Scripture Research - Vol. 5 - No. 3(Inside front cover)
FOR THE FITTING (FULLY EQUIPPING) OF THE SAINTS
With a view to the fitting (fully equipping) of the saints for the work of ministering, for an upbuilding of the Body of Christ; until we all advance into the oneness of the faith and the personal knowledge of The Son of God, unto a man of full-growth, into the measure of the stature of the fullness of The Christ; that we may no longer be infants, billow-tossed and shifted round with every wind of teaching, in the craft of men, in knavery suited to the artifice of error but pursuing the truth, way in love grow into Him in all things, Who is The Head, Christ, out of Whom all the Body fitly framing itself together and connecting itself, through means of every joint of supply, by way of energising in the measure of each single part, secureth the growing of the Body, unto an upbuilding of itself in love.
EPHESIANS 4:12-16The Emphasized Bible - Joseph Bryant Rotherham (circa 1874)
Scripture Research, Inc., P.O. Box 51716 Riverside, CA 92517
Ewalt Memorial Bible School, Atascadero, California
Harold P. Morgan, Ph. D.
Memorial Reprints In Three Volumes
REJOICE IN THE LORD ALWAYS
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, Rejoice. Let your forbearance be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. (Dr. Morgan: "at your wrist")
— PHILIPPIANS 4:4 & 5 *
THE BURNING HEART
And they said one to another, Was not our heart burning within us, while HE (Christ) spoke to us in the way, while HE opened to us the Scriptures.
-- LUKE 24:32 *
And be you Hind one to another, forgiving each other, even as God also Christ forgave you.
— EPHESIANS 4:32 *
* All above quotations from The Scriptures are from the American Revised Version (Edition) of 1901.
Introduction …………………………………………….. ii
Section A - EDITORIAL GEMS ……………………… 1
The Power and Value of Joy ………………………. 1
Profusion Not Waste ……………………………….. 3
Christian Unity ……………………………………. 10
Study to be Quiet Fellowship of the Burning …… 13
Fellowship Of The Burning Heart ……………….. 16
Mutual Forbearance and Forgiveness …………… 21
Section B – HINDRANCES TO VICTORIOUS
LIVING ………………………………………………… 30
Drifting from Christ: The Way Back ……………. 30
The Advantages of Greater Attraction:
Temptation ……………………………………….. 36
Hindrance to Fellowship: Jealousy ……………... 40
The Seventh Thing the Lord Hates: Sowing
Discord Among Brethren …………………………. 42
References (Source of Editorials) …………………. 44
FORBEARING AND FORGIVING ONE ANOTHER IN LOVE
I, the prisoner in The Lord, therefore beseech (lit. "call to one's side") you to walk worthily of the calling wherewith you were called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; giving diligence (A.V. "endeav-oring") to keep the unity of The Spirit in the bond of peace.
-- EPHESIANS 4:1-3 *
Put on therefore, as God's elect, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving each other, if any man have a complaint against any; even as The Lord forgave you, so also., do you: and above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness.
— COLOSSIANS 3:12-14 *
* The above quotations from the Scriptures are from the American Revised Version (1901).
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 reprinted in these three volumes, with two exceptions so noted, were originally published in QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS, official organ of the Biblical Information Bureau.
Some of the highlights in the life and ministry of Dr. and Mrs. Morgan have been reviewed briefly in the introduction to Scripture Research, Volume 5, Number 2, under CHRISTIAN VALUES AND PRINCIPLES. Here the reader may find some interesting facts about the earlier schooling and training, as well as experiences, that were to thoroughly prepare Dr. Morgan for his later ministry and give him the spiritual insight needed to write his many scholarly editorials on Christian living, including the articles selected for reprinting in these memorial volumes.
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.
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
THE POWER AND VALUE OF JOY
The Psalmist says: "Thou has put gladness in my heart," and yet how many men and women there are who have no abiding joy. We do not refer to the sorrowful whose hearts have been crushed by bereavement, or to whom life is an absolute pain through physical anguish, or the trying conditions of their earthly lot. There are plenty of such people in the world -- quite enough to stagger us, till we remember that much of the misery of men comes of their own folly and sin.
But, apart from these, how many people are there in the world -- people to whom nothing in particular has happened, no deep sorrow to rend their hearts, no overwhelming care to distress their spirits, but the course of whose life is not one even flow of joy! Look into men's faces, generally an index of the state of their mind, and what restlessness, what eagerness, looks out from most eyes! What dejection, what resigned melancholy, sets upon some countenances! And if the face manages to conceal the workings of the mind, there are not wanting other indications that life is not a joy.
Joy is man's greatest want, and how few look for it where they ought to find it — down in the depths of their own heart! For instance, there are not many who can bear to be alone with themselves. They get on pretty well when mingling with other people, but to spend a few hours alone with their own souls they can ill endure. Their own souls are so strange to them, they are more at home with other people and other things than they are with themselves. When amid the silence of solitude and their soul begins to speak, they become quite uncomfortable.
Most men have an idea of the kind of thing that would make them happy. With some it is the intellectual nature that cries out. They want to know! Give them books, interpret to them the systems of the wise, unveil to them the facts of nature, and they will be on the high road to happiness. With others, it is the emotional nature that cries out. The heart puts out its tendrils and asks for other hearts around which they may entwine. The young man thinks how happy he should be if he were married, and had a family around him. The loving friendship of the wise and good is for what yet other hearts sigh. In yet other cases the acquisitive faculties cry out. They want to possess. They believe that a man's life consists in the abundance of the things which he possesses. And there is the lover of pleasure, whose idea of happiness is that it is to be found in a round of hilar-ity.
Now to the man that yearns for knowledge, is the eye satisfied with seeing, or the ear with hearing? A heart succeeds in getting other hearts to love, and from which to receive love; but is there no aching void in that heart? Property is acquired, but is the man still convinced that joy consists in abundance of possessions? A man finds pleasures, such as his soul desires, but does he not also find that there is a volume of difference between pleasure and joy?
A transient love may easily be yours, -- but joy! There is no spot upon this earth, no not in the universe, where you will find it, except in one place. And where is that? Let us turn to the pages of the Book that holds the secret. In The Bible we learn that God is not indifferent to man's happiness. He has made man with susceptibilities for joy. Why then is man unhappy? Here is the reason. Man has broken away from God. And God never intended that he should be happy apart from Himself. He alone would satisfy the wants of the human soul.
Man has broken away from God, and is unhappy. The Word of revelation discloses God's way of bringing man back to Himself. The gospel of abundant grace is God coming near to us in The person of His Son, and offering Himself to our necessities.
The secret of a joyous life is with God. It is living in fellowship with Him, who alone is able to put gladness in the heart.
PROFUSION NOT WASTE
The little town of Bethany was our Lord's resting place on His way to Jerusalem. He was going thither for the last time, and going consciously and purposely to die. A few hours before He had come from Jericho, with many others, who were pressing onward to the Holy City to keep the yearly Passover, then nigh at hand. The Sabbath set in shortly after His arrival, and He chose to spend it in quiet and holy rest in the bosom of His more intimate friends. There they made Him a supper on that day, as if to gladden Him with a joyous welcome, and to refresh and invigorate Him for whatever trials lay immediately before Him. On the morrow He was to pass over Olivet, the multitude filling the air with their ringing Hosannas. Within a few days He was to be condemned to die, the multitude now shouting, "Away with Him! Away with Him! Crucify Him!" But several days thus intervened between the supper made for Him at Bethany and the death He was to die on Calvary. Hence His interpretation of Mary's act in the memorable words, "She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying." It may be that Mary was drawn to this act by a dim consciousness and sorrowful foreboding of what was so soon to take place; for there are times, especially of impending calamity, when the soul becomes strangely prophetic. But it seems more likely that our Lord saw in it what she could not see. In His gracious vindication of her conduct He gave to it a meaning other and higher than the one she had herself intended. He spoke of her anointing His person as though, in the pre-vision and reckoning of her faith, this was the embalming of His body.
Mary no doubt intended well. Her right intention would hardly have been questioned by the murmuring disciples themselves. Whatever may be said of her work, nothing can be said of her motive, but that it was altogether good.
