds on by
that. He will lift your will and make it fix upon the good and abominate
the evil, and through the whole being He will pour a great tide of
strength which shall cover all the weakness. He will be like some subtle
elixir which, taken into the lips, steals through a pallid and wasted
frame, and brings back a glow to the cheek and a lustre to the eye, and
swiftness to the brain, and power to the whole nature. Or as some plant,
drooping and flagging beneath the hot rays of the sun, when it has the
scent of water given to it, will, in all its parts, stiffen and erect
itself, so, when the Spirit is poured out on men, their whole nature is
invigorated and helped.

That indwelling Spirit will be a power for suffering. The parallel
passage to this in the twin epistle to the Colossians is--'strengthened
with all might unto all patience and long-suffering with gentleness.'
Ah, brethren! unless this Divine Spirit were a power for patience and
endurance it were no power suited to us poor men. So dark at times is
every life; so full at times of discouragements, of dreariness, of
sadness, of loneliness, of bitter memories, and of fading hopes does the
human heart become, that if we are to be strong we must have a strength
that will manifest itself most chiefly in this, that it teaches us how
to bear, how to weep, how to submit.

And it will be a power for conflict. We have all of us, in the discharge
of duty and in the meeting of temptation, to face such tremendous
antagonisms that unless we have grace given to us which will enable us
to resist, we shall be overcome and swept away. God's power given by the
Divine Spirit does not absolve us from the fight, but it fits us for the
fight. It is not given in order that, holiness may be won without a
struggle, as some people seem to think, but it is given to us in order
that in the struggle for holiness we may never lose 'one jot of heart or
hope,' but may be 'able to withstand in the evil day, and having done
all to stand.'

It is a power for service. 'Tarry ye in Jerusalem till ye be endued with
power from on high.' There is no such force for the spreading of
Christ's Kingdom, and the witness-bearing work of His Church, as the
possession of this Divine Spirit. Plunged into that fiery baptism, the
selfishness and the sloth, which stand in the way of so many of us, are
all consumed and annihilated, and we are set free for service because
the bonds that bound us are burnt up in the merciful furnace of His
fiery power.

'Ye shall be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man'--a
power that will fill and flood all your nature if you will let it, and
will make you strong to suffer, strong to combat, strong to serve, and
to witness for your Lord.

III. And now, lastly, let me point you still further to the measure of
this power. It is limitless with the boundlessness of God Himself. 'That
he would grant you' is the daring petition of the Apostle, 'according to
the riches of His glory to be strengthened.'

There is the measure. There is no limit except the uncounted wealth of
His own self-manifestation, the flashing light of revealed divinity.
Whatsoever there is of splendour in that, whatsoever there is of power
there, in these and in nothing on this side of them, lies the limit of
the possibilities of a Christian life. Of course there is a working
limit at each moment, and that is our capacity to receive; but that
capacity varies, may vary indefinitely, may become greater and greater
beyond our count or measurement. Our hearts may be more and more capable
of God; and in the measure in which they are capable of Him they shall
be filled by Him. A limit which is always shifting is no limit at all. A
kingdom, the boundaries of which are not the same from one year to
another, by reason of its own inherent expansive power, may be said to
have no fixed limit. And so we appropriate and enclose, as it were,
within our own little fence, a tiny portion of the great prairie that
rolls boundlessly to the horizon. But to-morrow we may enclose more, if
we will, and more and more; and so ever onwards, for all that is God's
is ours, and He has given us His whole self to use and to possess
through our faith in His Son. A thimble can only take up a thimbleful of
the ocean, but what if the thimble be endowed with a power of expansion
which has no term known to men? May it not, then, be that some time or
other it shall be able to hold so much of the infinite depth as now
seems a dream too audacious to be realised?

So it is with us and God. He lets us come into the vaults, as it were,
where in piles and masses the ingots of uncoined and uncounted gold are
stored and stacked; and He says, 'Take as much as you like to carry.'
There is no limit except the riches of His glory.

And now, dear friends, remember that this great gift, offered to each of
us, is offered on conditions. To you professing Christians especially I
speak. You will never get it unless you want it, and some of you do not
want it. There are plenty of people who call themselves Christian men
that would not for the life of them know what to do with this great gift
if they had it. You will get it if you desire it. 'Ye have not because
ye ask not.'

Oh! when one contrasts the largeness of God's promises and the miserable
contradiction to them which the average Christian life of this
generation presents, what can we say? 'Hath His mercy clean gone for
ever? Doth His promise fail for evermore?' Ye weak Christian people,
born weakling and weak ever since, as so many of you are, open your
mouths wide. Rise to the height of the expectations and the desires
which it is our sin not to cherish; and be sure of this, as we ask so
shall we receive. 'Ye are not straitened in God.' Alas! alas! 'ye are
straitened in yourselves.'

And mind, there must be self-suppression if there is to be the triumph
of a divine power in you. You cannot fight with both classes of weapons.
The human must die if the divine is to live. The life of nature,
dependence on self, must be weakened and subdued if the life of God is
to overcome and to fill you. You must be able to say 'Not I!' or you
will never be able to say 'Christ liveth in me.' The patriarch who
overcame halted on his thigh; and all the life of nature was lamed and
made impotent that the life of grace might prevail. So crush self by the
power and for the sake of the Christ, if you would that the Spirit
should bear rule over you.

See to it, too, that you use what you have of that Divine Spirit. 'To
him that hath shall be given.' What is the use of more water being sent
down the mill lade, if the water that does come in it all runs away at
the bottom, and none of it goes over the wheel? Use the power you have,
and power will come to the faithful steward of what he possesses. He
that is faithful in a little shall get much to be faithful over. Ask and
use, and the ancient thanksgiving may still come from your lips. 'In the
day when I cried, Thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with
strength in my soul.'



THE INDWELLING CHRIST

     'That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; ye being rooted and
      grounded in love.'--Eph. iii. 17.


We have here the second step of the great staircase by which Paul's
fervent desires for his Ephesian friends climbed towards that wonderful
summit of his prayers--which is ever approached, never reached,--'that
ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.'

Two remarks of an expository character will prepare the way for the
lessons of these verses. The first is as to the relation of this clause
to the preceding. It might appear at first sight to be simply parallel
with the former, expressing substantially the same ideas under a
somewhat different aspect. The operation of the strength-giving Spirit
in the inner man might very naturally be supposed to be equivalent to
the dwelling of Christ in our hearts by faith. So many commentators do,
in fact, take it; but I think that the two ideas may be distinguished,
and that we are to see in the words of our text, as I have said, the
second step in this prayer, which is in some sense a result of the
'strengthening with might by the Spirit in the inner man.' I need not
enter in detail into the reasons for taking this view of the connection
of the clause, which is obviously in accordance with the climbing-up
structure of the whole verse. It is enough to point it out as the basis
of my further remarks.

And now the second observation with which I will trouble you, before I
come to deal with the thoughts of the verse, is as to the connection of
the last words of it. You may observe that in reading the words of my
text I omitted the 'that' which stands in the centre of the verse. I did
so because the words, 'Ye being rooted and grounded in love,' in the
original, do stand before the '_that_,' and are distinctly separated by
it from the subsequent clause. They ought not, therefore, to be shifted
forward into it, as our translators and the Revised Version have, I
think, unfortunately done, unless there were some absolute necessity
either from meaning or from construction. I do not think that this is
the case; but on the contrary, if they are carried forward into the next
clause, which describes the result of Christ's dwelling in our hearts by
faith, they break the logical flow of the sentence by mixing together
result and occasion. And so I attach them to the first part of this
verse, and take them to express at once the consequence of Christ's
dwelling in the heart by faith, and the preparation or occasion for our
being able to comprehend and know the love of Christ which passeth
knowledge. Now that is all with which I need trouble you in the way of
explanation of the meaning of the words. Let us come now to deal with
their substance.

I. Consider the Indwelling of Christ, as desired by the Apostle for all
Christians.

To begin with, let me say in the plainest, simplest, strongest way that
I can, that that dwelling of Christ in the believing heart is to be
regarded as being a plain literal fact.

To a man who does not believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ, of course
that is nonsense, but to those of us who do see in Him the manifested
incarnate God, there ought to be no difficulty in accepting this as the
simple literal force of the words before us, that in every soul where
faith, howsoever feeble, has been exercised, there Jesus Christ does
verily abide.

It is not to be weakened down into any notion of participation in His
likeness, sympathy with His character, submission to His influence,
following His example, listening to His instruction, or the like. A dead
Plato may so influence his followers, but that is not how a living
Christ influences His disciples. What is meant is no mere influence
derived but separable from Him, however blessed and gracious that
influence might be, but it is the presence of His own self, exercising
influences which are inseparable from His presence, and only to be
realised when He dwells in us.

I think that Christian people as a rule do far too little turn their
attention to this aspect of the Gospel teaching, and concentrate their
thoughts far too much upon that which is unspeakably precious in itself,
but does not exhaust all that Christ is to us, viz. the work that He
wrought for us upon Calvary; or to take a step further, the work that He
is now carrying on for us as our Intercessor and Advocate in the
heavens. You who listen to me Sunday after Sunday will not suspect me of
seeking to minimise either of these two aspects of our Lord's mission
and operation, but I do believe that very largely the glad thought of an
indwelling Christ, who actually abides and works in our hearts, and is
not only for us in the heavens, or with us by some kind of impalpable
and metaphorical presence, but in simple, that is to say, in spiritual
reality is in our spirits, has faded away from the consciousness of the
Christian Church.

And so we are called 'mystics' when we preach Christ in the heart. Ah,
brother! unless your Christianity be in the good deep sense of the word
'mystical,' it is mechanical, which is worse. I preach, and rejoice that
I have to preach, a 'Christ that died, yea! rather that is risen again;
who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for
us.' Nor do I stop there, but I preach a Christ that is in us, dwelling
in our hearts if we be His at all.

Well, then, further observe that the special emphasis of the prayer here
is that this 'indwelling' may be an unbroken and permanent one. Any of
you who can consult the original for yourselves will see that the
Apostle here uses a compound word which conveys the idea of intensity
and continuity. What he desires, then, is not merely that these Ephesian
Christians may have occasional visits of the indwelling Lord, or that at
some lofty moments of spiritual enthusiasm they may be conscious that He
is with them, but that always, in an unbroken line of deep, calm
receptiveness, they may possess, and know that they possess, an
indwelling Saviour.

And this, I think, is one of the reasons why we may and must distinguish
between the apparently very similar petition in the previous verse,
about which we spoke in the last sermon, and the petition which is now
occupying us; for, as I shall have to show you, it is only as
'strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man' that we are
capable of the continuous abiding of that Lord within us.

Oh! what a contrast to that idea of a perpetual unbroken inhabitation of
Jesus in our spirits and to our consciousness is presented by our
ordinary life! 'Why shouldst Thou be as a wayfaring man that turneth
aside to tarry for a night?' may well be the utterance of the average
Christian. We might, with unbroken blessedness, possess Him in our
hearts, and instead, we have only 'visits short and far between' Alas,
alas, how often do we drive away that indwelling Christ, because our
hearts are 'foul with sin,' so that He

    'Can but listen at the gate
     And hear the household jar within.'

Christian men and women! here is the ideal of our lives, capable of
being approximated to (if not absolutely in its entirety reached) with
far more perfection than it ever has yet been by us. There might be a
line of light never interrupted running all through our religious
experience. Instead of that there is a light point here, and a great gap
of darkness there, like the straggling lamps by the wayside in the
half-lighted squalid suburbs of some great city. Is that your Christian
life, broken by many interruptions, and having often sounding through it
the solemn words of the retreating divinity which the old profound
legend tells us were heard the night before the Temple on Zion was
burnt:--'Let us depart?' 'I will arise and return unto My place till
they acknowledge their offences.' God means and wishes that Christ may
continuously dwell in our hearts. Does He to your own consciousness
dwell in yours?

And then the last thought connected with this first part of my subject
is that the heart, strengthened by the Spirit, is fitted to be the
Temple of the indwelling Christ. How shall we prepare the chamber for
such a guest? How shall some poor occupant of some wretched hut by the
wayside fit it up for the abode of a prince? The answer lies in these
words that precede my text. You cannot strengthen the rafters and lift
the roof and adorn the halls and furnish the floor in a manner befitting
the coming of the King; but you can turn to that Divine Spirit who will
expand and embellish and invigorate your whole spirit, and make it
capable of receiving the indwelling Christ.

That these two things which are here considered as cause and effect may,
in another aspects be considered as but varying phases of the same
truth, is only part of the depth and felicity of the teaching that is
here; for if you come to look more deeply into it, the Spirit that
strengtheneth with might is the Spirit of Christ; and He dwells in men's
hearts by His own Spirit. So that the apparent confusion, arising from
what in other places are regarded as identical being here conceived as
cause and effect, is no confusion at all, but is explained and
vindicated by the deep truth that nothing but the indwelling of the
Christ can fit for the indwelling of the Christ. The lesser gift of His
presence prepares for the greater measure of it; the transitory
inhabitation for the more permanent. Where He comes in smaller measure
He opens the door and makes the heart capable of His own more entire
indwelling. 'Unto him that hath shall be given.' It is Christ in the
heart that makes the heart fit for Christ to dwell in the heart. You
cannot do it by your own power; turn to Him and let Him make you temples
meet for Himself.

II. So now, in the second place, notice the open door through which the
Christ comes in to dwell--'that He may dwell in your hearts by faith.'

More accurately we may render 'through faith' and might even venture to
suppose that the thought of faith as an open door through which Christ
passes into the heart, floated half distinctly before the Apostle's
mind. Be that as it may, at all events faith is here represented as the
means or condition through which this dwelling takes effect. You have
but to believe in Him and He comes, drawn from heaven, floating down on
a sunbeam, as it were, and enters into the heart and abides there.

Trust, which is faith, is self-distrust. 'I dwell in the high and holy
place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit.' Rivers do
not run on the mountain tops, but down in the valleys. So the heart that
is lifted up and self-complacent has no dew of His blessing resting upon
it, but has the curse of Gilboa adhering to its barrenness; but the low
lands, the humble and the lowly hearts, are they in which the waters
that go softly scoop their course and diffuse their blessings. Faith is
self-distrust. Self-distrust brings the Christ.

Faith is desire. Never, never in the history of the world has it been or
can it be that a longing towards Him shall be a longing thrown back
unsatisfied upon itself. You have but to trust, and you possess. We open
the door for the entrance of Christ by the simple act of faith, and
blessed be His name! He can squeeze Himself through a very little chink,
and He does not require that the gates should be flung wide open in
order that, with some of His blessings, He may come in.

Mystical Christianity of the false sort has much to say about the
indwelling of God in the soul, but it spoils all its teaching by
insisting upon it that the condition on which God dwells in the soul is
the soul's purifying itself to receive Him. But you cannot cleanse your
hearts so as to bring Christ into them, you must let Him come and
cleanse them by the process of His coming, and fit them thereby for His
own indwelling. And, assuredly, He will so come, purging us from our
evil and abiding in our hearts.

But do not forget that the faith which brings Christ into the spirit
must be a faith which works by love, if it is to keep Christ in the
spirit. You cannot bring that Lord into your hearts by anything that you
do. The man who cleanses his own soul by his own strength, and so
expects to draw God into it, has made the mistake which Christ pointed
out when He told us that when the unclean spirit is gone out of a man he
leaves his house empty, though it be swept and garnished. Moral
reformation may turn out the devils, it will never bring in God, and in
the emptiness of the swept and garnished heart there is an invitation to
the seven to come back again and fill it.

And whilst that is true, remember, on the other hand, that a Christian
man can drive away his Master by evil works. The sweet song-birds and
the honey-making bees are said always to desert a neighbourhood before a
pestilence breaks out in it. And if I may so say, similarly quick to
feel the first breath of the pestilence is the presence of the Christ
which cannot dwell with evil. You bring Christ into your heart by faith,
without any work at all; you keep Him there by a faith which produces
holiness.

III. And the last point is the gifts of this indwelling Christ,--'ye
being,' or as the words might more accurately be translated, 'Ye having
been rooted and grounded in love.'

Where He comes He comes not empty-handed. He brings His own love, and
that, consciously received, produces a corresponding and answering love
in our hearts to Him. So there is no need to ask the question here
whether 'love' means Christ's love to me, or my love to Christ. From the
nature of the case both are included--the recognition of His love and
the response by mine are the result of His entering into the heart. This
love, the recognition of His and the response by mine, is represented in
a lovely double metaphor in these words as being at once the soil in
which our lives are rooted and grow, and the foundation on which our
lives are built and are steadfast.

There is no need to enlarge upon these two things, but let me just touch
them for a moment. Where Christ abides in a man's heart, love will be
the very soil in which his life will be rooted and grow. That love will
be the motive of all service, it will underlie, as its productive cause,
all fruitfulness. All goodness and all beauty will be its fruit. The
whole life will be as a tree planted in this rich soil. And so the life
will grow not by effort only, but as by an inherent power drawing its
nourishment from the soil. This is blessedness. It is heaven upon earth
that love should be the soil in which our obedience is rooted, and from
which we draw all the nutriment that turns to flowers and fruit.

Where Christ dwells in the heart, love will be the foundation upon which
our lives are builded steadfast and sure. The blessed consciousness of
His love, and the joyful answer of my heart to it, may become the basis
upon which my whole being shall repose, the underlying thought that
gives security, serenity, steadfastness to my else fluctuating life. I
may so plant myself upon Him, as that in Him I shall be strong, and
then my life will not only grow like a tree and have its leaf green and
broad, and its fruit the natural outcome of its vitality, but it will
rise like some stately building, course by course, pillar by pillar,
until at last the shining topstone is set there. He that buildeth on
that foundation shall never be confounded.

For, remember that, deepest of all, the words of my text may mean that
the Incarnate Personal Love becomes the very soil in which my life is
set and blossoms, on which my life is founded.

    'Thou, my Life, O let me be
     Rooted, grafted, built in Thee.'

Christ is Love, and Love is Christ. He that is rooted and grounded in
love has the roots of his being, and the foundation of his life fixed
and fastened in that Lord.

So, dear brethren, go to Christ like those two on the road to Emmaus;
and as Fra Angelico has painted them on his convent wall, put out your
hands and lay them on His, and say, 'Abide with us. Abide with us!' And
the answer will come:--'This is my rest for ever; here'--mystery of
love!--'will I dwell, for I have desired it,' even the narrow room of
your poor heart.



LOVE UNKNOWABLE AND KNOWN

     'That ye ... may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the
      breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of
      Christ, which passeth knowledge.'--Eph. iii. 18, 19.


This constitutes the third of the petitions in this great prayer of
Paul's, each of which, as we have had occasion to see in former sermons,
rises above, and is a consequence of the preceding, and leads on to,
and is a cause or occasion of the subsequent one.

The two former petitions have been for inward strength communicated by a
Divine Spirit, in order that Christ may dwell in our hearts, and so we
may be rooted and grounded in love. The result of these desires being
realised in our hearts is here set forth in two clauses which are
substantially equivalent in meaning. 'To comprehend' may be taken as
meaning nearly the same as 'to know,' only that perhaps the former
expresses an act more purely intellectual. And, as we shall see in our
next sermon, 'the breadth and length and depth and height' are the
unmeasurable dimensions of the love which in the second clause is
described as 'passing knowledge.' I purpose to deal with these measures
in a separate discourse, and, therefore, omit them from consideration
now.

We have, then, mainly two thoughts here, the one, that only the loving
heart in which Christ dwells can know the love of Christ; and the other
that even that heart can _not_ know the love of Christ. The paradox is
intentional, but it is intelligible. Let me deal then, as well as I can,
with these two great thoughts.

I. First, we have this thought that only the loving heart can know
Christ's love.

Now the Bible uses that word _know_ to express two different things; one
which we call mere intellectual perception; or to put it into plainer
words, mere head knowledge such as a man may have about any subject of
study, and the other a deep and living experience which is possession
before it is knowledge, and knowledge because it is possession.

Now the former of these two, the knowledge which is merely the work of
the understanding, is, of course, independent of love. A man may know
all about Christ and His love without one spark of love in his heart.
And there are thousands of people who, as far as the mere intellectual
understanding is concerned, know as much about Jesus Christ and His love
as the saint who is closest to the Throne, and yet have not one trace of
love to Christ in them. That is the kind of people that a widely
diffused Christianity and a habit of hearing sermons produce. There are
plenty of them, and some of us among them, who, as far as their heads
are concerned, know quite as much of Jesus Christ and His love as any of
us do, and could talk about it and argue about it, and draw inferences
from it, and have the whole system of evangelical Christianity at their
fingers' ends. Ay! It is at their fingers' _ends_, it never gets any
nearer them than that.

There is a knowledge with which love has nothing to do, and it is a
knowledge that for many people is quite sufficient. 'Knowledge puffeth
up,' says the Apostle; into an unwholesome bubble of self-complacency
that will one day be pricked and disappear, but 'love buildeth up'--a
steadfast, slowly-rising, solid fabric. There be two kinds of knowledge:
the mere rattle of notions in a man's brain, like the seeds of a
withered poppy-head; very many, very dry, very hard; that will make a
noise when you shake them. And there is another kind of knowledge which
goes deep down into the heart, and is the only knowledge worth calling
by the name; and that knowledge is the child, as my text has it, of
love.

Now let us think about that for a moment. Love, says Paul, is the parent
of all knowledge. Well, now, can we find any illustrations from similar
facts in other regions? Yes! I think so. How do we know, really know,
any emotions of any sort whatever? Only by experience. You may talk for
ever about feelings, and you teach nothing about them to those who have
not experienced them. The poets of the world have been singing about
love ever since the world began. But no heart has learned what love is
from even the sweetest and deepest songs. Who that is not a father can
be taught paternal love by words, or can come to a perception of it by
an effort of mind? And so with all other emotions. Only the lips that
have drunk the cup of sweetness or of bitterness can tell how sweet or
how bitter it is, and even when they, made wise by experience, speak out
their deepest hearts, the listeners are but little the wiser, unless
they too have been scholars in the same school. Experience is our only
teacher in matters of feeling and emotion, as in the lower regions of
taste and appetite. A man must be hungry to know what hunger is; he must
taste honey or wormwood in order to know the taste of honey or wormwood,
and in like manner he cannot know sorrow but by feeling its ache, and
must love if he would know love. Experience is our only teacher, and her
school-fees are heavy.

Just as a blind man can never be made to understand the glories of
sunrise, or the light upon the far-off mountains; just as a deaf man may
read books about acoustics, but they will not give him a notion of what
it is to hear Beethoven, so we must have love to Christ before we know
what love to Christ is, and we must consciously experience the love of
Christ ere we know what the love of Christ is. We must have love to
Christ in order to have a deep and living possession of love of Christ,
though reciprocally it is also true that we must have the love of Christ
known and felt by our answering hearts, if we are ever to love Him back
again.

So in all the play and counterplay of love between Christ and us, and in
all the reaction of knowledge and love this remains true, that we must
be rooted and grounded in love ere we can know love, and must have
Christ dwelling in our hearts, in order to that deep and living
possession which, when it is conscious of itself, is knowledge, and is
for ever alien to the loveless heart.

    'He must be loved, ere that to you
     He will seem worthy of your love.'

If you want to know the blessedness of the love of Christ, love Him, and
open your hearts for the entrance of His love to you. Love is the parent
of deep, true knowledge.

Of course, before we can love an unseen person and believe in his love,
we must know about him by the ordinary means by which we learn about all
persons outside the circle of our sight. So before the love which is
thus the parent of deep, true knowledge, there must be the knowledge by
study and credence of the record concerning Christ, which supplies the
facts on which alone love can be nourished. The understanding has its
part to play in leading the heart to love, and then the heart becomes
the true teacher. He that loveth, knoweth God, for God is love. He that
is rooted and grounded in love because Christ dwells in his heart, will
be strengthened to know the love in which he is rooted. The Christ
within us will know the love of Christ. We must first 'taste,' and then
we shall 'see' that the Lord is good, as the Psalmist puts it with deep
truth. First, the appropriation and feeding upon God, then the clear
perception by the mind of the sweetness in the taste. First the
enjoyment; then the reflection on the enjoyment. First the love; and
then the consciousness of the love of Christ possessed and the love to
Christ experienced. The heart must be grounded in love that the man may
know the love which passeth knowledge.

Then notice that there is also here another condition for this deep and
blessed knowledge laid down in these words, 'That ye may be able to
comprehend _with all saints_.' That is to say, our knowledge of the love
of Jesus Christ depends largely on our sanctity. If we are pure we shall
know. If we were wholly devoted to Him we should wholly know His love to
us, and in the measure in which we are pure and holy we shall know it.
This heart of ours is like a reflecting telescope, the least breath upon
the mirror of which will cause all the starry sublimities that it should
shadow forth to fade and become dim. The slightest moisture in the
atmosphere, though it be quite imperceptible where we stand, will be
dense enough to shut out the fair, shining, snowy summits that girdle
the horizon and to leave nothing visible but the lowliness and
commonplaceness of the prosaic plain.

If you want to know the love of Christ, first of all, that love must
purify your souls. But then you must keep your souls pure, assured of
this, that only the single eye is full of light, and that they who are
not 'saints' grope in the dark even at midday, and whilst drenched by
the sunshine of His love, are unconscious of it altogether. And so we
get that miserable and mysterious tragedy of men and women walking
through life, as many of you are doing, in the very blaze and focus of
Christ's love, and never beholding it nor knowing anything about it.

Observe again the beginning of this path of knowledge, which we have
thus traced. There must be, says my text, an indwelling Christ, and so
an experience, deep and stable, of His love, and then we shall know the
love which we thus experience. But how comes that indwelling? That is
the question for us. The knowledge of His love is blessedness, is peace,
is love, is everything; as we shall see in considering the last stage of
this prayer. That knowledge arises from our fellowship with and our
possession of the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ. How does that
fellowship with, and possession of the love of God in Jesus Christ,
come? That is the all-important question. What is the beginning of
everything? 'That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.' There is
the gate through which you and I may come, and by which we must come if
we are to come at all into the possession and perception of Christ's
great love. Here is the path of knowledge. First of all, there must be
the simple historical knowledge of the facts of Christ's life and death
for us, with the Scripture teaching of their meaning and power. And then
we must turn these truths from mere notions into life. It is not enough
to know the love that God has to us, in that lower sense of the word
'knowledge.' Many of you know that, who never got any blessing out of it
all your days, and never will, unless you change. Besides the 'knowing'
there must be the 'believing' of the love. You must translate the notion
into a living fact in your experience. You must pass from the simple
work of understanding the Gospel to the higher act of faith. You must
not be contented with knowing, you must trust. And if you have done that
all the rest will follow, and the little, narrow, low doorway of humble
self-distrusting faith, through which a man creeps on his knees,
leaving outside all his sin and his burden, opens out into the temple
palace--the large place in which Christ's love is imparted to the soul.

Brethren, this doctrine of my text ought to be for every one of us a joy
and a gospel. There is no royal road into the sweetness and the depth of
Christ's love, for the wise or the prudent. The understanding is no more
the organ for apprehending the love of Christ than the ear is the organ
for perceiving light, or the heart the organ for learning mathematics.
Blessed be God! the highest gifts are not bestowed upon the clever
people, on the men of genius and the gifted ones, the cultivated and the
refined, but they are open for all men; and when we say that love is the
parent of knowledge, and that the condition of knowing the depths of
Christ's heart is simple love which is the child of faith, we are only
saying in other words what the Master embodied in His thanksgiving
prayer, 'I thank Thee, Father! Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou
hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them
unto babes.'

And that is so, not because Christianity, being a foolish system, can
only address itself to fools; not because Christianity, contradicting
wisdom, cannot expect to be received by the wise and the cultured, but
because a man's brains have as little to do with his trustful acceptance
of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a man's eyes have to do with his
capacity of hearing a voice. Therefore, seeing that the wise and
prudent, and the cultured, and the clever, and the men of genius are
always the minority of the race, let us vulgar folk that are neither
wise, nor clever, nor cultured, nor geniuses, be thankful that all that
has nothing to do with our power of knowing and possessing the best
wisdom and the highest treasures, but that upon this path the wayfaring
man though a fool shall not err, and all narrow foreheads and limited
understandings, and poor, simple uneducated people as well as
philosophers and geniuses have to learn love by their hearts and not by
their heads, and by a sense of need and a humble trust and a daily
experience have to appropriate and suck out the blessing that lies in
the love of Jesus Christ. Blessed be His name! The end of all
aristocracies of culture and superciliousness of intellect lies in that
great truth that we possess the deepest knowledge and highest wisdom
when we love and by our love.

II. Now a word in the next place as to the other thought here, that not
even the loving heart can know the love of Christ.

'It passeth knowledge,' says my text. Now I do not suppose that the
paradox here of knowing the love of Christ which 'passeth knowledge' is
to be explained by taking 'know' and 'knowledge' in the two different
senses which I have already referred to, so as that we may experience,
and know by conscious experience, that love which the mere understanding
is incapable of grasping. That of course is an explanation which might
be defended, but I take it that it is much truer to the Apostle's
meaning to suppose that he uses the words 'know' and 'knowledge' both
times in the same sense. And so we get familiar thoughts which I touch
upon very briefly.

Our knowledge of Christ's love, though real, is incomplete, and must
always be so. You and I believe, I hope, that Christ's love is not a
man's love, or at least that it is more than a man's love. We believe
that it is the flowing out to us of the love of God, that all the
fulness of the divine heart pours itself through that narrow channel of
the human nature of our Lord, and therefore that the flow is endless and
the Fountain infinite.

I suppose I do not need to show you that it is possible for people to
have, and that in fact we do possess a real, a valid, a reliable
knowledge of that which is infinite; although we possess, as a matter of
course, no adequate and complete knowledge of it. But I only remind you
that we have before us in Christ's love something which, though the
understanding is not by itself able to grasp it, yet the understanding
led by the heart can lay hold of, and can find in it infinite treasures.
We can lay our poor hands on His love as a child might lay its tiny palm
upon the base of some great cliff, and hold that love in a real grasp of
a real knowledge and certitude, but we cannot put our hands round it and
feel that we _com_prehend as well as _ap_prehend. Let us be thankful
that we cannot.

His love can only become to us a subject of knowledge as it reveals
itself in its manifestations. Yet after even these manifestations it
remains unuttered and unutterable even by the Cross and grave, even by
the glory and the throne. 'It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do?
deeper than hell; what canst thou know? The measure thereof is longer
than the earth, and broader than the sea.'

We have no measure by which we can translate into the terms of our
experience, and so bring within the grasp of our minds, what was the
depth of the step, which Christ took at the impulse of His love, from
the Throne to the Cross. We know not what He forewent; we know not, nor
ever shall know, what depths of darkness and soul-agony He passed
through at the bidding of His all-enduring love to us. Nor do we know
the consequences of that great work of emptying Himself of His glory. We
have no means by which we can estimate the darkness and the depth of the
misery from which we have been delivered, nor the height and the
radiance of the glory to which we are to be lifted. And until we can
tell and measure by our compasses both of these two extremes of possible
human fate, till we have gone down into the deepest abyss of a
bottomless pit of growing alienation and misery, and up above the
highest reach of all unending progress into light and glory and
God-likeness, we have not stretched our compasses wide enough to touch
the two poles of this great sphere, the infinite love of Jesus Christ.
So we bow before it, we know that we possess it with a knowledge more
sure and certain, more deep and valid, than our knowledge of ought but
ourselves; but yet it is beyond our grasp, and towers above us
inaccessible in the altitude of its glory, and stretches deep beneath us
in the profundity of its condescension.

And, in like manner, we may say that this known love passes knowledge,
inasmuch as our experience of it can never exhaust it. We are like the
settlers on some great island continent--as, for instance, on the
Australian continent for many years after its first discovery--a thin
fringe of population round the seaboard here and there, and all the
bosom of the land untraversed and unknown. So after all experiences of
and all blessed participation in the love of Jesus Christ which come to
each of us by our faith, we have but skimmed the surface, but touched
the edges, but received a drop of what, if it should come upon us in
fulness of flood like a Niagara of love, would overwhelm our spirits.

So we have within our reach not only the treasure of creatural
affections which bring gladness into life when they come, and darkness
over it when they depart; we have not only human love which, if I may so
say, is always lifting its finger to its lips in the act of bidding us
adieu; but we may possess a love which will abide with us for ever. Men
die, Christ lives. We can exhaust men, we cannot exhaust Christ. We can
follow other objects of pursuit, all of which have limitation to their
power of satisfying and pall upon the jaded sense sooner or later, or
sooner or later are wrenched away from the aching heart. But here is a
love into which we can penetrate very deep and fear no exhaustion; a sea
into which we can cast ourselves, nor dread that like some rash diver
flinging himself into shallow water where he thought there was depth, we
may be bruised and wounded. We may find in Christ the endless love that
an immortal heart requires. Enter by the low door of faith, and your
finite heart will have the joy of an infinite love for its possession,
and your mortal life will rise transfigured into an immortal and growing
participation in the immortal Love of the indwelling and inexhaustible
Christ.



THE PARADOX OF LOVE'S MEASURE

     'The breadth, and length, and depth, and height.'--Eph. iii. 18.


Of what? There can, I think, be no doubt as to the answer. The next
clause is evidently the continuation of the idea begun in that of our
text, and it runs: 'And to know the _love of Christ_ which passeth
knowledge.' It is the immeasurable measure, then; the boundless bounds
and dimensions of the love of Christ which fire the Apostle's thoughts
here. Of course, he had no separate idea in his mind attaching to each
of these measures of magnitude, but he gathered them together simply to
express the one thought of the greatness of Christ's love. Depth and
height are the same dimension measured from opposite ends. The one
begins at the top and goes down, the other begins at the bottom and goes
up, but the distance is the same in either case. So we have the three
dimensions of a solid here--breadth, length, and depth.

I suppose that I may venture to use these expressions with a somewhat
different purpose from that for which the Apostle employs them; and to
see in each of them a separate and blessed aspect of the love of God in
Jesus Christ our Lord.

I. What, then, is the breadth of that love?

It is as broad as humanity. As all the stars lie in the firmament, so
all creatures rest in the heaven of His love. Mankind has many common
characteristics. We all suffer, we all sin, we all hunger, we all
aspire, hope, and die; and, blessed be God! we all occupy precisely the
same relation to the divine love which lies in Jesus Christ. There are
no step-children in God's great family, and none of them receives a more
grudging or a less ample share of His love and goodness than every
other. Far-stretching as the race, and curtaining it over as some great
tent may enclose on a festal day a whole tribe, the breadth of Christ's
love is the breadth of humanity.

And it is universal because it is divine. No human mind can be stretched
so as to comprehend the whole of the members of mankind, and no human
heart can be so emptied of self as to be capable of this absolute
universality and impartiality of affection. But the intellectual
difficulties which stand in the way of the width of our affections, and
the moral difficulties which stand still more frowningly and
forbiddingly in the way, have no power over that love of Christ's which
is close and tender, and clinging with all the tenderness and closeness
and clingingness of a human affection and lofty and universal and
passionless and perpetual, with all the height and breadth and calmness
and eternity of a divine heart.

And this broad love, broad as humanity, is not shallow because it is
broad. Our love is too often like the estuary of some great stream which
runs deep and mighty as long as it is held within narrow banks, but as
soon as it widens becomes slow and powerless and shallow. The intensity
of human affection varies inversely as its extension. A universal
philanthropy is a passionless sentiment. But Christ's love is deep
though it is wide, and suffers no diminution because it is shared
amongst a multitude. It is like the great feast that He Himself spread
for five thousand men, women, and children, all seated on the grass,
'and they did all eat and were filled.'

The whole love is the property of each recipient of it. He does not love
as we do, who give a part of our heart to this one and a part to that
one, and share the treasure of our affections amongst a multitude. All
this gift belongs to every one, just as all the sunshine comes to every
eye, and as every beholder sees the moon's path across the dark waters,
stretching from the place where He stands to the centre of light.

This broad love, universal as humanity, and deep as it is broad, is
universal because it is individual. You and I have to generalise, as we
say, when we try to extend our affections beyond the limits of
household and family and personal friends, and the generalising is a
sign of weakness and limitation. Nobody can love an abstraction, but
God's love and Christ's love do not proceed in that fashion. He
individualises, loving each and therefore loving all. It is because
every man has a space in His heart singly and separately and
conspicuously, that all men have a place there. So our task is to
individualise this broad, universal love, and to say, in the simplicity
of a glad faith, 'He loved me and gave Himself for me.' The breadth is
world-wide, and the whole breadth is condensed into, if I may so say, a
shaft of light which may find its way through the narrowest chink of a
single soul. There are two ways of arguing about the love of Christ,
both of them valid, and both of them needing to be employed by us. We
have a right to say, 'He loves all, therefore He loves me.' And we have
a right to say, 'He loves me, therefore He loves all.' For surely the
love that has stooped to me can never pass by any human soul.

What is the breadth of the love of Christ? It is broad as mankind, it is
narrow as myself.

II. Then, in the next place, what is the length of the love of Christ?

If we are to think of Him only as a man, however exalted and however
perfect, you and I have nothing in the world to do with His love. When
He was here on earth it may have been sent down through the ages in some
vague way, as the shadowy ghost of love may rise in the heart of a great
statesman or philanthropist for generations yet unborn, which He dimly
sees will be affected by His sacrifice and service. But we do not call
that love. Such a poor, pale, shadowy thing has no right to the warm
throbbing name; has no right to demand from us any answering thrill of
affection. Unless you think of Jesus Christ as something more and other
than the purest and the loftiest benevolence that ever dwelt in human
form, I know of no intelligible sense in which the length of His love
can be stretched to touch you.

If we content ourselves with that altogether inadequate and lame
conception of Him and of His nature, of course there is no present bond
between any man upon earth and Him, and it is absurd to talk about His
present love as extending in any way to me. But we have to believe,
rising to the full height of the Christian conception of the nature and
person of Christ, that when He was here on earth the divine that dwelt
in Him so informed and inspired the human as that the love of His man's
heart was able to grasp the whole, and to separate the individuals who
should make up the race till the end of time; so as that you and I,
looking back over all the centuries, and asking ourselves what is the
length of the love of Christ, can say, 'It stretches over all the years,
and it reached then, as it reaches now, to touch me, upon whom the ends
of the earth have come.' Its length is conterminous with the duration of
humanity here or yonder.

That thought of eternal being, when we refer it to God, towers above us
and repels us; and when we turn it to ourselves and think of our own
life as unending, there come a strangeness and an awe that is almost
shrinking, over the thoughtful spirit. But when we transmute it into the
thought of a love whose length is unending, then over all the shoreless,
misty, melancholy sea of eternity, there gleams a light, and every
wavelet flashes up into glory. It is a dreadful thing to think, 'For
ever, Thou art God.' It is a solemn thing to think, 'For ever I am to
be'; but it is life to say: 'O Christ! Thy love endureth from
everlasting to everlasting; and because it lives, I shall live
also'--'Oh! give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy
endureth for ever.'

There is another measure of the length of the love of Christ. 'Master!
How often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?--I say not
unto thee until seven times, but until seventy times seven.' So said the
Christ, multiplying perfection into itself twice--two sevens and a
ten--in order to express the idea of boundlessness. And the law that He
laid down for His servant is the law that binds Himself. What is the
length of the love of Christ? Here is one measure of it--howsoever long
drawn out my sin may be, this is longer; and the white line of His love
runs out into infinity, far beyond the point where the black line of my
sin stops. Anything short of eternal patience would have been long ago
exhausted by your sins and mine, and our brethren's. But the pitying
Christ, the eternal Lover of all wandering souls, looks down from heaven
upon every one of us; goes with us in all our wanderings, bears with us
in all our sins, in all our transgressions still is gracious. His
pleadings sound on, like some stop in an organ continuously persistent
through all the other notes. And round His throne are written the divine
words which have been spoken about our human love modelled after His:
'Charity suffereth long and is kind; is not easily provoked, is not soon
angry, beareth all things.' The length of the love of Christ is the
length of eternity, and outmeasures all human sin.

III. Then again, what is the depth of that love?

Depth and height, as I said at the beginning of these remarks, are but
two ways of expressing the same dimension. For the one we begin at the
top and measure down, for the other we begin at the bottom and measure
up. The top is the Throne; and the downward measure, how is it to be
stated? In what terms of distance are we to express it? How far is it
from the Throne of the Universe to the manger of Bethlehem, and the
Cross of Calvary, and the sepulchre in the garden? That is the depth of
the love of Christ. Howsoever far may be the distance from that
loftiness of co-equal divinity in the bosom of the Father, and radiant
with glory, to the lowliness of the form of a servant, and the sorrows,
limitations, rejections, pains and death--that is the measure of the
depth of Christ's love. We can estimate the depth of the love of Christ
by saying, 'He came from above, He tabernacled with us,' as if some
planet were to burst from its track and plunge downwards in amongst the
mist and the narrowness of our earthly atmosphere.

A well-known modern scientist has hazarded the speculation that the
origin of life on this planet has been the falling upon it of the
fragments of a meteor, or an aerolite from some other system, with a
speck of organic life upon it, from which all has developed. Whatever
may be the case in regard to physical life, that is absolutely true in
the case of spiritual life. It all originates because this
heaven-descended Christ has come down the long staircase of Incarnation,
and has brought with Him into the clouds and oppressions of our
terrestrial atmosphere a germ of life which He has planted in the heart
of the race, there to spread for ever. That is the measure of the depth
of the love of Christ.

And there is another way to measure it. My sins are deep, my helpless
miseries are deep, but they are shallow as compared with the love that
goes down beneath all sin, that is deeper than all sorrow, that is
deeper than all necessity, that shrinks from no degradation, that turns
away from no squalor, that abhors no wickedness so as to avert its face
from it. The purest passion of human benevolence cannot but sometimes be
aware of disgust mingling with its pity and its efforts, but Christ's
love comes down to the most sunken. However far in the abyss of
degradation any human soul has descended, beneath it are the everlasting
arms, and beneath it is Christ's love. When a coalpit gets blocked up by
some explosion, no brave rescuing party will venture to descend into the
lowest depths of the poisonous darkness until some ventilation has been
restored. But this loving Christ goes down, down, down into the
thickest, most pestilential atmosphere, reeking with sin and corruption,
and stretches out a rescuing hand to the most abject and undermost of
all the victims. How deep is the love of Christ! The deep mines of sin
and of alienation are all undermined and countermined by His love. Sin
is an abyss, a mystery, how deep only they know who have fought against
it; but

    'O love! thou bottomless abyss,
     My sins are swallowed up in thee.'

'I will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.' The depths of
Christ's love go down beneath all human necessity, sorrow, suffering,
and sin.

IV. And lastly, what is the height of the love of Christ?

We found that the way to measure the depth was to begin at the Throne,
and go down to the Cross, and to the foul abysses of evil. The way to
measure the height is to begin at the Cross and the foul abysses of
evil, and to go up to the Throne. That is to say, the topmost thing in
the Universe, the shining apex and pinnacle, glittering away up there in
the radiant unsetting light, is the love of God in Jesus Christ. Other
conceptions of that divine nature spring high above us and tower beyond
our thoughts, but the summit of them all, the very topmost as it is the
very bottommost, outside of everything, and therefore high above
everything, is the love of God which has been revealed to us all, and
brought close to us sinful men in the manhood and passion of our dear
Christ.

And that love which thus towers above us, and gleams like the shining
cross on the top of some lofty cathedral spire, does not flash up there
inaccessible, nor lie before us like some pathless precipice, up which
nothing that has not wings can ever hope to rise, but the height of the
love of Christ is an hospitable height, which can be scaled by us. Nay,
rather, that heaven of love which is 'higher than our thoughts,' bends
down, as by a kind of optical delusion the physical heaven seems to do
towards each of us, only with this blessed difference, that in the
natural world the place where heaven touches earth is always the
furthest point of distance from us: and in the spiritual world the place
where heaven stoops to me is always right over my head, and the nearest
possible point to me. He has come to lift us to Himself, and this is the
height of His love, that it bears us, if we will, up and up to sit upon
that throne where He Himself is enthroned.

So, brethren, Christ's love is round about us all, as some sunny
tropical sea may embosom in its violet waves a multitude of luxuriant
and happy islets. So all of us, islanded on our little individual lives,
lie in that great ocean of love, all the dimensions of which are
immeasurable, and which stretches above, beneath, around, shoreless,
tideless, bottomless, endless.

But, remember, this ocean of love you can shut out of your lives. It is
possible to plunge a jar into mid-Atlantic, further than soundings have
ever descended, and to bring it up on deck as dry inside as if it had
been lying on an oven. It is possible for men and women--and I have them
listening to me at this moment--to live and move and have their being in
that sea of love, and never to have let one drop of its richest gifts
into their hearts or their lives. Open your hearts for Him to come in,
by humble faith in His great sacrifice for you. For if Christ dwell in
your heart by faith, then and only then will experience be your guide;
and you will be able to comprehend the boundless greatness, the endless
duration, and absolute perfection, and to know the love of Christ which
passeth knowledge.



THE CLIMAX OF ALL PRAYER

     'That ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.'--Eph.
     iii. 19.


The Apostle's many-linked prayer, which we have been considering in
successive sermons, has reached its height. It soars to the very Throne
of God. There can be nothing above or beyond this wonderful petition.
Rather, it might seem as if it were too much to ask, and as if, in the
ecstasy of prayer, Paul had forgotten the limits that separate the
creature from the Creator, as well as the experience of sinful and
imperfect men, and had sought to 'wind himself too high for mortal life
beneath the sky.' And yet Paul's prayers are God's promises; and we are
justified in taking these rapturous petitions as being distinct
declarations of God's desire and purpose for each of us; as being the
end which He had in view in the unspeakable gift of His Son; and as
being the certain outcome of His gracious working on all believing
hearts.

It seems at first a paradoxical impossibility; looked at more deeply and
carefully it becomes a possibility for each of us, and therefore a duty;
a certainty for all the redeemed in fullest measure hereafter; and,
alas! a rebuke to our low lives and feeble expectations. Let us look,
then, at the petition, with the desire of sounding, as we may, its
depths and realising its preciousness.

I. First of all, think with me of the significance of this prayer.

'The fulness of God' is another expression for the whole sum and
aggregate of all the energies, powers, and attributes of the divine
nature, the total Godhead in its plenitude and abundance.

'God is love,' we say. What does that mean, but that God desires to
impart His whole self to the creatures whom He loves? What is love in
its lofty and purest forms, even as we see them here on earth; what is
love except the infinite longing to bestow one's self? And when we
proclaim that which is the summit and climax of the revelation of our
Father in the person of His Son, and say with the last utterances of
Scripture that 'God is love,' we do in other words proclaim that the
very nature and deepest desire and purpose of the divine heart is to
pour itself on the emptiness and need of His lowly creatures in floods
that keep back nothing. Lofty, wonderful, incomprehensible to the mere
understanding as this thought may be, clearly it is the inmost meaning
of all that Scripture tells us about God as being the 'portion of His
people,' and about us, as being by Christ and in Christ 'heirs of God,'
and possessors of Himself.

We have, then, as the promise that gleams from these great words, this
wonderful prospect, that the divine love, truth, holiness, joy, in all
their rich plenitude of all-sufficient abundance, may be showered upon
us. The whole Godhead is our possession; for the fulness of God is no
far-off remote treasure that lies beyond human grasp and outside of
human experience. Do not we believe that, to use the words of this
Apostle in another letter, 'it pleased the Father that in Him should all
the fulness dwell'? Do we not believe that, to use the words of the same
epistle, 'In Christ dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily'? Is
not that abundance of the resources of the whole Deity insphered and
incarnated in Jesus Christ our Lord, that it may be near us, and that we
may put out our hand and touch it? This may be a paradox for the
understanding, full of metaphysical puzzles and cobwebs, but for the
heart that knows Christ, most true and precious. God is gathered into
Jesus Christ, and all the fulness of God, whatever that may mean, is
embodied in the Man Christ Jesus, that from Him it may be communicated
to every soul that will.

For, to quote other words of another of the New Testament teachers, 'Of
His fulness have all we received, and grace for grace,' and to quote
words in another part of the same epistle, we may 'all come to a perfect
man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.' High
above us, then, and inaccessible though that awful thought, 'the fulness
of God,' may seem, as the zenith of the unscaleable heavens seems to us
poor creatures creeping here upon the flat earth, it comes near, near,
near, ever nearer, and at last tabernacles among us, when we think that
in Him all the fulness dwells, and it comes nearer yet and enters into
our hearts when we think that 'of His fulness have we all received.'

Then, still further, observe another of the words in this
petition:--'That ye may be filled.' That is to say, Paul's prayer and
God's purpose and desire concerning us is, that our whole being may be
so saturated and charged with an indwelling divinity as that there shall
be no room in our present stature and capacity for more, and no sense of
want or aching emptiness.

Ah, brethren! when we think of how eagerly we have drunk at the stinking
puddles of earth, and how after every draught there has yet been left a
thirst that was pain, it is something for us to hear Him say:--'The
water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up
into everlasting life,'--and 'he that drinketh of this water shall never
thirst.' Our empty hearts, with their experiences of the insufficiency
and the vanity of all earthly satisfaction, stand there like the
water-pots at the rustic marriage, and the Master says, 'Fill them to
the brim.' And then, by His touch, the water of our poor savourless,
earthly enjoyments is transmuted and elevated into the new wine of His
Kingdom. We may be filled, satisfied with the fulness of God.

There is another point as to the significance of this prayer, on which I
must briefly touch. As our Revised Version will tell you, the literal
rendering of my text is, 'filled _unto_' (not exactly _with_) 'all the
fulness of God'; which suggests the idea not of a completed work but of
a process, and of a growing process, as if more and more of that great
fulness might pass into a man. Suppose a number of vessels, according to
the old illustration about degrees of glory in heaven; they are each
full, but the quantity that one contains is much less than that which
the other may hold. Add to the illustration that the vessels can grow,
and that filling makes them grow; as a shrunken bladder when you pass
gas into it will expand and round itself out, and all the creases will
be smoothed away. Such is the Apostle's idea here, that a process of
filling goes on which may satisfy the then desires, because it fills us
up to the then capacities of our spirits; but in the very process of so
filling and satisfying makes those spirits capable of containing larger
measures of His fulness, which therefore flow into it. Such, as I take
it, in rude and faint outline, is the significance of this great prayer.

II. Now turn, in the next place, to consider briefly the possibility of
the accomplishments of this petition.

As I said, it sounds as if it were too much to desire. Certainly no wish
can go beyond this wish. The question is, can a sane and humble wish go
as far as this; and can a man pray such a prayer with any real belief
that he will get it answered here and now? I say yes!

There are two difficulties that at once start up.

People will say, does such a prayer as this upon man's lips not forget
the limits that bound the creature's capacity? Can the finite contain
the Infinite?

Well, that is a verbal puzzle, and I answer, yes! The finite can contain
the Infinite, if you are talking about two hearts that love, one of them
God's and one of them mine. We have got to keep very clear and distinct
before our minds the broad, firm line of demarcation between the
creature and the Creator, or else we get into a pantheistic region where
both creature and Creator expire. But there is a Christian as well as an
atheistic pantheism, and as long as we retain clearly in our minds the
consciousness of the personal distinction between God and His child, so
as that the child can turn round and say, 'I love Thee' and God can look
down and say, 'I bless thee'; then all identification and mutual
indwelling and impartation from Him of Himself are possible, and are
held forth as the aim and end of Christian life.

Of course in a mere abstract and philosophical sense the Infinite cannot
be contained by the finite; and attributes which express infinity, like
omnipresence and omniscience and omnipotence and so on, indicate things
in God that we can know but little about, and that cannot be
communicated. But those are not the divinest things in God. 'God is
love.' Do you believe that that saying unveils the deepest things in
Him? God is light, 'and in Him is no darkness at all.' Do you believe
that His light and His love are nearer the centre than these attributes
of power and infinitude? If we believe that, then we can come back to my
text and say, 'The love, which is Thee, can come into me; the light,
which is Thee, can pour itself into my darkness; the holiness, which is
Thee, can enter into my impurity. The heaven of heavens cannot contain
Thee. Thou dwellest in the humble and in the contrite heart.'

So, dear brethren, the old legends about mighty forms that contracted
their stature and bowed their divine heads to enter into some poor man's
hut, and sit there, are simple Christian realities. And instead of
puzzling ourselves with metaphysical difficulties which are mere
shadows, and the work of the understanding or the spawn of words, let us
listen to the Christ when He says, 'We will come unto him and make our
abode with him' and believe that it was no impossibility which fired the
Apostle's hope when he prayed, and in praying prophesied, that we might
be filled with all the fulness of God.

Then there is another difficulty that rises before our minds; and
Christian men say, 'How is it possible, in this region of imperfection,
compassed with infirmity and sin as we are, that such hopes should be
realised for us here?' Well, I would rather answer that question by
retorting and saying: 'How is it possible that such a prayer should have
come from inspired lips unless the thing that Paul was asking might be?'
Did he waste his breath when he thus prayed? Are we not as Christian men
bound, instead of measuring our expectations by our attainments, to try
to stretch our attainments to what are our legitimate expectations, and
to hear in these words the answer to the faithless and unbelieving doubt
whether such a thing is possible, and the assurance that it is possible.

An impossibility can never be a duty, and yet we are commanded: 'Be ye
perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.' An impossibility can
never be a duty, and yet we are commanded to let Christ abide in our
hearts.

Oh! if we believed less in the power of our sin it would have less power
upon us. If we believed more in the power of an indwelling Christ He
would have more power within us. If we said to ourselves, 'It is
possible,' we should make it possible. The impossibility arises only
from our own weakness, from our own sinful weakness; and though it may
be true, and is true, that none of us will live without sin as long as
we abide here, it is also true that each moment of interruption of our
communion with Christ and therefore each moment of interruption of that
being 'filled with the fulness of God,' might have been avoided. We know
about every such time that we could have helped it if we had liked, and
it is no use bringing any general principles about sin cleaving to men
in order to break the force of that conviction. But if that conviction
be a real one, and if whenever a Christian man loses the consciousness
of God in his heart, making him blessed, he is obliged to say: 'It was
my own fault and Thou wouldst have stayed if I had chosen,' then there
follows from this, that it is possible, notwithstanding all the
imperfection and sin of earth, that we may be 'filled with all the
fulness of God.'

So, dear brethren, take you this prayer as the standard of your
expectations; and oh! take it as we must all take it, as the sharpest of
rebukes to our actual attainments in holiness and in likeness to our
Master. Set by the side of these wondrous and solemn words--'filled with
the fulness of God,' the facts of the lives of the average professing
Christians of this generation, and of this congregation; their
emptiness, their ignorance of the divine indwelling, their want of
anything in their experience that corresponds in the least degree to
such words as these. Judge whether a man is not more likely to be bowed
down in wholesome sense of his own sinfulness and unworthiness, if he
has before him such an ideal as this of my text, than if it, too, has
faded out of his life. I believe, for my part, that one great cause of
the worldliness and the sinfulness and mechanical formalities that are
eating the life out of the Christianity of this generation is the fact
of the Church having largely lost any real belief in the possibility
that Christian men may possess the fulness of God as their present
experience. And so, when they do not find it in themselves they say:
'Oh! it is all right; it is the necessary result of our imperfect
fleshly condition.' No! It is all wrong; and His purpose is that we
should possess Him in the fulness of His gladdening and hallowing power,
at every moment in our happy lives.

III. One word to close with, as to the means by which this prayer may be
fulfilled.

Remember, it comes as the last link in a chain. I shall have wasted my
breath for a month, as far as you are concerned, if you do not feel that
the preceding links are needful before this can be attained.

But I only touch upon the nearest of them and remind you that it must be
Christ dwelling in our hearts, that fills them with the fulness of God.
Where He comes God comes. And where does He come? He comes where faith
opens the door for Him. If you will trust Jesus Christ, if you will
distrust yourselves, if you will turn your thoughts and your hearts to
Him, if you will let Him come into your souls, and not shut Him out
because your souls are so full that there is no room for Him there, then
when He comes He will not come empty-handed, but will bring the full
Godhead with Him.

There must be the emptying of self, if there is to be the filling with
God. And the emptying of self is realised in that faith which forsakes
self-confidence, self-righteousness, self-dependence, self-control,
self-pleasing, and yields itself wholly to the dear Lord.

There is another condition that is required, and that is the previous
link in this braided chain. The conscious experience of the love which
is in Christ will bring to us 'the fulness of God.' Love is power; love
is God; and when we live in the sense and experience of God's love to us
then we have the power and we have the God. It is as in some of these
petrifying streams, the water is charged with particles which it
deposits upon everything that is laid in its course. So, if we plunge
our hearts into that fountain of the love of Christ, as it flows it will
clothe us with all the divine energies which are held in solution in the
divinest thing in God--His own love. Plunged into the love we are filled
with the fulness.

Then keep near your Master. It all comes to that. Meditate upon Him; do
not let days pass, as they do pass, without a thought being turned to
Him. Do not go about your daily work without a remembrance of Him. Keep
yourselves in Christ. Seek to experience His love, that love which
passeth knowledge, and is only known by them who possess it. And then,
as the old painters with deep truth used to paint the Apostle of Love
with a face like his Master, living near Christ and looking upon Him you
will receive of His fulness, and 'we all, with open face, beholding the
glory, shall be changed into the glory.'



MEASURELESS POWER AND ENDLESS GLORY

     'Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all
     that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
     21. Unto Him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus throughout all
     ages, world without end. Amen.'--Eph. iii. 20, 21.


One purpose and blessing of faithful prayer is to enlarge the desires
which it expresses, and to make us think more loftily of the grace to
which we appeal. So the Apostle, in the wonderful series of
supplications which precedes the text, has found his thought of what he
may hope for his brethren at Ephesus grow greater with every clause. His
prayer rises like some songbird, in ever-widening sweeps, each higher in
the blue, and nearer the throne; and at each a sweeter, fuller note.

'Strengthened with might by His Spirit'; 'that Christ may dwell in your
hearts by faith'; 'that ye may be able to know the love of Christ';
'that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.' Here he touches
the very throne. Beyond that nothing can be conceived. But though that
sublime petition may be the end of thought, it is not the end of faith.
Though God can give us nothing more than it is, He can give us more than
we think it to be, and more than we ask, when we ask this. Therefore the
grand doxology of our text crowns and surpasses even this great prayer.
The higher true prayer climbs, the wider is its view; and the wider is
its view, the more conscious is it that the horizon of its vision is far
within the borders of the goodly land. And as we gaze into what we can
discern of the fulness of God, prayer will melt into thanksgiving and
the doxology for the swift answer will follow close upon the last words
of supplication. So is it here; so it may be always.

The form of our text then marks the confidence of Paul's prayer. The
exuberant fervour of his faith, as well as his natural impetuosity and
ardour, comes out in the heaped-up words expressive of immensity and
duration. He is like some archer watching, with parted lips, the flight
of his arrow to the mark. He is gazing on God confident that he has not
asked in vain. Let us look with him, that we, too, may be heartened to
expect great things of God. Notice then--

I. The measure of the power to which we trust.

This epistle is remarkable for its frequent references to the divine
rule, or standard, or measure, in accordance with which the great facts
of redemption take place. The 'things on the earth'--the historical
processes by which salvation is brought to men and works in men--are
ever traced up to the 'things in heaven'; the divine counsels from which
they have come forth. That phrase, 'according to,' is perpetually
occurring in this connection in the epistle. It is applied mainly in two
directions. It serves sometimes to bring into view the ground, or
reason, of the redemptive facts, as, for instance, in the expression
that these take place 'according to His good pleasure which He hath
purposed in Himself' It serves sometimes to bring into view the measure
by which the working of these redemptive facts is determined; as in our
text, and in many other places.

Now there are three main forms under which this standard, or measure, of
the Redeeming Power is set forth in this epistle, and it will help us to
grasp the greatness of the Apostle's thought if we consider these.

Take, then, first, that clause in the earlier portion of the preceding
prayer, 'that He would grant you according to the riches of His glory.'
The measure, then, of the gift that we may hope to receive is the
measure of God's own fulness. The 'riches of His glory' can be nothing
less than the whole uncounted abundance of that majestic and far-shining
Nature, as it pours itself forth in the dazzling perfectness of its own
Self-manifestation. And nothing less than this great treasure is to be
the limit and standard of His gift to us. We are the sons of the King,
and the allowance which He makes us even before we come to our
inheritance is proportionate to our Father's wealth. The same stupendous
thought is given us in that prayer, heavy with the blessed weight of
unspeakable gifts, 'that ye might be filled with all the fulness of
God.' This, then, is the measure of the grace that we may possess. This
limitless limit alone bounds the possibilities for every man, the
certainties for every Christian.

The effect must be proportioned to the cause. And what effect will be
adequate as the outcome of such a cause as 'the riches of His glory'?
Nothing short of absolute perfectness, the full transmutation of our
dark, cold being into the reflected image of His own burning brightness,
the ceaseless replenishing of our own spirits with all graces and
gladnesses akin to His, the eternal growth of the soul upward and
Godward. Perfection is the sign manual of God in all His works, just as
imperfection and the falling below our thought and wish is our 'token in
every epistle' and deed of ours. Take the finest needle, and put it
below a microscope, and it will be all ragged and irregular, the fine,
tapering lines will be broken by many a bulge and bend, and the point
blunt and clumsy. Put the blade of grass to the same test, and see how
regular its outline, how delicate and true the spear-head of its point.
God's work is perfect, man's is clumsy and incomplete. God does not
leave off till He has finished. When He rests, it is because, looking on
His work, He sees it all 'very good.' His Sabbath is the Sabbath of an
achieved purpose, of a fulfilled counsel. The palaces which we build
are ever like that one in the story, where one window remains dark and
unjewelled, while the rest blaze in beauty. But when God builds, none
can say, 'He was not able to finish.' In His great palace He makes her
'windows of agates' and _all_ her 'borders of pleasant stones.'

So we have a right to enlarge our desires and stretch our confidence of
what we may possess and become to this, His boundless bound--'The riches
of glory.'

But another form in which the standard, or measure, is stated in this
letter is: 'The working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ,
when He raised Him from the dead' (i. 19, 20); or, as it is put with a
modification, 'grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ'
(iv. 7). That is to say, we have not only the whole riches of the divine
glory as the measure to which we may lift our hopes, but lest that
celestial brightness should seem too high above us, and too far from us,
we have Christ in His human-divine manifestation, and especially in the
great fact of the Resurrection, set before us, that by Him we may learn
what God wills we should become. The former phase of the standard may
sound abstract, cloudy, hard to connect with any definite anticipations;
and so this form of it is concrete, historical, and gives human features
to the fair ideal. His Resurrection is the high-water mark of the divine
power, and to the same level it will rise again in regard to every
Christian. The Lord, in the glory of His risen life, and in the riches
of the gifts which He received when He ascended up on high, is the
pattern for us, and the power which fulfils its own pattern. In Him we
see what man may become, and what His followers must become. The limits
of that power will not be reached until every Christian soul is
perfectly assimilated to that likeness, and bears all its beauty in its
face, nor till every Christian soul is raised to participation in
Christ's dignity and sits on His throne. Then, and not till then, shall
the purpose of God be fulfilled and the gift which is measured by the
riches of the Father's glory, and the fulness of the Son's grace, be
possessed or conceived in its measureless measure.

But there is a third form in which this same standard is represented.
That is the form which is found in our text, and in other places of the
epistle: 'According to the power that worketh in us.'

What power is that but the power of the Spirit of God dwelling in us?
And thus we have the measure, or standard, set forth in terms
respectively applying to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. For
the first, the riches of His glory; for the second, His Resurrection and
Ascension; for the third, His energy working in Christian souls. The
first carries us up into the mysteries of God, where the air is almost
too subtle for our gross lungs; the second draws nearer to earth and
points us to an historical fact that happened in this everyday world;
the third comes still nearer to us, and bids us look within, and see
whether what we are conscious of there, if we interpret it by the light
of these other measures, will not yield results as great as theirs, and
open before us the same fair prospect of perfect holiness and conformity
to the divine nature.

There is already a Power at work within us, if we be Christians, of
whose workings we may be aware, and from them forecast the measure of
the gifts which it can bestow upon us. We may estimate what will be by
what we know has been, and by what we feel is. That is to say, in other
words, the effects already produced, and the experiences we have already
had, carry in them the pledge of completeness.

I suppose that if the mediæval dream had ever come true, and an
alchemist had ever turned a grain of lead into gold, he could have
turned all the lead in the world in time, and with crucibles and
furnaces enough. The first step is all the difficulty, and if you and I
have been changed from enemies into sons, and had one spark of love to
God kindled in our hearts, that is a mightier change than any that
remains to be effected in order to make us perfect. One grain has been
changed, the whole mass will be so in due time.

The present operations of that power carry in them the pledge of their
own completion. The strange mingling of good and evil in our present
nature, our aspirations so crossed and contradicted, our resolution so
broken and falsified, the gleams of light, and the eclipses that
follow--all these in their opposition to each other, are plainly
transitory, and the workings of that Power within us, though they be
often overborne, are as plainly the stronger in their nature, and meant
to conquer and to endure. Like some half-hewn block, such as travellers
find in long abandoned quarries, whence Egyptian temples, that were
destined never to be completed, were built, our spirits are but partly
'polished after the similitude of a palace,' while much remains in the
rough. The builders of these temples have mouldered away and their
unfinished handiwork will lie as it was when the last chisel touched it
centuries ago, till the crack of doom; but stones for God's temple will
be wrought to completeness and set in their places. The whole threefold
divine cause of our salvation supplies the measure, and lays the
foundation for our hopes, in the glory of the Father, the grace of the
Son, the power of the Holy Ghost. Let us lift up our cry: 'Perfect that
which concerneth me, forsake not the works of thine own hands,' and we
shall have for answer the ancient word, fresh as when it sounded long
ago from among the stars to the sleeper at the ladder's foot, 'I will
not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.'

II. Notice the relation of the divine working to our thoughts and
desires.

The Apostle in his fervid way strains language to express how far the
possibility of the divine working extends. He is able, not only to do
all things, but 'beyond all things'--a vehement way of putting the
boundless reach of that gracious power. And what he means by this
'beyond all things' is more fully expressed in the next words, in which
he labours by accumulating synonyms to convey his sense of the
transcendent energy which waits to bless: 'exceeding abundantly above
what we ask.' And as, alas! our desires are but shrunken and narrow
beside our thoughts, he sweeps a wider orbit when he adds 'above what we
_think_.' He has been asking wonderful things, and yet even his
farthest-reaching petitions fall far on this side of the greatness of
God's power. One might think that even it could go no further than
filling us 'with all the fulness of God.' Nor can it; but it may far
transcend our conceptions of what that is, and astonish us by its
surpassing our thoughts, no less than it shames us by exceeding our
prayers.

Of course, all this is true, and is meant to apply, only about the
inward gifts of God's grace. I need not remind you that, in the outer
world of Providence and earthly gifts, prayers and wishes often surpass
the answers; that there a deeper wisdom often contradicts our thoughts
and a truer kindness refuses our petitions, and that so the rapturous
words of our text are only true in a very modified and partial sense
about God's working _for_ us in the world. It is His work _in_ us
concerning which they are absolutely true.

Of course we know that in all regions of His working He is _able_ to
surpass our poor human conceptions, and that, properly speaking, the
most familiar, and, as we insolently call them, 'smallest' of His works
holds in it a mystery--were it none other than the mystery of
Being--against which Thought has been breaking its teeth ever since men
began to think at all.

But as regards the working of God on our spiritual lives, this passing
beyond the bounds of thought and desire is but the necessary result of
the fact already dealt with, that the only measure of the power is God
Himself, in that Threefold Being. That being so, no plummet of our
making can reach to the bottom of the abyss; no strong-winged thought
can fly to the outermost bound of the encircling heaven. Widely as we
stretch our reverent conceptions, there is ever something beyond. After
we have resolved many a dim nebula in the starry sky, and found it all
ablaze with suns and worlds, there will still hang, faint and far before
us, hazy magnificences which we have not apprehended. Confidently and
boldly as we may offer our prayers, and largely as we may expect, the
answer is ever more than the petition. For indeed, in every act of His
quickening grace, in every God-given increase of our knowledge of God,
in every bestowment of His fulness, there is always more bestowed than
we receive, more than we know even while we possess it. Like some gift
given in the dark, its true preciousness is not discerned when it is
first received. The gleam of the gold does not strike our eye all at
once. There is ever an unknown margin felt by us to be over after our
capacity of receiving is exhausted. 'And they took up of the fragments
that remained, twelve baskets full.'

So, then, let us remember that while our thoughts and prayers can never
reach to the full perception, or reception either, of the gift, the
exuberant amplitude with which it reaches far beyond both is meant to
draw both after it. And let us not forget either that, while the grace
which we receive has no limit or measure but the fulness of God, the
working limit, which determines what we receive of the grace, is these
very thoughts and wishes which it surpasses. We may have as much of God
as we can hold, as much as we wish. All Niagara may roar past a man's
door, but only as much as he diverts through his own sluice will drive
his mill, or quench his thirst. God's grace is like the figures in the
Eastern tales, that will creep into a narrow room no bigger than a
nutshell, or will tower heaven high. Our spirits are like the magic tent
whose walls expanded or contracted at the owner's wish--we may enlarge
them to enclose far more of the grace than we have ever possessed. We
are not straitened in God, but in ourselves. He is 'able to do exceeding
abundantly above what we ask or think.' Therefore let us stretch desires
and thoughts to their utmost, remembering that, while they can never
reach the measure of His grace in itself, they make the practical
measure of our possession of it. 'According to thy faith' is the real
measure of the gift received, even though 'according to the riches of
His glory' be the measure of the gift bestowed. Note, again,

III. The glory that springs from the divine work.

'The glory of God' is the lustre of His own perfect character, the
bright sum total of all the blended brilliances that compose His name.
When that light is welcomed and adored by men, they are said to 'give
glory to God,' and this doxology is at once a prophecy that the working
of God's power on His redeemed children will issue in setting forth the
radiance of His Name yet more, and a prayer that it may. So we have here
the great thought expressed in many places of Scripture, that the
highest exhibition of the divine character for the reverence and
love--of the whole universe, shall we say?--lies in His work on
Christian souls, and the effect produced thereby on them. God takes His
stand, so to speak, on this great fact in His dealings, and will have
His creatures estimate Him by it. He reckons it His highest praise that
He has redeemed men, and by His dwelling in them fills them with His own
fulness. And this chiefest praise and brightest glory accrues to Him 'in
the Church in Christ Jesus.' The weakening of the latter word into _by_
Christ Jesus,' as in the English version, is to be regretted, as
substituting another thought, Scriptural no doubt and precious, for the
precise shade of meaning in the Apostle's mind here. As has been well
said, 'the first words denote the outward province; the second, the
inward and spiritual sphere in which God was to be praised.' His glory
is to shine in the Church, the theatre of His power, the standing
demonstration of the might of redeeming love. By this He will be judged,
and this He will point to if any ask what is His divinest work, which
bears the clearest imprint of His divinest self. His glory is to be set
forth by men on condition that they are 'in Christ,' living and moving
in Him, in that mysterious but most real union without which no fruit
grows on the dead branches, nor any music of praise breaks from the dead
lips.

So, then, think of that wonder that God sets His glory in His dealings
with us. Amid all the majesty of His works and all the blaze of His
creation, this is what He presents as the highest specimen of His
power--the Church of Jesus Christ, the company of poor men, wearied and
conscious of many evils, who follow afar off the footsteps of their
Lord. How dusty and toil-worn the little group of Christians that landed
at Puteoli must have looked as they toiled along the Appian Way and
entered Rome! How contemptuously emperor and philosopher and priest and
patrician would have curled their lips, if they had been told that in
that little knot of Jewish prisoners lay a power before which theirs
would cower and finally fade! Even so is it still. Among all the
splendours of this great universe, and the mere obtrusive tawdrinesses
of earth, men look upon us Christians as poor enough; and yet it is to
His redeemed children that God has entrusted His praise, and in their
hands that He has lodged the sacred deposit of His own glory.

Think loftily of that office and honour, lowly of yourselves who have it
laid upon you as a crown. His honour is in our hands. We are the
'secretaries of His praise.' This is the highest function that any
creature can discharge. The Rabbis have a beautiful bit of teaching
buried among their rubbish about angels. They say that there are two
kinds of angels--the angels of service and the angels of praise, of
which two orders the latter is the higher, and that no angel in it
praises God twice, but having once lifted up his voice in the psalm of
heaven, then perishes and ceases to be. He has perfected his being, he
has reached the height of his greatness, he has done what he was made
for, let him fade away. The garb of legend is mean enough, but the
thought it embodies is that ever true and solemn one, without which life
is nought--'Man's chief end is to glorify God.'

And we can only fulfil that high purpose in the measure of our union
with Christ. 'In Him' abiding, we manifest God's glory, for in Him
abiding we receive God's grace. So long as we are joined to Him, we
partake of His life, and our lives become music and praise. The electric
current flows from Him through all souls that are 'in Him' and they glow
with fair colours which they owe to their contact with Jesus. Interrupt
the communication, and all is darkness. So, brethren, let us seek to
abide in Him, severed from whom we are nothing. Then shall we fulfil the
purpose of His love, who 'hath shined in our hearts' that we might give
to others 'the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of
Jesus Christ' Notice, lastly,

IV. The eternity of the work and of the praise.

As in the former clauses the idea of the transcendent greatness of the
power of God was expressed by accumulated synonyms, so here the kindred
thought of its eternity, and consequently of the ceaseless duration of
the resulting glory, is sought to be set forth by a similar aggregation.
The language creaks and labours, as it were, under the weight of the
great conception. Literally rendered, the words are--'to all
generations of the age of the ages'--a remarkable fusing together of two
expressions for unbounded duration, which are scarcely congruous. We can
understand 'to all generations' as expressive of duration as long as
birth and death shall last. We can understand 'the age of the ages' as
pointing to that endless epoch whose moments are 'ages'; but the
blending of the two is but an unconscious acknowledgment that the speech
of earth, saturated, as it is, with the colouring of time, breaks down
in the attempt to express the thought of eternity. Undoubtedly that
solemn conception is the one intended by this strange phrase.

The work is to go on for ever and ever, and with it the praise. As the
ages which are the beats of the pendulum of eternity come and go, more
and more of God's power will flow out to us, and more and more of God's
glory will be manifested in us. It must be so; for God's gift is
infinite, and man's capacity of reception is indefinitely capable of
increase. Therefore eternity will be needful in order that redeemed
souls may absorb all of God which He can give or they can take. The
process has no limits, for there is no bound to be set to the possible
approaches of the human spirit to the divine, and none to the exuberant
abundance of the beauty and glory which God will give to His child.
Therefore we shall live for ever: and for ever show forth His praise and
blaze out like the sun with the irradiation of His glory. We cannot die
till we have exhausted God. Till we comprehend all His nature in our
thoughts, and reflect all His beauty in our character; till we have
attained all the bliss that we can think, and received all the good that
we can ask; till Hope has nothing before her to reach towards, and God
is left behind: we 'shall not die, but live, and declare the works of
the Lord.'

Let His grace work on you, and yield yourselves to Him, that His fulness
may fill your emptiness. So on earth we shall be delivered from hopes
which mock and wishes that are never fulfilled. So in heaven, after
'ages of ages' of growing glory, we shall have to say, as each new wave
of the shoreless, sunlit sea bears us onward, 'It doth not yet appear
what we shall be.'



THE CALLING AND THE KINGDOM

     'I beseech you, that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye
      are called.'--Eph. iv. 1.

     'They shall walk with Me in white; for they are worthy.'--Rev.
      iii. 4.


The estimate formed of a centurion by the elders of the Jews was, 'He is
worthy for whom Thou shouldst do this' and in contrast therewith the
estimate formed by himself was, 'I am not worthy that Thou shouldst come
under my roof.' From these two statements we deduce the thought that
merit has no place in the Christian's salvation, but all is to be traced
to undeserved, gracious love. But that principle, true and all-important
as it is, like every other great truth, may be exaggerated, and may be
so isolated as to become untrue and a source of much evil. And so I
desire to turn to the other side of the shield, and to emphasise the
place that worthiness has in the Christian life, and its personal
results both here and hereafter. To say that character has nothing to do
with blessedness is untrue, both to conscience and to the Christian
revelation; and however we trace all things to grace, we must also
remember that we get what we have fitted ourselves for.

Now, my two texts bring out two aspects which have to be taken in
conjunction. The one of them speaks about the present life, and lays it
as an imperative obligation on all Christian people to be worthy of
their Christianity, and the other carries us into the future and shows
us that there it is they who are 'worthy' who attain to the Kingdom. So
I think I shall best bring out what I desire to emphasise if I just take
these two points--the Christian calling and the life that is worthy of
it, and the Christian heaven and the life that is worthy of it.

