Scripture Research - Vol. 5 - No. 2
(Inside front cover)
FOR THE PERFECTING (FULLY EQUIPPING) OF THE SAINTS
For the perfecting (literally: fully equipping or; adjusting or pre-paring; adjusting or restoring) of the saints; unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the Body of Christ: until we all attain unto the faith, and of the, (full) knowledge of The Son of Gods unto a full-grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of the Christ; that we may be no longer children (infants), tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of the error; but speaking the truth (truthing)) in love, may grow up into all things into Him, Who is The Head, even Christ; from whom all the Body fitly framed and knit together through that which every joint supplieth, according to the working in due measure of each several part, maketh the increase of the Body unto the building up of itself in love.
-- EPHESIANS 4:12-16
American Revised Version
The Emphasized Bible (circa 1870 to 74) J, B. Rotherham's translation of Ephesians 4:12-16
(See inside of front cover, Volume II of CHRISTIAN VALUES AND PRINCIPLES.)
Scripture Research, Inc., P.O. Box 51716 Riverside, CA 92517
Ewalt Memorial Bible School, Atascadero, California
Harold P. Morgan, Ph. D.
In Three Booklets
THAT YOU THROUGH HIS POVERTY MIGHT BECOME RICH
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though HE was rich, yet for your sakes HE became poor (literally: impoverished Himself), that you through HIS poverty might become rich."
--2 CORINTHIANS 8:9
American Revised Version (1901)
YOU ARE COMPLETE IN HIM
For in HIM (Christ) dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and you are complete in HIM, who is the Head of all principality (rule) and power (authority).
-- COLOSSIANS 2:9 & 10
Authorized King James Version (1611)
CHRISTIAN VALUES AND PRINCIPLES
Introduction . i
Section A - PRAYER AND SUFFERING . 2
The Christian's Highest Service: Prayer .. 2
Thorns in the Flesh . 8
Life's Advantages: Suffering 13
Why God's Fiery Crucible? .. .19
God's Especial Gift: Suffering .. 25
Section B CHRISTIAN CHARACTER
AND SERVICE ................ .. 30
A Christ-like Character .. 30
Liberty Through Restraint 37
Essence of the Christian Life .. 39
A Tale Soon Told 41
Two Men of Power (A Double Sonnet) ... 41
References (Source of Editorials) .42
These selected editorials by Dr. Harold P. Morgan on important Christian values for living were written during the nineteen forties and early fifties (1942 to 1953). The articles re-printed in these three volumes, with two exceptions so noted, were originally published in QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS, official organ of the Biblical Information Bureau.
Dr. Morgan was born in England and well schooled in the Hebrew and Greek languages, as well as the arts and sciences of his day. When a young man, he entered the Roman Catholic Church to become a friar in the Franciscan Order in Canada. In a few years he became disillusioned with the dogmas and traditions of the Catholic Church and resigned from the priesthood. When he joined the Catholic Church he abandoned his heritage in a wealthy Protestant English family. He never returned to England to claim his earthly inheritance even after he left the Roman Catholic Church or later after he embraced the Christian faith.
Shortly after departing from the priesthood, Dr. Morgan learned to know about God's redeeming grace and love and to know Christ as his personal Saviour through the witness of a Christian lay minister and his family. Dr. Morgan began his Christian ministry and witness in Canada. He was frequently invited into the home of a Christian business man in one of the large Canadian cities. Later a daughter of this man was to become the wife and life-long companion of Dr. Morgan in the Christian ministry. Soon after their marriage Dr. and Mrs. Morgan moved to the United States to continue their Christian witness for The Lord and became United States citizens. They always considered their American citizenship a great privilege .
Dr. Morgan was very active in evangelistic circles for some years, including several years in the Chicago area. In the late twenties (1920s) Dr. Morgan was dean of the Providence Bible Institute, Providence, Rhode Island. In 1961 this school was moved to the nearby city of Barrington and later became known as Barrington College. Dr. Morgan's large personal library of rare Biblical reference books, collected painstakingly through the years from old book stores in America and Europe, is now part of the
Providence-Barrington Bible College library. Each volume is labeled: "Harold P. Morgan Collection." In the early thirties (1930s) Dr. Morgan began a new school for Bible students and teachers in the city of Buffalo, New York. Dr. Morgan served as the founding president of the Buffalo Bible Institute during the mid-thirties. In 1961 the Institute was moved to a new and larger campus in West Seneca, a suburb of Buffalo, where men and women continue to be trained for the Christian ministry.
In the early nineteen-forties, Dr. and Mrs. Morgan moved from Buffalo, New York, to the midwest city of Bloomington, Illinois, where Dr. Morgan became director of the Biblical Information Bureau and editor of QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS. Late in the year of 1948 the Bureau headquarters were moved to Riverton, New Jersey, where Dr. Morgan continued to publish QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS until the time of his death in May, 1953.
During the forties and early fifties (1941 through 1952) Dr. and Mrs. Morgan visited our Bible study group in the greater Kansas City area once or twice a year. During these week long visits it was our privilege many times to hear Dr. Morgan expound The Scriptures at nightly meetings and on Sundays in the homes of Bible class members or in lecture rooms at the YMCA or YWCA. The believers who heard the voice of Dr. Morgan during those fruitful years were privileged to hear The Word of God expounded as few teachers in any generation are able to explain The Scriptures. Nehemiah 8:8.
After he came to know The Lord Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour, Dr. Morgan dedicated his life to witnessing for The Lord by oral and written ministry. After a long, arduous life of service, Dr. Morgan fell asleep in Christ, even as he had lived for Christ, possessing few of this world's goods.
During his lifetime Dr. Morgan turned away from several well-paying careers or positions to devote his full energies and talents to The Lord's work. He died, as he had wished, a very poor man in the things of the world, so that he and other believers could be spiritually rich in the things of Christ. Known only to God are all of those believers who, like the Apostle Paul, have in their own generation emulated the example of our Lord (2 Corinthians 8:9).
While we are greatly indebted to Dr. Morgan for his writings on important Biblical themes, we are also equally indebted to Mrs. Morgan who for many years faithfully typed, as a labor of love, the rough and final drafts of hundreds of manuscripts so that these articles could be printed for publication. As a young woman, Mrs. Morgan had dreamed of being a field missionary. Later she learned that she was to serve The Lord in a different way by assisting her husband in a life-long written ministry. For the past twenty-one years Mrs. Morgan has lived in quiet retirement near her only son and his family, or with her only daughter and family.
It is known to this writer through the privilege of personal fellowship that Dr. Morgan liked to take long walks alone into the countryside, particularly at night, when he could meditate and commune with God through earnest prayer. It is likewise known that Dr. Morgan spent much time on his knees before The Lord in his study or library asking direction in his writing. He and Mrs. Morgan also spent much time together in prayer before The Lord seeking guidance in their lives and in their ministry for Christ. One of the reasons for the spiritual depth of the editorials written by Dr. Morgan certainly was his continued communion with The Lord in prayer throughout his many years of witnessing for Christ.
Dr. Morgan was a controversialist by temperament and training. He published in his own periodical, QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS, many articles on controversial issues of the day. Some of the articles continue to be of current interest. However, when Dr. Morgan wrote his editorials on fundamental spiritual truths, he was writing at his best. In these articles he wrote about important principles for Christian living that are applicable in any generation or age.
The selected articles by Dr. Morgan are being reprinted at this time for the purpose of making these gems readily available to Bible students of today. All of these editorials have been copied from a personal set of the original issues of QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS which have been bound into two books for home study and reference use. Many pages of the first six volumes of this set, printed in Bloomington, Illinois during the years 1942 through 1948, are now yellow and fragile with age because newsprint was the only paper
available for printing these issues of the periodical during and immediately after World War II.
It is important that these editorials written by Dr. Morgan as a labor of love be made more easily available to believers of this generation and be preserved also for future generations to read.
All of these editorials have been carefully typed for reprinting by my wife, Jo. These articles are being printed and distributed by special arrangement with Ewalt Memorial Bible School, Atascadero, California. Russell Schaefer, director of Ewalt Memorial Bible School and editor of SCRIPTURE RESEARCH, has graciously offered his time and talents to print these memorial volumes.
May all believers who read these reprinted editorials have their attention directed anew to the all sufficiency of The Lord Jesus Christ, in whom we are complete (Colossians 2:9 & 10).
Nevin M. Wetzel
Thousand Oaks, California
by Harold P. Morgan
The Importance And Power Of Christian Prayer
With all prayer and supplication, praying at all seasons in the spirit and watching thereunto in all perseverance and supplication for all the saints, and on my behalf, that utterance may be given unto me in opening my mouth with boldness to make known the mystery (secret) of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in a chain, that in it I may speak boldly as I ought to speak.
Continue stedfastly in prayer, watching therein with thanksgiving; withal praying for us also, that God may open unto us a door for the word to speak the mystery (secret) of Christ, for which I am also in bonds (literally: have been bound), that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.
-- COLOSSIANS 4:2-4*
Rejoice in The Lord always; again I will say: Rejoice. Let your forbearance be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand (literally: at your wrist). In nothing be anxious, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which surpasseth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus."
-- PHILIPPIANS 4:4-7*
* All above quotations from the Scriptures are from the American Revised Version (Edition) of 1901.