Now motive is of first importance in the estimate we form of any act whatever, small or great. The act rises or falls, its rank is noble or mean, as the motive to it is lofty or low. Motive of some kind there must be, of the act cannot be moral; it becomes merely
mechanical. The motive too must be good, or the act cannot be otherwise than bad. It need not, however, appear so, and frequently does not. Words are not necessarily the garb of truth, nor appearances the signs and pledges of corresponding realities. Virtue has a form as well as a spirit; Christianity is a profession as well as a life. And though the two in each case are naturally related, they are not therefore necessarily conjoined. Where the spirit and the life are, then the form and the profession are sure to be, as the one generates the other. But the converse of this is not true. The form and the profession may exist, where the spirit and the life are wanting. In this case there can be neither virtue nor Christianity, however fair may be the semblance of either. Whatever acts are performed in their name have no value to him who performs them. If a blessing attends them to others, no blessing comes back to him. His work is without root, and therefore without growth and without fruit.
But, on the other hand, however good the motive may be, it does not follow that the act as such will be equally good. That is, there may be something more and something higher in the motive than appears in the act. This may arise from ignorance, from our not knowing how to make the act better; or it may result from the nature of the act itself, as being essentially humble and commonplace. But a deeper cause is found in our inability to do what we would, especially all we would. One of our commonest experiences is a sense of disappointment and even shame at the contrast exhibited between our wishes and our work. Our conceptions and hopes are seldom realized. Our intentions and aims are hardly ever fulfilled. But, then, the power to do is never equal to the power to think and to will. Work has most definite limits, whereas feeling and imagination are all but immeasurable in their depth and range. Hence our frequent failures. We seem to do our very best, we put forth and strain our resources to the utmost, and yet, after all, come short, and sometimes sadly short, of our preconceived desires and hopes.
There is, however, another and brighter side to this. Our work is not considered absolutely by itself. The motive that inspires it counts for something, it may be for much. The faith, and hope, and grace it embodies, yet imperfectly represents, are estimated at their full value, and put down to our credit. Hence it is that the
simplest acts and offices acquire a significance out of all proportion their inherent worth. Hence it is that gifts and services, small in themselves, or else of questionable utility and propriety, attain to eminent rank in the scale of virtue, and become precious in the sight of God. It was a small thing to cast two mites into the treasury, but when these mites were those of a widow, who in giving them, gave her whole substance, with it her whole heart, the small thing became relatively greater than the casting in of the splendid wrings by the men who gave of their abundance. It was a small thing to give bread to one that is hungry, or water to one that is thirsty, but when this is done in the name of Christ, it is accounted as done even unto Him. It was a small thing, or rather perhaps a thing of seeming "waste," to pour costly ointment on head and feet of One who sat at meat, but when: One is The Son of God, and the anointing is the virtual pouring forth upon Him of the most unselfish passionate love, the act rises to the dignity and sacredness of worship and is even deemed worthy of lasting remembrance.
Mary intended well: she also as certainly did "She hath done what she could," is the testimony borne to her conduct by The Saviour Himself. It implies that she had acted up to the full measure of ability. But to this He adds, "She hath wrought a good work on me," thus greatly enlarging and heightening the commendation, especially as the term rendered "good" means what is noble and beautiful.
Her work was thus good because it was the spontaneous overflow of a profoundly grateful affection the restoration of her brother Lazarus to life. This marvelous event had occurred but a little while before, and now, on the first opportunity it may be after its occurrence, she testified by the beautiful how dear to her heart the memory of it is. It thus good because it was in effect an act of complete abandonment and loving devotion of her whole to Christ as her one and only Saviour. She had thereby entered into a closer and more vital communion with Him. Sitting at His feet, she had drunk in the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth, until those words had become spirit and life to her, and in full enjoyment of the "good part" she had thereby received, she declares by this "good work" how real and precious to her the "good part" is.
All having an experience like that of Mary must in some way
set it forth. They could not conceal it if they would, and certainly would not if they could. Knowing the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, they are constrained outwardly to confess it, and in confessing are sure now and then, to be carried out of themselves into transports of joy. Thus it was with Mary. Musing as she sat at Jesus' feet until the fire burned within her, she arose secretly, and brought forth her hidden treasure of spikenard, and, breaking the alabaster box which contained it, poured the delicious perfume first upon His head, then upon His feet, and then, as if unconscious of any presence than His, wiped those feet with the long tresses of her abundant hair. The ointment was very costly, and less of it might have sufficed. But then she meant it to be costly. It were nothing were it not costly, and insufficient unless the whole were given, as in that case it would fail to express the exuberance of her love for Christ. So she gave it all, freely and joyously, reserving not a drop for any other use, and found her instant reward in the approving words of her Lord, "She hath done what she could. She hath wrought a good work on me."
There were others, however, to whom the work did not appear so good, or good at all. On the contrary, they had indignation against the woman, and denounced her lavish expenditure of the costly spikenard as so much "waste." "Why," they said, "was this waste of the ointment made? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her." Judas it appears was the chief of those who complained, for, as we are told, "he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein." It was a torture to him to think that so much of this three hundred pence as might be secretly appropriated to himself, had the whole come into his possession, was now finally lost to him.
But if Judas was the first and chief he was quickly followed by others; for evil is alike contagious and confederate. Complaining is easy, and also infectious, and is often practiced by some as though it were a virtue. But if Judas had companions in his indignation, he had not companions in his spirit and motives. He was dishonest; they were unwise. His complaint was rooted in avarice; theirs arose from mistaken notions of economy and utility.
Our Lord replied to the common protest: "Let her alone;
why trouble ye her? She hath wrought a good work on me. For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good; but me ye have not always." The rebuke, though sharp, was yet tender, and withal profoundly instructive. Now, he who wishes to feed the poor will always have the poor to feed. Common opportunities are never wanting to common generosities. Every-day sympathies are continually met by every-day necessities. Great occasions occur only at rare intervals. The festival times of life come but seldom, and swiftly go. And hence, when they do come, they should be enjoyed, is our Lord's reply to His murmuring disciples.
But Christ's words go beyond the particular occasion which called them forth. They contain a principle which applies not to special occasions only, but to all seasons. A restrictive economy, He virtually tells us, a bare and rigid utility, is not at any time the distinguishing characteristic of what is purest and noblest in human conduct. Utility has its own definite sphere. Economy is a duty even where it is not a necessity. But there are whole regions of thought and action into which neither the one nor the other can enter, or, entering, can reign alone. There must be beauty as well as utility, there must be generosity as well as economy, there must be splendor, magnificence, profusion, seeming "waste" even, or human life will lose much of its charm -- much of what is brightest in it and what is best. The universe itself is not constructed on the principles of a strict and inflexible utility. Why, else, such infinite loveliness above and around us -- such unutterable glories in changing cloud and headlands? Why such countless varieties of form and color in mountain and meadow? Why the endless diversities of delicious sound and song, in forest and field? Why, especially, should all this beauty and glory and perfume, and melody be diffused and lavished in such unsparing plenty on lonely heights and in far-off solitudes, where foot of man but seldom treads, and where, for all purposes of human enjoyment, they might as well not exist at all? Is this boundless prodigality of nature a needless extravagance? Dare any one call it "waste"?
The like profusion is seen in the Word of God as in His works. The Holy Scriptures would be an infinitely attractive book were it not something infinitely more. It is almost as full of beauty as it is of truth. The same fact or doctrine might often have been given in much briefer statement, or much bolder language. But, in
reality, divine truth is presented in the loftiest of human moods, and in the grandest of human imagery and diction.
Men all too often confine themselves within the narrow range of a definite economy, or bind themselves to the strict and positive demands of a rigorous utility. And yet we see men in a thousand ways seeking to gratify their fancy and taste in the house they build and the furniture they buy and the clothes they wear. And shall it be called "waste" for a vehement and self-forgetting love to pour costly perfumes on the head and feet of an adored Saviour, and yet not waste to consume them daily in the gratification of a bodily sense?
There is a principle whose utility is greatest when it is least the motive to its exercise — love. That is not love which looks directly to personal advantage, and knows how to regulate its fervor by prudential considerations of profit and loss. It may be vanity, avarice, or some other form of self-regard, but it is not love. Love asks only to exist -- to have, that is, the freedom of its own impulses in expending itself wholly on its chosen object. Such a love never thinks of gain. It is always satisfied from itself, and is hence its own reward.
What was Mary's recompense? First, we see that Christ vindicated her conduct against the murmuring complaints of His disciples. He did more; He accepted and commended her work as "good" — as truly beautiful. This itself would be sufficient recompense enough for her. She could, and would, desire nothing more, and nothing better. What more and better could anyone desire, for any work whatever, than the "well done" of Christ?