I. The Christian calling and the life that is worthy of it.

'I beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are
called.' Now, that thought recurs in other places in the Apostle's
writings, somewhat modified in expression. For instance, in one passage
he speaks of 'walking worthily of the God who has called us to His
kingdom and glory,' and in another of the Christian man's duty to 'walk
worthily of the Lord unto all pleasing.' There is a certain vocation to
which a Christian man is bound to make his life correspond, and his
conduct should be in some measure worthy of the ideal that is set before
it. Now, we shall best understand what is involved in such worthiness if
we make clear to ourselves what the Apostle means by this 'calling' to
which he appeals as containing in itself a standard to which our lives
are to be conformed.

Suppose we try to put away the technical word 'calling' and instead of
'calling' say 'summons,' which is nearer the idea, because it conveys
the notions more fully of the urgency of the voice, and of the
authority of the voice, which speaks to us. And what is that summons?
How do we hear it? One of the other Apostles speaks of God as calling us
'by His own glory and virtue,' that is to say, wherever God reveals
Himself in any fashion, and by any medium, to a man, the man fails to
understand the deepest meaning of the revelation unless his purged ear
hears in it the great voice saying, 'Come up hither.' For all God's
self-manifestation, in the creatures around us, in the deep voice of our
own souls, in the mysteries of our own personal lives, and in the slow
evolution of His purpose through the history of the world, all these
revelations of God bear in them the summons to us that hear and see them
to draw near to Him, and to mould ourselves into His likeness. And thus,
just as the sun by the effluence of its beams gathers all the
ministering planets, as it were, round its feet, and draws them to
itself, so God, raying Himself out into the waste, fills the waste with
magnetic influences which are meant to draw men to nobleness, goodness,
God-pleasingness, and God-likeness.

But in another place in this Apostle's writings we read of 'the high
calling of God in Christ Jesus.' Yes, there, as focussed into one strong
voice, all the summonses are concentrated and gathered. For in Jesus
Christ we see the possibilities of humanity realised, and we have the
pattern of what we ought to be, and are called thereby to be. And in
Christ we get the great motives which make this summons, as it comes
mended from His lips, no longer the mere harsh voice of an authoritative
legislator, but the gentle invitation, 'Come unto Me, ... and ye shall
find rest unto your souls.' The summons is honeyed, sweetened, and made
infinitely mightier when we hear it from His gracious lips. It is the
blessed peculiarity of the Christian ideal, that the manifestation of
the ideal carries with it the power to realise it. And just as the
increasing strength of the spring sunshine summons the buds from out of
their folds, and the snowdrops hear the call and force themselves
through the frozen soil, so when Christ summons He inclines the ears
that hear, and enables the men that own them to obey the summons, and to
be what they are commanded. And thus we have 'the high calling of God in
Christ Jesus.'

Now, if that is the call, if the life of Christ is that to which we are
summoned, and the death of Christ is that by which we are inclined to
obey the summons, and the Spirit of Christ is that by which we are
enabled to do so, what sort of a life will be worthy of these? Well, the
context supplies part of the answer. 'I beseech you that ye walk worthy
of the vocation ... with all meekness and lowliness, with
long-suffering, forbearing one another in love.' That is one side of the
vocation, and the life that is worthy of it will be a life emancipated
from the meanness of selfishness, and delivered from the tumidities of
pride and arrogance, and changed into the sweetness of gentleness and
the royalties of love.

And then, on the other side, in one of the other texts where the same
general set of ideas is involved, we get a yet more wondrous exhibition
of the life which the Apostle considered to be worthy. I simply
signalise its points of detail without venturing to dwell upon them.
'Unto all pleasing'; the first characteristic of life that is 'worthy of
our calling' and to which, therefore, every one of us Christian people
is imperatively bound, is that it shall, in all its parts, please God,
and that is a large demand. Then follow details: 'Fruitful in every good
work'--a many-sided fruitfulness, an encyclopædiacal beneficent
activity, covering all the ground of possible excellence; and that is
not all; 'increasing in the knowledge of God,'--a life of progressive
acquaintance with Him; and that is not all:--'strengthened with all
might unto all patience and long-suffering'; nor is that all, for the
crown of the whole is 'giving thanks unto the Father.' So, then, 'ye see
your calling, brethren.' A life that is 'worthy of the vocation
wherewith ye are called' is a life that conforms to the divine will,
that is 'fruitful in all good,' that is progressive in its acquaintance
with God, that is strengthened for all patience and long-suffering, and
that in everything is thankful to Him. That is what we are summoned to
be, and unless we are in some measure obeying the summons, and bringing
out such a life in our conduct, then, notwithstanding all that we have
to say about unmerited mercy, and free grace, and undeserved love, and
salvation being not by works but by faith, we have no right to claim the
mercy to which we say we trust.

Now, this necessity of a worthy life is perfectly harmonious with the
great truth that, after all, every man owes all to the undeserved mercy
of God. The more nearly we come to realise the purpose of our calling,
the more 'worthy' of it we are, the deeper will be our consciousness of
our unworthiness. The more we approximate to the ideal, and come closer
up to it, and so see its features the better, the more we shall feel how
unlike we are to it. The law for Christian progress is that the sense of
unworthiness increases in the precise degree in which the worthiness
increases. The same man that said, 'Of whom (sinners) I am chief,' said
to the same reader, 'I have kept the faith, henceforth there is laid up
for me a crown of righteousness.' And so the two things are not
contradictory but complementary. On the one side 'worthy' has nothing to
do with the outflow of Christ's love to us; on the other side we are to
'walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called.'

II. And now, let us turn to the other thought, the Christian heaven and
the life that is worthy of it.

Some of you, I have no doubt, would think that that was a tremendous
heresy if there were not Scriptural words to buttress it. Let us see
what it means. My text out of the Revelation says, 'They shall walk with
Me in white, for they are worthy.' And the same voice that spake these,
to some of us, astounding, words, said, when He was here on earth, 'They
which shall be counted worthy to attain to the life of the resurrection
from the dead,' etc. The text brings out very clearly the continuity and
congruity between the life on earth and the life in heaven. Who is it of
whom it is said that 'they are worthy' to 'walk in white'? It is the
'few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments.' You
see the connection; clean robes here and shining robes hereafter; the
two go together, and you cannot separate them. And no belief that
salvation, in its incipient germ here, and salvation in its fulness
hereafter, are the results 'not of works of righteousness which we have
done, but of His mercy,' is to be allowed to interfere with that other
truth that they who are worthy attain to the Kingdom.

I must not be diverted from my main purpose, tempting as the theme would
be, to say more than just a sentence about what is included in that
great promise, 'They shall walk with Me in white' And if I do touch
upon it at all, it is only in order to bring out more clearly that the
very nature of the heavenly reward demands this worthiness which the
text lays down as the condition of possessing it. 'They shall
walk'--activity on an external world. That opens a great door, but
perhaps we had better be contented just with looking in. 'They shall
walk'--progress; 'with me'--union with Jesus Christ; 'in
white'--resplendent purity of character. Now take these four
things--activity on an outward universe, progress, union with Christ,
resplendent purity of character, and you have almost all that we know of
the future; the rest is partly doubtful and is mostly symbolical or
negative, and in any case subordinate. Never mind about 'physical
theories of another life'; never mind about all the questions--to some
of us how torturing they sometimes are!--concerning that future life.
The more we keep ourselves within the broad limits of these promises
that are intertwined and folded up together in that one saying, 'They
shall walk with Me in white,' the better, I think, for the sanity and
the spirituality of our conception of a future life.

That being understood, the next thing clearly follows, that only those
who in the sense of the word as it is used here, are 'worthy,' can enter
upon the possession of such a heaven. From the nature of the gift it is
clear that there must be a moral and religious congruity between the
gift and the recipient, or, to put it into plainer words, you cannot get
heaven unless your nature is capable of receiving these great gifts
which constitute heaven. People talk about the future state as being 'a
state of retribution.' Well! that is not altogether a satisfactory form
of expression, for retribution may convey the idea, such as is
presented in earthly rewards and punishments, of there being no natural
correspondence between the crime and its punishment, or the virtue and
its reward. A bit of bronze shaped into the form of a cross may be the
retribution 'For Valour,' and a prison cell may be the retribution by
legal appointment for a certain crime. But that is not the way that God
deals out rewards and punishments in the life which is to come. It is
not a case of retribution, meaning thereby the arbitrary bestowment of a
certain fixed gift in response to certain virtues, but it is a case of
_outcome_, and the old metaphor of sowing and reaping is the true one.
We sow here and we reap yonder. We pass into that future, 'bringing our
sheaves with us,' and we have to grind the corn and make bread of it,
and we have to eat the work of our own hands. They drink as they have
brewed. 'Their works do follow them,' or they go before them and
'receive them into everlasting habitations.' Outcome, the necessary
result, and not a mere arbitrary retribution, is the relation which
heaven bears to earth.

That is plain, too, from our own nature. We carry ourselves with us
wherever we go. The persistence of character, the continuity of personal
being, the continuity of memory, the _unobliterable_--if I may coin a
word--results upon ourselves of our actions, all these things make it
certain that what looks to us a cleft, deep and broad, between the
present life and the next, is to those that have passed it, and see it
from the other side, but a little crack in the soil scarcely observable,
and that we carry on into another world the selves that we have made
here. Whatever death does--and it does a great deal that we do not know
of--it does not alter, it only brings out, and, as I suppose,
intensifies, the main drift and set of a character. And so they who
'have not defiled their garments shall walk with Me in white, for they
are worthy.'

Ah, brethren! how solemn that makes life; the fleeting moment carries
Eternity in its bosom. It passes, and the works pass, but nothing human
ever dies, and we bear with us the net results of all the yesterdays
into that eternal to-day. You write upon a thin film of paper and there
is a black leaf below it. Yes, and below the black leaf there is another
sheet, and all that you write on the top one goes through the dark
interposed page, and is recorded on the third, and one day that will be
taken out of the book, and you will have to read it and say, 'What I
have written I have written.'

So, dear friends, whilst we begin with that unmerited love, and that
same unmerited love is the sole ground on which the gates of the kingdom
of heaven are by the Death and Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus
Christ opened to believers, their place there depends not only on faith
but on the work which is the fruit of faith. There is such a thing as
being 'saved yet so as by fire,' and there is such a thing as 'having an
entrance ministered abundantly unto us'; we have to make the choice.
There is such a thing as the sore punishment of which they are thought
worthy who have rejected the Son of God, and counted the blood of the
Covenant an unholy thing; and there is such a thing as a man saying, 'I
am not worthy that Thou shouldest come unto me,' and Christ answering,
'He shall walk with Me in white, for he is worthy' and we have to make
that choice also.



THE THREEFOLD UNITY

     'One Lord, one faith, one baptism.'--Eph. iv. 5.


The thought of the unity of the Church is very prominent in this
epistle. It is difficult for us, amidst our present divisions, to
realise how strange and wonderful it then was that a bond should have
been found which drew together men of all nations, ranks, and
characters. Pharisee and philosopher, high-born women and slaves, Roman
patricians and gladiators, Asiatic Greeks and Syrian Jews forgot their
feuds and sat together as one in Christ. It is no wonder that Paul in
this letter dwells so long and earnestly on that strange fact. He is
exhorting here to a unity of spirit corresponding to it, and he names a
seven-fold oneness--one body and one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one
faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. The outward institution
of the Church, as a manifest visible fact, comes first in the catalogue.
One Father is last, and between these there lie the mention of the one
Spirit and the one Lord. The 'body' is the Church. 'Spirit, Lord, God,'
are the triune divine personality. Hope and faith are human acts by
which men are joined to God; Baptism is the visible symbol of their
incorporation into the one body. These three clauses of our text may be
considered as substantially including all the members of the series. We
deal with them quite simply now, and consider them in the order in which
they stand here.

I. The one Lord.

The deep foundation of Christian unity is laid in the divine Christ.
Here, as generally in the New Testament, the name 'Lord' designates
Christ in His authority as ruler of men and in His divinity as
Incarnation of God. It would not be going too far to suggest that we
have in the name, standing as it does, for the most part, in majestic
simplicity, a reference to the Old Testament name of Jehovah, which in
the Greek translation familiar to Paul is generally rendered by this
same word. Nor can we ignore the fact that in this great catalogue of
the Christian unities the Lord stands in the centre of the three
personalities named, and is regarded as being at once the source of the
Spirit and the manifestation of the Father. The place which this name
occupies in relation to the Faith which is next named suggests that the
living personal Christ is the true uniting principle amongst men. The
one body realises its oneness in its common relation to the one Lord. It
is one, not because of identity in doctrine, not because of any of the
bonds which hold men together in human associations, precious and sacred
as many of these are, but 'we being many are one bread, for we are all
partakers of that one bread.' The magnet draws all the particles to
itself and holds them in a mysterious unity.

II. One faith.

The former clause set forth in one great name all the objective elements
of the Church's oneness; this clause sets forth, with equally
all-comprehending simplicity, the subjective element which makes a
Christian. The one Lord, in the fulness of His nature and the
perfectness of His work, is the all-inclusive object of faith. He, in
His own living person, and not any dogmas about Him, is regarded as the
strong support round which the tendrils of faith cling and twine and
grow. True, He is made known to us as possessing certain attributes and
as doing certain things which, when stated in words, become doctrines,
and a Christ without these will never be the object of faith. The
antithesis which is so often drawn between Christ's person and Christian
doctrines is by no means sound, though the warning not to substitute the
latter for the former is only too necessary at all times.

The subjective act which lays hold of Christ is faith, which in our text
has its usual meaning of saving trust, and is entirely misconceived if
it is taken, as it sometimes is, to mean the whole body of beliefs which
make up the Christian creed. That which unites us to Jesus Christ is an
infinitely deeper thing than the acceptance of any creed. A man may
believe thirty-nine or thirty-nine hundred articles without having any
real or vital connection with the one Lord. The faith which saves is the
outgoing of the whole self towards Christ. In it the understanding, the
emotions, and the will are all in action. The New Testament _faith_ is
absolutely identical with the Old Testament _trust_, and the prophet who
exhorted Israel, 'Trust ye in the Lord for ever, for in the Lord Jehovah
is everlasting strength,' was preaching the very same message as the
Apostle who cried, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be
saved.'

That 'saving faith' is the same in all Christians, however different
they may be in condition and character and general outlook and opinion
upon many points of Christian knowledge. The things on which they differ
are on the surface, and sometimes by reason of their divergencies
Christians stand like frowning cliffs that look threateningly at one
another across a narrow gorge, but deep below ground they are continuous
and the rock is unbroken. In many and melancholy ways 'the unity of
faith and knowledge' is contradicted in the existing organisations of
the Church, and we are tempted to postpone its coming to the day of the
new Jerusalem which is compact together; but the clarion note of this
great text may encourage us to hope, and to labour in our measure for
the fulfilment of the hope, that all, who by one faith have been joined
to the one Lord, may yet know themselves to be one in Him, and present
to the world the fair picture of one body animated by one spirit.

III. One baptism.

Obviously in Paul's mind baptism here means, not the baptism with the
Spirit, but the rite, one and the same for all, by which believers in
Christ enter into the fellowship of the Church. It was then a perpetual
rite administered as a matter of course to all who professed to have
been joined to the one Lord by their one faith. The sequence in the
three clauses of our text is perfectly clear. Baptism is the expression
and consequence of the faith which precedes it. Surely there is here a
most distinct implication that it is a declaration of personal faith.
Without enlarging on the subject, I venture to think that the order of
the Apostle's thought negatives other conceptions of Christian baptism,
such as, that it is a communication of Grace, or an expression of the
feelings and desires of parents, or a declaration of some truth about
redeemed humanity. Paul's order is Christ's when He said, 'He that
believeth and is baptized shall be saved.'

It is very remarkable and instructive that whilst thus our text shows
that baptism was a matter of course and universally practised, the
references to it in the epistles are so few. The inference is not that
it was neglected, but that, as being a rite, it could not be as
important as were Christian truths and Christian character. May we, in a
word, suggest the contrast between the frequency and tone of the
Apostolic references to baptism and those which we find in many quarters
to-day?

It is remarkable that here the Lord's Supper is not mentioned, and all
the more so, that in Paul's letter to the Corinthians, the passage which
we have already quoted does put emphasis upon it as a token of Christian
unity. The explanation of the omission may be found in the fact that, in
these early days, the Lord's Supper was not a separate rite, but was
combined with ordinary meals, or perhaps more probably in the
consideration that baptism was what the Lord's Supper was not--an
initial rite which incorporated the possessors of one faith into the one
body.



'THE MEASURE OF GRACE'

     'But unto each one of us was the grace given according to the
      measure of the gift of Christ.'--Eph. iv. 7 (R.V.).


The Apostle here makes a swift transition from the thought of the unity
of the Church to the variety of gifts to the individual. 'Each' is
contrasted with 'all.' The Father who stands in so blessed and gracious
a relationship to the united whole also sustains an equally gracious and
blessed relationship to each individual in that whole. It is because
each receives His individual gift that God works in all. The Christian
community is the perfection of individualism and of collectivism, and
this rich variety of the gifts of grace is here urged as a reason
additional to the unity of the one body, for the exhortation to the
endeavour to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.

I. Each Christian soul receives grace through Christ.

The more accurate rendering of the Revised Version reads '_the_ grace,'
and the definite article points to it as a definite and familiar fact in
the Ephesian believers to which the Apostle could point with the
certainty that their own consciousness would confirm his statement. The
wording of the Greek further implies that the grace was given at a
definite point in the past, which is most naturally taken to have been
the moment in which each believer laid hold on Jesus by faith. It is
further to be noted that the content of the gift is the grace itself and
not the graces which are its product and manifestation in the Christian
life. And this distinction, which is in accordance with Paul's habitual
teaching, leads us to the conclusion, that the essential character of
the grace given through the act of our individual faith is that of a new
vital force, flowing into and transforming the individual life. From
that unspeakable gift which Paul supposed to be verifiable by the
individual experience of every Christian, there would follow the graces
of Christian character in which would be included the deepening and
purifying of all the natural capacities of the individual self, and the
casting out from thence of all that was contrary to the transforming
power of the new life.

Such an utterance as this, so quietly and confidently taking for granted
that the experience of every believer verifies it in his own case, may
well drive us all to look more earnestly into our own hearts, to see
whether in them are any traces of a similar experience. If it be true,
that to every one of us is given _the_ grace, how comes it that so many
of us dare not profess to have any vivid remembrance of possessing it,
of having possessed it, or of any clear consciousness of possessing it
now? There may be gifts bestowed upon unconscious receivers, but surely
this is not one of these. If we do not know that we have it, it must at
least remain very questionable whether we do have it at all, and very
certain that we have it in scant and shrivelled fashion.

The universality of the gift was a startling thing in a world which, as
far as cultivated heathenism was concerned, might rightly be called
aristocratic, and by the side of a religion of privilege into which
Judaism had degenerated. The supercilious sarcasm in the lips of
Pharisees, 'This people which knoweth not the law are cursed,' but too
truly expresses the gulf between the Rabbis and the 'folk of the earth'
as the masses were commonly and contemptuously designated by the former.
Into the midst of a society in which such distinctions prevailed, the
proclamation that the greatest gift was bestowed upon all must have come
with revolutionary force, and been hailed as emancipation. Peter had
penetrated to grasp the full meaning and wondrous novelty of that
universality, when on Pentecost he pointed to 'that which had been
spoken by the prophet Joel' as fulfilled on that day, 'I will pour forth
of my Spirit upon all flesh ... Yea, and on my servants and handmaidens
... will I pour forth of my Spirit.' The rushing, mighty wind of that
day soon dropped. The fiery tongues ceased to quiver on the disciples'
heads, and the many voices that spoke were silenced, but the gift was
permanent, and is poured out now as it was then, and now, as then, it is
true that the whole company of believers receive the Spirit, though
alas! by their own faults it is not true that 'they are all _filled_
with the Holy Spirit.'

Christ is the giver. He has 'power over the Spirit of Holiness' and as
the Evangelist has said in his comment on our Lord's great words, when
'He stood and cried,' 'If any man thirst let him come unto Me and
drink,' 'This spake He of the Spirit which they that believed on Him
were to receive.' We cannot pierce into the depth of the mutual
relations of the three divine Persons mentioned in the context, but we
can discern that Christ is for us the self-revealing activity of the
divine nature, the right arm of the Father, or, to use another metaphor,
the channel through which the else 'closed sea' of God flows into the
world of creatures. Through that channel is poured into believing hearts
the river of the water of life, which proceeds out of the one 'throne of
God and of the Lamb.' This gift of the Spirit of Holiness to all
believers is the deepest and truest conception of Christ's gifts to His
Church. His past work of sacrifice for the sins of the world was
finished, as with a parting cry He proclaimed on Calvary, and the power
of that sacrifice will never be exhausted, but the taking away of the
sins of the world is but the initial stage of the work of Christ, and
its further stages are carried on through all the ages. He 'worketh
hitherto,' and His present work, in so far as believers are concerned,
is not only the forthputting of divine energy in regard to outward
circumstances, but the imparting to them of the Divine Spirit to be the
very life of their lives and the Lord of their spirits. Christian people
are but too apt to give undue prominence to what Christ did for them
when He died, and to lose sight, in the overwhelming lustre of His
unspeakable sacrifice, of what He is doing for them whilst He lives. It
would tend to restore the proportions of Christian truth and to touch
our hearts into a deeper and more continuous love to Him, if we more
habitually thought of Him, not only as the Christ who died, but also as
the Christ who rather is risen again, who is even at the right hand of
God, who also maketh intercession for us.

II. The gift of this grace is in itself unlimited.

Our text speaks of it as being according to the measure of the gift of
Christ, and that phrase may either mean the gift which Christ receives
or that which He gives. Probably the latter is the Apostle's meaning
here, as seems to be indicated by the following words that 'when He
ascended on high, He gave gifts unto men,' but what He gives is what He
possesses, and the Apostle goes on to point out that the ultimate issue
of His giving to the Church is that it attains to the measure of the
stature of the fulness of Christ.

It may cast some light on this point if we note the remarkable variety
of expressions in this epistle for the norm or standard or limit of the
gift. In one place the Apostle speaks of the gift bestowed upon
believers as being according to the riches of the Father's glory; then
it has no limit short of a participation in the divine fulness. God's
glory is the transcendent lustre of His own infinite character in its
self-manifestation. The Apostle labours to flash through the dim medium
of words the glory of that light by blending incongruously, but
effectively, the other metaphor of riches, and the two together suggest
a wonderful, though vague thought of the infinite wealth and the
exhaustless brightness which we call Abba, Father. The humblest child
may lift longing and confident eyes and believe that he has received in
very deed, through his faith in Jesus Christ, a gift which will increase
in riches and in light until it makes him perfect as his Father in
heaven was perfect. It was an old faith, based upon insight far inferior
to ours, which proclaimed with triumph over the frowns of death. 'I
shall be satisfied when I awake with Thy likeness.' Would that those
who have so much more for faith to build on, built as nobly as did
these!

The gift has in itself no limit short of participation in the likeness
of Christ. In another place in this letter the measure of that might
which is the guarantee of Christian hope is set forth with an abundance
of expression which might almost sound as an unmeaning accumulation of
synonyms, as being 'according to the working of the strength of His
might which He wrought in Christ'; and what is the range of the working
of that might is disclosed to our faith in the Resurrection of Jesus,
and the setting of Him high above all rule and authority and power and
lordship and every creature in the present or in any future. Paul's
continual teaching is that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ was wrought
in Him, not as a mere human individual but as our head and
representative. Through Him we rise, not only from an ethical death of
sin and separation from God, but we shall rise from physical death, and
in Him the humblest believer possessing a vital union with the Lord of
life has a share in His dominion, and, as His own faithful word has
promised, sits with Him on His throne, even as He is set down with the
Father on His throne.

That gift has in itself no limit short of its own energy. In another
part of this epistle the Apostle indicates the measure up to which our
being filled is to take effect, as being 'all the fulness of God' and in
such an overwhelming vision breaks forth into fervent praise of Him who
is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, and
then supplies us with a measure which may widen and heighten our
petitions and expectations when He tells us that we are to find the
measure of God's working for us, not in the impoverishment of our
present possessions, but in the exceeding riches of the power that
worketh in us--that is to say, that we are to look for the limit of the
limitless gift in nothing short of the boundless energy of God Himself.
In the Epistle to the Colossians Paul uses the same illustration with an
individual reference to his own labours. In our text he associates with
himself all believers, as being conscious of a power working in them,
which is really the limitless power of God, and heartens them to
anticipate that whatever limitless power can effect in them will
certainly be theirs. God does not leave off till He has done and till He
can look upon His completed work and pronounce it very good.

III. This boundless grace is in each individual case bounded for the
time by our own faith.

When I lived near the New Forest I used to hear much of what they called
'rolling fences.' A man received or took a little piece of Crown land on
which he built a house and put round it a fence which could be
judiciously and silently pushed outwards by slow degrees and enclosed,
year by year, a wider area. We Christian people have, as it were, our
own small, cultivated plot on the boundless prairie, the extent of which
we measure for ourselves and which we can enlarge as we will. We have
been speaking of the various aspects under which the boundlessness of
the gift is presented by the Apostle, but there is another 'according
to' in Christ's own words, 'According to your faith be it unto you,' and
that statement lays down the practical limits of our present possession
of the boundless gift. We have as much as we desire; we have as much as
we take; we have as much as we use; we have as much as we can hold. We
are admitted into the treasure house, and all around us lie ingots of
gold and vessels full of coins; we ourselves determine how much of the
treasure should be ours, and if at any time we feel like empty-handed
paupers rather than like possible millionaires, the reason lies in our
own slowness to take that which is freely given to us of God. His word
to us all is, 'Ye are not straitened in Me, ye are straitened in
yourselves.' It is well for us to keep ever before us the boundlessness
of the gift in itself and the working limit in ourselves which
conditions our actual possession of the riches. For so, on the one hand,
should we be encouraged to expect great things from God, and, on the
other hand, be humbled by the contrast between what we might be and what
we are. The river that rushes full of water from the throne can send but
a narrow and shallow trickle through the narrow channel choked with much
rubbish, which we provide for it. It is of little avail that the sun in
the heavens pours down its flood of light and warmth if the windows of
our hearts are by our own faults so darkened that but a stray beam,
shorn of its brightness and warmth, can find its way into our darkness.
The first lesson which we have to draw from the contrast between the
boundlessness of the gift and the narrow limits of our individual
possession and experience of it, is the lesson of penitent recognition
and confession of the unbelief which lurks in our strongest faith. 'Lord
I believe, help Thou mine unbelief,' should be the prayer of every
Christian soul.

Not less surely will the recognition that the form and amount of the
grace of God, which is possessed by each, is determined by the faith of
each, lead to tolerance of the diversity of gifts. We have received our
own proper gift of God, that which the strength and purity of our faith
is capable of possessing, and it is not for us to carp at our brethren,
either at those in advance of us or at those behind us. We have to
remember that as it takes all sorts of people to make up a world, so it
takes all varieties of Christian character to make a church. It is the
body and not the individual members which represents Christ to the
world. The firmest adherence to our own form of the universal gift will
combine with the widest toleration of the gifts of others. The white
light appears when red, green, and blue blend together, not when each
tries to be the other. 'Every man hath his own proper gift of God, one
after this fashion and another after that,' and we shall be true to the
boundlessness of the gift and to the limitations of our own possession
of it, in the measure of which we combine obedience to the light which
shines in us, with thankful recognition of that which is granted to
others.

The contrast between these two must be kept vivid if we would live in
the freedom of the hope of the glory of God, for in the contrast lies
the assurance of endless growth. A process is begun in every Christian
soul of which the only natural end is the full possession of God in
Christ, and that full possession can never be reached by a finite
creature, but that does not mean that the ideal mocks us and retreats
before us like the pot of gold, which the children fancy is at the end
of the rainbow. Rather it means a continuous succession of our
realisations of the ideal in ever fuller and more blessed reality. In
this life we may, on condition of our growth in faith, grow in the
possession of the fulness of God, and yet at each moment that possession
will be greater, though at all moments we may be filled. In the
Christian life to-morrow may be safely reckoned as destined to be 'as
yesterday and much more abundant,' and when we pass from the
imperfections of the most perfect earthly life, there will still remain
ever before us the glory, which, according to the measure of our
capacity, is also in us, and we shall draw nearer and nearer to it, and
be for ever receiving into our expanding spirits more and more of the
infinite fulness of God.



THE GOAL OF PROGRESS

     'Till we all attain unto the unity of the faith and of the
      knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full grown man, unto the
      measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.'--Eph. iv. 13
      (R.V.).


The thought of the unity of the Church is much in the Apostle's mind in
this epistle. It is set forth in many places by his two favourite
metaphors of the body and the temple, by the relation of husband and
wife and by the family. It is contemplated in its great historical
realisation by the union of Jew and Gentile in one whole. In the
preceding context it is set forth as already existing, but also as lying
far-off in the future. The chapter begins with an earnest exhortation to
preserve this unity and with an exhibition of the oneness which does
really exist in body, spirit, hope, lord, faith, baptism. But the
Apostle swiftly passes to the corresponding thought of diversity. There
are varieties in the gifts of the one Spirit; whilst each individual in
the one whole receives his due portion, there are broad differences in
spiritual gifts. These differences do not break the oneness, but they
may tend to do so; they are not causes of separation and do not
necessarily interfere with unity, but they may be made so. Their
existence leaves room for brotherly helpfulness, and creates a
necessity for it. The wiser are to teach; the more advanced are to lead;
the more largely gifted are to encourage and stimulate the less richly
endowed. Such outward helps and brotherly impartations of gifts is, on
the one hand, a result of the one gift to the whole body, and is on the
other a sign of, because a necessity arising from, the imperfect degree
in which each individual has received of Christ's fulness; and these
helps of teaching and guidance have for their sole object to make
Christian men able to do without them, and are, as the text tells us, to
cease when, and to last till, we all attain to the fulness of Christ. To
Paul, then, the manifest unity of the Church was to be the end of its
earthly course, but it also was real, though incomplete, in the present,
and the emphasis of our text is not so much laid on telling us when this
oneness was to be manifested as in showing us in what it consists. We
have here a threefold expression of the true unity, as consisting in a
oneness of relation to Christ, a consequent maturity of manhood and a
perfect possession of all which is in Christ.

I. The true unity is oneness of relation to Christ.

The Revised Version is here to be preferred, and its 'attain unto'
brings out the idea which the Authorised Version fails to express, that
the text is intended to point to the period at which Christ's provision
of helpful gifts to the growing Church is to cease, when the individuals
composing it have come to their destined unity and maturity in Him. The
three clauses of our text are each introduced by the same preposition,
and there is no reason why in the second and third it should be rendered
'unto' and in the first should be watered down to 'in.'

There are then two regions in which this unity is to be realised. These
are expressed by the great words, 'the unity of the faith and knowledge
of the Son of God.' These words are open to a misunderstanding, as if
they referred to a unity as between faith and knowledge; but it is
obvious to the slightest reflection that what is meant is the unity of
all believers in regard to their faith, and in regard to their
knowledge. It is to be noted that the Apostle has just said that there
is one faith, now he points to the realisation of that oneness as the
very end and goal of all discipline and growth. I suppose that we have
to think here of the manifold and sad differences existing in Christian
men, in regard to the depth and constancy and formative power of their
faith. There are some who have it so strong and vigorous that it is a
vision rather than a faith, a trust, deep and firm and settled, to which
the present is but the fleeting shadow, and the unseen the eternal and
only reality; but, alas! there are others in whom the light of faith
burns feebly and flickers. Nor are these differences the attributes of
different men, but the same man varies in the power of his faith, and we
all of us know what it is to have it sometimes dominant over our whole
selves, and sometimes weak and crushed under the weight of earthly
passions. To-day we may be all flame, to-morrow all ice. Our faith may
seem to us to be strong enough to move mountains, and before an hour is
past we may find it, by experience, to be less than a grain of mustard
seed. 'Action and reaction are always equal and contrary,' and that law
is as true in reference to our present spiritual life as it is true in
regard to physical objects. We have, then, the encouragement of such a
word as that of our text for looking forward to and straining towards
the reversal of these sad alterations in a fixed and continuous faith
which should grasp the whole Christ and should always hold Him. There
may still be diversities and degrees, but each should have his measure
always full. 'Thy Sun shall no more go down'; there will no longer be
the contrast between the flashing waters of a flood-tide and the dreary
mud-banks disclosed at low water. We shall stand at different points,
but the faces of all will be turned to Him who is the Light of all, and
every face will shine with the likeness of His, when we see Him as He
is.

But our text points us to another form of unity--the oneness of the
knowledge of the Son of God.

The Apostle uses an emphatic term which is very familiar on his lips to
designate this knowledge. It means not a mere intellectual apprehension,
but a profound and vital acquaintance, dependent indeed upon faith, and
realised in experience. It is the knowledge for which Paul was ready to
'count all things but loss' that he might know Jesus, and winning which
he would count himself to 'have apprehended.' The unity in this deep and
blessed knowledge has nothing to do with identity of opinion on the
points which have separated Christians. It is not to be sought by
outward unanimity, nor by aggregation in external communities. The
Apostle's great thought is made small and the truth of it is falsified
when it is over-hastily embodied in institutions. It has been sought in
a uniformity which resembles unity as much as a bundle of faggots, all
cut to the same length, and tied together with a rope, resemble the tree
from which they were chopped, waving in the wind and living one life to
the tips of its furthest branches. Men have made out of the Apostle's
divine vision of a unity in the faith and knowledge of the Son of God 'a
staunch and solid piece of framework as any January could freeze
together,' and few things have stood more in the way of the realisation
of his glowing anticipations than the formation of the great
Corporation, imposing from its bulk and antiquity, to part from which
was branded as breaking the unity of the spirit.

Paul gives no clear definition here of the time when the one body of
Christian believers should have attained to the unity of the faith and
knowledge of the Son of God, and the question may not have presented
itself to him. It may appear that in view of the immediate context he
regards the goal as one to be reached in our present life, or it may be
that he is thinking rather of the Future, when the Master 'should bring
together every joint and member and mould them into an immortal feature
of loveliness and perfection.' But the time at which this great ideal
should be attained is altogether apart from the obligation pressing upon
us all, at all times, to work towards it. Whensoever it is reached it
will only be by our drawing 'nearer, day by day, each to his brethren,
all to God,' or rather, each to God and so all to his brethren. Take
twenty points in a great circle and let each be advanced by one half of
its distance to the centre, how much nearer will each be to each? Christ
is our unity, not dogmas, not polities, not rituals: our oneness is a
oneness of life. We need for our centre no tower with a top reaching to
heaven, we have a living Lord who is with us, and in Him, we being many,
are one.

II. Oneness in faith and knowledge knits all into a 'perfect man.'

'Perfect,' the Apostle here uses in opposition to the immediately
following expression in the next verse, of 'children.' It therefore
means not so much moral perfection as maturity or fulness of growth. So
long as we fall short of the state of unity we are in the stage of
immaturity. When we come to be one in faith and knowledge we have
reached full-grown manhood. The existence of differences belongs to the
infancy and boyhood of the Church, and as we grow one we are putting
away childish things. What a contrast there is between Paul's vision
here and the tendency which has been too common among Christians to
magnify their differences, and to regard their obstinate adherence to
these as being 'steadfastness in the faith'! How different would be the
relations between the various communities into which the one body has
been severed, if they all fully believed that their respective
shibboleths were signs that they had not yet attained, neither were
already perfect! When we began to be ashamed of these instead of
glorying in them we should be beginning to grow into the maturity of our
Christian life.

But the Apostle speaks of 'a perfect man' in the singular and not of
'men' in the plural, as he has already described the result of the union
of Jew and Gentile as being the making 'of twain one new man.' This
remarkable expression sets forth, in the strongest terms, the vital
unity which connects all members of the one body so closely that there
is but one life in them all. There are many members, but one body. Their
functions differ, but the life in them all is identical. The eye cannot
say to the hand, 'I have no need of thee,' nor again the head to the
feet, 'I have no need of you.' Each is necessary to the completeness of
the whole, and all are necessary to make up the one body of Christ. It
is His life which manifests itself in every member and which gives
clearness of vision to the eye, strength and deftness to the hand. He
needs us all for His work on the world and for His revelation to the
world of the fulness of His life. In some parts of England there are
bell-ringers who stand at a table on which are set bells, each tuned to
one note, and they can perform most elaborate pieces of music by swiftly
catching up and sounding each of these in the right place. All Christian
souls are needed for the Master's hand to bring out the note of each in
its place. In the lowest forms of life all vital functions are performed
by one simple sac, and the higher the creature is in the scale the more
are its organs differentiated. In the highest form of all, 'as the body
is one, and hath many members, and all the members of the body, being
many, are one body, so also is Christ.'

III. This perfect manhood is the possession of all who are in Christ.

The fulness of Christ is the fulness which belongs to Him, or that of
which He is full. All which He is and has is to be poured into His
servants, and when all this is communicated to them the goal will be
reached. We shall be full-grown men, and more wonderful still, we all
shall make one perfect man, and individual completenesses will blend
into that which is more complete than any of these, the one body, which
corresponds to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.

This is the goal of humanity in which, and in which alone, the dreams of
thinkers about perfectibility will become facts, and the longings that
are deeply rooted in every soul will find their fulfilment. By our
personal union with Jesus Christ through faith, our individual
perfection, both in the sense of maturity and in that of the realisation
of ideal manhood, is assured, and in Him the race, as well as the
individual, is redeemed, and will one day be glorified. The Utopias of
many thinkers are but partial and distorted copies of the kingdom of
Christ. The reality which He brings and imparts is greater than all
these, and when the New Jerusalem comes down out of heaven, and is
planted on the common earth, it will outvie in lustre and outlast in
permanence all forms of human association. The city of wisdom which was
Athens, the city of power which was Rome, the city of commerce which is
London, the city of pleasure which is Paris, 'pale their ineffectual
fires' before the city in the light whereof the nations should walk.

The beginning of the process, of which the end is this inconceivable
participation in the glory of Jesus, is simple trust in Him. 'He that is
joined to the Lord is one spirit,' and he who trusts in Him, loves Him,
and obeys Him, is joined to Him, and thereby is started on a course
which never halts nor stays so long as the faith which started him
abides, till he 'grows up into Him in all things which is the head, even
Christ.' The experience of the Christian life as God means it to be, and
by the communication of His grace makes it possible for it to become, is
like that of men embarked on some sun-lit ocean, sailing past shining
headlands, and ever onwards, over the boundless blue, beneath a calm sky
and happy stars. The blissful voyagers are in full possession at every
moment of all which they need and of all of His fulness which they can
contain, but the full possession at every moment increases as they, by
it, become capable of fuller possession. Increasing capacity brings
with it increasing participation in the boundless fulness of Him who
filleth all in all.



CHRIST OUR LESSON AND OUR TEACHER

     'But ye have not so learned Christ; if so be that ye have heard
      Him, and have been taught in Him.'--Eph. iv. 20, 21.


The Apostle has been describing in very severe terms the godlessness and
corruption of heathenism. He reckons on the assent of the Ephesian
Christians when he paints the society in which they lived as alienated
from God, insensible to the restraints of conscience, and foul with all
uncleanness. That was a picture of heathenism drawn from the life and
submitted to the judgment of those who knew the original only too well.
It has been reserved for modern eulogists to regard such statements as
exaggerations. Those who knew heathenism from the inside knew that they
were sober truth. The colonnades of the stately temple of Ephesus stank
with proofs of their correctness.

Out of that mass of moral putridity these Ephesian Christians had been
dragged. But its effects still lingered in them, and it was all about
them with its pestilential miasma. So the first thing that they needed
was to be guarded against it. The Apostle, in the subsequent context,
with great earnestness gives a series of moral injunctions of the most
elementary kind. Their very simplicity is eloquent. What sort of people
must they have formerly been who needed to be bade not to steal and not
to lie?

But before he comes to the specific duties, he lays down the broad
general principle of which all these are to be but manifestations--viz.
that they and we need, as the foundation of all noble conduct and of
all theoretical ethics, the suppression and crucifixion of the old self
and the investiture with a new self. And this double necessity, says the
Apostle in my text, is the plain teaching of Jesus Christ to all His
disciples.

Now the words which I have selected as my text are but a fragment of a
closely concatenated whole, but I may deal with them separately at this
time. They are very remarkable. They lay, as it seems to me, the basis
for all Christian conduct; and they teach us how there is no real
knowledge of Jesus Christ which does not effloresce into the practice of
these virtues and graces which the Apostle goes on to describe.

I. First, Christ our Lesson and Christ our Teacher.

Mark the singular expression with which this text begins. 'Ye have not
so learned _Christ_.' Now, we generally talk about learning a subject, a
language, a science, or an art; but we do not talk about learning
people. But Paul says we are Christ's disciples, not only in the sense
that we learn of Him as Teacher--which follows in the next clause--but
that we learn Him as the theme of our study.

That is to say, the relation of the person of Jesus Christ to all that
He has to teach and reveal to the world is altogether different from
that of all other teachers of all sorts of truth, to the truth which
they proclaim. You can accept the truths and dismiss into oblivion the
men from whom you got them. But you cannot reject Christ and take
Christianity. The two are inseparably united. For, in regard to all
spiritual and to all moral truth--truth about conduct and
character--Jesus Christ _is_ what He teaches. So we may say, turning
well-known words of a poet in another direction: 'My lesson is in
Thee.'

But that is not all. My text goes on to speak about another thing: 'Ye
have learned Christ if so be that ye have _heard Him_ and been taught.'
Now that 'If so be' is not the 'if' of uncertainty or doubt, but it is
equivalent to 'if, as I know to be the case,' or '_since_ ye have heard
Him.' Away there in Ephesus, years and years after the crucifixion,
these people who had never seen Christ in the flesh, nor heard a word
from the lips 'into which grace was poured,' are yet addressed by the
Apostle as those who had listened to Him and heard Him speak. They had
'heard Him and been taught.' So He was Lesson and He was Teacher. And
that is as true about us as it was about them. Let me say only a word or
two about each of these two thoughts.

I have already suggested that the underlying truth which warrants the
first of them is that Jesus Christ's relation to His message and
revelation is altogether different from that of other teachers to what
they have to communicate to the world. Of course we all know that, in
regard to the wider sphere of religious and Christian truth, it is not
only what Christ said, but even more what He did and was, that makes His
revelation of the Father's heart. Precious as are the words which drop
from His lips, which are spirit and are life, His life itself is more
than all His teachings; and it is when we learn, not _from_ Him, but
when we _learn_ Him, that we see the Father. But my text has solely
reference to conduct, and in that aspect it just implies this thought,
that the sum of all duty, the height of all moral perfectness, the
realised ideal of humanity, is in Christ, and that the true way to know
what a man or a nation ought to do is to study Him.

How strange it is, when one comes to consider it, that the impression
of absolute perfection, free from all limitations of race or country or
epoch or individual character--and yet not a vague abstraction but a
true living Person--has been printed upon the minds and hearts of the
world by these four little pamphlets which we call gospels! I do not
think that there is anything in the whole history of literature to
compare with the impression of veracity and historical reality and
individual personality which is made by these fragmentary narratives.
And although it has nothing to do with my present subject, I may just
say in a sentence that it seems to me that the character of Jesus Christ
as painted in the Gospels, in its incomparable vividness and vitality,
is one of the strongest evidences for the simple faithfulness as
biographies, of these books. Nothing else but the Man seen could have
resulted in such compositions.

But apart altogether from that, how blessed it is that we have not to
enter upon any lengthened investigations, far beyond the power of
average minds, in order to get hold of the fundamental laws of moral
conduct! How blessed it is that all the harshness of 'Obey this law or
die' is by His life changed into 'Look at Me, and, for My love's sake,
study Me and be like Me!' This is the blessed peculiarity which gives
all its power and distinctive characteristic to the morality of the
Gospel, that law is changed from a statuesque white ideal, pure as
marble and cold and lifeless as it, into a living Person with a
throbbing heart of love, and an outstretched hand of help, whose word
is, 'If ye love Me, keep My commandments, and be like Me.'

Christian men and women! study Jesus Christ. That is the Alpha and Omega
of all right knowledge of duty and of all right practice of it. Learn
Him, His self-suppression, His self-command, His untroubled calmness,
His immovable patience, His continual gentleness, His constant reference
of all things to the Father's will. Study these. To imitate Him is
blessedness; to resemble Him is perfection. 'Ye have learned Christ' if
you are Christians at all. You have at least begun the alphabet, but oh!
in Him 'are hid all the treasures,' not only 'of wisdom and knowledge,'
but of 'whatsoever things are lovely and of good report'; and 'if there
is any virtue, and if there is any praise,' we shall find them in Him
who is our Lesson, our perfect Lesson.

But that is not all. Lessons are very well, but--dear me!--the world
wants something besides lessons. It has had plenty of teaching. The
trouble is not that we are not instructed, but that we do not take the
lessons that are laid before us. And so my text suggests another thing
besides the wholly inadequate conception, as it would be if it stood
alone, of a mere exhibition of what we ought to be.

'If so be that ye have _heard_ Him.' As I said, these Ephesian
Christians, far away in Asia Minor, with seas and years between them and
the plains of Galilee and the Cross of Calvary, are yet regarded by the
Apostle as having listened to Jesus Christ. We, far away down the ages,
and in another corner of the world, as really, without metaphor, in
plain fact, may have Jesus Christ speaking to us, and may hear His
voice. These Ephesians had heard Him, not only because they had heard
about Him, nor because they had heard Him speaking through His servant
Paul and others, but because, as Paul believed, that Lord, who had
spoken with human lips words which it was possible for a man to utter
when He was here on earth, when caught up into the third heaven was
still speaking to men, even according to His own promise, which He gave
at the very close of His career, 'I have declared Thy name unto My
brethren, and _will_ declare it.' So, though 'He began both to do and to
teach' before He was taken up, after His Ascension He continues both the
doing and the tuition. And, in verity, we all may hear His voice
speaking in the depths of our hearts; speaking through the renewed
conscience; speaking by that Spirit who will guide us into all the truth
that we need; speaking through the ages to all who will listen to His
voice.

The conception of Christ as a Teacher, which is held by many who deny
His redeeming work and dismiss as incredible His divinity, seems to me
altogether inadequate, unless it be supplemented by the belief that He
now has and exercises the power of communicating wisdom and knowledge
and warning and stimulus to waiting hearts; and that when we hear within
the depth of our souls the voice saying to us, 'This is the way, walk ye
in it,' or saying to us, 'Pass not by, enter not into it,' if we have
waited for Him, and studied His example and character, and sought, not
to please ourselves, but to be led by His wisdom, we may be sure that it
is Christ Himself who speaks. Reverence the inward monitor, and when He
within thy heart, by His Spirit, calls thee, do thou answer, 'Speak,
Lord! Thy servant heareth.' 'Ye have learned Christ if so be that ye
have hearkened to Him.'

II. Secondly, mark the condition of learning the Lesson and hearing the
Teacher.

Our Authorised Version, in accordance with its very frequent practice,
has evacuated the last words of my text of their true force by the
substitution of the more intelligible '_by_ Him' for what the Apostle
writes--'_in_ Him.' The true rendering gives us the condition on which
we learn our Lesson and hear our Teacher. '_In_ Him,' is no mere
surplusage, and is not to be weakened down, as this translation of ours
does, into a mere '_by_ Him' but it declares that, unless we keep
ourselves in union with Jesus Christ, His voice will not be heard in our
hearts, and the lesson will pass unlearned.

You know, dear brother, how emphatically and continually in the New
Testament this doctrine of the dwelling of the believing soul in Christ,
and the reciprocal dwelling of Christ in the believing soul, is insisted
upon. And I, for my part, believe that one great cause of the
unsatisfactory condition of the average Christianity of this day is the
slurring over and minimising of these twin great and solemn truths. I
would fain bring you back to the Master's words, as declaring the
deepest truths in relation to the connection between the believing soul
and the Christ in whom it believes:--'Abide in Me, and I in you.' I wish
you would go home and take this Epistle to the Ephesians and read it
over, putting a pencil mark below each place in which occurs the words
'in Christ Jesus.' I think you would learn something if you would do it.

But all that I have to say at present is that, if we would keep
ourselves, by faith, by love, by meditation, by aspiration, by the
submission of the will, and by practical obedience, in Jesus Christ,
enclosed in Him as it were--then, and then only, should we learn His
lesson, and then, and then only, should we hear Him speak. Why! if you
never think about Him, how can you learn Him? If you seldom, or
sleepily, take up your Bibles and read the Gospels, of what good is His
example to you? If you wander away into all manner of regions of thought
and enjoyment instead of keeping near to Him, how can you expect that He
will communicate Himself to you? If we keep ourselves in touch with that
Lord, if we bring all our actions to Him, and measure our conduct by His
pattern, then we shall learn His lesson. What does a student in a school
of design do? He puts his feeble copy of some great picture beside the
original, and compares it touch for touch, line for line, shade for
shade, and so corrects its errors. Take your lives to the Exemplar in
that fashion, and go over them bit by bit. Is _this_ like Jesus Christ;
is _that_ what He would have done? Then '_in_ Him,' thus in contact with
Him, thus correcting our daubs by the perfect picture, we shall learn
our lesson and listen to our Teacher.

Still your passions, muzzle your inclinations, clap a bridle on your
will, and, as some tumultuous crowd would be hushed into silence that
they might listen to the king speaking to them, make a great silence in
your hearts, and you will 'hear Him' and be taught 'in Him'.

III. Lastly, the test and result of having learned the Lesson and
listened to the Teacher is unlikeness to surrounding corruption.

'Ye have _not so_ learned Christ.' Of course the hideous immoralities of
Ephesus are largely, but by no means altogether, gone from Manchester.
Of course, nineteen centuries of Christianity have to a very large
extent changed the tone of society and influenced the moral judgments
and practices even of persons who are not Christians. But there still
remains a _world_, and there still remains unfilled up the gulf between
the worldly and the godly life. And I believe it is just as needful as
ever it was, though in different ways, for Christians to exhibit
unlikeness to the world. 'Not so,' must be our motto; or, as the Jewish
patriot said, 'So did not I, because of the fear of the Lord.'

I do not wish you to make yourselves singular; I do not wish you to wear
conventional badges of unlikeness to certain selected evil habits. A
Christian man's unlikeness to the world consists a great deal more in
doing or being what it does not do and is not than in not doing or being
what it does and is. It is easy to abstain from conventional things; it
is a great deal harder to put in practice the unworldly virtues of the
Christian character.

There are wide regions of life in which all men must act alike, be they
saints or sinners, be they believers, Agnostics, Mohammedans, Turks,
Jews, or anything else. There are two ways of doing the same thing. If
two women were sitting at a grindstone, one of them a Christian and the
other not, the one that pushed her handle half round the circle for
Christ's sake would do it in a different fashion from the other one who
took it from her hand and brought it round to the other side of the
stone, and did it without reference to God.

Brethren, be sure of this, that if you and I do not find in ourselves
the impulse to abstain from coarse enjoyments, to put our feet upon
passions and desires, appetites and aims, which godless men recognise
and obey without qualm or restraint, we need to ask ourselves: 'In what
sense am I a Christian, or in what sense have I heard Christ?' It is a
poor affair to fling away our faithful protest against the world's evils
for the sake of receiving the world's smile. Modern Christianity is
often not vital enough to be hated by a godless world; and it is not
hated because it only deserves to be scorned. Keep near Jesus Christ,
live in the light of His face, drink in the inspiration and instruction
of His example, and the unlikeness will come, and no mistake. Dwell near
Him, keep in Him, and the likeness will come, as it always comes to
lovers, who grow to resemble that or those whom they love. 'It is enough
for the disciple to be as his Teacher, and for the slave to be like his
Lord.'



A DARK PICTURE AND A BRIGHT HOPE

     'That ye put off, concerning the former conversation, the old man,
      which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.'--Eph. iv. 22.


If a doctor knows that he can cure a disease he can afford to give full
weight to its gravest symptoms. If he knows he cannot he is sorely
tempted to say it is of slight importance, and, though it cannot be
cured, can be endured without much discomfort.

And so the Scripture teachings about man's real moral condition are
characterised by two peculiarities which, at first sight, seem somewhat
opposed, but are really harmonious and closely connected. There is no
book and no system in the whole world that takes such a dark view of
what you and I are; there is none animated with so bright and confident
a hope of what you and I may become. And, on the other hand, the common
run of thought amongst men minimises the fact of sin, but when you say,
'Well, be it big or little, can I get rid of it anyhow?' there is no
answer to give that is worth listening to. Christ alone can venture to
tell men what they are, because Christ alone can radically change their
whole nature and being. There are certain diseases of which a constant
symptom is unconsciousness that there is anything the matter. A
deep-seated wound does not hurt much. The question is not whether
Christian thoughts about a man's condition are gloomy or not, but
whether they are true. As to their being gloomy, it seems to me that the
people who complain of our doctrine of human nature, as giving a
melancholy view of men, do really take a far more melancholy one. We
believe in a fall, and we believe in a possible and actual restoration.
The man to whom evil is not an intrusive usurper can have no confidence
that it will ever be expelled. Which is the gloomy system--that which
paints in undisguised blackness the facts of life, and over against
their blackest darkness, the radiant light of a great hope shining
bright and glorious, or one that paints humanity in a uniform monotone
of indistinguishable grey involving the past, the present, and the
future--which, believing in no disease, hopes for no cure? My text,
taken in conjunction with the grand words which follow, about 'The new
man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness,'
brings before us some very solemn views (which the men that want them
most realise the least) with regard to what we are, what we ought to be
and cannot be, and what, by God's help, we may become. The old man is
'corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,' says Paul. _There_ are a set
of characteristics, then, of the universal sinful human self. Then there
comes a hopeless commandment--a mockery--if we are to stop with it, 'put
it off.' And then there dawns on us the blessed hope and possibility of
the fulfilment of the injunction, when we learn that 'the truth in
Jesus' is, that we put off the old man with his deeds. Such is a
general outline of the few thoughts I have to suggest to you.

I. I wish to fix, first of all, upon the very significant, though brief,
outline sketch of the facts of universal sinful human nature which the
Apostle gives here.

These are three, upon which I dilate for a moment or two. 'The old man'
is a Pauline expression, about which I need only say here that we may
take it as meaning that form of character and life which is common to us
all, apart from the great change operated through faith in Jesus Christ.
It is universal, it is sinful. There is a very remarkable contrast,
which you will notice, between the verse upon which I am now commenting
and the following one. The old man is set over against the new. One is
created, the other is corrupted, as the word might be properly rendered.
The one is created after God, the other is rotting to pieces under the
influence of its lusts. The one consists of righteousness and holiness,
which have their root in truth; the other is under the dominion of
passions and desires, which, in themselves evil, are the instruments of
and are characterised by deceit.

The first of the characteristics, then, of this sinful self, to which I
wish to point for a moment is, that every Christless life, whatsoever
the superficial differences in it, is really a life shaped according to
and under the influence of _passionate desires_. You see I venture to
alter one word of my text, and that for this simple reason; the word
'lusts' has, in modern English, assumed a very much narrower
signification than either that of the original has, or than itself had
in English when this translation was made. It is a very remarkable
testimony, by the by, to the weak point in the bulk of men--to the side
of their nature which is most exposed to assaults--that this word,
which originally meant strong desire of any kind, should, by the
observation of the desires that are strongest in the mass of people,
have come to be restricted and confined to the one specific meaning of
strong animal, fleshly, sensuous desires. It may point a lesson to some
of my congregation, and especially to the younger portion of the men in
it. Remember, my brother, that the part of your nature which is closest
to the material is likewise closest to the animal, and is least under
dominion (without a strong and constant effort) of the power which will
save the flesh from corruption, and make the material the vehicle of the
spiritual and divine. Many a young man comes into Manchester with the
atmosphere of a mother's prayers and a father's teaching round about
him; with holy thoughts and good resolutions beginning to sway his heart
and spirit; and flaunting profligacy and seducing tongues beside him in
the counting-house, in the warehouse, and at the shop counter, lead him
away into excesses that banish all these, and, after a year or two of
riot and sowing to the flesh, he 'of the flesh reaps corruption,' and
that very literally--in sunken eye, and trembling hand, and hacking
cough, and a grave opened for him before his time. Ah, my dear young
friends! 'they promise them liberty.' It is a fine thing to get out of
your father's house, and away from the restrictions of the society where
you are known, and loving eyes--or unloving ones--are watching you. It
is a fine thing to get into the freedom and irresponsibility of a big
city! 'They promise them liberty,' and 'they themselves become the bond
slaves of corruption.'

But, then, that is only the grossest and the lowest form of the truth
that is here. Paul's indictment against us is not anything so
exaggerated and extreme as that the animal nature predominates in all
who are not Christ's. That is not true, and is not what my text says.
But what it says is just this: that, given the immense varieties of
tastes and likings and desires which men have, the point and
characteristic feature of every godless life is that, be these what they
may, they become the dominant power in that life. Paul does not, of
course, deny that the sway and tyranny of such lusts and desires are
sometimes broken by remonstrances of conscience; sometimes suppressed by
considerations of prudence; sometimes by habit, by business, by
circumstances that force people into channels into which they would not
naturally let their lives run. He does not deny that often and often in
such a life there will be a dim desire for something better--that high
above the black and tumbling ocean of that life of corruption and
disorder, there lies a calm heaven with great stars of duty shining in
it. He does not deny that men are a law to themselves, as well as a
bundle of desires which they obey; but what he charges upon us, and what
I venture to bring as an indictment against you, and myself too, is
this: that apart from Christ it is not conscience that rules our lives;
that apart from Christ it is not sense of duty that is strongest; that
apart from Christ the real directing impulse to which the inward
proclivities, if not the outward activities, do yield in the main and on
the whole, is, as this text says, the things that we like, the
passionate desires of nature, the sensuous and godless heart.

And you say, 'Well, if it is so, what harm is it? Did not God make me
with these desires, and am not I meant to gratify them?' Yes, certainly.
The harm of it is, first of all, this, that it is an inversion of the
true order. The passionate desires about which I am speaking, be they
for money, be they for fame, or be they for any other of the gilded
baits of worldly joys--these passionate dislikes and likings, as well as
the purely animal ones--the longing for food, for drink, for any other
physical gratification--these were never meant to be men's guides. They
are meant to be impulses. They have motive power, but no directing
power. Do you start engines out of a railway station without drivers or
rails to run upon? It would be as reasonable as that course of life
which men pursue who say, 'Thus I wish; thus I command; let my desire
stand in the place of other argumentation and reason.' They take that
part of their nature that is meant to be under the guidance of reason
and conscience looking up to God, and put it in the supreme place, and
so, setting a beggar on horseback, ride where we know such equestrians
are said in the end to go! The desires are meant to be impelling powers.
It is absurdity and the destruction of true manhood to make them, as we
so often do, directing powers, and to put the reins into their hand.
They are the wind, not the helm; the steam, not the driver. Let us keep
things in their right places. Remember that the constitution of human
nature, as God has meant it, is this: down there, under hatches, under
control, the strong impulses; above them, the enlightened understanding;
above that, the conscience, which has a loftier region than that of
thought to move in, the moral region; and above that, the God, whose
face, shining down upon the apex of the nature thus constituted,
irradiates it with light which filters through all the darkness, down to
the very base of the being; and sanctifies the animal, and subdues the
impulses, and enlightens the understanding, and calms and quickens the
conscience, and makes ductile and pliable the will, and fills the heart
with fruition and tranquillity, and orders the life after the image of
Him that created it.

I cannot dwell any longer on this first point; but I hope that I have
said enough, not to show that the words are true--that is a very poor
thing to do, if that were all that I aimed at--but to bring them home to
some of our hearts and consciences. I pray God to impress the conviction
that, although there be in us all the voice of conscience, which all of
us more or less have tried at intervals to follow; yet in the main it
abides for ever true--and it is true, my dear brethren, about you--a
Christless life is a life under the dominion of tyrannous desires. Ask
yourself what I cannot ask for you, Is it I? My hand fumbles about the
hinges and handle of the door of the heart. You yourself must open it
and let conviction come in!

Still further, the words before us add another touch to this picture.
They not only represent the various passionate desires as being the real
guides of 'the old man' but they give this other characteristic--that
these desires are in their very nature the instruments of deceit and
lies.

The words of my text are, perhaps, rather enfeebled by the form of
rendering which our translators have here, as in many cases, thought
proper to adopt. If, instead of reading 'corrupt according to the
deceitful lusts,' we read 'corrupt according to the desires of deceit,'
we should have got not only the contrast between the old man and the new
man, 'created in righteousness and holiness of truth'--but we should
have had, perhaps, a clearer notion of the characteristic of these
lusts, which the Apostle meant to bring into prominence. These desires
are, as it were, the tools and instruments by which deceit betrays and
mocks men; the weapons used by illusions and lies to corrupt and mar the
soul. They are strong, and their nature is to pursue after their objects
without regard to any consequences beyond their own gratification; but,
strong as they are, they are like the blinded Samson, and will pull the
house down on themselves if they be not watched. Their strength is
excited on false pretences. They are stirred to grasp what is after all
a lie. They are 'desires of deceit.'

That just points to the truth of all such life being hollow and
profitless. If regard be had to the whole scope of our nature and
necessities, and to the true aim of life as deduced therefrom, nothing
is more certain than that no man will get the satisfaction that his
ruling passions promise him, by indulging them. It is very sure that the
way never to get what you need and desire is always to do what you like.

And that for very plain reasons. Because, for one thing, the object only
satisfies for a time. Yesterday's food appeased our hunger for the day,
but we wake hungry again. And the desires which are not so purely animal
have the same characteristic of being stilled for the moment, and of
waking more ravenous than ever. 'He that drinketh of this water shall
thirst again.' Because, further, the desire grows and the object of it
does not. The fierce longing increases, and, of course, the power of the
thing that we pursue to satisfy it decreases in the same proportion. It
is a fixed quantity; the appetite is indefinitely expansible. And so,
the longer I go on feeding my desire, the more I long for the food; and
the more I long for it, the less taste it has when I get it. It must be
more strongly spiced to titillate a jaded palate. And there soon comes
to be an end of the possibilities in that direction. A man scarcely
tastes his brandy, and has little pleasure in drinking it, but he cannot
do without it, and so he gulps it down in bigger and bigger draughts
till delirium tremens comes in to finish all. Because, for another
thing, after all, these desires are each but a fragment of one's whole
nature, and when one is satisfied another is baying to be fed. The grim
brute, like the watchdog of the old mythology, has three heads, and each
gaping for honey cakes. And if they were all gorged, there are other
longings in men's nature that will not let them rest, and for which all
the leeks and onions of Egypt are not food. So long as these are unmet,
you 'spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for
that which satisfieth not.'

So we may lay it down as a universal truth, that whoever takes it for
his law to do as he likes will not for long like what he does; or, as
George Herbert says,

    'Shadows well mounted, dreams in a career,
     Embroider'd lies, nothing between two dishes--
            These are the pleasures here.'

Do any of you remember the mournful words with which one of our greatest
modern writers of fiction closes his saddest, truest book: 'Ah! _vanitas
vanitatum_! Which of us is happy in this world? which of us has his
desire? or, having it, is satisfied?' No wonder that with such a view of
human life as that the next and last sentence should be, 'Come,
children, let us shut up the box and the puppets, for the play is played
out.' Yes! if there be nothing more to follow than the desires which
deceive, man's life, with all its bustle and emotion, is a subject for
cynical and yet sad regard, and all the men and women that toil and fret
are 'merely players.'

Then, again, one more point in this portraiture of 'the old man,' is
that these _deceiving desires corrupt_. The language of our text conveys
a delicate shade of meaning which is somewhat blurred in our version.
Properly, it speaks of 'the old man which is _growing_ corrupt,' rather
than 'which is corrupt,' and expresses the steady advance of that inward
process of decay and deterioration which is ever the fate of a life
subordinated to these desires. And this growing evil, or rather inward
eating corruption which disintegrates and destroys a soul, is contrasted
in the subsequent verse with the 'new man which is _created_ in
righteousness.' There is in the one the working of life, in the other
the working of death. The one is formed and fashioned by the loving
hands and quickening breath of God; the other is gradually and surely
rotting away by the eating leprosy of sin. For the former the end is
eternal life; for the latter, the second death.

And the truth that underlies that awful representation is the familiar
one to which I have already referred in another connection, that, by the
very laws of our nature, by the plain necessities of the case, all our
moral qualities, be they good or bad, tend to increase by exercise. In
whatever direction we move, the rate of progress tends to accelerate
itself. And this is preeminently the case when the motion is downwards.
Every day that a bad man lives he is a worse man. My friend! you are on
a sloping descent. Imperceptibly--because you will not look at the
landmarks--but really, and not so very slowly either; convictions are
dying out, impulses to good are becoming feeble, habits of neglect of
conscience are becoming fixed, special forms of sin--avarice, or pride,
or lust--are striking their claws deeper into your soul, and holding
their bleeding booty firmer. In all regions of life exercise strengthens
capacity. The wrestler, according to the old Greek parable, who began by
carrying a calf on his shoulders, got to carry an ox by and by.

It is a solemn thought this of the steady continuous aggravation of sin
in the individual character. Surely nothing can be small which goes to
make up that rapidly growing total. Beware of the little beginnings
which 'eat as doth a canker.' Beware of the slightest deflection from
the straight line of right. If there be two lines, one straight and the
other going off at the sharpest angle, you have only to produce both far
enough, and there will be room between them for all the space that
separates hell from heaven! Beware of lading your souls with the weight
of small single sins. We heap upon ourselves, by slow, steady accretion
through a lifetime, the weight that, though it is gathered by grains,
crushes the soul. There is nothing heavier than sand. You may lift it by
particles. It drifts in atoms, but heaped upon a man it will break his
bones, and blown over the land it buries pyramid and sphynx, the temples
of gods and the homes of men beneath its barren solid waves. The leprosy
gnaws the flesh off a man's bones, and joints and limbs drop off--he is
a living death. So with every soul that is under the dominion of these
lying desires--it is slowly rotting away piecemeal, 'waxing corrupt
according to the lusts of deceit.'

II. Note how, this being so, we have here the hopeless command to put
off the old man.

That command 'put it off' is the plain dictate of conscience and of
common sense. But it seems as hopeless as it is imperative. I suppose
everybody feels sometimes, more or less distinctly, that they ought to
make an effort and get rid of these beggarly usurpers that tyrannise
over will, and conscience, and life. Attempts enough are made to shake
off the yoke. We have all tried some time or other. Our days are full of
foiled resolutions, attempts that have broken down, unsuccessful
rebellions, ending like the struggles of some snared wild creature, in
wrapping the meshes tighter round us. How many times, since you were a
boy or a girl, have you said--'Now I am _determined_ that I will never
do that again. I have flung away opportunities. I have played the fool
and erred exceedingly--but I now turn over a new leaf!' Yes, and you
have turned it--and, if I might go on with the metaphor, the first gust
of passion or temptation has blown the leaf back again, and the old page
has been spread before you once more just as it used to be. The history
of individual souls and the tragedy of the world's history recurring in
every age, in which the noblest beginnings lead to disastrous ends, and
each new star of promise that rises on the horizon leads men into
quagmires and sets in blood, sufficiently show how futile the attempt in
our own strength to overcome and expel the evils that are rooted in our
nature.

Moralists may preach, 'Unless above himself he can erect himself, how
mean a thing is man'; but all the preaching in the world is of no avail.
The task is an impossibility. The stream cannot rise above its source,
nor be purified in its flow if bitter waters come from the fountain.
'Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?' There is no power in
human nature to cast off this clinging self. As in the awful vision of
the poet, the serpent is grown into the man. The will is feeble for
good, the conscience sits like a discrowned king issuing empty mandates,
while all his realm is up in rebellion and treats his proclamations as
so much waste paper. How can a man re-make himself? how cast off his own
nature? The means at his disposal themselves need to be cleansed, for
themselves are tainted. It is the old story--who will keep the
keepers?--who will heal the sick physicians? You will sometimes see a
wounded animal licking its wounds with its own tongue. How much more
hopeless still is our effort by our own power to stanch and heal the
gashes which sin has made! 'Put off the old man'--yes--and if it but
clung to the limbs like the hero's poisoned vest, it might be possible.
But it is not a case of throwing aside clothing, it is stripping oneself
of the very skin and flesh--and if there is nothing more to be said than
such vain commonplaces of impossible duty, then we must needs abandon
hope, and wear the rotting evil till we die.

But that is not all. 'What the law could not do, in that it was weak
through the flesh,' God sending His own Son did--He condemned sin in the
flesh. So we come to

III. The possibility of fulfilling the command.

The context tells us how this is possible. The law, the pattern, and the
power for complete victory over the old sinful self, are to be found,
'as the truth is--in Jesus.' Union with Christ gives us a real
possession of a new principle of life, derived from Him, and like His
own. That real, perfect, immortal life, which hath no kindred with evil,
and flings off pollution and decay from its pure surface, will wrestle
with and finally overcome the living death of obedience to the
deceitful lusts. Our weakness will be made rigorous by His inbreathed
power. Our gravitation to earth and sin will be overcome by the yearning
of that life to its source. An all-constraining motive will be found in
love to Him who has given Himself for us. A new hope will spring as to
what may be possible for us, when we see Jesus, and in Him recognise the
true Man, whose image we may bear. We shall die with Him to sin, when,
resting by faith on Him who has died for sin, we are made conformable to
His death, that we may walk in newness of life. Faith in Jesus gives us
a share in the working of that mighty power by which He makes all things
new. The renovation blots out the past, and changes the direction of the
future. The fountain in our hearts sends forth bitter waters that cannot
be healed. 'And the Lord showed him a tree,' even that Cross whereon
Christ was crucified for us, 'which, when he had cast into the waters,
the waters were made sweet.'

I remember a rough parable of Luther's, grafted on an older legend, on
this matter, which runs somewhat in this fashion: A man's heart is like
a foul stable. Wheelbarrows and shovels are of little use, except to
remove some of the surface filth, and to litter all the passages in the
process. What is to be done with it? 'Turn the Elbe into it,' says he.
The flood will sweep away all the pollution. Not my own efforts, but the
influx of that pardoning, cleansing grace which is in Christ will wash
away the accumulations of years, and the ingrained evil which has
stained every part of my being. We cannot cleanse ourselves, we cannot
'put off' this old nature which has struck its roots so deep into our
being; but if we turn to Him with faith and say--Forgive me, and
cleanse, and strip from me the foul and ragged robe fit only for the
swine-troughs in the far-off land of disobedience, He will receive us
and answer all our desires, and cast around us the pure garment of His
own righteousness. 'The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus shall
make us free from the law of sin and death.'



THE NEW MAN

     'And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in
      righteousness and true holiness.'--Eph. iv. 24.


We had occasion to remark in a former sermon that Paul regards this and
the preceding clauses as the summing up of 'the truth in Jesus'; or, in
other words, he considers the radical transformation and renovation of
the whole moral nature as being the purpose of the revelation of God in
Christ. To this end they have 'heard Him.' To this end they have
'learned Him.' To this end they have been 'taught in Him,' receiving, by
union with Him, all the various processes of His patient discipline.
This is the inmost meaning of all the lessons in that great school in
which all Christians are scholars, and Christ is the teacher and the
theme, and union to Him the condition of entrance, and the manifold
workings of His providence and His grace the instruments of training,
and heaven the home when school time is over--that we should become new
men in Christ Jesus.

This great practical issue is set forth here under three aspects--one
negative, two positive. The negative process is single and simple--'put
off the old man.' The positive is double--a spiritual 'renewal' effected
in our spirits, in the deep centre of our personal being, by that
Divine Spirit who, dwelling in us, is 'the spirit of our minds'; and
then, consequent upon that inward renewal, a renovation of life and
character, which is described as being the 'putting on,' as if it were a
garment, of 'the new man,' created by a divine act, and consisting in
moral and spiritual likeness to God. It is not necessary to deal, except
incidentally, with the two former, but I desire to consider the last of
these--the putting on of the new man--a little more closely, and to try
to bring out the wealth and depth of the Apostle's words in this
wonderful text.

The ideas contained seem to me in brief to be these--the great purpose
of the Gospel is our moral renewal; that moral renewal is a creation
after God's image; that new creation has to be put on or appropriated by
us; the great means of appropriating it is contact with God's truth. Let
us consider these points in order.

I. The great purpose of the Gospel is our moral renewal; 'the new man
... created in righteousness and ... holiness.'

Now, of course, there are other ways of stating the end of the Gospel.
This is by no means an exhaustive setting forth of its purpose. We may
say that Christ has come in order that men may know God. We may say that
He comes in order that the Divine Love, which ever delights to
communicate, may bestow itself, and may conceive of the whole majestic
series of acts of self-revelation from the beginning as being--if I may
so say--for the gratification of that impulse to impart itself, which is
the characteristic of love in God and man. We may say that the purpose
of the whole is the deliverance of men from the burden and guilt of sin.
But whether we speak of the end of the Gospel as the glory of God, or
the blessedness of man, or as here, as being the moral perfection of
the individual or of the race, they are all but various phrases of the
one complete truth. The Gospel is the consequence and the manifestation
of the love of God, which delights to be known and possessed by loving
souls, and being known, changes them into its own likeness, which to
know is to be happy, which to resemble is to be pure.

The first thing that strikes me about this representation of our text is
the profound sense of human sinfulness which underlies it.

The language is utterly unmeaning--or at all events grossly
exaggerated--unless all have sinned, and the nature which belongs to men
universally, apart from the transforming power of Christ's Spirit, be
corrupt and evil. And that it is so is the constant view of Scripture.
The Bible notion of what men need in order to be pure and good is very
different from the superficial notions of worldly moralists and
philanthropists. We hear a great deal about 'culture,' as if all that
were needed were the training and strengthening of the nature, as if
what was mainly needed was the development of the understanding. We hear
about 'reformation' from some who look rather deeper than the
superficial apostles of culture. And how singularly the very word
proclaims the insufficiency of the remedy which it suggests!
'Re-formation' affects form and not substance. It puts the old materials
into a new shape. Exactly so--and much good may be expected from that!
They are the old materials still, and it matters comparatively little
how they are arranged. It is not re-formation, but re-novation, or, to
go deeper still, re-generation, that the world needs; not new forms, but
a new life; not the culture and development of what it has in itself,
but extirpation of the old by the infusion of something now and pure
that has no taint of corruption, nor any contact with evil. 'Verily, I
say unto you, ye must be born again.'

All slighter notions of the need and more superficial diagnoses of the
disease lead to a treatment with palliatives which never touch the true
seat of the mischief, The poison flowers may be plucked, but the roots
live on. It is useless to build dykes to keep out the wild waters.
Somewhere or other they will find a way through. The only real cure is
that which only the Creating hand can effect, who, by slow operation of
some inward agency, can raise the level of the low lands, and lift them
above the threatening waves. What is needed is a radical transformation,
going down to the very roots of the being; and that necessity is clearly
implied in the language of this text, which declares that a nature
possessing righteousness and holiness is 'a new man' to be 'put on' as
from without, not to be evolved as from within.

It is to be further noticed what the Apostle specifies as the elements,
or characteristics of this new nature--righteousness and holiness.

The proclamation of a new nature in Christ Jesus, great and precious
truth as it is, has often been connected with teaching which has been
mystical in the bad sense of that word, and has been made the stalking
horse of practical immorality. But here we have it distinctly defined in
what that new nature consists. There is no vague mystery about it, no
tampering with the idea of personality. The people who put on the new
man are the same people after as before. The newness consists in moral
and spiritual characteristics. And these are all summed up in the
two--righteousness and holiness. To which is added in the substantially
parallel passage in Colossians, 'Renewed in knowledge after the image of
Him that created Him,' where, I suppose, we must regard the 'knowledge'
as meaning that personal knowledge and acquaintance which has its
condition in love, and is the foundation of the more purely moral
qualities of which our text speaks.

Is there, then, any distinction between these two? I think there is very
obviously so. 'Righteousness' is, I suppose, to be understood here in
its narrower meaning of observance of what is right, the squaring of
conduct according to a solemn sovereign law of duty. Substantially it is
equivalent to the somewhat heathenish word 'morality,' and refers human
conduct and character to a law or standard. What, then, is 'holiness'?
It is the same general conduct and character, considered, however, under
another aspect, and in another relation. It involves the reference of
life and self to God, consecration to, and service of Him. It is not a
mere equivalent of purity, but distinctly carries the higher reference.
The obedience now is not to a law but to a Lord. The perfection now does
not consist in conformity to an ideal standard, but in likeness and
devotion to God. That which I ought to do is that which my Father in
heaven wills. Or, if the one word may roughly represent the more secular
word 'morality,' the other may roughly represent the less devout phrase,
'practical religion.'