PRAYER AND SUFFERING
THE CHRISTIAN'S HIGHEST SERVICE: PRAYER
There is a lesson which the Christian Church is slowly and painfully learning. It is that the highest service a man can render to his fellowman is to pray for him. Until a man has learned to intercede, he is of little value to the Church. Christian service reinforced by weak, intermittent prayer is too often the practice of the Church. If we are to make any progress in our efforts to have all men see what is the exalted position of believers in Christ, that order must be reversed, and the Church learn to depend on prayer reinforced by zealous service. Christian work that thinks and plans and bustles and toils, but forgets to pray, is an almost pathetic spectacle. Men who desert prayer in order to get to what they fondly call work, are like a stoker on a liner, who should put out his furnace fires and try to tow the ship into port himself. Yet, it is not altogether surprising that great men of prayer are few and far between. To become a man of prayer is to run counter to the spirit of the age. Our Western world glories in the strenuous life. It bows down to the idols of energy and force. What does it want with "mystics" and dreamers" who, so it is said, waste their time in prayer? Yet, if Christianity be true, it will no doubt turn out in the end that the so-called "dreamers" and "mystics" have done more than the very efficient, hustling "go-getters." It is they who have learned to set in motion that power which makes for righteousness.
It is important to realize that prayer, in the sense in which we are now considering it, is something far more than a subjective spiritual exercise. According to the witness of human experience, prayer is a force which achieves objective results. It actually causes things to happen which otherwise would not come about. The Biblical theory of prayer is that it is a force at work -- very effectual in its working is the prayer of a righteous man. This is a fact of tremendous significance.
Let us note the two main foundations for the statement that prayer is a working force. In the first place, it is indisputable that Christ Himself attached the greatest importance to intercessory prayer. He not only taught man to pray, but He Himself was dependent on prayer. This dependence was a part of His real humanity. His prayers were not only the medium of a holy intercourse, they were also the expression of a definite sense of need. It would appear from the Sacred Records that the power which He wielded in the physical as in the spiritual realm was secured by prayer. That power seems to have been given Him by His Father, as He needed it, and He asked or it. For Him prayer was the real battlefield of life. He fought His fight and won the victory in the secret place, and then moved among men with the calm assurance which belongs to one who is already conqueror. In view of His own experience, it is not to be wondered at that in His teaching He laid such stress on the importance of prayer. He took pains to make His disciples understand that in prayer they are given power. It is a subject on which He used the very plainest language; He was de-sirous to prevent any possibility of men misconceiving His words.
The other point is this: prevailing prayer is an indisputable fact of Christian experience. Explain it how you will, the fact remains, ever since God first revealed Himself as a God to Whom man may speak, men have prayed and prayer has been answered.
In spite of our Lord's teaching, and the seemingly clear witness of experience, not a few are held back from intercessory prayer by the real mental difficulties to which it gives rise. Is such prayer reasonable? Is it thinkable that we can really affect a man's life, by praying for him? Is it conceivable that the prayer of a weak, finite man can influence the purposes of the unchanging God? Is there room for prayer in a universe governed by immutable laws? Let it be said at once that no complete and final answer has yet been found, or is likely to be found, to these questions. Prayer is a mystery which, in this world at least, we shall never wholly fathom. But while it is not possible to demonstrate the working of prayer, as if it were a mathematical problem, we can at least note certain facts about God and man and the universe which are sufficient to show that prayer is reasonable.
First of all, let it be realized that God is free in His own universe. Of recent years we have become so obsessed with the thought of the rigid sequences of physical law, that we have almost forgotten the fact that God is not bound down to any particular series of sequences. He is free to carry out His plans by whatever chain of causation He may think best. And He has also, within certain limits, given freedom to man.
If, then, God is not irrevocably tied to any particular line of action, and if man is a free agent, it becomes conceivable that God, although His purposes are fixed, has left room for man's cooperation in carrying them out. No doubt He foresees the final goal, but it would seem that He leaves undecided the intermediate steps which lead there. No doubt also He could, if He so willed, dispense altogether with human cooperation; but in point of fact, it appears that, in certain cases at least, He waits for mans willingness, that is to say, He waits for man of his own accord to ask Him before He moves on to the accomplishment of His ends. To put it in other words, when a heart goes out to The Infinite Spirit of God in prayer, an actual force is exerted. God will not force man s will. He will not compel the sinner to become the saint.
Prayer only becomes illogical and impossible when you deny the freedom of God or of man or of both. Given this freedom -- and most of the facts of life and nature go to show it -- then prayer is reasonable. There are experiences in human life which throw light on the working of prayer. There is, for instance, the fact of telepathy. One of the things which has been established by psychological research is the reality of telepathic communication. On the surface we may seem to be sharply separated individuals, but, there is evidence of mysterious connections below the reach of consciousness, the separating wall of personality seems built on arches. And these connections down below the surface are quite independent of physical proximity. When you get down beneath the surface of your own self, it is a most mysterious truth; you come into contact with other people there; you touch the means of communication which connect you with people far away, you actually influence the thought and feeling of persons on the other side of the globe. It is one of the mysterious facts of modern psychology, but it is indisputable; and it reveals the truth which we have held all along, that by praying for people we directly help them;
that if you give yourself to prayer for a person, the very act of prayer brings you to the point where telepathic communication is carried become so obsessed with the thought of the rigid sequences of physical law, that we have almost forgotten the fact that God is not bound down to any particular series of sequences. He is free to carry out His plans by whatever chain of causation He may think best. And He has also, within certain limits, given freedom to man.
If, then, God is not irrevocably tied to any particular line of action, and if man is a free agent, it becomes conceivable that God, although His purposes are fixed, has left room for man's cooperation in carrying them out. No doubt He foresees the final goal, but it would seem that He leaves undecided the intermediate steps which lead there. No doubt also He could, if He so willed, dispense altogether with human cooperation; but in point of fact, it appears that, in certain cases at least, He waits for mans willingness, that is to say, He waits for man of his own accord to ask Him before He moves on to the accomplishment of His ends. To put it in other words, when a heart goes out to the infinite Spirit of God in prayer, an actual force is exerted. God will not force man s will. He will not compel the sinner to become the saint.
Prayer only becomes illogical and impossible when you deny the freedom of God or of man or of both. Given this freedom -- and most of the facts of life and nature go to show it -- then prayer is reasonable. There are experiences in human life which throw light on the working of prayer. There is, for instance, the fact of telepathy. One of the things which has been established by psycho-logical research is the reality of telepathic communication. On the surface we may seem to be sharply separated individuals, but, there is evidence of mysterious connections below the reach of consciousness, the separating wall of personality seems built on arches. And these connections down below the surface are quite independent of physical proximity. When you get down beneath the surface of your own self, it is a most mysterious truth; you come into contact with other people there; you touch the means of communication which connect you with people far away, you actually influence the thought and feeling of persons on the other side of the globe. It is one of the mysterious facts of modern psychology, but it is indisputable; and it reveals the truth which we have held all along, that by praying for people we directly help them;
that if you give yourself to prayer for a person, the very act of prayer brings you to the point where telepathic communication is carried right through to the soul far away; and that fact, which is familiar to us all, is becoming a scientific reality.
We pass on now to examine briefly some of the conditions of prevailing intercession, conditions laid down by The Lord Jesus Christ, and verified by human experience. Prayer should be in accordance with the will of God. In the recorded prayers of our Lord Himself there always sounds this same note of perfect harmony with His Father's will. And just in so far as a man is "in Christ," and enjoying that fellowship, so far will his thought and prayer be in harmony with the will of God. Moreover, be it remembered that praying for God's will to be done is not the mere passive acceptance of something already finished; rather is it the concentrated passion to see that will accomplished, to see it translated from purpose into achievement.
The first condition of prayer, strictly speaking, includes all the conditions of prevailing prayer, in that no prayer can conceivably prevail which is out of harmony with the mind of Christ. Prayer is ultimately based on character, and a Christ-like character comes only through the proximity of Christ's personality.
It seems an obvious thing to say that faith in God is an indispensable condition of effective prayer. Yet, if ever there were a time when it were necessary to reassert the importance of this condition, it is today. There are plenty who pray, but there are few who pray with the kind of faith which Christ evidently intended men to have. We limit God by the poverty of our expectations; we measure what He is likely to do by the dwarfed human standard of what we like to call reasonable probability. The natural and reverent way of approaching God is not to settle beforehand the limit of His power, not to conclude that He can only grant this or that request, but to take Christ at His word, to tell God everything, to come as a little child to a Father. We must, if we would become efficient intercessors, recover Christ's sense of what God is, and of what God will and can do. We must learn to expect according to the measure revealed by the faith and achievement of Christ.
Another condition on which Christ laid great stress was
persistency in prayer. Unwearying persistence in prayer may well be an essential factor in fitting us to receive that for which we plead. God delays to answer, not because He does not hear or does not love, but that He may thereby create the condition under which it shall be possible for Him to answer. We are not in a position to judge as to the fruitlessness of prayer. The answer may come in a form quite different from that which we expected. So that in any case there is no excuse for abandoning our prayers.
It is no easy thing to pray; prayer is in fact the most difficult and arduous work in which we can engage. The man who wants to pray is not miraculously exempted from the universal laws of human achievement; his faculty for prayer, like his ear for music, or his talent for painting, must be trained and developed. We can no more pray at will, without having carefully acquired the capacity, than we can perform on a musical instrument that we have never seen nor handled before. We must be prepared for frequent failure and consequent dissatisfaction. But time and effort are well spent, if we may so fit ourselves to engage in this, the highest work of all
THORNS IN THE FLESH
The Apostle Paul had been favored with a number of visions. If we read the Book of Acts attentively, we will be able to count no less than seven distinct visions with which, at different times, Paul had been favored, and then, besides these seven, there is the remarkable vision described in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians, which seems to be something distinct from all of them, standing alone by itself.