It is not given us to say whether the word spoken, or the act once performed, shall pass beyond its immediate object. A circle formed in the middle of a lake will ripple outward toward the shore. No force once liberated is ever lost. It never subsides into its former self, but works one, by transmission, with unceasing activity. It is so with all our words and deeds. When once spoken or done, they are beyond recall, and largely beyond arrest. They continue in effective operation after we have forgotten them. They are perpetually enlarging their sphere of influence, and working out their characteristic results, when all trace of them has disappeared from
human vision. Hence, eternity alone can give a just and complete account of their actual power and effect. It was to bring this home to us, with special application and stimulating emphasis, that caused the Apostle to write to his son Timothy, "Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity."
There is no practice more strongly urged in The Scriptures than brotherly love. Paul in admonishing the Corinthian Church, where disunity had even in those early days begun to appear, uses a remarkable expression: "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." 1 Corinthians 1:10. And he afterwards declares that differences and dissensions were marks of pride and selfishness: "Ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?" (1 Corinthians 3:3).
Indeed, there is every reason why the followers of the one Saviour should be one in love. They are to have, as the apostle says, "one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Ephesians 4:5 & 6). Christ is not divided; and surely if men are united to Him as members of the same Body of which He is the Head, a tie should join them together, so that they might be known as members one of another. Just as there is no schism among the members of a natural body, but each one in its appointed place serves the office it is made for, so the members of the Body of Christ, "fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part," should make "increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love" (Ephesians 4:16).
One day there will be an unbroken union. No division of love, no jarring note to break upon the undisturbed song of pure content. And if we could suppose happy spirits capable of feeling grief, surely they would grieve there, as we know that at the stake martyrs have grieved, at the remembrance of their carnal disputes when upon earth. Nor need unity be supposed impracticable till we meet in heaven. In the beginning love really was the badge of the Christian: one spirit animated the Church. Men were taught to look
not on their own things, but each one also on the things of others. It is true that there were then unquiet minds, and the working of man's carnal nature was everywhere apparent; still the unity of the faith was not broken, nor was the world gratified with the sad spectacle of Christian men at variance and war, biting and devouring one another, turning with suicidal zeal their weapons against each other.
The practical question is, how can this much to be desired condition be effected? In settling this, lies the vast, and as it is generally thought, the insuperable difficulty. Many Christians imagine it is enough to say, perfect unity cannot be effected, let us agree to differ; let us put aside every issue on which we vary, and occupy only that ground which we have in common. But surely this falls far short of the recommendation we have already quoted of Paul, that men should "all speak the same thing," and be "perfectly joined in the same mind, and in the same judgment (1 Corinthians 1:10). Indeed it is a selfish kind of amalgamation where individuals will not abate one jot of their own notions, and are brought not to cordial love, but merely to cold reserve. It is rather the guarded truce of two foes, than the affectionate communion of two friends. The unity of Scripture goes much farther, and must stand upon other grounds.
Now, we would observe, in the practice of every Christian grace and self-denial are necessary. If we would follow our Lord Jesus Christ, we must deny ourselves. Christian liberality implies self-denial. The forgiveness of injuries must be attended with self-denial. For the natural impulse of the mind, when it feels a wound, is to resent it, and it is only by a victory over natural passion that it is content to remit vengeance unto God.
Furthermore, it is needful that we be willing to yield our own pleasure, and to defer somewhat to the judgment of our brethren. He that stands stiffly in his own opinion, entrenching himself in his own notions, refusing, except when actually beaten from it, to yield a single point, cannot be expected to show forth in his conduct the loveliness of Christian unity. Such a man will often pride himself on his intractability. He will actually boast how he mingles with persons holding different views, and yet has retained with unyielding stubbornness his own opinions. He will call this uncongenial mingling, the exercise of Christian love. Just as well might he pour
oil and water into a vessel, and say he had shown you how well two fluids would unite. Until he is distrustful of his own judgment, until he is willing to concede some of his own prejudices, until he can be persuaded to surrender somewhat of his own will, until he is convinced that diversity of opinions is an evil, and separation from his brethren a sin, he is, we fear, but little likely to "keep the unity of The Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3).
Two cannot walk together except they be agreed; Amos 3:3, and, therefore, we see not how the love of The Scriptures, the love of the Church as seen at the beginning, can be exemplified, unless men "all speak the same thing." It is true it might be hard to give up some cherished notions. But it would be a highly pleasing spectacle to behold parties throwing aside their differences, and the people of God becoming but one in worship, in fellowship and in heart.
If, then, these remarks, offered with much difference, should meet the eye of any brother who has hitherto thought it no fault to separate from brethren, let us seriously and affectionately entreat him to consider the duty of being joined with those who, he must admit, are fellow members of the Body of Christ, "in the same mind, and in the same judgment." Let him next remember that this unity of spirit will require self-denial on his part, a bringing down of those high exclusive thoughts which grow from man's corrupted nature. Then let him ask God to be endued with that childlike docility which Christ and his apostles inculcate; and we believe that he will soon taste, far beyond what he could have previously imagined, the sweetness of the communion of the members of the Body of Christ.
STUDY TO BE QUIET
Doubtless many of our readers have experienced at one time or another how baffling to oneness of aim are the distractions of a busy life, and how necessary are the counteractions of retirement and silence. Christ Himself was not exempt from this necessity. How often do we read that Christ stole away to some quiet retreat where He might devote Himself without interruption to communion with the Father. We read also that when His apostles returned from one of their journeys, "and told Him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught (Mark 6:30). He said unto them, "Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest awhile; for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat" (Mark 6:31). We know that His precept concerning prayer was, "When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut the door, pray to thy Father which is in secret" (Matthew 6:6).
Solitude and silence are indispensable to spiritual growth. They are the occasions of victories over self. There is nothing more difficult in the whole Christian life than strong love for secret prayer. Many a man could go into battle with less courage than he would require to bow at God's feet alone, behind a shut door. Many a Christian has won great victories in that way. Public services and outward activities have long been the opiates by which professing Christians have drugged their consciences. Solitude and silence are absolutely necessary. Why? Because we cannot live the world's hurly-burly life of constant restlessness and hope to retain the child-likeness of devotion to God. It is a spiritual axiom that, "Those who pray much are not incessant talkers."
Retirement must be frequent and regular. We need to refresh our faith. We need to renew our self-abandonment and afford God the opportunity of teaching us deep inner lessons. Each day should be in some sense a quiet day. Habitual communion with God is practicable. By this means God neutralizes the cares of the world, and imparts strength, dignity, simplicity, and beauty to character. There is no lesson which needs to be so strongly
reiterated, especially for Christians in our large and ever expanding cities, where much is unfriendly to that serene equipoise of the soul. And yet, God would have us seek Him in the very state of life in which we find ourselves.
There is no ideal place where Satan cannot enter. We have heard it said by immature Christians, "Were our circumstances different, it would not be so hard to live the Christian life! Were there not so many obstacles in our way, we might reach the delectable mountains!" But the call of God is addressed to each of us in our present environment. Our particular place has been appointed unto us. It is there that the call to "come up higher" reaches us. Our every day lot at times does not seem to be favorable to the progress of the soul. But we may rest assured that God s grace and His providence always cooperate in perfect harmony. In no other place could we be so favorably situated for progress in the following of Christ. We would not choose so well if we had the ordering of it. On the contrary, we would in all probability choose the worst place.
If we were to gain all the temporal goods for which we now spend our strength, if the aims which now keep so many of us back from God should be crowned with success, and our dreams of a better opportunity be realized, we might awake to find that we lost our opportunity long ago. It is wiser to live for God just where we are. The colored sunsets and the brilliant starry heavens, the majestic mountains and the expansive seas, the fragrant woods and the exquisite flowers are not half so beautiful as a soul that is serving God out of pure love in the wear and tear of every day life.
Whatever may be the state of life unto which it has pleased God to call us, the practice of silence and retirement with Him is indispensable. This suggests that he who would lead a more positive Christian life will have to learn to control his tongue. Says the Psalmist, "I will keep my mouth as it were with a bridle" (Psalm 39:1). Consider what strength there is in a bridle!
Ungodliness should be rebuked, but it is better to be silent even against the ungodly, if thereby we may be trained to control what is ungodly in ourselves. There are occasions when we may express adverse opinions of wrongdoers. But it is better to decline
all speech than to break silence and charity at the same time.
The Psalmist was so fixed in his determination to gain the control of his tongue that he kept silence, as he tells us, "I held my peace, even from good," Psalm 39:2, but the discipline was wholesome. Self-denial in things allowable facilitates the practice of it in forbidden things. The Psalmist had a severe battle within himself, it was in his heart to say the things he ought not to say. They were all within reach, waiting for expression -- but his will asserted itself.