These are 'new,' as actually realised in human nature. Paul thinks that
we shall not possess them except as a consequence of renovation. But
they are not 'new' in the sense that the contents of Christian morality
are different from the contents of the law written on men's hearts. The
Gospel proclaims and produces no fantastic ethics of its own. The
actions which it stamps in its mint are those which pass current in all
lands--not a provincial coinage, but recognised as true in ring, and of
full weight everywhere. Do not fancy that Christian righteousness is
different from ordinary 'goodness,' except as being broader and deeper,
more thorough-going, more imperative. Divergences there are, for our law
is more than a republication of the law written on men's hearts. Though
the one agrees with the other, yet the area which they cover is not the
same. The precepts of the one, like some rock-hewn inscriptions by
forgotten kings, are weathered and indistinct, often illegible, often
misread, often neglected. The other is written in living characters in a
perfect life. It includes all that the former attempts to enjoin, and
much more besides. It alters the perspective, so to speak, of heathen
morals, and brings into prominence graces overlooked or despised by
them. It breathes a deeper meaning and a tenderer beauty into the words
which express human conceptions of virtue, but it does take up these
into itself. And instead of setting up a 'righteousness' which is
peculiar to itself, and has nothing to do with the world's morality,
Christianity says, as Christ has taught us, 'Except your righteousness
_exceed_ the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not
enter into the kingdom of God.' The same apostle who here declares that
actual righteousness and holiness are new things on the earth, allows
full force to whatsoever weight may be in the heathen notion of
'virtue,' and adopts the words and ideas which he found ready made to
his hands, in that notion--as fitly describing the Christian graces
which he enjoined. Grecian moralists supplied him with the names true,
honest, just, and pure. His 'righteousness' accepted these as included
within its scope. And we have to remember that we are not invested with
that new nature, unless we are living in the exercise of these common
and familiar graces which the consciences and hearts of all the world
recognise for 'lovely' and 'of good report,' hail as 'virtue,' and crown
with 'praise.'

So, then, let me pause here for a moment to urge you to take these
thoughts as a very sharp and salutary test. You call yourselves
Christian people. The purpose of your Christianity is your growth and
perfecting in simple purity, and devotion to, and dependence on, our
loving Father. Our religion is nothing unless it leads to these.
Otherwise it is like a plant that never seeds, but may bear some feeble
blossoms that drop shrunken to the ground before they mature. To very
many of us the old solemn remonstrance should come with awakening
force--'Ye did run well, what did hinder you?' You have apprehended
Christ as the revealer and bringer of the great mercy of God, and have
so been led in some measure to put your confidence in Him for your
salvation and deliverance. But have you apprehended Him as the mould
into which your life is to be poured, that life having been made fluent
and plastic by the warmth of His love? You have apprehended Him as your
refuge; have you apprehended Him as your inward sanctity? You have gone
to Him as the source of salvation from the guilt and penalties of sin;
have you gone to Him, and are you daily growing in the conscious
possession of Him, as the means of salvation from the corruption and
evil of sin? He comes to make us good. What has He made you? Anything
different from what you were twenty years ago? Then, if not, and in so
far as you are unchanged and unbettered, the Gospel is a failure for
you, and you are untrue to it. The great purpose of all the work of
Christ--His life, His sorrows, His passion, His resurrection, His glory,
His continuous operation by the Spirit and the word is to make new men
who shall be just and devout, righteous and holy.

II. A second principle contained in these words, is that this moral
Renewal is a Creation in the image of God.

The new man is 'created after the image of God'--that is, of course,
according to or in the likeness of God. There is evident reference here
to the account of man's creation in Genesis, and the idea is involved
that this new man is the restoration and completion of that earlier
likeness, which, in some sense, has faded out of the features and form
of our sinful souls. It is to be remembered, however, that there is an
image of God inseparable from human nature, and not effaceable by any
obscuring or disturbance caused by sin. Man's likeness to God consists
in his being a person, possessed of a will and self-consciousness, and
that mysterious gift of personality abides whatever perishes. But beyond
that natural image of God, as we may call it, there is something else
which fades wholly with the first breath of evil, like the reflexion of
the sky on some windless sea. The natural likeness remains, and without
it no comparison would be possible. We should not think of saying that a
stone or an eagle were unlike God. But while the personal being makes
comparison fitting, what makes the true contrast? In what respect is man
unlike God? In moral antagonism. What is the true likeness? Moral
harmony. What separates men from their Father in heaven? Is it that His
'years are throughout all generations,' and 'my days are as an
handbreadth'? Is it that His power is infinite, and mine all thwarted by
other might and over tending to weakness and extinction? Is it that His
wisdom, sunlike, waxes not nor wanes, and there is nothing hid from its
beams, while my knowledge, like the lesser light, shines by reflected
radiance, serves but to make the night visible, and is crescent and
decaying, changeful and wandering? No. All such distinctions based upon
what people call the sovereign attributes of God--the distinctions of
creator and created, infinite and finite, omnipotent and weak, eternal
and transient--make no real gulf between God and man. If we have only to
say, 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are' His 'ways higher
than' our 'ways,' that difference is not unlikeness, and establishes no
separation; for low and flat though the dull earth be, does not heaven
bend down round it, and send rain and sun, dew and blessing? But it is
because 'your ways are not _as_ my ways'--because there is actual
opposition, because the _directions_ are different--that there is
unlikeness. The image of God lies not only in that personality which the
'Father of Lies' too possesses, but in 'righteousness and holiness.'

But besides this reference to the original creation of man, there is
another reason for the representation of the new nature as being a work
of divine creative power. It is in order to give the most emphatic
expression possible to the truth that we do not make our righteousness
for ourselves, but receive it as from Him. The new man is not our work,
it is God's creation. As at the beginning, the first human life is
represented as not originated in the line of natural cause and effect,
but as a new and supernatural commencement, so in every Christian soul
the life which is derived from God, and will unfold itself in His
likeness, comes from His own breath inbreathed into the nostrils. It too
is out of the line of natural causes. It too is a direct gift from God.
It too is a true supernatural being--a real and new creation.

May I venture a step further? 'The new man' is spoken of here as if it
had existence ere we 'put it on.' I do not press that, as if it
necessarily involved the idea which I am going to suggest, for the
peculiar form of expression is probably only due to the exigencies of
the metaphor. Still it may not be altogether foreign to the whole scope
of the passage, if I remind you that the new man, the true likeness of
God, has, indeed, a real existence apart from our assumption of it. Of
course, the righteousness and holiness which make that new nature in me
have no being till they become mine. But we believe that the
righteousness and holiness which we make ours come from another, who
bestows them on us. 'The new man' is not a mere ideal, but has a
historical and a present existence. The ideal has lived and lives, is a
human person, even Jesus Christ the express image of the Father, who is
the beginning of the new creation, who of God is made unto us wisdom and
righteousness. That fair vision of a humanity detached from all
consequences of sin, renewed in perfect beauty, stainless and Godlike,
is no unsubstantial dream, but a simple fact. He ever liveth. His word
to us is, 'I counsel thee to buy of me--white raiment.' And a full
parallel to the words of our text, which bid us 'put on the new man,
created after God in righteousness and holiness,' is found in the other
words of the same Apostle--'Let us cast off the works of darkness, and
let us put on the armour of light. Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.'

In accordance with this--

III. It is further to be noticed that this new creation has to be put on
and appropriated by us.

The same idea which, as I have already remarked, is conveyed by the
image of a new creation, is reiterated in this metaphor of putting on
the new nature, as if it were a garment. Our task is not to weave it,
but to wear it. It is made and ready.

And that process of assumption or putting on has two parts. We are
clothed upon with Christ in a double way, or rather in a double sense.
We are 'found in Him not having our own righteousness,' but invested
with His for our pardon and acceptance. We are clothed with His
righteousness for our purifying and sanctifying.

Both are the conditions of our being like God. Both are the gifts of
God. The one, however, is an act; the other a process. Both are
received. The one is received on condition of simple faith; the other is
received by the medium of faithful effort. Both are included in the wide
conception of salvation, but the law for the one is 'Not by works of
righteousness which we have done, but by His mercy He saved us'; and the
law for the other is--'Work out your own salvation with fear and
trembling.' Both come from Christ, but for the one we have the
invitation, 'Buy of Me white raiment that thou mayest be clothed'; and
for the other we have the command, 'Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and
make not provision for the flesh.' There is the assumption of His
righteousness which makes a man a Christian, and has for its condition
simple faith. There is the assumption of His righteousness sanctifying
and transforming us which follows in a Christian course, as its
indispensable accompaniment and characteristic, and that is realised by
daily and continuous effort.

And one word about the manner, the effort as set forth here; twofold, as
I have already pointed out--a negative and positive. We are not
concerned here with the relations of these amongst themselves, but I may
remark that there is no growth in holiness possible without the constant
accompanying process of excision and crucifixion of the old. If you want
to grow purer and liker Christ, you must slay yourselves. You cannot
gird on 'righteousness' above the old self, as some beggar might buckle
to himself royal velvet with its ermine over his filthy tatters. There
must be a putting off in order to and accompanying the putting on. Strip
yourselves of yourselves, and then you 'shall not be found naked,' but
clothed with the garments of salvation, as the bride with the robe which
is the token of the bridegroom's love, and the pledge of her espousals
to him.

And let nobody wonder that the Apostle here commands us, as by our own
efforts, to put on and make ours what is in many other places of
Scripture treated as God's gift. These earnest exhortations are
perfectly consistent with the belief that all comes from God. Our
faithful adherence to our Lord and Master, our honest efforts in His
strength to secure more and more of His likeness, determine the extent
to which we shall possess that likeness. The new nature is God's gift,
and it is given to us according to His own fulness indeed, but also
according to the measure of our faith. Blessed be His name! we have
nothing to do but to accept His gift. The garment with which He clothes
our nakedness and hides our filth is woven in no earthly looms. As with
the first sinful pair, so with all their children since, 'the Lord God
made them' the covering which they cannot make for themselves. But we
have to accept it, and we have by daily toil, all our lives long, to
gather it more and more closely around us, to wrap ourselves more and
more completely in its ample folds. We have by effort and longing, by
self-abnegation and aspiration, by prayer and work, by communion and
service, to increase our possession of that likeness to God which lives
in Jesus Christ, and from Him is stamped ever more and more deeply on
the heart. For the strengthening of our confidence and our gratitude, we
have to remember with lowly trust that it is true of us, 'If any man be
in Christ he is a new creature.' For the quickening of our energy and
faithful efforts we have to give heed to the command, and fulfil it in
ourselves--'Be ye renewed in the Spirit of your minds, and put on the
new man.'

IV. And, finally, the text contains the principle that the means of
appropriating this new nature is contact with the truth.

If you will look at the margins of some Bibles you will see that our
translators have placed there a rendering, which, as is not unfrequently
the case, is decidedly better than that adopted by them in the text.
Instead of 'true holiness,' the literal rendering is 'holiness of
truth'--and the Apostle's purpose in the expression is not to
particularise the quality, but the origin of the 'holiness.' It is 'of
truth,' that is, produced by the holiness which flows from the truth as
it is in Jesus, of which he has been speaking a moment before.

And we come, therefore, to this practical conclusion, that whilst the
agent of renovation is the Divine Spirit, and the condition of
renovation is our cleaving to Christ, the medium of renovation and the
weapon which transforming grace employs is 'the word of the truth of the
Gospel' whereby we are sanctified. There we get the law, and there we
get the motive and the impulse. There we get the encouragement and the
hope. In it, in the grand simple message--'God was in Christ,
reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto
them,' lie the germs of all moral progress. And in proportion as we
believe that--not with the cold belief of our understandings, but with
the loving affiance of our hearts and our whole spiritual being--in
proportion as we believe that, in that proportion shall we grow in
'knowledge,' shall we grow in 'righteousness,' in the 'image of Him that
created us.' The Gospel is the great means of this change, because it is
the great means by which He who works the change comes near to our
understandings and our hearts.

So let us learn how impossible are righteousness and holiness, morality
and religion in men, unless they flow from this source. It is the truth
that sanctifies. It is the Spirit who wields that truth who sanctifies.
It is Christ who sends the Spirit who sanctifies. But, brethren, beyond
the range of this light is only darkness, and that nature which is not
cleansed by His priestly hand laid upon it remains leprous, and he who
is clothed with any other garment than His righteousness will find 'the
covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it.' And let us
learn, on the other hand, the incompleteness and monstrosity of a
professed belief in 'the truth' which does not produce this
righteousness and holiness. It may be real--God forbid that we should
step into His place and assume His office of discerning the thoughts of
the heart, and the genuineness of Christian professions! But, at any
rate, it is no exaggeration nor presumption to say that a professed
faith which is not making us daily better, gentler, simpler, purer, more
truthful, more tender, more brave, more self-oblivious, more loving,
more strong--more like Christ--is wofully deficient either in reality or
in power--is, if genuine, ready to perish--if lit at all, smouldering to
extinction. Christian men and women! is 'the truth' moulding you into
Christ's likeness? If not, see to it whether it be the truth which you
are holding, and whether you are holding the truth or have unconsciously
let it slip from a grasp numbed by the freezing coldness of the world.

And for us all, let us see that we lay to heart the large truths of this
text, and give them that personal bearing without which they are of no
avail. _I_ need renovation in my inmost nature. Nothing can renew _my_
soul but the power of Christ, who is _my_ life. _I_ am naked and foul.
Nothing can cleanse and clothe _me_ but He. The blessed truth which
reveals Him calls for _my_ individual faith. And if _I_ put _my_
confidence in that Lord, He will dwell in _my_ inmost spirit, and so
sway _my_ affections and mould _my_ will that _I_ shall be transformed
unto His perfect likeness. He begins with each one of us by bringing the
best robe to cast over the rags of the returning prodigal. He ends not
with any who trust Him, until they stand amid the hosts of the heavens
who follow Him, clothed with fine linen clean and white, which is the
righteousness of His Holy ones.



GRIEVING THE SPIRIT

     'Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the
      day of redemption.'--Eph. iv. 30.


The miracle of Christianity is the Incarnation. It is not a link in a
chain, but a new beginning, the entrance into the cosmic order of a
Divine Power. The sequel of Bethlehem and Calvary and Olivet is the
upper room and the Pentecost. There is the issue of the whole mission
and work of Christ--the planting in the heart of humanity of a new and
divine life. All Christendom is professing to commemorate that fact
to-day, [Preached on Whitsunday] but a large portion of us forget that
it was but a transient sign of a perpetual reality. The rushing mighty
wind has died down into a calm; the fiery tongues have ceased to flicker
on the disciples' heads, but the miracle, which is permanent, and is
being repeated from day to day, in the experience of every believing
soul, is the inrush of the very breath of God into their lives, and the
plunging of them into a fiery baptism which melts their coldness and
refines away their dross. Now, my text brings before us some very
remarkable thoughts as to the permanent working of the Divine Spirit
upon Christian souls, and upon this it bases a very tender and
persuasive exhortation to conduct. And I desire simply to try to bring
out the fourfold aspect in those words. There is, first, a wondrous
revelation; second, a plain lesson as to what that Divine Spirit chiefly
does; third, a solemn warning as to man's power and freedom to thwart
it; and, lastly, a tender motive for conduct. 'Grieve not the Holy
Spirit, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.'

Now let us look briefly at these four thoughts: Here we have--

I. A wonderful revelation.

Wonderful to all, startling to some. If you can speak of grief, you must
be speaking of a person. An influence cannot be sorry, whatever may
happen to it. And that word of my text is no more violent metaphor or
exaggeratedly strong way of suggesting a motive, but it keeps rigidly
within the New Testament limits, in reference to that Divine Spirit,
when to Him it attributes this personal emotion of sorrow with its
correlation of possible joy.

Now, I do not need to dwell upon the thought here, but I do desire to
emphasise it, especially in view of the strangely hazy and defective
conceptions which so many Christian people have upon this matter. And I
desire to remind you that the implied assumption of a personal Spirit,
capable of being 'grieved,' which is in this text, is in accordance with
all the rest of the New Testament teaching.

What did Jesus Christ mean when He spoke of one who 'will guide you into
all truth'; of one who 'whatsoever He shall hear, those things shall He
speak'? What does the book of the Acts mean when it says that the Spirit
said to the believers in Antioch, 'Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the
work whereunto I have called them'? What did Paul mean when he said, 'In
every city the Holy Ghost testifieth that bonds and afflictions await
me'? What does the minister officiating in baptism mean when he says, 'I
baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Ghost'? That form presents, according to many interpretations, a Divine
Person, a Man, and an Influence. Why are these bracketed together? And
what do we mean when, at the end of every Christian service, we invoke
'The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and
the fellowship of the Holy Spirit'? A Man, and God, and an Influence--is
that the interpretation? You cannot get rid from the New Testament
teaching, whether you accept it or not--you cannot eliminate from it
this, that the divine causality of our salvation is threefold and one,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

Now, brethren, I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that
practically the average orthodox believer believes in a duality, and not
a Trinity, in the divine nature. I do not care about the scholastic
words, but what I would insist upon is that the course of Christian
thinking has been roughly this. First of all, in the early Church, the
question of the Divine nature came into play, mainly in reference to the
relation of the Eternal Word to the Eternal Father, and of the
Incarnation to both. And then, when that was roughly settled, there came
down through many ages, and there still subsists, the endeavour to cast
into complete and intelligible forms the doctrine, if I must use the
word, of Christ's nature and work. And now, as I believe, to a very
large extent, the foremost and best thinking of the Christian Church is
being occupied with that last problem, the nature and work of that
Divine Spirit. I believe that we stand on the verge of a far clearer
perception of, and of a far more fervent and realising faith in, the
Spirit of God, than ever the Churches have seen before. And I pray you
to remember that however much your Christian thought and Christian
faith may be centred upon, and may be drawing its nourishment and its
joy from, the work of Jesus Christ who died on the Cross for our
salvation, and lives to be our King and Defender, there is a gap--not
only in your Christian Creed, but also in your Christian experiences and
joys and power, unless you have risen to this thought, that the Divine
Spirit is not only an influence, a wind, a fire, an oil, a dove, a dew,
but a Divine Person. We have to go back to the old creed--'I believe in
God the Father Almighty ... and in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord
... I believe in the Holy Ghost.'

But further, this same revelation carries with it another, and to some
of us a startling thought. 'Grieve not the Holy Spirit': that Divine
Person is capable of grief. I do not believe that is rhetorical
exaggeration. Of course I know that we should think of God as the
ever-blessed God, but we also in these last days begin to think more
boldly, and I believe more truly, that if man is in the image of God,
and there is a divine element in humanity, there must be a human element
in divinity. And though I know that it is perilous to make affirmations
about a matter so far beyond our possibility of verification by
experience, I venture to think that perhaps the doctrine that God is
lifted up high above all human weaknesses and emotions does not mean
that there can be no shadow cast on the divine blessedness by the dark
substance of human sin. I do not venture to assert: I only suggest; and
this I know, that He who said to us, 'He that hath seen Me hath seen the
Father,' had His eyes filled with tears, even in His hour of triumph, as
He looked across the valley and saw the city sparkling in the rays of
the morning sun. May we venture to see there an unveiling of the divine
heart? Love has an infinite capacity of sorrow as of joy. But I leave
these perhaps too presumptuous and lofty thoughts, to turn to the other
points involved in the words before us.

I said, in the second place, there was--

II. A plain lesson here, as to the great purpose for which the Divine
Spirit has been lodged in the heart of humanity.

I find that in the two words of my text, 'the Holy Spirit,' and 'ye were
thereby sealed unto the day of redemption.' If the central
characteristic which it imports us to know and to keep in mind is that
implied by the name, 'the Holy Spirit' then, of course, the great work
that He has to perform upon earth is to make men like Himself. And that
is further confirmed by the emblem of the seal which is here; for the
seal comes in contact with the thing sealed, and leaves the impression
of its own likeness there. And whatever else--and there is a great deal
else that I cannot touch now--may be included in that great thought of
the sealing by the Divine Spirit, these things are inseparably connected
with, and suggested by it, viz. the actual contact of the Spirit of God
with our spirits, which is expressed, as you may remember, in the other
metaphors of being baptized in and anointed with, and yet more
important, the result purposed by that contact being mainly to make us
holy.

Now, I pray you to think of how different that is from all other notions
of inspiration that the world has ever known, and how different it is
from a great many ideas that have had influence within the Christian
Church. People say there are not any miracles now, and say we are worse
off than when there used to be. That Divine Spirit does not come to give
gifts of healing, interpretations of tongues, and all the other abnormal
and temporary results which attended the first manifestations. These,
when they were given, were but means to an end, and the end subsists
whilst the means are swept away. It is better to be made good than to be
filled with all manner of miraculous power. 'In this rejoice, not that
the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names
are written in heaven.' All the rest is transient. It is gone; let it
go, we are not a bit the poorer for want of it. This remains--not
tongues, nor gifts of healing, nor any other of these miraculous and
extraordinary and external powers--but the continual operation of a
divine influence, moulding men into its own likeness.

Christianity is intensely ethical, and it sets forth, as the ultimate
result of all its machinery, changing men into the likeness of God.
Holiness is that for which Christ died, that for which the Divine Spirit
works. Unless we Christian people recognise the true perspective of the
Spirit's gifts, and put at the base the extraordinary, and higher than
these, but still subordinate, the intellectual, and on top of all the
spiritual and moral, we do not understand the meaning of the central
gift and possible blessing of Christianity, to make us holy, or, if you
do not like the theological word, let us put it into still plainer and
more modern English, to make you and me good men and women, like God.
That is the mightiest work of that Divine Spirit.

We have here--

III. A plain warning as to the possibility of thwarting these
influences.

Nothing here about irresistible grace; nothing here about a power that
lays hold upon a man, and makes him good, he lying passive in its hands
like clay in the hands of the potter! You will not be made holy without
the Divine Spirit, but you will not be made holy without your working
along with it. There is a possibility of resisting, and there is a
possibility of co-operating. Man is left free. God does not lay hold of
any one by the hair of his head, and drag him into paths of
righteousness whether he will or no. But whilst there is the necessity
for co-operation, which involves the possibility of resistance, we must
also remember that that new life which comes into a man, and moulds his
will as well as the rest of his nature, is itself the gift of God. We do
not get into a contradiction when we thus speak, we only touch the edge
of a great ocean in which our plummets can find no bottom. The same
unravellable knot as to the co-operation of the divine and the creatural
is found in the natural world, as in the experiences of the Christian
soul. You have to work, and your work largely consists in yielding
yourselves to the work of God upon you. 'Work out your own salvation
with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in you.' Brethren!
If you and I are Christian people, we have put into our hearts and
spirits the talent. It depends on us whether we wrap it in a napkin, and
stow it away underground somewhere, or whether we use it, and fructify
and increase it. If you wrap it in a napkin and put it away underground,
when you come to take it out, and want to say, 'Lo! there Thou hast that
is Thine,' you will find that it was not solid gold, which could not
rust or diminish, but that it has been like some volatile essence, put
away in an unventilated place, and imperfectly secured: the napkin is
there, but the talent has vanished. We have to work with God, and we can
resist. Ay, and there is a deeper and a sadder word than that applied by
the same Apostle in another letter to the same subject. We can 'quench'
the light and extinguish the fire.

What extinguishes it? Look at the catalogue of sins that lie side by
side with this exhortation of my text! They are all small
matters--bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour, evil-speaking, malice,
stealing, lying, and the like; very 'homely' transgressions, if I may so
say. Yes, and if you pile enough of them upon the spark that is in your
hearts you will smother it out. Sin, the wrenching of myself away from
the influences, not attending to the whispers and suggestions, being
blind to the teaching of the Spirit through the Word and through
Providence: these are the things that 'grieve the Holy Spirit of God.'

And so, lastly, we have here--

IV. A Tender Motive, a dissuasive from sin, a persuasive to yielding and
to righteousness.

Many a man has been kept from doing wrong things by thinking of a sad
pale face sitting at home waiting for him. Many a boy has been kept from
youthful transgressions which war against his soul here, on the streets
of Manchester, full as they are of temptations, by thinking that it
would grieve the poor old mother in her cottage, away down in the
country somewhere. We can bring that same motive to bear, with
infinitely increased force, in regard to our conduct as Christian
people. 'Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God.' A father feels a pang if he
sees that his child makes no account of some precious gift that he has
bestowed upon him, and leaves it lying about anywhere. A loving friend,
standing on the margin of the stream, and calling to his friends in a
boat when they are drifting to the rapids, turns away sad if they do not
attend to his voice. That Divine Spirit pleads with us, and proffers its
gifts to us, and turns away--I was going to use too strong a word,
perhaps--sick at heart, not because of wounded authority, but because of
wounded love and baffled desire to help, when we, in spite of It, will
take our own way, neglect the call that warns us of our peril, and leave
untouched the gifts that would have made us safe.

Dear brethren, surely such a dissuasive from evil, and such a persuasive
to good, is mightier than all abstractions about duty and conscience and
right, and the like. 'Do it rightly' says Paul, 'and you will please Him
that hath called you'; leave the evil thing undone, 'and my heart shall
be glad, even mine.' You and I can grieve the Christ whose Spirit is
given to us. You and I can add something to 'the joy of our Lord.'



GOD'S IMITATORS

     'Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children'--Eph. v. 1.


The Revised Version gives a more literal and more energetic rendering of
this verse by reading, 'Be ye, therefore, _imitators_ of God, _as
beloved_ children.' It is the only place in the Bible where that bold
word 'imitate' is applied to the Christian relation to God. But, though
the expression is unique, the idea underlies the whole teaching of the
New Testament on the subject of Christian character and conduct. To be
like God, and to set ourselves to resemble Him, is the sum of all duty;
and in the measure in which we approximate thereto, we come to
perfection. So, then, there are here just two points that I would
briefly touch upon now--the one is the sublime precept of the text, and
the other the all-sufficient motive enforcing it. 'Be ye imitators of
God as'--because you are, and know yourselves to be--'beloved children,'
and it therefore behoves you to be like your Father.

I. First, then, this sublime precept.

Now notice that, broad as this precept is, and all-inclusive of every
kind of excellence and duty as it may be, the Apostle has a very
definite and specific meaning in it. There is one feature, and only one,
in which, accurately speaking, a man may be like God. Our limited
knowledge can never be like the ungrowing perfect wisdom of God. Our
holiness cannot be like His, for there are many points in our nature and
character which have no relation or correspondence to anything in the
divine nature. But what is left? Love is left. Our other graces are not
like the God to whom they cleave. My faith is not like His faithfulness.
My obedience is not like His authority. My submission is not like His
autocratic power. My emptiness is not like His fulness. My aspirations
are not like His gratifying of them. They correspond to God, but
correspondence is not similarity; rather it presupposes unlikeness. Just
as a concavity will fit into a convexity, for the very reason that it is
concave and not convex, so the human unlikenesses, which are
correspondent to God, are the characteristics by which it becomes
possible that we should cleave to Him and inhere in Him. But whilst
there is much in which He stands alone and incomparable, and whilst we
have all to say, 'Who is like unto Thee, O Lord?' or what likeness shall
we compare unto Him? we yet can obey in reference to one thing,--and to
one thing only, as it seems to me--the commandment of my text, 'Be ye
imitators of God.' We can be _like_ Him in nothing else, but our love
not only corresponds to His, but is of the same quality and nature as
His, howsoever different it may be in sweep and in fervour and in
degree. The tiniest drop that hangs upon the tip of a thorn will be as
perfect a sphere as the sun, and it will have its little rainbow on its
round, with all the prismatic colours, the same in tint and order and
loveliness, as when the bow spans the heavens. The dew-drop may imitate
the sun, and we are to be imitators of God; knit to Him by the one thing
in us which is kindred to Him in the deepest sense--the love that is the
life of God and the perfecting of man.

Well, then, notice how the Apostle in the context fastens upon a certain
characteristic of that divine love which we are to imitate in our lives;
and thereby makes the precept a very practical and a very difficult one.
Godlike love will be love that gives as liberally as His does. What is
the very essence of all love? Longing to be like. And the purest and
deepest love is love which desires to impart itself, and that is God's
love. The Bible seems to teach us that in a very mysterious sense, about
which the less we say the less likely we are to err, there is a quality
of giving up, as well as of giving, in God's love; for we read of the
Father that 'spared not His Son,' by which is meant, not that He did not
shrink from inflicting something upon the Son, but that He did not
grudgingly keep that Son for Himself. 'He spared not His own Son, but
delivered Him up to the death for us all.' And if we can say but little
about that surrender on the part of the infinite Fountain of all love,
we can say that Jesus Christ, who is the activity of the Father's love,
spared not Himself, but, as the context puts it, 'gave Himself _up_ for
us.'

And that is the pattern for us. That thought is not a subject to be
decorated with tawdry finery of eloquence, or to be dealt with as if it
were a sentimental prettiness very fit to be spoken of, but impossible
to be practised. It is the duty of every Christian man and woman, and
they have not done their duty unless they have learned that the bond
which unites them to men is, in its nature, the very same as the bond
which unites men to God; and that they will not have lived righteously
unless they learn to be 'imitators of God,' in the surrender of
themselves for their brother's good.

Ah, friend, that grips us very tight--and if there were a little more
reality and prose brought into our sentimental talk about Christian
love, and that love were more often shown in action, in all the
self-suppression and taking a lift of a world's burdens, which its great
Pattern demands, the world would be less likely to curl a scornful lip
at the Church's talk about brotherly love.

You say that you are a Christian--that is to say a child of God. Do you
know anything, and would anybody looking at you see that you knew
anything, about the love which counts no cost and no sacrifice too great
to be lavished on the unworthy and the sinful?

But that brings me to another point. The Apostle here, in the context,
not for the sake of saying pretty things, but for the sake of putting
sharp points on Christian duty, emphasises another thought, that Godlike
love will be a forgiving love. Why should we be always waiting for the
other man to determine our relations to him, and consider that if he
does not like us we are absolved from the duty of loving him? Why should
we leave him to settle the terms upon which we are to stand? God has
love, as the Sermon on the Mount puts it, 'to the unthankful and the
evil,' and we shall not be imitating His example unless we carry the
same temper into all our relationships with our fellows.

People sit complacently and hear all that I am now trying to enforce,
and think it is the right thing for me to say, but do you think it is
the right thing for you to do? When a man obviously does not like you,
or perhaps tries to harm you, what then? How do you meet him? 'He maketh
His sun to shine, and sendeth His rain, on the unthankful and the evil.'
'Be ye imitators of God, as beloved children.'

Now note the all-sufficient motive for this great precept.

The sense of being loved will make loving, and nothing else will. The
only power that will eradicate, or break without eradicating, our
natural tendency to make ourselves our centres, is the recognition that
there, at the heart, and on the central throne of the universe, and the
divinest thing in it, there sits perfect and self-sacrificing Love,
whose beams warm even us. The only flame that kindles love in a man's
heart, whether it be to God or to man, is the recognition that he
himself stands in the full sunshine of that blaze from above, and that
God has loved him. Our hearts are like reverberating furnaces, and when
the fire of the consciousness of the divine love is lit in them, then
from sides and roof the genial heat is reflected back again to intensify
the central flame. Love begets love, and according to Paul, and
according to John, and according to the Master of both of them, if a man
loves God, then that glowing beam will glow whether it is turned to
earth or turned to heaven.

The Bible does not cut love into two, and keep love to God in one
division of the heart and love to man in another, but regards them as
one and the same; the same sentiment, the same temper, the same attitude
of heart and mind, only that in the one case the love soars, and in the
other it lives along the level. The two are indissolubly tied together.

It is because a man knows himself to be beloved that therefore he is
stimulated and encouraged to be an 'imitator of God' and, on the other
hand, the sense of being God's child underlies all real imitation of
Him. Imitation is natural to the child. It is a miserable home where a
boy does not imitate his father, and it is the father's fault in nine
cases out of ten if he does not. Whoever feels himself to be a beloved
child is thereby necessarily drawn to model himself on the Father that
he loves, because he knows that the Father loves him.

So I come to the blessed truth that Christian morality does not say to
us, 'Now begin, and work, and tinker away at yourselves, and try to get
up some kind of excellence of character, and then come to God, and pray
Him to accept you.' That is putting the cart before the horse. The order
is reversed. We are to begin with taking our personal salvation and
God's love to us for granted, and to work from that. Realise that you
are beloved children, and then set to work to live accordingly. If we
are ever to do what is our bounden duty to do, in all the various
relations of life, we must begin with recognising, with faithful and
grateful hearts, the love wherewith God has loved us. We are to think
much and confidently of ourselves as beloved of God, and that, and only
that, will make us loving to men.

The Nile floods the fields of Egypt and brings greenness and abundance
wherever its waters are carried, because thousands of miles away, close
up to the Equator, the snows have melted and filled the watercourses in
the far-off wilderness. And so, if we are to go out into life, living
illustrations and messengers of a love that has redeemed even us, we
must, in many a solitary moment, and in the depths of our quiet hearts,
realise and keep fast the conviction that God hath loved us, and Christ
hath died for us.

But a solemn consideration has to be pressed on all our consciences, and
that is that there is something wrong with a man's Christian confidence
whose assurance that he himself possesses a share in the love of God in
Christ, is not ever moving him to imitation of the love in which he
trusts. It is a shame that any one without Christian faith and love
should be as charitable, as open to pity and to help, as earnest in any
sort of philanthropic work, as Christian men and women are. But godless
and perfectly secular philanthropy treads hard on the heels of Christian
charity to-day. The more shame to us if we have been eating our morsels
alone, and hugging ourselves in the possession of the love which has
redeemed us; and if it has not quickened us to the necessity of copying
it in our relations to our fellows. There is something dreadfully wrong
about such a Christian character. 'He that loveth not his brother whom
he hath seen, how shall he love God whom he hath not seen?'

Take these plain principles, and honestly fit them to your characters
and lives, and you will revolutionise both.



WHAT CHILDREN OF LIGHT SHOULD BE

     'Walk as children of light.'--Eph. v. 8.


It was our Lord who coined this great name for His disciples. Paul's use
of it is probably a reminiscence of the Master's, and so is a hint of
the existence of the same teachings as we now find in the existing
Gospels, long before their day. Jesus Christ said, 'Believe in the
light, that ye may be the children of light'; and Paul gives
substantially the same account of the way by which a man becomes a Son
of the Light when he says, in the words preceding my text, 'Ye were
sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord.'

Union with Him makes light, just as the bit of carbon will glow as long
as it is in contact with the electric force, and subsides again into
darkness when that is switched off. To be in Christ is to be a child of
light, and to believe in Christ is to be in Him.

But the intense moral earnestness of our Apostle is indicated by the
fact that on both occasions in which he uses this designation he does
so, not for the purpose of heightening the sense of the honour and
prerogative attached to it, but for the sake of deducing from it plain
and stringent moral duties, and heightening the sense of obligation to
holy living.

'Walk as children of light.' Be true to your truest, deepest self.
Manifest what you are. Let the sweet, sacred secrets of inward communion
come out in the trivialities of ordinary conduct; make of your every
thought a deed, and see to it that every deed be vitalised and purified
by its contact with the great truths and thoughts that lie in this name.
These are various ways of putting this one all-sufficient directory of
conduct.

Now, in the context, the Apostle expands this concentrated exhortation
in three or four different directions, and perhaps we may best set forth
its meaning if we shape our remarks by these, I venture to cast them,
for the sake of emphasis, into a hortatory form.

I. Aim at an all-round productiveness of the natural fruits of the
light.

The true reading is, 'Walk as children of light, for the fruit of the
light' (not _spirit_, as the Authorised Version reads it) 'is in all
goodness and righteousness and truth.' Now, it is obvious that the
alteration of 'light' instead of 'spirit' brings the words into
connection with the preceding and the following. The reference to the
'fruits of the spirit' would be entirely irrelevant in this place; a
reference to the 'fruit of the _light_,' as being every form of goodness
and righteousness and truth, is altogether in place.

There is, then, a natural tendency in the light to blossom out into all
forms and types of goodness. 'Fruit' suggests the idea of natural,
silent, spontaneous, effortless growth. And, although that is by no
means a sufficient account of the process by which bad men become good
men, it is an inseparable element, in all true moral renovation, that it
be the natural outcome and manifestation of an inward principle;
otherwise it is mere hypocritical adornment, or superficial appearance.
If we are to do good we must first of all _be_ good. If from us there
are to come righteousness and truth, and all other graces of character,
there must, first of all, be the radical change which is involved in
passing from separateness in the darkness to union with Jesus Christ in
the light. The Apostle's theory of moral renovation is that you must
begin with the implantation in the spirit of the source of all moral
goodness--viz. Jesus Christ--brought into the heart by the uniting power
of humble faith. And then there will be lodged in our being a vital
power, of which the natural outcome will be all manner of fair and pure
things. Effort is needed, as I shall have to say; but prior to effort
there must be union with Jesus Christ.

This wide, general commandment of our text is sufficiently definite,
thinks Paul; for if the light be in you it will naturally effloresce
into all forms of beauty. Light is the condition of fruitfulness.
Everywhere the vital germ is only acted upon by the light. No sunshine,
no flowers; darkness produces thin, etiolated, whitened, and feeble
shoots at the best. Let the light blaze in, and the blanched feebleness
becomes vigorous and unfolds itself. How much more will light be the
condition of fruitfulness when the very light itself is the seed from
which all fruit is developed.

But, still further, mark how there must be an all-round completeness in
order that we shall fairly set forth the glory and power of the light of
which our faith makes us children and partakers. The fruit 'is in all
goodness and righteousness and truth.' These three aspects--the good,
the right, the true--may not be a scientific, ethical classification,
but they give a sufficiently plain and practical distinction. Goodness,
in which the prevailing idea is beneficence and the kindlier virtues;
righteousness, which refers to the sterner graces of justice; truth, in
which the prevalent idea is conformity in action with facts and the
conditions of man's life and entire sincerity--these three do cover,
with sufficient completeness, the whole ground of possible human
excellence. But the Apostle widens them still further by that little
word _all_.

We all tend to cultivate those virtues which are in accordance with our
natural dispositions, or are made most easy to us by our circumstances.
And there is nothing in which we more need to seek comprehensiveness
than in the effort to educate ourselves into, and to educe from
ourselves, kinds of goodness and forms of excellence which are not
naturally in accordance with our dispositions, or facilitated by our
circumstances. The tree planted in the shrubbery will grow all lopsided;
the bushes on the edge of the cliff will be shorn away on the windward
side by the teeth of the south-western gale, and will lean over
northwards, on the side of least resistance. And so we all are apt to
content ourselves with doing the good things that are easiest for us, or
that fit into our temperament and character. Jesus Christ would have us
to be all-round men, and would that we should seek to aim after and
possess the kinds of excellence that are least cognate to our
characters. Are you strong, and do you pride yourself upon your
firmness? Cultivate gentleness. Are you amiable, and pride yourself,
perhaps, upon your sympathetic tenderness? Try to get a little iron and
quinine into your constitution. Seek to be the man that you are least
likely to be, and aim at a comprehensive development of '_all_
righteousness and goodness and truth.'

Further, remember that this all-round completeness is not attained as
the result of an effortless growth. True, these things are the fruits of
the light, but also true, they are the prizes of struggle and the
trophies of warfare. No man will ever attain to the comprehensive moral
excellence which it is in his own power to win; no Christian will ever
be as all-round a good man as he has the opportunities of being, unless
he makes it his business, day by day, to aim after the conscious
increase of gifts that he possesses, and the conscious appropriation and
possession of those of which he is still lacking. 'Nothing of itself
will come,' or very little. True, the light will shine out in variously
tinted ray if it be in a man, as surely as from the seed come the blade
and the ear and the full corn in the ear, but you will not have nor keep
the light which thus will unfold itself unless you put forth appropriate
effort. Christ comes into our hearts, but we have to bring Him there.
Christ dwells in our hearts, but we have to work into our nature, and
work out in action, the gifts that He bestows. They will advance but
little in the divine life who trust to the natural unfolding of the
supernatural life within them, and do not help its unfolding by their
own resolute activity. 'Walk as children of the light.' There is your
duty, for 'the fruit of the light is all righteousness.' One might have
supposed that the commandments would be, 'Be passive as children of the
light, for the light will grow.' But the Apostle binds together, as
always, the two things, the divine working and the human effort at
reception, retention, and application of that divine work, just as he
does in the great classical passage, 'Work out your own salvation, for
it is God that worketh in you.'

II. Secondly, the general exhortation of my text widens out itself into
this--test all things by Christ's approval of them.

'Proving what is well pleasing unto the Lord.' That, according to the
natural construction of the Greek, is the main way by which the Apostle
conceives that his general commandment of 'walking as children of the
light' is to be carried out. You do it if, step by step, and moment by
moment, and to every action of life, you apply this standard--Does
Christ like it? Does it please Him? When that test is rigidly applied,
then, and only then, will you walk as becomes the children of the light.

So, then, there is a standard--not what men approve, not what my
conscience, partially illuminated, may say is permissible, not what is
recognised as allowable by the common maxims of the world round about
us, but Christ's approval. How different the hard, stern, and often
unwelcome prescriptions of law and rigidity of some standards of right
become when they are changed into that which pleases the Divine Lord and
Lover! Surely it is something blessed that the hard, cold, and to such a
large extent powerless conceptions of duty or obligation shall be
changed into pleasing Jesus Christ; and that so our hearts shall be
enlisted in the service of our consciences, and love shall be glad to do
the Beloved's will. There are many ways by which the burden of life's
obligations is lightened to the Christian. I do not know that any of
them is more precious than the fact that law is changed into His will,
and that we seek to do what is right because it pleases the Master.
There is the standard.

It will be easy for us to come to the right appreciation of individual
actions when we are living in the light. Union with Jesus Christ will
make us quick to discern His will. We have a conscience;--well, that
needs educating and enlightening, and very often correcting. We have the
Word of God;--well, that needs explanation, and needs to be brought
close to our hearts. If we have Christ dwelling in us, in the measure
in which we are in sympathy with Him, we shall be gifted with clear
eyes, not indeed to discern the expedient--that belongs to another
region altogether--but we shall be gifted with very clear eyes to
discern right from wrong, and there will be an instinctive recoil from
the evil, and an instinctive attachment of ourselves to the good. If we
are in the Lord we shall easily be able to prove what is acceptable and
well-pleasing to Him.

We shall never walk as the children of the light, unless we have the
habit of referring everything, trifles and great things, to His
arbitrament, and seeking in them all to do what is pleasing in His
sight. The smallest deed may be brought under the operation of the
largest principles. Gravitation influences the microscopic grain of sand
as well as planets and sun. There is nothing so small but you can bring
it into this category--it either pleases or displeases Jesus Christ. And
the faults into which Christian men fall and in which they continue are
very largely owing to their carelessness in applying this standard to
the small things of their daily lives. The sleepy Custom House officers
let the contraband article in because it seems to be of small bulk.
There are old stories about how strong castles were taken by armed men
hidden in an innocent-looking cart of forage. Do you keep up a rigid
inspection at the frontier, and see to it that everything vindicates its
right to enter because it is pleasing to Jesus Christ.

III. Thirdly, we have here another expansion of the general command, and
that is--keep well separate from the darkness.

Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather
reprove them.' Now, your time will not allow me to dwell, as I had hoped
to do, upon the considerations to be suggested here. The very briefest
possible mention of them is all that I can afford.

'The unfruitful works of darkness';--well, then, the darkness has its
works, but though they be works they are not worth calling fruit. That
is to say, nothing except the conduct which flows from union with Jesus
Christ so corresponds to the man's nature and relations, or has any such
permanence about it as to entitle it to be called fruit. Other acts may
be 'works' but Paul will not dishonour the great word 'fruit' by
applying it to such rubbish as these, and so he brands them as
'unfruitful works of darkness.'

Keep well clear of them, says the Apostle. He is not talking here about
the relations between Christians and others, but about the relations
between Christian men and the _works_ of darkness. Only, of course, in
order to avoid fellowship with the works you will sometimes have to keep
yourselves well separate from their doers. Much association with such
men is forced upon us by circumstances, and much is the imperative duty
of Christian beneficence and charity. But I venture to express the
strong and growing conviction that there are few exhortations that the
secularised Church of this generation needs more than this commandment
of my text: 'Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness'
'What communion hath light with darkness?' Ah! we see plenty of it,
unnatural as it is, in the so-called Church of to-day. 'What concord
hath Christ with Belial? What part hath he that believeth with an
infidel? Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate.'

And, brethren, remember, a part of the separation is that your light
shall be a constant condemnation of the darkness. 'But rather reprove
them,' says my text; that is a work that devolves upon all Christians.
It is to be done, no doubt, by the silent condemnation of evil which
ever comes from the quiet doing of good. As an old preacher has it, 'The
presence of a saint hinders the devil of elbow-room for doing his
tricks.' The old legend told us that the fire-darting Apollo shot his
radiant arrows against the pythons and 'dragons of the slime.' The sons
of light have the same office--by their light of life to make the
darkness aware of itself, and ashamed of itself; and to change it into
light.

But silent reproving is not all our duty. The Christian Church has
wofully fallen beneath its duty, not only in regard to its complicity
with the social crimes of each generation, but in regard to its cowardly
silence towards them; especially when they flaunt and boast themselves
in high places. What has the Church said worthy of itself in regard to
war? What has the Church said worthy of itself in regard to impurity?
What has the Church said worthy of itself in regard to drunkenness? What
has the Church said worthy of itself in regard to the social vices that
are honeycombing society and this city to-day? If you are the sons of
light, walk as the sons of light, and have 'no fellowship with the
unfruitful works of darkness'; but set the trumpet to your lips, and
'declare unto My people their transgressions, and to the house of Israel
their sin.'



THE FRUIT OF THE LIGHT

     'The fruit of the light is in all goodness and righteousness and
      truth.'--Eph. v. 9 (R.V.).


This is one of the cases in which the Revised Version has done service
by giving currency to an unmistakably accurate and improved reading.
That which stands in our Authorised Version, 'the fruit of the Spirit'
seems to have been a correction made by some one who took offence at the
violent metaphor, as he conceived it, that 'light' should bear 'fruit'
and desired to tinker the text so as to bring it into verbal
correspondence with another passage in the Epistle to the Galatians,
where 'the fruits of the Spirit' are enumerated. But the reading, 'the
fruit of the _light_,' has not only the preponderance of manuscript
authority in its favour, but is preferable because it preserves a
striking image, and is in harmony with the whole context.

The Apostle has just been exhorting his Ephesian friends to walk as
'children of the light' and before he goes on to expand and explain that
injunction he interjects this parenthetical remark, as if he would say,
To be true to the light that is in you is the sum of duty, and the
condition of perfectness, '_for_ the fruit of the light is in all
goodness and righteousness and truth' That connection is entirely
destroyed by the substitution of 'spirit.' The whole context, both
before and after my text, is full of references to the light as working
in the life; and a couple of verses after it we read about 'the
unfruitful works of darkness' an expression which evidently looks back
to my text.

So please do understand that our text in this sermon is--'The fruit of
the _light_ consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth.'

I. Now, first of all, I have just a word to say about this light which
is fruitful.

Note--for it is, I think, not without significance--a minute variation
in the Apostle's language in this verse and in the context. He has been
speaking of 'light,' now he speaks of '_the_ light'; and that, I think,
is not accidental. The expression, 'walk as children of light,' is more
general and vague. The expression, 'the fruit of _the_ light,' points to
some specific source from which all light flows. And observe, also, that
we have in the previous context, 'Ye were sometime darkness, but now are
ye light _in the Lord_,' which evidently implies that the light of which
my text speaks is not natural to men, but is the result of the entrance
into their darkness of a new element.

Now I do not suppose that we should be entitled to say that Paul here is
formally anticipating the deep teaching of the Apostle John that Jesus
Christ is '_the_ Light of men,' and especially of Christian men. But he
is distinctly asserting, I think, that the light which blesses and
hallows humanity is no diffused glow, but is all gathered and
concentrated into one blazing centre, from which it floods the hearts of
men. Or, to put away the metaphor, he is here asserting that the only
way by which any man can cease to be, in the doleful depths of his
nature, darkness in its saddest sense is by opening his heart through
faith, that into it there may rush, as the light ever does where an
opening--be it only a single tiny cranny--is made, the light which is
Christ, and without whom is darkness.

I know, of course, that, apart altogether from the exercise of faith in
Jesus Christ, there do shine in men's hearts rays of the light of
knowledge and of purity; but if we believe the teaching of Scripture,
these, too, are from Christ, in His universally-diffused work, by which,
apart altogether from individual faith, or from a knowledge of
revelation, He is 'the light that lighteth every man coming into the
world.' And I hold that, wheresoever there is conscience, wheresoever
there is judgment and reason, wheresoever there are sensitive desires
after excellence and nobleness, _there_ is a flickering of a light which
I believe to be from Christ Himself. But that light, as widely diffused
as humanity, fights with, and is immersed in, darkness. In the physical
world, light and darkness are mutually exclusive: where the one is the
other comes not; but in the spiritual world the paradox is true that the
two co-exist. Apart from revelation and the acceptance of Jesus Christ's
person and work by our humble faith, the light struggles with the
darkness, and the darkness obstinately refuses to admit its entrance,
and 'comprehendeth it not.' And so, ineffectual but to make restless and
to urge to vain efforts and to lay up material for righteous judgment,
is the light that shines in men whose hearts are shut against Christ.
The fruitful light is Christ within us, and, unless we know and possess
it by the opening of heart and mind and will, the solemn words preceding
my text are true of us: 'Ye were sometime darkness.' Oh, brother! do you
see to it that the subsequent words are true of you: 'Now are ye light
in the Lord.' Only if you are in Christ are you truly light.

II. Now, secondly, notice the fruitfulness of this indwelling light.

Of course the metaphor that light, like a tree, grows and blossoms and
puts forth fruit, is a very strong one. And its very violence and
incongruity help its force. Fruit is generally used in Scripture in a
good sense. It conveys the notion of something which is the natural
outcome of a vital power, and so, when we talk about the light being
fruitful, we are setting, in a striking image, the great Christian
thought that, if you want to get right conduct, you must have renewed
character; and that if you have renewed character you will get right
conduct. This is the principle of my text. The light has in it a
productive power; and the true way to adorn a life with all things
beautiful, solemn, lovely, is to open the heart to the entrance of Jesus
Christ.

God's way is--first, new life, then better conduct. Men's way is,
'cultivate morality, seek after purity, try to be good.' And surely
conscience and experience alike tell us that that is a hopeless effort.
To begin with what should be second is an anachronism in morals, and
will be sure to result in failure in practice. He is not a wise man that
tries to build a house from the chimneys downwards. And to talk about
making a man's doings good before you have secured a radical change in
the doer, by the infusion into him of the very life of Jesus Christ
Himself, is to begin at the top story, instead of at the foundation.
Many of us are trying to put the cart before the horse in that fashion.
Many of us have made the attempt over and over again, and the attempt
always has failed and always will fail. You may do much for the mending
of your characters and for the incorporation in your lives of virtues
and graces which do not grow there naturally and without effort. I do
not want to cut the nerves of any man's stragglings, I do not want to
darken the brightness of any man's aspirations, but I do say that the
people who, apart from Jesus Christ, and the entrance into their souls
by faith of His quickening power, are seeking, some of them nobly, some
of them sadly, and all of them vainly, to cure their faults of
character, will never attain anything but a superficial and fragmentary
goodness, because they have begun at the wrong end.

But 'make the tree good' and its fruit will be good. Get Christ into
your heart, and all fair things will grow as the natural outcome of His
indwelling. The fruitfulness of the light is not put upon its right
basis until we come to understand that the light is Christ Himself, who,
dwelling in our hearts by faith, is made _in_ us as well as '_unto_ us
wisdom, and righteousness, and salvation, and redemption.' The beam that
is reflected from the mirror is the very beam that falls on the mirror,
and the fair things in life and conduct which Christian people bring
forth are in very deed the outcome of the vital power of Jesus Christ
which has entered into them. 'I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in
me,' is the Apostle's declaration in the midst of his struggles; and the
perfected saints before the throne cast their crowns at His feet, and
say, 'Not unto us! not unto us, but unto Thy name be the glory.' The
talent is the Lord's, only the spending of it is the servant's. And so
the order of the Divine appointment is, first, the entrance of the
light, and then the conduct that flows from it.

Note, too, how this same principle of the fruitfulness of the light
gives instruction as to the true place of effort in the Christian life.
The main effort ought to be to get more of the light into ourselves.
'Abide in Me, and I in you.' And so, and only so, will fruit come.

And such an effort has to take in hand all the circumference of our
being, and to fix thoughts that wander, and to still wishes that
clamour, and to empty hearts that are full of earthly loves, and to
clear a space in minds that are crammed with thoughts about the
transient and the near, in order that the mind may keep in steadfast
contemplation of Jesus, and the heart may be bound to Him by cords of
love that are not capable of being snapped, and scarcely of being
stretched, and the will may in patience stand saying, 'Speak, Lord! for
Thy servant heareth'; and the whole tremulous nature may be rooted and
built up in and on Him. Ah, brother! if we understand all that goes to
the fulfilment of that one sweet and merciful injunction, 'Abide in Me,'
we shall recognise that there is the field on which Christian effort is
mainly to be occupied.

But that is not all. For there must be likewise the effort to
appropriate, and still more to manifest in conduct, the fruit-bringing
properties of that indwelling light. 'Giving all diligence add to your
faith.' 'Having these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from all
filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of the
Lord.' We are often told that just as we trust Christ for our
forgiveness and acceptance, so we are to trust Him for our sanctifying
and perfecting. It is true, and yet it is not true. We are to trust Him
for our sanctifying and our perfecting. But the faith which trusts Him
for these is not a substitute for effort, but it is the foundation of
effort. And the more we rely on His power to cleanse us from all evil,
the more are we bound to make the effort in His power and in dependence
on Him, to cleanse ourselves from all evil, and to secure as our own the
natural outcomes of His dwelling within us, which are 'the fruits of the
light.'

III. And so, lastly, notice the specific fruits which the Apostle here
dwells upon.

They consist, says he, in all goodness and righteousness and truth. Now
'goodness' here seems to me to be used in its narrower sense, just as
the same Apostle uses it in the Epistle to the Romans, in contrast with
'righteousness,' where he says, 'for a good man some would even dare to
die.' There he means by 'good,' as he does here by 'goodness,' not the
general expression for all forms of virtue and gracious conduct, but the
specific excellence of kindliness, amiability, or the like.
'Righteousness' again, is that which rigidly adheres to the strict law
of duty, and carefully desires to give to every man what belongs to him,
and to every relation of life what it requires. And 'truth' is rather
the truth of sincerity, as opposed to hypocrisy and lies and shams, than
the intellectual truth as opposed to error.

Now, all these three types of excellence--kindliness, righteousness,
truthfulness--are apt to be separated. For the first of
them--amiability, kindliness, gentleness--is apt to become too soft, to
lose its grip of righteousness, and it needs the tonic of the addition
of those other graces, just as you need lime in water if it is to make
bone. Righteousness, on the other hand, is apt to become stern, and
needs the softening of goodness to make it human and attractive. The
rock is grim when it is bare; it wants verdure to drape it if it is to
be lovely. Truth needs kindliness and righteousness, and they need
truth. For there are men who pride themselves on 'speaking out,' and
take rudeness and want of regard for other people's sensitive feelings
to be sincerity. And, on the other hand, it is possible that amiability
may be sweeter than truth is, and that righteousness may be hypocritical
and insincere. So Paul says, 'Let this white light be resolved in the
prism of your characters into the threefold rays of kindliness,
righteousness, truthfulness.'

And then, again, he desires that each of us should try to make our own a
fully developed, all-round perfection--_all_ goodness and righteousness
and truth; of every sort, that is, and in every degree. We are all apt
to cultivate graces of character which correspond to our natural
disposition and make. We are all apt to become _torsos_, fragmentary,
one-sided, like the trees that grow against a brick wall, or those which
stand exposed to the prevailing blasts from one quarter of the sky. But
we should seek to appropriate types of excellence to which we are least
inclined, as well as those which are most in harmony with our natural
dispositions. If you incline to kindliness, try to brace yourselves with
righteousness; if you incline to righteousness, to take the stern,
strict view of duty, and to give to every man what he deserves, remember
that you do not give men their dues unless you give them a great deal
more than their deserts, and that righteousness does not perfectly allot
to our fellows what they ought to receive from us, unless we give them
pity and indulgence and forbearance and forgiveness when it is needed.
The one light breaks into all colours--green in the grass, purple and
red in the flowers, flame-coloured in the morning sky, blue in the deep
sea. The light that is in us ought, in like manner, to be analysed
into, and manifested in, 'whatsoever things are lovely and of good
report.'

And so, dear friends, here is a test for us all. Devout emotion,
orthodox creed, practical diligence in certain forms of benevolence and
philanthropic work, are all very well; but Jesus Christ came to make us
like Himself, and to turn our darkness into light that betrays its
source by its resemblance, though it be a weakened one, to the sun from
which it came. We have no right to call ourselves Christ's followers
unless we are, in some measure, Christ's pictures.

Here is a message of cheer and hope for us all. We have all tried, and
tried, and tried, over and over again, to purge and mend these poor
characters of ours. How long the toil, how miserable and poor the
results! A million candles will not light the night; but when God's
mercy of sunrise comes above the hills, beasts of prey slink to their
dens and birds begin to sing, and flowers open, and growth resumes
again. We cannot mend ourselves except partially and superficially; but
we can open will, heart, and mind, by faith, for His entrance; and where
He comes, there He slays the evil creatures that live in and love the
dark, and all gracious things will blossom into beauty. If we are in the
Lord we shall be light; and if the Lord, who is the Light, is in us, we,
too, shall bear fruits of 'all righteousness and goodness and truth.'



PLEASING CHRIST

     'Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.'--Eph. v. 10.


These words are closely connected with those which precede them in the
8th verse--'Walk as children of light.' They further explain the mode by
which that commandment is to be fulfilled. They who, as children of
light, mindful of their obligations and penetrated by its brightness,
seek to conform their active life to the light to which they belong, are
to do so by making experiment of, or investigating and determining, what
is 'acceptable to the Lord.' It is the sum of all Christian duty, a
brief compendium of conduct, an all-sufficient directory of life.

There need only be two remarks made by way of explanation of my text.
One is that the expression rendered 'acceptable' is more accurately and
forcibly given, as in the Revised Version, by the plainer word
'well-pleasing.' And the other is that 'the Lord' here, as always in the
New Testament--unless the context distinctly forbids it--means Jesus
Christ. Here the context distinctly demands it. For only a sentence or
two before, the Apostle has been speaking about 'those who were sometime
darkness having been made light in the Lord'--which is obviously in
Jesus Christ.

And here, therefore, what pleases _Christ_ is the Christian's highest
duty, and the one prescription which is required to be obeyed in order
to walk in the light is, to do that which pleases Him.

I. So, then, in these brief words, so comprehensive, and going so deep
into the secrets of holy and noble living, I want you to notice that we
have, first, the only attitude which corresponds to our relations to
Christ.

How remarkable it is that this Apostle should go on the presumption that
our conduct affects Him, that it is possible for us to please, or to
displease Jesus Christ now. We often wonder whether the beloved dead are
cognisant of what we do; and whether any emotions of something like
either our earthly complacency or displeasure, can pass across the
undisturbed calm of their hearts, if they are aware of what their loved
ones here are doing. That question has to be left very much in the dark,
however our hearts may sometimes seek to enforce answers. But this we
know, that that loving Lord, not merely by the omniscience of His
divinity, but by the perpetual knowledge and sympathy of His perfect
manhood, is not only cognizant of, but is affected by, the conduct of
His professed followers here on earth. And since it is true that He now
is not swept away into some oblivious region where the dead are, but is
close beside us all, cognizant of every act, watching every thought, and
capable of having something like a shadow of a pang passing across the
Divine depth of His eternal joy and repose at the right hand of God,
then, surely, the only thing that corresponds to such a relationship as
at present subsists between the Christian soul and the Lord is that we
should take as our supreme and continual aim that, 'whether present or
absent, we should be well-pleasing to Him.' Nor does that demand rest
only upon the realities of our present relation to that Lord, but it
goes back to the past facts on which our present relation rests. And the
only fitting response to what He has been and done for us is that we
should, each of us, in the depth of our hearts, and in the widest
circumference of the surface of our lives, enthrone Him as absolute
Lord, and take His good pleasure as our supreme law. Jesus Christ is
King because He is Redeemer. The only adequate response to what He has
done for me is that I should absolutely submit myself to Him, and say to
Him, 'O Lord! truly I am Thy servant! Thou hast loosed my bonds.' The
one fitting return to make for that Cross and Passion is to enthrone His
will upon my will, and to set Him as absolute Monarch over the whole of
my nature. Thoughts, affections, purposes, efforts, and all should crown
Him King, because He has died for me. The conduct which corresponds to
the relations which we bear to Christ as the present Judge of our work,
and the Redeemer of our souls by His mighty deed in the past, is this of
my text, to make my one law His will, and to please Him that hath called
me to be His soldier.

The meaning of being a Christian is that, in return for the gift of a
whole Christ, I give my whole self to Him. 'Why call ye me Lord! Lord!
and do not the things which I say?' If He is what He assuredly is to
every one of us, nothing can be plainer than that we are thereby bound
by obligations which are not iron, but are more binding than if they
were, because they were woven out of the cords of love and the bands of
a man, bound to serve Him supremely, Him only, Him always, Him by the
suppression of self, and the making His pleasure our law.

II. Now, secondly, let me ask you to notice that we have here the
all-sufficient guide for practical life.

It sounds very mystical, and a trifle vague, to say, Do everything to
please Jesus Christ. It is all-comprehensive; it is mystical in the
sense that it goes down below the mere surface of prescriptions about
conduct. But it is not vague, and it is capable of immediate application
to every part, and to every act, of every man's life.

For what is it that pleases Jesus Christ? His own likeness; as,
according to the old figure--which is, I suppose, true to spiritual
facts, whether to external facts or not--the refiner knows that the
metal is ready to flow when he can see his own face in it. Jesus Christ
desires most that we should all be like Him. That we are to bear His
image is as comprehensive, and at the same time as specific, a way of
setting forth the sum of Christian duty, as are the words of my text.
The two phrases mean the same thing.

And what is the likeness to Jesus Christ which it is thus our supreme
obligation and our truest wisdom and perfection to bear? Well! we can
put it all into two words--self-suppression and continual consciousness
of obedience to the Divine will. The life of Jesus Christ, in its brief
records in Scripture, is felt by every thoughtful man to contain within
its narrow compass adequate direction for, and to set forth the ideal
of, human life. That is not because He went through all varieties of
earthly experience, for He did not. The life of a Jewish peasant
nineteen centuries ago was extremely unlike the life of a Manchester
merchant, of a college professor, of a successful barrister, of a
struggling mother, in this present day. But in the narrow compass of
that life there are set forth these two things, which are the basis of
all human perfection--the absolute annihilation of self-regard, and the
perpetual recognition of a Divine will. These are the things which every
Christian man and woman is bound by the power of Christ's Cross to
translate into the actions correspondent with their particular
circumstances. And so the student at his desk and the sailor on his
deck, the miner in his pit, the merchant on 'Change, the worker in
various handicrafts, may each be sure that they are doing what is
pleasing to Christ if, in their widely different ways, they seek to do
what they can do in all the varieties of life--crucify self, and commune
with God.

That is not easy. Whatever may be the objections to be brought against
this summary of Christian duty, the objection that it is vague is the
last that can be sustained. Try it, and you will find out that it is
anything but vague. It will grip tight enough, depend upon it. It will
go deep enough down into all the complexities of our varying
circumstances. If it has a fault (which it has not) it is in the
direction of too great stringency for unaided human nature. But the
stringency is not too great when we depend upon Him to help us, and an
impossible ideal is a certain prophet of its own fulfilment some day.

So, brethren, here is the sufficient guide, not because it cumbers us
with a mass of wretched little prescriptions such as a martinet might
give, about all sorts of details of conduct. That is left to profitless
casuists like the ancient rabbis. But the broad principles will
effloresce into all manner of perfectnesses and all fruits. He that has
in his heart these thoughts, that the definition of virtue is pleasing
Jesus Christ, that the concrete form of goodness is likeness to Him, and
that the elements of likeness to Him are these two, that I should never
think about myself, and always think about God, needs no other guide or
instructor to fill his life with 'whatsoever things are lovely and of
good report,' and to make his own all that the world calls virtue, and
all which the consciences of good men have conspired to praise.

But not only does this guide prove its sufficiency by reason of its
comprehensiveness, but also because there is no difficulty in
ascertaining what at each moment it prescribes. Of course, I know that
such a precept as this cannot contain in itself guidance in matters of
mere practical expediency. But, apart from these--which are to be
determined by the ordinary exercise of prudence and common sense--in
regard to the right and the wrong of our actions, I believe that if a
man wants to know Christ's will, and takes the way of knowing it which
Christ has appointed, he shall not be left in darkness, but shall have
the light of life.

For love has a strange power of divining love's wishes, as we all know,
and as many a sweetness in the hearts and lives of many of us has shown
us. If we cherish sympathy with Jesus Christ we shall look on things as
He looks on them, and we shall not be left without the knowledge of what
His pleasure is. If we keep near enough to Him the glance of His eye
will do for guidance, as the old psalm has it. They are rough animal
natures that do not understand how to go, unless their instructors be
the crack of the whip or the tug of the bridle. 'I will guide thee with
Mine eye.' A glance is enough where there are mutual understanding and
love. Two musical instruments in adjoining rooms, tuned to the same
pitch, have a singular affinity, and if a note be struck on the one the
other will vibrate to the sound. And so hearts here that love Jesus
Christ and keep in unison with Him, and are sympathetic with His
desires, will learn to know His will, and will re-echo the music that
comes from Him. And if our supreme desire is to know what pleases Jesus
Christ, depend upon it the desire will not be in vain, 'If any man wills
to do His will he shall know of the doctrine.' Ninety per cent. of all
our perplexities as to conduct come from our not having a pure and
simple wish to do what is right in His sight, clearly supreme above all
others. When we have that wish it is never left unsatisfied.

And even if sometimes we do make a mistake as to what is Christ's
pleasure, if our supreme wish and honest aim in the mistake have been to
do His pleasure, we may be sure that He will be pleased with the deed.
Even though its body is not that which He willed us to do, its spirit is
that which He does desire. And if we do a wrong thing, a thing in itself
displeasing to Him, whilst all the while we desired to please Him, we
shall please Him in the deed which would otherwise have displeased Him.
And so two Christian men, for instance, who take opposite sides in a
controversy, may both of them be doing what is well-pleasing in His
sight, whilst they are contradicting one another, if they are doing it
for His sake. And it is possible that the inquisitor and his victim may
both have been serving Christ. At all events, let us be sure of this,
that whensoever we desire to please Him, He will help us to do it, and
ordinarily will help us by making clear to us the path on which His
smile rests.

III. Again, notice that we have here an all-powerful motive for
Christian life.

The one thing which all other summaries of duty lack is motive power to
get themselves carried into practice. But we all know, from our own
happy human experience, that no motive which can be brought to bear upon
men is stronger, when there are loving hearts concerned, than this
simple one, 'Do it to please me.' And that is what Jesus Christ really
says. That is no piece of mere sentiment, brethren, nor of mere pulpit
rhetoric. That is the deepest thought of Christian morality, and is the
distinctive peculiarity which gives the morality of the New Testament
its clear supremacy over all other. There are precepts in it far nobler
and loftier than can be found elsewhere. The perspective of virtues and
graces in it is different from that which ordinarily prevails amongst
men. But I do not think that it is in the details of its precepts so
much as in the communication of power to obey them, and in the
suggestion of the motive which makes them all easy, that the difference
of Christ's ethics from all the teaching of the world beside is most
truly to be found.

And here lies the excellence thereof. It is a poor, cold thing to say to
a man, 'Do this because it is right.' It is a still more powerless thing
to say to him, 'Do this because it is expedient' 'Do this because, in
the long run, it leads to happiness.' It is all different when you say,
'Do this to please Jesus Christ, to please that Christ who pleased not
Himself but gave Himself for you.' That is the fire that melts the ore.
That is the heat that makes flexible the hard, stiff material. That is
the motive which makes duty delight, which makes 'the rough places
plain' and 'the crooked things straight.' It does not abolish natural
tastes, it does not supersede natural disinclinations, but it does
smooth and soften unwelcome and hard tasks, and it invests service with
a halo of glory, and changes the coldness of duty into rosy light; as
when the sunrise strikes on the peaks of the frozen mountains. The one
motive which impels men, and can be trusted to secure in them whatsoever
things are noble, is to please Him.

So we have the secret of blessedness in these words. For self-submission
and suppression are blessedness. Our miseries come from our unbridled
wills, far more than from our sensitive organisations. It is because we
do not accept providences that providences hurt. It is because we do not
accept the commandments that the commandments are burdensome. Those who
have no will, except as it is vitalised by God's will, have found the
secret of blessedness, and have entered into rest. In the measure in
which we approximate to that condition, our wills will be strengthened
as well as our hearts set at ease.

And blessedness comes, too, because the approbation of the Master, which
is the aim of the servant, is reflected in the satisfaction of an
approving conscience, which points onwards to the time when the Master's
approval shall be revealed in the servant's glory.

I was reading the other day about a religious reformer who arose in
Eastern lands a few years since, and gathered many disciples. He and his
principal follower were seized and about to be martyred. They were
suspended by cords from a gibbet, to be fired at by a platoon of
soldiers. And as they hung there, the disciple turned to his teacher,
and as his last word on earth said, 'Master! are you satisfied with me?'
His answer was a silent smile; and the next minute a bullet was in his
heart. Dear brethren, do you turn to Jesus Christ with the same
question, 'Master! art Thou satisfied with me?' and you will get His
smile here; and hereafter, 'Well done, good and faithful servant.'



UNFRUITFUL WORKS OF DARKNESS

     'And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but
      rather reprove them.'--Eph. v. 11.


We have seen in a former sermon that 'the fruit,' or outcome, 'of the
Light' is a comprehensive perfection, consisting in all sorts and
degrees of goodness and righteousness and truth. Therefore, the
commandment, 'Walk as children of the light,' sums up all Christian
morality. Is there need, then, for any additional precept? Yes; for
Christian people do not live in an empty world. If there were no evil
round them, and no proclivity to evil within them, it would be amply
sufficient to say to them, 'Be true to the light which you behold.' But
since both these things are, the commandment of my text is further
necessary. We do not work _in vacuo_, and therefore friction and
atmosphere have to be taken account of; and an essential part of
'walking as children of the light' is to know how to behave ourselves
when confronted with 'the works of darkness.'

These Ephesian Christians lived in a state of society honeycombed with
hideous immorality, the centre of which was the temple, which was their
city's glory and shame. It was all but impossible for them to have
nothing to do with the works of evil, unless, indeed, they went out of
the world. But the difficulty of obedience does not affect the duty of
obedience, nor slacken in the smallest degree the stringency of a
command. This obligation lies upon us as fully as it did upon them, and
the discharge of it by professing Christians would bring new life to
moribund churches.

I. Let me ask you to note with me, first, the fruitlessness inherent in
all the works of darkness.

You may remember that I pointed out, in a former discourse on the
context, that the Apostle, here and elsewhere, draws a very significant
distinction between 'works' and 'fruit,' and that distinction is put
very strikingly in the words of my text. There are works which are
barren. It is a grim thought that there may be abundant activity which,
in the eyes of God, comes to just nothing; and that pages and pages of
laborious calculations, when all summed up, have for result a great
round 0. Men are busy, and hosts of them are doing what the old fairy
stories tell us that evil spirits were condemned to do--spinning ropes
out of sea-sand; and their life-work is nought when they come to reckon
it up.

I have no time to dwell upon this thought, but I wish, just for a moment
or two, to illustrate it.

All godless life is fruitless, inasmuch as it has no permanent results.
Permanent results of a sort, indeed, follow everything that men do, for
all our actions tend to make character, and they all have a share in
fixing that which depends upon character--viz. destiny, both here and
yonder. And thus the most fleeting of our deeds, which in one aspect is
as transitory as the snow upon the great plains when the sun rises,
leaves everlasting traces upon ourselves and upon our condition. But yet
acts concerned with transitory things may have permanent fruit, or may
be as transient as the things with which they are concerned. And the
difference depends on the spirit in which they are done. If the roots
are only in the surface-skin of soil, when that is pared off the plant
goes. A life that is to be eternal must strike its roots through all the
superficial _humus_ down to the very heart of things. When its roots
twine themselves round God then the deeds which blossom from them will
blossom unfading for ever.

Think of men going empty-handed into another world, and saying, 'O Lord!
I made a big fortune in Manchester when I lived there, and I left it all
behind me'; or, 'I mastered a science, and one gleam of the light of
eternity has antiquated it'; or, 'I gained prizes, won my aims, and they
have all dropped from my hands, and here I stand, having to say in the
most tragic sense: Nothing in my hands I bring.' And another man dies in
the Lord, and his 'works do follow' him. It is not every vintage that
bears exportation. Some wines are mellowed by crossing the ocean; some
are turned into vinegar. The works of darkness are unfruitful because
they are transient.

And they are unfruitful because, whilst they last, they yield no real
satisfaction. The Apostle could say to another Church with a certainty
as to what the answer would be, 'What fruit had ye _then_'--when ye were
doing them--'in the things whereof ye are now ashamed?' And the answer
is 'None!' Of course, it is true that men do bad things because they
like them better than good. Of course, it is true that the misery of
mankind is that they have no appetite in the general for the only real
satisfaction. But it is also true that no man who feeds his heart and
mind on anything short of God is really at rest in anything that he does
or possesses. Occasional twinges of conscience, dim perceptions that
after all they are walking in a vain show; glimpses of nobler
possibilities, a vague unrest, an unwillingness to reflect and look the
facts of their condition in the face, like men that will not take stock
because they half suspect that they are insolvent--these are the
conditions that attach to all godless men's lives. There is no real
fruit for their thirsty lips to feed upon. The smallest man is too large
to be satisfied with anything short of Infinity, The human heart is like
some narrow opening on a hill-side, so narrow that it looks as if a
glassful of water would fill it. But it goes away down, down, down into
the depths of the mountain, and you may pour in hogsheads and no effect
is visible. God, and God alone, brings to the thirsty heart the fruit
that it needs.

Another solemn thought illustrates the unfruitfulness of a godless life.
There is no correspondence between what such a man does and what he is
intended to do. Think of what the most degraded and sensuous wretch that
shambles about the slums of a city, sodden with beer and rotten with
profligacy, could be. Think of the raptures of devout contemplation and
the energies of holy work which are possible for that soul, and then
say--though it is an extreme case, the principle holds in less extreme
cases--Are these things that men do apart from God, however shining,
noble, illustrious they may be in the eyes of the world, and trumpeted
forth by the mouthpieces of popular opinion, are these things worth
calling fruits fit to be borne by such a tree? No more than the cankers
on a rose-bush or the galls on an oak-tree are worthy of being called
fruit are these works that some of you have as the only products of a
life's activity. 'Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth
grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?'

II. And now, secondly, notice the plain Christian duty of abstinence.

'Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.' Now, the
text, as it stands in our version, seems to suggest that these dark
works are personified as companions whom a good man ought to avoid; and
that, therefore, the bearing of the exhortation is, 'Have nothing to do,
in your own individual lives, with evil things that one man can commit.'
But I take it that, important as that injunction and prohibition is,
the Apostle's meaning is somewhat different, and that my text would
perhaps be more accurately translated if another word were substituted
for 'have no fellowship with.' The original expression seems rather to
mean, 'Do not go partners with other people in works of darkness, which
it takes more than one to commit.' Or, to put it into another language,
the Apostle is regarding Christian people here as members of society,
and exhorting them to a certain course of conduct in reference to plain
and palpable existing evils around them. And such an exhortation to the
duty of plain abstinence from things that the opinion of the world
around us has no objection to, but which are contrary to the light, is
addressed to all Christian people.