Now, in connection with visions and revelations there is a certain temptation to spiritual pride. Men who have visions and revelations are very liable to think that they are favorites of heaven; superior people, far higher in spirituality than other men. Would we not have been liable to boast of having received such an honor? But Paul seems to have kept his vision a profound secret for fourteen years. "I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago," 2 Corinthians 12:2. He remained silent about it all this time, and, as far as we know, said not a word about it before. How was he kept from being vain and puffed with conceit by these visions and revelations? Lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure." And this is how Paul introduces his celebrated saying about the "thorn in the flesh," to give in effect the thought of a counter-irritant, a correctional affliction to pride and self-exaltation.
This saying of Paul's has become historical. The "thorn in the flesh," has found its way into our language as a figure of speech. Most of us have a "thorn in the flesh," and so it is a very practical subject we have chosen to discuss, one which comes home to all at some time or other. Indeed, nothing can shield us from such untoward experiences. A man who has never felt a "thorn in the flesh" would be an exception. We would be inclined to believe him forgotten of God. But God forgets no one. An hour comes, and for many of us it has already struck, when "a thorn in the flesh" announces "It is your turn now."
Some years ago there was exhibited in Paris a celebrated picture by a contemporary artist, which depicts the calling of the roll of the condemned during the Reign of Terror. The prisoners have already received their sentence from the revolutionary Tribunal, and are huddled together under the vaults of the Concierge. In the background the door is open, and one can see the cart ready to haul its victims to the guillotine, while in front of it stands the commissary reading the names inscribed on the list of the doomed. Each is intently listening; some have already risen and are clasping their friends- in a last embrace; others have their faces contracted with anguish as they wait; still others affect a stoic disdain; they seem to say, "Today or tomorrow, what difference does it make? It is only a question of time." Now, that is true of us all; not one is forgotten upon the roll of those marked out for a "thorn in the flesh."
Let us ponder the words of Paul. "Lest I should be exalted above measure ... there was given me a thorn in the flesh." Just what was this particular thorn in the flesh? Critics are much perplexed concerning this pointed figure of speech and its interpretation. Some say the thorn in the flesh means the joint persecution of Jews and Gentiles; some say it was temptation to sensuality. But the general belief is that it was some type of physical pain. Then comes the question, "What kind?" Various guesses have been made, such as pleurisy, epilepsy, earache, headache. A sentence in Jerome speaks of Paul having been afflicted with headache, and so some have concluded that this was the particular thorn in the flesh.
There is the theory that the thorn in the flesh was some affliction of eyesight, founded on such considerations as these. We know that at the time of his conversion Paul was blinded with excess of light, and it is possible that this radiance might have left some weakness behind. Then in Galatians we find this curious phrase: "Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the Gospel unto you at the first. And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. Where is, then, the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me. Accordingly, it has been conjectured that the infirmity of the flesh was weakness of
eyesight, and that these good-natured Galatians would have given Paul their own eyes as a substitute had this been possible. Then further in Galatians we read: "Ye see how large a letter" ("with how large letters") "I have written unto you with mine own hand," as it were a big, scrawling, school-boy hand, just such a hand as might be written by a person with weak eyesight. Again, in his trial before the Jewish Council, Paul apologizes for not recognizing the High Priest. On these foundations there has been built up the not unlikely theory that the thorn in the flesh was weakness of eyesight.
What the thorn in the flesh was is really not so important to know. If it were necessary for us to know, we should no doubt have been told. The only important thing for us to ascertain is how it affected Paul, and how he treated it. The "thorn in the flesh," we read, was "the messenger of Satan." This is a curious expression, meaning evidently that Satan is the author and the inflictor of evil. You recollect in the story of Job, how his "thorn in the flesh" is said to have come from Satan, under Divine permission. Further, "There was given to me a thorn in the flesh, lest I should be exalted above measure," not as a punishment, but as a precaution.
"A thorn in the flesh!" It is a suggestive phrase. A little thing, so small that it is scarcely worth speaking of; a secret thing, perhaps invisible, an irritating, harassing, worrying thing; a pain, continuous and chronic, which is not serious or crippling but which you cannot forget. Pause for a moment, for this will make our meditation more useful, and while we speak of Paul's thorn in the flesh, think steadily about your own. The particular annoyance that worried you last week, the dark cloud that you are looking forward to with dread that it may envelop you -- what is your own particular thorn in the flesh? Is it some lingering physical pain? You bear it bravely, but it takes a great deal out of you. Is it some worrying matter of business that haunts you, so that you cannot help revolving it in your mind and having it disturb your sleep? Or, is it some family trouble, someone with whom you have to live who has a disagreeable disposition, or a provoking incompatibility? How many persons have in some form or another some such trial, which might well be called "a thorn in the flesh!"
"For this thing I besought the Lord thrice that it might depart from me." Then if you have a "thorn in the flesh" by all
means ask God to take it away. Paul prayed that his affliction might be removed, and a greater than Paul prayed that a trial far, far greater than a thorn in the flesh might be taken away. The Lord Jesus Christ prayed: "0, My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt." Always let us pray with submission to the Divine will, but as God's children let us pray simply and naturally, as any child of any father would do, that trouble may be averted if it be the will of God, that the thorn may be removed.
We once heard a hyper pious individual say, "We should not pray for thorns to be removed, but only for grace to bear them." Paul prayed for his to be removed; he also prayed for grace, we may be sure; but he repeatedly prayed as well for its removal. Let us always be honest and true in our prayers. The natural thing for us to do is to say: "Lord, take the thorn away." "For this thing I besought the Lord thrice" over and over again, a first time, a second time, and a third time. Paul persevered in prayer; he wrestled in prayer like Jacob. He prayed again and again and again. He prayed that the thorn may depart, and it did not depart. Was his prayer not answered? Every true prayer is answered. God always answers prayer, but not always as we wish or when we wish. The thorn was not taken away, but he was compensated for his affliction and in another way the prayer was answered.
"And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee, for strength is made perfect in weakness." Whose grace? The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. "My grace" -- the grace of submission, the grace of rest, the grace of confidence in The Father's love, the grace of perfect peace. Do not think of Paul just now, but rather think of him as a representative person, a human being sensitive like yourself, and then appropriate the gracious words. Yes, the infinite resources of an infinite God are sufficient for all conceivable needs of the children of men. Think of your thorn, whatever it may be; think of the special burden of care pressing upon you at this moment, and comfort yourself with these words, "When I am weak, then I am strong." How true this is! Often we are strongest when we are weakest, and are really weakest when we fancy that we are powerful and self sufficient.
Therefore should we pray for the removal of the thorn by all
means. "In everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanks-giving, let your request be made known unto God, and the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." God does not always take away the thorn, but He often takes away the pain of the thorn. He may not remove the specific trouble, but He does give grace and peace, which is something far better.
In eloquent, ever-memorable words Paul says: "I glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me; therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distress for Christ's sake, for when I am weak then am I strong." Note, the one qualifying sentence -- "for Christ's sake." It is only those who are really in Christ who can enter into the comfort of this Scripture. There is scant comfort in it for others. They have their thorns -- sharp ones and many, too -- but there is no promise of this grace for them. Paul is in Christ, living and working for Christ, enduring his labors and persecutions in Christ s cause and for Christ's sake. The keynote of his life is "for me to live is Christ," and so in his trials Christ's grace is given to him.
It is the Christian, and the Christian only, who has the comfort, the peace, that takes the sting from trouble and gives inward peace, that peace of mind or of soul which is so much sought for by our restless generation and advocated in some best selling books. He only is able to glory in infirmity, who enjoys the fulfillment of God's rich promises. And so, whatever the "thorn in the flesh" may be, let us "continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving."
LIFE'S ADVANTAGES: SUFFERING
It is a common experience with men to look upon pain as wholly evil. The human heart shrinks from it, just as the leaves of the sensitive plant curl up at the touch of one's finger. Some men and women will even do wrong in order to escape suffering. Whole branches of human industry are devoted to the work of preserving or delivering men from pain. And the ideal life of many persons is a pleasurable existence, a golden summer day without a cloud.
Deeper reflection, however, shows that suffering is not wholly evil, a thing to be utterly feared and hated. Scripture and human experience both testify that it is not a mere useless destructive force, like rust which dims the brightness and eats away the substance of iron, or like moldering decay which soon destroys the sweetest fruit, but that it is often an instrument employed by God for the good of men.
Let not anyone think that we treat suffering lightly when we say this. Full well do we know that the sighs and groans which float on every passing breeze, the cares which furrow many a brow, and the pains which rack many a human frame, are not to be talked about as mere trifles. The young and inexperienced may thus regard them, but not those who have themselves wept bitter tears and borne the heavy burden of sorrow. People who tread on the mountain tops of prosperity may speak carelessly about life's trials, but not those who have often descended into the valley of adversity. Suffering men need considerate treatment. Surely the kindest conduct is to convince them that there is a Divine purpose in earthly tribulation; that it is not the work of chance or fate, that "affliction cometh not forth of the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the ground."