It was a severe test for the Psalmist. No wonder his heart was hot within him. But when he slackened the reins his tongue began to pray: "Lord, make me to know mine end and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am." Psalm 39:4. The unruly member was conquered by silence.
The soul which has surrendered to God, and rests quietly in Him, will acquire somewhat of His serenity. It learns to avoid impulsive action, and loves to move along the pathway of holiness with modesty, governed by a tranquil spirit, neither unduly uplifted by spiritual joys, nor depressed by trials. This moderation increases by exercise. The soul learns more and more to abandon itself to the keeping of God. Indeed it becomes a law of its life to prefer God's will to personal desire. There is less and less protest and resistance as the years go by. There is more quietness of spirit. "My heart is fixed, 0 God, my heart is fixed." Psalm 57:7. All is peace, for God is controlling the heart in His own way.
FELLOWSHIP OF THE BURNING HEART
After the unknown stranger had left them, the two disciples who were walking to Emmaus, felt that they ought to have recognized Him because He had made their heart burn within them, while He talked with them by the way, and while He opened to them the Scriptures. Luke 24:32. The Lord Jesus Christ does not now appear to us in visible form. Men, because of this, are sometimes tempted to question whether the gospel account of His life is a legend and that His resurrection from the dead a myth. One of the infallible signs that we are in fellowship with The Lord Jesus Christ is that our hearts burn within us.
What did these two men intend to convey when they said that their "heart burned within them?" What do we mean when we say that our hearts glow as we listen to great oratory or music? We mean that our emotions are aroused. The conflict goes on within us for the moment is transcendent. Our hearts are stirred with deep feelings. A throb of joy and inward satisfaction possesses us.
The secret of great oratory is in the burning heart. If the orator is to kindle a glow in the hearts of others, his own heart must burn. There are speakers whose diction is faultless, but who leave an audience cold. What is the explanation? They lack the secret of the burning heart. There are others who are able to stir the multitude, but whose speeches read after the occasion are disappointing. The reason why these men have the power to send a thrill through their audiences, and rouse them to a passion of enthusiasm, can be summed up in a word, they know the secret of the burning heart. It has often been remarked that what a man says is not half so important as how he says it. The wisest sayings fail to move men unless they are winged with flame. People will always go to hear the great orator, irrespective of whether or not they agree with his opinions or believe in his message. They like to feel their hearts burn. They like to be stirred, to pass from laughter to tears and from tears to laughter. That is more than half the secret of the fascination of the drama. The orator and the actor stimulate the emotions. Most people like to feel good whether they are good or not. These enthusiasms kindled within the human breast which give
such pleasurable emotion, do more harm than good unless they are expressed in character and conduct. Men and women cannot waste their finer emotions without suffering injury to their souls. If they shed tears because of the tragedy enacted on the stage, or because of the vivid picture of misery drawn by the orator, but view with dry-eyed indifference the tragedies of the common life, they are worse men and women and not better because their hearts have been emotionally stirred.
The Romans were wont to call the will-o'-the wisp the empty fire. And there is a fire often kindled in human hearts which gives a pleasurable glow, but does not wither or condemn the evil within. Such is the fire kindled by the orator who has neither message nor convictions, and by the dramatist who, while moving an audience to tears, does not rouse it to action.
The influence of The Lord Jesus Christ is altogether different. He moves His hearers both because of what He says and because it is He who says it. The fires that He kindles are not delusive flames that shine for a moment without burning and then vanish, leaving a deeper darkness than before.
One hardly needs to be reminded of the story which John Wesley tells of how his heart came to burn within him. He writes: "In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street where one was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ and Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, and saved me from the law of sin and death." It was no fleeting glimmer as the result of an orator's play upon his emotions. It was the living Spirit of God that gave Wesley a quenchless passion for the souls of men. It passed from heart to heart like a prairie fire, raised the spiritual temperature of England, and destroyed national and individual sins with its consuming message. The secret of the burning heart is with The Lord Jesus Christ.
The most enduring perceptions are born of the burning heart. It is often held that passion blinds men and that emotion
clouds the reason. That is not true of the passions which The Lord Jesus Christ kindles. The man who sees farthest is the man whose reason is suffused with emotion. It is the fashion of today to distrust the emotions, and to follow the cold, clear light of reason. But feeling is as fundamental a part of our nature as reason, and why should man put asunder those elements which God has joined together? Why should we distrust one of our spiritual senses? The compass, sensitive to magnetic currents, points the way, even when the pole star gives no light. Feeling and reason are not intended to be permanently separated, but to act together. It is the function of the reason to control the emotions; it is the function of the emotions to suffuse the reason with both light and warmth. A great passion generates rays which enables us to see right into the heart of things.
Our hours of greatest illumination have not been those in which we have sat down to reflect on life in the cold light of reason, but those in which we have been conscious of deep and lofty emotions stirring within us. Many of us can recall moments of high feeling in which the veil was rent asunder, and there was given to us a vision of unseen things as cast a light upon many dark problems and gave us the secret of understanding. We may not have been able to pass the illumination on but we know what we have seen and heard. The light shines and the fire burns, and neither doubt nor disappointment nor failure can quench them.
The hours of insight are those hours of supreme exaltation which come to us when The Spirit breathes upon the inmost soul, and our hearts burn within us. In those hours of illumination, we penetrate into the deeper meaning of life, comprehend clearly the ways of God and see stretching before us the straight path of duty.
When the fire is kindled in the heart, we cease to be cool, calculating and full of compromise. We take great risks and embark on heroic adventures. We cast our fears to the winds, and become courageous, valiant and bold.
What were these two men doing on the way to Emmaus? Surely they should have been in Jerusalem? They had heard rumors of the resurrection of their Lord, but they had not even taken the trouble to verify them. The inference is that they were afraid, and had fled. But when their heart burned within them, what happened?
We read, "and they rose that very hour and returned to Jerusalem" (Luke 24:33). They went back to the place of peril, took their place side by side with their fellow disciples, and with them bore their witness.
That is always the effect produced by the burning heart. Nothing great is ever achieved without passion. Clear thinking and sound judgment are valuable assets in the conflict with evil, but they are not enough to put the enemies of the soul to rout. We need the driving power of the burning heart.
Do you know by experience the secret of the burning heart? If so, you know the secret of power. But if not, if your heart is cold within you, and you can calculate coolly and balance your own interests against those of Christ, then you are weak and ineffective. You are not living in close fellowship with Christ; you are not listening to Him as He speaks to you and interprets the things concerning Himself.
Consider the men and women who launched their campaign against a sin encircled world. They were few, poor, weak, insignificant and for the most part unlearned, but they set themselves undismayed to challenge the might and wealth and culture and sin of entrenched hostility. They were imprisoned, exiled, tortured, and were slain, but they pursued their course with joy, and they prevailed. What was their secret? They belonged to the fellowship of the burning heart. Right down through the years, wherever the church has succeeded in its spiritual mission, wherever it has brought new hopes to men, wherever it has swept away wrongs and has established the truth in righteousness, it has been because it has merited the title "the fellowship of the burning heart."
We doubt whether anyone today would be bold enough to claim this name for the professing Christian Church. We lament its weakness and paralysis. Is not the fundamental cause for this fearful condition seen in the fact that our hearts do not burn within us? The fires of our enthusiasm have died down. Many Christians are timid and careful of their individual interests. We do not run great risks for The Lord Jesus Christ, or embark on great spiritual adventures. The aim today is toward safety and social security. But let it be remembered that the infallible sign of our being in close
fellowship with The Lord Jesus Christ is the evidence of our hearts burning within us.
MUTUAL FORBEARANCE AND FORGIVENESS
The formula for soul's happiness is to be found not in bulk of material possessions, but rather in a full estate of Christian character. A well-balanced Christian temperament finds satisfaction in living. His thoughts dwell on superior things and are above the mean and low. But foremost of all characteristics in a Christian is a freedom from revengefulness, hatred, spite. These evil passions, as in the desperate Haman, slay the character entertaining them in his bosom. I am today appealing for a better understanding of this basic law of spiritual harmony. Such a spirit condemns the reception and storage of angry feelings and malicious designs as injurious to the man who entertains them; it inspires kind and generous emotions; it discountenances the spirit of revenge, and shows in a wise manner acts of kindness toward offenders. Instead of evil surmising, rash judgment, and an uncharitable interpretation of motives, "It thinketh no evil." It condemns with Paul a slanderous and backbiting tongue, censoriousness, and attempts to damage character. It excludes all unfair dealing, delighting both to do and to suffer for the benefit and happiness of others.
This obligation under which every Christian is placed to forbear and to forgive, is rooted in a twofold relationship: first, to God; second, to man.