The need of it I do not require to illustrate at any length. But let me
remind you that the devil has no more cunning way of securing a long
lease of life for any evil than getting Christian people and Christian
Churches to give it their sanction. What was it that kept slavery alive
for centuries? Largely, that Christian men solemnly declared that it was
a divine institution. What is it that has kept war alive for all these
centuries? Largely, that bishops and preachers have always been ready to
bless colours, and to read a Christening service over a man-of-war--and,
I suppose, to ask God that an eighty-ton gun might be blessed to smash
our enemies to pieces, and not to blow our sailors to bits. And what is
it that preserves the crying evils of our community, the immoralities,
the drunkenness, the trade dishonesty, and all the other things that I
do not need to remind you of in the pulpit? Largely this, that
professing Christians are mixed up with them. If only the whole body of
those who profess and call themselves Christians would shake their hands
clear of all complicity with such things, they could not last.
Individual responsibility for collective action needs to be far more
solemnly laid to heart by professing Christians than ever it has been.

Nor need I remind you, I suppose, with what fatal effects on the Gospel
and the Church itself all such complicity is attended. Even the
companions of wrongdoers despise, whilst they fraternise with, the
professing Christian who has no higher standard than their own. What was
it that made the Church victorious over the combined forces of imperial
persecution, pagan superstition, and philosophic speculation? I believe
that among all the causes that a well-known historian has laid down for
the triumph of Christianity, what was as powerful as--I was going to say
even more than--the Gospel of peace and love which the Church proclaimed
was the standard of austere morality which it held up to a world rotting
in its own filth. And sure I am that wherever the Church says, 'So do
not I, because of the fear of the Lord,' it will gain a power, and will
be regarded with a possibly reluctant, but a very real, respect which no
easy-going coming down to the level of popular moralities will ever
secure for a silver-slippered Christianity. And so, brethren, I would
say to you, Do not be afraid of the old name _Puritan_. Ignorant people
use it as a scoff. It should be a crown of glory. 'Have no fellowship
with the unfruitful works of darkness.'

But how is this to be done? Well, of course, there is only one way of
abstaining, and that is, to abstain. But there are a great many
different ways of abstaining. Light is not fire. And the more that
Christian people feel themselves bound to stand aloof from common evils,
the more are they bound to see that they do it in the spirit of the
Master, which is meekness. It is always an invidious position to take
up. And if we take it up with any heat and temper, with any lack of
moderation, with any look of ostentation of superior righteousness, or
with any trace of the Boanerges spirit which says, 'Let us call down
fire from heaven and consume them,' our testimony will be weakened, and
the world will have a right to say to us, 'Jesus we know, and Paul we
know; but who are ye?' 'Who made this man a judge and a divider over
us?' 'In meekness instructing them that oppose themselves.'

III. Lastly, note the still harder Christian duty of vigorous protest.

The further duty beyond abstinence which the text enjoins is
inadequately represented by our version, 'but rather reprove them.' For
the word rendered in our version 'reprove' is the same which our Lord
employed when He spoke of the mission of the Comforter as being to
'convince (or convict) the world of sin.' And it does not merely mean
'reprove,' but so to reprove as to produce the conviction which is the
object of the reproof.

This task is laid on the shoulders of all professing Christians. A
_silent_ abstinence is not enough. No doubt, the best way, in some
circumstances, to convict the darkness is to shine. Our holiness will
convict sin of its ugliness. Our light will reveal the gloom. The
presentation of a Christian life is the Christian man's mightiest weapon
in his conflict with the world's evil. But that is not all. And if
Christian people think that they have done all their duty, in regard to
clamant and common iniquities, by simply abstaining from them and
presenting a nobler example, they have yet to learn one very important
chapter of their duty. A dumb Church is a dying Church, and it ought to
be; for Christ has sent us here in order, amongst other things, that we
may bring Christian principles to bear upon the actions of the
community; and not be afraid to speak when we are called upon by
conscience to do so.

Now I am not going to dwell upon this matter, but I want just to point
out to you how, in the context here, there are two or three very
important principles glanced at which bear upon it. And one of them is
this, that one reason for speaking out is the very fact that the evils
are so evil that a man is ashamed to speak about them. Did you ever
notice this context, in which the Apostle, in the next verse to my text,
gives the reason for his commandment to 'reprove' thus--'_For_ it is a
shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret'?
Did you ever hear of a fantastic tenderness for morality so very
sensitive that it is not at all shocked when the immoral things are
_done_, but glows with virtuous indignation when a Christian man speaks
out about them? There are plenty of people nowadays who tell us that it
is 'indelicate' and 'indecent' and 'improper,' and I do not know how
much else, for a Christian teacher or minister to say a word about
certain moral scandals. But they do not say anything about the
immorality and the indelicacy and the indecency of doing them. Let us
have done with that hypocrisy, brethren. I am arguing for no disregard
for proprieties; I want all fitting reticence observed, and I do not
wish indiscriminate rebukes to be flung at foul things; but it is too
much to require that, by reason of the very inky cloud of filth that
they fling up like cuttlefish, they should escape censure. Let us
remember Paul's exhortation, and reprove _because_ the things are too
bad to be spoken about.

Further, note in the context the thought that the conviction of the
darkness comes from the flashing upon it of the light. 'All things when
they are reproved are made manifest by the light.' Which, being
translated into other words, is this:--Be strong in your brave protest,
because it only needs that the thing should be seen as it is, and called
by its right name, in order to be condemned.

The Assyrians had a belief that if ever, by any chance, a demon saw
himself in a mirror, he was frightened at his own ugliness and
incontinently fled. And if Christian people would only hold up the
mirror of Christian principle to the hosts of evil things that afflict
our city and our country, they would vanish like ghosts at sunrise. They
cannot stand the light, therefore let us cast the light upon them.

And do not forget the other final principle here, which is imperfectly
represented by our translation. We ought to read, 'Whatever is made
manifest is light.' Yes. In the physical world when light falls upon a
thing, you see it because there is on it a surface of light. And in the
moral world the intention of all this conviction is that the thing
disclosed to be darkness should, in the very disclosure, cease to be
dark, should forsake its nature and be transformed into light. Such
transformation is not always the case. Alas! There are evil deeds on
which the light falls, and it does nothing. But the purpose in all cases
should be, and the issue in many will be, that the merciful conviction
by the light will be followed by the conversion of darkness into light.

And so, dear brethren, I bring this text to your hearts, and lay it upon
your consciences. We may not all be called upon to speak; we are all
called upon to _be_. You can shine, and by shining show how dark the
darkness is. The obligation is laid upon us all; the commandment still
comes to every Christian which was given to the old prophet, 'Declare
unto My people their transgression, and to the house of Jacob their
sin.' A quaint old writer says that the presence of a saint 'hinders the
devil of elbow room to do his tricks.' We can all rebuke sin by our
righteousness, and by our shining reveal the darkness to itself. We do
not walk as children of the light unless we keep ourselves from all
connivance with works of darkness, and by all means at our disposal
reprove and convict them. 'Come out from among them, and be ye separate,
and touch no unclean thing, saith the Lord.'



PAUL'S REASONS FOR TEMPERANCE

     'And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but
      rather reprove them. 12. For it is a shame even to speak of those
      things which are done of them in secret. 13. But all things that
      are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth
      make manifest is light. 14. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that
      sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee
      light. 15. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but
      as wise, 16. Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17.
      Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the
      Lord is. 18. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be
      filled with the Spirit; 19. Speaking to yourselves in psalms, and
      hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart
      to the Lord; 20. Giving thanks always for all things unto God and
      the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; 21. Submitting
      yourselves one to another in the fear of God.'--Eph. v. 11-21.


There are three groups of practical exhortations in this passage, of
which the first deals with the Christian as a reproving light in
darkness; the second, with the Christian life as wisdom in the midst of
folly; and the third with Christian sobriety and inspiration as the true
exhilaration in contrast with riotous drunkenness. Probably such
intoxication was prevalent in Ephesus in connection with the worship of
'Diana of the Ephesians,' for Paul was not the man to preach vague
warnings against vices to which his hearers were not tempted. An
under-current of allusion to such orgies accompanying the popular cult
may be discerned in his words.

These two preceding sets of precepts can only be briefly touched on now.
They lead up to the third, and the second is built on the first by a
'therefore' (ver. 15). The Apostle has just been saying that Christians
were 'darkness, but are now light in the Lord,' and thence drawing the
law for their life, to walk as 'children of light.' A very important
part of such walk is recoiling from all share in 'the unfruitful works
of darkness,'--a significant expression branding such deeds as being
both bad in their source and in their results. Dark doings have
consequences tragic enough and certain enough, but they are barren of
all such issues as correspond to men's obligations and capacities. Their
outcome is like the growths on a tree, which are not fruit, but products
of disease. There is no fruit grown in the dark; there is no worthy
product from us unless Christ is our light. If He is, and we are
therefore 'light in the Lord,' we shall 'reprove' or 'convict' the
Christless life. Its sinfulness will be shown by the contrast with the
Christ-life. A thunder-cloud never looks so lividly black as when
smitten by sunshine.

Our lives ought to make evil things ashamed to show their ugly faces.
Christians should be, as it were, the incarnate conscience of a
community. The Apostle is not thinking so much of words as of deeds,
though words are not to be withheld when needful. The agent of reproof
is 'the light,' which here is the designation of character as
transformed by Jesus, and the process of reproof or conviction is simply
the manifestation of the evil in its true nature, which comes from
setting it in the beams of the light. To show sin as it is, is to
condemn it; 'for everything that is made manifest is light.' Observe
that Paul here speaks of 'light,' not 'the light,'--that is, he is
speaking now not of Christian character, which he had likened to light,
but of physical light to which he had likened it, and is backing up his
figurative statement as to the reproving and manifesting effects of the
former, by the plain fact as to the latter, that, when daylight shines
on anything, it is revealed, and, as it were, becomes light. He clenches
his exhortation by quoting probably an early Christian hymn, which
regards Christ as the great illuminator, ready to shine on all drowsy,
dark souls as soon as they stir and rouse themselves from drugged and
fatal sleep.

The second set of exhortations here is connected with the former by a
'therefore,' which refers to the whole preceding precept. Because the
Christian is to shake himself free from complicity with works of
darkness, and to be their living condemnation, he must take heed to his
goings. A climber on a glacier has to look to his feet, or he will slip
and fall down a crevasse, perhaps, from which he will never be drawn up.
Heedlessness is folly in such a world as this. '"Don't care" comes to
the gallows.' The temptation to 'go as you please' is strong in youth,
and it is easy to scoff at 'cold-blooded folks who live by rule,' but
they are the wise people, after all. A great element in that heedfulness
is a quick insight into the special duty and opportunity of the moment,
for life is not merely made up of hours, but each has its own particular
errand for us, and has some possibility in it which, neglected, may be
lost for ever.

The mystic solemnity of time is that it is made up of 'seasons.' We
shall walk heedfully in the degree in which we are awake to the moment's
meaning, and grasp opportunity by the forelock, or, as Paul says, 'buy
up the opportunity.' But wise heed to our walk is not enough, unless we
have a sure standard by which to regulate it. A man may take great care
of his watch, but unless he can compare it with a chronometer, or, as
they do in Edinburgh, pull out their watches when the one o'clock gun is
fired on a signal from Greenwich, he may be far out and not know it. So
the Apostle adds the one way to keep our lives right, and the one source
of true, practical wisdom--the 'understanding what the will of the Lord
is.' He will not go far wrong whose instinctive question, as each new
moment, with its solemn, animating possibilities, meets him, is, 'What
wilt Thou have me to do?' He will not be nearly right who does not first
of all ask that.

Then Paul comes to his precept of temperance. It naturally flows from
the preceding, inasmuch as a drunken man is as sure to be incapable of
taking heed to his conduct as of walking straight. He reels in both. He
is stone-blind to the meaning of the moments. He hears no call, though
the 'voice of the trumpet' may be 'exceeding loud,' and as for
understanding what the will of the Lord is, that is far beyond him. The
intoxication of an hour or the habit of drinking makes obedience to the
foregoing precepts impossible. This master vice carries all other vices
in its pocket.

Paul makes a daring, and, as some would think, an irreverent,
comparison, when he proposes being 'filled with the Spirit' as the
Christian alternative or substitute to being 'drunken with wine.' But
the daring comparison suggests deep truth. The spurious exhilaration,
the loosening of the bonds of care, the elevation above the pettiness
and monotony of daily life, which the drunkard seeks, and is degraded
and deceived in proportion as he momentarily finds, are all ours,
genuinely, nobly, and to our infinite profit, if we have our empty
spirits filled with that Divine Life. That exhilaration does not froth
away, leaving bitter dregs in the cup. That loosening of the bonds of
care, and elevation above life's sorrows, does not flow from foolish
oblivion of facts, nor end in their being again roughly forced on us.
'Riot' bellows itself hoarse, and is succeeded by corresponding
depression; but the calm joys of the Spirit-filled spirit last, grow,
and become calmer and more joyful every day.

The boisterous songs of boon companions are set in contrast with the
Christian 'psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,' which were already in
use, and a snatch from one of which Paul has just quoted.
Good-fellowship tempts men to drink together, and a song is a
shoeing-horn for a glass; but the _camaraderie_ is apt to end in blows,
and is a poor caricature of the bond knitting all who are filled with
the Spirit to one another, and making them willing to serve one another.
The roystering or maudlin geniality cemented by drink generally ends in
quarrels, as everybody knows that the truculent stage of intoxication
succeeds the effusively affectionate one. But they who have the Spirit
in them, and not only 'live in the Spirit,' but 'walk in the Spirit,'
esteem each the other better than themselves. In a word, to be filled
with the Spirit is the way to possess all the highest forms of the good
which men are tempted to intoxication to secure, and which in it they
find only for a moment, and which is coarse and unreal.



SLEEPERS AT NOONDAY

     'Wherefore He saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the
      dead, and Christ shall give thee light,'--Eph. v. 14.


This is the close of a short digression about 'light.' The 'wherefore'
at the beginning of my text seems to refer to the whole of the verses
that deal with that subject. It is as if the Apostle had said, 'I have
been telling you about light and its blessed effects. Now I tell you how
you may win it for yours. The condition on which it is to be received by
men is that they awake and arise from the dead.'

'_He saith._' Who? The speaker whose words are quoted is not named, but
this is the common formula of quotation from the _Old Testament_. It is,
therefore, probable that the word 'Creator' or 'God' is to be supplied.
But there is no Old Testament passage which exactly corresponds to the
words before us; the nearest approach to such being the ringing
exhortation of the prophet to the Messianic Church, 'Arise! Shine, for
thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.' And it
is probable that the Apostle is here quoting, without much regard either
to the original connection or the primary purpose of the word, a
well-known old saying which seemed to him appropriately to fall in with
the trend of his thoughts. Like other writers he often adorns his own
words with the citation of those of others without being very careful
as to whether he, in some measure, diverts these from their original
intention. But the words of my text fairly represent the prophetic
utterance, in so far as they echo the call to the sleepers to wake, and
share the prophet's confidence that light is streaming out for all those
whose eyes are opened.

The want of precise correspondence between our text and the prophetic
passage has led some to suppose that we have here the earliest recorded
fragment of a Christian hymn. It would be interesting if that were so,
but the formula of citation seems to oblige us to look to Scripture for
the source from which my text is taken. However, let us leave these
thoughts, and come to the text itself. It is an earnest call from God.
It describes a condition, peals forth a summons, and gives a promise.
Let us listen to what 'He saith' in all these regards.

I. First of all, then, the condition of the persons addressed.

The two sad metaphors, _slumberers_ and _dead_, are applied to the same
persons. There must, therefore, be some latitude in the application of
the figures and they must be confined in their interpretation to some
one or more points in which sleep and death are alike.

Now we all know that, as the proverb says, 'sleep is the image of
death.' And what is the point of comparison? Mainly this, that the
sleeper and the corpse are alike unconscious of an external world,
unable to receive impressions from it, or to put forth action on it; and
there, as I take it, is especially the point which is in the Apostle's
view.

The sleeper and the dead man alike are in the midst of an order of
things of which they are all unaware. And you and I live in two worlds,
one, this low, fleeting, material one; and the other the white, snowy
peaks that girdle it as do the Alps the Lombard plains; and men live all
unconscious of that which lies on their horizon. But the metaphor of a
level ground encircled by mountains does not fully represent the
closeness of the connection between these two worlds, of both of which
every one of us is a denizen. For on all sides, pressing in upon us,
enfolding us like an atmosphere, penetrating into all the material,
underlying all which is visible, all of which has its roots in the
unseen, is that world which the mass of men are in a conspiracy to
ignore and forget. And just as the sleeper is unconscious of all around
him in his chamber, and of all the stir and beauty of the world in which
he lives, so the bulk of us go blind and darkling through life, absorbed
in the things seen, and never lift even a momentary and lack-lustre
glance to the august realities which lie behind these, and give them all
their significance and beauty.

Yes; and just as in a dream men are busy with baseless phantoms that
vanish and are forgotten, and seem to themselves to be occupied, whilst
all the while they are lying prone and passive, so the mass of us are
sleep-walkers. What are many men who will be hurrying on to the
Manchester Exchange on Tuesday? What are they but men who are dreaming
that they are at work, but are only at work on dreams which will vanish
when the eyes are opened? Practical men, who are busy and absorbed with
affairs and with the things of this present, curl their lips about
'idealists' of all sorts, be they idealists of thought, or of art, or of
benevolence, or of religion, and call them dreamers. The boot is on the
other leg. It is the idealists that are awake, and it is you people that
live for to-day, and have not learned that to-day is a little fragment
and sliver of eternity--it is you who are dreamers, and all these things
round about us--the solid-seeming realities--are illusions, and

    'Like the bubbles on a river,
     Sparkling, bursting, borne away,'

they will disappear. There is only one reality, and that is God, and the
only lives that lay hold of the substance are those which grasp Him. The
rest of you are shadows hunting for shadows.

The two metaphors of my text coincide in suggesting another thing, and
that is the awful contrast in the average life between what is in a man
and what comes out of him. 'Dormant power,' we talk about. Ah, how
tragically the true man is dormant in all the work of worldly hearts!
God has made a great mistake in making you what you are, if there is no
place for you to exercise your powers in but this present world, and
nothing to exercise them on except the things that pass and perish.
Travellers in lands where civilisation used to be, and barbarism now is,
find sculptured stones from temples turned into fences for cattle-sheds
and walls round pigstyes. And that is something like what men do with
the faculties that God has given them. Why, the best part of you,
brother, if you are not a Christian, and living a Christian life--the
best part of you is asleep, and it is only the lower nature of you that
is awake! Sometimes the sleepers stir uneasily. It used to be said that
earthquakes were caused by a giant rolling himself from side to side in
his troubled slumber. And there are earthquakes in your heart and
spirit caused by the half-waking of the dormant self, the true man, who
is immersed and embruted in sense and the things of time. Some of you by
earthly lusts, some of you by over-indulgence in fleshly appetites,
eating and drinking and the like; some of you by absorption in the mere
externals of trade and profession and occupation to the entire neglect
of the inward thing which would glorify and exalt these--but all of us
somehow, unless we are living for God, have lulled our best, true,
central self into slumber, and lie as if dead.

Now, brethren, do not forget that this exhortation of my text, and
therefore this description, is addressed to a community of professing
Christians. I hope you will not misunderstand me as if I thought that
such a picture as I have been trying to draw applies only to men that
have no religion in them at all. It applies in varying degrees to men
that have, as--I was going to say the bulk, but perhaps that is
exaggeration, let me say a tragically large number--of professing
Christians, and a proportionate number of the professing Christians in
this audience have, a little life and a great circumference of death.
Dear brethren, you may call yourselves, and may be Christian people, and
have somewhat shaken off the torpor, and roused yourself from the
slumbering death of which I have been speaking. Remember that it still
hangs to you, and that it was of Christians that the Master said:
'Whilst the Lord was away they all slumbered and slept'; and that it was
of a Christian Church, and not of a pagan world, that the same voice
from heaven said: 'Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.' And
so I beseech you, bear with me, and do not think I am scolding, or
flinging about wild words at random, when I make a very earnest appeal
to each individual professing, and real, Christian in this congregation,
and ask them to consider, each for themselves, how much of sleep is
still in their drowsy eyes, and how far it is true that the quickening
life of Jesus Christ has penetrated, as the sunbeams into the darkness,
into the heavy mass of their natural death.

II. Secondly, let me ask you to look at the summons to awake.

It comes like the morning bugle to an army, 'Awake, thou that sleepest,
and arise from the dead.' Now, I am not going to waste your time by
talking about the old, well-worn, interminable, and unprofitable
controversy as to God's part and man's in this awaking, but I do wish to
insist upon this plain fact, that the command here presupposes upon our
parts, whether we be Christian people or not, the ability to obey. God
would not mock a man by telling him to do what he cannot do. And it is
perfectly clear that the one attitude in which we may be sure of God's
help to keep any of His commandments, and this amongst the rest, is when
we are trying to keep them. 'Stretch out thy hand,' said Christ to the
man whose disease was that he could not stretch it out. 'Arise and
walk,' said Christ to the man whose lifelong sadness it was that his
limbs had no power. 'Lazarus, come forth,' said Christ unto the dull,
cold ear of death. And Lazarus heard, wherever he was, and, though his
feet were tangled with the graveclothes, he came stumbling out, because
the power to do what he was bid had come wrapped in the command to do
it. And if these other two men had turned to Jesus and said, 'What is
the use of telling me to stretch out my hand, or me to move my limbs?
Thou knowest that I can not,' they would have lain there paralysed till
they died. But when they heard the command there came a tingling sense
of new ability into the withered limb. 'And he stretched forth his hand,
and it was restored whole as the other.' Ay, but the process of
restoration began when he willed to stretch it out in obedience to the
command, which was a promise as much as a command. So we need not
trouble ourselves with the question how the dead man can arise, or how
the sleeper can wake himself.

This, at all events, is clear, that if what I have been saying is true
as to the main point in view in both the metaphors, viz. the
unconsciousness of the unseen world, and the slumbering powers that we
have within us, then the remedy for that _is_ in our own hands. There
are scarcely any limits to be put to a man's capacity of determining for
himself what shall be the object of his thought, his interest, his
affection, or his pursuits. You can withdraw your desires and
contemplations from the intrusive and absorbing present. You can coerce
yourselves to concentrate more thought than you do, more interest,
affection, and effort than you have ever done, upon the things that are
unseen. You can turn your gaze thither. You cannot directly and
immediately regulate your feelings, but you can settle the thoughts
which shall guide the feelings, and you can, and you _do_, fix for
yourselves, though not consciously, the things which shall be uppermost
in your regard, and supreme in the ordering of your life.

And so the commandment of my text is but this, 'Wake from the illusions;
rouse yourselves to the contemplation of the things unseen and eternal.
Let the Lord always be before your face.' And you will be awake and
alive.

III. And so my last point is the promise of the morning light which
gladdens the wakeful eye. 'Christ shall give thee light.'

Now, if the words of my text are an allusion to the prophecy to which I
have already referred, it is striking to observe, though I cannot dwell
upon the thought, that Paul here unhesitatingly ascribes to Jesus Christ
an action which, in the source of his quotation, is ascribed to Jehovah.
'Arise, shine, for thy light has come, and the glory of _Jehovah_ is
risen upon thee,' says the prophet. 'Arise! thou that sleepest,' says
Paul, 'and _Christ_ shall give thee light.' As always, he regards his
Lord as possessed of fully divine attributes; and he has learned the
depth of the Master's own saying, 'Whatsoever things the Father doeth,
these also doeth the Son _likewise_.' But I turn from that to the main
point to be insisted upon here, that the Apostle is setting forth this
as a certainty, that if a man will open his eyes he will have light
enough. The sunshine is flooding the world. It falls upon the closed
eyelids of the sleepers, and would fain gently lift them, that it might
enter. A man needs nothing more than to shake off the slumber, and bring
himself into the conscious presence of the unseen glories that surround
us, in order to get light enough and to spare--whether you mean by light
knowledge for guidance on the path of life, or whether you mean by it
purity that shall scatter the darkness of evil from the heart, or
whether you mean by it the joy that comes in the morning, radiant and
fresh as the sunrise over the Eastern hills. 'Awake, and Christ _shall_
give thee light.'

The miracle of Goshen is reversed, in the case of many of us, the land
is flashing in the sunshine, but within our houses there is midnight
darkness, not because there is not light around, but because the
shutters are shut. Oh, brethren, it is a solemn thing to choose the
darkness rather than the light. And you do that--though not consciously,
and in so many words, making your election--by indifference, by neglect,
by the direction of the main current of your thoughts and desires and
aims to perishable things, and by the deeds that follow from such a
disposition. These choose for you, and you, in effect, choose by them.

I beseech you, do not let Christ's own trumpet-call fall upon your ears,
as if faint and far away, like the unwelcome summons that comes to a
drowsy man in the morning. You know that if, having been called, he
makes up his mind to lie a little longer, he is almost sure to fall more
dead asleep than he was before. And if you hear, however dim, distantly,
and through my poor words, Christ's voice saying to you, 'Awake! thou
that sleepest,' do not neglect it. The only safe course is to spring up
at once. If thou dost, 'Christ shall give thee light,' never fear. The
light is all about you. You only need to open your eyes, and it will
pour in. If you do not, you surround yourself with darkness that may be
felt here, and ensures for yourself a horror of great darkness in the
death hereafter.



REDEEMING THE TIME

     'See, then, that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
      redeeming the time, because the days are evil.'--Eph. v. 15, 16.


Some of us have, in all probability, very little more 'time' to
'redeem.' Some of us have, in all probability, the prospect of many
years yet to live. For both classes my text presents the best motto for
another year. The most frivolous among us, I suppose, have some thoughts
when we step across the conventional boundary that seems to separate the
unbroken sequence of moments into periods; and as you in your business
take stock and see how your accounts stand, so I would fain, for you and
myself, make this a moment in which we may see where we are going, what
we are doing, and how we are using this great gift of life.

My text gives us the true Christian view of time. It tells us what to do
with it, and urges by implication certain motives for the conduct.

I. We have, first, what we ought to think about 'the time.'

There are two words in the New Testament, both of which are translated
_time_, but they mean very different things. One of them, the more
common, simply implies the succession of moments or periods; the other,
which is employed here, means rather a definite portion of time to which
some definite work or occurrence belongs. It is translated sometimes
_season_, sometimes _opportunity_. Both these renderings occur in
immediate proximity in the Epistle to the Galatians, where the Apostle
says: 'As we have therefore opportunity let us do good to all men, for
in due season we shall reap, if we faint not....' And, again, it is
employed side by side with the other word to which I have referred, in
the Acts of the Apostles, where we read, 'It is not for you to know the
times or the seasons'--the former word simply indicating the succession
of moments, the latter word indicating epochs or crises to which special
work or events belong.

And so here 'redeeming the _time_' does not merely mean making the most
of moments, but means laying hold of, and understanding the special
significance of, life as a whole, and of each succeeding instant of it
as the season for some specific duty. It is not merely 'time,' it is
'_the_ time'; not merely the empty succession of beats of the pendulum,
but these moralised, as it were, heightened, and having significance,
because each is apprehended as having a special mission, and affording
an opportunity for a special work.

Now, there are two aspects of that general thought, on each of which I
would touch. The Apostle here uses the singular number, and speaks not
of the times, but of 'the time'; as if the whole of life were an
opportunity, a season for some one clear duty which manifestly belongs
to it, and is meant to be done in it.

What is that? There are a great many ways of answering that question,
but even more important perhaps than the way of answering is the mood of
mind which asks it. If we could only get into this, as our habitual
temper and disposition, asking ourselves what life is for, then we
should have conquered nine-tenths of our temptations, and all but
secured that we shall aim at the purpose which thus clearly and
constantly shines before us. Oh! if I could get some of my friends here
this morning, who have never really looked this solemn question in the
face, to rise above the mere accidents of their daily occupations, and
to take their orders, not from circumstances, or from the people whom
they admire and imitate, but at first hand from considering what they
really are here for, and why their days in their whole sweep are given
them, I should not have spoken in vain. The sensualist answers the
question in one way, the busy Manchester man in another, the careful,
burdened mother in another, the student in another, the moralist in
another. But all that is good in each answer is included in the wider
one, that the end of life, the purpose for which 'the season' is granted
us, is that 'we should glorify God and enjoy Him for ever.'

I do not care whether you say that the end for which we live is the
salvation of our souls, or whether you put it in other words, and say
that it is the cultivation and perfecting of a Christ-like and
God-pleasing character, or whether you admit still another aspect, and
say that it is the intention of time to prepare us for that which lies
beyond time. Time is the lackey of eternity, and the chamberlain that
opens the gates of the Kingdom of God. All these various answers are at
bottom one. Life is ours mainly in order that, by faith in Jesus Christ,
we should struggle, and do, and by struggles, by sorrows, and by all
that befalls us, should grow liker Him, and so fitter for the calm joys
of that place where the throb of the pendulum has ceased, and the hours
are stable and eternal. We live here in order to get ready for living
yonder. And we get ready for living yonder, when here we understand that
every moment of life is granted us for the one purpose, which can be
pursued through all life--viz. the becoming liker our dear Lord, and the
drinking in to our own hearts more of His Spirit, and moulding our
characters more in conformity with His image. That is what my life and
yours are given us for. If we succeed in that, we succeed all round. If
we fail in that, whatever else we succeed in, we have failed altogether.

But then, remember, still further, the other aspect in which we can look
at this thought. That ultimate, all-embracing end is reached through a
multitude of nearer and intermediate ones. Whilst life, as a whole, is
the season for learning to know and for possessing God, life is broken
up into smaller portions and periods, each of which has some special
duty appropriate to it and a 'lesson for the day.'

Now many of us, who entirely agree, theoretically, in saying that all
life is granted for this highest purpose, go wrong here and fail to
discern the significance of single moments. To-day is always
commonplace; it is yesterday that is beautiful, and to-morrow that is
full of possibilities, to the vulgar mind. But to-day is common and low.
There are mountains ahead and mountains behind, purple with distance and
radiant with sunshine, and the sky bends over them and seems to touch
their crests. But here, on the spot where we stand, life seems flat and
mean, and far away from the heavens. We admit the meaning of life taken
altogether, but it is very hard to break up that recognition into
fragments, and to feel the worth of these fleeting moments which, just
because they are here, seem to be of small account. So we forget that
life is only the aggregate of small present instants, and that the hour
is sixty times sixty insignificant seconds, and the day twenty-four
brief hours, and the year 365 commonplace days, and the life threescore
years and ten. Brethren, carry your theoretical recognition of the
greatness and solemnity of the purposes for which life has been given
here into each of the moments of the passing day, and you will find that
there is nothing so elastic as time; and that you can crowd into a day
as much as a languid thousand years do sometimes hold, of sacrifice and
service, of holy joys, and of likeness to Jesus Christ. He who has
learned that all the moments are heavy with significance, and pregnant
with immortal issues, he, too, in some measure may share in the
prerogative of the timeless God, and to Him 'one day may be as a
thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.' It is not the beat of
the pendulum or the tick of the clock that measure time, but it is the
deeds which we crowd into it, and the feelings and thoughts which it
ministers to us. This passing life draws all its importance from the
boundless eternal issues to which it leads. Every little puddle on the
paving-stones this morning, a quarter of an inch broad and a film deep,
will be mirroring bright sunshine, and blue with the reflected heaven.
And so we may make the little drop of our lives radiant with the image
of God, and bright with the certainties of immortality.

II. Now, note secondly, how to make the most of the season.

'Redeeming the time,' says the Apostle. The figure is very simple and
natural, and has only been felt to be difficult and obscure, because
people have tried to ride the metaphor further than it was meant. The
questions of who is the seller and what is the price do not enter into
the Apostle's mind at all. Metaphors are not to be driven so far as
that. We have to confine ourselves to the simple thought that there is a
need for making the opportunity which is given truly our own; and that
that can only be done by giving something in exchange for it. That is
the notion of purchase, is it not? Acquisition, by giving something
else. Thus, says Paul, you have to buy the opportunity which time
affords us.

That is to say, to begin with, life gives us opportunities and no more.
We _may_, in and through it, become wise, good, pure, happy, noble,
Christ-like, or we may not. The opportunity is there, swinging, as it
were, _in vacuo_. Lay hold of it, says he, and turn it into more than an
opportunity--even an actuality and a fact.

And how is that to be done? We have to give something away, if we get
the opportunity for our very own. What have we to give away? Well,
mainly the lower ends for which the moment might serve. These have to be
surrendered--sometimes abandoned altogether, always rigidly restricted
and kept in utter subordination to the highest purposes. To-day is given
us mainly that we may learn to know God better, and to love Him more,
and to serve Him more joyfully. Our daily duties are given us for the
same purpose. But if we go about them without thinking of God or the
highest ends which life is meant to serve, then we shall certainly lose
the highest ends, and an opportunity will go past us unimproved. But if,
on the other hand, whilst we follow our daily business for the sake of
legitimate temporal gain, we see, above that, the aspect of daily life
as educating in all Christian nobleness and lofty thoughts and purposes,
then we shall have given away the lower ends for the sake of attaining
the higher. You live, suppose, to found a business, to become masters of
your trade, to gain wisdom and knowledge, to establish for yourselves a
position amongst your fellow-men, to cultivate your character so as to
grow in wisdom and purity, apart from God. Or you live in order to win
affection and move thankfully in the heaven of loving associations in
your home, amongst your children. Or you live for the sake of carrying
some lower but real good amongst men. Many of these ends are beautiful
and noble, and necessary for the cultivation and discharge of the
various duties and relationships of life; but unless they are all kept
secondary, and there towers above them this other, life is wasted. If
life is not to be wasted, they must be bartered for the higher, and we
must recognise that to give all things for the sake of Christ and His
love is wise merchandise and good exchange. 'What things were gain to
me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea! doubtless, and I count all
things but loss that I may win Him and be found of Him.' You must barter
the lower if you are to secure the higher ends for which life is the
appointed season.

And then, still more minutely, my text gives us another suggestion about
this 'redeeming the time.' 'See, then,' says the Apostle, 'that ye walk
circumspectly.' The word rendered circumspectly might better, perhaps,
be translated in some such way as 'strictly,' 'rigidly,' 'accurately,'
'punctiliously.' As I take it, it is to be connected with the 'walk,'
and not with the 'see, then,' as the Revised Version does.

So here is a practical direction, walk strictly, accurately, looking to
your feet; as a man would do who was upon what they call in the Alps an
_arrête_. Suppose a narrow ridge of snow piled on the top of a ledge of
rock, with a precipice of 5000 feet on either side, and a cornice of
snow hanging over empty space. The climber puts his alpenstock before
his foot, he tests with his foot before he rests his weight, for a false
step and down he goes!

'See that you walk circumspectly,' rigidly, accurately, punctiliously.
Live by law--that is to say, live by principles which imply duties; for
to live by inclination is ruin. The only safety is, look to your feet
and look to your road, and restrain yourselves, 'and so redeem the
time.'

There is something else to look to. Feet? Yes! Road? Yes! But also look
to your guide. Tread in Christ's footsteps, 'follow the Lamb
whithersoever He goeth.' Make Him the pattern and example, and then you
shall walk safely; and the path will carry you right into 'His presence
where there is fulness of joy.' No great, noble, right, blessed life is
lived without rigid self-control, self-denial, and self-crucifixion. Do
not fancy that that means the absence of joy and spontaneity. 'I will
walk at liberty for I keep Thy precepts.' Hedges are blessings when, on
the other side, there are bottomless swamps of poisonous miasma, into
which if a man ventures he will either drown or be plague-stricken. The
narrow way that leads to life is the way of peace, just because it is a
way of restrictions. Better to walk on the narrowest path that leads to
the City than to be chartered libertines, wandering anywhere at our own
bitter wills, and finding 'no end, in devious mazes lost.' Freedom
consists in obeying from the heart the restriction of love; and walking
punctiliously.

III. Lastly, note the motives for this course.

The Apostle says, 'see that ye walk strictly, not as fools but as wise.'
That is to say, such limitation, which buys the opportunity and uses it
for the highest purposes, is the only true wisdom. If you take the mean,
miserable, partial, fleeting purposes for which some of us, alas, are
squandering our lives, and contrast these with the great, perfect,
all-satisfying, blessed, and eternal end for which it was given us, how
can we escape being convicted of folly? One day, dear friends, it will
be found out that the virgins that were not ready when the Lord came
were the foolish ones. One day it will be asked of you and of me, 'What
did you do with the life which I gave you, that you might know Me?' And
if we have only the answer, 'O Lord! I founded a big business in
Manchester--I made a fortune--I wrote a clever book, that was most
favourably reviewed--I brought up a family'--the only thing fit to be
said to us is, 'Thou fool!' The only wisdom is the wisdom that secures
the end for which life was given.

Then there is another motive here. 'Redeeming the time _because_ the
days are evil.' That is singular. 'The days' are 'the time,' and yet
they are 'evil' days, which being translated into other words is just
this--we are to make a definite effort to keep in view, and to effect,
the purposes for which all the days of our lives are given us, because
these days have in themselves a tendency to draw us away from the true
path and to blind us as to their real meaning. The world is full of
possibilities of good and evil, and the same day which, in one aspect,
is the 'season' for serving God is, in another aspect, an 'evil' day
which may draw us away from Him. And if we do not put out manly effort,
it certainly will do so. The ocean is meant to bear the sailor to his
port, but from the waves rise up fair forms, siren voices, with sweet
harps and bright eyes that tempt the weary mariner to his destruction.
And the days which may be occasions for our getting nearer God, if we
let them work their will upon us, will be evil days which draw us away
from Him.

Let me add one last motive which is not stated in my text, but is
involved in the very idea of _opportunity_ or _season_--viz. that the
time for the high and noble purposes of which I have been speaking is
rigidly limited and bounded; and once past is irrevocable. The old, wise
mythological story tells us that Occasion is bald behind, and is to be
grasped by the forelock. The moment that is past had in it wonderful
possibilities for us. If we did not grasp them with promptitude and
decision they have gone for ever. You may as well try to bring back the
water that has been sucked over Niagara, and churned into white foam at
its base, as to recall the wasted opportunities. They stand all along
the course of our years, solemn monuments of our unfaithfulness, and
none of them can ever return again. Life is full of too-lates; that sad
sound that moans through the roofless ruins of the past, like the wind
through some deserted temple. 'Too late, too late; ye cannot enter now.'
'The sluggard will not plough by reason of the cold, therefore he shall
beg in harvest and have nothing.' Oh! let us see to it that we wring out
of the passing moments their highest possibilities of noblest good. Let
us begin to live; for only he who lives to God really lives. Life is
given to us that we may know Jesus Christ--trust Him, love Him, serve
Him, be like Him. That is the pearl which, if we bring up from the sea
of time, we shall not have been cast in vain into its stormy waves. Do
you take care that this new year which is dawning upon us go not to join
the many wasted years that lie desolate behind us, but let us all see to
it that the flood which sweeps us and it away bears us straight to God,
Who is our home. 'Now is the accepted time, now is the day of
salvation.'



THE PANOPLY OF GOD

     'Take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to
      withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to
      stand.'--Eph. vi. 13.


The military metaphor of which this verse is the beginning was obviously
deeply imprinted on Paul's mind. It is found in a comparatively
incomplete form in his earliest epistle, the first to the Thessalonians,
in which the children of the day are exhorted to put on the breastplate
of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. It reappears,
in a slightly varied form, in the Epistle to the Romans, where those
whose salvation is nearer than when they believed, are exhorted, because
the day is at hand, to cast off, as it were, their night-gear, and to
put on the 'armour of light'; and here, in this Epistle of the
Captivity, it is most fully developed. The Roman legionary, to whom Paul
was chained, here sits all unconsciously for his portrait, every detail
of which is pressed by Paul into the service of his vivid imagination;
the virtues and graces of the Christian character, which are 'the armour
of light,' are suggested to the Apostle by the weapon which the soldier
by his side wore. The vulgarest and most murderous implements assume a
new character when looked upon with the eyes of a poet and a Christian.
Our present text constitutes the general introduction to the great
picture which follows, of 'the panoply of God.'

I. We must be ready for times of special assaults from evil.

Most of us feel but little the stern reality underlying the metaphor,
that the whole Christian life is warfare, but that in that warfare there
are crises, seasons of special danger. The interpretation which makes
the 'evil day' co-extensive with the time of life destroys the whole
emphasis of the passage: whilst all days are days of warfare, there will
be, as in some prolonged siege, periods of comparative quiet; and again,
days when all the cannon belch at once, and scaling ladders are reared
on every side of the fortress. In a long winter there are days sunny and
calm followed, as they were preceded, by days when all the winds are let
loose at once. For us, such times of special danger to Christian
character may arise from temporal vicissitudes. Joy and prosperity are
as sure to occasion them as are sorrows, for to Paul the 'evil day' is
that which especially threatens moral and spiritual character, and these
may be as much damaged by the bright sunshine of prosperity as by the
midwinter of adversity, just as fierce sunshine may be as fatal as
killing frost. They may also arise, without any such change in
circumstances, from some temptation coming with more than ordinary
force, and directed with terrible accuracy to our weakest point.

These evil days are ever wont to come on us suddenly; they are heralded
by no storm signals and no falling barometer. We may be like soldiers
sitting securely round their camp fire, till all at once bullets begin
to fall among them. The tiger's roar is the first signal of its leap
from the jungle. Our position in the world, our ignorance of the future,
the heaped-up magazines of combustibles within, needing only a spark,
all lay us open to unexpected assaults, and the temptation comes
stealthily, 'as a thief in the night.' Nothing is so certain as the
unexpected. For these reasons, then, because the 'evil day' will
certainly come, because it may come at any time, and because it is most
likely to come 'when we look not for it,' it is the dictate of plain
common sense to be prepared. If the good man of the house had known at
what hour the thief would have come, he would have watched; but he would
have been a wiser man if he had watched all the more, because he did
_not_ know at what hour the thief would come.

II. To withstand these we must be armed against them before they come.

The main point of the exhortation is this previous preparation. It is
clear enough that it is no time to fly to our weapons when the enemy is
upon us. Aldershot, not the battlefield, is the place for learning
strategy. Belshazzar was sitting at his drunken feast while the Persians
were marching on Babylon, and in the night he was slain. When great
crises arise in a nation's history, some man whose whole life has been
preparing him for the hour starts to the front and does the needed work.
If a sailor put off learning navigation till the wind was howling and a
reef lay ahead, his corpse would be cast on the cruel rocks. It is well
not to be 'over-exquisite,' to cast the fashion of 'uncertain evils,'
but certain ones cannot be too carefully anticipated, nor too sedulously
prepared for.

The manner in which this preparation is to be carried out is distinctly
marked here. The armour is to be put on before the conflict begins. Now,
without anticipating what will more properly come in considering
subsequent details, we may notice that such a previous assumption
implies mainly two things--a previous familiarity with God's truth, and
a previous exercise of Christian virtues. As to the former, the
subsequent context speaks of taking the sword of the Spirit, which is
the word of God, and of having the loins girt with truth, which may be
objective truth. As to the latter, we need not elaborate the Apostle's
main thought that resistance to sudden temptations is most vigorous when
a man is accustomed to goodness. One of the prophets treats it as being
all but impossible that they who have been accustomed to evil shall
learn to do well, and it is at least not less impossible that they who
have been accustomed to do well shall learn to do evil. Souls which
habitually walk in the clear spaces of the bracing air on the mountains
of God will less easily be tempted down to the shut-in valleys where
malaria reigns. The positive exercise of Christian graces tends to
weaken the force of temptation. A mind occupied with these has no room
for it. Higher tastes are developed which makes the poison sweetness of
evil unsavoury, and just as the Israelites hungered for the strong,
coarse-smelling leeks and garlic of Egypt, and therefore loathed 'this
light bread,' so they whose palates have been accustomed to manna will
have little taste for leeks and garlic. The mental and spiritual
activity involved in the habitual exercise of Christian virtues will go
far to make the soul unassailable by evil. A man, busily occupied, as
the Apostle would have us to be, may be tempted by the devil, though
less frequently the more he is thus occupied; but one who has no such
occupations and interests tempts the devil. If our lives are inwardly
and secretly honeycombed with evil, only a breath will be needed to
throw down the structure. It is possible to become so accustomed to the
calm delights of goodness, that it would need a moral miracle to make a
man fall into sin.

III. To be armed with this armour, we must get it from God.

Though it consists mainly of habitudes and dispositions of our own
minds, none the less have we to receive these from above. It is 'the
panoply of God,' therefore we are to be endued with it, not by exercises
in our own strength, but by dependence on Him. In old days, before a
squire was knighted, he had to keep a vigil in the chapel of the castle,
and through the hours of darkness to watch his armour and lift his soul
to God, and we shall never put on the armour of light unless in silence
we draw near to Him who teaches our hands to war and our fingers to
fight. Communion with Christ, and only communion with Christ, receives
from Him the life which enables us to repel the diseases of our spirits.
What He imparts to those who thus wait upon Him, and to them only, is
the Spirit which helps their infirmities and clothes their undefended
nakedness with a coat of mail. If we go forth to war with evil, clothed
and armed only with what we can provide, we shall surely be worsted in
the fray. If we go forth into the world of struggle from the secret
place of the Most High, 'no weapon that is formed against us shall
prosper,' and we shall be more than conquerors through Him that loved
us.

But waiting on God to receive our weapons from Him is but part of what
is needful for our equipment. It is we who have to gird our loins and
put on the breastplate, and shoe our feet, and take the shield of faith,
and the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. The cumbrous
armour of old days could only be put on by the help of another pulling
straps, and fixing buckles, and lifting and bracing heavy shields on
arms, and fastening helmets upon heads; but we have, by our own effort,
to clothe ourselves with God's great gift, which is of no use to us, and
is in no real sense ours, unless we do. It takes no small effort to
keep ourselves in the attitude of dependence and receptivity, without
which none of the great gifts of God come to us, and, least of all, the
habitual practice of Christian virtues. The soldier who rushed into the
fight, leaving armour and arms huddled together on the ground, would
soon fall, and God's giving avails nothing for our defence unless there
is also our taking. It is the woful want of taking the things that are
freely given to us of God, and of making our own what by His gift is our
own, that is mainly responsible for the defeats of which we are all
conscious. Looking back on our own evil days, we must all be aware that
our defeats have mainly come from one or other of the two errors which
lie so near us all, and which are intimately connected with each
other--the one being that of fighting in our own strength, and the other
being that of leaving unused our God-given power.

IV. The issue of successful resistance is increased firmness of footing.

If we are able to 'withstand in the evil day,' we shall 'stand' more
securely when the evil day has stormed itself away. If we keep erect in
the shock of battle, we shall stand more secure when the wild charge has
been beaten back. The sea hurls tons of water against the slender
lighthouse on the rock, and if it stands, the smashing of the waves
consolidates it. The reward of firm resistance is increased firmness. As
the Red Indians used to believe that the strength of the slain enemies
whom they had scalped passed into their arms, so we may have power
developed by conflict, and we shall more fully understand, and more
passionately believe in, the principles and truths which have served us
in past fights. David would not wear Saul's armour because, as he said,
'I have not proved it,' and the Christian who has come victoriously
through one struggle should be ready to say, 'I have proved it'; we have
the word of the Lord, which is _tried_, to trust to, and not we only,
but generations, have tested it, and it has stood the tests. Therefore,
it is not for us to hesitate as to the worth of our weapons, or to doubt
that they are more than sufficient for every conflict which we may be
called upon to wage.

The text plainly implies that all our life long we shall be in danger of
sudden assaults. It does contemplate victory in the evil day, but it
also contemplates that after we have withstood, we have still to stand
and be ready for another attack to-morrow. Our life here is, and must
still be, a continual warfare. Peace is not bought by any victories;
'There is no discharge in that war.' Like the ten thousand Greeks who
fought their way home through clouds of enemies from the heart of Asia,
we are never safe till we come to the mountain-top, where we can cry,
'The Sea!' But though all our paths lead us through enemies, we have
Jesus, who has conquered them all, with us, and our hearts should not
fail so long as we can hear His brave voice encouraging us: 'In the
world ye have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the
world.'



'THE GIRDLE OF TRUTH'

     'Stand, therefore, having girded your loins with truth.'--Eph.
      vi. 14 (R.V.).


The general exhortation here points to the habitual attitude of the
Christian soldier. However many conflicts he may have waged, he is still
to be ever ready for fresh assaults, for in regard to them he may be
quite sure that to-morrow will bring its own share of them, and that the
evil day is never left behind so long as days still last. That general
exhortation is followed by clauses which are sometimes said to be
cotemporaneous with it, and to be definitions of the way in which it is
to be accomplished, but they are much rather statements of what is to be
done before the soldier takes his stand. He is to be fully equipped
first: he is to take up his position second. We may note that, in all
the list of his equipment, there is but one weapon of offence--the sword
of the Spirit; all the rest are defensive weapons. The girdle, which is
the first specified, is not properly a weapon at all, but it comes first
because the belt keeps all the other parts of the armour in place, and
gives agility to the wearer. Having girded your loins (R.V.) is better
than having your loins girded (A.V.), as bringing out more fully that
the assumption of the belt is the soldier's own doing.

I. We must be braced up if we are to fight.

Concentration and tension of power is an absolute necessity for any
effort, no matter how poor may be the aims to which it is directed, and
what is needed for the successful prosecution of the lowest transient
successes will surely not be less indispensable in the highest forms of
life. If a poor runner for a wreath of parsley or of laurel cannot hope
to win the fading prize unless all his powers are strained to the
uttermost, the Christian athlete has still more certainly to run, so as
the racer has to do, 'that he may obtain.' Loose-flowing robes are
caught by every thorn by the way, and a soul which is not girded up is
sure to be hindered in its course. 'This one thing I do' is the secret
of all successful doing, and obedience to the command of Jesus, 'let
your loins be girded about,' is indispensable, if we would avoid
polluting contact with evil. His other command associated with it will
never be accomplished without it. The lamps will not be burning unless
the loins are girt. The men who scatter their loves and thoughts over a
wide space, and to whom the discipline which confines their energies
within definite channels is distasteful, are destined to be failures in
the struggle of life. It is better to have our lives running between
narrow banks, and so to have a scour in the stream, than to have them
spreading wide and shallow, with no driving force in all the useless
expanse. Such concentration and bracing of oneself up is needful, if any
of the rest of the great exhortations which follow are to be fulfilled.

It may be that Paul here has haunting his memory our Lord's words which
we have just quoted; and, in any case, he is in beautiful accord with
his brother Peter, who begins all the exhortations of his epistle with
the words, 'Wherefore, girding up the loins of your mind, be sober, and
set your minds perfectly upon the grace that is to be brought unto you
at the revelation of Jesus Christ.' Peter, indeed, is not thinking of
the soldier's belt, but he is, no doubt, remembering many a time when,
in the toils of the fishing-boat, he had to tighten his robes round his
waist to prepare for tugging at the oar, and he feels that such
concentration is needful if a Christian life is ever to be sober, and to
have its hope set perfectly on Christ and His grace.

II. The girdle is to be truth.

The question immediately arises as to whether truth here means objective
truth--the truth of the Gospel, or subjective truth, or, as we are
accustomed to say, truthfulness. It would seem that the former
signification is rather included in the sword of the Spirit, which is
the word of God, and it is best to regard the phrase 'with (literally
"in") truth' here as having its ordinary meaning, of which we may take
as examples the phrases, 'the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth';
'love rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but rejoiceth with the truth';
'whom I love in truth.' Absolute sincerity and transparent truthfulness
may well be regarded as the girdle which encloses and keeps secure every
other Christian grace and virtue.

We do not need to go far to find a slight tinge of unreality marring the
Christian life: we have only to scrutinise our own experiences to detect
some tendency to affectation, to saying a little more than is quite
true, even in our sincerest worship. And we cannot but recognise that in
all Christian communities there is present an element of conventionalism
in their prayers, and that often the public expression of religious
emotions goes far beyond the realities of feeling in the worshippers. In
fact, terrible as the acknowledgment may be, we shall be blind if we do
not recognise that the average Christianity of this day suffers from
nothing more than it does from the lack of this transparent sincerity,
and of absolute correspondence between inward fact and outward
expression. Types of Christianity which make much of emotion are, of
course, specially exposed to such a danger, but those which make least
of it are not exempt, and we all need to lay to heart, far more
seriously than we ordinarily do, that God 'desires truth in the outward
parts.' The sturdy English moralist who proclaimed 'Clear your mind of
cant' as the first condition of attaining wisdom, was not so very far
from Paul's point of view in our text, but his exhortation covered but
a small section of the Apostle's.

This absolute sincerity is hard to attain, and still harder to retain.
Hideous as the fact of posing or attitudinising in our religion may be,
it is one that comes very easily to us all, and, when it comes, spreads
fast and spoils everything. Just as the legionary's armour was held in
its place by the girdle, and if that worked loose or was carelessly
fastened, the breastplate would be sure to get out of position, so all
the subsequent graces largely depend for their vigorous exercise on the
prime virtue of truthfulness. Righteousness and faith will be weakened
by the fatal taint of insincerity, and, on the other hand, conscious
truthfulness will give strength to the whole man. Braced up and
concentrated, our powers for all service and for all conflict will be
increased. 'The bond of perfectness' is, no doubt, 'Love,' but that
perfect bond will not be worn by us, unless we have girded our loins
with truthfulness.

It may be that in Paul's memory there is floating Isaiah's great vision
of the 'Branch' out of the stock of Jesse, on whom the Spirit of the
Lord was to rest, and on whom it was proclaimed that faithfulness (or as
it is rendered in the Septuagint, by the same phrase which the Apostle
here employs, 'in truth') was to be the girdle of his reins; but, at all
events, that which the prophet saw to be in the ideal Messiah, the
Apostle sees as essential to all the subjects of that King.

III. Our truthfulness is the work of God's truth.

We have already pointed out that the expression in the text may either
be taken as referring to the subjective quality of truthfulness, or to
the objective truth of God as contained in the Gospel, but these two
interpretations may be united, for the main factor in producing the
former is the faithful use of the latter and an honest submission to its
operation. The Psalmist of old had learned that the great safeguard
against sin was the resolve, 'Thy word have I hid in my heart.' That
word brings to bear the mightiest motives that can sway life. It moves
by love, by fear, by hope: it proposes the loftiest aim, even to imitate
God as dear children; it gives clear directions, and draws straight and
plain the pilgrim's path; it holds out the largest promises, and in a
measure fulfils them, even in the narrowest and most troubled lives. If
we have made God's truth our own, and are faithfully applying it to the
details of daily life and submitting our whole selves to its operation,
we shall be truthful and shall instinctively shrink from all unreality.
If we know the truth as it is in Jesus, and walk in it, that 'truth will
make us free,' and if thus 'we are in Him that is true, even in His Son,
Jesus Christ,' that truth abiding in us, and with us, for ever, will
make us truthful. In a heart so occupied and filled there is no room for
the make-believes which are but too apt to creep into religious
experience. Such a soul will recoil with an instinct of abhorrence from
all that savours of ostentation, and will feel that its truest treasure
cannot be shown. It is our duty not to hide God's righteousness within
our hearts, but it is equally our duty to hide His word there. We have
to seek to make manifest the 'savour of His knowledge in every place,'
but we have also to remember that in our hearts there is a secret place,
and that 'not easily forgiven are they who draw back the curtains,' and
let a careless world look in. It is not for others to pry into the
hidden mysteries of the fellowship of a soul with the indwelling
Christ, however it may be the Christian duty to show to all and sundry
the blessed and transforming effects of that fellowship.

But God's truth must be received and its power submitted to, if it is to
implant in us the supreme grace of perfect truthfulness. Our minds and
hearts must be saturated with it by many an hour of solitary reflection,
by meditation which will diffuse its aroma like a fragrant perfume
through our characters, and by the habit of bringing all circumstances,
moods, and desires to be tested by its infallible criterion, and by the
unreluctant acceptance of its guidance at every moment of our lives.
There are many of us who, in a real though terribly imperfect sense,
hold the truth, but who know nothing, or next to nothing, of its power
to make us truthful. If it is to be of any use to us, we must make it
ours in a far deeper sense than it is ours now; for many of us the
girdle has been but carelessly fastened and has worked loose, and
because, by our own faults, we have not 'abode in the truth,' it has
come to pass that there is 'no truth in us.' We have set before us in
the text the one condition on which all Christian progress depends, and
if by any slackness we loosen the girdle of truthfulness, and admit into
our religious life any taint of unreality, if our prayers say just a
little more than is quite true, and our penitence a little less, we
shall speedily find that hypocrisy and trivial insincerity are separated
by very narrow limits. God's truth in the Gospel cleanses the inner man,
but not without his own effort, and, therefore, we are commanded to
'cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting
holiness, in the fear of the Lord.'



'THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS'

     'Having put on the breastplate of righteousness.'--Eph. vi. 14.


There can be no doubt that in this whole context the Apostle has in mind
the great passage in Isaiah lix. where the prophet, in a figure of
extreme boldness, describes the Lord as arming Himself to deliver the
oppressed faithful, and coming as a Redeemer to Zion. In that passage
the Lord puts on righteousness as a breastplate--that is to say, God, in
His manifestation of Himself for the deliverance of His people, comes
forth as if arrayed in the glittering armour of righteousness. Paul does
not shrink from applying the same metaphor to those who are to be
'imitators of God as beloved children,' and from urging upon them that,
in their humble degree and lowly measure, they too are to be clothed in
the bright armour of moral rectitude. This righteousness is manifested
in character and in conduct, and as the breastplate guards the vital
organs from assault, it will keep the heart unwounded.

We must note that Paul here gathers up the whole sum of Christian
character and conduct into one word. All can be expressed, however
diversified may be the manifestations, by the one sovereign term
'righteousness,' and that is not merely a hasty generalisation, or a too
rapid synthesis. As all sin has one root and is genetically one, so all
goodness is at bottom one. The germ of sin is living to oneself: the
germ of goodness is living to God. Though the degrees of development of
either opposite are infinite, and the forms of its expression
innumerable, yet the root of each is one.

Paul thinks of righteousness as existent before the Christian soldier
puts it on. In this thought we are not merely relying on the metaphor of
our text, but bringing it into accord with the whole tone of New
Testament teaching, which knows of only one way in which any soul that
has been living to self, and therefore to sin, can attain to living to
God, and therefore can be righteous. We must receive, if we are ever to
possess, the righteousness which is of God, and which becomes ours
through Jesus Christ. The righteousness which shines as a fair but
unattainable vision before sinful men, has a real existence, and may be
theirs. It is not to be self-elaborated, but to be received.

That existent righteousness is to be put on. Other places of Scripture
figure it as the robe of righteousness; here it is conceived of as the
breastplate, but the idea of assumption is the same. It is to be put on,
primarily, by faith. It is given in Christ to simple belief. He that
hath faith thereby has the righteousness which is through faith in
Christ, for in his faith he has the one formative principle of reliance
on God, which will gradually refine character and mould conduct into
whatsoever things are lovely and of good report. That righteousness
which faith receives is no mere forensic treating of the unjust as just,
but whilst it does bring with it pardon and oblivion from past
transgressions, it makes a man in the depths of his being righteous,
however slowly it may afterwards transform his conduct. The faith which
is a departure from all reliance on works of righteousness which we have
done, and is a single-eyed reliance on the work of Jesus Christ, opens
the heart in which it is planted to all the influences of that life
which was in Jesus, that from Him it may be in us. If Christ be in us
(and if He is not, we are none of His), 'the spirit is life because of
righteousness,' however the body may still be 'dead because of sin.'

But the putting on of the breastplate requires effort as well as faith,
and effort will be vigorous in the measure in which faith is vivid, but
it should follow, not precede or supplant, faith. There is no more
hopeless and weary advice than would be the exhortation of our text if
it stood alone. It is a counsel of despair to tell a man to put on that
breastplate, and to leave him in doubt where he is to find it, or
whether he has to hammer it together by his own efforts before he can
put it on. There is no more unprofitable expenditure of breath than the
cry to men, Be good! Be good! Moral teaching without Gospel preaching is
little better than a waste of breath.

This injunction is continuously imperative upon all Christian soldiers.
They are on the march through the enemy's country, and can never safely
lay aside their armour. After all successes, and no less after all
failures, we have still to arm ourselves for the fight, and it is to be
remembered that the righteousness of which Paul speaks differs from
common earthly moralities only as including and transcending them all.
It is, alas, too true that Christian righteousness has been by
Christians set forth as something fantastic and unreal, remote from
ordinary life, and far too heavenly-minded to care for common virtues.
Let us never forget that Jesus Himself has warned us, that except our
righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, we
shall in no wise enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The greater orbit encloses
the lesser within itself.

The breastplate of righteousness is our defence against evil. The
opposition to temptation is best carried on by the positive cultivation
of good. A habit of righteous conduct is itself a defence against
temptation. Untilled fields bear abundant weeds. The used tool does not
rust, nor the running water gather scum. The robe of righteousness will
guard the heart as effectually as a coat of mail. The positive
employment with good weakens temptation, and arms us against evil. But
so long as we are here our righteousness must be militant, and we must
be content to live ever armed to meet the enemy which is always hanging
round us, and watching for an opportunity to strike. The time will come
when we shall put off the breastplate and put on the fine linen 'clean
and white,' which is the heavenly and final form of the righteousness of
Saints.



A SOLDIER'S SHOES

     'Your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.'--Eph.
      vi. 15.


Paul drew the first draft of this picture of the Christian armour in his
first letter. It is a finished picture here. One can fancy that the
Roman soldier to whom he was chained in his captivity, whilst this
letter was being written, unconsciously sat for his likeness, and that
each piece of his accoutrements was seized in succession by the
Apostle's imagination and turned to a Christian use. It is worth
noticing that there is only one offensive weapon mentioned--'the sword
of the Spirit.' All the rest are defensive--helmet, breastplate, shield,
girdle, and shoes. That is to say, the main part of our warfare consists
in defence, in resistance, and in keeping what we have, in spite of
everybody, men and devils, who attempt to take it from us. 'Hold fast
that thou hast; let no man take thy crown.'

Now, it seems to me that the ordinary reader does not quite grasp the
meaning of our text, and that it would be more intelligible if, instead
of 'preparation,' which means the process of getting a thing ready, we
read 'preparedness,' which means the state of mind of the man who is
ready. Then we have to notice that the little word 'of' does duty to
express two different relations, in the two instances of its use here.
In the first case--'the preparedness of the Gospel'--it states the
origin of the thing in question. That condition of being ready comes
from the good news of Christ. In the second case--'the Gospel of
peace'--it states the result of the thing in question. The good news of
Christ gives peace. So, taking the whole clause, we may paraphrase it by
saying that the preparedness of spirit, the alacrity which comes from
the possession of a Gospel that sheds a calm over the heart and brings a
man into peace with God, is what the Apostle thinks is like the heavy
hob-nailed boots that the legionaries wore, by which they could stand
firm, whatever came against them.

I. The first thing that I would notice here is that the Gospel brings
peace.

I suppose that there was ringing in Paul's head some echoes of the music
of Isaiah's words, 'How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of Him
that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace, that bringeth good
tidings of good!' But there is a great deal more than an unconscious
quotation of ancient words here; for in Paul's thought, the one power
which brings a man into harmony with the universe and to peace with
himself, is the power which proclaims that God is at peace with him. And
Jesus Christ is our peace, because He has swept away the root and bitter
fountain of all the disquiet of men's hearts, and all their chafing at
providences--the consciousness that there is discord between themselves
and God. The Gospel brings peace in the deepest sense of that word, and,
primarily, peace with God, from out of which all other kinds of
tranquillity and heart-repose do come--and they come from nothing
besides.

But what strikes me most here is not so much the allusion to the blessed
truth that was believed and experienced by these Ephesian Christians,
that the Gospel brought peace, and was the only thing that did, as the
singular emergence of that idea that the Gospel was a peace-bringing
power, in the midst of this picture of fighting. Yes, it brings both. It
brings us peace first, and then it says to us, 'Now, having got peace in
your heart, because peace with God, go out and fight to keep it.' For,
if we are warring with the devil we are at peace with God; and if we are
at peace with the devil we are warring with God. So the two states of
peace and war go together. There is no real peace which has not conflict
in it, and the Gospel _is_ 'the Gospel of peace,' precisely because it
enlists us in Christ's army and sends us out to fight Christ's battles.

So, then, dear brother, the only way to realise and preserve 'the peace
of God which passes understanding' is to fling ourselves manfully into
the fight to which all Christ's soldiers are pledged and bound. The two
conditions, though they seem to be opposite, will unite; for this is the
paradox of the Christian life, that in all regions it makes compatible
apparently incompatible and contradictory emotions. 'As sorrowful'--and
Paul might have said 'therefore' instead of 'yet'--'as sorrowful yet
always rejoicing; as having nothing yet'--therefore--'possessing all
things'; as in the thick of the fight, and yet kept in perfect peace,
because the soul is stayed on God. The peace that comes from friendship
with Him, the peace that fills a heart tranquil because satisfied, the
peace that soothes a conscience emptied of all poison and robbed of all
its sting, the peace that abides because, on all the horizon in front of
us nothing can be seen that we need to be afraid of--that peace is the
peace which the Gospel brings, and it is realised in warfare and is
consistent with it. All the armies of the world may camp round the
fortress, and the hurtling noise of battle may be loud in the plains,
but up upon the impregnable cliff crowned by its battlements there is a
central citadel, with a chapel in the heart of it; and to the
worshippers there none of the noise ever penetrates. The Gospel which
laps us in peace and puts it in our hearts makes us soldiers.

II. Further, this Gospel of peace will prepare us for the march.

A wise general looks after his soldiers' boots. If they give out,
nothing else is of much use. The roads are very rough and very long, and
there need to be strong soles and well-sewed uppers, and they will be
none the worse for a bit of iron on the heels and the toes, in order
that they may not wear out in the midst of the campaign. 'Thy shoes
shall be iron and brass,' and these metals are harder than any of the
rock that you will have to clamber over. Which being translated into
plain fact is just this--a tranquil heart in amity with God is ready for
all the road, is likely to make progress, and is fit for anything that
it may be called to do.

A calm heart makes a light foot; and he who is living at peace with God,
and with all disturbance within hushed to rest, will, for one thing, be
able to see what his duty is. He will see his way as far as is needful
for the moment. That is more than a good many of us can do when our eyes
get confused, because our hearts are beating so loudly and fast, and our
own wishes come in to hide from us God's will. But if we are weaned from
ourselves, as we shall be if we are living in possession of the peace of
God which passes understanding, the atmosphere will be transparent, as
it is on some of the calm last days of autumn, and we shall see far
ahead and know where we ought to go.

The quiet heart will be able to fling its whole strength into its work.
And that is what troubled hearts never can do, for half their energy is
taken up in steadying or quieting themselves, or is dissipated in going
after a hundred other things. But when we are wholly engaged in quiet
fellowship with Jesus Christ we have the whole of our energies at our
command, and can fling ourselves wholly into our work for Him. The
steam-engine is said to be a very imperfect machine which wastes more
power than it utilises. That is true of a great many Christian people;
they have the power, but they are so far away from that deep sense of
tranquillity with God, of which my text speaks, that they waste much of
the power that they have. And if we are to have for our motto 'Always
Ready.' as an old Scottish family has, the only way to secure that is by
having 'our feet shod with the preparedness' that comes from the Gospel
that brings us peace. Brethren, duty that is done reluctantly, with
hesitation, is not done. We must fling ourselves into the work gladly
and be always 'ready for all Thy perfect will.'

There was an English commander, who died some years ago, who was sent
for to the Horse Guards one day and asked, 'How long will it take for
you to be ready to go to Scinde?' 'Half an hour,' said he; and in
three-quarters he was in the train, on his road to reconquer a kingdom.
That is how we ought to be; but we never shall be, unless we live
habitually in tranquil communion with God, and in the full faith that we
are at peace with Him through the blood of His Son. A quiet heart makes
us ready for duty.

III. Again, the Gospel of peace prepares us for combat.

In ancient warfare battles were lost or won very largely according to
the weight of the masses of men that were hurled against each other; and
the heavier men, with the firmer footing, were likely to be the victors.
Our modern scientific way of fighting is different from that. But in the
old time the one thing needful was that a man should stand firm and
resist the shock of the enemies as they rushed upon him. Unless our
footing is good we shall be tumbled over by the onset of some unexpected
antagonist. And for good footing there are two things necessary. One is
a good, solid piece of ground to stand on, that is not slippery nor
muddy, and the other is a good, strong pair of soldier's boots, that
will take hold on the ground and help the wearer to steady himself.
Christ has set our feet on the rock, and so the first requisite is
secured. If we, for our part, will keep near to that Gospel which brings
peace into our hearts, the peace that it brings will make us able to
stand and bear unmoved any force that may be hurled against us. If we
are to be 'steadfast, unmovable,' we can only be so when our feet are
shod with the preparedness of the Gospel of peace.

The most of your temptations, most of the things that would pluck you
away from Jesus Christ, and upset you in your standing will come down
upon you unexpectedly. Nothing happens in this world except the
unexpected; and it is the sudden assaults that we were not looking for
that work most disastrously against us. A man may be aware of some
special weakness in his character, and have given himself carefully and
patiently to try to fortify himself against it, and, lo! all at once a
temptation springs up from the opposite side; the enemy was lying in
hiding there, and whilst his face was turned to fight with one foe, a
foe that he knew nothing about came storming behind him. There is only
one way to stand, and that is not merely by cultivating careful
watchfulness against our own weaknesses, but by keeping fast hold of
Jesus Christ manifested to us in His Gospel. Then the peace that comes
from that communion will itself guard us.

You remember what Paul says in one of his other letters, where he has
the same beautiful blending together of the two ideas of peace and
warfare: 'The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall
garrison your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.' It will be, as it were,
an armed force within your heart which will repel all antagonism, and
will enable you to abide in that Christ, through whom and in whom alone
all peace comes. So, because we are thus liable to be overwhelmed by a
sudden rush of unexpected temptation, and surprised into a sin before we
know where we are, let us keep fast hold by that Gospel which brings
peace, which will give us steadfastness, however suddenly the masked
battery may begin to play upon us, and the foe may steal out of his
ambush and make a rush against our unprotectedness. That is the only
way, as I think, by which we can walk scatheless through the world.

Now, dear brethren, remember that this text is part of a commandment. We
are to put on the shoes. How is that to be done? By a very simple way: a
way which, I am afraid, a great many Christian people do not practise
with anything like the constancy that they ought. For it is the Gospel
that brings the peace, and if its peace brings the preparedness, then
the way to get the preparedness is by soaking our minds and hearts in
the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

You hear a good deal nowadays about deepening the spiritual life, and
people hold conventions for the purpose. All right; I have not a word to
say against that. But, conventions or no conventions, there is only one
thing that deepens the spiritual life, and that is keeping near the
Christ from whom all the fulness of the spiritual life flows. If we will
hold fast by our Gospel, and let its peace lie upon our minds, as the
negative of a photograph lies upon the paper that it is to be printed
upon, until the image of Jesus Christ Himself is reproduced in us, then
we may laugh at temptation. For there will be no temptation when the
heart is full of Him, and there will be no sense of surrendering
anything that we wish to keep when the superior sweetness of His grace
fills our souls. It is empty vessels into which poison can be poured. If
the vessel is full there will be no room for it. Get your hearts and
minds filled with the wine of the kingdom, and the devil's venom of
temptation will have no space to get in. It is well to resist
temptation; it is better to be lifted above it, so that it ceases to
tempt. And the one way to secure that is to live near Jesus Christ, and
let the Gospel of His grace take up more of our thoughts and more of
our affections than it has done in the past. Then we shall realise the
fulfilment of the promise: 'He will not suffer thy foot to be moved.'



THE SHIELD OF FAITH

     'Above all, taking the shield of faith, whereby ye shall be able to
      quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.'--Eph. vi. 16.


There were two kinds of shields in use in ancient warfare--one smaller,
carried upon the arm, and which could be used, by a movement of the arm,
for the defence of threatened parts of the body in detail; the other
large, planted in front of the soldier, fixed in the ground, and all but
covering his whole person. It is the latter which is referred to in the
text, as the word which describes it clearly shows. That word is
connected with the Greek word meaning 'door,' and gives a rough notion
of the look of the instrument of defence--a great rectangular oblong,
behind which a man could stand untouched and untouchable. And that is
the kind of shield, says Paul, which we are to have--no little defence
which may protect some part of the nature, but a great wall, behind
which he who crouches is safe.

'Above all' does not mean here, as superficial readers take it to mean,
most especially and primarily, as most important, but it simply means
_in addition to_ all these other things. Perhaps with some allusion to
the fact that the shield protected the breastplate, as well as the
breastplate protected the man, there may be a reference to the kind of
double defence which comes to him who wears that breastplate and lies
behind the shelter of a strong and resolute faith.

I. Now, looking at this metaphor from a practical point of view, the
first thing to note is the missiles, 'the fiery darts of the wicked.'

Archæologists tell us that there were in use in ancient warfare javelins
tipped with some kind of combustible, which were set on fire, and flung,
so that they had not only the power of wounding but also of burning; and
that there were others with a hollow head, which was in like manner
filled, kindled, and thrown into the ranks of the enemy. I suppose that
the Apostle's reason for specifying these fiery darts was simply that
they were the most formidable offensive weapons that he had ever heard
of. Probably, if he had lived to-day, he would have spoken of
rifle-bullets or explosive shells, instead of fiery darts. But, though
probably the Apostle had no further meaning in the metaphor than to
suggest that faith was mightier than the mightiest assaults that can be
hurled against it, we may venture to draw attention to two particulars
in which this figure is specially instructive and warning. The one is
the action of certain temptations in setting the soul on fire; the other
is the suddenness with which they assail us.

'The fiery darts.' Now, I do not wish to confine that metaphor too
narrowly to any one department of human nature, for our whole being is
capable of being set on fire, and 'set on fire of hell,' as James says.
But there are things in us all to which the fiery darts do especially
appeal: desires, appetites, passions; or--to use the word which refined
people are so afraid of, although the Bible is not, '_lusts_--which war
against the soul,' and which need only a touch of fire to flare up like
a tar-barrel, in thick foul smoke darkening the heavens. There are fiery
darts that strike these animal natures of ours, and set them all aflame.

But, there are other fiery darts than these. There are plenty of other
desires in us: wishes, cowardices, weaknesses of all sorts, that, once
touched with the devil's dart, will burn fiercely enough. We all know
that.

Then there is the other characteristic of suddenness. The dart comes
without any warning. The arrow is invisible until it is buried in the
man's breast. The pestilence walks in darkness, and the victim does not
know until its poison fang is in him. Ah! yes! brethren, the most
dangerous of our temptations are those that are sprung upon us unawares.
We are going quietly along the course of our daily lives, occupied with
quite other thoughts, and all at once, as if a door had opened, not out
of heaven but out of hell, we are confronted with some evil thing that,
unless we are instantaneously on our guard, will conquer us almost
before we know. Evil tempts us because it comes to us, for the most
part, without any beat of drum or blast of trumpet to say that it is
coming, and to put us upon our guard. The batteries that do most harm to
the advancing force are masked until the word of command is given, and
then there is a flash from every cannon's throat and a withering hail of
shot that confounds by its unexpectedness as well as kills by its blow.
The fiery darts that light up the infernal furnace in a man's heart, and
that smite him all unawares and unsuspecting, these are the weapons that
we have to fear most.

II. Consider next, the defence: 'the shield of faith.'

Now, the Old Testament says things like this: 'Fear not, Abraham; I am
thy Shield.' The psalmist invoked God, in a rapturous exuberance of
adoring invocations, as his fortress, and his buckler, and the horn of
his salvation, and his high tower. The same psalm says, 'The Lord is a
shield to all them that put their trust in Him'; and the Book of
Proverbs, which is not given to quoting psalms, quotes that verse.
Another psalm says, 'The Lord God is a sun and shield.'

And then Paul comes speaking of 'the shield of _faith_.' What has become
of the other one? The answer is plain enough. My faith is nothing except
for what it puts in front of me, and it is God who is truly my shield;
my faith is only called a shield, because it brings me behind the bosses
of the Almighty's buckler, against which no man can run a tilt, or into
which no man can strike his lance, nor any devil either. God is a
defence; and my trust, which is nothing in itself, is everything because
of that with which it brings me into connection. Faith is the condition,
and the only condition, of God's power flowing into me, and working in
me. And when that power flows into me, and works in me, then I can laugh
at the fiery darts, because 'greater is He that is with us than all they
that are with them.'

So all the glorification which the New Testament pours out upon the act
of faith properly belongs, not to the act itself, but to that with which
the act brings us into connection. Wherefore, in the first Epistle of
John, the Apostle, who recorded Christ's saying, 'Be of good cheer; I
have overcome the world,' translates it into, 'This is the victory that
overcometh the world'--_not_, our Christ, but--'even our faith.' And it
overcomes because it binds us in deep, vital union with Him who has
overcome; and then all His conquering power comes into us.