A life without trials would be one of the worst things for man. What would be the moral effect, if it were possible for a person to go through this world from the cradle to the grave without pain of body or sorrow of heart? What would be the result, if such a man possessed as much wealth as he could desire, if he never wished for
power or fame without obtaining it, if he never found his plans fail nor his friends prove false? Under such circumstances his freedom from trouble would be a curse to him. His heart would be puffed up with pride, he would be unable to sympathize with his fellow-men in their trials; he would forget his God, and would cry in his self-sufficiency: "I am rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing," and yet, all the while, would be "poor and blind and naked."
Nothing which is a necessity of our nature is utterly evil. "Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward." Suffering is one of those things which no one can avoid in this imperfect state of existence. We may refuse to believe that sorrow will be our lot, we may dream of uninterrupted prosperity, but eventually we shall find that we too are frail mortals. We may employ every precaution to guard against the approach of trouble, but it will come from some unexpected source, just as a bird builds its nest for security in the topmost branch of a lofty tree, and then sees the fierce hawk swoop down upon its treasures. Suffering is the universal lot of man, a necessity of his present nature and conditions. It would be a reflection upon the Divine goodness to suppose that anything which must be is wholly and inevitably hurtful. Black clouds without a silver lining, dreary nights never to be followed by a fair dawn, fires of suffering which torture but do not purify, are not the conditions to which a Holy God dooms the children of men.
A great deal of pain is endured which cannot be termed punishment. Look for a moment at the animal creation. What sufferings are experienced by multitudes of birds and beasts! "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now," Romans 8:22, and yet animals do not bring all this trouble upon themselves by their own demerit. Think also of the sorrows which men unjustly endure, the cruel wrongs of oppressed peoples! What undeserved trials war brings upon thousands of innocent people who are driven from their homes! Then, too, men frequently suffer for righteousness sake, are despised and ill-treated because they will speak the truth and obey the voice of conscience! And is it possible that such sufferings, can be borne in vain? Our moral instincts rise up against the supposition. Wise purposes there must be in all these earthly trials.
The most highly gifted natures are the most susceptible of pain. Nothing is more certain than that the same outward influences are more hurtful to some people than to others. The surgeon's knife inflicts extreme agony on one person, and comparatively trifling pain on another. The biting sarcasm will deeply wound the sensitive heart, but will hardly make a dull nature wince. The same kind of sin will be a terrible burden to the Christian conscience, but will not cause the least uneasiness to the hardened sinner. The minds capable of the noblest thoughts and the deepest feelings, suffer most acutely. If then pain were utterly hurtful, it would be enough to make us wish for a narrower range of being. If suffering were an unmixed evil, genius would be a calamity, and the tender heart a misfortune.
The Lord Jesus Christ condescended to endure suffering. It is impossible to believe that The Son of God would do or endure anything without a worthy end in view. Waste of energy and feeling is incompatible with The Divine wisdom. Suffering must, then, have noble uses, since The Lord Jesus Christ made it the very element of His life for thirty years. The fierceness of temptation, the scorn of evil men, the unfaithfulness of friends, the dull pain of loneliness, and the weeping of bitter tears, are capable of yielding precious results, or else The Saviour would not have stooped to know such sorrows. The dark rough path of trial is not always to be avoided. The crown of thorns is not wholly hurtful, for Christ wore it on His brow. The Tree of shame is not utterly evil, for He once bore it upon Calvary's mount.
Pleasure is often an end in itself, something which we desire for its own sake, but pain is only a means to an end. This fact marks the general use of suffering, and shows that it is disciplinary.
Dissatisfaction lies at the Root of Progress. Place men where the conditions of life are easy, where there is plenty of food to be had for the gathering, and where the climate is so genial that there is little need of clothing, and shelter, and they will continue to live a mere existence. Place men where suffering threatens them on every side, where hunger impels them to hunt, or sow grain, and the bitter cold urges them to make warm garments and to build comfortable houses, and they are started on the path of human progress. Pain quickens man's inventive genius, forces him to acquire dominion over the world around him, and drives him to wrest from nature her
useful secrets. Susceptibility to pain has also greatly influenced the world's social and political growth, has impelled oppressed nations to break off the tyrant's yoke, and has led them to establish freedom on a firm basis, and to enact wise, righteous laws. The world would not have been what it is today, civilization would have lacked some of its noblest elements, but for the stimulative power of suffering.
There are times when evils grow to a head in communities and nations, and nothing but suffering can purge them. Enlightened men point out the injustice and dishonesty of various practices, but people in general are slow to accept change, consequently, wickedness works out its sure result, and the day of retribution comes. The eyes of thinking men are thus opened, and presently they start on a new and better trend. Suffering often sweeps away abuses, just as the prairie fire consumes the dry grass and worthless reeds, so that the earth may be clothed again with verdure and beauty. It cleanses society just as the summer tempest purifies the sultry air, cools the parched ground, and makes the flowers and leaves smell fresh and sweet.
Pain is a great revealer. Suffering discovers to us laws of our nature which would otherwise be hidden. It shows the evil of many things which would be our ruin. This truth is seen in so common a matter as the inordinate gratification of the bodily appetites. Then there are wrong modes of action, working at untimely hours, over-taxing brain and muscle, which would issue in fatal disease, if weariness and pain did not warn us of the evil. How wise a pro-vision, too, is the smart of conscience, the shame, the self-condemnation which men feel when they sin. Suffering stands at the entrance of every wrong path, like a sentinel ready to challenge us and force us back into the right way.
What is the noblest form that human nature ever assumes? What kind of man do we most esteem and love, in our moments of sober judgment? Is the rich trader, who has amassed a fortune by his own industry and ability, the greatest of earth's sons? Not so; but he who suffers out of love to others, suffers to save them from grief and sin, and death, is the greatest man. Yet, it is only the capacity for pain which renders such sacrifice possible. If there
were no anxiety, no weariness, no trials in the world, there would be no room for self-denial; and what a loss to humanity that would be I Then there would be no tender-hearted mothers, growing pale through days of work and nights of watching for their children's sake; no earnest men enduring reproach and shame in order to shield their loved ones from evil; no patriots shedding their blood to set their country free; no missionaries exiling themselves from kindred and civilized life, out of compassion to degraded, unprivileged men and women for the sake of Christ. How poor the world would be if Love could not suffer!
The various powers of human nature are only developed through contact with outward influences. Hence, if the external forces necessary to quicken their capacities are lacking, people grow up to years of maturity with great powers hidden within them. This is especially the case with the passive virtues. Childhood is often a comparatively untroubled period, and nothing but trouble can bring out sterling virtues. It is only when the flint is struck that sparks of fire leap forth. It is only when many spices are crushed that their fragrance is exhaled. It is only when these hearts of ours are brought into sharp contact with evil that we can manifest forbearance, meekness, forgiveness, patience and submission to the will of God. There would be no scope for these Christian graces apart from suffering. Although we instinctively shrink from bodily afflictions, from failure and disappointments, from heavy cares, from the ill-will of men, from blighted hopes, yet, let us remember, that there is a bright side to these things, as well as a dark one. Such trials are often instrumental in developing the noblest traits of Christian character.
When earthly sorrows thus quicken God-like virtues they enable us to show forth Christ. Troubles drive us to Christ, for how else could we bear them? How could we be patient and submissive if His love did not cheer, and His grace did not strengthen us? Trials bring us to Christ, and they bring Christ to us, for He loves to comfort the care-worn and to bind up the broken-hearted. When we are sustained in tribulations we show forth Christ. Afflictions, disasters, bereavements borne with resignation, speak eloquently of the worth of grace. It is a blessed thing thus to commend The Lord Jesus Christ to sinful men. The world will listen to the voice of Christian submission, when it turns a deaf ear to the ordinary run of
sermons. Many a careless heart has been touched, led to reflection, won to God, by the sight of Christ-like endurance. Shall we then call pain utterly evil? Shall we always shrink from it when Christ is uplifted and glorified among men by the sufferings of His people?
There are many events and experiences of life which cannot be accurately measured while they are taking place. Our perceptions are too confused, or our feelings too acute for us thoroughly to understand them. We must remove a certain distance from such things, in time or space, in order to know truly what they are. Certainly this is the case with the discipline of earthly sorrow. We shall not comprehend perfectly its meaning and its uses, until we reach the blessed hereafter. Yet, even the final results of any process are often partially discernible before the process itself is completed.
It is manifest that present trials are preparing the way for a fuller sense of eternal happiness. Are we not conscious that the sufferings of life have wrought within us a freedom from the tyranny of worldly desires? Are we not aware of a quiet trust and joy in God, an insight into the preciousness of Christ, a deep hatred of sin, to which we were strangers at the outset of our Christian life? And what are these experiences, but earnests of heavenly felicity and glory, like the first ripe grapes which betoken a rich purple vintage?
It is our custom to pity the tried, care-worn, bereaved children of God; but if we could measure things aright, we should often see that these afflicted ones are among the uncrowned nobility.
All discipline benefits or injures according to the spirit in which we receive it. The Divine correction only bruises and embitters the rebellious heart, but enlightens and purifies the humble, believing soul. Strive then to be patient and submissive; lay hold of the promises of God, and cling to Christ amidst all trials; knowing that, although "no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them who are exercised thereby."
WHY GOD'S FIERY CRUCIBLE?