How paltry are the offenses that men may commit against their fellows, compared with the grave offenses we all have committed against God! This unwillingness to forgive an offender is calculated to cast doubt on the genuineness of our devotion to The Lord. Of what avail are all our professions to Christian excellency, if resentment is rankling in our bosoms? It gives the lie to our professions, and it is the "dead fly in the pot of ointment."
Under provocation and injury most men are aroused and driven to fury, to an urge for revenge. However, the Christian is required to conquer himself, and while protecting himself from injury, to sacrifice offended dignity in favor of a higher judgment. There is, no doubt, considerable difference in the reaction of individuals to certain types of offense, insult and injury. To those
who hold high views of their own rights and honor, the difficulty of reckoning self to have died with Christ must be great, for the greater the sense of personal dignity, the greater will be the difficulty of pardoning an offense. These high thoughts of self are natural to man. But the disposition by which Christians should be actuated toward each other is far superior to the dispositions of unenlightened humanity.
The larger minded a Christian is, the less unhappiness rankles daily and nightly in his consciousness. Who can carry around every day a load of grudges, prejudices, malicious thoughts against others without becoming a burden to himself? Such follies recoil upon those who harbor them in mind. To "save face" one would have to be up in arms time and time again. We thus make a home in our bosoms for a brood of vipers, whose toxins darken the rich red blood of our circulatory system, in a very real sense.
We do not regard it as un-Christian when a wicked action is done to us, to cherish a moral detestation of the action itself; but we can at the same time exercise a benevolent spirit toward the offender by our own manifested readiness to forgive him, and a disposition to enlighten his conscience.
Some might question whether the law of Christian ethics is valid, whether a forgiving spirit should be exercised where it is snickered at and not duly appreciated. In such a case, would not the purpose for which forbearance is exercised be defeated? Are we required to give pardon where, so far from there being signs of contrition, a new blow is added to offense? There are some things for the law to take account and we cannot interfere with legal remedies, once in motion. But I speak not of pardon of criminality, but of forgiveness of the so-called offenses, those which do not come within the jurisdiction of the law and its direct penalties so necessary to public peace and safety.
Although God from His very nature does abominate the wickedness of the sinner, He does not withdraw His mercy from him, but continues His goodness that it may lead to a hearty acceptance of the abundant provisions made in the person of His Son, to meet man's every spiritual need. We should certainly have greater pleasure in exercising a forgiving spirit were it to be appreciated by
the offender. Few Christian men and women experience a high state in grace, but at least we all can become free from revengeful-ness and strenuous hates. But it is impossible to counteract such spiritual vices without help from God. It is not necessary to do anything radical to adjust to this "vile world," to wear sackcloth and ashes, to punish one's self by solitude or spend weary days and nights in a hermitage. All that is called for is to allow The Lord Jesus Christ to live His own victorious life in our souls in our daily intercourse in this temporal and imperfect sphere.
The objector might, with some show of reason, say, "If I am called upon unconditionally to forgive an offender, would it not to some extent be ignoring my own rights, lessening my own dignity, and giving him license to continue offense? Would it not strengthen his malicious propensity, seeing that as often as he commits an offense I am ready to forgive, and hence he may go on provoking and offending ad libitum?" But an unreserved and unconditional exercise of a forgiving disposition, often shames the offender, and besides it is most in harmony with the Christian character and with the aims of the gospel of God's grace.
Is it our duty to be determined, and the exercise of our Christian affection to be regulated, by the repentance or non repentance of a delinquent? If there be no acknowledgment of wrong, are we to cherish grudges and surly sourness to the day of our" death, and nurse unkindly dispositions to the same extent as unrequited offenses are multiplied? Are we to withhold our forgiveness till the last farthing of humble acknowledgment and reparation be paid? It is possible that a spirit of relenting has taken possession of the offender but that circumstances will not allow such an open confession as we think is due.
Whether it be so or not, Christian love shines out conspicuously, and operates more effectually when exercised independently of the status of our adversary, because most persons in all quarters of the globe, be they white or black, brown or yellow, are full of petty antagonisms, disunion, spites and malice.
The world at large today is suffering, as we all too well know and feel, in all kinds of ways. Men who ought to be living in harmony are disposed to sentiments of ill-will, and are loaded up
with all kinds of weapons of offense. Some who have never been harmed by others will entertain malice against them because they are of other race or creed or social class, and will seek to humble or exterminate them.
How much better it is to sacrifice the pleasure of revenge, if pleasure it may be called, and portray Him who when "He was reviled, reviled not again?" What is the momentary gratification of pride and malice, followed by regret, to the lasting strength derived from the Christ-like willingness frankly and freely to forgive an injury? The tendency to retaliate is to increase, foster, and to multiply wrongs. It renders neither party better, but always renders both parties worse. The offended, who retaliates, does a mean action, when he might have done a noble one. It is quite possible that the manifestations of a forgiving spirit may be the very means of disarming the offender.
Love in the ultimate analysis, is a more powerful conqueror than hate. It quenches the fire of enmity and strife; and banishes those feelings that destroy the pleasures of friendly intercourse. It is part of our American tradition and democratic way of life, a way of life we know and love. Here in America we have worked out the best system that man has yet devised. Then, too, our own sense of personal relationship to God and to His dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, is of the highest importance, indispensable to personal happiness of our souls. Through this powerful alliance with The Christ, we are enabled to conquer selfishness and the manifestations of revenge, spite and hate.
The free operation of this spirit need not contravene the regulations of church discipline. In reference to the treatment of offenders, The Scriptural injunctions, while they do not compromise the claims of justice and equity, give sufficient scope for the exercise of Christian love. Paul, writing by inspiration, lays down the rule: "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted" (Galatians 6:1).
Mutual forbearance and forgiveness under the present complex circumstances of Christian life should be ungrudgingly and also promptly exercised. Sometimes men and women may be
unwilling to forgive till they have indulged in anger and resentment, till a storm of passion has spent itself. It is for the purpose of checking those injurious and even at times noxious passions that this willingness to forgive should be unhesitatingly manifested. The uncertainties of life afford strong reason why we should always be ready to forgive and to forget. The thought of leaving this world without some intimation of a sincere willingness to forgive a delinquent is anything but pleasant. Indeed, it recalls the poet's lament:
For all of sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: "It might have been."
Nothing is more destructive to communion with God than enmity of heart. And what matters it how a man's circumstances be if there are rankling in his bosom unlovely and spiteful feelings? He may possess great wealth, exercise high authority, but without the possession of a forgiving and forbearing disposition, like one of old, he may say: "All this availeth me nothing, while Mordecai sitteth at the gate."
Consider, for a moment if you will, what the Christian life actually is, and its ultimate design. The acceptance of The Lord Jesus Christ as personal Saviour, on the grounds of grace, constitutes a man a Christian. Now, it would seem, that the highest type of Christian is he who fixes his eye steadfastly on Christ. If he would live a life pleasing unto God he must remind himself daily of the supreme purpose for which he was born and life's ultimate consequence. To what end must he strive, for what purpose make sacrifices?
If we look about us we see men living for various ends. With many it is the mere indulgence of animal pleasures; others weary themselves of excesses, and others with incessant striving for social or political prestige. Then, too, others find their chief enjoyment in watching the dollars multiply. Again, others are inspired by the idea of "fame. A select few are ambitious to reach intellectual or artistic excellency, and still fewer derive all their pleasure in strenuous endeavors to attain to spiritual perfection.
The Christian man encourages himself in the thought,
expressed by the Apostle Paul, "for to me to live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21). Thus he is prepared to make every sacrifice in order that he might stand fully approved at the end of his years. He contemplates life s aim and end. No Christian life can be true that is lived out of harmony with the will of God. Such a life is disjointed and purposeless. An artist must see his picture finished in his mind's eye before he begins to mix his paints. He cannot go on aimlessly daubing the canvas, adding one blotch of color to another, and yet turn out a worthy piece of work. He knows well enough that a clear conception of the end of his work is essential from the beginning, and that he must coordinate the whole effort to his purpose of achieving a real work of art that shall everlastingly please. So it must be with each one of us; we must know the object of life, its true goal, its place and program. We must be prepared for diligence and sacrifice so as to "walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:1-3).
Actually, we have nothing, worthwhile to lose by the lapse of time. However, should we forget the true aim of the Christian life there will inevitably follow a constant deterioration and failure. If we forget the glorious mission of our calling, our individual lives will soon degenerate. But remembering our high privileges we shall courageously move onward and upward. All our future will be a growing up into the Christ, realizing each day His transforming power.