That is the explanation and vindication of the turn which Paul gives to
the Old Testament metaphor here, when he makes our shield to be faith.
Suppose a man was exercising trust in one that was unworthy of it, would
that trust defend him from anything? Suppose you were in peril of some
great pecuniary loss, and were saying to yourself, 'Oh! I do not care.
So-and-so has guaranteed me against any loss, and I trust to him,' and
suppose he was a bankrupt, what would be the good of your trust? It
would not bring the money back into your pocket. Suppose a man is
leaning upon a rotten support; the harder he leans the sooner it will
crumble. So there is no defence in the act of trust except what comes
into it from the object of trust; and my faith is a shield only because
it grasps the God who is the shield.

But, then, there is another side to that thought. My faith will quench,
as nothing else will, these sudden impulses of fiery desires, because my
faith brings me into the conscious presence of God, and of the unseen
realities where He dwells. How can a man sin when God's eye is felt to
be upon him? Suppose conspirators plotting some dark deed in a corner,
shrouded by the night, as they think; and suppose, all at once, the day
were to blaze in upon them, they would scatter, and drop their designs.
Faith draws back the curtain which screens off that unseen world from so
many of us, and lets in the light that shines down from above and shows
us that we are compassed about by a cloud of witnesses, and the Captain
of our Salvation in the midst of them. Then the fiery darts fizzle out,
and the points drop off them. No temptation continues to flame when we
see God.

They have contrivances in mills that they call 'automatic sprinklers.'
When the fire touches them it melts away a covering, and a gas is set
free that puts the fire out. And if we let in the thought of God, it
will extinguish any flame. 'The sun puts out the fire in our grates,'
the old women say. Let God's sun shine into your heart, and you will
find that the infernal light has gone out. The shield of faith quenches
the fiery darts of the 'wicked.'

Yes! and it does it in another way. For, according to the Epistle to the
Hebrews, faith realises 'the things hoped for,' as well as 'unseen.' And
if a man is walking in the light of the great promises of Heaven, and
the great threatenings of a hell, he will not be in much danger of being
set on fire, even by 'the fiery darts of the wicked.' He that receives
into his heart God's strength; he that by faith is conscious of the
divine presence in communion with him; he that by faith walks in the
light of eternal retribution, will triumph over the most sudden, the
sharpest, and the most fiery of the darts that can be launched against
him.

III. The Grasp of the Shield.

'_Taking_ the shield,' then, there is something to be done in order to
get the benefit of that defence. Now, there are a great many very good
people at present who tell Christian men that they ought to exercise
faith for sanctifying, as they exercise it for justifying and
acceptance. And some of them--I do not say all--forget that there is
effort needed to exercise faith for sanctifying; and that our energy has
to be put forth in order that a man may, in spite of all resistance,
keep himself in the attitude of dependence. So my text, whilst it
proclaims that we are to trust for defence against, and victory over,
recurring temptations, just as we trusted for forgiveness and
acceptance at the beginning, proclaims also that there must be effort to
grasp the shield, and to realise the defence which the shield gives to
us.

For to trust is an act of the heart and will far more than of the head,
and there are a great many hindrances that rise in the way of it; and to
keep behind the shield, and not depend at all upon our own wit, our
wisdom, or our strength, but wholly upon the Christ who gives us wit and
wisdom, and strengthens our fingers to fight--that will take work! To
occupy heart and mind with the object of faith is not an easy thing.

So, brethren, effort to compel the will and the heart to trust; effort
to keep the mind in touch with the verities and the Person who are the
objects of our faith; and effort to keep ourselves utterly and wholly
ensconced behind the Shield, and never to venture out into the open,
where our own arm has to keep our own heads, but to hang wholly upon
Him--these things go to 'taking' the shield of faith. And it is because
we fail in these, and not because there are any holes or weak places in
the shield, that so many of the fiery darts find their way through, and
set on fire and wound us. The Shield is impregnable, beaten as we have
often been. 'This is the victory that overcometh the world'--and the
devil and his darts--'even our faith.'



'THE HELMET OF SALVATION'

     'Take the helmet of salvation.'--Eph. vi. 17.


We may, perhaps, trace a certain progress in the enumeration of the
various pieces of the Christian armour in this context. Roughly
speaking, they are in three divisions. There are first our graces of
truth, righteousness, preparedness, which, though they are all conceived
as given by God, are yet the exercises of our own powers. There is next,
standing alone, as befits its all-comprehensive character, faith which
is able to ward against and overcome not merely this and that
temptation, but all forms of evil. That faith is the root of the three
preceding graces, and makes the transition to the two which follow,
because it is the hand by which we lay hold of God's gifts. The two
final parts of the Christian armour are God's gifts, pure and
simple--salvation and the word of God. So the progress is from
circumference to centre, from man to God. From the central faith we have
on the one hand that which it produces in us; on the other, that which
it lays hold of from God. And these two last pieces of armour, being
wholly God's gift, we are bidden with especial emphasis which is shown
by a change in construction, to take or receive these.

I. The Salvation.

Once more Old Testament prophecy suggests the words of this exhortation.
In Isaiah's grand vision of God, arising to execute judgment which is
also redemption, we have a wonderful picture of His arraying Himself in
armour. Righteousness is His flashing breastplate: on His head is an
helmet of salvation. The gleaming steel is draped by garments of
retributive judgment, and over all is cast, like a cloak, the ample
folds of that 'zeal' which expresses the inexhaustible energy and
intensity of the divine nature and action. Thus arrayed He comes forth
to avenge and save. His redeeming work is the manifestation and issue of
all these characteristics of His nature. It flames with divine fervour:
it manifests the justice which repays, but its inmost character is
righteousness, and its chief purpose is to save. His helmet is
salvation; the plain, prose meaning of which would appear to be that His
great purpose of saving men is its own guarantee that His purpose should
be effected, and is the armour by which His work is defended.

The Apostle uses the old picture with perfect freedom, quoting the words
indeed, but employing them quite differently. God's helmet of salvation
is His own purpose; man's helmet of salvation is God's gift. He is
strong to save because He wills to save; we are strong and safe when we
take the salvation which He gives.

It is to be further noticed that the same image appears in Paul's rough
draft of the Christian armour in Thessalonians, with the significant
difference that there the helmet is 'the hope of salvation,' and here it
is the salvation itself. This double representation is in full accord
with all Scripture teaching, according to which we both possess and hope
for salvation, and our possession determines the measure of our hope.
That great word negatively implies deliverance from evil of any kind,
and in its lower application, from sickness or peril of any sort. In its
higher meaning in Scripture the evil from which we are saved is most
frequently left unexpressed, but sometimes a little glimpse is given, as
when we read that 'we are saved from wrath through Him' or 'saved from
sin.' What Christ saves us from is, first and chiefly, from sin in all
aspects, its guilt, its power, and its penalty; but His salvation
reaches much further than any mere deliverance from threatening evil,
and positively means the communication to our weakness and emptiness of
all blessings and graces possible for men. It is inward and properly
spiritual, but it is also outward, and it is not fully possessed until
we are clothed with 'salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.'

Hence, in Scripture our salvation is presented as past, as present, and
as future. As past it is once for all received by initial faith in
Christ; and, in view of their faith, Paul has no scruples as to saying
to the imperfect Christians whose imperfections he scourges, 'Ye have
been saved,' or in building upon that past fact his earnest exhortations
and his scathing rebukes. The salvation is present if in any true sense
it is past. There will be a daily growing deliverance from evil and a
daily growing appropriation and manifestation of the salvation which we
have received. And so Paul more than once speaks of Christians as 'being
saved.' The process begun in the past is continued throughout the
present, and the more a Christian man is conscious of its reality even
amidst flaws, failures, stagnation, and lapses, the more assured will be
his hope of the perfect salvation in the future, when all that is here,
tendency often thwarted, and aspirations often balked, and sometimes
sadly contradicted, will be completely, uninterruptedly, and eternally
realised. If that hope flickers and is sometimes all but dead, the
reason mainly lies in its flame not being fed by present experience.

II. The helmet of salvation.

This salvation in its present form will keep our heads in the day of
battle. Its very characteristic is that it delivers us from evil, and
all the graces with which Paul equips his ideal warrior are parts of the
positive blessings which our salvation brings us. The more assured we
are in our own happy consciousness of possessing the salvation of God,
the more shall we be defended from all the temptations that seek to stir
into action our lower selves. There will be no power in our fears to
draw us into sin, and the possible evils that appeal to earthly passions
of whatever sort will lose their power to disturb us, in the precise
measure in which we know that we are saved in Christ. The consciousness
of salvation will tend to damp down the magazine of combustibles that we
all carry within us, and the sparks that fall will be as innocuous as
those that light on wet gunpowder. If our thoughts are occupied with the
blessings which we possess they will be guarded against the assaults of
evil. The full cup has no room for poison. The eye that is gazing on the
far-off white mountains does not see the filth and frivolities around.
If we are living in conscious possession and enjoyment of what God gives
us, we shall pass scatheless through the temptations which would
otherwise fall on us and rend us. A future eagerly longed for, and
already possessed in germ, will kill a present that would otherwise
appeal to us with irresistible force.

III. Take the helmet.

We might perhaps more accurately read _receive_ salvation, for that
salvation is not won by any efforts of our own, but if we ever possess
it, our possession is the result of our accepting it as a gift from God.
The first word which the Gospel speaks to men and which makes it a
Gospel, is not Do this or that, but Take this from the hands that were
nailed to the Cross. The beginning of all true life, of all peace, of
all self-control, of all hope, lies in the humble and penitent
acceptance by faith of the salvation which Christ brings, and with which
we have nothing to do but to accept it.

But Paul is here speaking to those whom he believes to have already
exercised the initial faith which united them to Christ, and made His
salvation theirs, and to these the exhortation comes with special
force. To such it says, 'See to it that your faith ever grasps and feeds
upon the great facts on which your salvation reposes--God's changeless
love, Christ's all-sufficient sacrifice and ascended life, which He
imparts to us if we abide in Him. Hold fast and prolong by continual
repetition the initial act by which you received that salvation. It is
said that on his death-bed Oliver Cromwell asked the Puritan divine who
was standing by it whether a man who had once been in the covenant could
be lost, and on being assured that he could not, answered, 'I know that
I was once in it'; but such a building on past experiences is a building
on sand, and nothing but continuous faith will secure a continuous
salvation. A melancholy number of so-called Christians in this day have
to travel far back through the years before they reach the period when
they took the helmet of salvation. They know that they were far better
men, and possessed a far deeper apprehension of Christ and His power in
the old days than is theirs now, and they need not wonder if God's great
gift has unnoticed slipped from their relaxed grasp. A hand that clings
to a rock while a swollen flood rushes past needs to perpetually be
tightening its grip, else the man will be swept away; and the present
salvation, and, still more, the hope of a future salvation, are not ours
on any other terms than a continual repetition of the initial act by
which we first received them. But there must also be a continually
increased appropriation and manifestation in our lives of a progressive
salvation that will come as a result of a constantly renewed faith; but
it will not come unless there be continuous effort to work into our
characters, and to work out in our lives, the transforming and
vitalising power of the life given to us in Jesus Christ. If our
present experience yields no sign of growing conformity to the image of
our Saviour, there is only too abundant reason for doubting whether we
have experienced a past salvation or have any right to anticipate a
perfect future salvation.

The last word to be said is, Live in frequent anticipation of that
perfect future. If that anticipation is built on memory of the past and
experience of the present, it cannot be too confident. That hope maketh
not ashamed. In the region of Christian experience alone the weakest of
us has a right to reckon on the future, and to be sure that when that
great to-morrow dawns for us, it 'shall be as this day and much more
abundant.' With this salvation in its imperfect form brightening the
present, and in its completeness filling the future with unimaginable
glory, we can go into all the conflicts of this fighting world and feel
that we are safe because God covers our heads in the day of battle.
Unless so defended we shall go into the fight as the naked Indians did
with the Spanish invaders, and be defeated as they were. The plumes may
be shorn off the helmet, and it may be easily dinted, but the head that
wore it will be unharmed. And when the battle and the noise of battle
are past, the helmet will be laid aside, and we shall be able to say, 'I
have fought a good fight, henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of
righteousness.'



'THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT'

     'The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.'--Eph. vi. 17.


We reach here the last and only offensive weapon in the panoply. The
'of' here does not indicate apposition, as in the 'shield of faith,' or
'the helmet of salvation,' nor is it the 'of' of possession, so that
the meaning is to be taken as being the sword which the Spirit wields,
but it is the 'of' expressing origin, as in the 'armour of God'; it is
the sword which the Spirit supplies. The progress noted in the last
sermon from subjective graces to objective divine facts, is completed
here, for the sword which is put into the Christian soldier's hand is
the gift of God, even more markedly than is the helmet which guards his
head in the day of battle.

I. Note what the word of God is.

The answer which would most commonly and almost unthinkingly be given
is, I suppose, the Scriptures; but while this is on the whole true, it
is to be noted that the expression employed here properly means a word
spoken, and not the written record. Both in the Old and in the New
Testaments the word of God means more than the Bible; it is the
authentic utterance of His will in all shapes and applying to all the
facts of His creation. In the Old Testament 'God said' is the expression
in the first chapter of Genesis for the forthputting of the divine
energy in the act of creation, and long ages after that divine poem of
creation was written a psalmist re-echoed the thought when he said 'For
ever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in the heavens. Thou hast established
the earth and it abideth.'

But, further, the expression designates the specific messages which
prophets and others received. These are not in the Old Testament spoken
of as a unity: they are individual words rather than a word. Each of
them is a manifestation of the divine will and purpose; many of them are
commandments; some of them are warnings; and all, in some measure,
reveal the divine nature.

That self-revelation of God reaches for us in this life its permanent
climax, when He who 'at sundry times and in divers manner spake unto the
fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by a
Son.' Jesus is the personal 'word of God' though that name by which He
is designated in the New Testament is a different expression from that
employed in our text, and connotes a whole series of different ideas.

The early Christian teachers and apostles had no hesitation in taking
that sacred name--the word of the Lord--to describe the message which
they spoke. One of their earliest prayers when they were left alone was,
that with all boldness they might speak Thy word; and throughout the
whole of the Acts of the Apostles the preached Gospel is designated as
the word of God, even as Peter in his epistle quotes one of the noblest
of the Old Testament sayings, and declares that the 'word of the Lord'
which 'abideth for ever' is 'the word which by the gospel is preached
unto you.'

Clearly, then, Paul here is exhorting the Ephesian Christians, most of
whom probably were entirely ignorant of the Old Testament, to use the
spoken words which they had heard from him and other preachers of the
Gospel as the sword of the Spirit. Since he is evidently referring to
Christian teaching, it is obvious that he regards the old and the new as
one whole, that to him the proclamation of Jesus was the perfection of
what had been spoken by prophets and psalmists. He claims for his
message and his brethren's the same place and dignity that belonged to
the former messengers of the divine will. He asserts, and all the more
strongly, because it is an assertion by implication only, that the same
Spirit which moved in the prophets and saints of former days is moving
in the preachers of the Gospel, and that their message has a wider
sweep, a deeper content, and a more radiant light than that which had
been delivered in the past. The word of the Lord had of old partially
declared God's nature and His will: the word of God which Paul preached
was in his judgment the complete revelation of God's loving heart, the
complete exhibition to men of God's commandments of old; longing eyes
had seen a coming day and been glad and confidently foretold it, now the
message was 'the coming one has come.'

It is as the record and vehicle of that spoken Gospel, as well as of its
earlier premonitions, that the Bible has come to be called the word of
God, and the name is true in that He speaks in this book. But much harm
has resulted from the appropriation of the name exclusively to the book,
and the forgetfulness that a vehicle is one thing and that which it
carries quite another.

II. The purpose and power of the word.

The sword is the only offensive weapon in the list. The spear which
played so great a part in ancient warfare is not named. It may well be
noted that only a couple of verses before our text we read of the Gospel
of peace, and that here with remarkable freedom of use of his metaphors,
Paul makes the word of God, which as we have seen is substantially
equivalent to the preached Gospel, the one weapon with which Christian
men are to cut and thrust. Jesus said 'I come not to send peace, but a
sword,' but Paul makes the apparent contradiction still more acute when
he makes the very Gospel itself the sword. We may recall as a parallel,
and possibly a copy of our text, the great words of the Epistle to the
Hebrews which speak of the word of God as 'living and active and sharper
than any two-edged sword.' And we cannot forget the magnificent
symbolism of the Book of Revelation which saw in the midst of the
candlestick one like unto a Son of Man, and 'out of His mouth proceeded
a sharp, two-edged sword.' That image is the poetic embodiment of our
Lord's own words which we have just quoted, and implies the penetrating
power of the word which Christ's gentle lips have uttered. Gracious and
healing as it is, a Gospel of peace, it has an edge and a point which
cut down through all sophistications of human error, and lay bare the
'thoughts and intents of the heart.' The revelation made by Christ has
other purposes which are not less important than its ministering of
consolation and hope. It is intended to help us in our fight with evil,
and the solemn old utterance, 'with the breath of His mouth He will slay
the wicked,' is true in reference to the effect of the word of Christ on
moral evil. Such slaying is but the other side of the life-giving power
which the word exercises on a heart subject to its influence. For the
Christian soldier's conflict with evil as threatening the health of his
own Christian life, or as tyrannising over the lives of others, the
sword of the Spirit is the best weapon.

We are not to take the rough-and-ready method, which is so common among
good people, of identifying this spirit-given sword with the Bible. If
for no other reason, yet because it is the Spirit which supplies it to
the grasp of the Christian soldier, our possession of it is therefore a
result of the action of that Spirit on the individual Christian spirit;
and what He gives, and we are to wield, is 'the _engrafted_ word which
is able to save our souls.' That word, lodged in our hearts, brings to
us a revelation of duty and a chart of life, because it brings a loving
recognition of the character of our Father, and a glad obedience to His
will. If that word dwell in us richly, in all wisdom, and if we do not
dull the edge of the sword by our own unworthy handling of it, we shall
find it pierce to the 'dividing asunder of joints and marrow,' and the
evil within us will either be cast out from us, or will shrivel itself
up, and bury itself deep in dark corners.

Love to Christ will be so strong, and the things that are not seen will
so overwhelmingly outweigh the things that are seen, that the solemn
majesty of the eternal will make the temporal look to our awed eyes the
contemptible unreality which it really is. They who humbly receive and
faithfully use that engrafted word, have in it a sure touchstone against
which their own sins and errors are shivered. It is for the Christian
consciousness the true Ithuriel's spear, at the touch of which 'upstarts
in his own shape the fiend' who has been pouring his whispered poison
into an unsuspicious ear. The standard weights and measures are kept in
government custody, and traders have to send their yard measures and
scales thither if they wish them tested; but the engrafted word,
faithfully used and submitted to, is always at hand, and ready to
pronounce its decrees, and to cut to the quick the evil by which the
understanding is darkened and conscience sophisticated.

III. The manner of its use.

Here that is briefly but sufficiently expressed by the one commandment,
'take,' or perhaps more accurately, 'receive.' Of course, properly
speaking, that exhortation does not refer to our manner of fighting with
the sword, but to the previous act by which our hand grasps it. But it
is profoundly true that if we take it in the deepest sense, the
possession of it will teach the use of it. No instruction will impart
the last, and little instruction is needed for the first. What is needed
is the simple act of yielding ourselves to Jesus Christ, and looking to
Him only, as our guide and strength. Before all Christian warfare must
come the possession of the Christian armour, and the commandment that
here lies at the beginning of all Paul's description of it is '_Take_.'
Our fitness for the conflict all depends on our receiving God's gift,
and that reception is no mere passive thing, as if God's grace could be
poured into a human spirit as water is into a bucket. Hence, the
translation of this commandment of Paul's by 'take' is better than that
by 'receive,' inasmuch as it brings into prominence man's activity,
though it gives too exclusive importance to that, to the detriment of
the far deeper and more essential element of the divine action. The two
words are, in fact, both needed to cover the whole ground of what takes
place when the giving God and the taking man concur in the great act by
which the Spirit of God takes up its abode in a human spirit. God's gift
is to be received as purely His gift, undeserved, unearned by us. But
undeserved and unearned as it is, and given 'without money and without
price,' it is not ours unless our hand is stretched out to take, and our
fingers closed tightly over the free gift of God. There is a dead lift
of effort in the reception; there is a still greater effort needed for
the continued possession, and there is a life-long discipline and effort
needed for the effective use in the struggle of daily life of the sword
of the Spirit.

If that engrafted word is ever to become sovereign in our lives, there
must be a life-long attempt to bring the tremendous truths as to God's
will for human conduct which it plants in our minds into practice, and
to bring all our practice under their influence. The motives which it
brings to bear on our evils will be powerless to smite them, unless
these motives are made sovereign in us by many an hour of patient
meditation and of submission to their sweet and strong constraint. One
sometimes sees on a wild briar a graft which has been carefully inserted
and bandaged up, but which has failed to strike, and so the strain of
the briar goes on and no rosebuds come. Are there not some of us who
profess to have received the engrafted word and whose daily experience
has proved, by our own continual sinfulness, that it is unable to 'save
our souls'?

There are in the Christian ranks some soldiers whose hands are too
nerveless or too full of worldly trash to grasp the sword which they
have received, much less to strike home with it at any of the evils that
are devastating their own lives or darkening the world. The feebleness
of the Christian conflict with evil, in all its forms, whether
individual or social, whether intellectual or moral, whether heretical
or grossly and frankly sensual, is mainly due to the feebleness with
which the average professing Christians grasp the sword of the Spirit.
When David asked the priests for weapons, and they told him that
Goliath's sword was lying wrapt in a cloth behind the ephod, and that
they had none other, he said, 'There is none like that, give it me.' If
we are wise, we will take the sword that lies in the secret place, and,
armed with it, we shall not need to fear in any day of battle.

We do well that we take heed to the word of God, 'as unto a lamp shining
in a dark place until the day dawn,' when swords will be no more needed,
and the Word will no longer shine in darkness but be the Light that
makes the Sun needless for the brightness of the New Jerusalem.



PEACE, LOVE, AND FAITH

     'Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith.'--Eph. vi. 23.


The numerous personal greetings usually found at the close of Paul's
letters are entirely absent from this Epistle. All which we have in
their place is this entirely general good wish, and the still more
general and wider one in the subsequent verse.

There is but one other of the Apostle's letters similarly devoid of
personal messages, viz. the Epistle to the Galatians, and their absence
there is sufficiently accounted for by the severe and stern tone of that
letter. But it is very difficult to understand how they should not
appear in a letter to a church with which the Apostle had such prolonged
and cordial relations as he had with the church at Ephesus. And hence
the absence of these personal greetings is a strong confirmation of the
opinion that this Epistle was not originally addressed to the church at
Ephesus, but was a kind of circular intended to go round the various
churches in Asia Minor, and only sent first to that at Ephesus. That
opinion is further confirmed by the fact known to many of you that in
some good ancient manuscripts the words 'at Ephesus' are omitted from
the first verse of the letter; which thus stands without any specific
address.

Be that as it may, this trinity of inward graces is Paul's highest and
best wish for his friends. He has no earthly prosperity to wish for
them. His ambition soars higher than that; he desires for them peace,
love, faith.

Now, will you take the lesson? There is no better test of a man than the
things that he wishes for the people that he loves most. He desires for
them, of course, his own ideal of happiness. What do you desire most for
those that are dearest to you? You parents, do you train up your
children, for instance, so as to secure, or to do your best to secure,
not outward prosperity, but these loftier gifts; and for yourselves,
when you are forming your wishes, are these the things that you want
most? 'Set your affections on things above,' and remember that whoso has
that trinity of graces, peace, love, faith, is rich and blessed,
whatsoever else he has or needs. And whoso has them not is miserable and
poor.

But I wish especially to look a little more closely at these three
things in themselves and in their relation to one another. I take it
that the Apostle is here tracking the stream to its fountain; that he is
beginning with effects and working backwards and downwards to causes; so
that to get the order of nature and of time we must reverse the order
here, and begin where he ends and end where he begins. The Christian
life in its higher vigour and excellence is rooted in faith. That faith
associates to itself, and is inseparably connected with love, and the
faith and love together issue in a deep restful tranquillity which
nothing can break.

Now, let us look at these three things as the three greatest blessings
that any can bear in their hearts, and wring out of time, sorrow, and
change.

I. First, the root of everything is a continuous and growing trust.

Remember that this prayer or wish of my text was spoken in reference to
brethren; that is to say, to those who, by the hypothesis, already
possessed Christian faith. And Paul wishes for them, and can wish for
them, nothing better and more than the increase and continuousness of
that which they already possess. The highest blessing that the brethren
can receive is the enlargement and the strengthening of their faith.

Now we talk so much in Christian teaching about this 'faith' that, I
fancy, like a worn sixpence in a man's pocket, its very circulation from
hand to hand has worn off the lettering. And many of us, from the very
familiarity of the word, have only a dim conception of what it means. It
may not be profitless, then, to remind you, first of all, that this
faith is neither more nor less than a very familiar thing which you are
constantly exercising in reference to one another--that is to say,
simple confidence. You trust your husband, your wife, your child, your
parent, your friend, your guide, your lawyer, your doctor, your banker.
Take that very same emotion and attitude of the mind by which you put
your well-being, in different aspects and provinces, into the hands of
men and women round about you; lift the trailing flowers that go all
straggling along the ground, and twine them round the pillars of God's
throne, and you get the confidence, the trust, of the praises and
glories of which the New Testament is full. There is nothing mysterious
in it, it is simply the exercise of confidence, the familiar cement that
binds all human relationship together, and makes men brotherly and
kindred with their kind. Faith is trust, and trust saves a man's soul.

Then, remember further that the faith which is the foundation of
everything is essentially personal trust reposing upon a person, upon
Jesus Christ. You cannot get hold of a man in any other way than by
that. The only real bond that binds people together is the personal bond
of confidence, manifesting itself in love. And it is no mere doctrine
that we present for a man's faith, but it is the person about whom the
doctrine speaks. We say, indeed, that we can only know the person on
whom we must trust by the revelation of the truths concerning Him which
make the Christian doctrines; but a man may believe the whole of them,
and have no faith. And what is the step in advance which is needed in
order to turn credence into faith--belief in a doctrine into trust? In
one view it is the step from the doctrine to the person. When you grasp
Christ, the living Christ, and not merely the doctrine, for yours, then
you have faith.

Only remember, my brother, if you say you trust Christ, the question has
immediately to be asked: What Christ is it that you are trusting? Is it
the Christ that died for your sins on the Cross, or is it a Christ that
taught you some great moral truths and set you a lovely example of life
and conduct? Which of the two is it? for these two Christs are very
different, and the faith that grasps the one is extremely unlike the
faith that grasps the other. And so I press upon you this question: What
Christ is it to Whom your confidence turns, and for what is it that you
are looking to Him? Is it for help and guidance of some vague kind; is
it for pattern or example, or is it for the salvation of your sinful
souls, by the might of His great sacrifice?

Then, remember still further, that this personal outgoing of confidence,
which is the action both of a man's will and of a man's intellect, to
the person revealed to us in the great doctrines of the Gospel--that
this faith, if it is to be worth anything, must be continuous. Paul
could desire nothing better for his Ephesian friends than that they
should have that which they had--faith; that they should continue to
have it, and that it should be perennial and increasing all through
their lives. You can no more get present good from past faith than the
breath you drew yesterday into your lungs will be sufficient to
oxygenate your blood at this moment. As soon as you break the electric
contact, the electric light goes out, and no matter how long a man has
been living a life of faith, that past life will not in the smallest
degree help him at the present moment unless the faith is continuous.
Remember this, then, a broken faith is a broken peace; a broken faith is
a broken salvation; and so long, and only so long, as you are knit to
Jesus Christ by the conscious exercise of a faith realised at the
moment, are you in the reception of blessing from Him at the moment.

And, still further, this faith ought to be progressive. So Paul desired
it to be with these people. If there is no growth, do you think there is
much life? I know I am speaking to plenty of people who call themselves
Christians, whose faith is not one inch better to-day than it was when
it was born--perhaps a little less rather than more. Oh! the hundreds
and thousands of professing Christians, average Christians, that clog
and weaken all churches, whose faith has no progressive element in it,
and is not a bit stronger by all the discipline of life and by their
experience of its power. Brethren! is it so with us? Let us ask
ourselves that; and let us ask very solemnly this other question: If my
faith has no growth, how do I know that it has got any life?

And so let me remind you further that this faith, the personal outgoing
of a man's intellect and will to the personal Saviour revealed in the
Scriptures as the sacrifice for our sins, and the life of our spirits,
which ought to be continuous and progressive, is the foundation of all
strength, blessedness, goodness, in a human character; and if we have it
we have the germ of all possible excellence and growth, not because of
what it is in itself, for in itself it is nothing more than the opening
of the heart to the reception of the celestial influences of grace and
righteousness that He pours down. And, therefore, this is the thing that
a wise man will most desire for himself, and for those that are dearest
to him.

Depend upon it, whether it is what we want most or not, it is what God
wants most for us. He does not care nearly so much that our lives should
be joyful as that they should be righteous and full of faith; and He
subjects us to many a sorrow and loss and disappointment in order that
the life of nature may be broken and the life of faith may be strong. If
we rightly understand the relative value of outward and of inward
things, we shall be thankful for the storms that drive us nearer to Him;
for the darkening earth that may make the pillar of cloud glow at the
heart into a pillar of fire, and for all the discipline, painful though
it may be, with which God answers the prayer, 'Lord, increase our
faith.'

II. And now, next, notice how inseparably associated with a true faith
is love.

The one is effect that never is found without its cause; the other is
cause which never but produces its effect. These two are braided
together by the Apostle as inseparable in reality and inseparable in
thought. And that it is so is plain enough, and there follow from it
some practical lessons that I desire to lay upon your hearts and my own.

There are, then, here two principles, or rather two sides of one
thought; no faith without love, no love without faith.

No faith is genuine and deep which does not at once produce in the heart
where it is lodged an answering love to God. That is clear enough. Faith
is, as I have said, the recognition and the reception of the divine love
into the heart; and we are so constituted as that if a man once knows
and believes in any real sense the love that God has to him, he answers
it back again with his love as certainly as an echo which gives back the
sound that reaches it.

Our faith is, if I may so say, like a burning-glass, which concentrates
the rays of the divine love upon our hearts, and focuses them into a
point that kindles our hearts into flame. If we have the confidence that
God loves us, in any real depth, we shall answer by the gush of our love
to Him.

And so here is a test for men's faith. You call yourselves Christians.
If I were to come to you and ask you, 'Do you believe in the Lord Jesus
Christ?' most of you would say, 'Yes!' Try your faith, my friend, by
this test: Does it make you love Him at all? If it does not, it is more
words than anything else; and it needs a wonderful deepening before it
can have any real power in your hearts. There is no faith worthy the
name unless its child, all but as old as itself, be the answer of the
heart to Him, pouring itself out in thankful gratitude.

No love without faith; 'we love Him because He first loved us.' God must
begin, we can only come second. Man's natural selfishness is only
overcome by the clearest demonstration of the love of God to him; and
until that love, in its superbest because its lowliest form, the form of
the sacrifice on the Cross, has penetrated into a man's heart through
his faith, there will be no love.

So then, dear friends, there is a test for your love. We hear a great
deal said nowadays, as there has always been a great deal said, about
the essence of all religion consisting in love to God; and about men
'rejecting the cumbrous dogmas of the New Testament, and falling back
upon the great and simple truths, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with
all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with
all thy strength; and thy neighbour as thyself,' and saying 'that is
their religion.' Well, I venture to say that without the faith of the
heart in, not the cumbrous dogmas, but the central fact of the New
Testament, that Christ died on the Cross for me, you will never get the
old commandment of love to God with heart and soul and strength and mind
really kept and carried out; and that if you want men to have their
hearts and wills bound into loving fellowship with God, it is only by
the path of faith in Him who is the sacrifice for sin that such
fellowship is reached. Hence there follows a very plain, practical
advice. Do you want your heart's love to be increased? Learn the way to
do it. You cannot work yourselves into a fervour of religious emotion of
any valuable kind. A man cannot get to love more by saying, 'I am
determined I will.' We have no direct control over our affections in
that fashion. You cannot make water boil except by one way, and that is
by putting plenty of fire under it; and you cannot make your affections
melt and flow except by heating them by the contemplation of the truth
which is intended to bring them out. That is to say, the more we
exercise our minds on the contemplation of Christ's great love to us,
and the more we put forth the energies of our souls in the act of
simple self-distrust and reliance upon Him, the more will our love be
fervent and strong. You can only increase love by increasing the faith
from which it comes. So do you see to it, if you call yourselves
Christians, that you try to deepen all your Christian affections by an
honest, meditative, prayerful contemplation and grasp of the great love
of God in Jesus Christ. And do not wonder if your Christian life be, as
it is in so many of us, stunted, not progressive, bringing no blessing
to ourselves and little good to anybody else. The explanation is easy
enough. You do not look at the Cross of Christ, nor live in the
contemplation and reception of His great grace.

III. And now, lastly, these two inseparably associated graces of faith
and love bring with them, and lead to, the third--peace.

It seems to be but a very modest, sober-tinted wish which the Apostle
here has for his brethren that the highest and best thing he can ask for
them is only quiet. Very modest by the side of joy and excitement, in
their coats of many colours, and yet the deepest and truest blessing
that any of us can have--peace. It comes to us by one path, and that is
by the path of faith and love.

These two bring peace with God, peace in our inmost spirits, the peace
of self-annihilation and submission, the peace of obedience, the peace
of ceasing from our own works, and entering, therefore, into the rest of
God. Trust is peace. There is no tranquillity like that of feeling 'I am
not responsible for this: He is; and I rest myself on Him.'

Love is peace. There is no rest for our hearts but on the bosom of some
one that is dear to us, and in whom we can confide. But ah, brother!
every tree in which the dove nestles is felled down sooner or later, and
the nest torn to pieces, and the bird flies away. But if we turn
ourselves to the undying Christ, the perpetual revelation of the eternal
God, then, then our love and our faith will bring us rest. There will be
peace in trusting Him whom we never can trust and be put to shame. There
will be peace in loving Him who is more than worthy of and able to repay
the deep and perennial love of all hearts.

Self-surrender is peace. It is our wills that trouble us. Disturbance
comes, not from without, but from within. When the will bows, when I
say, 'Be it then as Thou wilt,' when in faith and love I cease to
strive, to murmur, to rebel, to repine, and enter into His loving
purposes, then there is peace.

Obedience is peace. To recognise a great will that is sovereign, and to
bow myself to it, not because it is sovereign, but because it is sweet,
and sweet because I love it, and love Him whose it is--that is peace.
And then, whatever may be outward circumstances, there shall be 'peace
subsisting at the heart of endless agitation'; and deep in my soul I may
be tranquil, though all about me may be the hurly-burly of the storm.

The Christian peace is an armed peace, paradoxical as it appears; and
according to the great word of the Apostle, is a sentry which garrisons
the beleaguered heart and mind, surrounded by many foes, and keeps them
in Christ Jesus.

'There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked,' he is 'as a troubled
sea which cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt'; but over the
wildest commotion one Voice, low, gentle, omnipotent, says: 'Peace! be
still!' and the heart quiets itself, though there may be a ground
swell, and the weather clears. He is your peace, trust Him, love Him,
and you cannot but possess the 'peace of God which passeth
understanding.'



THE WIDE RANGE OF GOD'S GRACE

     'Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in
      sincerity.'--Eph. vi. 24.


In turning to the great words which I have read as a text, I ask you to
mark their width and their simplicity. They are wide; they follow a very
comprehensive benediction, with which, so to speak, they are concentric.
But they sweep a wider circle. The former verse says, 'Peace be to the
brethren.' But beyond the brethren in these Asiatic churches (as a kind
of circular letter to whom this epistle was probably sent) there rises
before the mind of the Apostle a great multitude, in every nation, and
they share in his love, and in the promise and the prayer of my text.
Mark its simplicity: everything is brought down to its most general
expression. All the qualifications for receiving the divine gift are
gathered up in one--love. All the variety of the divine gifts is summed
up in that one comprehensive expression--'grace.'

I. So then, note, first, the comprehensive designation of the recipients
of grace.

They are 'all who love our Lord Jesus Christ in incorruption.' Little
need be said explanatory of the force of this general expression. We
usually find that where Scripture reduces the whole qualification for
the reception of the divine gift, and the conditions which unite to
Jesus Christ, to one, it is faith, not love, that is chosen. But here
the Apostle takes the process at the second stage, and instead of
emphasising the faith which is the first step, he dwells upon the love
which is its uniform consequence. This love rests upon the faith in
Jesus Christ our Lord.

Then note the solemn fulness of the designations of the object of this
faith-born love. 'Jesus Christ our Lord'--the name of His humanity; the
name of His office; the designation of His dominion. He is Jesus the
Man. Jesus is the Christ, the Fulfiller of all prophecy; the flower of
all previous revelation; the Anointed of God with the fulness of His
Divine Spirit as Prophet, Priest, and King. Jesus Christ is the
Lord--which, at the lowest, expresses sovereignty, and if regard be had
to the Apostolic usage, expresses something more, even participation in
Deity. And it is this whole Christ, the Jesus, the Christ, the Lord; the
love to whom, built upon the faith in Him in all these aspects and
characteristics, constitutes the true unity of the true Church.

That Church is not built upon a creed, but it is built upon a whole
Christ, and not a maimed one. And so we must have a love which answers
to all those sides of that great revealed character, and is warm with
human love to Jesus; and is trustful with confiding love to the Christ;
and is lowly with obedient love to the Lord. And I venture to go a step
further, and say,--and is devout with adoring love to the eternal Son of
the Father. This is the Apostle's definition of what makes a Christian:
Faith that grasps the whole Christ and love that therefore flows to Him.
It binds all who possess it into one great unity. As against a spurious
liberalism which calls them Christians who lay hold of a fragment of the
one entire and perfect chrysolite, we must insist that a Christian is
one who knows Jesus, who knows Christ, who knows the Lord, and who
loves Him in all these aspects. Only we must remember, too, that many a
time a man's heart outruns his creed, and that many a soul glows with
truer, deeper, more saving devotion and trust to a Christ whom the
intellect imperfectly apprehends, than are realised by unloving hearts
that are associated with clearer heads. Orchids grow in rich men's
greenhouses, fastened to a bit of stick, and they spread a fairer
blossom that lasts longer than many a plant that is rooted in a more
fertile soil. Let us be thankful for the blessed inconsistencies which
knit some to the Christ who is more to them than they know.

There is also here laid down for us the great principle, as against all
narrowness and all externalism, and all so-called ecclesiasticism, that
to be joined to Jesus Christ is the one condition which brings a man
into the blessed unity of the Church. Now it seems to me that, however
they may be to be lamented on other grounds, and they are to be lamented
on many, the existence of diverse Churches does not necessarily
interfere with this deep-seated and central unity. There is a great deal
said to-day about the reunion of Christendom, by which is meant the
destruction of existing communions and the formation of a wider one. I
do not believe, and I suppose you do not, that our existing
ecclesiastical organisations are the final form of the Church of the
living God. But let us remember that the two things are by no means
contradictory, the belief in, and the realising of, the essential unity
of the Church, and the existence of diverse communions. You will see on
the side of many a Cumberland hill a great stretch of limestone with
clefts a foot or two deep in it--there are flowers in the clefts, by the
bye--but go down a couple of yards and the divisions have all
disappeared, and the base-rock stretches continuously. The separations
are superficial; the unity is fundamental. Do not let us play into the
hands of people whose only notion of unity is that of a mechanical
juxtaposition held together by some formula or orders; but let us
recognise that the true unity is in the presence of Jesus Christ in the
midst, and in the common grasp of Him by us all.

There is a well-known hymn which was originally intended as a High
Church manifesto, which thrusts at us Nonconformists when it sings:

    '_We_ are not divided,
     All one body _we_.'

And oddly enough, but significantly too, it has found its way into all
our Nonconformist hymn-books, and we, 'the sects,' are singing it, with
perhaps a nobler conception of what the oneness of the body, and the
unity of the Church is, than the writer of the words had. 'We are not
divided,' though we be organised apart. 'All one body we,' for we all
partake of that one bread, and the unifying principle is a common love
to the one Jesus Christ our Lord.

II. Mark the impartial sweep of the divine gifts.

My text is a benediction, or a prayer; but it is also a prophecy, or a
statement, of the inevitable and uniform results of love to Jesus
Christ. The grace will follow that love, necessarily and certainly, and
the lovers will get the gift of God because their love has brought them
into living contact with Jesus Christ; and His life will flow over into
theirs. I need not remind you that the word 'grace' in Scripture means,
first of all, the condescending love of God to inferiors, to sinners, to
those who deserved something else; and, secondly, the whole fulness of
blessing and gift that follow upon that love. And, says Paul, these
great gifts from heaven, the one gift in which all are comprised, will
surely follow the opening of the heart in love to Jesus Christ.

Ah, brethren! God's grace makes uncommonly short work of ecclesiastical
distinctions. The great river flows through territories that upon men's
maps are painted in different colours, and of which the inhabitants
speak in different tongues. The Rhine laves the pine-trees of
Switzerland, and the vines of Germany, and the willows of Holland; and
God's grace flows through all places where the men that love Him do
dwell. It rises, as it were, right over the barriers that they have
built between each other. The little pools on the sea-shore are separate
when the tide is out, but when it comes up it fills all the pot-holes
that the pebbles have made, and unifies them in one great flashing,
dancing mass; and so God's grace comes to all that love Him, and
confirms their unity.

Surely that is the true test of a living Church. 'When Barnabas came,
and saw the grace of God, he was glad.' It was not what he had expected,
but he was open to conviction. The Church where he saw it had been very
irregularly constituted; it had no orders and no sacraments, and had
been set a-going by the spontaneous efforts of private Christians, and
he came to look into the facts. He asked for nothing more when he saw
that the converts had the life within them. And so we, with all our
faults--and God forbid that I should seem to minimise these--with all
our faults, we poor Nonconformists, left to the uncovenanted mercies,
have our share of that gift of grace as truly, and, if our love be
deeper, more abundantly, than the Churches that are blessed with orders
and sacraments, and an 'unbroken historical continuity.' And when we
are unchurched for our lack of these, let us fall back upon St.
Augustine's 'Where Christ is, there the Church is'; and believe that to
us, even to us also, the promise is fulfilled, 'Lo! I am with you
always, even to the end of the world.'

III. Lastly, note the width to which our sympathies should go.

The Apostle sends out his desires and prayers so as to encircle the same
area as the grace of God covers and as His love enfolds. And we are
bound to do the same.

I am not going to talk about organic unity. The age for making new
denominations is, I suppose, about over. I do not think that any sane
man would contemplate starting a new Church nowadays. The rebound from
the iron rigidity of a mechanical unity that took place at the
Reformation naturally led to the multiplication of communities, each of
which laid hold of something that to it seemed important. The folly of
ecclesiastical rulers who insisted upon non-essentials lays the guilt of
the schism at _their_ doors, and not at the doors of the minority who
could not, in conscience, accept that which never should have been
insisted upon as a condition. But whilst we must all feel that power is
lost, and much evil ensues from the isolation, such as it is, of the
various Churches, yet we must remember that re-union is a slow process;
that an atmosphere springs up round each body which is a very subtle,
but none the less a very powerful, force, and that it will take a very,
very long time to overcome the difficulties and to bring about any
reconstruction on a large scale. But why should there be three
Presbyterian Churches in Scotland, with the same creed, confessions of
faith, and ecclesiastical constitution? Why should there be half a dozen
Methodist bodies in England, of whom substantially the same thing may
be said? Will it always pass the wit of man for Congregationalists and
Baptists to be one body, without the sacrifice of conviction upon either
side? Surely no! You young men may see these fair days; men like me can
only hope that they will come and do a little, such as may be possible
in a brief space, to help them on.

Putting aside, then, all these larger questions, I want, in a sentence
or two, to insist with you upon the duty that lies on us all, and which
every one of us may bear a share in discharging. There ought to be a far
deeper consciousness of our fundamental unity. They talk a great deal
about 'the rivalries of jarring sects.' I believe that is such an
enormous exaggeration that it is an untruth. There is rivalry, but you
know as well as I do that, shabby and shameful as it is, it is a kind of
commercial rivalry between contiguous places of worship, be they chapels
or churches, be they buildings belonging to the same or to different
denominations. I, for my part, after a pretty long experience now, have
seen so little of that said bitter rivalry between the Nonconformist
sects, _as sects_, that to me it is all but non-existent. And I believe
the most of us ministers, going about amongst the various communities,
could say the same thing. But in the face of a cultivated England
laughing at your creed of Jesus, the Christ, the Lord; and in the face
of a strange and puerile recrudescence of sacerdotalism and
sacramentarianism, which shoves a priest and a rite into the place where
Christ should stand, it becomes us Nonconformists who believe that we
know a more excellent way to stand shoulder to shoulder, and show that
the unities that bind us are far more than the diversities that
separate.

It becomes us, too, to further conjoint action in social matters. Thank
God we are beginning to stir in that direction in Manchester--not before
it was time. And I beseech you professing Christians, of all Evangelical
communions, to help in bringing Christian motives and principles to bear
on the discussion of social and municipal and economical conditions in
this great city of ours.

And there surely ought to be more concert than we have had in aggressive
work; that we should a little more take account of each other's action
in regulating our own; and that we should not have the scandal, which we
too often have allowed to exist, of overlapping one another in such a
fashion as that rivalry and mere trade competition is almost inevitable.

These are very humble, prosaic suggestions, but they would go a long
way, if they were observed, to sweeten our own tempers, and to make
visible to the world our true unity. Let us all seek to widen our
sympathies as widely as Christ's grace flows; to count none strangers
whom He counts friends; to discipline ourselves to feel that we are
girded with that electric chain which makes all who grasp it one, and
sends the same keen thrill through them all. If a circle were a mile in
diameter, and its circumference were dotted with many separate points,
how much nearer each of these would be if it were moved inwards, on a
straight line, closer to the centre, so as to make a circle a foot
across. The nearer we come to the One Lord, in love, communion, and
likeness, the nearer shall we be to one another.



        _EXPOSITIONS OF HOLY SCRIPTURE_

        ALEXANDER MACLAREN, D. D., Litt. D.

        FIRST AND SECOND PETER
        AND FIRST JOHN



CONTENTS


THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PETER

                                                                PAGE
SOJOURNERS OF THE DISPERSION (1 Peter i. 1)                       1

BY, THROUGH, UNTO (1 Peter i. 5)                                  7

SORROWFUL, YET ALWAYS REJOICING (1 Peter i. 6)                   17

THE TRUE GOLD AND ITS TESTING (1 Peter i. 7)                     27

JOY IN BELIEVING (1 Peter i. 8)                                  34

CHRIST AND HIS CROSS THE CENTRE OF THE UNIVERSE
    (1 Peter i. 10, 11, 12)                                      41

HOPE PERFECTLY (1 Peter i. 13)                                   51

THE FAMILY LIKENESS (1 Peter i. 15)                              61

FATHER AND JUDGE (1 Peter i. 17)                                 69

PURIFYING THE SOUL (1 Peter i. 22)                               76

LIVING STONES ON THE LIVING FOUNDATION STONE (1 Peter ii. 4, 5)  86

SPIRITUAL SACRIFICES (1 Peter ii. 5)                             92

MIRRORS OF GOD (1 Peter ii. 9)                                  101

CHRIST THE EXEMPLAR (1 Peter ii. 21)                            107

HALLOWING CHRIST (1 Peter iii. 14, 15)                          116

CHRISTIAN ASCETICISM (1 Peter iv. 1-8)                          123

THE SLAVE'S GIRDLE (1 Peter v. 5)                               130

SYLVANUS (1 Peter v. 12, R.V.)                                  138

AN APOSTOLIC TESTIMONY AND EXHORTATION (1 Peter v. 12)          146

THE CHURCH IN BABYLON (1 Peter v. 13)                           154

MARCUS, MY SON (1 Peter v. 13)                                  161


THE SECOND EPISTLE OF PETER

LIKE PRECIOUS FAITH (2 Peter i. 1)                              170

MAN SUMMONED BY GOD'S GLORY AND ENERGY (2 Peter i. 3)           178

PARTAKERS OF THE DIVINE NATURE (2 Peter i. 4)                   189

THE POWER OF DILIGENCE (2 Peter i. 5)                           198

GOING OUT AND GOING IN (2 Peter i. 11, 15)                      206

THE OWNER AND HIS SLAVES (2 Peter ii. 1)                        215

BE DILIGENT (2 Peter iii. 14)                                   224

GROWTH (2 Peter iii. 18)                                        234


THE FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

THE MESSAGE AND ITS PRACTICAL RESULTS (1 John i. 5-ii. 6)      247

WALKING IN THE LIGHT (1 John i. 7)                             253

THE COMMANDMENT, OLD YET NEW (1 John ii. 7, 8)                 261

YOUTHFUL STRENGTH (1 John ii. 14)                              269

RIVER AND ROCK (1 John ii. 17)                                 279

THE LOVE THAT CALLS US SONS (1 John iii. 1)                    289

THE UNREVEALED FUTURE OF THE SONS OF GOD (1 John iii. 2)       301

THE PURIFYING INFLUENCE OF HOPE (1 John iii. 3)                310

PRACTICAL RIGHTEOUSNESS (1 John iii. 7)                        320

CHRIST'S MISSION THE REVELATION OF GOD'S LOVE (1 John iv. 10)  329

THE SERVANT AS HIS LORD (1 John iv. 17)                        338

LOVE AND FEAR (1 John iv. 18)                                  347

THE RAY AND THE REFLECTION (1 John iv. 19)                     355



I. PETER



SOJOURNERS OF THE DISPERSION

     'Peter, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers
      scattered ...'--1 Peter i. 1.


The words rendered 'strangers scattered' are literally 'sojourners of
the Dispersion,' and are so rendered in the Revised Version. The
Dispersion was the recognised name for the Jews dwelling in Gentile
countries; as, for instance, it is employed in John's Gospel, when the
people in Jerusalem say, 'Whither will this man go that we shall not
find Him? Will he go to the Dispersion amongst the Greeks?' Obviously,
therefore the word here may refer to the scattered Jewish people, but
the question arises whether the letter corresponds to its apparent
address, or whether the language which is employed in it does not almost
oblige us to see here a reference, not to the Jew, but to the whole body
of Christian people, who, whatever may be their outward circumstances,
are, in the deepest sense, in the foundations of their life, if they be
Christ's, 'strangers of the Dispersion.'

Now if we look at the letter we find such words as these--'The times of
your ignorance'--'your vain manner of life handed down from your
fathers'--'in time past were not a people'--'the time past may suffice
to have wrought the will of the Gentiles'--all of which, as you see, can
only be accommodated to Jewish believers by a little gentle violence,
but all of which find a proper significance if we suppose them
addressed to Gentiles, to whom they are only applicable in the higher
sense of the words to which I have referred. If we understand them so,
we have here an instance of what runs all through the letter; the taking
hold of Jewish ideas for the purpose of lifting them into a loftier
region, and transfiguring them into the expression of Christian truth.
For example, we read in it: 'Ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a
holy nation'; and again: 'Ye are built up a spiritual house, to be a
holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices.' These and other
similar passages are instances of precisely the same transference of
Jewish ideas as I find, in accordance with many good commentators, in
the words of my text.

So, then, here is Peter's notion of--

I. What the Christian Life is.

All those who really have faith in Jesus Christ are 'strangers of the
Dispersion'; scattered throughout the world, and dwelling dispersedly in
an order of things to which they do not belong, 'seeking a city which
hath foundations.' The word 'strangers' means, originally, persons for a
time living in an alien city. And that is the idea that the Apostle
would impress upon us as true for each of us, in the measure in which
our Christianity is real. For, remember, although all men may be truly
spoken of as being 'pilgrims and sojourners upon the earth' by reason of
both the shortness of the duration of their earthly course and the
disproportion between their immortal part and the material things
amongst which they dwell, Peter is thinking of something very different
from either the brevity of earthly life or the infinite necessities of
an immortal spirit when he calls his Christian brethren strangers. Not
because we are men, not because we are to die soon, and the world is to
outlast us; not because other people will one day live in our houses and
read our books and sit upon our chairs, and we shall be forgotten, but
because we are Christ's people are we here sojourners, and must regard
this as not our rest. Not because our immortal soul cannot satisfy
itself, however it tries, upon the trivialities of earth any more than a
human appetite can on the husks that the swine do eat, but because new
desires, tastes, aspirations, affinities, have been kindled in us by the
new life that has flowed into us; therefore the connection that other
men have with the world, which makes some of them altogether 'men of the
world, whose portion is in this life,' is for us broken, and we are
strangers, scattered abroad, solitary, not by reason of the inevitable
loneliness in which, after all love and companionship, every soul lives;
not by reason of losses or deaths, but by reason of the contrariety
between the foundation of our lives, and the foundation of the lives of
the men round us; therefore we stand lonely in the midst of crowds;
strangers in the ordered communities of the world.

Ah, there is no solitude so utter as the solitude of being the only man
in a crowd that has a faith in his heart, and there is no isolating
power like the power of rending all ties that true attachment with Jesus
Christ has. 'Think not that I am come to bring peace on earth, but a
sword'--to set a man against his own household, if they be not of the
household of faith. These things are the inevitable issues of
religion--to make us strangers, isolated in the midst of this world.

And now let us think of--

II. Some of the plain consequent duties that arise from this
characteristic of the Christian Life.

Let me put them in the shape of one or two practical counsels. First let
us try to keep up, vivid and sharp, a sense of separation. I do not mean
that we should withdraw ourselves from sympathies, nor from services,
nor from the large area of common ground which we have with our fellows,
whether they be Christians or no--with our fellow-citizens; with those
who are related to us by various bonds, by community of purpose, of aim,
of opinion, or of affection. But just as Abraham was willing to go down
into the plain and fight for Lot, though he would not go down and live
in Sodom, and just as he would enter into relations of amity with the
men of the land, and yet would not abandon his black camels'-hair tent,
pitched beneath the terebinth tree, in order to go into their city and
abide with them, so one great part of the wisdom of a Christian man is
to draw the line of separation decisively, and yet to keep true to the
bond of union. Unless Christian people do make a distinct effort to keep
themselves apart from the world and its ways, they will get confounded
with these, and when the end comes they will be destroyed with them.

Sometimes voyagers find upon some lonely island an English castaway, who
has forgotten home, and duty, and everything else, to luxuriate in an
easy life beneath tropical skies, and has degraded himself to the level
of the savage islanders round him. There are professing
Christians--perhaps in my audience--who, like that poor castaway, have
'forgotten the imperial palace whence they came,' and have gone down and
down and down, to live the fat, contented, low lives of the men who
find their good upon earth and not in heaven. Do you, dear brethren, try
to keep vivid the sense that you belong to another community. As Paul
puts it, with a metaphor drawn from Gentile instead of from Jewish life,
as in our text, 'Our citizenship is in heaven.' Philippi, to the
Christian Church of which that was said, was a Roman colony; and the
characteristics of a Roman colony were that the inhabitants were
enrolled as members of the Roman tribes, and had their names on the
register of Rome, and were governed by its laws. So we, living here in
an outlying province, have our names written in the 'Golden Book' of the
citizens of the new Jerusalem. Do not forget, if I might use a very
homely illustration, what parish your settlement is in; remember what
kingdom you belong to.

Again, if we are strangers of the Dispersion, let us live by our own
country's laws, and not by the codes that are current in this foreign
land where we are settled for a time. You remember what was the
complaint of the people in Persia to Esther's king? 'There is a people
whose laws are different from all the peoples that be upon the earth.'
That was an offence that could not be tolerated in a despotism that
ground everything down to the one level of a slavish uniformity. It will
be well for us Christian people if men look at us, and say, 'Ah, that
man has another rule of conduct from the one that prevails generally. I
wonder what is the underlying principle of his life; it evidently is not
the same as mine.'

Live by our King's law. People in our colonies, at least the officials,
set wonderful store by the approbation of the Colonial Office at home.
It does not matter what the colonial newspapers say, it is 'what will
they say in Downing Street?' And if a despatch goes out approving of
their conduct, neighbours may censure and sneer as they list. So we
Christians have to report to Home, and have so to live 'that whether
present or absent'--in a colony or in the mother country--'we may be
well pleasing unto Him.'

Keep up the honour and advance the interests of your own country. You
are here, among other reasons, to represent your King, and people take
their notions of Him very considerably from their experience of you. So
see to it that you live like the Master whom you say you serve.

The Russian Government sends out what are called military colonies,
studded along the frontier, with the one mission of extending the
empire. We are set along the frontier with the same mission. The
strangers are scattered. Congested, they would be less useful;
dispersed, they may push forward the frontiers. Seed in a seed-basket is
not in its right place; but sown broadcast over the field, it will be
waving wheat in a month or two. 'Ye are the salt of the earth'--salt is
_sprinkled_ over what it is intended to preserve. You are the strangers
of the Dispersion, that you may be the messengers of the Evangelisation.

Lastly, let us be glad when we think, and let us often think, of--

III. The Home in Glory.

That is a beautiful phrase which pairs off with the one in my text, in
which another Apostle speaks of the ultimate end as 'our gathering
together in Christ.' All the scattered ones, like chips of wood in a
whirlpool, drift gradually closer and closer, until they unite in a
solid mass in the centre. So at the last the 'strangers' are to be
brought and settled in their own land, and their lonely lives are to be
filled with happy companionship, and they to be in a more blessed unity
than now. 'Fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God.'
If we, dwelling in this far-off land, were habitually to talk, as
Australians do of coming to England of 'going home,' though born in the
colony, it would be a glad day for us when we set out on the journey. If
Christian people lived more by faith, as they profess to do, and less by
sight, they would oftener think of the home-coming and the union; and
would be happy when they thought that they were here but for awhile, and
when they realised these two blessed elements of permanence and of
companionship, which another Apostle packs into one sentence, along with
that which is greater than them both, 'so shall we ever be with the
Lord.'



BY, THROUGH, UNTO

     '... Kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to
     be revealed in the last time.'--1 Peter i. 5.


The Revised Version substitutes 'guarded' for 'kept,' and the
alteration, though slight, is important, for it not only more accurately
preserves the meaning of the word employed, but it retains the military
metaphor which is in it. The force of the expression will appear if I
refer, in a sentence, to other cases in which it is employed in the New
Testament. For instance, we read that the governor of Damascus '_kept_
the city with a garrison,' which is the same word, and in its purely
metaphorical usage Paul employs it when he says that 'the peace of God
shall keep'--guard, garrison--'your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.'
We have to think of some defenceless position, some unwalled village out
in the open, with a strong force round it, through which no assailant
can break, and in the midst of which the weakest can sit secure. Peter
thinks that every Christian has assailants whom no Christian by himself
can repel, but that he may, if he likes, have an impregnable ring of
defence drawn round him, which shall fling back in idle spray the
wildest onset of the waves, as a breakwater or a cliff might do.

Then there is another very beautiful and striking point to be made, and
that is the connection between the words of my text and those
immediately preceding. The Apostle has been speaking about 'the
inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away,' and
he says 'it is reserved in Heaven for you who are kept.' So, then, the
same power is working on both sides of the veil, preserving the
inheritance for the heirs, and preserving the heirs for the inheritance.
It will not fail them, and they will not miss it. It were of little
avail to care for either of the two members separately, but the same
hand that is preparing the inheritance and making it ready for the
owners is round about the pilgrims, and taking care of them till they
get home.

So, then, our Apostle is looking at this keeping in three aspects,
suggested by his three words 'by,' 'through,' 'unto,' which respectively
express the real cause or power, the condition or occasion on which that
power works, and the end or purpose to which it works. So these three
little words will do for lines on which to run our thoughts now--'by,'
'through,' 'for.'

I. In the first place, what are we guarded for?

'Guarded ... unto salvation.' Now that great word 'salvation' was a new
and strange one to Peter's readers--so new and strange that probably
they did not understand it in its full nobleness and sweep. Our
understanding of it, or, at least, our impression of it, is weakened by
precisely the opposite cause. It has become so tarnished and
smooth-rubbed that it creates very little definite impression. Like a
bit of seaweed lifted out of the sunny waves which opened its fronds and
brightened its delicate colours, it has become dry and hard and sapless
and dim. But let me try for one moment to freshen it for our conceptions
and our hearts. Salvation has in it the double idea of being made safe,
and being made sound. Peril threatening to slay, and sickness unto
death, are the implications of the conditions which this great word
presupposes. The man that needs to be saved needs to be rescued from
peril and needs to be healed of a disease. And if you do not know and
feel that that is _you_, then you have not learned the first letters of
the alphabet which are necessary to spell 'salvation.' You, I, every
man, we are all sick unto death, because the poison of self-will and sin
is running hot through all our veins, and we are all in deadly peril
because of that poison-peril of death, peril arising from the weight of
guilt that presses upon us, peril from our inevitable collision with the
Divine law and government which make for righteousness.

And so salvation means, negatively, the deliverance from all the evils,
whether they be evils of sorrow or evils of sin, which can affect a man,
and which do affect us all in some measure. But it means far more than
that, for God's salvation is no half-and-half thing, contented, as some
benevolent man might be, in a widespread flood or disaster, with
rescuing the victims and putting them high up enough for the water not
to reach them, and leaving them there shivering cold and starving. But
when God begins by taking away evils, it is in order that He may clear a
path for flooding us with good. And so salvation is not merely what some
of you think it is, the escape from a hell, nor only what some of you
more nobly take it to be, a deliverance from the power of sin in your
hearts; but it is the investiture of each of us with every good and
glory, whether of happiness or of purity, which it is possible for a man
to receive and for God to give. It is the great word of the New
Testament, and they do a very questionable service to humanity who
weaken the grandeur and the greatness of the Scriptural conception of
salvation, by weakening the darkness and the terribleness of the
Scriptural conception of the dangers and the sicknesses from which it
delivers.

But, then, there is another point that I would suggest raised by the
words of my text in their connection. Peter is here evidently speaking
about a future manifestation of absolute exemption from all the ills
that flesh and spirit are heir to, and radiant investure with all the
good that humanity can put on, which lies beyond the great barrier of
this mortal life. And that complete salvation, in its double aspect, is
obviously the end for which all that guarding of life is lavished upon
us, as it is the end for which all the discipline of life is given to
us, and as it is the end for which the bitter agony and pain of the
Christ on the Cross were freely rendered. But that ultimate and
superlative perfection has its roots and its beginning here. And so in
Scripture you find salvation sometimes regarded as a thing in the past
experience of every Christian man which he received at the very
beginning of his course, and sometimes you have it treated as being
progressive, running on continually through all his days; and sometimes
you have it treated, as in my text, as laid up yonder, and only to be
reached when life is done with. But just a verse or two after my text we
read that the Christian man here, on condition of his loving Jesus
Christ and believing in Him, rejoices because he here and now 'receives
the end of his faith, even the salvation of his soul.' And so there are
the two things--the incipient germ to-day, the full-foliaged
fruit-bearing tree planted in the higher house of the Lord.

These two things are inseparably intertwined. The Christian life in its
imperfection here, the partial salvation of to-day demands, unless the
universe is a chaos and there is no personal God the centre of it, a
future life, in which all that is here tendency shall be realised
possession, and in which all that here but puts up a pale and feeble
shoot above the ground, shall grow and blossom and bear fruit unto life
eternal. 'Like the new moon with a ragged edge, e'en in its
imperfections beautiful,' all the characteristics of Christian life on
earth prophesy that the orb is crescent, and will one day round itself
into its pure silvery completeness. If you see a great wall in some
palace, with slabs of polished marble for most of its length, and here
and there stretches of course rubble shoved in, you would know that that
was not the final condition, that the rubble had to be cased over, or
taken out and replaced by the lucent slab that reflected the light, and
showed, by its reflecting, its own mottled beauty. Thus the very
inconsistencies, the thwarted desires, the broken resolutions, the
aspiration that never can clothe themselves in the flesh of reality,
which belong to the Christian life, declare that this is but the first
stage of the structure, and point onwards to the time when the
imperfections shall be swept away, 'and for brass He will bring gold,
for iron He will bring silver,' and then the windows shall be set 'in
agates, and the gates in carbuncles, and all the borders in pleasant
stones.' Perfect salvation is obviously the only issue of the present
imperfect salvation.

That is what you are 'kept' for. That is what Christ died to bring you.
That is what God, like a patient workman bringing out the pattern in his
loom by many a throw of a sharp-pointed shuttle, and much twisting of
the threads into patterns, is trying to make of you, and that is what
Christ on the Cross has died to effect. Brethren, let us think more than
we do, not only of the partial beginnings here, but of that perfect
salvation for which Christian men are being 'kept' and guarded, and
which, if you and I will observe the conditions, is as sure to come as
that X, Y, Z follow A, B, C. That is what we are kept for.

II. Notice what we are guarded by.

'The _power_ of God,' says Peter, laying hold of the most general
expression that he can find, not caring to define ways and means, but
pointing to the one great force that is sure to do it.

Now if we were to translate with perfect literality, we should read, not
_by_ the power of God, but _in_ the power of God. And whilst it is quite
probable that what Peter meant was 'by,' I think it adds great force and
beauty to the passage, and is entirely accordant with the military
metaphor, which I have already pointed out, if we keep the simple local
sense of the word, and read, 'guarded _in_ the power of God.' And that
suggests a whole stream of Scriptural representations, both in the Old
and in the New Testament. Let me recall one or two. 'The name of the
Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it and is safe.' 'He
that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the
shadow of the Almighty.' 'Israel shall dwell safely,' says one of the
old prophets, 'in unwalled villages, for I will be a wall of fire round
about her.' The psalmist said, 'The Angel of the Lord encampeth round
about them that fear Him.' And all these representations concur in this
one thought, that we are safe, enclosed in God, and that He, by His
power, compasses us about. And so no foe can get at us who cannot break
down or climb over the encircling wall of defence. An army in an enemy's
country will march in hollow square, and put its most precious
treasures, or its weaker members, its sick, its women, its children, its
footsore, into the middle there, and with a line of lances on either
side, and stalwart arms to wield them, the feeblest need fear no foe. We
'are kept in the power of God unto salvation.'

But do not forget how, far beyond the psalmist and prophet, and in
something far more sublime and wonderful than a poetic figure, the New
Testament catches up the same phrase, and gives us, as the condition of
vitality, as the condition of fertility, as the condition of
tranquillity, as the condition of security, the same thing--'in Christ.'
Remember His very last words prior to His great intercessory prayer, in
which He spoke about keeping those that were given Him in His name. And
just before that He said to them, 'In the world ye shall have
tribulation, but in Me ye shall have peace.' Kept, guarded as behind the
battlements of some great fort, which has in its centre a quiet,
armoured chamber into which no noise of battle, nor shout of foeman, can
ever come. 'In Christ,' though the world is all in arms without, 'ye
shall have peace.' 'Guarded in the power of God unto salvation.'

III. Lastly, what we are kept through.

'Through faith.' Now there we come across another of the words which we
know so well that we do not understand them. You all think that it is
the right thing for me to preach about 'faith.' I daresay some of you
have never tried to apprehend what it means. And I daresay there are a
great many of you to whom the utterance of the word suggests that I am
plunging into the bathos and commonplaces of the pulpit. Perhaps, if you
would try to understand it, you would find it was a bigger thing than
you fancied. What is faith? I will give you another expression that has
not so many theological accretions sticking to it, and which means
precisely the same thing--trust. And we all know that we do not trust
with our heads, but with our hearts and wills. You may believe
undoubtedly, and have no faith at all, for it is the heart and the will
that go forth, and clutch at the thing trusted; or, as I should rather
say, at the person trusted; for, at bottom, what we trust is always a
person, and even when we 'trust to nature,' it is because, more or less
clearly, we feel that somehow or other at the back of nature there is a
Will and an Intelligence that are working and trustworthy. However, that
is a subject that I do not need to touch upon here. Faith is trust,
trust in a Person, trust that, like the fabled goddess rising, radiant
and aspiring to the heavens, out of the roll of the tempestuous ocean,
springs from the depths of absolute self-distrust and diffidence. There
is a spurious kind of faith which has no good in it, just because it
did not begin with going down into the depths of one's own heart, and
finding out how rotten and hopeless everything was there. My friend, no
man has a vigorous Christian faith who has not been very near utter
despair. 'Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee.' The zenith, which
is the highest point in the sky above us, is always just as far aloft as
the nadir, which is the lowest point in the sky at the Antipodes, is
beneath us. Your faith is measured by your self-despair.

Further, why is it that I must have faith in order to get God's power at
work in me? Many people seem to think that faith is appointed by God as
the condition of salvation out of mere arbitrary selection and caprice.
Not at all. If God could save you without your faith, He would do it. He
does not, because He cannot. Why must I have faith in order that God's
power may keep me? Why must you open your window in order to let the
fresh air in? Why must you pull up the blind in order to let the light
in? Why must you take your medicine or your food if you want to be cured
or nourished? Why must you pull the trigger if your revolver is to go
off? Unless I trust God, distrusting myself, and the spark of faith is
struck out of the rock of my heart by the sharp steel in the midst of
the darkness of despair, God cannot pour out upon me His power. There is
nothing arbitrary about it. It is inseparable from the very nature of
the case. If you do not want Him, you cannot have Him. If you do not
know that you need Him, you cannot have Him. If you do not trust that He
will come to you and help you, you will not have Him.

So then, brother, your faith, my faith, anybody's faith is nothing of
itself. It is only the valve that opens and lets the steam rush in. It
is only the tap you turn to let Thirlmere come into your basins. It is
not you that saves yourself. It is not your faith that keeps you, any
more than it is the outstretched hand with which a man, ready to
stumble, grasps the hand of a stalwart, steadfast man on the pavement by
his side that keeps him up. It is the other man's hand that holds you
up, but it is your hand that lays hold of him. It is God that saves, it
is God that guards, it is God that is able to keep us from falling, and
to give us an inheritance among all them that are sanctified. He will do
it if we turn to Him, and ask and expect Him to do it. If you will
comply with the conditions and not else, He will fulfil His promise and
accomplish His purpose. But my unbelief can thwart Omnipotence, and
hinder Christ's all-loving purpose, just as on earth we read that 'He
could there do no mighty works because of their unbelief.' I am sure
that there are people here who all their lives long have been thus
hampering Omnipotence and neutralising the love of Christ, and making
His sacrifice impotent and His wish to save them vain. Stretch out your
hands as this very Peter once did, crying, 'Lord, save, or I perish';
and He will answer, not by word only, but by act: 'According to thy
faith be it unto thee.' Salvation, here and hereafter, is God's work
alone. It cannot be exercised towards a man who has not faith. It will
certainly be exercised towards any man who has.

Help us, O Lord, we beseech Thee, to live the lives which we live in the
flesh by the faith of the Son of God. And may we know what it is to be
in him, strengthened within the might of His spirit.



SORROWFUL, YET ALWAYS REJOICING

     'Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be,
      ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.'--1 Peter i. 6.


You will remember the great saying of our Lord's in the Sermon on the
Mount, in which He makes the last of the beatitudes, that which He
pronounces upon His disciples, when men shall revile them and persecute
them, and speak all manner of evil falsely against them for His sake,
and bids them rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is their reward
in Heaven.

Now it seems to me that in the words of my text there is a distinct echo
of that saying of Christ's. For not only is the whole context the same,
but a somewhat unusual and very strong word which our Lord employs is
also employed here by Peter. 'Rejoice and be _exceeding glad_,' said
Christ. 'Ye _rejoice greatly_,' said the Apostle, and he is echoing his
Master's word. Then with regard to the context; Christ proposes to His
followers this exceeding gladness as evoked in their hearts by the very
thing that might seem to militate against it--viz., men's antagonism.
Similarly, Peter, throughout this whole letter, and in my text, is
heartening the disciples against impending persecution, and, like his
Lord, he bids them face it, if not 'with frolic welcome' at all events
with undiminished and undimmed serenity and cheerfulness. Christ based
the exhortation on the thought that great would be their reward in
Heaven. Peter points to the salvation ready to be revealed as being the
ground of the joy that he enjoined. So in the words and in the whole
strain and structure of the exhortation the servant is copying his
Master.

But, of course, although the immediate application of these words is to
Churches fronting the possibility and probability of actual persecution
and affliction for the sake of Jesus Christ, the principle involved
applies to us all. And the worries and the sorrows of our daily life
need the exhortation here, quite as much as did the martyr's pains.
White ants will pick a carcass clean as soon as a lion will, and there
is quite as much wear and tear of Christian gladness arising from the
small frictions of our daily life as from the great strain and stress of
persecution.

So our Apostle has a word for us all. Now it seems to me that in this
text there are three things to be noticed: a paradox, a possibility, a
duty. 'In which ye rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are
in heaviness through manifold temptations.' Look at these three points.

I. This paradox.

Two emotions diametrically opposed are to be contained within the narrow
room of one disposition and temper. 'Ye greatly rejoice.... Ye are in
heaviness.' Can such a thing be? Well! let us think for a moment. The
sources of the two conflicting emotions are laid out before us; they may
be constantly operative in every life. On the one hand, 'in which ye
greatly rejoice.' Now that 'in which' does not point back only to the
words that immediately precede, but to the whole complex clause that
goes before. And what is the 'which' that is there? These things; the
possession of a new life--'Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord
Jesus Christ who hath begotten us again!'--the springing up in a man's
heart of a strange new hope, like a new star that swims into the sky,
and sheds a radiance all about it--'Begotten unto a lively hope by the
resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead'; a new wealth--an
'inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that fadeth not away; a new
security--guarded by the power of God through faith unto salvation.'
These things belong, _ipso facto_, and in the measure of his faith, to
every Christian man, a new life, a new hope, a new wealth, and a new
security; and in their conjoint action, all four of them brought to bear
upon a man's temper and spirit, will, if he is realising them, make him
glad.

Then, on the other hand, we have other fountains pouring their streams
into the same reservoir. And just as the deep fountains which are open
to us by faith will, if we continue to exercise that faith, flood our
spirits with sweet waters, so these other fountains will pour their
bitter floods over every heart more or less abundantly and continually.
'Now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold
temptations.' There are confluent streams that one has sometimes seen,
where a clear river joins, and flows in the same bed with, one all foul
with half-melted ice, and the two run side by side for a space, scarcely
mingling their waters. Thus the paradox of the Christian life is that
within the same narrow banks may flow the sunny and the turbid, the
clear and the dark, the sorrow that springs from earthly fountains, the
joy that pours from the heavenly heights.

Now notice that this is only one case of the paradox of the whole
Christian life. For the peculiarity of it is that it owns two;--it
belongs to, and is exposed to, all the influences of the forces and
things of time, whilst in regard to its depths, it belongs to, and is
under the influence of, 'the things that are unseen and eternal'; so
that you have the external life common to the Christian and to all
other people, and then you have the life 'hid with Christ in God,' the
roots of it going down through all the superficial soil, and grappling
the central rock of all things. Thus a series of paradoxes and perennial
contradictions describes the twofold life that every believing spirit
lives, 'as unknown and yet well known, as dying and, behold we live, as
sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making rich, as having
nothing and yet possessing all things.'

Remember, too, that according to Peter's conception neither of these two
sources pours out a flood which obliterates or dams back the other. They
are to co-exist. The joy is not to deprive the heaviness of its weight,
nor the sorrow of its sting. There is no artificial stoicism about
Christianity, no attempt to sophisticate one's self out of believing in
the reality of the evils that assail us, or to forbid that we shall feel
their pain and their burden. Many good people fail to get the good of
life's discipline, because they have somehow come to think that it is
wrong to weep when Christ sends sorrows, and wrong to feel, as other men
feel, the grip and bite of the manifold trials of our earthly lives.
'Weep for yourselves,' for the feeling of the sorrow is the precedent
condition to the benefit from the sorrow, and it yields 'the peaceable
fruit of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby.'

But, on the other hand, the black stream is not to bank up the sunny
one, or prevent it from flowing into the heart, ay! and flowing over,
the other. And so the co-existence of the joys that come from above, and
the sorrows that spring from around, and some of them from beneath, is
the very secret of the Christian life.

II. Further, consider the blessed possibility of this paradox.

Can two conflicting emotions live in a man's heart at once? Rather, we
might ask, are there ever emotions in a man's heart that are not hemmed
in by conflicting ones? Is there ever such a thing in the world's
experience as a pure joy, or as a confidence which has no trace of fear
in it? Are there any pictures without shadows? They are only daubs if
they are. Instead of wondering at this co-existence of joy and sorrow,
we must recognise that it is in full accord with all our experience,
which never brings a joy, but, like the old story of the magic palace,
there is one window unlighted, and which never brings a sorrow so black
and over-arching so completely the whole sky, but that somewhere, if the
eye would look for it, there is a bit of blue. The possibility of the
paradox is in accordance with all human experience.