He who seeks the union of his spirit with God, by self-surrender, will have to accept the trials that are common to man. Troubles will beset his path, sickness will befall him, calumny may overtake him, temporal disappointments may reach him, temptations will assail him. He must encounter the special trials peculiar to one who turns whole-heartedly to God. For it is difficult to give up the former motives of life, and to change over night one's likes and dislikes. There will also be severe soul trials, caused by relapse, by murmurings, by falterings of faith, by the loss of fervor, by the rebellion of the natural man, by coldness in prayer, and above all by a painful sense of desertion, as if God had taken His departure from the soul and left us to our own resources. We shall be compelled to cry out in these conflicts: "Oh, that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest" (Psalm 55:6). Often we utter Job s plaintive cry: "Oh that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me; when his candle shined upon my head and when, by his light I walked through darkness" (Job 29:2-3).
Now all these trials must be accepted as conditions of spiritual progress. Would that we might take in the whole truth that the yielding of ourselves into God's hands includes the peaceful acceptance of all that He, in His wisdom, may allot to us. Would that we might perceive how, in yielding ourselves to God, we have pledged our wills to accept His orderings without reserve. We must learn with implicit confidence that the things which seem to be against us are really in our interest; that evil can be transformed, into good.
The impulse of nature is to seek deliverance from trouble and suffering; but there is a higher lesson to be learned in the school of Christ. Can our love ever forget that Christ's pains of body and soul were those of One who had more than our capacities for suffering? Every form of trial which came to Him through life was the foreshadowing of His final agony on Calvary.
Christ was despised and rejected of men. He made Himself of no reputation. Meriting all the rewards of virtue, He was numbered with the transgressors. He endured all the straits and anxieties of poverty. He had not where to lay His head. Beginning His earthly life in a humble home, He spent years of toil, and penury entirely undeserved, only to find Himself at last a despised wanderer.
Christ suffered the ingratitude of those He came to bless, yet, in the midst of ingratitude, how astonishing His kindness! What forbearance does He show to His bitterest foes! How meek His replies! How mild His censures! Over ungrateful Jerusalem, He weeps. At Calvary, He prays for the brutal men who were staining the earth with His blood.
Note His companions. They who could have rendered comfort with their sympathy were abject failures. One betrayed Him with a kiss, another denied Him, and all forsook Him and fled. Christ experienced how vain was human help, how fickle human love.
Behold Christ in His trials! Tempted to distrust providence, to destroy Himself, to commit idolatry, He came to an experimental knowledge of the wiles of Satan. Thus was He tempted in all points as we though He had not our susceptibility to its power.
Christ's physical sufferings were inexpressibly great. A form of manly symmetry, a countenance divinely fair, were marred by pain until there was no beauty that men should desire Him. His mental sufferings were still greater, yet, He shrank not from bearing the sins of the world.
It is necessary often to consider Christ who endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest we be faint and wearied in our minds. We must gaze upon Him, not as one on a crucifix to remind us by its "sad beauty" how to die, but as a living and loving Saviour who would teach us how to live.
Calvary has taught us a new philosophy. It shows us that sorrows, pains and disappointments are in reality blessings. The Christian who would live near to God must live near to Golgotha,
because it reveals to us the inexhaustible activity of God on our behalf. The troubles He sends us are sent, because, in His great wisdom and tender love, He sees that they are just what we need. There is in Him nothing that is short-sighted. He is always planning for our welfare. He never slumbers nor sleeps, never grows weary, never loses His patience, never forgets, never makes a mistake. His hand always touches our lives; and whether He sends what pleases or, what pains us, He sends His love with it. If we would only fall in with His purposes and regard every trouble as a benediction, a means of grace, we should realize the wonderful virtue there is in the little trials encountered every day.
For troubles have an immense value in revealing to us our defects. Anyone can sail a boat before the wind with a pleasant little breeze blowing; but he discovers that sailing means more than that, when there is a stiff gale thrusting against his course. We need self-control, patience, love, forgiveness and trust in God. Above all, we need to find how deeply in our inmost nature selfishness is rooted; what slaves we are to our senses and appetites; and how much littleness there is hidden behind the good opinions we have of ourselves. Nothing will bring our true selves to the surface so surely as trouble.
Our trials and sorrows teach us whom to trust. We cannot trust ourselves, that we soon discover. We cannot trust others. The only mortals we do trust are those few who are very near and dear to us; and yet this beautiful love is mortal; we may not have it tomorrow! We must not trust a vanishing love supremely. There is but one undying affection, it is the love of God.
Troubles are also intended to prepare us for others that await us. When Job had lost his family and his prosperity, how nobly he bore those calamities! But there were others awaiting him. He was smitten with a painful disease; but former trials had prepared him for this, and he was able to accept it without a murmur. "What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" (Job 2:10). Our troubles are prophecies of others to come, and His purpose is to prepare us now for those trying events. In a word, God wishes to teach us that suffering is one of His choicest forms of blessing.
See how true this is in physical suffering. Nothing happens to us in this life without God, who orders all things with consummate wisdom and tender fatherly love; and therefore we may seek Him in our bodily pains. Behind a frowning providence He hides a benign countenance; and if we will but gaze long enough, we shall see it. Where it is written that He "scourgeth every son whom He receiveth" (Hebrews 12:6), we are taught, not that we shall be joyous through deliverance from pain, but joyous in it. Pain reveals the strength of self-love. It shows how feeble is the faith that seemed strong when all things went well with us; how much more we were trusting in our own strength than in God. He whose eye penetrates to the inner man saw our need. Each pang which He sent was necessary. Thus it is with all our pain. He hides His love within it.
The same truth applies to the little cares and worries of life. No one is exempt from these. You think yours are the worst, and would like to change your lot or place to get relief. You can read the story of every other life in your own, and thus shall it be to the end; for troubles will not cease, even when we shall have learned to bear them.
There are two ways of meeting our worries. One is to let them worry us, the favorite method! How much amiability has been lost to the world by the nervous irritability thus excited! Perhaps there is nothing more fatal to progress in the Christian life than to rebel against the means by which The Father wishes to cultivate the graces of quietness and peace within us. If they had been great troubles we could have borne them more heroically; but these petty vexations were too annoying to bear, and the more they vexed us the more we permitted them to. The better way is to convert the worries into helps, by finding God in them. They teach us to trust Him in the minor trials, and so prepare us for the great calamities. They teach us patience and submission. Thus they dissolve into blessings.
God sometimes leads our souls forth into a dry and thirsty land, where no water is. Very few are excused from these sad pilgrimages, and from the trials which accompany them. The soul becomes indifferent, Christian duties are a burden; the pleasure which once attended the soul in prayer has departed.
How many who long walked in the light of God have lost faith through not being willing to walk in the darkness of God! It is an immature faith which has not made some progress towards the triumph of Job: "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him" (Job 13:15). God's disciplines are unto life; for by them He would teach us to let human consolations slip away without a murmur, and to find our supreme satisfaction in Him alone.
How often have we tried to manage affairs ourselves. Pride, self-love, or some concealed fault, have crept in and usurped God's place. Then He takes us at our word, and permits us to test our own resources; for well He knoweth that if we trust to our own weakness rather than His strength, we shall have only weakness for our support and deliverance. The sure result for us is disappointment and misery. Wounded pride feels the keen edge of its own folly, and seeks to turn back the responsibility upon God. But He who knows us better than we know ourselves bends over us with infinite compassion; watching in this crisis for the first faint groping of His child's hand after Him; ready to reveal Himself in the plenitude of His power; waiting to breathe new courage into the soul as it utters the cry of returning faith: "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance" (Psalm 42:5).
The chief value of trying periods of discouragement, in which we are deprived of everything but God Himself, is the acquisition of a larger and more generous trust in Him, a trust which shall do more than make us meekly submissive. Clouds and sunshine are alike tokens of His love. "Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby" (Hebrews 12:11). By a discipline of partial knowledge God is preparing for all that we shall be able to know hereafter. In due time we shall know even as we are known. Meanwhile, let us reflect that God now knows all that there is to be known of us. He knoweth that we are dust. He knoweth our down sitting and our up rising. He knoweth the thoughts of our hearts.
If it discourages us at times to think how little we know, let us begin to praise Him for that little, since it is so much greater than it was when it was naught. Remember that the least which God gives
us is greater than our desert. Remember, too, that if it were to grow to greater dimensions, until we should know even as we are known, it would still be little compared with the infinite and inexhaustible depths of God.
GOD'S ESPECIAL GIFT: SUFFERING
Paul, in writing to the Philippians calls attention to faith and suffering, as gifts from the hand of a loving Father. One can readily accept the statement that faith, the channel through which flows to us all spiritual blessings, is a gift of God, but that suffering, no less than faith, is a gift of Divine love, does not so promptly find acceptance.
Isaiah, in his appeal to Jehovah's ancient people, says: "Though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and water of affliction, thine eyes shall see thy teachers, and thine ears shall hear a word behind thee saying: This is the way, walk ye in it" (Isaiah 30:20, 21).
Adversity, in truth, is an especial gift of God and often, in this day of grace, indicates the path in which we are to walk -- a way, often strangely dark, rough and lonely, but still the way that leads out at last into peace. By it we are made to feel deeply that an all wise Creator has arranged that suffering be an instrument of advancement in spiritual life.
Let it be acknowledged at the outset, all suffering has sin for its cause. Were there no sin in the world, there would be no pain. Sin having, however, entered into the very woof and warp of our being, under the wise goverance of God, has been transformed into the blessed agency by which the character of the believer may be perfected in Christ.