Nothing of any value, I venture to say, can be lost by the passing of the years. Time will take a-way much from us. It will take away our keenness of sight, our erect gait, our firm grasp. It is altogether probable that time will take away from us the vigor of our intellectual powers. But our characters abide. Nothing can wither the magnanimity that is ours. Age cannot blight this bloom. Quite often spiritual perfections shine out more brightly as physical perfections abate.
Some of you have seen the famous gates of Lorenzo Ghiberti in Florence, which Michael Angelo rapturously proclaimed worthy to serve as the entrance to Paradise. There are travelers who return again and a-gain to the Church of St. Giovanni Battista to admire
the exquisitely sculptured gates of bronze, which rank among the marvels of mediaeval art. Dante, in a famous passage in the "Inferno," speaks of them as "golden gates;" but the centuries have worn away the gold, so that today you can hardly discern a gleaming particle. Still the work of the great artist abides, looking, perhaps, all the more impressive in its unadorned simplicity. And so with you and me, the years rub away outward embellishments, but time and change cannot touch inwrought graces. These, happily, the years cannot mar. They, indeed, shine forth the more effectually as the superficial tinsel grows dim.
Quite essential to the Christian man's spiritual growth is the exercise of a forbearing and forgiving spirit. There are certain Christian graces which depend on suffering and sorrow for their development. Provocation and injury, for example, call forth much fortitude. Madame Guyon, wrote the following lines from a prison cell:
In vain they smite me. Men but do What God permits with different view. To outward sight they hold the rod But faith proclaims it all of God.
The habit of indulging in resentment is a needless luxury which spreads a blight over all the Christian graces. It prevents the flood of kindly feelings, and the performance of generous acts, and inflicts much injury on the soul. But under the benign influence of a forgiving spirit Christian sympathy, gratitude, love and peace will grow and flourish. When, by the exercise of the grace of God, we rise above vindictiveness, the heart expands, and generous dispositions develop. And such a spirit constitutes the magnanimous nature. It stamps us with true nobility, allies us to greatness, when we can act above and beyond mere feeling of justice. Certainly in taking revenge a man is but even with his enemy, but in passing it over he is superior, for it is a prince's part to pardon, and Solomon says: "It is the glory of a man to pass by an offense."
Now, it is desirable to conclude that to assert such a spirit is essential to unity and harmony. In any general assemblage of Christians there is necessarily much diversity of opinion, and great contrasts of character. Even good people view subjects from so many different standpoints that they cannot see eye to eye; hence the
duty to exercise forbearance, and a tolerant spirit. With gentle consideration missing, it is obvious that unity and peace cannot be maintained among Christians.
It has been justly remarked that "to make all men constitutionally alike is not the aim of the Christian church, nor is it the purpose of God to bring all Christians into oneness of view and sentiment on matters not essential to salvation." We ought always to bear in mind that there is no error that our brethren may commit, but to which we ourselves are liable betimes.
For the sake of consistency, and the recommendation of a godly testimony, all Christians should review their actions and daily exercise a forgiving and forbearing spirit. To every observant mind this would be a powerful argument for the superiority of Christian character. How else is the world to know the right-mindedness of the Christians but by superiority of conduct? And is not this to be one of the most powerful inducements in winning souls to Christ? And does not an opposite course of conduct occasion results equally injurious? How frequently has the ungodly element of the world had occasion to exult over the glaring inconsistencies of professing Christians! How often, instead of exhorting the exclamation, "See how these Christians love," it is, "Behold! how these so-called Christians hate," amid a pandemonium of secretaries quibbling over names and forms, over words and ceremonials, each of little significance in relation to the fact of Christ Himself.
If in these times much bickering, strife, and malice are manifested among Christians, instead of peace, love and concord, where is proof of their superiority? The cause of Christ becomes damaged by those who should recommend its claims and cherish its interests.
Where a larger measure of love diffused among Christians -- which "suffereth long and is kind," which "envieth not, and is not easily provoked," which "thinketh no evil," which "beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things," and which "hideth a multitude of sins," how many more might be induced to accept The Lord Jesus Christ as personal Saviour, and come to the knowledge that, as Christians, they are forever blessed "with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ!" Seeing,
then, that Christian love thus developed is essential to our character as individual Christians, and desirable for the collective testimony and the peace and prosperity of the whole Church, "put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things, put on love, which is the bond of perfection." Colossians 3:12-14.
HINDRANCES TO VICTORIOUS LIVING
DRIFTING FROM CHRIST: THE WAY BACK
The ancients represented life as a running stream. We feel the appropriateness of the figure as we reflect upon the ceaseless vicissitudes that lap our own lives. How remorseless is the steady current that flows beneath us, often so noiseless, as it quickly bears us onward to the unknown!
Sitting quietly on the banks of the Delaware recently, watching the rapid movement of the river, we were suddenly surprised to find how many years have slipped away. How full they have been! How many scenes we have passed on our way! How many new reaches of experiences we have discovered! How many faces have faded around us! How fast we all live! Those who have voyaged farthest are probably the least able to realize that so many years have come and gone since they first set forth.
But to think of this ceaseless movement in which we are all involved as if it were a mere brute fate to which we must perforce submit would be disastrous. Men were never intended to be the victims of this hurrying life -- like drowning swimmers carried away by a resistless flood. We have been called upon to master the swift running flow, to take advantage of its currents. This constant change to which we are all committed is the condition of progress. Without it life would not become the deeper, broader, larger thing which somehow it does become as our years go on. How flat and stale it would otherwise be!
And yet, every one must feel that were there only ceaseless change in our earthly lot -- no anchor sure and steadfast for us anywhere — life would be terrible indeed. It is only children that seek perpetual novelty — children, and those who, though they have become men, have not laid aside childish things. Wiser men begin to
perceive ere long that life is not a pleasure sail after all, that the currents are stronger than they at first thought, and may carry them away. This noiseless, endless, resistless movement that is going on around brings to many a great sinking of heart. Those they have loved are being hurried from their grasp, and their own life trickling away, their heart begins to cry out for something fixed and stationary on which to plant their feet. Like men borne on some frail raft upon a wild waste of waters, they long for some vestige of a shore, some pier or sandbank running out into the deep, some stout overhanging branch that they may clutch and hold on to, and by which they might poise and stay themselves. In midstream of this flood of all things mortal there rises a great rock under the lee of which belated souls may find sure refuge.
There is nothing in this whole world that is fixed and stable other than Christ. We only cheat ourselves if we think there is. In our prosperity and the boasting of our physical powers we say we shall never be moved, and then, when the lightest cloud passes over God's Face we learn better. That independent strength of mind and body on which some of us habitually rely so much, gets rudely shaken some day. Again, those upon whom we have leaned for a lifetime at length are taken from us. One by one our anchors are struck away from us, and we are at the mercy of the winds and waves of this changeful existence. Only Christ abides! Christ — who outlives the seeming changeless heavens themselves, divesting Himself of them as a garment, while He Himself endures unchanged -- The True, The Unalterable, The Immovable One!
Are you moored to Christ? Or are you tossing still upon the sea of life, as aimless in your course as ever?
Of those who were once moored alongside Christ, how many that we could name have drifted far enough! Some of these lives today, perhaps, are gone upon the rocks, and are at the point of breaking up: and of others perhaps all that survives is some wreckage that has been cast upon the far shores of eternity. And we ourselves, though by the grace of God may not have suffered such disaster, may have slipped our moorings and have drifted far. Are we actually near The Lord Jesus Christ? Are we holding to His truth? Are we closely bound to His service? Are we firmly lashed to His friendship? Or has our grasp relaxed? Is His Sublime Figure
receding into the distance and lessening to our view? We should ask ourselves this seriously, which is it? If unhappily the latter is the case, it may have come about in various ways.
A storm may have broken in on your life, and driven you away from Christ. It may have been a storm of doubt or a storm of trouble. There are always some minds for whom it is peculiarly difficult to hold on to Jesus Christ. They find it hard to accept implicitly those truths lying half in light and half in the shadow. They find it much harder to do so than others. Their minds work speculatively. They must peer over the edge of the known truth into the unknown, and there they stand puzzled and amazed. Also, perhaps, in our time it is more difficult than ever for such persons to believe.
A vast number of new ideas have been thrown lately into the general mind which there has hardly been time as yet to estimate and assign to their proper place; and then, perhaps, men, becoming acquainted with these ideas, as they must, are at a loss to know exactly how to adjust the old view of things to them. In their light existence seems to present a changed face to them. The scenery of their lives is altered. The old familiar landmarks have become dim, their whole outlook perplexed and troubled. Can you wonder much if such men, especially if they were never very closely attached to Christ by personal bonds of trust and affection, are often to be found drifting far from Him.