But then, you say, 'my feelings of joy or sorrow are very largely a
matter of temperament, and still more largely a matter of responding to
the facts round about me. And I cannot pump up emotions to order; and if
I could they would be factitious, artificial, insincere, and do me more
harm than good.' Perfectly true. There are a great many ugly names for
manufactured emotions, and none of them a bit too ugly. Peter does not
wish you to try to get up feeling to order. It is the bane of some type
of Christianity that that is done. You cannot thus manufacture emotion.
No; but I will tell you what you can do. You can determine what you will
think about most, and what you will look at most, and if you settle
that, that will settle what you feel. And so, though it is by a
roundabout way, we can regulate our emotions. A man travelling in a
railway train can choose which side of the carriage he will look out
at, either the one where the sunshine is falling full on the front of
each grass-blade and tree, or the side where it is the shadowed side of
each that is turned to him. If he will look out of the one window, he
will see everything verdant and bright, and if he will look out at the
other, there will be a certain sobriety and dulness over the landscape.
You can settle which window you are going to look out at. If the
one--'in which ye greatly rejoice.' If the other--'ye are in heaviness
through manifold temptations.' You have seen patterns wrought in black
and white, you may focus your eye so as to get white on a black ground,
or black on a white ground, just as you like. You can do that with your
life, and either fix upon the temptations and the heaviness as the main
thing, or you can fix upon the new life, and the new wealth, and the new
hope, and the new security as the main things. If you do the one, down
you will go into the depths of gloom, and if you do the other, up you
will spring into the ethereal heights of sober and Christian gladness.

So then, brethren, this possibility depends on these things, the choice
of our main object of contemplation, and that breaks up into two
thoughts about which I wish to say a word. The reason why so many
Christian people have only religion enough to make them gloomy, or to
weight them with a sense of burdens and unfulfilled aspirations and
broken resolutions, and have not enough to make them glad, is mainly
because they do not think enough about the four things in which they
might 'greatly rejoice.' I believe that most of us would be altogether
different people, as professing Christians, if we honestly tried to keep
the mightiest things uppermost, and to fill heart and mind far more than
we do with the contemplation of these great facts and truths which,
when once they are beheld and cleaved to, are certain to minister
gladness to men's souls. These great truths which you and I say we
believe, and which we profess to live by, will only work their effect
upon us, so long as they are present to our minds and hearts. You can no
more expect Christian verities to keep you from falling, or to
strengthen you in weakness, or to gladden you in sorrow, if you are not
thinking about them, than you can expect the most succulent or most
nutritive food to nourish you if you do not eat it. As long as Christ
and His grace are present in our hearts and minds by thought, so long,
and not one moment longer, do they minister to us the joy of the Lord.
You switch off from the main current, and out go all the lights, and
when you switch off from Christ out goes the gladness.

Then another thing I would point out is that the possibility of this
co-existence of joy and of heaviness depends further on our taking the
right point of view from which to look at the sources of the heaviness.
Notice how beautifully, although entirely incidentally, and without
calling attention to it, Peter here minimises the 'manifold temptations'
which he does expect, however minimised, will make men heavy. He calls
them 'temptations.' Now that is rather an unfortunate word, because it
suggests the idea of something that desires to drag a man into sin. But
suppose, instead of 'temptations,' with its unfortunate associations,
you were to substitute a word that means the same thing, and is free
from that association--viz.,'trial,'--you would get the right point of
view. As long as I look at my sorrows mainly in regard to their power to
sadden me, I have not got to the right point of view for them. They
_are_ meant to sadden me, they are meant to pain, they are meant to
bring the tears, they are meant to weight the heart and press down the
spirits, but what for? To test what I am made of, and by testing to
bring out and strengthen what is good, and to cast out and destroy what
is evil. We shall never understand, even so much as it is possible for
us to understand, and that is not very much, of the mystery of pain
until we come to recognise that its main purpose is to help in making
character. And when you think of your sorrows, disappointments, losses,
when you think of your pains and sickness, and all the ills that flesh
is heir to, principally as being 'trials,' in the deep sense of that
word--viz., a means of testing you, and thereby helping you, bettering
you, and building up character--then it is more possible to blend the
sorrow that they produce with the joy to which they may lead. The
Apostle adds the other thought of the transitoriness of sorrow, and yet
further, the other of its necessity for the growth of humanity. So they
are not only to be felt, not only to be wept over, not only to make us
sad, but they are to be accepted, and used as means by which we may be
perfected. And when once you get occupied in trying to get all the good
that is in it out of a grief, you will be astonished to find how the
bitterness that was in it was diminished.

We may have the oil on the water, calming, though not ending, its
agitation. We may carry our own atmosphere with us, and like the diver
that goes down into depths of the sea, and cannot be reached by the
hungry water around his crystal bell, and has communication with the
upper air, where the light of the sun is, so you and I, down at the
slimy bottom, and with the waste of water all around us, which if it
could get at us would choke us, may walk at liberty, in peace and
gladness. And so, 'though the labour of the olive shall fail and the fig
tree not blossom, though the flocks be cut off from the folds and the
herd from the stalls,' we may joy in the Lord, and 'rejoice in the God
of our salvation.'

III. Now lastly, we have here a duty.

Peter takes it for granted that these good people, who had persecution
hanging over them, were still rejoicing greatly in the Lord. He does not
feel it necessary to enjoin it upon them. It is a matter of course in
their Christian life. And you will find that all through the New
Testament this same tone is adopted which recognises gladness as being,
on the one hand, an inseparable characteristic of the Christian
experience, and on the other hand as being a thing that is a Christian
man's duty to cultivate. Now I do not believe that the most of Christian
people have ever looked at the thing in that light at all. If joy has
come to them, they have been thankful for it, but they have very, very
seldom felt that, if they are not glad, there is something wrong. And a
great many of us, I am sure, have never recognised the fact that it is
our duty to 'rejoice in the Lord always.' Have you realised it? I do not
mean have you tried to get up, as I have been saying, factitious
emotions, but have you felt that if you are doing what, as Christian men
or women, it is your plain duty to do, there will come into your hearts
this joy of the Lord. I have told you why you are not happier
Christians, why so many of us have, as I said, only got religion enough
to make you gloomy and burdened. It is because you do not think enough
about Jesus Christ, and what He has given you, and what He is doing for
you and in you. It is because you have not the new life in strong
experience and possession, and because you have not the new hope
springing in your hearts, and because you have not the new wealth
realised often in present possession, and because you have not the new
security which He is ready to give you. It is your duty, Christian man
and woman, to be a joyful Christian, and if you are not, then the
negligence is sin.

It is a hard duty. It is not easy to turn away from that which is
torturing flesh or sense or natural desires or human affections, and to
realise the unseen. It is not easy, but it is possible. And, like all
other difficult things, it is worth doing. For there is nothing more
helpful, more recommendatory, of our Christianity to other people, and
more certain to tell on the vigour and efficiency of our Christian
service, than that we should be rejoicing in the Lord, and living in the
possession of the experience of Christ's joy which He has left for us.

There is one other thing I must say. I have been talking about the
co-existence of joy and sorrows. In one form or another that
co-existence is universal. The difference is this. A Christian man has
superficial sorrows and central gladness, and other men have superficial
gladness and central sorrow. 'Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful.'
Many of you know what that means--the black aching centre, full of
unrest, grimly unparticipant of the dancing delights going on about it,
like some black rock that stands up in the midst of a field flooded with
sunshine, and gay with flowers. 'The end of that mirth is heaviness.'
Better a surface sadness and a core of joy than the opposite, a skin of
verdure over the scarcely cold lava. Better a transient sorrow with an
eternal joy than the opposite, mirth, 'like the crackling of thorns
under a pot,' which dies down into a doleful ring of black ashes in the
pathless desert. Choose whether you will have joy dwelling with and
conquering sorrow, or unrest and sorrow, darkening and finally
shattering your partial and fleeting joys.



THE TRUE GOLD AND ITS TESTING

     'That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of
      gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found
      unto praise and honour and glory ...'--1 Peter i. 7.


The Apostle is fond of that word 'precious.' In both his letters he uses
it as an epithet for diverse things. According to one translation, he
speaks of Christ as 'precious to you which believe.' He certainly speaks
of 'the precious blood of Christ,' and of 'exceeding great and precious
promises,' and here in my text, as well as in the Second Epistle, he
speaks about 'precious faith.' It is a very wide general term, not
expressing anything very characteristic beyond the one notion of value.
But in the text, according to our Authorised Version, it looks at first
sight as if it were not the faith, but the _trial_ of the faith that the
Apostle regards as thus valuable. There are difficulties of rendering
which I need not trouble you with. Suffice it to say that, speaking
roughly and popularly, the 'trial of your faith' here seems to mean
rather the _result of_ that trial, and might be fairly represented by
the slightly varied expression, 'your faith having been tried, might be
found,' etc.

I must not be tempted to discourse about the reasons why such a
rendering seems to express the Apostle's meaning more fully, but, taking
it for granted, there are just three things to notice--the true wealth,
the testing of the wealth, and the discovery at last of the preciousness
of the wealth.

I. Peter pits against each other faith that has been tried, and 'gold
that perisheth'; he puts away all the other points of comparison and
picks out one, and that is that the one lasts and the other does not.
Now I must not be seduced into going beyond the limits of my text to
dilate upon the other points of contrast and pre-eminence; but I would
just notice in a sentence that everybody admits, yet next to nobody acts
upon, the admission that inward good is far more valuable than outward
good. 'Wisdom is more precious than rubies,' say people, and yet they
will choose the rubies, and take no trouble to get the wisdom. Now the
very same principles of estimating value which set cultivated
understandings and noble hearts above great possessions and large
balances at the bankers, set the life of faith high above all others.
And the one thought which Peter wishes to drive into our heads and
hearts is that there is only one kind of wealth that will never be
separated from its possessor. Nothing is truly ours that remains outside
of us.

     ''Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands.'

Nothing that is there whilst I am here is really mine. I do not own it
if it is possible that I shall lose it. And so with profound meaning our
Lord speaks about 'that which is another's' in comparison with 'that
which is your own.' It is another's because it passes, like quicksilver
under pressure, from hand to hand, and no man really holds it, but it
leaps away from his grasp. And if a man retains it all his days, still,
according to the grim old proverb, 'shrouds have no pockets,' and when
he dies his hands open, or sometimes they clutch together, but there is
nothing inside the palms, and they only close upon themselves. Dear
brethren, if there is anything that can be filched away from us,
anything about which it is true that, on the one hand, 'moth and
rust'--natural processes--'do corrupt' it, on the other hand, 'thieves
break through and steal'--accidents of human conduct can deprive us of
it, then we may _call_ it ours, but it is not ours. It possesses us, if
we are devoted to it as our best good, and fighting and toiling, and
sometimes lying and cheating, and flinging the whole fierce energy of
our nature into first gripping and then holding it; it possesses us; we
do not possess it. But if there is anything that can become so
interwoven and interlaced with the very fibres of a man's heart that
they and it cannot be parted, if there is anything that empty hands will
clasp the closer, because they _are_ emptied of earth's vanities, then
that is truly possessed by its possessor. And our faith, which will not
be trodden in the grave, but will go with us into the world beyond, and
though it be lost in one aspect, in sight, it will be eternal as trust,
will be ours, imperishable as ourselves, and as God. Therefore, do not
give all the energy of your lives to amassing the second-best riches.
Seek the highest things most. 'Covet earnestly the best gifts,' and let
the coveting regulate your conduct. And do not be put off with wealth
that will fail you sooner or later.

II. Note, again, the testing of the wealth.

I need not dwell upon that very familiar metaphor of the furnace for
gold, and the fining-pot for silver, only remember that there are two
purposes for which metallurgists apply fire to metals. The one is to
test them, and the other is to cleanse them, or, to use technical words,
one is for the purpose of assaying them, and the other is for the
purpose of refining them. And so, linking the words of my text with the
words of the previous verse, we find that the Apostle lays it down that
the purpose of all the diverse trials, or 'temptations' as he calls
them, that come to us, is this one thing, that our faith should be
'tried,' and 'found, unto praise and honour and glory.' The fire carries
away the dross; it makes the pure metal glow in its lustre. It burns up
the 'wood, hay, stubble'; it makes the gold gleam and the precious
stones coruscate and flash.

And so note this general notion here of the intention of all life's
various aspects being to test character is specialised into this, that
it is meant to test faith, first of all. Of course it is meant to test
many other things. A man's whole character is tested by the experiences
of his daily life, all that is good and all that is evil in him, and we
might speak about the effect of life's discipline upon a great many
different sides of our nature. But here the whole stress is put upon the
effect of life in testing and clarifying and strengthening one part of a
Christian's character, and that is his faith. Why does Peter pick out
faith? Why does he not say 'trial of your hope,' of your 'love,' of your
'courage,' of half a dozen other graces? Why 'the trial of your
_faith_?' For this reason, because as the man's faith is, so is the man.
Because faith is the tap-root, in the view of the New Testament, of all
that is good and strong and noble in humanity. Because if you strengthen
a man's trust you strengthen everything that comes from it. Reinforce
the centre and all is reinforced. Your faith is the vital point from
which your whole life as Christians is developed, and whatever
strengthens that strengthens you. And, therefore, although everything
that befalls you calls for the exercise of, and therefore tests, and
therefore, rightly undergone, strengthens a great many various virtues
and powers and beauties in a human character, the main good of it all is
that it deepens, if the man is right, his simple trust in God manifested
by his trust in and love to Jesus Christ: and so it reinforces the faith
which works by love, and thus tends to make all things in life good and
fair.

Now if thus the main end of life is to strengthen faith, let us remember
that we have to give a wider meaning to the word 'trials' than
'afflictions.' Ah! there is as sharp a trial of my faith in prosperity
as in any adversity. People say, 'It is easy to trust God when things
are going well with us.' That is quite true. But it is a great deal
easier to stop trusting God, or thinking about Him, when things are
going well with us, and we do not seem to need Him so much, as in the
hours of darkness. You remember the old story about the traveller, when
the sun and the wind tried which could make him take off his cloak; and
the sun did it. Some of us, I daresay, have found out that the faith
which gripped God when we felt we needed Him, because we had not
anything else but Him, is but too apt to lose hold of Him when fleeting
delights and apparent treasures come and whisper invitations in our
hearts. There are diseases that are proper to the northern, dark,
ice-bound regions of the earth. Yes! and there are a great many more
that belong to the tropics; as there is such a thing as sunstroke, which
is, perhaps, as dangerous as the cramping cold from the icebergs of the
north. Some of us should understand what that Scripture means: 'Because
they have no changes, therefore they fear not God.' Prosperity,
untroubled lives, lives even as the lives of those of the majority of
mankind now, have their own most searching trials of faith.

But on the other hand, if there are 'ships that have gone down at sea,
when heaven was all tranquillity,' there come also dark and nights of
wild tempest when we have to lay to and ride out the gale with a
tremendous strain on the cable. Our sorrows, our disappointments, our
petty annoyances, and the great irrevocable griefs that sooner or later
darken the very earth, are all to be classified under this same purpose,
'that the trial of your faith ... might be found unto praise and honour
and glory.' And so, I beseech you, open your eyes to the meaning of
life, and do not suppose that you have found the last word to say about
it when you say 'I am afflicted,' or 'I am at ease.' The affliction and
the ease, like two wheels in some great machine working in opposite
directions, fit with their cogs into one another and move something
beyond them in one uniform direction. And affliction and ease cooperate
to this end, that we might be partakers of His holiness.

I believe experience teaches the most of us, if we will lay its lessons
to heart, that the times when Christian people grow most in the divine
life is in their times of sorrow. One of the old divines says, 'Grace
grows best in winter'; and there are edible plants which need a touch of
frost before they are good to eat. So it is with our faith. Only let us
take care that the fire does not burn it up, as 'wood, hay, stubble,'
but irradiates it and glorifies it, as 'gold, silver, and precious
stones.'

III. Now a word, lastly, about the ultimate discovery.

'Might be found unto praise and honour and glory.' Note these three
words, which I think are often neglected, and sometimes
misunderstood--'praise, honour, glory.' Whose? People sometimes say
'God's,' since His people's ultimate salvation redounds to His praise;
but it is much better to understand the praise as given to the
Christians whose faith has stood the testing fires. 'Well done, good and
faithful servant'--is not that praise from lips, praise from which is
praise indeed? As Paul says, 'then shall every man have praise of God.'
We are far too much afraid of recognising the fact that Jesus Christ in
Heaven, like Jesus Christ on earth, will praise the deeds that come from
love to Him, though the deeds themselves may be very imperfect. Do you
remember 'She hath wrought a good work on Me,' said about a woman that
had done a perfectly useless thing, which was open to a great many very
shrewd objections? But Jesus Christ accepted it. Why? Because it was the
pure utterance of a loving heart. And, depend upon it, though we have to
say 'Unclean! unclean! We are unprofitable servants,' He will say 'Come!
ye blessed of My Father.' Praise from Christ is praise indeed.

'Honour.' That suggests bystanders, a public opinion, if I may so say;
it suggests 'have thou authority over ten cities,' and that men will
have their deeds round them as a halo, in that other world. As 'praise'
suggests the redeemed man's relation to his Lord, so 'honour' suggests
the redeemed man's relation to the fellow-citizens of the New Jerusalem.
'Glory' speaks of the man himself as transfigured and lifted up into
the light and lustre of communion with, and conformity to, the image of
the Lord. 'Then shall we appear with Him in glory. Then shall the
righteous blaze forth like the sun in My heavenly Father's Kingdom.'

'Shall be found.' Ah! there will be many surprises yonder. Do you
remember that profound revelation of our Master when He represents those
on whom He lavishes His eulogies as the Judge, as turning to Him and
saying, 'Lord! when saw we Thee in ... prison and visited thee?' They do
not recognise themselves or their acts in Christ's account of them. They
have found that their lives were diviner than they knew. There will be
surprises there. As one of the prophets represents the ransomed Israel,
to her amazement, surrounded by clinging troops of children, and asking,
'These! Where have they been? I was left alone,' so many a poor, humble
soul, fighting along in this world, having no recognition on earth, and
the lowliest estimate of all its own actions, will be astonished at the
last when it receives 'praise, and honour, and glory, at the appearing
of Jesus Christ.'



JOY IN BELIEVING

     'In Whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with
      joy unspeakable and full of glory.'--1 Peter i. 8.


The Apostle has just previously been speaking about the great and
glorious things which are to come to Christians on the appearing of
Jesus Christ, and that naturally suggests to him the thought of the
condition of believing souls during the period of the Lord's absence and
comparative concealment. Having lifted his readers' hopes to that great
Future, when they would attain to 'praise and honour and glory' at
Christ's appearing, he drops to the present and to earth, and recalls
the disadvantages and deprivations of the present Christian experience
as well as its privileges and blessings. 'Whom having not seen, ye
love,' that is a very natural thought in the mind of one whose love to
Jesus rested on the ever-remembered blessed experience of years of happy
companionship, when addressing those who had no such memories. It points
to an entirely unique fact. There is nothing else in the world parallel
to that strange, deep personal attachment which fills millions of hearts
to this Man who died nineteen centuries ago, and which is utterly unlike
the feelings that any men have to any other of the great names of the
past. To love one unseen is a paradox, which is realised only in the
relation of the Christian soul to Jesus Christ.

Then the Apostle goes on with what might at first seem a mere repetition
of the preceding thought, but really brings to view another strange
anomaly. 'In Whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice
with joy unspeakable and full of glory.' Love longs for the presence of
the beloved, and is restless and defrauded of its gladness so long as
absence continues. But this strange love, which is kindled by an unseen
Man, does not need His visible presence in order to be a fountain of joy
unspeakable and full of glory. Thus the Apostle takes it for granted
that every one who believes knows what this joy is. It is a large
assumption, contradicted, I am afraid, by the average experience of the
people that at this day call themselves Christians.

We notice--

I. The All-sufficient Ground or Source of this Glad Emotion.

'In whom,' with all the disabilities and pains and absence, 'yet
believing,' you can put out a long arm of faith across the gulf that
lies, not only between to-day and eighteen centuries ago, but the deeper
and more impassible gulf that lies between earth and heaven, and clasp
Christ with a really firm grasp, which will fill the hand, and which we
shall feel has laid hold of something, or rather has laid hold of a
living person and a loving heart. That is faith. The Apostle uses a very
strong form of expression here, which is only very partially represented
by our English version. He does not say only '_in_ whom believing,' but
'_towards_ whom'; putting emphasis upon the effort and direction of the
faith, rather than upon the repose of the heart when it has found its
object and rests upon Him. And so the conception of the true Christian
attitude is that of a continual outgoing of Trust and its child Love; of
Desire and its child Possession; and of Expectation and its child
Fruition towards that unseen Christ. It is much to believe Him, it is
more to believe in Him; it is--I was going to say--most of all to
believe towards Him. For in this region, quite as much as, and I think
more than, in the one to which the saying was originally applied,
'search is better than attainment.' Our condition must always be that of
'forgetting the things that are behind'; and however much we may realise
the union with the unseen Christ in the act of resting upon Him, that
must never be suffered to interfere with the longing for the larger
possession of myself, and fuller consequent likeness to Him, which is
expressed in that great though simple phrase of my text 'believing
towards Him.' Such a continual outgoing of effort, as well as the rest
and blessedness of reposing on Him, is indispensable for all true
gladness. For the intensest activity of our whole being is essential to
the real joy of any part of it, and we shall never know the rapture of
which humanity, even here and now, is capable until we gather our whole
selves, heart, will, and all our practical, as well as our intellectual,
powers in the effort to make more of Christ our own, and to minimise the
distance between us to a mere vanishing point, 'Believing towards whom
ye rejoice.'

That act of trust, however inadequate the object upon which it rests,
and however mistaken may be our conceptions of that on which we lean,
always brings a gladness which is real, until disappointment
disillusionises and saddens us. There is nothing that so sheds peace
over the heart as reliance, absolute and quiet, upon some object worthy
of trust. It is blessed to trust one another until, as is too often the
case, we find that what we thought to be an oak against which we leaned
is but a broken reed that has no pith in it, and no possibility of
support. So far as it goes, all trust is blessed, but the most blessed
is simple reliance upon, and aspiration after, Jesus Christ. Ever to
yearn for Him, not with the yearning of those who have no possession,
but with that of those who, having a little, desire to have more, is to
bring into our lives the one solid and sufficient good without which
there is no gladness, and with which there can be no unmingled sorrow,
wrapping the whole man in its ebon folds. For this Christ is enough for
all my nature and for the satisfaction of every desire. In Him my mind
finds the truth; my will the law; my love the answering love; my hope
its object; my fears their dissipation; my sins their forgiveness; my
weaknesses their strength; and, to all that I am, what He is answers, as
fulness to emptiness, and as supply to need. So, 'believing towards Him,
we rejoice.'

But note that the joy is strictly contemporaneous with the faith. Tear
away electric wire from the source of energy, and the light goes out
instantly. It is as another Apostle says, '_in believing_' that we have
'joy and peace.' And that is why so many of us know little of it.
Yesterday's faith will not contribute to to-day's gladness, any more
than yesterday's meals will satisfy to-day's hunger. Present joy depends
upon present faith, and the measure of the one is the measure of the
other.

Notice again--

II. The Characteristics of the Christian Gladness.

'Unspeakable,' and, as the word ought to be rendered, not 'full of
glory' but 'glorified.' Unspeakable. Still waters run deep. It is poor
wealth that can be counted; it is shallow emotion that can be crammed
into the narrow limits of any human vocabulary. Fathers and mothers,
parents and children, husbands and wives, know that. And the depths of
the joy that a believing soul has in Jesus Christ are not to be spoken.
Perhaps it is better that it should not be attempted to speak them.

                'Not easily forgiven
    Are those, who, setting wide the doors that bar
    The secret bridal chambers of the heart,
    Let in the day.'

It is in shallow streams that the sunlight gleams on the pebbles at the
bottom. The abysses of ocean are dark, and have never been searched by
its light. I suspect the depth of the emotion which bubbles over into
words, and finds no difficulty in expressing itself. The joy which can
be manifested in all its extent has a very small extent. Christian joy
is unspeakable, too, because just as you cannot teach a blind man what
colour is like, and cannot impart to anybody the blessedness of wedded
love, or parental affection, by ever so much talking--and, therefore,
the poetry of the world is never exhausted--so there is only one way of
conveying to a man what is the actual joy of trusting in Christ, and
that is, that he himself should trust Him. We may talk till Doomsday,
and then, as the Queen of Sheba said, when she came to Solomon, 'the
half hath not been told.'

    'He must be loved ere that to you
     He will seem worthy of your love.'

It is unspeakable gladness springing from the possession of an
unspeakable gift.

'Glorified.' There is nothing more ignoble than the ordinary joys of
men. They are too often like the iridescent scum on a stagnant pond,
fruit and proof of corruption. They are fragile and hollow, for all the
play of colour on them, like a soap bubble that breaks of its own
tenuity, and is only a drop of dirty water. Joy is too often ignoble,
and yet, although it is by no means the highest conception of what
Christ's Gospel can do for us, it is blessed to think that it can take
that emotion, so often shameful, so often frivolous, so often lowering
rather than elevating, and can lift it into loftiness, and transfigure
it, and glorify it and make it a power, a power for good and for
righteousness, and for 'whatsoever things are lovely and of good report'
in our lives. And that is what trusting towards Christ will do for our
gladnesses.

Lastly, in one word, let me lay upon your consciences, as Christian
people

III. The Obligation of Gladness.

Peter takes it for granted that all these brethren to whom he is writing
have experience of this deep and ennobled joy. He does not say, 'You
ought to rejoice,' but he says, 'You do rejoice.' And yet a verse or two
before he said, 'Ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.' So,
then, he was not blinking the hard, painful facts of anybody's troubled
life. He was not away upon the heights serenely contemptuous of the grim
possibilities that lurk down in the dark valleys. He took in all the
burdens and the pains and the anxieties and the harassments, and the
losses, and the bleeding hearts and the cares that can burden any of us.
And he said, in spite of them all, 'Ye rejoice.'

Do you? I am afraid there is no more irrefragable proof of the unreality
of an enormous proportion of the Christian profession of this day than
the joyless lives--in so far as their religion contributes to their
joy--of hosts of us. We have religion enough to make us miserable, we
have religion enough to make us uncomfortable about doing things that we
would like to do. We are always haunted by the feeling that we are
falling so far below our professions, and we are either miserable when
we bethink ourselves, or, more frequently, indifferent, accordingly. And
the whole reason of such experience lies here, we have not an adequately
strong and continued trust in Jesus Christ working righteousness in our
lives, nobleness in our characters, and so lifting us above the regions
where mists and malaria lie. Let us get high enough up, and we shall
find clear sky.

You call yourselves Christians. Does your religion bring any gladness
to you? Does it burn brightest in the dark, like the pillar of cloud
before the Israelites? 'Greek fire' burned below the water, and so was
in high repute. Our gladness is a poor affair if it is at the mercy of
temperaments or of circumstances. Jesus Christ comes to cure
temperaments, and to enable us to resist circumstances. So I venture to
say that, whatever may be our condition in regard to externals, or
whatever may be our tendencies of disposition, we are bound, as a piece
of Christian duty, to try to cultivate this joyful spirit, and to do it
in the only right way, by cultivating the increase of our faith in Jesus
Christ. 'Rejoice in the Lord always'; the man who said that was a
prisoner, with death looking into his eyeballs. As he said it, he felt
that his friends in Philippi might think the exhortation overstrained,
and so he repeated it, to show that he recognised the apparent
impossibility of obeying it, and yet deliberately enjoined it; 'and
again I say, rejoice.'



CHRIST AND HIS CROSS THE CENTRE OF THE UNIVERSE

     'Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched
      diligently ... the things which are now reported unto you ... which
      things the angels desire to look into.'--1 Peter i. 10, 11, 12.


I have detached these three clauses from their surroundings, not because
I desire to treat them fragmentarily, but because we thereby throw into
stronger relief the writer's purpose to bring out the identity of the
Old and the New Revelation, the fact that Christ and His sufferings are
the centre of the world's history, to which all that went before points,
from which all that follows after flows; and that not only thus does He
stand in the midst of humanity, but that from Him there ran out
influences into other orders of beings, and angels learn from Him
mysteries hitherto unknown to them. The prophets prophesy of the grace
which comes in the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should
follow, and the same Spirit which taught them teaches the preachers of
the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They that went before had for their deepest
message the proclamation, 'He will come'; they that follow after have
for their deepest message, 'He has come.' And angels listen to, and
echo, the chorus, from all the files that march in front, and all that
bring up the rear, 'Hosanna! Blessed be Him that cometh in the name of
the Lord.'

My purpose, then, is just to try to bring before you the magnificent
unity into which these texts bind all ages, and all worlds, planting
Jesus Christ and His Cross in the centre of them all. There are four
aspects here in which the writer teaches us to regard this unity: Jesus
and the Cross are the substance of prophecy, the theme of Gospel
preaching, the study of angels, and presented to each of us for our
individual acceptance. Now, let us look briefly at these four points.

I. First, then, Christ and His Cross is the substance of prophecy.

Now, of course, we have to remember that general statements have to be
interpreted widely, and without punctilious adherence to the words; and
we have also to remember that great mischief has been done, and great
discredit cast, on the whole conception of ancient revelation by the
well-meaning, but altogether mistaken, attempts of good people to read
the fully developed doctrine of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice into
every corner of the ancient revelation. But whilst I admit all that,
and would desire to emphasise the fact, I think that in this
generation, and to-day, there is a great deal more need to insist upon
the truth that the inmost essence and deepest purpose of the whole Old
Testament system is to create an attitude of expectance, and to point
onwards, with ever-growing distinctness, to one colossal and mysterious
figure in which the longings of generations shall be fulfilled, and the
promises of God shall be accomplished. The prophet was more than a
foreteller, as is being continually insisted upon nowadays. There were
prophets who never uttered a single prediction. Their place in Israel
was to be the champions of righteousness, and--I was going to say--the
knights of God, as against law and ceremonial and externalism. But,
beyond that, there underlie the whole system of prophecy, and there come
sparkling and flashing up to the surface every now and then, bright
anticipations, not only of a future kingdom, but of a personal King, and
not only of a King, but a sufferer. All the sacrifices, almost all the
institutions, the priesthood and the monarchy included, had this
onward-looking aspect, and Israel as a whole, in the proportion in which
it was true to the spirit of its calling, stood a-tiptoe, as it were,
looking down the ages for the coming of the Hope of the Covenant that
had been promised to the fathers. The prophets, I might say, were like
an advance-guard sent before some great monarch in his progress towards
his capital, who rode through the slumbering villages and called, 'He
comes! He comes! The King cometh meek and having salvation,' and then
passed on.

Now, all that is to be held fast to-day. I would give all freedom to
critical research, and loyally accept the results of it, so far as these
are established, and are not mere hypotheses, with regard to the date
and the circumstances of the construction of the various elements of
that Old Testament. But what I desire especially to mark is that, with
the widest freedom, there must be these two things conserved which Peter
here emphasises, the real inspiration of the prophetic order, and its
function to point onwards to Jesus. And so long as you keep these
truths, as long as you believe that God spoke through prophets, as long
as you believe that the very heart of their message was the proclamation
of Jesus Christ, and that to bear witness to Him was the function, not
only of prophet, but of priest and king and nation, then you are at
liberty to deal as you like with mere questions of origin and of date.
But if, in the eagerness of the chase after the literary facts of the
origin of the Old Testament, we forget that it is a unity, that it is a
divine unity, that it is a progressive revelation, and that 'the
testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy' then I venture to say that
the most uncritical, old-fashioned reader of the Old Testament that
found Jesus Christ in the Song of Solomon, and in the details of the
Tabernacle, and in all the _minutiæ_ of worship and sacrifice, was
nearer to the living heart of the thing than the most learned scholar
that has been so absorbed in the inquiries as to how and when this,
that, and the other bit of the Book was written, that he fails to see
the one august figure that shines out, now more and now less dimly, and
gives unity to the whole. 'To Him gave all the prophets witness.' And
when Peter declared, as he did in my text, that ancient Israel, by its
spokesmen and its organs, testified beforehand of the sufferings of
Christ, he is but echoing what he had learned from his Master, who turns
to some of us with the same rebuke with which He met His disciples
after the Resurrection: 'O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that
the prophets have spoken.' The Old and the New are a unity, and Christ
and His Cross are the substance and the centre of both.

II. Note here Christ and His Cross, the theme of Gospel preaching.

If you will glance at your leisure over the whole context from which I
have picked these clauses as containing its essence, you will find that
the Apostle speaks of the things which the prophets foretold as being
the same as 'those which are now reported unto you by them that have
preached the Gospel unto you, with the Holy Ghost sent down from
heaven.' I must not take for granted that you are all referring to your
Bibles, but I should like to point out, as the basis of one or two
things that I wish to say, the remarkable variety of phrase employed in
the text to describe the one thing. First, Peter speaks of it as
'salvation,' then he speaks of it in the next clause as 'the grace that
should come unto you.' Then, in the next phrase, he designates it more
particularly as 'the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should
follow.' Now, if we put these designations together--salvation, grace,
Christ's sufferings, the subsequent glory--we come to this, that the
facts of Christ's life, death, resurrection, and ascension are the great
vehicle which brings to men God's grace, that that grace has for its
purpose and its effect man's salvation, and that these facts are the
Gospel which Christian preachers have to proclaim.

Now notice what follows from such thoughts as these. To begin with, the
Gospel is not a speculation, is not a theology, still less a morality,
not a declaration of principles, but a history of fact, things that were
done on this earth of ours, and that the Apostle's Creed which is
worked into the service of the Anglican Church is far nearer the
primitive conception of the Gospel than are any of the more elaborate
and doctrinal ones which have followed. For we have to begin with the
facts that Christ lived, died, was buried, rose again from the dead ...
ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God. Whatever
else the Gospel is, that is the kernel and the basis of it all. Out of
these facts will come all manner of doctrines, philosophies of religion,
theologies, revelations about God and man. Out of them will come all
ethics, the teaching of duty, the exhibition of a pattern of conduct,
inspiration to follow the model that is set before us. Out of them will
come, as I believe, guidance and light for social and economical and
political questions and difficulties. But what we have to lay hold of,
and what we preachers have to proclaim, is the story of the life, and
eminently the story of the death.

Why does Peter put in the very centre here 'the sufferings of Christ'?
That suggests another thought, that amongst these facts which, taken
together, make the Gospel, the vital part, the central and the
indispensable part, is the story of the Cross. Now what Christ said, not
what Christ did, not what Christ was, beautiful and helpful as all that
is, but to begin with what Christ bore, is the fact that makes the life
of the Gospel. And just as He is the centre of humanity, so the Cross is
the centre of His work. Why is that? Because the deepest need of all of
us is the need to have our sins dealt with, both as guilt and as power,
and because nothing else in the whole story of Christ's manifestation
deals with men's sins as the fact of His death on the Cross does,
therefore the sacrifice and sufferings are the heart of the Gospel.

And so, brethren, we have to mark that the presentation of Christian
truth which slurs over that fact of the Sacrifice and Atonement of Jesus
Christ, has parted with the vital power which makes the story into a
gospel. It is no gospel to tell a man that Jesus Christ died, unless you
go on to say He 'died for our sins according to the Scriptures.' And it
is no gospel to talk about the beauty of His life, and the perfectness
of His example, and the sweetness of His nature, and the depth, the
wisdom, and the tenderness of His words, unless you can say this is 'the
Lamb of God,' 'the Word made flesh,' 'who bare our sins, and carried our
sicknesses and our sorrows.' Strike out from the gospel that you preach
'the sufferings of Christ,' and you have struck out the one thing that
will draw men's hearts, that will satisfy men's needs, that will bind
men to Him with cords of love. 'I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men
unto Me.' So, wherever you get what they call an ethical gospel which
deals with moralities, and does not impart the power that will vitalise
moralities, and make them into thankful service and sacrifices, in
return for the great Sacrifice; wherever you get a gospel that falters
in its enunciation of the sufferings of Christ, and wherever you get a
gospel that secularises the Christian service of the Sabbath, and will
rather discuss the things that the newspapers discuss, and the new books
that the reviewers are talking about, and odds and ends of that sort
that are thought to be popular and attractive, you get a gospel _minus_
the thing that, in the Old Testament and in the New alike, stands forth
in the centre of all. 'We preach Christ crucified'; it is not enough to
preach Christ. Many a man does that, and might as well hold his tongue.
'We preach Christ crucified.' And the same august Figure which loomed
before the vision of prophets, and shines through many a weary age,
stands before us of this generation; ay! and will stand till the end of
the world, as the centre, the pivot of human history, the Christ who has
died for men. The Christ that will stand in the centre of the
development of humanity is the Christ that died on the Cross. If your
gospel is not that, you have yet to learn the deepest secret of His
power.

III. Once more, here we have Christ and His Cross as the study of
angels.

'Which things the angels desire to look into.' Now, the word that Peter
employs there is an unusual one in Scripture. Its force may, perhaps, be
best conveyed by referring to one of the few instances in which it is
employed. It is used to describe the attitude of Peter and John when
they stooped down and looked into the sepulchre. Perhaps there may be a
reference in Peter's mind to that incident, when he saw the 'two angels
... sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the
body of Jesus had lain.' Perhaps, also, there floats in his mind some
kind of reference to the outspread wings and bended heads of the
brooding cherubim who sat above the Mercy-seat, gazing down upon the
miracle of love that was manifested beneath them there. But be that as
it may, the idea conveyed is that of eager desire and fixed attention.

Now I am not going to enlarge at all upon the thought that is here
conveyed, except just to make the one remark that people have often
said, 'Why should a race of insignificant creatures on this little globe
of ours be so dignified in the divine procedure as that there should be
the stupendous mystery of the Incarnation, and the Death for their
sakes?' _Not_ for their sakes only, for the New Testament commits itself
to the thought that whilst sinful men are the only subjects of the
redeeming grace of Jesus Christ, other orders of creatures do benefit
thereby, and do learn from it what else they would not have known, of
the mystery and the miracle and the majesty of the Divine love. 'To the
principalities and the powers in heavenly places He hath made known by
the Church the manifold wisdom of God.' And we can understand how these
other orders--what we call higher orders, which they may be or they may
not--of being, learn to know God as we learn to know Him, by the
manifestation of Himself in His acts, and how the crown of all
manifestations consists in this, that He visits the sinful sons of men,
and by His own dear Son brings them back again. The elder brethren in
the Father's house do not grudge the ring and the robe given to the
prodigals; rather they learn therein more than they knew before of the
loving-kindness of God.

Now all that is nowadays ignored, and it is not fashionable to speak
about the interest of angels in the success of Redemption, and a good
many 'advanced' Christians do not believe in angels at all, because they
'cannot verify' the doctrine. I, for my part, accept the teaching, which
seems to me to be a great deal more reasonable than to suppose that the
rest of the universe is void of creatures that can praise and love and
know God. I accept the teaching, and think that Peter was, perhaps, not
a dreamer when he said, 'The angels desire to look into these things.'
They do not share in the blessings of redemption, but they can behold
what they do not themselves experience. The Seer in the Revelation was
not mistaken, when he believed that he heard redeemed men leading the
chorus to Him that had redeemed them by His blood out of all nations,
and then heard the thunderous echo from an innumerable host of angels
who could not say 'Thou hast redeemed us,' but who could bring praise
and glory to Him because He had redeemed men.

IV. And now my last point is that Christ and His Cross is, by the
Gospel, offered to each of us.

Notice how emphatically in this context the Apostle gathers together his
wider thoughts, and focusses them into a point. 'The prophets have
inquired and searched diligently ... of the grace that should come to
_you_.... To them it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but _unto
us_ they did minister the things, which are now reported _unto you_ by
them that have preached the Gospel _unto you_.' And so he would take his
wide thoughts, as it were, and gather all together, to a point, and
press the point against each man's heart.

Dear brethren, these wide views are of no avail to us unless we realise
the individual relation which Christ bears to each one of us. He bears a
relation, as I have been saying, to all humanity. All the ages belong to
Him. 'He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.' From His
Cross there flash up rays of light into the heavens above, and out over
the whole rolling series of the centuries, from the beginning to the
end. Yes; but from His Cross there comes a beam straight to your heart,
and the Christ whom angels desire to look into, of whom prophets
prophesy and Apostles proclaim His advent, who is the Lord of all the
ages, and the Lover of mankind, comes to thee and says 'I am thy
Saviour,' and to thee this wide message is brought. Every eye has the
whole sunshine, and each soul may have the whole Christ. His universal
relations in time and space matter little to you, unless He has a
particular relation to yourself.

And He will never have that in its atoning power, unless you do for
yourself and by yourself the most individual and solitary act that a
human soul can do, and that is, lay your hand on the head of 'the Lamb
... that takes away the sin of the world,' and put your sins there. You
must begin with 'my Christ,' which you can do only by personal faith.
And then afterwards you can come to 'our Christ,' the Christ of all the
worlds, the Christ of all the ages. Go to Him by yourself. You must do
it as if there were not any other beings in the whole universe but you
two, Jesus and you. And when you have so gone, then you will find that
you have 'come to the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of
angels, to the general assembly, and Church of the first born.' Christ
and His Cross are the substance of prophecy, the theme of the Gospel,
the study of the angels. What are they to me?



HOPE PERFECTLY

     'Wherefore, gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to
      the end, for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the
      revelation of Jesus Christ.'--1 Peter i. 13.


Christianity has transformed hope, and given it a new importance, by
opening to it a new world to move in, and supplying to it new guarantees
to rest on. There is something very remarkable in the prominence given
to hope in the New Testament, and in the power ascribed to it to order a
noble life. Paul goes so far as to say that we are saved by it. To a
Christian it is no longer a pleasant dream, which may be all an
illusion, indulgence in which is pretty sure to sap a man's force, but
it is a certain anticipation of certainties, the effect of which will be
increased energy and purity. So our Apostle, having in the preceding
context in effect summed up the whole Gospel, bases upon that summary a
series of exhortations, the transition to which is marked by the
'wherefore' at the beginning of my text. The application of that word is
to be extended, so as to include all that has preceded in the letter,
and there follows a series of practical advices, the first of which, the
grace or virtue which he puts in the forefront of everything, is not
what you might have expected, but it is 'hope perfectly.'

I may just remark, before going further, in reference to the language of
my text, that, accurately translated, the two exhortations which precede
that to hope are subsidiary to it, for we ought to read, 'Wherefore,
girding up the loins of your mind, and being sober, hope.' That is to
say, these two are preliminaries, or conditions, or means by which the
desired perfecting of the Christian hope is to be sought and attained.

Another preliminary remark which I must make is that what is enjoined
here has not reference to the duration but to the quality of the
Christian hope. It is not 'to the end,' but, as the Margin of the
Authorised and the Revised Version concurs in saying, it is 'hope
perfectly.'

So, then, there are three things here--the object, the duty, and the
cultivation of Christian hope. Let us take these three things in order.

I. The object of the Christian hope.

Now, that is stated, in somewhat remarkable language, as 'the grace that
is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.' We
generally use that word 'grace' with a restricted signification to the
gifts of God to men here on earth. It is the earnest of the inheritance,
rather than its fulness. But here it is quite obvious that by the
expression the Apostle means the very same thing as he has previously
designated in the preceding context by three different phrases--'an
inheritance incorruptible and undefiled,' 'praise and honour and glory
at the revelation of Jesus Christ,' and 'the end of your faith, even the
salvation of your souls.' The 'grace' is not contrasted with the
'glory,' but is another name for the glory. It is not the earnest of the
inheritance, but it is the inheritance itself. It is not the means
towards attaining the progressive and finally complete 'salvation of
your souls,' but it is that complete salvation in all its fulness.

Now, that is an unusual use of the word, but that it should be employed
here, as describing the future great object of the Christian hope,
suggests two or three thoughts. One is that that ultimate blessedness,
with all its dim, nebulous glories, which can only be resolved into
their separate stars, when we are millions of leagues nearer to its
lustre, is like the faintest glimmer of a new and better life in a soul
here on earth, purely and solely the result of the undeserved,
condescending love of God that stoops to sinful men, and instead of
retribution bestows upon them a heaven. The grace that saved us at
first, the grace that comes to us, filtered in drops during our earthly
experience, is poured upon us in a flood at last. And the brightest
glory of heaven is as much a manifestation of the Divine grace as the
first rudimentary germs of a better life now and here. The foundation,
the courses of the building, the glittering pinnacle on the summit,
with its golden spire reaching still higher into the blue, is all the
work of the same unmerited, stooping, pardoning love. Glory is grace,
and Heaven is the result of God's pardoning mercy.

There is another suggestion here to be made, springing from this
eloquent use of this term, and that is not merely the identity of the
source of the Christian experience upon earth and in the future, but the
identity of that Christian experience itself in regard of its essential
character. If I may so say, it is all of a piece, homogeneous, and of
one web. The robe is without seam, woven throughout of the same thread.
The life of the humblest Christian, the most imperfect Christian, the
most infantile Christian, the most ignorant Christian here on earth, has
for its essential characteristics the very same things as the lives of
the strong spirits that move in light around the Throne, and receive
into their expanding nature the ever-increasing fulness of the glory of
the Lord. Grace here is glory in the bud; glory yonder is grace in the
fruit.

But there is still further to be noticed another great thought that
comes out of this remarkable language. The words of my text, literally
rendered, are 'the grace that is being brought unto you.' Now, there
have been many explanations of that remarkable phrase, which I think is
not altogether exhausted by, nor quite equivalent to, that which
represents it in our version--viz. 'to be brought unto you.' That
relegates it all into the future; but in Peter's conception it is, in
some sense, in the present. It is 'being brought.' What does that mean?
There are far-off stars in the sky, the beams from which have set out
from their home of light millenniums since, and have been rushing
through the waste places of the universe since long before men were,
and they have not reached our eyes yet. But they are on the road. And so
in Peter's conception, the apocalypse of glory, which is the crowning
manifestation of grace, is rushing towards us through the ages, through
the spheres, and it will be here some day, and the beams will strike
upon our faces, and make them glow with its light. So certain is the
arrival of the grace that the Apostle deals with it as already on its
way. The great thing on which the Christian hope fastens is no
'peradventure,' but a good which has already begun to journey towards
us.

Again, there is another thought still to be suggested, and that is, the
revelation of Jesus Christ is the coming to His children of this grace
which is glory, of this glory which is grace. For mark how the Apostle
says, 'the grace which is being brought to you in the revelation of
Jesus Christ.' And that revelation to which he here refers is not the
past one, in His incarnate life upon earth, but it is the future one, to
which the hope of the faithful Church ought ever to be steadfastly
turned, the correlated truth to that other one on which its faith rests.
On these two great pillars, rising like columns on either side of the
gulf of Time, 'He has come,' 'He will come,' the bridge is suspended by
which we may safely pass over the foaming torrent that else would
swallow us up. The revelation in the past cries out for the revelation
in the future. The Cross demands the Throne. That He has come once, a
sacrifice for sin, stands incomplete, like some building left unfinished
with rugged stones protruding which prophesy an addition at a future
day; unless you can add 'unto them that look for Him will He appear the
second time without sin unto salvation.' In that revelation of Jesus
Christ His children shall find the glory-grace which is the object of
their hope.

So say all the New Testament writers. 'When Christ, who is our life,
shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory' says Paul.
'The grace that is to be brought unto you in the revelation of Jesus
Christ,' chimes in Peter. And John completes the trio with his 'We know
that when He shall appear we shall be like Him.' These three things,
brethren--with Christ, glory with Him, likeness to Him--are all that we
know, and blessed be God! all that we need to know, of that dim future.
And the more we confine ourselves to these triple great certainties, and
sweep aside all subordinate matters, which are concealed partly because
they could not be revealed, and partly because they would not help us if
we knew them, the better for the simplicity and the power and the
certainty of our hope. The object of Christian hope is Christ, in His
revelation, in His presence, in His communication to us for glory, in
His assimilating of us to Himself.

    'It is enough that Christ knows all,
    And we shall be with Him.'

'The grace that is being brought unto you in the revelation of Jesus
Christ.'

II. And now notice the duty of the Christian hope.

Hope a duty? That strikes one as somewhat strange. I very much doubt
whether the ordinary run of good people do recognise it as being as
imperative a duty for them to cultivate hope as to cultivate any other
Christian excellence or virtue. For one man that sets himself
deliberately and consciously to brighten up, and to make more operative
in his daily life, the hope of future blessedness, you will find a
hundred that set themselves to other kinds of perfecting of their
Christian character. And yet, surely, there do not need any words to
enforce the fact that this hope full of immortality is no mere luxury
which a Christian man may add to the plain fare of daily duty or leave
untasted according as he likes, but that it is an indispensable element
in all vigorous and life-dominating Christian experience.

I do not need to dwell upon that, except just to suggest that such a
vividness and continuity of calm anticipation of a certain good beyond
the grave is one of the strongest of all motives to the general
robustness and efficacy of a Christian life. People used to say a few
years ago, a great deal more than they do now, that the Christian
expectation of Heaven was apt to weaken energy upon earth, and they used
to sneer at us, and talk about our 'other worldliness' as if it were a
kind of weakness and defect attached to the Christian experience. They
have pretty well given that up now. Anti-Christian sarcasm, like
everything else, has its fashions, and other words of reproach and
contumely have now taken the place of that. The plain fact is that no
man sees the greatness of the present, unless he regards it as being the
vestibule of the future, and that this present life is unintelligible
and insignificant unless beyond it, and led up to by it, and shaped
through it, there lies the eternal life beyond. The low flat plain is
dreary and desolate, featureless and melancholy, when the sky above it
is filled with clouds. But sweep away the cloud-rack, and let the blue
arch itself above the brown moorland, and all glows into lustre, and
every undulation is brought out, and tiny shy forms of beauty are found
in every corner. And so, if you drape Heaven with the clouds and mists
born of indifference and worldliness, the world becomes mean, but if
you dissipate the cloud and unveil heaven, earth is greatened. If the
hope of the grave that is to be brought onto you at the revelation of
Jesus Christ shines out above all the flatness of earth, then life
becomes solemn, noble, worthy of, demanding and rewarding, our most
strenuous efforts. No man can, and no man will, strike such effectual
blows on things present as the man, the strength of whose arm is derived
from the conviction that every stroke of the hammer on things present is
shaping that which will abide with him for ever.

My text not only enjoins this hope as a duty, but also enjoins the
perfection of it as being a thing to be aimed at by all Christian
people. What is the perfection of hope? Two qualities, certainty and
continuity. Certainty; the definition of earthly hope is an anticipation
of good less than certain, and so, in all the operations of this great
faculty, which are limited within the range of earth, you get blended as
an indistinguishable throng, 'hopes and fears that kindle hope,' and
that too often kill it. But the Christian has a certain anticipation of
certain good, and to him memory may be no more fixed than hope, and the
past no more unalterable and uncertain than the future. The motto of our
hope is not the 'perhaps,' which is the most that it can say when it
speaks the tongue of earth, but the 'verily! verily!' which comes to its
enfranchised lips when it speaks the tongue of Heaven. Your hope,
Christian man, should not be the tremulous thing that it often is, which
expresses itself in phrases like 'Well! I do not know, but I tremblingly
hope,' but it should say, 'I know and am sure of the rest that
remaineth, not because of what I am, but because of what He is.'

Another element in the perfection of hope is its continuity. That hits
home to us all, does it not? Sometimes in calm weather we catch a sight
of the gleaming battlements of 'the City which hath foundations,' away
across the sea, and then mists and driving storms come up and hide it.
There is a great mountain in Central Africa which if a man wishes to see
he must seize a fortunate hour in the early morning, and for all the
rest of the day it is swathed in clouds, invisible. Is that like your
hope, Christian man and woman, gleaming out now and then, and then again
swallowed up in the darkness? Brethren! these two things, certainty and
continuity, are possible for us. Alas! that they are so seldom enjoyed
by us.

III. And now one last word. My text speaks about the discipline or
cultivation of this Christian hope.

It prescribes two things as auxiliary thereto. The way to cultivate the
perfect hope which alone corresponds to the gift of God is 'girding up
the loins of your mind, and being sober.' Of course, there is here one
of the very few reminiscences that we have in the Epistles of the
_ipsissima verba_ of our Lord. Peter is evidently referring to our
Lord's commandment to have 'the loins girt and the lamps burning, and ye
yourselves like unto men that wait for their Lord.' I do not need to
remind you of the Eastern dress that makes the metaphor remarkably
significant, the loose robes that tangle a man's feet when he runs, that
need to be girded up and belted tight around his waist, as preliminary
to all travel or toil of any kind. The metaphor is the same as that in
our colloquial speech when we talk about a man 'pulling himself
together.' Just as an English workman will draw his belt a hole tighter
when he has some special task to do, so Peter says to us, make a
definite effort, with resolute bracing up and concentration of all your
powers, or you will never see the grace that is hurrying towards you
through the centuries. There are abundance of loose, slack-braced people
up and down the world, in all departments, and they never come to any
good. It is a shame that any man should have his thoughts so loosely
girt and vagrant as that any briar by the roadside can catch them and
hinder his advance. But it is a tenfold shame for Christian people, with
such an object to gaze upon, that they should let their minds be
dissipated all over the trivialities of Time, and not gather them
together and project them, as I may say, with all their force towards
the sovereign realities of Eternity. A sixpence held close to your eye
will blot out the sun, and the trifles of earth close to us will prevent
us from realising the things which neither sight, nor experience, nor
testimony reveal to us, unless with clenched teeth, so to speak, we make
a dogged effort to keep them in mind.

The other preliminary and condition is 'being sober,' which of course
you have to extend to its widest possible signification, implying not
merely abstinence from, or moderate use of, intoxicants, or material
good for the appetites, but also the withdrawing of one's self sometimes
wholly from, and always restraining one's self in the use of, the
present and the material. A man has only a given definite quantity of
emotion and interest to expend, and if he flings it all away on the
world he has none left for Heaven. He will be like the miller that
spoils some fair river, by diverting its waters into his own sluice, in
order that he may grind some corn. If you have the faintest film of dust
on the glass of the telescope, or on its mirror, if it is a reflecting
one, you will not see the constellations in the heavens; and if we have
drawn over our spirits the film of earthly absorption, all these bright
glories above will, so far as we are concerned, cease to be.

So, brethren, there is a solemn responsibility laid upon us by the gift
of that great faculty of looking before and after. What did God make you
and me capable of anticipating the future for? That we might let our
hopes run along the low levels, or that we might elevate them and twine
them round the very pillars of God's Throne; which? I do not find fault
with you because you hope, but because you hope so meanly, and about
such trivial and transitory things. I remember I once saw a sea-bird
kept in a garden, confined within high walls, and with clipped wings,
set to pick up grubs and insects. It ought to have been away out,
hovering over the free ocean, or soaring with sunlit wing to a height
where earth became a speck, and all its noises were hushed. That is what
some of you are doing with your hope, degrading it to earth instead of
letting it rise to God; enter within the veil, and gaze upon the glory
of the 'inheritance incorruptible and undefiled.'



THE FAMILY LIKENESS

     'As He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy, in all manner
      of conversation.'--1 Peter i. 15.


That is the sum of religion--an all-comprehensive precept which includes
a great deal more than the world's morality, and which changes the
coldness of that into something blessed, by referring all our purity to
the Lord that called us. One may well wonder where a Galilean fisherman
got the impulse that lifted him to such a height; one may well wonder
that he ventured to address such wide, absolute commandments to the
handful of people just dragged from the very slough and filth of
heathenism to whom he spoke. But he had dwelt with Christ, and they had
Christ in their hearts. So for him to command and for them to obey, and
to aim after even so wide and wonderful an attainment as perfecting like
God's was the most natural thing in the world. 'Be ye holy as He that
hath called you is holy, and that in all manner of conversation.' The
maximum of possible attainment, the minimum of imperative duty!

So, then, there are three things here--the pattern, the field, and the
inspiration or motive of holiness.

I. The Pattern of Holiness.

'As He that hath called you is holy.' God's holiness is the very
attribute which seems to separate Him most from the creatures; for its
deepest meaning is His majestic and Divine elevation above all that is
creatural. But here, of course, the idea conveyed by the word is not
that, if I may so say, metaphysical one, but the purely moral one. The
holiness of God which is capable of imitation by us is His separation
from all impurity. There is a side of His holiness which separates Him
from all the creatures, to which we can only look up, or bow with our
faces in the dust; but there is a side of His holiness which, wonderful
as it is, and high above all our present attainment as it is, yet is not
higher than the possibilities which His indwelling Spirit puts within
our reach, nor beyond the bounds of the duty that presses upon us all.
'As He which hath called you is holy.' Absolute and utter purity is His
holiness, and that is the pattern for us.

Religion is imitation. The truest form of worship is to copy. All
through heathenism you find that principle working. 'They that make them
are like unto them.' Why are heathen nations so besotted and sunken and
obstinate in their foulnesses? Because their gods are their examples,
and they, first of all, make the gods after the pattern of their own
evil imaginations, and then the evil imaginations, deified, react upon
the maker and make him tenfold more a child of hell than themselves.
Worship is imitation, and there is no religion which does not
necessarily involve the copying of the example or the pattern of that
Being before whom we bow. For religion is but love and reverence in the
superlative degree, and the natural operation of love is to copy, and
the natural operation of reverence is the same. So that the old Mosaic
law, 'Be ye holy as I am holy,' went to the very heart of religion. And
the New Testament form of it, as Paul puts it in a very bold word, 'Be
ye _imitators_ of God, as beloved children,' sets its seal on the same
thought that we are religious in the proportion in which we are
consciously copying and aspiring after God.

But then, says somebody or other, 'it is not possible.' Well, if it were
not possible, try it all the same. For in this world it is aim and not
attainment that makes the noble life; and it is better to shoot at the
stars, even though your arrow never reaches them, than to fire it along
the low levels of ordinary life. I do not see that however the
unattainableness of the model may be demonstrated, that has anything to
do with the duty of imitation. Because, though absolute conformity
running throughout the whole of a life is not possible here on earth, we
know that in each individual instance in which we came short of
conformity the fault was ours, and it might have been otherwise. Instead
of bewildering ourselves with questions about 'unattainable' or
'attainable,' suppose we asked, at each failure, 'Why did I not copy God
_then_; was it because I could not, or because I would not?' The answer
would come plain enough to knock all that sophisticated nonsense out of
our heads, and to make us feel that the law which puts an unattainable
ideal before the Christian as his duty is an intensely practical one,
and may be reduced to practice at each step in his career. Imitation of
the Father, and to be perfect, 'as our Father in heaven is perfect,' is
the elementary and the ultimate commandment of all Christian morality.
'Be ye holy as He that hath called you is holy.'

Then let me remind you that the unattainableness is by no means so
demonstrable as some people seem to think. A very tiny circle may have
the same centre as one that reaches beyond the suburbs of the universe,
and holds all stars and systems within its great round. And the tiniest
circle will have the same geometrical laws applied to it as the
greatest. The difference between finite and infinite has nothing to do
with the possibility of our becoming like God, if we believe that 'in
the image of God created He him'; and that men who have been not only
made by original creation in the Divine image, but have been born again
by the incorruptible seed of the Word into a kindred life with His, and
derived from Him, can surely grow like what they have got, and unfold
into actually possessed and achieved resemblance to their Father the
kindred life that is poured into their veins.

So every way it is better indefinitely to approximate to that great
likeness, though with many flaws and failures, than to say it cannot be
reached, and so I will content myself down here, in my sins and my
meannesses. No! dear brethren, 'we are saved by hope,' and one prime
condition of growth in nobleness is to believe it possible that, by His
blessing we may be like Him here on earth in the measure of our
perception of His beauty and reception of His grace.

II. Again, notice the field of this Godlike holiness.

'In all manner of conversation.' Of course I do not need to remind you
that the word 'conversation' does not mean _talk_, but _conduct_; that
it applies to the whole of the outward life. Peter says that every part
of the Christian man's activity is to be the field on which his
possession of the holiness derived from and like God's is to be
exhibited. It is to be seen in all common life. Here is no cloistered
and ascetic holiness which tabooes large provinces of every man's
experience, and says 'we must not go in there, for fear of losing our
purity,' but rather wherever Christ has trod before we can go. That is a
safe guide, and whatever God has appointed there we can go and that we
can do. 'On the bells of the horses shall be written _Holiness to the
Lord_.' The horse-bells that make merry music on their bridles are not
very sacred things, but they bear the same inscription as flamed on the
front of the high priest's mitre; and the bowls in every house in
Jerusalem, as the prophet says, shall bear the same inscription that was
written on the sacrificial vessels, and all shall belong to Him.

Only, whilst thus we maintain the possibility of exhibiting Godlike
holiness in all the dusty fields of common life, let us remember the
other side.

In this day there is very little need to preach against an ascetic
Christianity. There has been enough said of late years about a Christian
man being entitled to go into all fields of occupation and interest, and
there to live his Christianity. I think the time is about come for a
caution or two to be dropped on the other side, 'Blessed is he that
condemneth not himself in the thing which he alloweth.' Apply this
commandment vigorously and honestly to trade, to recreation--especially
to recreation--to social engagements, to the choice of companions, to
the exercise of tastes. Ask yourselves 'Can I write _Holiness to the
Lord_ on them?' If not, do not have anything to do with them. I wonder
what the managers of theatres and music-halls would say if anybody
proposed that motto to be put upon the curtain for the spectators to
read before it is drawn up for the play. Do you think it would fit?
Don't you, Christian men and women, don't you go into places where it
would not fit. And remember that 'in all manner of conversation' has two
sides to it, one declaring the possibility of sanctifying every creature
of God, and one declaring the impossibility of a Christian man going,
without dreadful danger and certain damage, into places where he cannot
carry that consecration and purity with him.

Again the field is all trivial things. 'In all manner of conversation.'
There is nothing that grows so low but that this scythe will travel near
enough to the ground to harvest it. There is nothing so minute but it is
big enough to mirror the holiness of God. The tiniest grain of mica,
upon the face of the hill, is large enough to flash back a beam; and the
smallest thing we can do is big enough to hold the bright light of
holiness. 'All'! Ah! If our likeness to God does not show itself in
trifles, what in the name of common sense is there left for it to show
itself in? For our lives are all made up of trifles. The great things
come three or four of them in the seventy years; the little ones come
every time the clock ticks. And as they say, 'Take care of the pence,
and the pounds will take care of themselves.' If we keep the little
things rigidly under the dominion of this principle, no doubt the big
things will fall under it too, when they emerge. And if we do not--as
the old Jewish book says:--'He that despiseth little things shall fall
by little and little.' Whosoever has not a Christianity that sanctifies
the trifles has a Christianity that will not sanctify the crises of his
life. So, dear brother, this motto is to be written over every portal
through which you and I go; and whatsoever we can put our hands to, in
it we may magnify and manifest the holiness of God.

III. Now, lastly, note the motive or inspiration of holiness.

The language of my text might read like 'the Holy One who hath called
you.' Peter would stir his hearers to the emulation of the Divine
holiness by that thought of the bond that unites Him and them. 'He hath
called you.' In which word, I suppose, he includes the whole sum of the
Divine operations which have resulted in the placing of each of his
auditors within the circle of the Christian community as the subjects of
Christ's grace, and not only the one definite act to which the
theologians attach the name of 'calling.' In the briefest possible way
we may put the motive thus--the inspiration of imitation is to be found
in the contemplation of the gifts of God. What He has said and done to
me, calling me out of my darkness and alienation and lavishing the
tokens of His love, the voice of His beseechings, the monitions of His
Spirit, the message of His Son, the Incarnate Word, and invitation of
God--all these things are included in His call. And all of them are the
reasons why, bound by thankfulness, overcome by his forbearance,
responding to His entreaties, and glued to Him by the strength of the
hand that holds us, and the tenacity of His love, we should strive to
'walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called.'

And not only so, but in the thought of the Divine calling there lies a
fountain of inspiration when we remember the purpose of the calling. As
Paul puts it in one of his letters: 'God has not called us to
uncleanness but to holiness.' That to which He summons, or invites (for
you may use either word), is holiness like His own. That is the crown of
all His purposes for men, the great goal and blessed home to which He
would lead us all.

And so, if in addition to the fact of His 'gift and calling' and all
that is included within it, if in addition to the purpose of that
calling we further think of the relation between us and Him which
results from it, so as that we, as the next verse says, call Him who
hath called us, 'Our Father,' then the motive becomes deeper and more
blessed still. Shall we not try to be like the Father of our spirits,
and seek for His grace, to bear the likeness of sons?

My text speaks only of effort, let us not forget that the truest way to
be partakers of His holiness is to open our hearts for the entrance of
the Spirit of His Son, and possessing that--having these promises and
that great fulfilment of them--then to perfect holiness in the fear and
love of the Lord.



FATHER AND JUDGE

     'If ye call on Him as Father, who without respect of persons
      judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your
      sojourning here in fear.'--1 Peter i. 17.


'If ye call on Him as Father,' when ye pray, say, 'Our Father which art
in heaven.' One can scarcely help supposing that the Apostle is here, as
in several other places in his letter, alluding to words that are
stamped ineffaceably upon his memory, because they had dropped from
Christ's lips. At all events, whether there is here a distinct allusion
to what we call the Lord's Prayer or no, it is here recognised as the
universal characteristic of Christian people that their prayers are
addressed to God in the character of Father. So that we may say that
there is no Christianity which does not recognise and rejoice in
appealing to the paternal relationship.

But, then, I suppose in Peter's days, as in our days, there were people
that so fell in love with one aspect of the Divine nature that they had
no eyes for any other; and who so magnified the thought of the Father
that they forgot the thought of the Judge. That error has been committed
over and over again in all ages, so that the Church as a whole, one may
say, has gone swaying from one extreme to the other, and has rent these
two conceptions widely apart, and sometimes has been foolish enough to
pit them against each other instead of doing as Peter does here,
braiding them together as both conspiring to one result, the production
in the Christian heart of a wholesome awe. If ye call on Him as Father
'who, without respect of persons, judgeth according to every man's
work, pass the time of your sojourning in fear.'

So then, look at this twofold aspect of God's character.

Both these conceptions ought to be present, flamingly and vividly,
burning there before him, to every Christian man. 'Ye call Him Father,'
but the Father is the Judge. True, the Judge is Father, but Peter
reminds us that whatever blessed truths may be hived in that great Name
of Father, to be drawn thence by devout meditation and filial love,
there is not included in it the thought of weak-minded indulgence to His
children, in any of their sins, nor any unlikelihood of inflicting penal
consequences on a rebellious child. 'Father' does not exclude 'Judge,'
'and without respect of persons He judg_eth_.'

'Without respect of persons'--the word is a somewhat unusual New
Testament one, but it has special appropriateness and emphasis on
Peter's lips. Do you remember who it was that said, and on what occasion
he said it: 'Now I perceive that God is no respecter of persons'? It was
Peter when he had learned the lesson on the housetop at Joppa, looking
out over the Mediterranean, and had it enforced by Cornelius' message.
The great thought that had blazed upon him as a new discovery on that
never-be-forgotten occasion, comes before him again, and this unfamiliar
word comes with it, and he says, 'without respect of persons He judges.'
Mountains are elevated, valleys are depressed and sunken, but I fancy
that the difference between the top of Mount Everest and the gorge
through which the Jordan runs would scarcely be perceptible if you were
standing on the sun. Thus, 'without respect of persons,' great men and
little, rich men and poor, educated men and illiterate, people that
perch themselves on their little stools and think themselves high above
their fellows: they are all on one dead level in the eye of the Judge.
And this question is as to the quality of the work and not as to the
dignity of the doer. 'Without respect of persons' implies universality
as well as impartiality. If a Christian man has been ever so near God,
and then goes away from Him, he is judged notwithstanding his past
nearness. And if a poor soul, all crusted over with his sins and leprous
with the foulness of long-standing iniquity, comes to God and asks for
pardon, he is judged according to his penitence, 'without respect of
persons.' That great hand holds an even balance. And though the
strictness of the judicial process may have its solemn and its awful
aspect, it has also its blessed and its comforting one.

Now, do not run away with the notion that the Apostle is speaking here
of that great White Throne and the future judgment that for many of us
lies, inoperative on our creeds, on the other side of the great cleft of
death. That is a solemn thought, but it is not Peter's thought here. If
any of you can refer to the original, you will see that even more
strongly than in our English version, though quite sufficiently strongly
there, the conception is brought out of a continuous Divine judgment
running along, all through a man's life, side by side with his work. The
judgment here meant is not all clotted together, as it were, in that
final act of judgment, leaving the previous life without it, but it runs
all through the ages, all through each man's days. I beseech you to
ponder that thought, that at each moment of each of our lives an
estimate of the moral character of each of our deeds is present to the
Divine mind.

'Of course we believe that,' you say. 'That is commonplace; not worth
talking about.' Ah! but because we believe it, as of course, we slip out
of thinking about it and letting it affect our lives. And what I desire
to do for you, dear friends, and for myself, is just to put emphasis on
the one half of that little word 'judgeth' and ask you to take its three
last letters and lay them on your minds. Do we feel that, moment by
moment, these little spurs of bad temper, these little gusts of
worldliness, that tiny, evanescent sting of pride and devildom which has
passed across or been fixed in our minds, are all present to God, and
that He has judged them already, in the double sense that He has
appraised their value and estimated their bearing upon our characters,
and that He has set in motion some of the consequences which we shall
have to reap?

Oh! one sometimes wishes that people did not so much believe in a future
judgment, in so far as it obscures to them the solemn thought of a
present and a continuous one. 'Verily, there is a God that _judgeth_ in
the earth,' and, of course, all these provisional decisions, which are
like the documents that in Scotch law are said to 'precognosce the
case,' are all laid away in the archives of heaven, and will be
produced, docketed and in order, at the last for each of us. Christian
people sometimes abuse the doctrine of justification by faith as if it
meant that Christians at the last were not to be judged. But they are,
and there is such a thing as 'salvation yet so as by fire,' and such a
thing as salvation in fulness. Do not let filial confidence drive out
legitimate fear.

He 'judges according to every man's work.' I do not think it is
extravagant attention to niceties to ask you to notice that the Apostle
does not say 'works,' but 'work'; as if all the separate actions were
gathered into a great whole, as indeed they are, because they are all
the products of one mind and character. The trend and drift, so to
speak, of our life, rather than its isolated actions and the underlying
motives, in their solemn totality and unity, these are the materials of
this Divine judgment.

Now, let me say a word about the disposition which the Apostle enjoins
upon us in the view of these facts.

The Judge is the Father, the Father is the Judge. The one statement
proclaims the merciful, compassionate, paternal judgment, the other the
judicial Fatherhood. And what comes from the combination of these two
ideas, which thus modify and illuminate one another? 'Pass the time of
your sojourning here in fear.' What a descent that sounds from the
earlier verses of the letter: 'In whom, though now ye see Him not, yet
believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, receiving
the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.' Down from
those heights of 'joy unspeakable,' and 'already glorified,' the apostle
drops plump into _this_ dungeon: 'Pass the time of your sojourning here
in fear.' Of course, I need not remind you that the 'fear' here is not
the 'fear which hath torment'; in fact, I do not think that it is a fear
that refers to God at all. It is not a sentiment or emotion of which God
is the object. It is not the reverent awe which often appears in
Scripture as 'the fear of God,' which is a kind of shorthand expression
for all modes of devout sentiment and emotion; but it is a fear, knowing
our own weakness and the strong temptations that are round us, of
falling into sin. That is the one thing to be afraid of in this world.
If a man rightly understood what he is here for, then the only thing
that he would be terrified for would be that he should miss the purpose
of his being here and lose his hold of God thereby. There is nothing
else worth being afraid of, but that _is_ worth being afraid of. It is
not slavish dread, nor is it cowardice, but the well-grounded emotion of
men that know themselves too well to be confident and know the world too
well to be daring and presumptuous.

Don't you think that Peter had had a pretty rough experience in his life
that had taught him the wisdom of such an exhortation? And does it not
strike you as very beautiful that it should come, of all people in the
world, from his lips? The man that had said, 'Though all should forsake
Thee, yet will not I.' 'Why cannot I follow Thee now?' 'Bid me come to
Thee on the water.' 'This be far from Thee, Lord, it shall not be unto
Thee'--the man that had whipped out his sword in the garden, in a spasm
of foolish affection, now, in his quiet old age, when he has learnt the
lesson of failures and follies and sins and repentance, says in effect:
'Remember me, and do not you be presumptuous.' 'Pass the time of your
sojourning here in fear.' 'If I had known myself a little better, and
been a little more afraid of myself, I should not have made such a fool
of myself or such shipwreck of my faithfulness.'

Dear friends, no mature Christian is so advanced as that he does not
need this reminder, and no Christian novice is so feeble as that,
keeping obedient to this precept, he will not be victorious over all his
evils. The strongest needs to fear; the weakest, fearing, is safe. For
such fearfulness is indispensable to safety. It is all very well to go
along with sail extended and a careless look-out. But if, for instance,
a captain keeps such when he is making the mouth of the Red Sea where
there are a narrow channel and jagged rocks and a strong current, if he
has not every man at his quarters and everything ready to let go and
stop in a moment, he will be sure to be on the reefs before he has tried
the experiment often. And the only safety for any of us is ever to be on
the watch, and to dread our own weakness. 'Blessed is the man that
feareth always.'

Such carefulness over conduct and heart is fully compatible with all the
blessed emotions to which it seems at first antagonistic. There is no
discord between the phrase that I have quoted about 'joy unspeakable and
full of glory,' and this temper, but rather the two help one another.
And such blended confidence and fear are the parents of courage. The man
that is afraid that he will do wrong and so hurt himself and grieve his
Saviour, is the man that will never be afraid of anything else. Martyrs
have gone to the stake 'fearing not them that kill the body, and after
that have no more that they can do,' because they were so afraid to sin
against God that they were not afraid to die rather than to do it. And
that is the temper that you and I should have. Let that one fear, like
Moses' rod, swallow up all the other serpents and make our hearts
impervious to any other dread.

'Pass the time of your _sojourning_.' You do not live in your own
country, you are in an alien land. You are passing through it. Troops on
the march in an enemy's country, unless they are led by an idiot, will
send out clouds of scouts in front and on the wings to give timeous
warning of any attempted assault. If we cheerily and carelessly go
through this world as if we were marching in a land where there were no
foes, there is nothing before us but defeat at the last. Only let us
remember that sleepless watchfulness is needed only in this time of
sojourning, and that when we get to our own country there is no need
for such patrols and advance guards and rearguards and men on the flank
as were essential when we were on the march. People that grow exotic
plants here in England keep them in glass houses. But when they are
taken to their native soil the glass would be an impertinence. As long
as we are here we have to wear our armour, but when we get yonder the
armour can safely be put off and the white robes that had to be tucked
up under it lest they should be soiled by the muddy ways can be let
down, for they will gather no pollution from the golden streets. The
gates of that city do not need to be shut, day nor night. For when sin
has ceased and our liability to yield to temptation has been exchanged
for fixed adhesion to the Lord Himself, then, and not till then, is it
safe to put aside the armour of godly fear and to walk, unguarded and
unarmed, in the land of perpetual peace.



PURIFYING THE SOUL

     '... ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the
      Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren.'--1 Peter i. 22.


Note these three subsidiary clauses introduced respectively by 'in,'
'through,' 'unto.' They give the means, the Bestower, and the issue of
the purity of soul. The Revised Version, following good authorities,
omits the clause, 'through the Spirit.' It may possibly be originally a
marginal gloss of some scribe who was nervous about Peter's orthodoxy,
which finally found its way into the text. But I think we shall be
inclined to retain it if we notice that, throughout this epistle, the
writer is fond of sentences on the model of the present one, and of
surrounding a principal clause with subsidiary ones introduced by a
similar sequence of prepositions. For instance, in this very chapter, to
pass over other examples, we read, 'Kept by' (or in) 'the power of God
through faith unto salvation.' So, for my present purpose, I take the
doubtful words as part of the original text. They unquestionably convey
a true idea, whether they are genuine here or no.