But to regard adversity as being always the minister of justice or as the merited recompense for wrongdoing is to blunder grievously. Of the suffering which is meted out to humanity, how small a part falls upon the specially guilty. How much seems to rest upon the innocent. Christ, during His earthly ministry forcibly taught that tribulation would fall to the portion of His followers, "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and
shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you" (Matthew 5:11, 12).
After His ascension, and having imparted to the believers the gift of faith, He might have exempted them from all suffering; but He did not so order it. He left them to take their full share in those trials and sufferings under which the "whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now" (Romans 8:22).
Christ taught that union with Him by a divinely given faith would not lessen, but rather increase and quicken the believers' sensitiveness to suffering. The blatant vagaries of Christian Science that pain has no existence and should be treated with indifference as an "error of mortal mind" a wholly unnatural action, found no place in Christ's teachings. He in no way disparaged the sore trials and bitter sorrows which enter into life.
Christ not only taught that we were made for and were responsive to pain, but He Himself met it, yea, sought it, because of the inestimable benefits which would accrue to the race from endurance of it. He welcomed Calvary, for He envisioned the joy that was beyond it. Isaiah spoke of the full satisfaction that would overflow His soul subsequent to His fearful agony. Bitter as were His sufferings and death, He met them, yea, invited them, because of the everlasting good which would result.
And so, too, it was with those who believed on Him. Though their sufferings were in no way to purchase for them the merit of salvation, yet adversity in their case, as a process in their lives, was to have its blessed compensations. With boundless sympathy for human beings, Christ was never for an instant troubled with the question why His people suffered pain. He ever took for granted that through the sufferings which they endured there would be secured to them a possession that would outweigh all present affliction. His teaching accorded with Holy Scripture upon the subject, that the trials and sufferings which entered into life constitute a discipline for the attainment of a character that would fit the soul for a higher, deeper knowledge of God and for a fuller joy in Him.
He taught that through the doorway of adversity there would come to His people fresh revelations of His power and love. Anguish of mind and distress of heart were to be opportunities by which to display His glory and to convey special favors to the soul.
When in Perea, beyond Jordan, a message was sent to Jesus couched in urgent tender language, "Lord, he whom thou lovest is sick;" but instead of starting at once for Bethany to relieve the anxiety of Mary and Martha, and to avert the approach of death from His friend, Jesus remained where He was for several days. He allowed Lazarus to suffer and die. He permitted the body of this friend to remain four days in the tomb, until decomposition had set in. He did not interfere with the event of death nor with the crushing sorrow that had come into the home He dearly loved. In all this we see that an opportunity was afforded by which He not only, proved His power over death and the grave, but brought the two sisters into a closer spiritual relation to Himself, and by allowing His friend Lazarus to experience death, gave to them a sure pledge that there was life beyond the grave.
When Saul of Tarsus entered into vital relationship with His Lord it was revealed to him "how great things he must suffer" for Christ's sake. Dr. James Stalker has said, "Work is but one-half of life; suffering is the other half. There is a hemisphere of the world in the sunshine of work but there is another in the shadow of suffering."
There is abundant Scriptural evidence which teaches that the most beneficent results are to be wrought out of the sufferings through which God's saints are passing in this present life. Chastisement is represented as the evidence of God's love to us.
The Book of Acts gives the record of how the apostles suffered. They were imprisoned and tortured for Christ's sake. The Roman historian, Tacitus, speaks of "a great multitude" who sealed their faith in The Lord Jesus Christ with their blood. Speaking of the long continued and cruel persecutions which the early Christians suffered, the Church historian, Dr. Philip Schaff, says: "To these protracted and cruel persecutions the Church opposed no revolutionary violence, no carnal resistance, but the moral heroism of suffering and dying for the truth. This heroism was her fairest
armament and staunchest weapon. In this very heroism the Church proved itself worthy of its Divine founder, who submitted to the death of the Cross for the salvation of mankind."
Nowhere are we taught in Holy Scripture that suffering is, of necessity, a sign of God's disfavor and that there is anything ignoble in it. On the other hand, it is often presented to our view as a means to an end, as being an agent by which character is developed and built up. Just as the child learns to walk, stumbling and falling and sometimes bruising himself, so we learn our best lessons through untoward conditions. Not until all human plans and efforts are made abortive and all expectations are blighted will some learn the lessons of godly contentment.
Only after we have learned through many withering experiences do we realize that all suffering is not only under the eye, but in the hand of Him whose heart is warm with infinite tenderness and love, because He knows from deep experience what suffering actually is.
The whole view of life is not given to any of us. We see it only in segments. But there are moments when, by a strange sense, we are made conscious of the good that may accrue from human suffering. As we are passing through some great sorrow, we do betimes catch glimpses of the Divine purpose. We are made to feel through loneliness and heartache that we are brought into touch with the realities of the spiritual realm. In the hour of trial, God's nearness becomes more real and prayer is invested with a new power. His promises are endued with comfort. We are detached, by adversity, from debasing things, and there is created instead a zest for the eternal possessions. It is a remarkable fact that the finest, sweetest, and strongest lives have emerged from the severest of human existence. Man's nature expands under sorrow. The unseen, hidden plan of life is at no time so brought to consciousness as when acute affliction is endured. The secret of life seems partially revealed when the heart is called upon to suffer. These partial but yet dim solutions of the problem of affliction confirm our faith that all will end as God has promised.
It is important to consider the spirit in which suffering should
be borne. The apostles rejoiced that they were deemed worthy to suffer for Christ's sake. Paul and Silas sang praises to Him in the Philippian jail at midnight. When Paul was on his way to Jerusalem, where, he declared to the Ephesians, great trials awaited him, he said: "None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy" (Acts 20:24). A torrent of love for Christ bore him on and swept him irresistibly into the whirlpool of persecution. Suffering of what sort it may be, if borne steadfastly for Christ's sake will be followed by the greatest spiritual benefits.
It would be well for God's dear saints increasingly to realize that there is a relationship between suffering and glory, as intimate as that between cause and effect, seed time and harvest. Let us ponder the fact that the goodness of our loving Father has transformed the effects of sin and affliction into joy.
CHRISTIAN CHARACTER AND SERVICE
ESSENTIAL PREREQUISITE: A CHRIST-LIKE CHARACTER
The important thing about a man, some latter-day philosophers insist, is not whether his belief is correct, but whether his conduct is right. Religion in their view is a mere appendage to morality. Now, it is true that in most great world religions, belief and conduct have little or nothing to do with each other. But let us be quite clear about the fact that, where Christianity is concerned, (actually Christianity is not a religion) correctness of belief and morality are inseparable. Paul, for example, places emphasis on this point in his Epistle to the Galatians.
In Christianity a faith in The Lord Jesus Christ which fails to produce right conduct is actually no faith at all. A faith that is true faith must needs be producing something of a Christ-like character. And on the other hand, a Christ-like character, unless one have an effect without a cause, must be the result of faith.
To be saved means to enter the life of The Lord Jesus Christ and to share His character. The Christian ideal has for its ultimate motive the glory of God. A Christ-like character should be our aim, not simply because it is the best thing in life, but in order that we may thereby prove better instruments for God to use in the working out of His purposes.
The man who sets out to be an ardent follower of Christ perforce parts company forever with second-best ideals. A moderate and reasonable standard of goodness ceases to be an aim that satisfies. What is sought is a character that on all its facets beaus the one distinguishing mark of Christ-likeness -- no lower ideal than this will content the sincere believer. The one desire of the true man in Christ is to express and reproduce the Divine image before the eyes of the world.
How often have we heard the expression in dispensational circles regarding certain portions of the Scripture, "Oh, that is Jewish; that has absolutely nothing whatever to do with the Church, the Body of Christ. We "operate" on a much higher plane." True, unto the Christian has been committed privileges superior to those enjoyed under the Mosaic economy. Yet we find Christ setting this ideal of character before His original disciples as the normal aim in their lives. "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). It is the ideal no matter what the dispensational setting may be.
When we turn to the Epistles of Paul there the same ideal is seen permeating all his thoughts. Indeed, we do well to face the fact that Christianity not only has a transcendently high ideal, but also has in it the amazing power to produce the realization of that ideal.
The problem of character has some troublesome aspects. There are two outstanding features which confront our view. One is the haunting presence of this ideal, this vision of our character as it is conceived in The Divine purposes. The other, and it is often the more obtrusive feature, is a disappointing sense of weakness and failure, a grave and seemingly perpetual inability to realize this longed for yet elusive ideal. There is indeed one potent factor at work which accounts for this wide gap between what we are and what we long to be. This factor is sin.
It is not the fashion in our modern world to emphasize the fact of sin. This twentieth century is exceedingly busy trying to push it out of sight. It is dressed up in all sorts of disguises. The popular writer of our best selling novels displays it as something interesting, something highly amusing. Both stage and screen vie with each other in presenting sin in other than its true character. The philosophers labor to show that it is but a morbid illusion, or a temporary step in the upward progress of the race. But in spite of all these sophistic imaginings we are brought back constantly to the fact that sin is the ugliest and most obtrusive of all facts.