Or the storm may have been a storm of trouble. Sometimes a storm of this kind may drive men to Christ rather than away from Him. After vainly battling with the elements, wearied souls may at last take refuge with Him, as sore-pressed vessels, under stress of weather, put into some calm, spacious haven. But sometimes, too, it happens that the tempest that sends one man to The Lord Jesus Christ drives another away. The strain made on his faith has been too great. Lesser disappointments he might have borne, but not this disappointment. Their losses he might have stood, but this loss is too overwhelming. He cannot see the meaning of a visitation so sore, or the righteousness of it, or any light upon it at all.
Existence darkens round the man, and everything he once was sure of slips away from him -- everything, including Christ. Is it either of these ways that you have drifted away from Christ? Is it a tempest of blinding doubt or of black trouble that has broken upon you, so that you have dragged your anchors and drifted put to sea?
We question very much whether we make as much allowance as we should for what one may call the ebb and flow of the tide of life in us all. Perhaps it is because we understand so little about it. The fact appears to be that it is with man as with Nature. We know how the heart of Nature beats time to a mysterious mighty rhythm, and how regularly recurring are those deep respirations of her life which we name summer and winter, and night and day. But we forget how our own tiny being seems to share in this hidden law. Our very body is attuned to it; there are periods in our lives at which our vitality is greater; others at which it is less; nay, in every twenty-four hours a wave of life-force rises within us, then falls again, so that a doctor will tell you beforehand at what hour the sufferer's strength will flicker up most brightly, when it will be spent and die. Now, on this physical basis more of the moral phenomena of our lives depend than we are aware. Our temptations mix themselves up strangely with this ebb and flow that ceaselessly goes on within. Our physical being takes advantage of the flowing tide of youthful passion to come in upon us like a flood. With the ebb of manhood's early vigor, enthusiasm and the capacity of an ardent faith and love are apt to ebb also. If you will watch your temptations -- especially the more notable of them — you will find they almost obey a law of recurence. As hunger and thirst assert themselves at regularly recurring intervals, so do our temptations. Our sins, like ourselves, if they slumber for a time, awake with renewed energy. Who does not know more or less of this ceaseless ebbing and flowing of the forces of sin in his own life — how, after a season of exalted fellowship with God a descent into cold unbelief is all but sure to supervene? How conquest is succeeded by defeat again, and how, at times, such lesser alternations in our spiritual history get lost and swallowed up in a very springtide of worldliness that threatens to overwhelm faith entirely? These are the tides of sin and unbelief to which we are, by our very nature, subject. Has it been such a mighty silent gathering force as this that has slowly gained upon you, and carried you so far from Christ?
If it has been neither of these, then, it may have been something more slow and subtle and secret still. You have seen a vessel, owing to no storm or the rise of any tide, but simply through the restlessness of the element in which it floats, gradually loosen from its moorings, and little by little be borne out to sea. And even when no powerful currents are passing around us there is this restlessness in all our lives which may of itself be disastrous. Repose is an impossibility. You cannot steady yourself for an instant. A thousand varying cares and moods and occupations agitate the surface of our lives. And with this there comes chafing and fretting which may by slow degrees wear out the strands of communion that bind us to our Lord. Indeed, when you drift from Christ it is probably due to this very cause. Nothing of the nature of a crisis has happened with you, only the inevitable slow action of a daily life, that never can be without its cares, has been at work, gradually loosening your attachments to Christ, without your even suspecting it you may have little by little been borne aside and away from Him. And then you waken to the fact that you are like a vessel which has slipped its moorings over night, and by the morning is on strange and perilous seas.
But, how many a Christian who has drifted away from Christ regains his moorings? It is by no violent efforts, no beating up against the adverse forces of life, that any man will regain his old attachment of Jesus Christ. It is contemplation of the truth that brings him back again, and contemplation, not so much of any new discoveries he may make concerning Christ, but simply of those familiar aspects of His Person and His redemptive work that first won his trust. It is just that the Christian must now regard earnestly the loving Saviour, in whom he long ago took refuge, if he is to be recovered from his erring course. And somehow there is that in The Lord Jesus Christ which, if He is pondered humbly, has the power to draw the heart to center and stay itself once more on Him.
God has been pleased to order it so that the essential and quickening power of His grace resides in a few foundational truths. Without doubt, "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ," but only a very small portion of these is necessary for any of us. What is needed is that we trustfully accept these, and that, having done so, we be constantly weighing and evaluating and admiring them afresh, as a man might turn over and over a priceless
gem that had come into his hands. It is a question whether any of us do this sufficiently. We are apt to be too much in love with novelty. We allow the old ideas to fall out of sight just because they are old, to chase new ideas that come within our horizon just because they are new. Hence, the spectacle which some minds present as of a distressed craft, tracking this way and that in a storm.
It is a great thing to keep near old familiar truths -- to keep near the old familiar Christ! The stable Christian is always the simple Christian. Think of the staunchest, ripest believer you know, the most fervent and devoted, the least moved by any of the storms that sooner or later break on all of us; how, you ask, has this mature steadfastness come to him? Through going much apart with God to muse and pray; through often saying within his heart, "He loved me and gave Himself for me." Such a believer has a firm anchor to hold him. Neither things present nor things to come will separate him from "the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39.
THE ADVANTAGES OF GREATER ATTRACTION:
The Apostle Paul tells us that God has furnished the means of effectual escape from every temptation. No one need therefore fall into condemnation. "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (1 Corinthians 10:13).
This divinely provided means of outlet presents itself under various forms, some of which we would particularize. The succession of days is not more certain than the coming of temptation. Until our susceptibility to temptation ceases -- which will cease to permit these salutatory trials. We must expect them and we ought to prepare for them. Those who are foolish enough to succumb to their assaults, will be found to have failed in the practice of anticipation.
The Lord Jesus exhorts all to, "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation (Matthew 26:41). The strength of an army is its preparedness. It is a generally accepted axiom that "Half the battle is won when the first onslaught of the foe finds the army ready for action." Unfortunately, far too many Christian men and women are soldiers for "peace only." They respond with alacrity to the influences of religious enthusiasm. The sense of pardon from sins fills the convert with rapture, and songs of praise burst from his lips. He fancies himself called to enjoy a life of happiness, whereas the true vocation of the believer is to a life of holiness. Present happiness is incidental only and is very different in character from superficial devotion. But how many mercurial followers of Christ shrink when jubilant songs give way to the stern alarms of war. They made loud profession for awhile just as long as there was nothing strenuous or disagreeable to be done, but in time of temptation their songs diminish and they look for shelter. He that would withstand in the evil day, must put himself in a state of fully equipped readiness.
The Epistle of James encourages the believer to "resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). Satan knows when to
persist and when to retreat. A will that is fortified in God and stands firm as a rock, has settled the issue. The important point in temptation is not to lose one's head. He has nothing to dread who cannot be frightened. Remember this, there is no power in temp-tation itself. The only strength and opportunity is the weakness of our will. When the will is strong in Christ temptation disappears like a passing cloud. Consider for a moment the temptations of our Lord. Without agitation or fear He turned His face on the adversary, and with one word of deep significance vanquished him: "Get thee hence, Satan" (Matthew 4:10). We need to recall that serene courage if we too would triumph. It will unquestionably tax our powers and the tension may be almost insupportable for a season, but resistance ushers in victory.
Many temptations are the natural consequence of placing ourselves thoughtlessly in the way of danger. We should exercise foresight and avoid dangerous situations. The occasions of sin are as much to be dreaded as the sins to which they entice us.
We read, "And Lot pitched his tent toward Sodom" (Genesis 13:12). It was a wrong and disastrous move. The beautiful valley which Lot chose was bordered southward by Sodom, and "the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly" (Genesis 13:13). Lot's approach was gradual. He pitched his tent toward Sodom. Then seeking other pastures for his flock he encamped still nearer. When he neared the confines of the city it was not long before the tent was changed for a house with direful consequences to himself and his wife and children.
We must avoid Lot's folly. We must learn to say, No! Things apparently not wrong in themselves are often wrong in their tendencies or associations. God demands a strong, pure life which will make no compromise with the spirit of this world. The siren voices of Sodom will call in vain, the luring spirits of the world will tempt in vain for those who fully enter into the fullness of our highly privileged position with Christ in the heavenlies.