One more introductory remark--'Ye have purified your souls'--a bold
statement to make about the vast multitude of the 'dispersed' throughout
all the provinces of Asia Minor whom the Apostle was addressing. The
form of the words in the original shows that this purifying is a process
which began at some definite point in the past and is being continued
throughout all the time of Christian life. The hall-mark of all
Christians is a relative purity, not of actions, but of soul. They will
vary, one from another; the conception of what is purity of soul will
change and grow, but, if a man is a Christian, there was a moment in his
past at which he potentially, and in ideal, purified his spirit, and
that was the moment when he bowed down in obedience to the truth. There
are suggestions for volumes about the true conception of soul-purity in
these words of my text. But I deal with them in the simplest possible
fashion, following the guidance of these significant little words which
introduce the subordinate clauses.

First of all, then, we have here the great thought that

I. Soul purity is in, or by, obedience.

Now, of course, 'the truth'--truth with the definite article--is the sum
of the contents of the Revelation of God in Jesus Christ, His life, His
death, His Glory. For to Peter, as to us He should be, Jesus Christ was
Truth Incarnate. 'In Him were hid all the treasures of wisdom and
knowledge.' The first thought that is suggested to me from this
expression--obedience to the truth--is that the revelation of God in
Jesus Christ is, as its ultimate intention, meant to be obeyed. There
are plenty of truths which have no influence on life and conduct, for
which all is done that they can demand when they are accepted. But _the_
truth is no inert substance like the element which recent chemical
discoveries have found, which is named 'argon,' the do-nothing: _the_
truth is, as physiologists say, a ferment. It is intended to come into
life, and into character, and into the inmost spirit of a man, and grip
them, and mould them, and transform them, and animate them, and impel
them. The truth is to be 'obeyed.'

Now that altogether throws over two card-castles which imperfect
Christians are very apt to build. One which haunted the thoughts of an
earlier generation of Christians more than it does the present, is that
we have done all that 'the truth' asks of us when we have intellectually
endorsed it. And so you get churches which build their membership upon
acceptance of a creed and excommunicate heretics, whilst they keep
do-nothing and uncleansed Christians within their pale. But God does not
tell us anything that we may know. He tells us in order that, knowing,
we may be and do. And right actions, or rather a character which
produces such, is the last aim of all knowledge, and especially of all
moral and religious truth. So 'the truth' is not 'argon', it is a
ferment. And if men, steeped to the eyebrows in orthodoxy, think that
they have done enough when they have set their hands to a confession of
faith, and that they are Christians because they can say, 'all this I
steadfastly believe,' they need to remember that religious truth which
does not mould and transform character and conduct is a king dethroned;
and for dethroned kings there is a short step between the throne from
which they have descended and the scaffold on which they die.

But there is another--what I venture to call a card-castle, which more
of us build in these days of indifference as to creed--and that is that
a great many of us are too much disposed to believe that 'the truth as
it is in Jesus' has received from us all which it expects when we trust
to it for what we call our 'salvation,' meaning thereby forgiveness of
sins and immunity from punishment. These are elements of salvation
unquestionably, but they are only part of it. And the very truths on
which Christian people rest for this initial salvation, which is
forgiveness and acceptance, are meant to be the guides of our lives and
the patterns for our imitation. Why, in this very letter, in reference
to the very parts of Christ's work, on which faith is wont to rest for
salvation,--the death on the Cross to which we say that we trust, and
which we are so accustomed to exalt as a unique and inimitable work that
cannot be reproduced and needs no repetition, world without end--Peter
has no hesitation in saying that Christ was our 'Pattern,' and that,
even when He went to the Cross, He died 'leaving us an example that we
should follow in His steps.' So, brethren, the truth needs to be known
and believed: the truth needs not only to be believed but to be trusted
in; the truth needs not only to be believed and to be trusted in, but to
be obeyed.

Still further, another thought following upon and to some extent
modifying the preceding one, is suggested here, and that is that the
faith, which I have just been saying is sometimes mistakenly regarded as
being all that truth calls for from us, is itself obedience. As I have
said, the language in the original here implies that there was a given
definite moment in the past when these dispersed strangers obeyed, and,
by obeying the truth, purified their souls. What was that moment? Some
people would say the moment when the rite of baptism was administered. I
would say the moment when they bowed themselves in joyful acceptance of
the great Word and put out a firm hand of faith to grasp Jesus Christ.
That _is_ obedience. For, in the very act of thus trusting, there is
self-surrender, is there not? Does not a man depart from himself and bow
himself humbly before his Saviour when he puts his trust in Him? Is not
the very essence of obedience, not the mere external act, but the
melting of the will to flow in such directions as His master-impulse may
guide it? Thus, faith in its depth is obedience; and the moment when a
man believes, in the deepest sense of the word, that moment, in the
deepest realities of his spirit, he becomes obedient to the will and to
the love of his Saviour Lord, Who is the Truth as He is the Way and the
Life. We find, not only in this Epistle, but throughout the Epistles,
that the two words 'disobedience' and 'unbelief,' are used as
equivalents. We read, for instance, of those that 'stumble at the word,
being disobedient,' and the like. So, then, faith is obedience in its
depth, and, if our faith has any vitality in it, it carries in it the
essence of all submission.

But then, further, my text implies that the faith which is, in its
depth, obedience, in its practical issues will produce the practical
obedience which the text enjoins. It is no mere piece of theological
legerdemain which counts that faith is righteousness. But, just as all
sin comes from selfishness, so, and therefore, all righteousness will
flow from giving up self, from decentralising, as it were, our souls
from their old centre, self, and taking a new centre, God in Christ.
Thus the germ of all practical obedience lies in vital faith. It is, if
I might so say, the mother-tincture which, variously combined, coloured,
and perfumed, makes all the precious things, the virtues and graces of
humanity, which the believing soul pours out as a libation before its
God. It is the productive energy of all practical goodness. It is the
bottom heat in the greenhouse which makes all the plants grow and
flourish. Faith is obedience, and faith produces obedience. Does my
faith produce obedience? If it does not, it is not faith.

Then, with regard to this first part of my subject, comes the final
thought that practical obedience works inwards as well as outwards, and
purifies the soul which renders it. People generally turn that round the
other way, and, instead of saying that to do right helps to make a man
right within, they say 'make the tree good, and its fruit good'--first
the pure soul, and then the practical obedience. Both statements are
true. For every act that a man does reacts upon the doer, just as,
whether the shot hits the target or not, the gun kicks back on the
shoulder of the man that fired it. Conduct comes from character, but
conduct works back upon character, and character is largely the deposit
from the vanished seas of actions. So, then, whilst the deepest thought
is, be good and you will do good, it is not to be forgotten that the
other side is true--do good, and it will tend to make you good.
Obedience purifies the soul, while, on the other hand, a man that lives
ill comes to think as he lives, and to become tenfold more a child of
evil. 'The dyer's hand is subdued to what it works in.' 'Ye have
purified your souls,' ideally, in the act of faith, and continuously, in
the measure in which you practically obey the truth.

We have here

II. Purifying through the Spirit.

I have already said that these words are possibly no part of the
original text, but that they convey a true Christian idea, whether the
words are here genuine or no. I need not enlarge upon this part of my
subject at any length. Let me just remind you how the other verse in
this chapter, to which I have already referred as cast in the same mould
as our text, covers, from a different point of view, the same ground
exactly as our text. Here there is put first the human element: 'Ye have
purified your souls in obeying the truth,' and secondly the Divine
element; 'through the Spirit.' The human part is put in the foreground,
and God's part comes in, I was going to say, subordinately, as a
condition. The reverse is the case in the other text, which runs: 'Kept
_in_ the power of God _through_ faith'--where the Divine element is in
the foreground, as being the true cause, and the human dwindles to being
merely a condition--'Kept by' (or in) 'the power of God through faith.'
Both views are true; you may take the vase by either handle. When the
purpose is to stimulate to action, man's part is put in the foreground
and God's part secondarily. When the purpose is to stimulate to
confidence, God's part is put in the foreground and the man's is
secondary. The two interlock, and neither is sufficient without the
other.

The true Agent of all purifying is that Divine Spirit. I have said that
the moment of true trust is the moment of initial obedience, and of the
beginning of purity. And it is so because, in that moment of initial
faith, there enters into the heart the communicated Divine life of the
Spirit, which thenceforward is lodged there, except it be quenched by
the man's negligence or sin. Thence, from that germ implanted in the
moment of faith, the germ of a new life, there issue forth to ultimate
dominion in the spirit, the powers of that Divine Spirit which make for
righteousness and transform the character. Thus, the true cause and
origin of all Christian nobility and purity of character and conduct
lies in that which enters the heart at the moment that the heart is
opened for the coming of the Lord. But, on the other hand, this Divine
Spirit, the Source of all purity, will not purify the soul without the
man's efforts. '_Ye_ have purified your souls.' You need the Spirit
indeed. But you are not mere passive recipients. You are to be active
co-operators. In this region, too, we are 'labourers together with God.'
We cannot of ourselves do the work, for the very powers with which we do
it, or try to do it, are themselves in need of cleansing. And for a man
to try to purify the soul by his own effort alone is to play the part of
the sluttish house-wife who would seek to wipe a dish clean with a dirty
cloth. You need the Divine Spirit to work in you, and you need to use,
by your own effort, the Divine Spirit that does work in you. He is as
'rushing, mighty wind'; but, unless the sails are set and the helm
gripped, the wind will pass the boat and leave it motionless. He is
Divine fire that burns up the dross and foulness; but, unless we 'guard
the holy fire' and feed it, it dies down into grey cold ashes. He is the
water of life; but, unless we dig and take heed to keep clear the
channels, no refreshing will permeate to the roots of the wilting
flowers, and there will be dryness, thirst, and barrenness, even on the
river's banks.

So, brethren, neither God alone nor man alone can purify the soul. We
need Him, else we shall labour in vain. He needs us, else He will bestow
His gift, and we shall receive 'the grace of God in vain.'

Lastly, we have here--

III. Purifying ... unto ... love.

The Apostle was speaking to men of very diverse nationalities who had
been rent asunder by deep gulfs of mutual suspicion and conflicting
interests and warring creeds, and a great mysterious, and, as it would
seem to the world then, utterly inexplicable bond of unity had been
evolved amongst them, and Greek and barbarian, bond and free, male and
female, had come together in amity. The 'love of the brethren' was the
creation of Christianity, and was the outstanding fact which, more than
any other, amazed the beholders in these early days. God be thanked!
there are signs in our generation of a closer drawing together of
Christian people than many past ages, alas, have seen.

But my text suggests solemn and great thoughts with regard to Christian
love and unity. The road to unity lies through purity, and the road to
purity lies through obedience. Yes; what keeps Christian people apart is
their impurities. It is not their creeds. It is not any of the
differences that appear to separate them. It is because they are not
better men and women. Globules of quicksilver will run together and make
one mass; but not if you dust them over. And it is the impurities on the
quicksilver that keep us from coalescing.

So then we have to school ourselves into greater conformity to the
likeness of our Master, to conquer selfishness, and to purify our souls,
or else all this talk about Christian unity is no better than sounding
brass, and more discordant than tinkling cymbals. Let us learn the
lesson. 'The unfeigned love of the brethren' is not such an easy thing
as some people fancy, and it is not to be attained at all on the road by
which some people would seek it. Cleanse yourselves, and you will flow
together.

Here, then, we have Peter's conception of a pure soul and a pure life.
It is a stately building, based deep on the broad foundation of the
truth as it is in Jesus; its walls rising, but not without our effort,
being builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit, and
having as the shining apex of its heaven-pointing spire 'unfeigned love
to the brethren.' The measure of our obedience is the measure of our
purity. The measure of our purity is the measure of our brotherly love.
But that love, though it is the very aim and natural issue of purity,
still will not be realised without effort on our part. Therefore my
text, after its exhibition of the process and issues of the purifying
which began with faith, glides into the exhortation: 'See that ye love
one another with a pure heart'--a heart purified by obedience--and that
'fervently.'



LIVING STONES ON THE LIVING FOUNDATION STONE

     'To Whom coming, as unto a living stone ... ye also, as living
      stones, are built up.'--1 Peter ii. 4, 5.


I wonder whether Peter, when he wrote these words, was thinking about
what Jesus Christ said to him long ago, up there at Cæsarea Philippi. He
had heard from Christ's lips, 'Thou art Peter, and on this rock I will
build My Church.' He had understood very little of what it meant then.
He is an old man now, years of experience and sorrow and work have
taught him the meaning of the words, and he understands them a great
deal better than his so-called successors have done. For we may surely
take the text as the Apostle's own disclaimer of that which the Roman
Catholic Church has founded on it, and has blazoned it, in gigantic
letters round the dome of St. Peter's, as meaning. It is surely
legitimate to hear him saying in these words: 'Make no mistake, it is
Jesus Himself on whom the Church is built. The confession of Him which
the Father in heaven revealed to me, not I, the poor sinner who
confessed it--the Christ whom that confession set forth, He is the
foundation stone, and all of you are called and honoured to ring out the
same confession. Jesus is the one Foundation, and we all, apostles and
humble believers, are but stones builded on Him.' Peter's relation to
Jesus is fundamentally the same as that of every poor soul that 'comes
to' Him.

Now, there are two or three thoughts that may very well be suggested
from these words, and the first of them is this:--

I. Those that are in Christ have perpetually to make the effort to come
nearer Christ.

Remember that the persons to whom the Apostle is speaking are no
strangers to the Saviour. They have been professing Christians from of
old. They have made very considerable progress in the Divine life; they
are near Jesus Christ; and yet Peter says to them, 'You can get nearer
if you try,' and it is your one task and one hope, the condition of all
blessedness, peace, and joy in your religious life that you should
perpetually be making the effort to come closer, and to keep closer, to
the Lord, by whom you say that you live.

What is it to come to Him? The context explains the figurative
expression, in the very next verse or two, by another and simpler word,
which strips away the figure and gives us the plain fact--'in Whom
believing.' The act of the soul by which I, with all my weakness and
sin, cast myself on Jesus Christ, and grapple Him to my heart, and bind
myself with His strength and righteousness--that is what the Apostle
means here. Or, to put it into other words, this 'coming,' which is here
laid as the basis of everything, of all Christian prosperity and
progress for the individual and for the community, is the movement
towards Christ of the whole spiritual nature of a man--thoughts, loves,
wishes, purposes, desires, hopes, will. And we come near to Him when day
by day we realise His nearness to us, when our thoughts are often
occupied with Him, bring His peace and Himself to bear as a motive upon
our conduct, let our love reach out its tendrils towards, and grasp, and
twine round Him, bow our wills to His commandment, and in everything
obey Him. The distance between heaven and earth does part us, but the
distance between a thoughtless mind, an unrenewed heart, a rebellious
will, and Him, sets between Him and us a greater gulf, and we have to
bridge that by continual honest efforts to keep our wayward thoughts
true to Him and near Him, and to regulate our affections that they may
not, like runaway stars, carry us far from the path, and to bow our
stubborn and self-regulating wills beneath His supreme commandment, and
so to make all things a means of coming nearer the Lord with whom is our
true home.

Christian men, there are none of us so close to Him but that we may be
nearer, and the secret of our daily Christian life is all wrapped up in
that one word which is scarcely to be called a figure, 'coming' unto
Him. That nearness is what we are to make daily efforts after, and that
nearness is capable of indefinite increase. We know not how close to His
heart we can lay our aching heads. We know not how near to His fulness
we may bring our emptiness. We have never yet reached the point beyond
which no closer union is possible. There has always been a film--and,
alas! sometimes a gulf--between Him and us, His professing servants. Let
us see to it that the conscious distance diminishes every day, and that
we feel ourselves more and more constantly near the Lord and intertwined
with Him.

II. Those who come near Christ will become like Christ.

'To Whom coming, as unto a living stone, ye also as living stones.' Note
the verbal identity of the expressions with which Peter describes the
Master and His servants. Christ is the Stone--that is Peter's
interpretation of 'on this _rock_ will I build My Church.' There is a
reference, too, no doubt, to the many Old Testament prophecies which
are all gathered up in that saying of our Lord's. Probably both Jesus
and Peter had in mind Isaiah's 'stone of stumbling,' which was also a
'sure corner-stone, and a tried foundation.' And words in the context
which I have not taken for consideration, 'disallowed indeed of men, but
chosen of God and precious,' plainly rest upon the 118th Psalm, which
speaks of 'the stone which the builders rejected' becoming 'the head of
the corner.'

But, says Peter, He is not only the foundation Stone, the corner Stone,
but a _living_ Stone, and he does not only use that word to show us that
he is indulging in a metaphor, and that we are to think of a person and
not of a thing, but in the sense that Christ is eminently and
emphatically the living One, the Source of life.

But, when he turns to the disciples, he speaks to them in exactly the
same language. They, too, are 'living stones,' because they come to the
'Stone' that is 'living.' Take away the metaphor, and what does this
identity of description come to? Just this, that if we draw near to
Jesus Christ, life from Him will pass into our hearts and minds, which
life will show itself in kindred fashion to what it wore in Jesus
Christ, and will shape us into the likeness of Him _from_ whom we draw
our life, because _to_ Him we have come. I may remind you that there is
scarcely a single name by which the New Testament calls Jesus Christ
which Jesus Christ does not share with us His younger brethren. By that
Son we 'receive the adoption of sons.' Is He the Light of the world? We
are lights of the world. And if you look at the words of my text, you
will see that the offices which are attributed to Christ in the New
Testament are gathered up in those which the Apostle here ascribes to
Christ's servants. Jesus Christ in His manhood was the Temple of God.
Jesus Christ in His manhood was the Priest for humanity. Jesus Christ in
His manhood was the sacrifice for the world's sins. And what does Peter
say here? 'Ye are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to
offer up spiritual sacrifices.' You draw life from Jesus Christ if you
keep close to Him, and that life makes you, in derived and subordinate
fashion, but in a very real and profound sense, what Jesus Christ was in
the world. The whole blessedness and secret of the gifts which our Lord
comes to bestow upon men may be summed up in that one thought, which is
metaphorically and picturesquely set forth in the language of my text,
and which I put into plainer and more prosaic English when I say--they
that come near Christ become as Christ. As 'living stones' they, too,
share in the life which flows from Him. Touch Him, and His quick Spirit
passes into our hearts. Rest upon that foundation-stone and up from it,
if I may so say, there is drawn, by strange capillary attraction, all
the graces and powers of the Saviour's own life. The building which is
reared upon the Foundation is cemented to the Foundation by the
communication of the life itself, and, coming to the living Rock, we,
too, become alive.

Let us keep ourselves near to Him, for, disconnected, the wire cannot
carry the current, and is only a bit of copper, with no virtue in it, no
power. Attach it once more to the battery and the mysterious energy
flashes through it immediately. 'To Whom coming,' because He lives, 'ye
shall live also.'

III. Lastly:

They who become like Christ because they are near Him, thereby grow
together.

'To whom coming, as unto a living stone, ye also, as living stones, are
built up.' That building up means not only the growth of individual
graces in the Christian character, the building up in each single soul
of more and more perfect resemblance to the Saviour, but from the
context it rather refers to the welding together, into a true and
blessed unity, of all those that partake of that common life. Now, it is
very beautiful to remember, in this connection, to whom this letter was
written. The first words of it are: 'To the strangers _scattered abroad_
throughout,' etc. etc. All over Asia Minor, hundreds of miles apart,
here one there another little group, were these isolated believers, the
scattered stones of a great building. But Peter shows them the way to a
true unity, notwithstanding their separation. He says to them in effect:
'You up in Bithynia, and you others away down there on the southern
coast, though you never saw one another, though you are separated by
mountain ranges and weary leagues; though you, if you met one another,
perhaps could not understand what you each were saying, if you "come
unto the living Stone, ye as living stones are built up" into one.'
There is a great unity into which all they are gathered who, separated
by whatever surface distinctions, yet, deep down at the bottom of their
better lives, are united to Jesus Christ.

But there may be another lesson here for us, and that is, that the true
and only secret of the prosperity and blessedness and growth of a
so-called Christian congregation is the individual faithfulness of its
members, and their personal approximation of Jesus Christ. If we here,
knit together as we are nominally for Christian worship, and by faith in
that dear Lord, are true to our profession and our vocation, and keep
ourselves near our Master, then we shall be built up; and if we do not,
we shall not.

So, dear friends, all comes to this: _There_ is the Stone laid; it does
not matter how _close_ we are lying to it, it will be nothing to us
unless we are _on_ it. And I put it to each of you. Are you built on the
Foundation, and from the Foundation do you derive a life which is daily
bringing you nearer to Him, and making you liker Him? All blessedness
depends, for time and for eternity, on the answer to that question. For
remember that, since that living Stone is laid, it is _something_ to
you. Either it is the Rock on which you build, or the Stone against
which you stumble and are broken. No man, in a country evangelised like
England--I do not say Christian, but evangelised--can say that Jesus
Christ has no relation to, or effect upon, him. And certainly no people
that listen to Christian preaching, and know Christian truth as fully
and as much as you do, can say it. He is the Foundation on which we can
rear a noble, stable life, if we build upon Him. If He is not the
Foundation on which I build, He is the Stone on which I shall be broken.



SPIRITUAL SACRIFICES

     '... Spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus
      Christ.'--1 Peter ii. 5.


In this verse Peter piles up his metaphors in a fine profusion,
perfectly careless of oratorical elegance or propriety. He gathers
together three symbols, drawn from ancient sacrificial worship, and
applies them all to Christian people. In the one breath they are
'temples,' in the next 'priests,' in the third 'sacrifices.' All the
three are needed to body out the whole truth of the relationship of the
perfect universal religion--which is Christianity--to the fragmentary
and symbolical religion of ancient time.

Christians individually and collectively are temples, inasmuch as they
are 'the habitation of God through the Spirit.' They are priests by
virtue of their consecration, their direct access to God, their function
of representing God to men, and of bringing men to God. They are
sacrifices, inasmuch as one main part of their priestly function is to
offer themselves to God.

Now, it is very difficult for us to realise what an extraordinary
anomaly the Christian faith presented at its origin, surrounded by
religions which had nothing to do with morality, conduct, or spiritual
life, but were purely ritualistic. And here, in the midst of them,
started up a religion bare and bald, and with no appeal to sense, no
temple, no altar, no sacrifice. But the Apostles with one accord declare
that they had all these things in far higher form than those faiths
possessed them, which had only the outward appearance.

Now, this conception of the sacrificial element in the Christian life
runs through the whole New Testament, and is applied there in a very
remarkable variety of forms. I have taken the words of my text, not so
much to discourse upon them especially. My object now is rather to
gather together the various references to the Christian life as
essentially sacrificial, and to trace the various applications which
that idea receives in the New Testament. There are four classes of
these, to which I desire especially to refer.

I. There is the living sacrifice of the body.

'I beseech you, by the mercies of God, that ye _present_'--which is a
technical word for a priest's action--'your bodies a living sacrifice,'
in contrast with the slaying, which was the presentation of the animal
victim. Now, that 'body' there is not equivalent to self is distinctly
seen when we notice that Paul goes on, in the very next clause, to say,
'and be transformed by the renewing of your _mind_.' So that he is
speaking, not of the self, but of the corporeal organ and instrument of
the self, when he says 'present your _bodies_ a living sacrifice.'

Of course, the central idea of sacrifice is surrender to God; and, of
course, the place where that surrender is made is the inmost self. The
will is the man, and when the will bows, dethroning self and enthroning
God, submitting to His appointments, and delighting to execute His
commandments, then the sacrifice is begun. But, inasmuch as the body is
the organ of the man's activity, the sacrifice of the will and of self
must needs come out into visibility and actuality in the aggregate of
deeds, of which the body is the organ and instrument. But there must
first of all be the surrender of my inmost self, and only then, and as
the token and outcome of that, will any external acts, however religious
they may seem to be, come into the category of sacrifice when they
express a conscious surrender of myself to God. 'The flesh profiteth
nothing,' and yet the flesh profiteth much. But here is the order that
another of the Apostles lays down: 'Yield _yourselves_ to God,' and
then, 'your members as instruments of righteousness to Him.'

To speak of the sacrifice of the body as a living sacrifice suggests
that it is not the slaying of any bodily appetite or activity that is
the true sacrifice and worship, but the hallowing of these. It is a
great deal easier, and it is sometimes necessary, to cut off the
offending right hand, to pluck out the offending right eye, or, putting
away the metaphor, to abstain rigidly from forms of activity which are
perfectly legitimate in themselves, and may be innocuous to other
people, if we find that they hurt us. But that is second best, and
though it is better in the judgment of common sense to go into life
maimed than complete to be cast into hell-fire, it is better still to go
into life symmetrical and entire, with no maiming in hand or organ. So
you do not offer the living sacrifice of the body when you annihilate,
but when you suppress, and direct, and hallow its needs, its appetites,
and its activities.

The meaning of this sacrifice is that the whole active life should be
based upon, and be the outcome of, the inward surrender of self unto
God. 'On the bells of the horses shall be written, Holiness to the Lord,
and every pot and vessel in Jerusalem shall be holy as the bowls upon
the altar'--in such picturesque and yet profound fashion did an ancient
prophet set forth the same truth that lies in this declaration of our
Apostle, that the body, the instrument of our activities, should be a
living sacrifice to God. Link all its actions with Him; let there be
conscious reference to Him in all that I do. Let foot and hand and eye
and brain work for Him, and by Him, and in constant consciousness of His
presence; suppress where necessary, direct always, appetites and
passions, and make the body the instrument of the surrendered spirit.
And then, in the measure in which we can do so, the greatest cleft and
discord in human life will be filled, and body, soul, and spirit will
harmonise and make one music of praise to God.

Ah! brethren, these bad principles have teeth to bite very close into
our daily lives. How many of us, young and old, have 'fleshly lusts
which war against the soul'? How many of you young men have no heart for
higher, purer, nobler things, because the animal in you is strong! How
many of you find that the day's activities blunt you to God! How many of
us are weakened still under that great antagonism of the flesh lusting
against the spirit, so that we cannot do the things that we would!
Sensuality, indulgence in animal propensities, yielding to the clamant
voices of the beast that is within us--these things wreck many a soul;
and some of those that are listening to me now. Let the man govern and
coerce the animal, and let God govern the man. 'I beseech you that you
yield your bodies a living sacrifice.'

II. There is the sacrifice of praise.

Of course, logically and properly, this, and all the others that I am
going to speak about, are included within that to which I have already
directed attention. But still they are dealt with separately in
Scripture, and I follow the guidance. We read in the Epistle to the
Hebrews: 'By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise unto God
continually--that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks unto His
name.' There, then, is another of the regions into which the notion of
sacrifice as the very essence of Christian life is to be carried.

There is nothing more remarkable in Scripture than the solemn importance
that it attaches to what so many people think so little about, and that
is _words_. It even sometimes seems to take them as being more truly the
outcome and revelation of a man's character than his deeds are. And that
is true, in some respects. But at all events there is set forth, ever
running all through the Scripture, that thought, that one of the best
sacrifices that men can make to God is to render up the tribute of
their praise. In the great psalm which lays down with clearness never
surpassed in the New Testament the principles of true Christian worship,
this is declared: 'Whoso offereth praise glorifieth Me.' The true
offering is not the slaying of animals or the presentation of any
material things, but the utterance of hearts welling up thankfulness. In
the ancient ritual there stood within the Holy place, and after the
altar of burnt-offering had been passed, three symbols of the relation
of the redeemed soul to God. There was the great candlestick, which
proclaimed 'Ye are the light of the world.' There was the table on which
the so-called shewbread was laid, and in the midst there was the altar
of incense, on which, day by day, morning and evening, there was kindled
the fragrant offering which curled up in wreaths of blue smoke aspiring
towards the heavens. It lay smouldering all through the day, and was
quickened into flame morning and evening. That is a symbol representing
what the Christian life ought to be--a continual thank-offering of the
incense of prayer and praise.

Nor that only, brethren, but also there is another shape in which our
words should be sacrifices, and that is in the way of direct utterances
to men, as well as of thanksgiving to God. What a shame it is, and what
a confession of imperfect, partial redemption and regeneration on the
part of professing Christians it is, that there are thousands of us who
never, all our lives, have felt the impulse or necessity of giving
utterance to our Christian convictions! You can talk about anything
else; you are tongue-tied about your religion. Why is that? You can make
speeches upon political platforms, or you can discourse on many subjects
that interest you. You never speak a word to anybody about the Master
that you say you serve. Why is that? 'What is bred in the bone comes
out in the flesh.' What is deep in the heart sometimes lies there
unuttered, but more often demands expression. I venture to think that if
your Christianity was deeper, it would not be so dumb. You strengthen
your convictions by speech. A man's belief in anything grows
incalculably by the very fact of proclaiming it. And there is no surer
way to lose moral and spiritual convictions than to huddle them up in
the secret chambers of our hearts. It is like a man carrying a bit of
ice in his palm. He locks his fingers over it, and when he opens them it
has all run out and gone. If you want to deepen your Christianity,
declare it. If you would have your hearts more full of gratitude, speak
your praise. There used to be in certain religious houses a single
figure kneeling on the altar-steps, by day and by night, ever uttering
forth with unremitting voice, the psalm of praise. That perpetual
adoration in spirit, if not in form, ought to be ours. The fruit of the
lips should continually be offered. Literally, of course, there cannot
be that unbroken and exclusive utterance of thanksgiving. There are many
other things that men have to talk about; but through all the utterances
there ought to spread the aroma--like some fragrance diffused through
the else scentless air from some unseen source of sweetness--of that
name to which the life is one long thanksgiving.

III. There is the sacrifice of help to men.

The same passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews, to which I have already
referred, goes on to bracket together the sacrifice of praise and of
deeds. It continues thus:--'But to do good and to communicate forget
not.' Again I say, logically this comes under the first division. But
still it may be treated separately, and it just carries this
thought--your praying and singing praises are worse than useless unless
you go out into the world an embodiment and an imitation of the love
which you hymn. True philanthropy has its roots in true religion. The
service of man is the service of God.

That principle cuts two ways. It comes as a sharp test of their prayers
and psalm-singing to emotional Christians, who are always able to gush
in words of thankfulness, and it confronts them with the question, What
do you do for your brother? That is a question that comes very close to
us all. Do not talk about being the priests of the Most High God unless
you are doing the priestly office of representing God to men, and
carrying to them the blessings that they need. Your service to God is
worthless unless it is followed by diligent, fraternal, wise,
self-sacrificing service for men.

The same principle points in another direction. If, on the one hand, it
crushes as hypocrisy a religion of talk, on the other hand it declares
as baseless a philanthropy which has no reference to God. And whilst I
know that there are many men who, following the dictates of their
hearts, and apart altogether from any reference to higher religious
sanctions, do exercise pity and compassion and help, I believe that for
the basing of a lasting, wide, wise benevolence, there is nothing solid
and broad except Christ and Him crucified, and the consciousness of
having been--sinful and needy as we are--received and blessed by Him.
Let the philanthropists learn that the surrender of self, and the fruit
of the lips giving thanks to His name, must precede the highest kind of
beneficence. Let the Christian learn that benevolence is the garb in
which religion is dressed. 'True worship and undefiled ... is this, to
visit the widow and the fatherless in their affliction.' Morality is the
dress of Religion; Religion is the body of Morality.

IV. Lastly, there is the sacrifice of death.

'I am ready to be offered,' says the Apostle--to be _poured out_, as a
libation. And again, 'If I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of
your faith, I rejoice with you all.' And so may

    'Death the endless mercies seal,
     And make the sacrifice complete.'

It may become not a reluctant being dragged out of life whilst we cling
to it with both our hands. It may be not a reluctant yielding to
necessity, but a religious act, in which a man resignedly and trustfully
and gratefully yields himself to God; and says, 'Father! into Thy hands
I commit my spirit.'

Ah! brethren, is not that a better way to die than to be like some poor
wretch in a stream, that clutches at some unfixed support on the bank,
and is whirled away down, fiercely resisting and helpless? We may thus
make our last act an act of devotion, and go within the veil as priests
bearing in our hands the last of our sacrifices. The sacrifice of death
will only be offered when a life of sacrifice has preceded it. And if
you and I, moved by the mercies of God, yield ourselves living
sacrifices, using our lips for His praise and our possessions for man's
help, then we may die as the Apostle expected to do, and feel that by
Christ Jesus even death becomes 'an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice
acceptable, well-pleasing unto God.'



MIRRORS OF GOD

     '... That ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called
      you out of darkness ...'--1 Peter ii. 9.


The _Revised Version_, instead of 'praises,' reads _excellencies_--and
even that is but a feeble translation of the remarkable word here
employed. For it is that usually rendered 'virtues'; and by the word, of
course, when applied to God, we mean the radiant excellencies and
glories of His character, of which our earthly qualities, designated by
the same name, are but as shadows.

It is, indeed, true that this same expression is employed in the Greek
version of the Old Testament in Isaiah xliii. in a verse which evidently
was floating before Peter's mind. 'This people have I formed for Myself;
they shall show forth My praise.'

But even while that is admitted, it is to be observed that the
expression here does not merely mean that the audible praise of God
should be upon the lips of Christian people, but that their whole lives
should, in a far deeper sense than that, be the manifestation of what
the Apostle here calls 'excellencies of God.'

I. Here we get a wonderful glimpse into the heart of God.

Note the preceding words, in which the writer describes all God's
mercies to His people, making them 'a chosen generation, a royal
priesthood, a holy nation'; a people 'His own possession.' All that is
done for one specific purpose--'that ye should show forth the praises of
Him who hath called you out of darkness.' That is to say, the very aim
of all God's gracious manifestations of Himself is that the men who
apprehend them should go forth into the world and show Him for what He
is.

Now that aim may be, and often has been, put so as to present an utterly
hard and horrible notion. That God's glory is His only motive may be so
stated as to mean nearly an Almighty Selfishness, which is far liker the
devil than God. People in old days did not always recognise the danger
that lay in such a representation of what we call God's motive for
action. But if you think for a moment about this statement, all that
appears hard and repellent drops clean away from it, and it turns out to
be another way of saying, 'God is Love.' Because, what is there more
characteristic of love than an earnest desire to communicate itself and
to be manifested and beheld? And what is it that God reveals to the
world for His own glory but the loftiest and most wondrous compassion,
that cannot be wearied out, that cannot be provoked, and the most
forgiving Omnipotence, that, in answer to all men's wanderings and
rebellions, only seeks to draw them to itself? That is what God wants to
be known for. Is _that_ hard and repellent? Does that make Him a great
tyrant, who only wants to be abjectly worshipped? No; it makes Him the
very embodiment and perfection of the purest love. Why does He desire
that He should be known? for any good that it does to Him? No; except
the good that even His creatures can do to Him when they gladden His
paternal heart by recognising Him for what He is, the Infinite Lover of
all souls.

But the reason why He desires, most of all, that the light of His
character may pour into every heart is because He would have every heart
gladdened and blessed for ever by that received and believed light. So
the hard saying that God's own glory is His supreme end melts into 'God
is Love.' The Infinite desires to communicate Himself, that by the
communication men may be blessed.

II. There is another thing here, and that is, a wonderful glimpse of
what Christian people are in the world for.

'This people have I formed for Myself,' says the fundamental passage in
Isaiah already referred to, 'they shall show forth My praise.' It was
not worth while forming them except for that. It was still less worth
while redeeming them except for that.

But you may say, 'I am saved in order that I may enjoy all the blessings
of salvation, immunities from fear and punishment, and the like.' Yes!
Certainly! But is that all? Or is it the main thing? I think not. There
is not a creature in God's universe so tiny, even although you cannot
see it with a microscope, but that it has a claim on Him that made it
for its well-being. That is very certain. And so my salvation--with all
the blessedness for me that lies wrapped up and hived in that great
word--my salvation is an adequate end with God, in all His dealing, and
especially in His sending of Jesus Christ.

But there is not a creature in the whole universe, though he were
mightier than the archangels that stand nearest God's throne, who is so
great and independent that his happiness and well-being is the sole aim
of God's gifts to him. For every one of us the Apostle means the word,
'No man liveth to himself'--he could not if he were to try--'and no man
dieth to himself.' Every man that receives anything from God is thereby
made a steward to impart it to others. So we may say--and I speak now
to you who profess to be Christians--'you were not saved for your own
sakes.' One might almost say that that was a by-end. You were
saved--shall I say?--for God's sake; and you were saved for man's sake?
Just as when you put a bit of leaven into a lump of dough, each grain of
the lump, as it is leavened and transformed, becomes the medium for
passing on the mysterious transforming influence to the particle beyond,
so every one of us, if we have been brought out of darkness into
marvellous light, have been so brought, not only that we may recreate
and bathe our own eyes in the flooding sunshine, but that we may turn to
our brothers and ask them to come too out of the doleful night into the
cheerful, gladsome day. Every man that Jesus Christ conquers on the
field He sends behind Him, and says, 'Take rank in My army. Be My
soldier.' Every yard of line in a new railway when laid down is used to
carry materials to make the next yard; and so the terminus is reached.
Even so, Christian people were formed for Christ that they might show
forth His praise.

Look what a notion that gives us of the dignity of the Christian life,
and of the special manifestation of God which is afforded to the world
in it. You, if you love as you ought to do, are a witness of something
far nobler in God than all the stars in the sky. You, if you set forth
as becomes you His glorious character, have crowned the whole
manifestation that He makes of Himself in Nature and in Providence. What
people learn about God from a true Christian is a better revelation than
has ever been made or can be made elsewhere. So the Bible talks about
principalities and powers in heavenly places who have had nobody knows
how many millenniums of intercourse with God, nobody knows how deep and
intimate, learning from Christian people the manifold wisdom which had
folds and folds in it that they had never unfolded and never could have
done. 'Ye are My witnesses,' saith the Lord. Sun and stars tell of
power, wisdom, and a whole host of majestic attributes. We are witnesses
that 'He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He
increaseth strength.' Who was it that said

    ''Twas great to speak a world from naught,
     'Tis greater to redeem?'

'Ye are saved that ye may show forth the praise of Him who hath called
you out of darkness into His marvellous light.'

III. Lastly, we have here a piece of stringent practical direction.

All that I have been saying thus far refers to the way in which the very
fact of a man's being saved from his sin is a revelation of God's mercy,
love, and restoring power. But there are two sides to the thought of my
text; and the one is that the very existence of Christian people in the
world is a standing witness to the highest glory of God's name; and the
other is that there are characteristics which, as Christian men, we are
bound to put forth, and which manifest in another fashion the
excellencies of our redeeming God.

The world takes its notions of God, most of all, from the people who say
that they belong to God's family. They read us a great deal more than
they read the Bible. They _see_ us; they only _hear_ about Jesus Christ.
'Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image' nor any likeness of
the Divine, but thou shalt make _thyself_ an image of Him, that men
looking at it may learn a little more of what He is. If we have any
right to say that we are a royal priesthood, a chosen nation, God's
'possession,' then there will be in us some likeness of Him to whom we
belong stamped more or less perfectly upon our characters; and just as
people cannot look at the sun, but may get some notion of its power when
they gaze upon the rare beauty of the tinted clouds that lie round about
it, if, in the poor, wet, cold mistiness of our lives there be caught,
as it were, and tangled some stray beams of the sunshine, there will be
colour and beauty there. A bit of worthless tallow may be saturated with
a perfume which will make it worth its weight in gold. So our poor
natures may be drenched with God and give Him forth fragrant and
precious, and men may be drawn thereby. The witness of the life which is
Godlike is the duty of Christian men and women in the world, and it is
mainly what we are here for.

Nor does that exclude the other kind of showing forth the praises, by
word and utterance, at fit times and to the right people. We are not all
capable of that, in any public fashion; we are all capable of it in some
fashion. There is no Christian that has not somebody to whom their
words--they may be very simple and very feeble--will come as nobody
else's words can. Let us use these talents and these opportunities for
the Master.

But, above all, let us remember that none of these works--either the
involuntary and unconscious exhibition of light and beauty and
excellencies caught from Him; or the voluntary and vocal proclamations
of the name of Him from whom we have caught them--can be done to any
good purpose if any taint of self mingles with it. 'Let your light so
shine before men that they may behold your good works and
glorify'--whom? you?--'your _Father_ which is in heaven.'

The harp-string gives out its note only on condition that, being
touched, it vibrates, and ceases to be visible. Be you unseen,
transparent, and the glory of the Lord shall shine through you.



CHRIST THE EXEMPLAR

     'For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for
      us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His
      steps.'--1 Peter ii. 21.


These words are a very striking illustration of the way in which the
Gospel brings Christ's principles to bear upon morals and duty. The
Apostle is doing nothing more than exhorting a handful of slaves to the
full and complete and patient acceptance of their hard lot, and in order
to teach a very homely and lowly lesson to the squalid minds of a few
captives, he brings in the mightiest of all lessons by pointing to the
most beautiful, most blessed, and most mysterious fact in the world's
history--the cross of Christ. It is the very spirit of Christianity that
the biggest thing is to regulate the smallest duties of life. Men's
lives are made up of two or three big things and a multitude of little
ones, and the greater rule the lesser; and, my friends, unless we have
got a religion and a morality that can and will keep the trifles of our
lives right there will be nothing right; unless we can take those
deepest truths, make them the ruling principles, and lay them down side
by side with the most trivial things of our lives, we are something
short. Is there nothing in your life or mine so small that we cannot
bring it into captivity and lift it into beauty by bringing it into
connection with saving grace? Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an
example. This is the first thing that strikes me, and I intend it also
by way of introduction. Look how the Apostle has put the points
together, as though there are two aspects which go together and cannot
be rendered apart, like the under side and the upper side of a coin.
'Christ also suffered for us,' and so for us says all the orthodox.
'Leaving us an example'--there protests all the heretics. Yes, but we
know that there is a power in both of them, and the last one is only
true when we begin with the first. He suffered for us. There, there, my
friends, is the deepest meaning of the cross, and if you want to get
Christ for an example, begin with taking Him as the sacrifice, for He
gave His life for you. Don't part the two things. If you believe Him to
be Christ, then you take Him at the cross: if you want to see the
meaning of Christ as an example, begin with Him as your Saviour.
'Because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that ye
should follow His steps.' These are the words, and what God hath joined
together let no man put asunder. With these few remarks I shall deal
with the words a little more exhaustively, and I see in them three
things--the sufferings of Christ our gain, the sufferings of Christ our
pattern, and the suffering of Christ our power to imitate.

And first of all that great proclamation which underlies the whole
matter--Christ also suffered for us. The sufferings of Christ are
thereby our gain. I shall not dwell on the larger questions which these
words naturally open for us, and I shall content myself with some of the
angles and side views of thought, and one to begin with is this: It is
very interesting to notice how, as his life went on, and his inspiration
became more full, this Apostle got to understand, as being the very
living and heart centre of his religion, the thing which at first was a
stumbling-block and mystery to him. You remember when Christ was here on
earth, and was surrounded by all His disciples, the man who actually led
antagonism to the thought of a saving Messiah, was this very Apostle
Peter. How he displayed his ignorance in the words, 'This shall not be
unto Thee, O Lord'; and you remember also how his audacity rose to the
height of saying, 'Why cannot I follow Thee now, Lord? I will lay down
my life for Thy sake,' so little did he understand the purposes of
Christ's suffering and Christ's death. And even after His resurrection
we don't find that Peter in his early preaching had got as far as he
seems to have got in this letter from which my text is taken. You will
notice that in this letter he speaks a great deal about the sufferings
of Christ, which he puts side by side and in contrast with God's
glorifying of His Son. Christ's cross, which at first had come to him as
a rejection, has now come to him in all its reality, and to him there
was the one grand thing, 'He suffered for us,' as though he realises
Christ in all His beauty and purity, and not only as a beautiful teacher
and dear friend. That which at first seemed to him as an astounding
mystery and perfect impossibility, he now comes to understand. With
those two little words, 'for us,' where there was before impossibility,
disappointment, and anomaly, the anomaly vanishes, although the mystery
becomes deeper. In one sense it was incomprehensible; in another sense
it was the only explanation of the fact. And, my friends, I want you to
build one thought on this. Unless you and I lay hold of the grand truth
that Jesus Christ died for us, it seems to me that the story of the
Gospel and the story of the cross is the saddest and most depressing
page of human history. That there should have been a man possessed of
such a soul, such purity, such goodness, such tenderness, such
compassion, and such infinite mercy--if there were all this to do
nothing but touch men's hearts and prick and irritate them into bitter
enmity--if the cross were the world's wages to the world's best Teacher,
and nothing more could be said, then, my friends, it seems to me that
the hopes of humanity have, in the providence of God, suffered great
disaster, and a terrible indictment stands against both God and man. Oh,
yes, the death of Jesus Christ, and the whole history of the world's
treatment of Him, is an altogether incomprehensible and miserable
thing--a thing to be forgotten, and a thing to be wept over in tears of
blood, and no use for us unless we do as Peter did, apply all the warmth
of the heart to this one master key, 'for us,' and then the mystery is
only an infinitude of love and mercy. What before we could not
understand we now begin to see, and to understand the love of God which
passeth all understanding. Oh, my friends, I beseech you never think of
the cross of Christ without taking those two words. It is a necessary
explanation to make the picture beautiful: 'for us,' 'for us'; 'for me,
for me.' And then notice still further that throughout the whole of this
Epistle the comparative vagueness of the words 'for me' is interpreted
definitely. So far as the language of my text is concerned there can be
nothing more expressive, more outspoken, or more intelligible, 'Christ
also suffered for us,' for our realm. But that is not all that Peter
would have us learn. If you want to know the nature of the work, and
what the Saviour suffered on the cross for our behalf, advantage, and
benefit, here is the definition in the following verse, 'Who His own
self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we being dead to
sins should live unto righteousness.' 'For us,' not merely as an
example; 'for us,' not merely for His purity, His beautiful life and
calm death; no, better than all that, though a glorious example it is.
He has taken away our sins, we are sprinkled with the blood of Jesus
Christ; 'for us' in the sense of the words in another part of the
Epistle, 'Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with
corruptible things as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of
Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot,' and if so, we
are living examples of what Christ our Saviour has done for the whole
world.

There is another point I want to speak about in dwelling on the first
part of the text. If you will read this Epistle of Peter at your
leisure, you will see that while with Paul both make the cross of Christ
the centre of their teaching, Paul speaks more about His death, and
Peter more about His sufferings. Throughout the letters of Peter the
phrase runs, and the phrase has come almost entirely into modern
Christian usage from this Apostle. Paul speaks about the death, Peter
speaks of the sufferings. The eye-witness of a Loving Friend, the man
who had stood by His side through much of His sufferings (though he fled
at last), a vivid imagination of His Master's trials, and a warm heart,
led Peter to dwell not only on the one fact of the death, but also on
the accompaniments of that awful death, of the mental and physical pain,
and especially the temper of the Saviour. I shall not dwell on this,
except to make one passing remark on it, viz., that there is a kind of
preaching which prevails among the Roman Catholic Church, and is not
uncommon to many of the Protestant churches, which dwells unduly on the
physical fact of Christ's death and sufferings. I think, for my part, we
are going to the other extreme, and a great many of us are losing a very
great source of blessing to ourselves and to those whom we influence,
because we don't realise and don't dwell sufficiently on the physical
and mental sorrows and agony He went through with the death on the
cross; and one bad effect of all this is that Christ's atonement has
become to be a kind of theological jungle, and I don't know that the
popular mind can have in the ordinary way any better means of the
deliverance of Christ's cross from this theological maze than a little
more frankness and honesty in dwelling on the sorrows and pain of our
dear Lord.

Now a word about the second part. The sufferings of Christ as
represented here in the text are not only for our gain but our pattern,
leaving us an example that we should follow His steps. We are not
concerned here about the general principles of Christian ethics, and I
don't think I need dwell on them at all as being great blessings to us;
and passing from that I would rather dwell on the one specific thought
before us--on the beautiful life, the gracious words, the gentle deeds,
the wisdom, the rectitude, the tenderness, the submission to the Father
and the oblivion to Himself, which characterises the whole life of Jesus
Christ, from the very first up to the agony on the cross. We have looked
to Him as our gain, and as the head and beginning of our salvation, and
now we have to turn from that mysterious and solemn thought and look to
Him as an ideal pattern by which our life should be moulded and shaped.
'Leaving us an example.' Just as Elijah's mantle dropped from him as he
rose, so Christ in going up to the Father fluttered down on the world a
pattern which He had in His sufferings. He goes away, but the pattern
abides with us. 'Leaving us an example.' The word used here is
translated quite correctly. The word example is a very remarkable and
unusual one; it means literally a thing to be retained. You put a
copyhead before a child, and tell him to copy it, and trace it over till
he retains it; or, to come to modern English, you put the copyhead on
the top of a page. What blots, pothooks, and angles you and I make as we
are trying to write on the top of the page of life. See, there is the
pattern. Lo, another man hath written above, and you are asked to make
your life exactly the same, the same angles and the same corners--to
make your life in all respects coincide with that. My friends, we shall
all have to take our copybooks to the Master's desk some day. There will
be a headline there which Christ hath written, and one which we have
written, and how do you think we shall like to put the two side by side?
My friends, we had better do it to-day than have to do it then. There is
the pattern life; the copy is plain. I don't think I need say any more
about the other metaphor contained here. The Divine Exemplar has left us
the headline that we should follow His footsteps, and it is a blessed
thought to know that we are to follow in His own steps. 'What, cannot I
follow Thee now?' said Peter once, and you remember when the Apostle had
been restored to his office, the words of the Saviour were--'Feed My
lambs; feed My sheep; feed My lambs, follow thou Me.' This is also our
privilege. As a guide going across a wet moor with a traveller calls
out, 'Step where I step, or else you will be bogged,' so we must tread
in the steps of the Saviour, and then we shall come safe on the other
side. Tread in His steps, aye, in the steps which are marked with
bleeding feet, for 'He suffered and left us an example.' I will just add
one word, dear friends, to deepen the thought in its impressiveness,
that the cross of Christ it to be the pattern of our lives. It stands
alone, thank God, for mighty power in its relation to the salvation of
the world, and it stands alone in awful terror. You and I are, at the
very worst, but at the edge of the storm which broke in all its dreadful
fury over His head; we love to go but a little way down the hillside,
while He descended to the very bottom; we love to drink but very little
of the cup which He drained the last drop of and held it up empty and
reversed, showing that nothing trickled from it, and exclaimed, 'The cup
which My Father hath given Me have I drunk.' But although alone in all
its mighty power, and though alone in all its awful terror, it may be
copied by us in two things--perfect submission to our Maker, and
non-resistance and meekness with regard to man. There is only one way of
carrying the cross of Christ, which God lays on us all, and that is
bowing our back. If we resist, it will crush us, and if we yield we have
something to endure; and there is but one thing which enables a man to
patiently bear the sorrows and griefs which come to us all, and that is
the simple secret, 'Father, not as I will, but Thy will be done.' Christ
suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow in His
footsteps, and when we patiently do this the rod becomes a guiding
staff, and the crown of thorns a crown of glory.

But my text reminds me that the sufferings of Christ are not only our
gain and our pattern, but they are also our power to imitate--the power
to fight the battle for Christ. Example is not all. The world wants more
than that. The reason for men's badness is not because they have not
plenty of patterns of good. If a copyhead could save the world it would
have been saved long ago. Patterns of good are plenty; the mischief is
we don't copy them. There are footsteps in abundance, but then our legs
are lame, and we cannot tread in them, and what is the use of copies if
we have a broken pen, muddy ink, and soiled paper? So we want a great
deal more than that. No, my friends, the world is not to be saved by
example. You and I know that the weakness and the foolishness of men
know a great deal better than the wisest of men ever did, so we want
something more. Examples don't give the power nor the wish to get it. Is
not that true about you? Don't you feel that if this is all which
religion has given you it stops short? The gospel comes and says, 'If
you love Christ Jesus because you know that He died for you,' then there
will be something else than the copybook. That copy and pattern will be
laid to your heart and transferred there. You will not have to go on
trying to make a bungling imitation; you will get it photographed on
your spirit, and on your character more distinctly and more clearly down
to the very minutest shade of resemblance to the Master, and with simple
loving trust you will go on from strength to strength glorifying God in
your life. They that begin with the cross of Christ, and make the
sacrifice their all in all, will advance heavenward joyously; the cross
and the sacrifice will be the pattern of your pilgrimage here, and the
perfectness of your characters unto the likeness of the Son. The cross
is the agency of sanctification as well as the means of
forgiveness--saving grace to save us from the world, saving grace to
help us everywhere and in everything for our salvation, and saving grace
to help us to conquer our self-will, and saving grace to bind us to Him,
whose abundant goodness and gratitude no man can tell. If we love Him we
shall keep His commandments; if we love them we shall grow in grace, and
not else. None else, my brother, my sister, but the Eternal Exemplar
stands there as our refuge; and if you want to be filled with this
all-saving grace, deep down to the bottom of His tender heart, if you
want to be good, and of pure mind, then you have to begin with that
Saviour who died for you, and trust to the cross for your forgiveness.
Then listen to Him saying, 'Any man who comes after Me, let him take up
My cross'--take it up, mark--'and follow Me.'



HALLOWING CHRIST

     'Be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; but sanctify
      the Lord God in your hearts.'--1 Peter iii. 14, 15.


These words are a quotation from the prophet Isaiah, with some very
significant variations. As originally spoken, they come from a period of
the prophet's life when he was surrounded by conspirators against him,
eager to destroy, and when he had been giving utterance to threatening
prophecies as to the coming up of the King of Assyria, and the voice of
God encouraged him and his disciples with the ringing words: 'Fear not
their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the Lord of Hosts Himself, and let
Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread, and He shall be for a
sanctuary.' Peter was in similar circumstances. The gathering storm of
persecution of the Christians as Christians seems to have been rising on
his horizon, and he turns to his brethren, and commends to them the old
word which long ago had been spoken to and by the prophet. But the
variations are very remarkable. The Revised Version correctly reads my
text thus: 'Fear not their fear, neither be troubled, but sanctify in
your hearts Christ as Lord.'

I. We have first to note the substitution, as a matter of course,
without any need for explanation or vindication, of Jesus Christ in
place of the Jehovah of the Old Testament.

There is no doubt that the reading adopted in the Revised Version is the
true one, as attested by weighty evidence in the manuscripts, and in
itself more probable by reason of its very difficulty. The other reading
adopted in Authorised Versions is likely to have arisen from a marginal
note which crept into the text, and was due to some copyist who was
struck by Peter's free handling of the passage, and wished to make the
quotations verbally accurate.

Now, if we think for a moment of the Jew's reverence for the letter of
Scripture, and then think again of the Jew's intense monotheism and
dread of putting any creature into the place of God, we shall understand
how saturated with the belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ, and how
convinced that it was the vital centre of all Christian teaching, this
Apostle must have been when, without a word of explanation, he took his
pen, and, as it were, drew it through 'Lord God' in Isaiah's words, and
wrote in capitals over it, 'Christ as Lord.'

What does that mean? Some of us would, perhaps, hesitate to say that it
means that He who was all through the growing ages of brightening
revelation of old, named 'Jehovah,' is now named Jesus Christ. I believe
that from the beginning He whom we call, according to the teaching of
the great prologue of John's Gospel, the 'Word of God,' was the Agent of
all Divine revelation. But whether that be so or no, whether we have the
right to say that the same Person who was revealed as 'Jehovah' is now
revealed as 'Jesus Christ,' the 'Word made flesh,' or no, we distinctly
fail to apprehend who and what Jesus Christ was to the writer of this
epistle, and fail to sanctify Him in our hearts, unless we say: 'To Thee
belongeth all that belongs to God.' That is the first great truth that
comes out of these words, and I would commend it to any of you who may
be hesitating about that Christian fact of the true divinity of Jesus
Christ. You cannot strike it out of the New Testament, and if you try to
do so you tear the book to pieces, and reduce it to rags and tatters.

Further, mark here what the Apostle means by the Christian sanctifying
of Christ.

That is a strange expression. How am I to sanctify Jesus Christ? Well,
it is the same word that is used in the Lord's Prayer, and perhaps its
use there may throw light on Peter's meaning here. 'Hallowed be Thy
name'--explains the meaning of _hallowing_ Christ as Lord in our hearts.
We sanctify or hallow one who is holy already, when we recognise the
holiness, and honour what we recognise. So that the plain meaning of the
commandments here is: set Christ in your hearts on the pedestal and
pinnacle that belongs to Him, and then bow down before Him with all
reverence and submission. Be sure that you give Him all that is His
due, and in the love of your hearts, as well as in the thinkings of your
minds, recognise Him for what He is, the Lord. Let us take care that our
thoughts about Jesus Christ are full of devout awe and reverence. I
venture to think that a great deal of modern and sentimental
Christianity is very defective in this respect. You cannot love Jesus
Christ too much, but you can love Him with too little reverence. And if
you take up some of our luscious modern hymns that people are so fond of
singing, I think you will find in them a twang of unwholesomeness, just
because the love is not reverent enough, and the approaching confidence
has not enough of devout awe in it. This generation looks at the half of
Christ. When people are suffering from indigestion, they can only see
half of the thing that they look at, and there are many of us that can
only see a part of the whole Christ: and so, forgetting that He is
judge, and forgetting that He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and
forgetting that whilst He is manifested in the flesh our brother He is
also _God_ manifest in the flesh, our Creator as well as our Redeemer,
and our Judge as well as our Saviour, some do not enough hallow Him in
their hearts as Lord.

Peter had heard Jesus say that 'all men should honour the Son as they
honoured the Father.' I beseech you, embrace the whole Christ, and see
to it that you do not dethrone Him from His rightful place, or take from
Him the glory that is due to His name. For your love will suffer, and
become a mere sentiment, inoperative and sometimes unwholesome, unless
you keep in mind Peter's injunction.

But, further, there is included in this commandment, not only what
Isaiah said, 'Let Him be your fear and your dread,' but also a reverent
love and trust. For we do not hallow Christ as we ought, unless we
absolutely confide in every word of His lips. Did you ever think that
not to trust Jesus Christ is to blaspheme and profane that holy name by
which we are called; and that to hallow Him means to say to Him, 'I
believe every word that Thou speakest, and I am ready to risk my life
upon Thy veracity'? Distrust is dishonouring the Master, and taking from
Him the glory that is due unto His name.

Then there is another point to be noted: 'Sanctify in your hearts Christ
as Lord.' That is Peter's addition to Isaiah's words, and it is not a
mere piece of tautology, but puts great emphasis into the exhortation.
What is a man's heart, in New Testament and Old Testament language? It
is the very centre-point of the personal self. And when Peter says,
'Hallow Him in your hearts,' he means that, deep down in the very midst
of your personal being, as it were, there should be, fundamental to all,
and interior to all, this reverential awe and absolute trust in Jesus
Christ--an habitual thought, a central emotion, an all-dominant impulse.
'Out of the heart are the issues of life.' Put the healing agent into
it, the fountain-head, and all the streams that pour out thence will be
purified and sweetened. Deep in the heart put Christ, and life will be
pure.

Now, in another part of this letter the Apostle says, 'Ye are a
spiritual house.' I think some notion of the same sort is running in his
mind here. He thinks of each man's heart as being a shrine in which the
god is enthroned, and in which worship is rendered. And if we have
Christ in our hearts, then our hearts are temples; and if we 'hallow'
the Christ that dwells within us, we shall take care that there are no
foul things in that sanctuary. We dishonour the indwelling Deity when
into that same heart we allow to come lusts, foulnesses, meannesses,
worldlinesses, passions, sins, and all the crew of reptiles and wild
beasts that we sometimes admit there. If we hallow Christ in our hearts,
in any true fashion, He will turn out the money-changers and overturn
the tables. And if we desire to hallow Him in our hearts, we too, must
by His Spirit's help, purge the temple that He may enter and abide.

And so I come to the next point, and that is the Christian courage and
calmness that ensue from hallowing Christ in the heart.

The Apostle first puts his exhortation: 'Be not afraid of their terror,
neither be troubled,' and then he presents us an opposite injunction,
obedience to which is the only means of obeying the first exhortation.
If you do not sanctify Christ in your hearts, you cannot help being
afraid of their terror, and troubled. If you do, then there is no fear
that you will fall into that snare. That is to say, the one thing that
delivers men from the fears that make cowards of us all is to have
Christ lodged within our hearts. Sunshine puts out culinary fires. They
who have the awe and the reverent love that knit them to Jesus Christ,
and who carry Him within their hearts, have no need to be afraid of
anything besides. Only he who can say, 'The Lord is the strength of my
life' can go on to say, 'Of whom shall I be afraid?' There is nothing
more hopeless than to address to men, ringed about with dangers, the
foolish exhortations: 'Cheer up! do not be frightened,' unless you can
tell them some reason for not being frightened. And the one reason that
will carry weight with it, in all circumstances, is the presence of
Jesus.

    'With Christ in the vessel
     I smile at the storm.'

The world comes to us and says: 'Do not be afraid, do not be afraid; be
of good courage; pluck up your heart, man.' The Apostle comes and says:
'Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts; and then, and only then, will
you be bold.' The boldness which fronts the certain dangers and
calamities and the possible dangers and calamities of this life, without
Christ, is not boldness, but foolhardiness. 'The simple passeth on, and
is punished,' says the book of Proverbs. It is easy to whistle when
going through the churchyard, and to say, 'Who's afraid?' But the ghosts
rise all the same, and there is only one thing that lays them, and that
is--the present Christ.

In like manner the sanctifying of Jesus Christ in the heart is the
secret of calmness. 'Fear not their fear, neither be troubled.' I wonder
if Peter was thinking at all of another saying: 'Let not your heart be
troubled; neither let it be afraid.' Perhaps he was. At any rate, his
thought is parallel with our Lord's when He said, 'Let not your heart be
troubled. Believe in God, and believe in Me.' The two alternatives are
possible; we shall have either troubled hearts, or hearts calmed by
faith in Christ. The ships behind the breakwater do not pitch and toss.
The little town up amongst the hills, with the high cliffs around it,
lies quiet, and 'hears not the loud winds when they call.' And the heart
that has Christ for its possession has a secret peace, whatever strife
may be raging round it.

'Be not troubled; sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.' Peter leaves
out a clause of Isaiah's, though he conveys the idea without reiterating
the words. But Isaiah had added a sweet promise which means much the
same thing as I have now been saying, when he went on to declare that to
those who sanctify the Lord God in their hearts, He shall be for a
sanctuary. 'The sanctuary was an asylum where men were safe. And if we
have made our hearts temples in which Christ is honoured, worshipped,
and trusted, then we shall dwell in Him as in the secret place of the
Most High'; and in the inner chamber of the Temple it will be quiet,
whatever noises are in the camp, and there is light coming from the
Shekinah, whatever darkness may lie around. If we take Christ into our
hearts, and reverence and love Him there, He will take us into His
heart, and we shall dwell in peace, because we dwell in Him.



CHRISTIAN ASCETICISM

     'Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm
      yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered
      in the flesh hath ceased from sin. 2. That he no longer should live
      the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the
      will of God. 3. For the time past of our life may suffice us to
      have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in
      lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and
      abominable idolatries: 4. Wherein they think it strange that ye run
      not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: 5.
      Who shall give account to Him that is ready to judge the quick and
      the dead. 6. For, for this cause was the gospel preached also to
      them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in
      the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. 7. But the end
      of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto
      prayer. 8. And, above all things, have fervent charity among
      yourselves; for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.'--1 Peter
      iv. 1-8.


Christian morality brought two new things into the world--a new type of
life in sharp contrast with the sensuality rife on every side, and a new
set of motives powerfully aiding in its realisation. Both these
novelties are presented in this passage, which insists on a life in
which the spirit dominates the flesh, and is dominated by the will of
God, and which puts forward purely Christian ideas as containing the
motives for such a life. The facts of Christ's life and the prospect of
Christ's return to judge the world are here urged as the reason for
living a life of austere repression of 'the flesh' that we may do God's
will.

I. We have, first, in verses 1 and 2, a general precept, based upon the
broad view of Christ's earthly history. 'Christ hath suffered in the
flesh.' That is the great fact which should shape the course of all His
followers. But what does suffering in the flesh mean here? It does not
refer only to the death of Jesus, but to His whole life. The phrase 'in
the flesh' is reiterated in the context, and evidently is equivalent to
'during the earthly life.' Our Lord's life was, in one aspect, one
continuous suffering, because He lived the higher life of the spirit.
That higher life had to Him, and has to us, rich compensations; but it
sets those who are true to it at necessary variance with the lower types
of life common among men, and it brings many pains, all of which Jesus
knew. The last draught from the cup was the bitterest, but the
bitterness was diffused through all the life of the Man of Sorrows.

That life is here contemplated as the pattern for all Christ's servants.
Peter says much in this letter of our Lord's sufferings as the atonement
for sin, but here he looks at them rather as the realised ideal of all
worthy life. We are to be 'partakers of Christ's sufferings' (v. 13),
and we shall become so in proportion as His own Spirit becomes the
spirit which lives in us. If Jesus were only our pattern, Christianity
would be a poor affair, and a gospel of despair; for how should we
reach to the pure heights where He stood? But, since He can breathe
into us a spirit which will hallow and energise our spirits, we can rise
to walk beside Him on the high places of heroic endurance and of holy
living. Very beautifully does Peter hint at our sore conflict, our
personal defencelessness, and our all-sufficient armour, in the
picturesque metaphor 'arm yourselves.' The 'mind of Christ' is given to
us if we will. We can gird it on, and if we do, it will be as an
impenetrable coat-of-mail, which will turn the sharpest arrows and
resist the fiercest sword-cuts.

The last clause of verse 1 is a parenthesis, and, if it is for the
moment omitted, the sentence runs smoothly on, especially if the Revised
Version's reading is adopted. The purpose of arming us with the same
mind is that, whilst we live on earth, we should live according to the
will of God, and should renounce 'the lusts of men,' which are in us as
in all men, and which men who are not clad in the armour which Christ
gives to us yield to.

But what of the parenthetical statement? Clearly, the words which follow
it forbid its being taken to mean that dead men do not sin. Rather the
Apostle's thought seems to be that such suffering in daily life after
Christ's pattern, and by His help, is at once a sign that the sufferer
has shaken off the dominion of sin, and is a means of further
emancipating him from it.

But the two great thoughts in this paragraph are, that the Christian
life is one in which God's will, and not man's desires, is the
regulating force, and that the pattern of that life and the power to
copy the pattern are found in Christ, the sufferer for righteousness'
sake.

II. More specific injunctions, entering into the details of the higher
life, follow, interwoven, as in the preceding verses, with a statement
of the motives which make obedience to them possible to our weakness.
The sins in view are those most closely connected with 'the flesh' in
its literal meaning, amongst which are included 'abominable idolatries,'
because gross acts of sensual immorality were inseparably intertwined
with much of heathen worship. These sins of flesh were especially
rampant among the luxurious Asiatic lands, to which this letter was
addressed, but they flooded the whole Roman empire, as the works of
poets like Martial and of moralists like Epictetus equally show. But New
York or London could match the worst scenes in Rome or Ephesus, and
perhaps would not be far behind the foul animalism of Sodom and
Gomorrah. Lust and drunkenness are eating out the manhood of our race on
both sides of the Atlantic, and, if we have 'the same mind' as the
suffering Christ, we shall put on the armour for war to the knife with
these in society, and for the rigid self-control of our own animal
nature.

Observe the strong motives which Peter just touches without expanding. A
sad irony lies in his saying that the time past may suffice. The flesh
had had enough of time given to it,--had not God a right to the rest?
The flesh should have had none; it had had all too much. Surely the
readers had had enough of the lower life, more than enough. Were they
not sick of it, 'satisfied' even to disgust? Let us look back on our
wasted years, and give no more precious moments to serve the corruptible
flesh. Further, the life of submission to the animal nature is
characteristic of 'the Gentiles,' and in sharp contrast, therefore, to
that proper to Christ's followers. That is as true to-day, in America
and England, as ever it was. Indeed, as wealth has increased, and
so-called 'civilisation' has diffused material comforts, senseless
luxury, gluttony, drunkenness, and still baser fleshy sins, have become
more flagrantly common in society which is not distinctively and
earnestly Christian; and there was never more need than there is to-day
for Christians to carry aloft the flag of self-control and temperance in
all things belonging to 'the flesh.'

If we have the mind of Christ, we shall get the same treatment from the
world which Peter says that the primitive Christians did from the
idolaters round them. We shall be wondered at, just as a heathen stared
with astonishment at this strange, new sect, which would have nothing to
do with feasts and garlands and wine-cups and lust disguised as worship.
The spectacle, when repeated to-day, of Christians steadfastly refusing
to share in that lower life which is the only life of so many, is,
perhaps, less wondered at now, because it is, thank God! more familiar;
but it is not less disliked and 'blasphemed.' A total abstainer from
intoxicants will not get the good word of the distiller or brewer or
consumer of liquor. He will be called faddist, narrow, sour-visaged, and
so on and so on. 'You may know a genius because all the dunces make
common cause against him,' said Swift. You may know a Christian after
Christ's pattern because all the children of the flesh are in league to
laugh at him and pelt him with nicknames.

Further, the thought of Christ as the judge should both silence the
blasphemers and strengthen the blasphemed to endure. That judgment will
vindicate the wisdom of those who sowed to the spirit and the folly of
those who sowed to the flesh. The one will reap corruption; the other,
life everlasting.

The difficult verse 6 cannot be adequately dealt with here, but we may
note that introductory 'for' shows that it, too, contains a motive
urging to life, 'to the will of God,' and that no such motive appears in
it if it is taken to mean, as by some, that the gospel is preached after
death to the dead. Surely to say that 'the gospel was preached also (or,
even) to them that are dead' is not to say that it was preached to them
when dead.

Peter's letter is of late enough date to explain his looking back to a
generation now passed away, who had heard it in their lifetime. Nor does
one see how the meaning of 'in the flesh,' which belongs to the phrase
in the frequent instances of its occurrence in this context, can be
preserved in the clause 'that they might be judged according to men in
the flesh,' unless that means a judgment which takes place during the
earthly life.

We note, too, that the antithesis between being judged 'according to men
in the flesh,' and living 'according to God in the spirit' recalls that
in verse 2 between living in the flesh to the lusts of men and to the
will of God. It would appear, therefore, that the Apostle's meaning is
that the very aim of the preaching of the gospel to those who are gone
to meet the Judge was that they might by it be judged while here in the
flesh, in regard to the lower life 'according to men' (or, as verse 2
has it, 'to the lusts of men'), and, being so judged, and sin condemned
in their flesh, might live according to God in their spirits. That is
but to say in other words that the gospel is meant to search hearts, and
bring to light and condemn the lusts of the flesh, and to impart the new
life which is moulded after the will of God.

III. The reference to Christ as the judge suggests a final motive for a
life of suppression of the lower nature,--the near approach of the end
of all things. The distinct statement by our Lord in Acts i. 7 excludes
the knowledge of the time of the end from the revelation granted to the
Apostles, so that there need be no hesitation in upholding their
authority, and yet admitting their liability to mistake on that point.
But the force of the motive is independent of the proximity of the
judgment. Its certainty and the indefiniteness of the time when we each
shall have to pass into the other state of being are sufficient to
preserve for each of us the whole pressure of the solemn thought that
for us the end is at hand, and to enforce thereby Peter's exhortation,
'Be ye therefore of sound mind.'

The prospect of that end will sweep away many illusions as to the worth
of the enjoyments of sense, and be a bridle on many vagrant desires.
Self-control in all regions of our nature is implied in the word. Our
various faculties are meant to be governed by a sovereign will, which is
itself governed by the Divine will; and, if we see plain before us the
dawning of the day of the Lord, the vision will help to tame the
subordinate parts of ourselves, and to establish the supremacy of the
spirit over the flesh. One special form of that general self-control is
that already enjoined,--the suppression of the animal appetites,
especially the abstinence from intoxicants. That form of self-control is
especially meant by the second of these exhortations, 'Be sober.' How
could a man lift the wine cup to his lips, and drown his higher nature
in a flood of drunken riot, if the end, with its solemnities of
judgment, blazed before his inner eye? But this self-command is
inculcated that we may be fit to pray. These lower appetites will take
all desire for prayer and all earnestness in it out of us, and only
when we keep the wings of appetites close clipped will the pinions grow
by which we can mount up with wings as eagles. A praying drunkard is an
impossible monster.

But exhortations to self-control are not all. We have to think of
others, as well as of our own growth in purity and spirituality.
Therefore Peter casts one swift glance to the wider circle of the
brethren, which encompasses each of us, and gives the all-embracing
direction, which carries in itself everything. 'Fervent love' to our
fellow-Christians is the counterpoise to earnest government of
ourselves. There is a selfishness possible even in cultivating our
religion, as many a monk and recluse has shown. Such love as Peter here
enjoins will save us from the possible evils of self-regard, and it will
'cover the multitude of sins,'--by which is not meant that, having it,
we shall be excused if we in other respects sin, but that, having it, we
shall be more desirous of veiling than of exposing our brother's faults,
and shall be ready to forgive even when our brother offends against us
often. Perhaps Peter was remembering the lesson which he had once had
when he was told that 'seventy times seven' was not too great a
multitude of sins against brotherly love to be forgiven by it in one
day.



THE SLAVE'S GIRDLE

     '... Be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and
      giveth grace to the humble.'--1 Peter v. 5.


The Apostle uses here an expression of a remarkable kind, and which
never occurs again in Scripture. The word rendered in the Authorised
Version 'be clothed,' or better in the Revised Version, 'gird yourselves
with,' really implies a little more than either of those renderings
suggests. It describes a kind of garment as well as the act of putting
it on, and the sort of garment which it describes was a remarkable one.
It was a part of a slave's uniform. Some scholars think that it was a
kind of white apron, or overall, or something of that sort; others think
that it was simply a scarf or girdle; but, at all events, it was a
distinguishing mark of a slave, and he put it on when he meant work.
And, says Peter, 'Do you strap round you the slave's apron, and do it
for the same reason that He did it, to serve.'

So, then, there are three points in my text, and the first is what we
have to wear; second, what we have to wear it for; and, third, why we
should wear it.

I. What we have to wear.

'Gird yourselves with the slave's apron of humility.' Humility does not
consist in being, or pretending to be, blind to one's strong points.
There is no humility in a man denying that he can do certain things if
he can do them, or even refusing to believe he can do them well, if God
has given him special faculties in any given direction. That is not
humility at all. But to know whence all my strength comes, and to know
what a little thing it is, after all; not to estimate myself highly,
and, still further, not to be always insisting upon other people
estimating me highly, and to think a great deal more about their claims
on me than fretfully to insist upon my due modicum of respect and
attention from others, that is the sort of temper that Peter means here.

Now, that temper which may recognise fully any gift that God has given
me, its sweep and degree, but that nevertheless takes a true, because a
lowly, measure of myself, and does not always demand from other people
their regard and assistance, that temper is a thing that we can
cultivate. We can increase it, and we are all bound to try specifically
and directly to do so. Now, I believe that a great part of the feeble
and unprogressive character of so many Christian people amongst us is
due to this, that they do not definitely steady their thoughts and focus
them on the purpose of finding out the weak points to which special
attention and discipline should be directed. It is a very easy thing to
say, 'Oh, I am a poor, weak, sinful creature!' It would do you a great
deal more good to say, 'I am a very passionate one, and my business is
to control that quick temper of mine,' or, 'I am a great deal too much
disposed to run after worldly advantage, and my business is to subdue
that,' or, 'I am afraid I am rather too close-fisted, and I ought to
crucify myself into liberality.' It would be a great deal better, I say,
to apply the general confession to specific cases, and to set ourselves
to cultivate individual types of goodness, as well as to seek to be
filled with the all-comprehensive root of it all, which lies in union
with Jesus Christ. We have often to preach, dear brethren, that the way
of self-improvement is not by hammering at ourselves, but by letting God
mould us, and to keep the balance right. We have also to insist upon the
other side of the truth, and to press the complementary thought that
specific efforts after the cultivation of specific virtues and all the
more if they are virtues that are not natural to us, for the gospel is
given to us to mend our natural tempers--is the duty of all Christian
people that would seek to live as Christ would have them.

And how is this to be done? How am I to gird upon myself and to keep--if
I may transpose the metaphor into the key of modern English--tightly
buckled around me this belt which may hold in place a number of fine
articles of clothing?

Well, there are three things, I think, that we may profitably do. Go
down deep enough into yourself if you want to cure a lofty estimate of
yourself. The top storeys may be beautifully furnished, but there are
some ugly things and rubbish down in the cellar. There is not one of us
but, if we honestly let the dredge down into the depths, as far down as
the _Challenger's_ went, miles and miles down, will bring up a pretty
collection of wriggling monstrosities that never have been in the
daylight before, and are ugly enough to be always shrouded in their
native darkness. Down in us all, if we will go deep enough, and take
with us a light bright enough, we shall discover enough to make anything
but humility ridiculous, if it were not wicked. And the only right place
and attitude for a man who knows himself down to the roots of his being
is the publican's when 'he stood afar off, and would not so much as lift
up his eyes to heaven, and said, God be merciful to me a sinner.' Ah,
dear friends, it will put an end to any undue exaltation of ourselves if
we know ourselves as we are.