The man who is in earnest with life learns only too thoroughly that sin is the perpetual hindrance to the attainment of a Christian character. The hindrance is serious and central. Sin is not so much
the avowed enemy outside the walls as the hidden traitor within the fortress. It operates at the center of a man's personality. Its great power lies in just the fact that it effects and perverts the sovereign part of his being, namely his will. Indeed the young Christian soon learns that at times he seems to have two wills, a will to do right and a will to do wrong, a will to please God and a will to please self. Even those men who have walked in the closest fellowship with God have tasted the bitterness of this struggle. In this regard, we do well to listen to the apostle Paul as he turns over a part of his intimate autobiography. Richard Francis Weymouth has given us in modern speech a clear translation of this heart-searching record:
For what I do, I do not recognize as my own action. What I desire to do is not what I do, but what I am averse to is what I do. I know that in me, that is, in my lower self, nothing good has its home; for while the will to do right is present with me, the power to carry it out is not. For what I do is not the good thing I desire to do; but the evil thing that I desire not to do, is what I constantly do. I find therefore the law of my nature to be that when I desire to do what is right, evil is lying in ambush for me. For in my inmost self all my sympathy is with the Law of God; but I discover within me a different Law at war with the Law of my understanding, and leading me captive to the Law which is everywhere at work in my body the Law of sin. Unhappy man that I am! Who will rescue me from this death-burdened body (Romans 7:15-24).
Early in the Christian life our hearts have frequently known Paul's experience and re-echoed his cry for deliverance. Then we were wont to ask ourselves: "Is it possible for frequent defeat to give way to habitual victory? Shall a Christ-like character ever be reached on this death-strewn battlefield?"
Now, a fully perfected character is obviously not to be achieved on this side of the grave. Nor can we expect in this life to enjoy complete immunity from struggle and temptation. We may be sure that sin will fight to the very end. What we may and ought to
look for is an emergence from a state of fruitless struggle into a state where victory is the rule and defeat the exception.
How, then, shall this transformation be achieved? The two essential conditions of success in the Christian life may be summarized in two words: faith and obedience. Faith, through the death of Christ on Calvary and His deliverance from Joseph of Arimathaea's Tomb, that God will do for us and in us that which we cannot possibly do by our own unaided efforts: and obedience to those natural laws which govern the development of every human character. These conditions interact; each, requires the presence of the other. On the one hand we need not expect God will work a miracle to save us trouble, to make up for our moral and spiritual inertia. On the other hand, it is quite futile to rely wholly upon effort and resolution, without seeking Divine aid. As well might a drowning man try to lift himself out of the water by his own hair. What we must do is carefully examine each of these conditions and see how they are correlated.
First of all, then, let us note the fact that character is the gift of God. If our characters are actually Christ-like they will have to be molded and fashioned by the fingers of God. That man may live the Christian life at all is due to a vital force acting on him from outside. Man is no more able himself to create his Christian life than he is able to bring himself into the world at will. Not more certain is it that it is something outside the thermometer that produces a change in the thermometer, than it is something outside the soul of man that produces a moral change upon him. That he must be susceptible to that change, that he must be a party to it, goes without saying; but that neither his aptitude nor his will can produce it, is equally certain. At this point we find ourselves face to face with the supernatural in Christianity. We cannot escape it even if we would. When a man begins to live the Christian life, when he finds a spiritual and moral transformation proceeding at the center of his being, he soon learns to recognize that the process is impossible to account for by purely natural causes.
If character is a gift, man must put out his hand to receive it. And it is in the act, or rather process, of receiving that faith plays an essential part. To receive this gift from God involves that personal relationship with Him for which faith stands. The dependence of
character on faith will mean a personal relationship between God and ourselves. Next, a firm belief that God is able to work out in us a character unattainable by our own efforts. Further, a rooted confidence that God is willing to do this. And lastly, a genuine willingness on our part to let Him do it.
Faith in God, then, is the first essential condition of a Christian character. The other essential condition resides in a willing and habitual cooperation with those unchanging laws which govern the growth of character. The scientific researcher must work upon the basis of known sequences or he will accomplish nothing. The athlete must fulfill the conditions which alone give sound wind and well-disciplined muscles or his efforts will be fruitless. And the Christian man must likewise give heed to certain essential requirements or the Christian character is not for him.
In all the spheres of life habit works with a certainty that is almost terrifying. Professor William James in his Talks to Teachers in Psychology says: "Every smallest stroke of virtue or of vice leaves its never so little scar..... Nothing we ever do is, in strict scientific literalness, wiped out. Of course, this has its good side as well as its bad one."
Habit makes a good servant but a hard master. It is not only worth-while, it is quite essential to enlist habit on the side of the spiritual life, to compel it to sub serve the development of a Christ-like character. And how can this be done? How can we alter our habits in the desired direction? We may put ourselves on the track of an answer by asking another question: What makes a habit? Without doubt the chief operating cause behind the formation of a habit is will power. We will to do a thing: then we will it again. We go on willing, then, gradually, the effort of will becomes less and less necessary. The action becomes habitual; indeed almost wholly automatic.
Now, as many a psychologist has pointed out, will power is largely a question of self-control, and self-control is in its turn largely a question of attention. One fact discovered by modern psychology is the enormous power of mind and thought to make a character; what a man thinks, he becomes (Proverbs 23:7). And
what a man thinks, we may add, is chiefly a question of what he attends to.
We are often told that a man is largely the product of his environment. It would be nearer the truth to say that a man is made by that part of his environment to which he gives attention. The same environment means very different things to different men. Why? Because different men are attending to different things in it. It is all-important to develop the faculty of attention in forming the habits of a Christian character. How can we expect to have a full-orbed Christian character if, during the day, our attention is distracted by a thousand and one things that have nothing to do with Christ? We need, if we are in earnest, resolutely to fix our attention on the thoughts and facts and aims which shall make for the accomplishment of our great object. In Paul's Epistle to the Philippians there is a word of exhortation:
Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Philippians 4:8).
While it is true that we cannot control our feelings, nevertheless we can establish an indirect control by means of this faculty of attention. Over our emotions we have no direct control; they arise involuntarily in the presence of their existing objects; but we can determine to what objects we shall attend.
Further, this faculty of attention is a highly important factor in withstanding the onset of temptation. There are few men strong enough, when temptation comes, to keep looking at it and still beat it back. For most men to look at temptation is to invite defeat. We cannot hope to conquer that way; but we can at least turn attention to something else. The small boy, who is looking through the fence at a watermelon patch, cannot prevent his mouth from watering, but he can run. The advice sounds homely enough, but it follows a fixed psychological and spiritual law, and tallies with world-wide Christian experience. Paul understood this law and insisted on it as only he could: "Walk in the spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of
the flesh" (Galatians 5:16). "Thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness"(1 Timothy 6:11). "... bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Last, and most important of all these natural conditions of character, is that which we call the law of personal association. This law, in its bearing upon our present problem, may be simply stated in two propositions. The first is this: character must be caught, not taught; it is more a matter of contagion than of conscious imitation. The other follows logically. If character is contagious then close association with the One perfectly good man, The Lord Jesus Christ, is indispensable.
Whether a man is aware of it, or not, his character is perpetually receiving impressions from other men. This law of association may constantly be seen operating in human relationships. Is it any marvel, then, that the influence of Christ on character should be transforming in its effects? Think of the astonishing transformation of those lowly fishermen who "companied with Him" in the days of His flesh. They were admitted to His friendship. Later, they learned to enjoy His fellowship without His visible presence. His spirit controlled them, filled them, inspired them. Dumfounded spectators exclaimed, "they have been with Jesus." These poor fishermen reminded other men of Christ.
Such, then, is the meaning, and the secret, and result of a Christ-like character. We can conceive of no vocation so great, no purpose so inspiring, as to live a humble life of service, renunciation and sacrifice that shall make men and women want to know The Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour.
LIBERTY THROUGH RESTRAINT
It is natural for all men to love liberty. Yet there is no serviceable liberty that is not the result of restraint in one form or another. There is no useful freedom that does not first bear the yoke. Electric currents must be controlled before they can convey the message, and the swiftly flowing rivers must be harnessed before they can supply the power for the nation's industries. If it were not for the discipline of restraint, nature could not be utilized in any of its departments. Through such restraint, however, nature is brought into its fullest service.
In the higher spiritual realm the same law of restraint is true. With man the unrestrained is the undisciplined, and the undisciplined is useless in service. Natural liberty and inborn freedom have never yet adequately blessed the world. When men cry out against certain forms of restraint they but lift their voices against the only safeguard of future liberty, useful service, and honorable life. Even the superficial observer of human life must have both seen and heard enough of unrestrained passions, of uncurbed wills, and undisciplined natures, to convince him that they are a curse rather than a blessing, the results of which are often appalling. And in the highest realm of service this argument is most clearly demonstrated.
Is it true, as some assert, that the Christian is a law to himself? Our answer is that he is a law to himself, but only so long as he bows to the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus. The Christian is "free," but not until he has come into bondage to Christ. He is under life-long restraint to Christ, and therein lies his liberty. An undisciplined Christian is of little, if any, use either to Christ or the Church. But the restrained and spiritually disciplined individual is The Lord's free man. Hence, as all Christian liberty begins in the surrender of the whole self to Christ, it follows as a blessed truth that "if The Son shall make you free ye shall be free indeed." Only let us realize that all our powers for service begin in yielding our all to Him.
Those who are brought thoroughly into bondage to Christ enter at once into "true liberty." It is the liberty of governed spirits. It may appear paradoxical, but it is nonetheless true, that there are choice spirits here on earth that are under the dominance of Christ, who owe complete allegiance to Him and are swayed by Him. They find their highest joy in full surrender to His authority. They seek to absorb and reproduce Him in their life. Their language is "for me to live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21). They seek only to glorify Him, reverberate His praise, and do His will. These are they that are governed and controlled by Him. And yet they have "liberty." They are set free from fear, they are ignorant of terror, and forgetful of self. And when others are joyless, distracted, and in bondage to dismay, they share the experience of Christ's own joy, and they know something of the peaceful rest and holy calm of governed spirits. Thus, though admittedly controlled by Christ, they are found rejoicing in their knowledge of freedom of access to God, elevation of spirit in worship, and liberty from the law of sin and death. Ask them to explain it, and they will tell you that it comes of living only to bow to Christ's authority, and of acting only to express Him.
The Christian believer spends his life in "bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5). Thus, as the needle turns to the north no matter how the compass changes position, his thought becomes polarized to Christ, whatever direction his life work may take. Christ becomes the pole of his thought, reasoning, and investigation. To him Christ is the truth, and nothing can be true that is contradictory to Him. And he is willingly bound to this principle, and loyally bows to its supreme authority. To him that which is not consistent with Christ's life is wrong; that which does not square with His teaching is faulty; and that which violates His moral principles is sinful. His thought is thus centralized in Christ. And yet though so unmistakably bound he is free -- free through restraint.
ESSENCE OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
God is much more concerned about the character of the worker than He is about the work itself. His cause on earth is advanced by what we are rather than by what we do. This is a truth which, we fear, is easily lost to sight. It, therefore, needs to be constantly re-stated and re-emphasized.
When this essential truth is obscured by any form of Pharisaism, as for example, by false theories of relation between faith and works, -- as though either were of any virtue without the other, -- or by the fiction that righteousness is a cloak to cover our nakedness rather than an infusion of divine grace poured into our hearts to neutralize the power of sin.
The most serious characteristic of a dominant externalism is that it ensnares the individual into a delusive peace. Multitudes are thus being hoodwinked by false assurances of security. The soul is thus flattered that all is well within, whereas that which it fancies to be inward peace is nothing more nor less than a state of soul stupor.
Apparently the characteristic of the average Christian today is a satisfaction with himself. He has responded to the call to be ever doing something practical as the token of his acceptance of the claims of Christ -- thus he feels himself justified in reaching comfortable conclusions about himself. Zeal is the new cloak which covers a multitude of sins. He does not wish to be disturbed by suggestions about spiritual realities.
Voices should be lifted in these perilous times to sound forth a warning against fearful hazards. Men and women need to be startled from a sense of security, sounding an alarm against the popular appeal to optimism, with the cry, "Awake thou that sleepest" (Ephesians 5:14).
Surely the words of The Lord Jesus at Bethany are entitled to a new hearing. If heeded they would arrest attention, arouse thought, and lead to soul introspection. There is that in the words of Christ, "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her," that if given hearty reception, would inevitably pierce the very center of the soul, and write anew on the consciences of us all the fact that spiritual realities are the preeminent values (Luke 10:41, 42).
A TALE SOON TOLD
There is a magnificent Psalm, ascribed to Moses, which utters the thoughts of most people when confronted by change and mortality, death and the grave. It is used at Christian burials, in order to contrast the sense of weakness that is awakened by man's physical nature and short life when compared with his eternal possessions in Christ. Thus the Song of Moses, the servant of God, is of mortal frailty. "We spend our years as a*'tale that is told" (Psalm 90:9).
The Hebrew word rendered "tale that is told" means a sigh, something that is very brief, a puff of vapor. The listeners gather round the hill-side fire while one tells the story -- there is breathless silence as the tale is unfolded -- the crisis comes --the issue -- the moral, and then the story is finished. But man's life is like a tale told in more respects than its brevity. The story of our lives may never be remembered or written on any earthly page. No one may be interested, beyond a very limited circle in our varied experiences, yet the tale of them is recorded, its influence felt indirectly, and the tale is told.
The tale of our years is told in a number of chapters, according to Shakespeare, in seven stages. But what are these several chapters? Is there one devoted to infancy, that period that everyone hardly remembers? Is there another for childhood with its gambols, summer days in the woods, and on the shore, and Christmas Days in grandfather s old home? Is there another for adolescent youth, that sentimental time, so foolish and yet so sweet? Is there one for manhood, with its responsibilities and strenuous work: and yet one more for old age with its pensiveness and its memories, "the tender grace of a day that is dead?"
Turn to the Chapter Contents and you will find it so. But when you read what is written you would perhaps be inclined to make a number of other divisions. For example, a Chapter of Sins. Every tale told has that in it. Not a man or a woman could tell the story of a single week or of a single day faithfully and fully without
having to make some sort of confession. Then there is the Chapter of Opportunities. No tale of years is told without this.
Youth is a succession of opportunities for attaining wisdom and goodness, the richest gifts of God to man -- true wealth, having which a man may say he possesses all things the contented mind which is a continued feast, the peace that is proof against trouble, and the love which time and death are powerless to change -- these things are the true wealth of men. Having these the poor man is wealthy; without these the rich man is poor.
There are other chapters the contents of which are full of lessons for sober-minded people. There is the Chapter of Change, the Chapter of Sorrows, the Chapter of Mistakes. When the true man turns to read through some of these, the tears fall upon the page there is a lump in his throat, he cannot speak. He can hardly dare to think. But blessed be God he can pray. He can lift up his eyes and cry, "Father, for Jesus' sake cleanse me from sin." Then turning again to read once more the tale that the years are telling, he finds what at first he had missed. He reads between the lines. His tears have cleared his sight, and there, written in letters of light, he sees infinite goodness, divine long-suffering, mercy, forbearance, wisdom and fidelity. "Fear thou not, for I am with thee, be not dismayed, for I am thy God, I will help thee: yea, I will strengthen thee with the right hand of my righteousness." To read the story of the years, to revive our memories in a spirit of penitence and trust, is so to number our days as to get us a heart of wisdom.
Then the tale of our years will be one of progress in the attainment of the highest and best blessings. God has a plan for your life and mine. There is a hidden unity, an interaction and a coinciding, a sequence, to which we have at present no key. The Chapter of Sorrows is related to the Chapter of Blessings, that of Disappointments and Struggles to one that has not yet been written. Without our conscious efforts, there are evidences of a maturing plan of wisdom and love, where once there seemed blundering and forgetfulness.
When a man dies he carries nothing with him but his character. Much to which he has given existence survives him. And so these lives of ours, which seem so commonplace and apart from
the great world, may enrich others. If we have no ideas to give the world, we can always manifest the love of Christ in our lives.
We would pray that our Heavenly Father would increase our sense of need of His gracious influence. it is well for us ever to remember how utterly helpless and weak we are without Him and so we join with all our readers in earnest petition that God will bestow the aid of His Holy Spirit to strengthen us throughout the coming year. May all of us during the new year so tell the story of our lives that we shall be read and known by all men as "an epistle of Christ" (2 Corinthians 3:2 & 3).
TWO MEN OF POWER
by Harold Patrick Morgan
Dynamic, moulds he to his will
The men he scorns, who but fulfill
Machine-like functions: then, with glee
Laughs their brute soullessness to see,
Or sullen envy. Moved by greed
He tramples down each bruised reed.
"Poor fools," he cries, "the fit survive,
The strong and crafty always thrive
While honest men, whose souls are pure
A livelihood can scarce procure."
Thus scatters he with careless hand
Hatred and doubt through all the land.
Men in his brutal presence cower-
And fear, yet loathe, this man of power.
Like the world's Savior this man lives
In lonely places: never gives
To mammon, lust, or shameful pride
A thought or wish to greed allied.
But blest with the Christ like mind.
With love sincere for all mankind.
And loved in turn, from day to day
He goes on his appointed way.
So pure, so finely sane is he
His life exhales unconsciously
The Breath of Love. Whose trust in Him gains confidence in God through him.
With faith and hope men rise and tower Before this lowly man of power.
As stated in the Introduction, the source of these reprinted editorials is QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS, the official organ of the Biblical Information Bureau, Bloomington, Illinois (1942-48) or Riverton, New Jersey (1949-53).
Title of Editorial QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
The Christian's Highest Vol. VIII, No. 1, p. 4
Service: Prayer (March, 1950)
Thorns in the Flesh Vol. VIII IX, No. 10-1
(Feb.-Mar., 1951 p. 5
Life's Advantages Vol. VIII, No. 4, p. 4
Why God's Fiery Crucible? Vol. IX, No. 6 & 7
(Jan.-Feb.,), p. 6
God's Especial Gift Vol. IV, No. 6, p. 4
Essential Prerequisite Vol. VI, No. 1, p. 4
Liberty Through Restraint Vol. IV, No. 5, p. 7
Essence of the Christian Life Vol. IX, No. 10, p. 5
A Tale Soon Told Vol. X, No. 5 & 6
(Dec. 52 Jan. 53). p, 6
Two Men of Power
(See Note Below*)
*This double sonnet by Dr. Morgan was never published in QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS. According to the best information available, this poem was previously printed for the first time when it appeared in an issue of SCRIPTURE RESEARCH (Volume 2, Number 5, page 151) about five or six years ago.
(Inside back cover)
EVERY SCRIPTURE IS INSPIRED OF GOD AND IS PROFITABLE FOR INSTRUCTION IN RIGHTEOUSNESS
Every Scripture is inspired of God, and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction (discipline) in righteousness; that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work.
2 TIMOTHY 3:16 & 17
American Revised Version
Return to the Main Index of Books