Further, let us try to cultivate this temper, by looking at God, and
having communion with Him. Think of Him as the Giver of anything in us
that is good, and that annihilates our pride. Think of Jesus as our
pattern; how that kills our satisfaction in little excellences! If you
get high enough up the mountainside, the undulating country which when
you were down amongst the knolls showed all variations of level, and
where he who lived on the top of one little mound thought himself in a
fine, airy situation as compared with his neighbour down in the close
valley, is smoothed down, and brought to one uniform level; and from
the hilltop the rolling land is a plateau.

I have heard of a child who, when she was told that the sun was
ninety-five millions of miles off, asked if that was from the top or the
bottom storey of the house! There is about as much difference between
the great men and the little, between heroes and the unknown men, as
measured against the distance to God, as there is difference in the
distance to the sun from the slates and from the cellar. Let us live
near God, and so aspiration will come in the place of satisfaction, and
the unattained will gleam before us, and beckon us not in vain, and the
man that sees what an infinite stretch there is before him will be
delivered from the temptations of self-conceit, and will say, 'Not as
though I had already attained, either were already perfected, but I
follow after.'

But there is another advice to be given--cultivate the habit of thinking
about other people, their excellences, their claims on you. To be always
trying to get a footing in a social grade above our own is a poor
effort, but there is a sense in which it is good advice--live with your
_betters_. We can all do that. A man writes a bit of a book, preaches a
sermon, makes a speech--all the newspapers pat him on the back, and say
what a clever fellow he is. But let him steep his mind and his heart in
the great works of the _great_ men, and he finds out what a poor little
dwarf he is by the side of them. And so all round the circle. Live with
bigger men, not with little ones. And learn to discount--and you may
take a very liberal discount off--either the praises or the censures of
the people round you. Let us rather say, 'With me it is a very small
matter to be judged of man's judgment. He that judgeth me is the Lord.'

There are plenty of hands, foremost among them a black one that is not
so much a hand as a claw, ready to snatch the girdle of humility off
you! Buckle it tight about you, brother; and in an immovable temper of
lowly estimate of yourself live and work.

II. The second thought here is, What we are to wear the apron or girdle
for?

The Revised Version makes a little alteration in the reading as well as
in the translation of our text, the previous words to which, in the
Authorised Version stand, 'Yea, all of you be subject one to another.'
There is another reading which strikes out that clause, and adds a
portion of it to the first part of my text, which then runs thus: 'Yea,
all of you gird yourselves with humility to serve one another.' That is
what Christian humility is for. The slave put on his garment, whatever
it was, when he had work to do.

But perhaps there is a deeper thought here. I wonder if it is fanciful
to see in the text one of the very numerous allusions in this epistle to
the events in our Lord's Passion. You remember that Jesus laid aside His
garments, and took a towel, and girded Himself, and washed the
disciples' feet, and then said, 'The servant is not above His master. I
have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.'
Probably, I think, there floated before the memory of the man who had
said, 'Lord, Thou shalt never wash my feet,' and then, with the swift
recoil to the opposite pole which makes us love Him so much, hurried to
say, 'Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head'--some
reminiscence of that upper chamber, and of how the Master had girded
Himself with the slave's apron, or towel, in order that He might serve
the disciples; and then had told them that that was the pattern for all
Christian men, and for all Christian living till the very end.

Service coming from humility, and humility manifested in service, are
the requirements laid down in the text. Humility is the preparation for
service; and service is the test of humility. If a man does not feel
himself to be needy and low, he will never be able, and he will never be
willing, to help those that are. You must go down if you would lift up.
Laces and velvets and the fine feathers that the peacocks of
self-conceit in this world strut about in are terribly in the way of
Christian work. Rough work needs rough dress; and the only garb in which
we shall be able to do the deeds of self-sacrifice that are needed in
order to help our brethren is humility, the preparation for all service.

But, further, service is the test of humility. Plenty of people will
say, 'I know that I have nothing to boast of,' and so forth; but they
never do any work. And there is a still more spurious kind of humility,
that of a great many professing Christians (I wonder of how many of us)
who, when we ask them for any kind of Christian service, say, 'I do not
feel myself at all competent. I am sure I could not take a class in the
Sunday School. I do not feel sufficiently master of the subject. I
cannot talk. I have no facilities for influencing other people,' and so
on. Too many of us are very humble when there is anything to be done,
and never at any other time as far as anybody can see; and that sort of
humility the Apostle does not commend. It is unfortunately very frequent
amongst professing Christians. Christian humility is not particular
about the sort of work it does for Jesus. Never mind whether you are on
the quarter-deck, with gold lace on your coat and epaulettes on your
shoulders as an officer, or whether you are a cabin-boy doing the
humblest duties, or a stoker working away down fifty feet below
daylight. As long as the work is done for the great Admiral, that is
enough; and whoever does any work for Him will never want for a reward.
There are some of us who like to be officers, but do not like carrying a
musket in the ranks. Humility is the preparation for service, and
service is the test of humility.

III. Lastly, why we should wear this girdle.

There is one reason given in my text, which Peter quotes from the Old
Testament. 'God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.'
That is often true even in regard to outward life. Providence and man
often seem to be in league together to lift up the lowly ones and thwart
the proud. If a man walks with his head very high, in this low-roofed
world, he is pretty sure to get it knocked against the rafters before he
has done. But it is the spiritual region that the Apostle is thinking
about, in which the one condition of receiving God's grace is a lowly
sense of my own character and nature, which is conscious of sin and
weakness, and waits before Him. And the one condition of not receiving
any of that grace is to keep a stiff upper lip and a high head. If I
think that I am rich, 'and increased with goods, and have need of
nothing,' that 'nothing' is exactly what I shall get from God, and if I
have need of everything, and know that I have, that 'everything' is what
I shall get from Him. 'He resisteth the proud, and He giveth grace to
the humble.' On the high barren mountain-tops the dew and the rain slide
off and find their way down to the lowly valleys, where they run as
fertilising rivers. And the man that is humble and of a contrite heart,
'with that man will I dwell, saith the Lord.' If we gird ourselves with
the slave's dress of humility, then we shall one day have to say, 'My
soul shall rejoice in the Lord, for He hath clothed me with the garments
of salvation; and He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness; as
a bridegroom decketh himself with his ornaments, and as a bride adorneth
herself with her jewels.'



SYLVANUS

     'By Sylvanus, our faithful brother, as I account him, I have
      written unto you briefly.'--1 Peter v. 12 (R.V).


I adopt the Revised Version because, in one or two small points, it
brings out more clearly the Apostle's meaning. This Sylvanus is, beyond
all reasonable doubt, the same man who is known to us in the Acts of the
Apostles by the name of Silas. A double name was very common amongst
Jews, whose avocations brought them into close connection with Gentiles.
You will find other instances of it amongst the Apostles: in _Paul_
himself, whose Hebrew name was _Saul_; _Simon_ and _Peter_; and probably
in _Bartholomew_ and _Nathanael_. And there is no reasonable doubt that
a careful examination of the various places in which Silas and Sylvanus
are mentioned shows that they were borne by one person.

Now let me put together the little that we know about this man, because
it will help us to some lessons. He was one of the chief men in the
church at Jerusalem when the dispute arose about the necessity for
circumcision for the Gentile Christians. He was despatched to Antioch
with the message of peace and good feeling which the church at Jerusalem
wisely sent forth to heal the strife. He remained in Antioch, although
his co-deputy went back to Jerusalem; and the attraction of Paul--the
great mass of that star--drew this lesser light into becoming a
satellite, moving round the greater orb. So, when the unfortunate
quarrel broke out between Paul and Barnabas, and the latter went sulkily
away by himself with his dear John Mark, without his brethren's
blessing, Paul chose Silas and set out upon his first missionary tour.
He was Paul's companion in the prison and stripes at Philippi, and in
the troubles at Thessalonica; and, though they were parted for a little
while, he rejoined the Apostle in the city of Corinth. From thence Paul
wrote the two letters to the Thessalonians, both of which are sent in
the name of himself and Silas or Sylvanus. There is one more reference
to Sylvanus in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, which mentions him
as having been associated with Paul in the evangelisation of the church
there.

Then he drops out of the book altogether, and we never hear anything
more about him, except this one passing reference, which shows us to him
in an altogether new relation. He is no longer attached to Paul, but to
Peter. Paul was probably either in prison, or, possibly, martyred. At
all events, Sylvanus now stood to Peter in a relationship similar to
that in which he formerly stood to Paul. He was evidently acquainted
with and known to the churches to whom this letter was addressed, and,
therefore, is chosen to carry Peter's message to them.

Now I would suggest, in passing, how Sylvanus' relations to the two
Apostles throws light upon the perfectly cordial alliance between them,
and how it shatters into fragments the theory which was thought to be
such a wonderful discovery some years ago, as to the 'great schism' in
the early church between one section, led by Peter, and the more liberal
party, headed by Paul. Instead of that, we find the two men working
together, and the only division between them was not as to the sort of
gospel they preached, but as to the people to whom they preached. This
little incident helps us to realise how natural it was for a man steeped
in Paul's teaching to attach himself, if circumstances suggested it, to
the person who has been said to have been antagonistic in the whole
drift of his conceptions of Christianity to that Apostle.

But I do not wish to speak about that now. I take this figure of a man
who so contentedly and continually took such a subordinate place--played
second fiddle quite willingly all his days, and who toiled on without
any notice or record, and ask whether it does not teach one or two
things.

I. First, then, I think we may see here a hint as to the worth and
importance of subordinate work.

Not a syllable that Silas ever said is recorded in Scripture. He had
been a chief man among the brethren when he was in Jerusalem, but, like
some other chief men in little spheres, he came to be anything but a
chief man when he got alongside of Paul, and found his proper work. He
did not say: 'I have always pulled the stroke oar, and I am not going to
be second. I do not intend to be absorbed in this man's brilliant
lustre. I would rather have a smaller sphere where my light may not
suffer by comparison than be overshone by him.' By no means! He could
not do Paul's work, but he could endure stripes along with him in the
prison at Philippi, and he took them. He could not write as Peter
could; it was not his work to do that. But he could carry one of
Peter's letters. And so, 'by Sylvanus, a faithful brother, I have
written to you.' Perhaps Sylvanus was amanuensis as well as
letter-carrier, for I daresay Peter was no great hand with a pen; he was
better accustomed to haul nets. At all events, subordinate work was what
God had set him to do, and so he found joy in it.

Well, then, is not that a pattern for us? People in the world or in the
Church who can do prominent work are counted by units; and those who can
do valuable subordinate work are counted by thousands--by millions.
'Those members which seem to be more feeble are the more necessary,'
says Paul. It is a great truth, which it would do us all good to lay
more to heart.

It is hard to tell what is superior and what is subordinate work. I
suppose that in a steam engine the smallest rivet is quite as essential
as the huge piston, and that if the rivet drops out the piston-rod is
very likely to stop rising and falling. So it is a very vulgar way of
talking to speak about A.'s work being large and B.'s work being small,
or to assume that we have eyes to settle which work is principal and
which subordinate.

The Athenians, who deemed themselves wisest in the world, thought there
were few people of less importance than the fanatical Jew who was
preaching a strange story about what they knew so little of that they
took Jesus and Resurrection to be the names of a pair of gods, one male
and one female. But in the eyes that see truly--the eyes of God--the
relative importance of Apostle and Stoic was otherwise appraised.

We cannot tell, as the book of Ecclesiastes has it, 'which shall
prosper--this or that.' And if we begin to settle which is important
work, we shall be sure to make mistakes, both in our judgment about
other people, and in our sense of the obligations laid upon ourselves.
Let us remember that when a thing is to be done by the co-operation of a
great many parts, each part is as important as the other, and each is
indispensable. Although more glory may come to the soldiers who go to
the front and do the fighting, the troops miles in the rear, that are
quietly in camp looking after the stores and keeping open the lines of
communication, are quite as essential to the success of the campaign.
Their names will not get into the gazette; there will probably not be
any honours at the conclusion of the war showered upon them; but, if
they had not been doing their subordinate work, the men at the front
would never have been able to do theirs. Therefore, the old wise law in
Israel was: 'As his part is that goeth down into the battle, so shall
his part be that tarrieth by the stuff; they shall part alike.'

And so it is good for people that have only one talent, and cannot do
much, and must be contented to help somebody else that can do more, to
remember this pretty little picture of Sylvanus, 'the faithful brother,'
contented all his life to be a satellite of somebody; first of all
helping Paul, and then helping Paul's brother Peter. Let us not be too
lazy, or too proud with the pride that apes humility, to do the little
that we can do because it is little.

II. Another lesson which is own sister to that first one, but which may
be taken for a moment separately, is, the importance and obligation of
persistently doing our task, though nobody notices it.

As I remarked, there is not one word of anything that Sylvanus said, or
of anything that he did apart from Paul or Peter, recorded. And for all
the long stretch of years--we do not know how many, but a very large
number--that lie between this text of mine, where we find him in
conjunction with Peter, and that day at Corinth, where we left him with
Paul, the Acts of the Apostles does not think it worth while to mention
his name. Was he sitting with his hands in his pockets all the while, do
you think, doing no Christian work? Did he say, as some good people are
apt to say now, 'Well, I went to teach in Sunday School for a while, and
I took an interest in this, that, or the other thing for a bit, but
nobody took any notice of me; and I supposed I was not wanted, and so I
came away!'

Not he. That is what a great many of us do. Though we sometimes are not
honest enough to say it to ourselves, yet we do let the absence of
'recognition' (save the mark) influence us in the earnestness of our
Christian work to far too great an extent. And I dare say there are good
friends among us who, if they would be quite honest with themselves,
would take the hint, and, if I may use such a word, the rebuke, to
themselves.

Dear brethren, all the work that any of us do has to become unnoticed
after a little while. It will not last. Nobody will know about you or me
thirty years after we are dead. What does it matter whether they know
anything about us, or say anything about us, or pat us on the back for
anything that we do, or recognise our service whilst we live? Surely, if
we are Christian men and women, we have a better reason for working than
that. '_I_ will never forget any of their works.' That ought to be
enough for us, ought it not? Whoever forgets, He remembers; and if He
remembers, He will not remain in our debt for anything that we have
done.

So let us keep on, noticed or unnoticed; it matters very little which it
is. There is a fillip, no doubt--and we should not be men and women if
we did not feel it--in the recognition of what we have tried to do. And
sometimes it comes to us; but the absence of it is no reason for
slackening our work. And this man, so patiently and persistently
'pegging away' at his obscure task during all these years which have
been swallowed up in oblivion, may preach a sermon to us all.

Only let us remember that he also shows us that unnoticed work is
noticed, and that unrecorded services are recorded. Here are you and I,
nineteen centuries after he is dead, talking about him, and his name
will live and last as long as the world, because, though written in no
other history, it has been recorded here. Jesus Christ's record, the
Book of Life, contains the names of 'fellow-labourers' whose names have
dropped out of every other record; and that should be enough for us.
Sylvanus did no work that Christ did not see, and no work that Christ
did not remember, and no work of which he did not, eighteen hundred
years since, enter into the enjoyment of the fruit, and which he enjoys
up there, whilst we are thinking about him down here.

III. The last thing that I would suggest is--here is an example to us of
a character which we can all earn, and which will be the best that any
man can get.

A great genius, a wise philosopher, an eloquent preacher, a statesman, a
warrior, poet, painter? No! 'A faithful brother.' He may have been a
commonplace one. We do not know anything about his intellectual
capacity. He may have had very narrow limitations and very few powers,
or he may have been a man of large faculty and acquirements. But these
things drop out of sight; and this remains--that he was _faithful_. I
suppose the eulogium is meant in both senses of the word. The one of
these is the root of the other; for a man that is full of faith is a man
who may be trusted, is reliable, and will be sure to fulfil all the
obligations of his position, and to do all the duties that are laid upon
him.

You and I, whether we are wise or not, whether we are learned or not,
whether we have large faculties or not, whether we have great
opportunities or very small ones, can all equally earn that name if we
like. If the perfect judgment, the clear eye, of Jesus Christ beholds in
us qualities which will permit Him to call us by that name, what can we
want better? 'A faithful brother.' Trust in Christ; let that be the
animating principle of all that we do, the controlling power that
restrains and limits and stimulates and impels. And then men will know
where to have us, and will be sure, and rightly sure, that we shall not
shirk our obligations, nor scamp our work, nor neglect our duties. And
being thus full of faith, and counted faithful by Him, we need care
little what men's judgments of us may be, and need desire no better
epitaph than this--a faithful brother.



AN APOSTOLIC TESTIMONY AND EXHORTATION

     '... I have written briefly, exhorting, and testifying that this is
      the true grace of God wherein ye stand.'--1 Peter v. 12.


'I have written briefly,' says Peter. But his letter, in comparison with
the other epistles of the New Testament, is not remarkably short; in
fact, is longer than many of them. He regards it as short when measured
by the greatness of its theme. For all words which are devoted to
witnessing to the glory of God revealed in Jesus Christ, must be narrow
and insufficient as compared with that, and after every utterance the
speaker must feel how inadequate his utterance has been. So in that word
'briefly' we get a glimpse of the Apostle's conception of the
transcendent greatness of the Gospel which he had to proclaim. This
verse seems to be a summary of the contents of the Epistle. And if we
observe the altered translation of the latter portion of my text which
is given in the Revised Version, we shall see that the verse is itself
an example of both 'testifying' and exhorting. For the last clause is
not, as our Authorised Version renders it, 'Wherein ye stand'--a
statement of a fact, however true that may be--but a commandment, 'In
which stand fast.' And so we have here the Apostle's all-sufficient
teaching, and this all-comprehensive exhortation. He 'witnesses' that
this is the true grace of God, and because it is, he exhorts, 'stand
fast therein.' Let us look at these two points.

I. Peter's testimony.

Now there is a very beautiful, though not, to superficial readers,
obvious, significance in this testimony. 'This is the true grace of
God.' What is meant by '_this_'? Not merely the teaching which he has
been giving in the preceding part of the letter, but that which somebody
else had been giving. Now these churches in Asia Minor, to whom this
letter was sent, were in all probability founded by the Apostle Paul, or
by men working under his direction: and the type of doctrine preached in
them was what people nowadays call Pauline. And here Peter puts his seal
on the teaching that had come from his brother Apostle, and says: 'The
thing that you have learned, and that I have had no part in
communicating to you, _this_ is the true grace of God.' If such be the
primary application of the words (and I think there can be little doubt
that it is), then we have an interesting evidence, all the stronger
because unobtrusive, of the cordial understanding between the two great
leaders of the Church in apostolic times; and the figments that have
been set forth, with great learning and little common sense, about the
differences that divided these great teachers of Christianity, melt away
into thin air. Their division was only a division of the field of
labour. 'They would that I should go unto the Gentiles, and they unto
the circumcision.' All the evidence confirms what Paul says, 'Whether it
were they or I, so we preach, and so' all the converts 'believed.' Thus
it is not without significance and beauty that we here see dimly through
the ages Peter stretching out his hands to Paul's convert, and saying,
'This--which my beloved brother Paul taught you--this is the true grace
of God.'

But, apart altogether from that thought, note two things; the one, the
substance of this witness-bearing; and the other, Peter's right to bear
it. As to the substance of the testimony; 'grace' which has become a
threadbare word in the minds of many people, used with very little
conception of its true depth and beauty of meaning, is properly love in
exercise towards inferior and sinful creatures who deserve something
else. Condescending, pardoning, and active love, is its proper meaning.
And, says Peter, the inmost significance of the gospel is that it is the
revelation of such a love as being in God's heart.

Another meaning springs out of this. That same message is not only a
revelation of love, but it is a communication of the gifts of love. And
the 'true grace of God' is shorthand for all the rich abundance and
variety and exuberant manifoldness and all-sufficiency of the sevenfold
perfect gifts for spirit and heart which come from faith in Jesus
Christ. The truths that lie here in the Gospel, the truths which glow
and throb in this letter of Peter's, are the revelation and the
communication to men of the rich gifts of the Divine heart, which will
all flow into that soul which opens itself for the entrance of God's
word. And what are these truths? The main theme of this letter is Jesus
Christ, the Lamb of God, that was slain. 'Ye were as sheep going astray,
but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.' He
dwells upon Christ's innocence, upon Christ's meekness; but most of all
upon the Christ that died, 'whom, having not seen, we love, and in whom,
though unseen, we, believing, receive the end of our faith'--and the end
of the gospel--'even the salvation of our souls.'

Thus, dear brethren, this gospel, the gospel of the Divine Christ that
died for our sins, and lives to give His Spirit to all waiting hearts;
this is the true grace of God. It is very needful for us to keep in view
always that lofty conception of what this gospel is, that we may not
bring it down to the level of a mere theory of religion; nor think of it
as a mere publication of dry doctrines; that we may not lose sight of
what is the heart of it all, but may recognise this fact, that a gospel
out of which are struck, or in which are diminished, the truths of the
sacrifice of Christ and His ever-living intercession for us, is not the
true grace of God, and is neither a revelation of His love to inferior
and sinful men, nor a communication of His gifts to our weakness. Let us
remember Peter's witness. This--the full gospel of incarnation,
sacrifice, resurrection, ascension, and reign in glory, and return as
Judge--this, and nothing else, 'is the true grace of God.' And this
gospel is not exalted to its highest place unless it is regarded as such
by our waiting and recipient hearts.

Further, what right had this man to take this position and say, 'I
testify that this is the true grace of God'? He was no great genius; he
did not know anything about comparative religion, which is nowadays
supposed to be absolutely essential to understanding any one religion.
He was not a scholar or a philosopher. What business had he to bring in
his personality thus, as if he were an authority, and say, '_I_ testify
that this is the true grace of God'?

Well there are two or three answers: one peculiar to him and others
common to all Christian people. The one peculiar to him is, as I
believe, that he was conscious, and rightly conscious, that Jesus Christ
had bestowed upon him the power to witness, and the authority to impose
his testimony upon men as a word from God. In the most inartificial and
matter-of-course way Peter here lets us see the apostolic conception of
apostolic authority. He had a right--not because of what he was
himself, but because of the authority which Christ had conferred on
him--to say to men, 'I do not ask you to give heed to me, Peter. I
myself also am a man (as he said to Cornelius), but I call on you to
accept Christ's word, spoken through me, His commissioned messenger,
when _I_ testify, and through me Christ testifies, that this is the true
grace of God.'

Now no one but an apostle has the right to say that; but we Christian
people have a right to say something like it, and if we have not
apostolic authority, we may have what is very nearly as good, and
sometimes as powerful in its effect upon other people, and that is
authority based on personal experience. If we have plunged deep into the
secrets of God, and lived closely and faithfully in communion with Him,
and for ourselves have found the grace of God, His love and the gifts of
His love, coming into our lives, and ennobling, calming, elevating each
of us; then we, too, have a right to go to men and say, 'Never mind
about me; never mind about whether I am wise or foolish, I do not argue,
but I tell you I have tasted the manna, and it is sweet. I have drunk of
the water, and it comes cool and fresh from the rock. One thing I know,
that whereas I was blind, now I see. I believed, and therefore have I
spoken, and on the strength of my own tasting of it, I testify that
this, which has done so much for me, is the true grace of God.' If we
testify thus, and back up our witness with lives corresponding, some who
are wholly untouched by a preacher's eloquence and controversialists'
arguments, will probably be led by our attestation to make the
experiment for themselves. 'Ye are My witnesses,' says God. He did not
say, 'Ye are my advocates.' He did not bid us argue for Him, but He bid
us witness for Him.

II. Further, notice Peter's exhortation.

According to the right rendering the last clause is, as I have already
said, 'in which stand fast.' The translation in the Authorised Version,
'in which ye stand,' gives a true thought, though not the Apostle's
intention here. For, as a matter of fact, men cannot stand upright and
firm unless their feet are planted on the rock of that true grace of
God. If our heels are well fixed on it, then our goings will be
established. It is no use talking to men about steadfastness of purpose,
stability of life, erect independence, resistance to antagonistic
forces, and all the rest, unless you give them something to stand upon.
If you talk so to a man who has his foot upon shifting sands or slippery
clay; the more he tries the deeper will he sink into the one, or slide
the further upon the other. The best way to help men to stand fast is to
give them something to stand upon. And the only standing ground that
will never yield, nor collapse, nor, like the quicksand with the tide
round it, melt away, we do not know how, from beneath our feet, is 'the
grace of God.' Or, as Dr. Watts says, in one of his now old-fashioned
hymns:--

    'Lo! on the solid Rock I stand,
     And all beside is shifting sand.'

However, that is not what the Apostle Peter meant. He says, 'See that
you keep firmly your position in reference to this true grace of God.'
Now I am not going to talk to you about intellectual difficulties in the
way of hearty and whole-souled acceptance of the gospel
revelation--difficulties which are very real and very widespread in
these days, but which possibly very slightly affect us; at least I hope
so.

But whilst these slay their thousands, the difficulties that affect us
all in the way of keeping a firm hold on, or firm standing in (for the
two metaphors coalesce) the gospel, which is the true grace of God, are
those that arise from two causes working in combination. One is our own
poor weak hearts, wavering wills, strong passions, unbridled desires,
forgetful minds; and the other is all that army and babel of seductions
and inducements, in occupations legitimate and necessary, in enjoyments
which are in themselves pure and innocent, in family delights, in home
engagements, in pursuits of commerce or of daily business--all that
crowd of things that tempt us to forget the true grace and to wander
away in a foolish and vain search after vain and foolish substitutes.

Dear brethren, it is not so much because there are many adversaries in
the intellectual world as because we are such weak creatures ourselves,
and the world around us is so strong against us, that we need to say to
one another and to ourselves, over and over again, 'Stand ye fast
therein.' You cannot keep hold of a rope even, without the act of
grasping tending to relax, and there must be a conscious and repeated
tightening up of the muscles, or the very cord on which we hang for
safety will slip through our relaxed palms. And however we may be
convinced that there are no hope and no true blessedness for us except
in keeping hold of God, we need that grasp to be tightened up by daily
renewed efforts, or else it will certainly become slack, and we shall
lose the thing that we should hold fast. So my text exhorts us against
ourselves, and against the temptations of the world, which are always
present with us, and are far more operative in bringing down the
temperature of the Christian Church, and of its individual members,
than any chilling that arises from intellectual doubts.

And how are we to obey the exhortation? Well, plainly, if 'this' is the
revelation of God in Jesus Christ, 'the true grace of God' which alone
will give stability to our feet, then we 'shall not stand fast' in it
unless we make conscious efforts to apprehend, and comprehend, and keep
hold of it in our minds as well as in our hearts. May I say one very
plain word? I am very much afraid that people do not read their Bibles
very much now (or if they do read them, they do not study them), and
that anything like an intelligent familiarity with the whole sweep of
the great system (for it is a system) of Divine truth, evolved 'at
sundry times and in divers manners' in this Word, is a very rare thing
amongst even good people. They listen to sermons, with more or less
attention; they read newspapers, no doubt; they read good little books,
and magazines, and the like; and volumes that profess to be drawn from
Scripture. These are all right and good in their place. But sure I am
that a robust and firm grasp of the gospel, 'which is the grace of God,'
is not possible with a starvation diet of Scripture. And so I would say,
try to get hold of the depth and width of meaning in the Word.

Again, try to keep heart and mind in contact with it amidst distractions
and daily duties. Try to bring the principles of the New Testament
consciously to bear on the small details of everyday life. Do you look
at your day's work through these spectacles? Does it ever occur to you,
as you are going about your business, or your profession, or your
domestic work, to ask yourselves what bearing the gospel and its truths
have upon these? If my ordinary, so-called secular, avocations are
evacuated of reference to, and government by, the Word of God, I want
to know what of my life is left as the sphere in which it is to work.
There is no need that religion and daily life should be kept apart as
they are. There is no reason why the experience of to-day, in shop, and
counting-house, and kitchen, and study, should not cast light upon, and
make more real to me, 'the true grace of God.' Be sure that you desire,
and ask for, and put yourself in the attitude of receiving, the gifts of
that love, which are the graces of the Christian life. And when you have
got them, apply them, 'that you may be able to withstand in the evil
day; and, having done all, to stand.'



THE CHURCH IN BABYLON

     'The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth
      you ...'--1 Peter v. 13.


We have drawn lessons in previous addresses from the former parts of the
closing salutations of this letter. And now I turn to this one to see
what it may yield us. The Revised Version omits 'the church,' and
substitutes 'she'; explaining in a marginal note that there is a
difference of opinion as to whether the sender of the letter is a
community or an individual. All the old MSS., with one weighty
exception, follow the reading 'she that is in Babylon.' But it seems so
extremely unlikely that a single individual, with no special function,
should be bracketed along with the communities to whom the letter was
addressed, as 'elected together with' them, that the conclusion that the
sender of the letter is a church, symbolically designated as a 'lady,'
seems the natural one.

Then there is another question--where was Babylon? An equal diversity
of opinion has arisen about that. I do not venture to trouble you with
the arguments _pro_ and _con_, but only express my own opinion that
'Babylon' means Rome.

We have here the same symbolical name as in the Book of Revelation,
where, whatever further meanings are attached to the designation, it is
intended primarily as an appellation for the imperial city, which has
taken the place filled in the Old Testament by Babylon, as the
concentration of antagonism to the Kingdom of God.

If these views of the significance of the expression are adopted we have
here the Church in Rome, the proud stronghold of worldly power and
hostility, sending its greetings to the scattered Christian communities
in the provinces of what is now called Asia Minor. The fact of such
cordial communications between communities separated by so many
contrarieties as well as by race and distance, familiar though it is,
may suggest several profitable considerations, to which I ask your
attention.

I. We have here an object lesson as to the uniting power of the gospel.

Just think of the relations which, in the civil world, subsisted between
Rome and its subject provinces; the latter, with bitter hatred in their
hearts to everything belonging to the oppressing city, having had their
freedom crushed down and their aspirations ruthlessly trampled upon; the
former, with the contempt natural to metropolitans in dealing with
far-off provincials. The same kind of relationship subsisted between
Rome and the outlying provinces of its unwieldly empire as between
England, for instance, and its Indian possessions. And the same uniting
bond came in which binds the Christian converts of these Eastern lands
of ours to England by a far firmer bond than any other. There was
springing up amidst all the alienation and hatred and smothered
rebellion a still incipient, but increasing, and even then strong bond
that held together Roman Christians and Cappadocian believers. They were
both 'one in Christ Jesus.' The separating walls were high, but,
according to the old saying, you cannot build walls high enough to keep
out the birds; and spirits, winged by the common faith, soared above all
earthly-made distinctions and met in the higher regions of Christian
communion. When the tide rises it fills and unifies the scattered pools
on the beach. So the uniting power of Christian faith was manifest in
these early days, when it bound such discordant elements together, and
made 'the church that was in Babylon' forget that they were to a large
extent Romans by birth, and stretch out their hands, with their hearts
in them, to the churches to whom this letter was sent.

Now, brethren, our temptation is not so much to let barriers of race and
language and distance weaken our sense of Christian community, as it is
to let even smaller things than these do the same tragical office for
us. And we, as Christian people, are bound to try and look over the
fences of our 'denominations' and churches, and recognise the wider
fellowship and larger company in which all these are merged. God be
thanked! there are manifest tokens all round us to-day that the age of
separation and division is about coming to an end. Yearnings for unity,
which must not be forced into acts too soon, but which will fulfil
themselves in ways not yet clear to any of us, are beginning to rise in
Christian hearts. Let us see to it, dear friends, that we do our parts
to cherish and to increase these, and to yield ourselves to the uniting
power of the common faith.

II. We note, further, the clear recognition here of what is the strong
bond uniting all Christians.

Peter would probably have been very much astonished if he had been told
of the theological controversies that were to be waged round that word
'elect.' The emphasis here lies, not on 'elect,' but on 'together.' It
is not the thing so much as the common possession of the thing which
bulks largely before the Apostle. In effect he says, 'The reason why
these Roman Christians that have never looked you Bithynians in the face
do yet feel their hearts going out to you, and send you their loving
messages, is because they, in common with you, have been recipients of
precisely the same Divine act of grace.' We do not now need to discuss
the respective parts of man and God in it, nor any of the interminable
controversies that have sprung up around the word. God had, as the fact
of their possession of salvation showed, chosen Romans and Asiatics
together to be heirs of eternal life. By the side of these transcendent
blessings which they possessed in common, how pitiably small and
insignificant all the causes which kept them apart looked and were!

And so here we have a partial parallel to the present state of
Christendom, in which are seen at work, on one hand, superficial
separation; on the other, underlying unity. The splintered peaks may
stand, or seem to stand, apart from their sister summits, or may frown
at each other across impassable gorges, but they all belong to one
geological formation, and in their depths their bases blend
indistinguishably into a continuous whole. Their tops are miles apart,
but beneath the surface they are one. And so the things that bind
Christian men together are the great things and the deepest things; and
the things that part them are the small and superficial ones. Therefore
it is our wisdom--not only for the sake of the fact of our unity and for
the sake of our consciousness of unity, but because the truths which
unite are the most important ones--that they shall bulk largest in our
hearts and minds. And if they do, we shall know our brother in every man
that is like-minded with us towards them, whatever shibboleth may
separate us. I spoke a moment ago about the separate pools on the beach,
and the tide rising. When the tide goes down, and the spiritual life
ebbs, the pools are parted again. And so ages of feeble spiritual
vitality have been ages of theological controversy about secondary
matters; and ages of profound realisation by the Church of the great
fundamentals of gospel truth have been those when its members were drawn
together, they knew not how. Hence they can say of and to each other,
'Elect together with you.'

Brethren, for the sake of the strength of our own religious life, do not
let us fix our attention on the peculiarities of our sects, but upon the
catholic truths believed everywhere, always, by all. Then we shall 'walk
in a large place,' and feel how many there are that are possessors of
'like precious faith' with ourselves.

III. Then, lastly, we may find here a hint as to the pressing need for
such a realisation of unity.

'The church that is in Babylon' was in a very uncongenial place. Thank
God, no Babylon is so Babylonish but that a Church of God may be found
planted in it. No circumstances are so unfavourable to the creation and
development of the religious life but that the religious life may grow
there. An orchid will find footing upon a bit of stick, because it draws
nourishment from the atmosphere; and they who are fed by influx of the
Divine Spirit may be planted anywhere, and yet flourish in the courts of
our God. So 'the church that is in Babylon' gives encouragement as to
the possibility of Christian faith being triumphant over adverse
conditions.

But it also gives a hint as to the obligation springing from the
circumstances in which Christian people are set, to cultivate the sense
of belonging to a great brotherhood. Howsoever solitary and surrounded
by uncongenial associations any Christian man may be, he may feel that
he is not alone, not only because his Master is with him, but because
there are many others whose hearts throb with the same love, whose lives
are surrounded by the same difficulties. It is by no means a mere piece
of selfish consolation which this same Apostle gives in another part of
his letter, when he bids the troubled so be of good cheer, as
remembering that the 'same afflictions were accomplished in the
brotherhood which is in the world.' He did not mean to say, 'Take
comfort, for other people are as badly off as you are,' but he meant to
call to the remembrance of the solitary sufferer the thousands of his
brethren who were 'dreeing the same weird' in the same uncongenial
world.

If thus you and I, Christian men, are pressed upon on all sides by such
worldly associations, the more need that we should let our hearts go out
to the innumerable multitude of our fellows, companions in the
tribulation, and patience, and kingdom of Jesus Christ. Precisely
because the Roman believers were in Babylon, they were glad to think of
their brethren in Asia. Isolated amidst Rome's splendours and sins, it
was like a breath of cool air stealing into some banqueting house heavy
with the fumes of wine, or some slaughter-house reeking with the smell
of blood, to remember these far-off partakers of a purer life.

But if I might for a moment diverge, I would venture to say that in the
conditions of thought, and the tendencies of things in our own and other
lands, it is more than ever needful that Christian people should close
their ranks, and stand shoulder to shoulder. For men who believe in a
supernatural revelation, in the Divine Christ, in an atoning Sacrifice,
in an indwelling Spirit, are guilty of suicidal folly if they let the
comparative trivialities that part them, separate God's army into
isolated groups, in the face of the ordered battalions that are
assaulting these great truths.

Because persecution was beginning to threaten and rumble on the horizon,
like a rising thundercloud, it was the more needful, in Peter's time,
that Christians parted by seas, by race, language, and customs, should
draw together. And for us, fidelity to our testimony and loyalty to our
Master, to say nothing of common sense and the instinct of
self-preservation, command Christian men in this day to think more, and
to speak more, and to make more, of the great verities which they all
possess in common.

Thus, brethren, living in Babylon, we should open our windows to
Jerusalem; and though we dwell here as aliens, we may say, 'We are come
unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem; to an
innumerable company of angels; to the spirits of just men made perfect;
and to the Church of the first-born whose names are written in Heaven.'



MARCUS, MY SON

     '... So doth Marcus, my son.'--1 Peter v. 13.


The outlines of Mark's life, so far as recorded in Scripture, are
familiar. He was the son of Mary, a woman of some wealth and position,
as is implied by the fact that her house was large enough to accommodate
the 'many' who were gathered together to pray for Peter's release. He
was a relative, probably a cousin (Col. iv. 10, Revised Version), of
Barnabas, and possibly, like him, a native of Cyprus. The designation of
him by Peter as 'my son' naturally implies that the Apostle had been the
instrument of his conversion. An old tradition tells us that he was the
'young man' mentioned in his Gospel who saw Christ arrested, and fled,
leaving his only covering in the captor's hands. However that may be, he
and his relatives were early and prominent disciples, and closely
connected with Peter, as is evident from the fact that it was to Mary's
house that he went after his deliverance. Mark's relationship to
Barnabas made it natural that he should be chosen to accompany him and
Paul on their first missionary journey, and his connection with Cyprus
helps to account for his willingness to go thither, and his
unwillingness to go further into less known ground. We know how he left
the Apostles, when they crossed from Cyprus to the mainland, and
retreated to his mother's house at Jerusalem. We have no details of the
inglorious inactivity in which he spent the time until the proposal of a
second journey by Paul and Barnabas. In the preparations for it, the
foolish indulgence of his cousin, far less kind than Paul's wholesome
severity, led to a rupture between the Apostles, and to Barnabas
setting off on an evangelistic tour on his own account, which received
no sympathy from the church at Antioch, and has been deemed unworthy of
record in the Acts.

Then followed some twelve years or more, during which Mark seems to have
remained quiescent; or, at all events, he does not appear to have had
any work in connection with the great Apostle. Then we find him
reappearing amongst Paul's company when he was in prison for the first
time in Rome; and in the letters to Colossæ he is mentioned as being a
comfort to the Apostle then. He sends salutations to the Colossians, and
is named also in the nearly contemporaneous letter to Philemon.
According to the reference in Colossians, he was contemplating a journey
amongst the Asiatic churches, for that in Colossæ is bidden to welcome
him. Then comes this mention of him in the text. The fact that Mark was
beside Peter when he wrote seems to confirm the view that Babylon here
is a mystical name for Rome; and that this letter falls somewhere about
the same date as the letters to Colossæ and Philemon. Here again he is
sending salutations to Asiatic churches. We know nothing more about him,
except that some considerable time after, in Paul's last letter, he asks
Timothy, who was then at Ephesus, the headquarters of the Asiatic
churches, to 'take Mark,' who, therefore, was apparently also in Asia,
'and bring him' with him to Rome; 'for,' says the Apostle, beautifully
referring to the man's former failure, 'he is profitable to me for'--the
very office that he had formerly flung up--'the ministry.'

So, possibly, he was with Paul in his last days. And then, after that,
tradition tells us that he attached himself more closely to the Apostle
Peter; and, finally, at his direction and dictation, became the
evangelist who wrote the 'Gospel according to Mark.'

Now that is his story; and from the figure of this 'Marcus, my son,' and
from his appearance here in this letter, I wish to gather two or three
very plain and familiar lessons.

I. The first of them is the working of Christian sympathy.

Mark was a full-blooded Jew when he began his career. 'John, whose
surname was Mark,' like a great many other Jews at that time, bore a
double name--one Jewish, 'John,' and one Gentile, 'Marcus.' But as time
goes on we do not hear anything more about 'John,' nor even about 'John
Mark,' which are the two forms of his name when he is first introduced
to us in the Acts of the Apostles, but he finally appears to have cast
aside his Hebrew and to have been only known by his Roman name. And that
change of appellation coincides with the fact that so many of the
allusions which we have to him represent him as sending messages of
Christian greeting across the sea to his Gentile brethren. And it
further coincides with the fact that his gospel is obviously intended
for the use of Gentile Christians, and, according to an old and reliable
tradition, was written in Rome for Roman Christians. All of which facts
just indicate two things, that the more a man has real operative love to
Jesus Christ in his heart, the more he will rise above all limitations
of his interests, his sympathy, and his efforts, and the more surely
will he let himself out, as far as he can, in affection towards and
toils for all men.

This change of name, though it is a mere trifle, and may have been
adopted as a matter of convenience, may also be taken as reminding us
of a very important truth, and that is, that if we wish to help people,
the first condition is that we go down and stand on their level, and
make ourselves one with them, as far as we can. And so Mark may have
said, 'I have put away the name that parts me from these Gentiles, for
whom I desire to work, and whom I love; and I take the name that binds
me to them.' Why, it is the very same principle, in a small
instance--just as a raindrop that hangs on the thorn of a rose-bush is
moulded by the same laws that shape the great sphere of the central
sun--it is a small instance of the great principle which brought Jesus
Christ down into the world to die for us. You must become like the
people that you want to help. 'Forasmuch as the children were partakers
of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same, that
He might deliver them.' And so, not only the duty of widening our
sympathies, but one of the supreme conditions of being of use to
anybody, are set forth in the comparatively trifling incident, which we
pass by without noticing it, that this man, a Jew to his finger-tips,
finally found himself--or, rather, finally was carried, for it was no
case of unconscious drifting--into the position of a messenger of the
Cross to the Gentiles; and for the sake of efficiency in his work, and
of getting close by the side of people whom he wanted to influence,
flung away deliberately that which parted him from them. It is a small
matter, but a little window may show a very wide prospect.

II. The history of Mark suggests the possibility of overcoming early
faults.

We do not know why he refused to bear the burden of the work that he had
so cheerily begun. Probably the reason that I have suggested may have
had something to do with it. When he started he did not bargain for
going into unknown lands, in which there were many toils to be
encountered. He was willing to go where he knew the ground, and where
there were people that would make things easy for him; but when Paul
went further afield, Mark's courage ebbed out at his finger ends, and he
slunk back to the comfort of his mother's house in Jerusalem. At all
events, whatever his reason, his return was a fault; or Paul would not
have been so hard upon him as he was. The writer of the Acts puts Paul's
view of the case strongly by the arrangement of clauses in the sentence
in which he tells us that the Apostle 'thought not good to take him with
them who withdrew from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to
the work.' If he thus threw down his tools whenever he came to a little
difficulty, and said, 'As long as it is easy work, and close to the base
of operations, I am your man, but if there is any sacrifice wanted you
must look out for somebody else,' he was not precisely a worker after
Paul's own heart. And the best way to treat him was as the Apostle did;
and to say to Barnabas' indulgent proposal, 'No! he would not do the
work before, and now he shall not do it.' That is often God's way with
us. It brings us to our senses, as it brought Mark to his.

We do not know how long it took to cure Mark of his early fault, but he
was thoroughly cured. The man that was afraid of dangers and
difficulties and hypothetical risks in Asia Minor became brave enough to
stand by the Apostle when he was a prisoner, and was not ashamed of his
chain. And afterwards, so much had he won his way into the Apostle's
confidence, and made himself needful for him by his services and his
sweetness, that the lonely prisoner, with the gibbet or headsman's
sword in prospect, feels that he would like to have Mark with him once
more, and bids Timothy bring him with himself, for 'he is profitable to
me for the ministry.' 'He can do a thousand things that a man like me
cannot do for himself, and he does them all for love and nothing for
reward.' So he wants Mark once more. And thus not only Paul's
generosity, but Mark's own patient effort had pasted a clean sheet over
the one that was inscribed with the black story of his desertion, and he
became 'profitable for' the task that he had once in so petulant and
cowardly a way, flung up.

Well, translate that from the particular into the general and it comes
to this. Let no man set limits to the possibilities of his own
restoration, and of his curing faults which are most deeply rooted
within himself. Hope and effort should be boundless. There is nothing
that a Christian man may not reach, in the way of victory over his worse
self, and ejection of his most deeply-rooted faults, if only he will be
true to Jesus, and use the gifts that are given to him. There are many
of us whose daily life is pitched in a minor key; whose whole landscape
is grey and monotonous and sunless; who feel as if yesterday must set
the tune for to-day, and as if, because we have been beaten and baffled
so often, it is useless to try again. But remember that the field on
which the Stone of Help was erected, to commemorate the great and
decisive victory that Israel won, was the very field on which the same
foes had before contended, and _then_ Israel had been defeated.

So, brethren, we may win victories on the very soil where formerly we
were shamefully put to the rout; and our Christ with us will make
anything possible for us, in the way of restoration, of cure of old
faults, of ceasing to repeat former sins. I suppose that when a spar is
snapped on board a vessel, and lashed together with spun yarn and
lanyards, as a sailor knows how to do, it is stronger at the point of
fracture than it was before. I suppose that it is possible for a man to
be most impregnable at the point where he is naturally weakest, if he
chooses to use the defences that Jesus Christ has given.

III. Take another lesson--the greatness of little service.

We do not hear that this John Mark ever tried to do any work in the way
of preaching the gospel. His business was a very much humbler one. He
had to attend to Paul's comfort. He had to be his factotum, man of all
work; looking after material things, the commissariat, the thousand and
one trifles that some one had to see to if the Apostle's great work was
to get done. And he did it all his life long. It was enough for him to
do thoroughly the entirely 'secular' work, as some people would think
it, which it was in his power to do. That needed some self-suppression.
It would have been so natural for Mark to have said, 'Paul sends Timothy
to be bishop in Crete; and Titus to look after other churches;
Epaphroditus is an official here; and Apollos is a great preacher there.
And here am I, grinding away at the secularities yet. I think I'll
"strike," and try and get more conspicuous work.' Or he might perhaps
deceive himself, and say, 'more directly religious work,' like a great
many of us that often mask a very carnal desire for prominence under a
very saintly guise of desire to do spiritual service. Let us take care
of that. This 'minister,' who was not a minister at all, in our sense of
the word, but only in the sense of being a servant, a private attendant
and valet of the Apostle, was glad to do that work all his days.

That was self-suppression. But it was something more. It was a plain
recognition of what we all ought to have very clearly before us, and
that is, that all sorts of work which contribute to one end are one sort
of work; and that at bottom the man who carried Paul's books and
parchments, and saw that he was not left without clothes, though he was
so negligent of cloaks and other necessaries, was just as much helping
on the cause of Christ as the Apostle when he preached.

I wonder if any of you remember the old story about an organist and his
blower. The blower was asked who it was that played that great sonata of
Beethoven's, or somebody's. And he answered, 'I do not know who played,
but I blew it.' There is a great truth there. If it had not been for the
unknown man at the bellows, the artist at the keys would not have done
much. So Mark helped Paul. And as Jesus Christ said, 'He that receiveth
a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall receive a prophet's reward.'

IV. Take as the last lesson the enlarged sphere that follows
faithfulness in small matters.

What a singular change! The man who began with being a servant of Paul
and of Barnabas ends by being the evangelist, and it is to him, under
Peter's direction, that we owe what is possibly the oldest, and, at all
events, in some aspects, an entirely unique, narrative of our Lord's
life. Do you think that Peter would ever have said to him: 'Mark! come
here and sit down and write what I tell you,' if there had not been
beforehand these long years of faithful service? So is it always, dear
friends, 'He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also
in much.' That is not only a declaration that faithfulness is one in
kind, whatever be the diameter of the circle in which it is exercised,
but it may also be taken as a promise, though that was not the original
intention of the saying.

For quite certainly, in God's providence, the tools do come to the hand
that can wield them, and the best reward that we can get for doing well
our little work is to have larger work to do. The little tapers are
tempted, if I may use so incongruous a figure, to wish themselves set up
on loftier stands. Shine your brightest in your corner, and you will be
'exalted' in due time. It is so, as a rule, in this world; sometimes too
much so, for, as they say is the case at the English bar, so it is
sometimes in God's Church, 'There is no medium between having nothing to
do and being killed with work.' Still the reward for work is more work.
And the law will be exemplified most blessedly when Christ shall say,
'Well done! good and faithful servant. Thou hast been faithful over a
few things, I will make thee ruler over many things.'

So this far-away figure of the minister-evangelist salutes us too, and
bids us be of good cheer, notwithstanding all faults and failures,
because it is possible for us, as he has proved, to recover ourselves
after them all. God will not be less generous in forgiveness than Paul
was; and even you and I may hear from Christ's lips, 'Thou art
profitable to Me for the ministry.'



II. PETER



LIKE PRECIOUS FAITH

     '... Them that have obtained like precious faith with us through
      the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.'--2 Peter
      i. 1.


Peter seems to have had a liking for that word 'precious.' It is not a
very descriptive one; it does not give much light as to the quality of
the things to which it is applied; but it is a suggestion of one-idea
value. It is interesting to notice the objects to which, in his two
letters--for I take this to be his letter--he applies it. He speaks of
the trial of faith as being 'precious.' He speaks (with a slight
modification of the word employed) of Jesus Christ as being 'to them
that believe, precious.' He speaks of the 'precious' blood of Christ.
These instances are in the first epistle. In this second epistle we have
the words of my text, and a moment after, 'exceeding great and precious
promises.' Now look at Peter's list of valuables; 'Christ, Christ's
blood, God's promises, our Faith, and the discipline to which that faith
is subjected.' These are things that the old man had found out to be of
worth.

But then there is another word in my text that must be noted, 'like
precious.' It brings into view two classes, to one of which Peter
himself belongs--'us' and 'they.' Who are these two classes? It may be
that he is thinking of the immense difference between the intelligent
and developed faith of himself and the other Apostles, and the
rudimentary and infantile faith of the recent believers to whom he may
be speaking. And, if so, that would be beautiful, but I rather take it
that he is tacitly contrasting in his own mind the difference between
the Gentile converts as a whole, and the members of the Jewish community
who had become believers in Jesus Christ, and that he is repeating the
lesson that he had learned on the housetop at Joppa, and had had further
confirmed to him by the experience of Cæsarea, and that he is really
saying exactly what he said when he defended himself before the Council
in Jerusalem: 'Seeing that God had given unto them the like gift that he
did unto us, who was I, that I should withstand God?' And so he looks
out over all the Christian community, and ignores 'the middle wall of
partition,' and says, 'Them that have obtained like precious faith with
us.' I wish very simply to try to draw out the thoughts that lie in
these words, and cluster round that well-worn and threadbare theological
expression and Christian verity of 'faith' or 'trust.'

I. And the first thing that I would desire to point you to is, what we
learn here as to the object of faith.

Now those of you who are using the Revised Version will notice that
there is a very slight, but important, alteration there, from the
rendering in the old translation. We read in the latter: 'Like precious
faith with us _through_ the righteousness, ...' and that is a meaning
that might be defended. But the Revised Version says, and says more
accurately as far as the words go, and more truly as far as Christian
thought goes, 'them that have obtained like precious faith with us _in_
the righteousness.' Now, I daresay, it will occur to us all that that is
a departure from the usual form in which faith is presented to us in the
New Testament, because there, thank God! we are clearly taught that the
one thing which faith grapples is not a thing but a Person. Christian
faith is only human trust turned in a definite direction. Just as our
trust lays hold on one another, so the object of faith is, in the
deepest analysis, no doctrine, no proposition, not even a Divine fact,
not even a Divine promise, but the Doer of the fact, and the Promiser of
the promise, and the Person, Jesus Christ. When you say, 'I trust
so-and-so's word!' what you mean is, 'I trust _him_, and so I put
credence in his word.' And Christianity would have been delivered from
mountains of misconception, and many a poor soul would have felt that a
blaze of light had come in upon it, if this had been clearly proclaimed,
and firmly apprehended by preachers and by hearers, that the object of
trust is the living Person, Jesus Christ, and that the trust which
grapples us to Him is essentially a personal relation entered into by
our wills and hearts far more than by our heads.

All that is being apprehended by the Christian Church to-day a great
deal more clearly than it used to be when some of us were young. But we
have the defects of our qualities. And this generation is accustomed far
too lightly and superficially to say 'Oh! I do not care about doctrines.
I cleave to the living Christ!' Amen! say I. But there is another
question--What Christ is it that you are cleaving to? For our only way
of knowing a person with whom we have no external acquaintance is by
what we are told about him, and believe about him. And so, while we
cannot assert too strongly that faith or trust in the living Christ, and
not in a dogma, is the basis of real Christian life, we have need to be
very definite and sure as to what Christ--which Christ--it is that we
are trusting to? And there my text comes in, and tells us that faith is
to grasp Christ as our righteousness; and another saying of the Apostle
Paul's comes in, who for once speaks of faith as being faith not only in
the Christ, but in 'His blood':--

    'Jesus! Thy blood and righteousness,
     My beauty are, my glorious dress.'

Brethren! you will not get beyond that. The Christ, trusting in whom we
have life and salvation, is the Christ whose blood cleanses, whose
righteousness clothes us poor, sinful men. So, while proclaiming with
all emphasis, and rejoicing to press it upon all my brethren, that
salvation comes by personal trust in the Person, I supplement and fill
out, not contradict, that proclamation, when I further say that the
Person by trusting in whom we are saved, is the Jesus whose blood
cleanses and whose righteousness becomes ours. That righteousness is, in
our text, contemplated as God's, as being embodied in Christ's, that
from Him it may be imparted to us, if we will fulfil the condition on
which alone it can be ours, viz., faith. It becomes ours, by no mere
imputation which has not a reality at the back of it, but because faith
brings us into such a vital union with Jesus Christ as that His
righteousness, or at least a spark from the central flame, becomes ours,
not only in reference to our exemption from the burden of our guilt, but
in reference to our becoming conformed to the image of His dear Son, and
created anew in righteousness and holiness. The object of faith is
Christ, the Christ whose blood and righteousness cleanses and clothes
sinful souls.

II. Let me ask you to look, in the next place, to what this text
suggests to us about the worth of Christian faith.

Peter calls it precious. Consider its worth as a channel. There is a
very remarkable expression used in the Acts of the Apostles, 'The door
of faith.' A door is of little value in itself, worth a few shillings at
the most, but if it opens the way into a palace then it is worth
something. And all the preciousness that there is in faith comes, not
from its intrinsic value, but from the really precious things which it
gives into our hands. Just as the dyer's hand may be tinged with royal
purple, if he has been working in it, or a woman's hand may be scented
and made fragrant if she has been handling perfumes, so the hand of
faith takes tint and fragrance from that with which it is conversant. It
is precious because it is the channel by which all precious things flow
into our hearts and lives. If Ladysmith is, as I suppose it is,
dependent for its water supply on one lead pipe, the preciousness of
that pipe is not measured by what it would fetch if it were put up to
auction for its lead, but by that which flows through it, and without
which Death would come. And my faith is the pipe by which all the water
of life comes sparkling and rejoicing into my thirsty soul. It is the
opening of the door 'that the King of Glory may come in'; it is the
taking down of the shutters that the sunshine may blaze into the
darkened chamber; it is the grasping of the electric wire that the
circuit may be completed. God puts out His hand, and we lay hold of it.
It is not the outstretched hand from earth, but the down-stretched hand
from heaven that makes the tottering man stand. So, dear friends, let us
understand that salvation does not come as the reward of faith, but that
the salvation is _in_ the faith, because faith is the channel by which
all God's salvation pours into us. So there is nothing arbitrary in the
way of salvation, as some shallow thinkers seem to propose, and there is
no reason in the question, 'Why does God make salvation depend upon
faith?' God could not but make salvation depend upon faith, because
there is no other possible way by which the blessings which are gathered
together into that one great pregnant word 'salvation' could find their
way into a man's heart but through the channel of his trust. Have you
opened that channel? If you have not, you need not wonder it cannot be
otherwise--that salvation does not come unto you.

Consider its worth as a defence. The Apostle in one place speaks about
'the shield of faith.' But there is nothing in the belief that I am safe
to make me safe. It is very often a fatal blunder. All depends upon that
or Him, to which or whom I am trusting for my safety. Put yourself
beneath the true Shield--'The Lord God is a sun and shield'--and then
you will be safe. Your way of running into the strong tower which alone,
with its massive walls, protects us from all danger and from all sin, is
by trusting Him.

Just as light things on a ship's deck have to be lashed in order to be
secured and lie still, you and I have to lash ourselves to Jesus Christ;
then, not by reason of the lashings, but by reason of Him, we are
fastened and secured.

Consider the worth of faith as a means of purifying. This very Apostle,
in his great speech in Jerusalem, when vindicating the reception of the
Gentiles into the Church, spoke of God as having 'purified their hearts
by faith.' And here again, I say, there is no cleansing power in the
act of trust. Cleansing power is in that which, by the act of trust,
comes into my heart. Faith is not simple receptivity, not mere passive
absorbing of what is given, but it is the active taking by desire as
well as by confidence. And when we trust in Jesus Christ, His blood and
righteousness, there flows into our hearts that Divine life which, like
a river turned into a dung-heap, will sweep all the filth before it. You
have to get the purifying power by faith. Ay! and you have to utilise
the purifying power by effort and by work. 'What God hath joined
together, let not men put asunder.'

III. Now, lastly, note the identity of faith.

'_Like_ precious,' says Peter, and, as I said, there may be defended a
double application of the word, and two sets of pairs of classes may be
supposed to have been in his mind. I do not discuss which of these may
be the case, only I would suggest to you that from this beautiful
gathering together of all the diversities of the Christian character,
conception, and development into one great whole, we are taught that the
one thing that makes a Christian is this trust. That is the universal
characteristic; that is uniform, whatever may differ. Ah! how much and
how little it takes to make a Christian. 'Only faith?' you say. Yes,
thank God! not this, or that, not rites, not anything that a priest can
do to you. Not orthodoxy; not morality; these will come, but trust in
Christ and His blood and righteousness. England is a Christian country;
is it? This is a Christian congregation; is it? You are a Christian; are
you? Are you trusting in that Christ? If you are not; no! though you be
orthodox up to the eyebrows, and though seven or seven hundred
sacraments may have been given to you, and though you be a clean living
man--all that does not make a Christian, but _this_ does--'Like precious
faith with us in the righteousness of God and our Saviour.'

Again, this great thought of the identity or uniformity of the one
characteristic may suggest to us how Christian faith is one, under all
varieties of form. There never has been in the Christian Church again,
notwithstanding all our deplorable divisions and schisms, such a
tremendous cleft as there was in the primitive Church between the Jewish
and Gentile components thereof. But Peter flings this flying bridge
across that abyss, and knits the two sides together, because he knows
that away out yonder, amongst the Gentiles, and here in the little
circle of the Jewish believers, there was the one faith that unifies
all.

So, dear friends, there should be the widest charity, but no vagueness;
for the Christian faith in Him which unifies and bridges over all
differences, mental and theological, is the Christ by whose blood we are
cleansed, with whose righteousness we are made righteous.

Again, from the same thought flows the other, of the identity of the
uniform characteristic, at all stages of development or maturity. The
mustard-seed and the tree, 'which is greater than all herbs,' have the
same life in them. And the feeblest, tremulous little spark in some
heart, just kindled, and scarcely capable of sustaining itself, is one
with the flame leaping heaven-high, which lights up and cleanses the
whole soul. So for those in advance, humility, and for those in the
rear, hope. And something more than hope, for if you have the feeblest
beginning of tremulous trust, you have that which only needs to be
fostered to make you like Jesus Christ. Look at what follows our text:
'Add to your faith, virtue, and to virtue, knowledge,' and so on,
through the whole linked series of Christian graces. They all come out
of that trust which knits us to Him who is the source of them all. So
you and I are responsible for bringing our faith to the highest
development of which it is capable.

Alas! alas! are we not all like this very Apostle, who, in an ecstasy of
trust and longing, ventured himself on the wave, and as soon as he felt
the cold water creeping above his knees lost his trust, and so lost his
buoyancy, and was ready to go down like a stone? He had so little faith,
that he was beginning to sink; he had so much that he put out his
hand--a desperate hand it was--and cried, 'Lord, save me!' And the hand
came, and that steadied him, and bore him up till the water was beneath
the soles of his feet again. 'Lord! I believe; help Thou my unbelief!'



MAN SUMMONED BY GOD'S GLORY AND ENERGY

     '... His Divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain
      unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath
      called us to glory and virtue.'--2 Peter i. 3.


'I knew thee,' said the idle servant in our Lord's parable, 'that thou
wert an austere man, reaping where thou didst not sow, and gathering
where thou hadst not strewed. I was afraid, and went and hid my talent
in the earth.' Our Lord would teach us all with that pregnant word the
great truth that if once a man gets it into his head that God's
principal relation to him is to demand, and to command, you will get no
work out of that man; that such a notion will paralyse all activity and
cut the nerve of all service. And the converse is as true, namely, that
the one thought about God, which is fruitful of all blessing, joy,
spontaneous, glad activity, is the thought of Him as giving, and not of
demanding, of bestowing, and not of commanding. Teach a man that he is,
as the book of James has it,'the giving God,' and let that thought soak
into the man's heart and mind, and you will get any work out of him. And
only when that thought is deep in the spirit will there be true service.

Now that is the connection in which the words of my text come; for they
are laid as the broad foundation of the great commandment that follows:
'Beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, and to
your virtue knowledge,' and so on, all the round of the ladder by which
the Apostle represents us as climbing up to God. The foundation of this
injunction is--God has given you everything. You have got it to begin
with, and so do you set yourselves to work, and see that you make the
thing that is yours your own, and incorporate into your being and into
the very substance of your soul, and work out in all the blessed
activities of a Christian life, the gifts that His royal and kingly hand
has bestowed upon you. Take for granted that God loves you and gives you
His whole self, and work on in the fulness of His possessed gift.

That is the connection of the words before us. I take them just as they
lie in our passage, dealing first of all with this question--God's call
to you and me; how it is done. Now I do not know if I can venture to
indulge any remarks about Biblical criticism, but you will perhaps bear
with me just for a moment whilst I say that the people who know a great
deal more about such subjects than either you or I, agree with one
consent that the proper way of reading this verse of my text is not as
our Bible has it; 'Him that has called us _to_ glory and virtue,' but
'Him that hath called us _by_--by his own glory and virtue.' Do you see
the difference? In one case the language expresses the things in
imitation of the Divine nature to which God summons you and me when He
calls us. That is how our Bible has taken it; but the deeper thought
still is the things in that Divine nature and activity itself which
constitute His great summons and invitation of men to His side; and
these are the two, whatever they might be, which the Apostle here
describes in that rather peculiar and unusual language for Scripture,
'Who has called us by His own glory and His own virtue.' I venture to
dwell on these two points for a moment or two.

Now, first of all, God's glory. Threadbare and consequently vague as the
expression is in the minds of a great many people who have heard it with
their ears ever since they were little children, God's glory has a very
distinct and definite meaning in Scripture, and all starts, as I think,
from the Old Testament use of the expression, which was the distinct
specific name for the supernatural light that lay between the cherubim,
and brooded over the ark on the mercy-seat. The word signifies
specifically and originally the glory of God, and irradiation of a
material, though supernatural, symbol of His Divine and spiritual
presence. Very well, lay hold of that material picture, for God teaches
us as we do our children, with pictures. Take the symbol and lift it up
into the spiritual region, and it is just this: the glory of God in its
deepest meaning is the irradiation and the perpetual pouring out and out
and out from Himself, as the rays of the sun stream out from its great
orb, pouring out from Himself the light and the perfectness and the
beauty of His own self revelation. And I think we may fairly translate
and paraphrase the first words of my text into this: God's great way of
summoning men to Himself is by laying out His love upon them and letting
the fulness of that ineffable and uncreated light, in which is no
darkness at all, stream into the else blinded and hopeless lives and
hearts of men. Then the other side of the Apostle's thought seems to
me--if we will only strip it of the threadbare technicalities associated
with it--as great and wonderful, God's glory and God's virtue. A
heathenish kind of smack lingers about that word, both as applied to men
and as applied to God, and so seldom found in the New Testament; but
meaning here, as I venture to say, without stopping to show it--meaning
here substantially the same thing that we mean by that word energy or
power. You know old women in country places talk about the virtues of
plants. They do not mean by this the goodness of plants, but they mean
the occult powers which they suppose them able to put forth. We read in
one of the gospels that our Lord Himself said at one singular period of
His life that virtue had gone out of Him, meaning thereby not goodness
but energy. So I think we get a sufficient equivalent to the Apostle's
meaning if for the second two words of my text we read, 'He hath called
us by the glory, the raying out of his love, and He hath called us by
the activity and the energy, the power in action of His great and
illustrious Spirit.' So you see these two things, the light that streams
out of an energy which is born of the streaming light. These two things
are really at bottom but one, various aspects of one idea. Modern
physicists tell us that all the activity in the system comes from the
sun, and in the higher region all the activity comes from the sun, and
there is no mightier force in the physical universe than the sunlight.
Lightnings are vulgar, noisy, and limited in contrast. The
all-conquering force is the light that streams out, and so says Peter in
his vivid picturesque way--not meaning the mere talk of philosophy or
theology--the manifestation of the glory of God is the mightiest force
in the whole universe. It is not like the play of the moonbeam upon an
iceberg, ineffectual, cold, merely touching the death without melting or
warming it, but it rays out like the sun in the heavens, and the work
done by the light is mightier than all our work. By His glory, and by
the transcendent energies which reside in that illustrious manifestation
of the uncreated light, God summons men to Himself. Well, if that is
anything like fair exposition of the words before us, let me just ask
you before I go further to stop on them for one moment. If I may venture
to say so, put off your theological spectacles for a minute, and do not
let us harden this thought down with any mere dogma that can be selected
in the language of the creeds. Let us try and put it into words a little
less hackneyed. Suppose, instead of talking about calling, you were to
talk about inviting, summoning, beckoning; or I might use tenderer words
still--beseeching, wooing, entreating; for all that lies in the thought.
God summoning and calling, in that sense, men to Himself, by the raying
out of His own perfect beauty, and the might with which the beams go
forth into the darkness. Ah! is not that beautiful, dear brethren; that
there is nothing more, indeed, for God to do to draw us to Himself than
to let us see what He is? So perfectly fair, so sweet, so tender, so
strong, so absolutely corresponding to all the necessities of our
beings and the hunger of our hearts, that when we see Him we cannot
choose but love Him, and that He can do nothing more to call wandering
hearts back to the light and sweetness of His own heart than to show
them Himself. And so from all corners of His universe, and in every
activity of His hand and heart and spirit, we can hear a voice saying,
'Son, give me thine heart.' 'Oh! taste and see that God is good.'
'Acquaint now thyself with Him and be at peace; thereby good shall come
unto thee.'

But great and wonderful as such a thought seems to be when we look at it
in the freshness which belongs to it, do you suppose that that was all
that Peter was thinking about? Do you think that a wide, general, and if
you leave it by itself, vague utterance like that which I have been
indulging in, would give all the specific precision and fulness of the
meaning of the word before us? I think not. I fancy that when this
Apostle wrote these words he remembered a time long, long ago, when
somebody stood by the little fishing-cobble there, and as the men were
up to their knees in slush and dirt, washing their nets, said to them,
'Follow Me.' I think that was in Peter's estimate God's call to him by
God's glory and by God's virtue. And so I pause there for a moment to
say that all the lustrous pouring out of light, all that transcendent
energy of active love, is not diffused nebulous through a universe; it
is not even spread in that sense over all the deeds of His hand; but
whilst it is everywhere, it has a focus and a centre and a fire. The
fire is gathered into the Son, Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ in His manhood
and in His Deity; Jesus Christ in His life, passion, death,
resurrection, ascension, and kingly reign. The whole creation, as this
New Testament proclaims Him to us, is God's glory and God's virtue,
whereby He draws men to Himself. I cannot stay to dwell on that thought
as I should be glad to do. Let me just remind you of the two parts into
which it splits itself up; and I commend it, dogmatically as I have to
state it in such an audience as this--I commend it to the multitudes of
young men here present. The highest form of the Divine glory is Jesus
Christ, not the attributes with which men clothe the Divinity, not those
abstractions which you find in books of theology. All that is but the
fringe of the glory. And I tell you, dear friends, the living white
light at the centre and heart of all the radiance of the flame is the
light of life which is conveyed into the gentle Christ. As the Apostle
John has it, 'We beheld His glory.' Yes, and taking and binding together
the two words which people have so often treated against each other, 'We
beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full
of grace and truth,' the highest light in Him that says, 'I am the light
of the world'--very light of very light. As a much maligned document has
it,'very light of very light,' the brightness of His glory, the
irradiation of His splendour, and the express image of His person. And
as the light so the power. Christ the power; power in its highest,
noblest form, the power of patient gentleness and Divine suffering;
power in its widest sweep, 'unto every one that believeth'; power in its
most wondrous operation, 'the power of God unto salvation.' So I come to
you, I hope, with one message on my lips and in my heart. If you want
light, look to Christ. If you want to behold that unveiled face, the
glory of the Lord, turn to Him, and let His sunshine smite you on the
face as the light smote Stephen, and then you can say, 'He that hath
seen Him hath seen the Father.' My brother, the highest, noblest,
perfect, and, as I believe, final form in which all God's glory, all
God's energy, are gathered together, and make their appeal to you and
me, was when a Galilean peasant stood up in a little knot of forgotten
Jews and said to them, and through them to you and me, 'Come unto Me all
ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' He calls
by His glory and by His virtue.

Now still further. Confining myself as before to the words as they lie
here in this text, let me ask you to think, and that for a moment or two
only, on the great and wondrous purpose which this Divine energy and
light had in view in summoning us to itself. His Divine power hath given
unto us all things that pertain to life and all things that pertain to
godliness. Look at that! One of the old Psalms says: 'Gather my saints
together unto me, those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice;
assemble them all before my throne, and I will judge my people.' Is that
the last and final revelation of God's purpose of drawing men to Him? Is
that why He sends out His heralds and summons through the whole
intelligent creation? Nay, something better. Not to judge, not to
scourge, not to chastise, not to avenge. To give. This is the meaning of
that summons that comes out through the whole earth, 'Come up hither,'
that when we get there we may be flooded with the richness of His mercy,
and that He may pour His whole soul out over us in the greatness of His
gifts. This is God, and the perpetual activity summoning men to Himself
that there He may bless them. He makes our hearts empty that He may fill
them. He shapes us as we are that we may need Him and may recreate
ourselves in Him. He says, 'Bring all your vessels and I will fill them
full.' Now look in this part of my subject at what I may venture to call
the magnificent confidence that this Peter has in the--what shall I
say?--the encyclopædical--if I may use a long word--and universal
character of God. All things that pertain to life, all things that
pertain to godliness. And somebody says, 'Yes, that is tautology, that
is saying the same thing twice over in different language.' Never mind,
says Peter, so much the better, it will help to express the exuberant
abundance and fulness. He takes a leaf out of his brother Paul's book.
He is often guilty when he speaks of God's gifts of that same sin of
tautology, as for instance, 'Now unto Him who is able to do exceeding,
abundantly, above all'--there are four of them--'all that we can ask or
think.' Yes, in all forms language is but faint and feeble, weak and
poor in the presence of that great miracle of a love that passeth
knowledge and that we may know the heights and depths. And so says our
Apostle, 'All things that pertain to life, all things that pertain to
godliness.' The whole circle all round, all the 360 degrees of it, God's
love will come down and lie on the top of it as it were, superimposed,
so that there should not be a single gift where there is a flaw or a
defect. Everything you want of life, everything you want for godliness.
Yes, of course, the gift must bear some kind of proportion to the giver.
You do not expect a millionaire to put down half a crown to a
subscription list if he gives anything at all. And God says to you and
me, 'Come and look at My storehouses, count if you can those golden
vases filled with treasure, look at those massive ingots of bullion,
gaze into the vanishing distances of the infiniteness of My nature and
of My possessions, and then listen to Me. I give thee Myself--Myself,
that ye may be filled with all the fulness of God. All things that
pertain to life, all things that pertain to godliness. But I cannot pass
on from this part of my subject without venturing one more remark. It is
this: I do not suppose it is too minute, verbal criticism. This great
encyclopædiacal gift is represented in my text, not as a thing that you
are going to get, Christian men and women, but as a thing that you have
gotten. And any of you that are able to test the correctness of my
assertion will see I have thought the form of language used in the
original is such as to point still more specifically than in our
translation, to some one definite act in the past in which all that
fulness of glory and virtue of life and godliness was given to us men.
Is there any doubt as to what that is? We talk sometimes as if we had to
ask God to give us more. God cannot give you any more than He gave you
nineteen hundred years ago. It was all in Christ. Get a very vulgar
illustration which is altogether inadequate for a great many purposes,
but may serve for one. Suppose some man told you that there was a
thousand pounds paid to your credit at a London bank, and that you were
to get the use of it as you drew cheques against it. Well, the money is
there, is it not? The gift is given, and yet for all that you may be
dying, and half-dead, a pauper. I was reading a book only the other day
which contained a story that comes in here. An Arctic expedition, some
years ago, found an ammunition chest that Commander Parry had left fifty
years ago, safe under a pile of stones. The wood of the chest had not
rotted yet; the provisions inside of it were perfectly sweet, and good,
and eatable. There it had lain all those years. Men had died of
starvation within arm's length of it. It was there all the same. And
so, if I might venture to vulgarise the great theme that I try to speak
about, God has given us His Son, and in Him, all that pertains to life
and all that pertains to godliness. My brother, take the things that are
freely given to you of God.

And so that leads me to one last word, and it shall only be a word, in
regard to what our text tells us of the way by which on our side we can
yield to this Divine call, and receive this Divine fulness of gifts,
through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory. Through the
knowledge! Yes, well there are two kinds of knowledge, are there not?
There is the knowledge by which you know a book, for instance, on the
subject of study, and there is the knowledge by which you know one
another; and the kind of thing I mean when I say, 'I know mathematics,'
is entirely different to what I mean when I say, 'I know John, Thomas,'
or whoever he may be. And I venture to say that the knowledge, which is
the condition of receiving the whole fulness of the glory and the whole
fulness of the light, is a great deal more like the thing we mean when
we talk of knowing one another than when we talk of knowing a book. That
is to say, a man may have all the creeds and confessions of faith clear
in his head, and yet none of the life, none of the light, none of the
power, and none of the godliness. But if we know Him as our brother,
know Him as our friend, our sacrifice, our Redeemer, Lord, all in all;
know Him as our heaven, our righteousness, and our strength; if we know
Him with the knowledge which is possession; if we know Him with the
knowledge which, as the profoundest of the Apostles says, 'hath the
truth in life'; if we know Him, see then, 'This is life eternal, to
know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.'

Now, friends, my words are done. God is calling you. No, let us put it a
little more definitely than that--God is calling _thee_. There is no
speech nor language where His voice is not heard. His words are gone out
to the end of the world, and have reached even thyself. He calls thee,
oh! brother, sister, friend, that you and I may turn round to Him and
say, 'When Thou saidst, Seek ye my face, my heart said unto Thee, Thy
face, Lord, will I seek.' Amen.



PARTAKERS OF THE DIVINE NATURE

     'He hath given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that
      by these ye might be partakers of the Divine nature, having escaped
      the corruption that is in the world through lust.'--2 Peter i. 4.


'Partakers of the Divine nature.' These are bold words, and may be so
understood as to excite the wildest and most presumptuous dreams. But
bold as they are, and startling as they may sound to some of us, they
are only putting into other language the teaching of which the whole New
Testament is full, that men may, and do, by their faith, receive into
their spirits a real communication of the life of God. What else does
the language about being 'the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty'
mean? What else does the teaching of regeneration mean? What else mean
Christ's frequent declarations that He dwells in us and we in Him, as
the branch in the vine, as the members in the body? What else does 'he
that is joined to the Lord in one spirit' mean? Do not all teach that in
some most real sense the very purpose of Christianity, for which God
has sent His Son, and His Son has come, is that we, poor, sinful, weak,
limited, ignorant creatures as we are, may be lifted up into that solemn
and awful elevation, and receive in our trembling and yet strengthened
souls a spark of God? 'That ye may be partakers of the Divine nature'
means more than 'that you may share in the blessings which that nature
bestows.' It mea