The power of temptation lies in its attractiveness. If it did not offer promises of seeing good it would tempt in vain. He who yields to the deductions of sin justifies himself by the pleasure which
it will afford him. But let us stop to analyze the results which are held out as a glittering bait. Is the "good" seeming or real? What have others found it to be? Is it more attractive than God? The more we know of God the greater is His power to draw us away from the allurement of temptation. If we limit our conceptions of God by what we know of Him and are eager for no more, we dishonor Him and dwarf ourselves. In God -- and this is the lesson Christians need to take to heart -- there are infinite depths.
There is all the difference in the world between temptation overcome, and temptation surrendered to. In either instance there is conflict. There is great need of enlightenment in this matter, for many Christians are almost as unhappy over the results of the enemy as over their defeat, consequently they must learn to discriminate.
One may be distressed and disheartened by the sudden presence of impure thoughts or rebellious feelings against God, which have been injected into the mind, as it would seem, without premeditation. These experiences are most painful in any view of them. But how do we receive them? If these temptations fill us with horror and disgust, and if our wills rise up in stalwart resistance of them, we may and ought to rest quietly in God.
In times of temptation we often feel as if God were far away, and silent, and seemingly unconcerned, somewhat like the experience through which the patriarch passed, "Oh that I knew where I might find Him! that I might come even to His seat!" (Job 23:3). But we must discriminate between God and our perception of Him. It is our perception of Him. It is our vision which is dim, and not God who has temporally withdrawn Himself. We are not to despair because we have found out what dim vision our souls have. The film over one's vision does not diminish the splendor of the sun in the least. Successful temptation is always followed by other temptations, chief among them is the temptation to discouragement. The prophet in his day declared, "Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that ... we have walked mournfully before The Lord of Hosts?" (Malachi 3:14). But before we succumb to Satan's attack let us steal away to some quiet place and ponder, what does defeat signify? Have we really changed masters and substituted disloyalty for love? Because we may have been tripped up for the moment do we really
propose to renounce our intention to live for God?
We should discriminate between trials and temptations. Trials are of God and minister to our profit if we receive them as He sends them. "Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty" (Job 5:17).
But temptations are not of God, and their end is sin and death. "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God" (James 1:13). The connection between God and temptation is that of an overruling control, by which what is in itself unto evil is circumvented, as it were, and made to contribute to good ends.
Christians are sometimes subjected to assaults of extra-ordinary severity, sometimes they cry out: "Why art thou cast down O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me?" (Psalm 43:5). But our temptations are not always resisted. They have proved their strength, and too often have we in our weakness done their will. It would be well for all of us to take to heart the words of the Apostle Paul written to his son in the faith that he, as the chief of sinners, obtained mercy, that in him Jesus Christ "might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting" (1 Timothy 1:16).
HINDRANCE TO FELLOWSHIP: JEALOUSY
Question: A New York reader asks: "Do you not think jealousy is the most baneful influence in the Church today and is a decided hindrance to Christian fellowship?"
Answer: Jealousy is a cruel and wicked thing, a fountain of bitterness and sorrow. You seem to have suffered much from this vile passion, and perhaps a discussion of it may be helpful to you and to others who have from time to time written to us in the same strain. It is hardly an inviting theme. We do not always regulate our thoughts according to the exhortation of the Apostle Paul, who writing from Prison, says: "Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things" (Philippians 4:8).
Jealousy is really a high tribute which failure pays to success, and mediocrity to eminence. "When a true genius appears in the world," says Jonathan Swift, "you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." Jealousy is the way of human nature. It is not easy to be eclipsed with a good grace. When a man by effort and perseverance elevates himself above his fellows, it is difficult for them to recognize his merit and rejoice wholeheartedly in his achievement. They see in his exaltation a slight upon themselves. A man's success tests his fellow men. It will make him a multitude of friends, but it will also make him a host of malignant enemies.
The mischief of jealousy is that it almost inevitably vents itself in detraction and slander. It is a cruel and unscrupulous passion, and prompts to the crime which the Latin satirist calls, "slitting windpipes, with the fine edge of slander." Probably no one has ever struggled out of the rut without getting bruised and bespattered with mud. It is a painful experience but the perpetrators are the chief victims, and, in the long run, the only sufferers. There is, so we have been informed, a viper in Central
India which bites so savagely that its fangs break, and the poison enters its self-inflicted wound and kills it. A good man may suffer for a time, but, if he bears himself humbly, "continuing patiently in well doing," he emerges victorious, with tenfold luster. Christian men and women may be deceived for a season, but not always. Their ultimate verdict is invariably just.
It is the part of a wise man, when he is slandered, not to cry out against the injustices, still less to retaliate, but to scrutinize his own life and see if there may not be something in it which has given occasion, unwittingly and unintentionally. It is useful too "to see ourselves as others see us," even in caricature.
The disposition to jealousy is inherent in human nature, and we should sedulously guard against it and mercilessly repress it. We should school ourselves to generous judgment, and shun the habit of adverse criticism. When an unkind utterance arises to one's lips, it is a salutary discipline to force it back and cast about for something kind to say instead.
And yet, let us beware of over sensitiveness, which is just another form of vanity. The withholding of praise, even when it is deserved, need not imply jealousy. It may, on the contrary, evince respect. "You would compliment a coxcomb," says Emerson, "for doing a good act, but you would not praise an angel. The silence that accepts merit as the most natural thing in the world, is the highest applause."
THE SEVENTH THING THE LORD HATES:
SOWING DISCORD AMONG BRETHREN
"These six things doth the Lord hate," says Solomon; "yea, seven are an abomination unto Him, a proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed blood, an heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren" (Proverbs 6:16-19). Here we have a plain and distinct declaration of things which are repugnant to the mind of God. The seventh thing enumerated is "he that soweth discord among brethren." This offense is grouped and associated with the foulest and most revolting of crimes. In the preceding verse it is recognized as the conduct of "a wicked man."
To sow discord, implies the destruction of previous harmony. It is presented among "brethren; their spirits are attuned to each other; their hopes and aspirations are accordant. No jarring, envying, or idle contentions. No heart-burnings or jealousies. No separate or distinct interests. But all rejoice in the oneness in The Lord Jesus Christ. To multiply the joys and diminish the sorrows of each other, is the common object; they have "fellowship one with another." The law of sweet reasonableness dwells on every tongue, and the love of Christ beams from every eye. The apostolic precept is studiously and conscientiously obeyed. "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and evil-speaking, be put away from you, with all malice; and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." "All things are done without murmurings and disputings." Each is striving to preserve the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace."
Then suddenly the "apple of discord" is cast among a harmonious and affectionate fraternity! The lovely scene is at once marred by the hand of faction. It is like the reckless throwing of a dirty brush upon the canvas of a beautifully and highly-finished picture. This is the work of him who "soweth discord among brethren." With apparent candor and smiling mean he casts abroad the pernicious tares among the precious wheat. He scatters the
corrupt seed, which speedily yields "roots of bitterness, that, springing up, trouble" the Body of Christ. Mutual friends are transformed into bitter enemies; reciprocal tenderness and confidence are destroyed. Love yields to hatred. Feuds and animosities are engendered. Order is lost in wild confusion. The blessing of God cannot be present amid scenes of tumult and contention.
But what do the ungodly say of these things, "When these Christians leave off slapping each other with the back of their hands, it will be time enough for us to think of embracing their faith." Such is the offense! What, then, must be the guilt of the offender? Both the offense and the offender are displeasing in the sight of a holy God.
Is it possible, then, that he who boasts of his "liberty in Christ," dares deliberately rush upon consequences so fearful? Has he boldness enough willfully to stir up the Divine displeasure? What mockery is made of grace. Let him who is engaged in "sowing discord among brethren" seriously reflect upon his guilt and its consequences. Let him resolve steadily to abandon a course so offensive to God, so injurious to the Church, and so plainly ruinous to himself.
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 Power and Value of Joy Vol. I, No. 9, p. 4
Profusion Not Waste Christian Unity Vol. V, No. 1, p. 3
Christian Unity Vol. IX, No. 6 & 7
p. 11 (Sept., 1952)
Study to be Quiet Vol. X, No. 2, p. 4
Fellowship of Burning Heart Vol. X, No. 3 & 4 (Oct.-Nov. 1952)
Mutual Forbearance and Forgiveness Vol. X, No. 9, & 10
p. 1 (Dec., 1953)
Drifting from Christ Vol. VI, No. 8 & 9
p. 13 (Apr.-May, 1948)
The Advantages of Greater Attraction: Vol. IX, No. 10, p. 4
Temptation (May, 1952)
Hindrance to Fellowship Vol. VIII, No. 3, p. 4
The Seventh Thing the Lord Hates: Vol. X, No. 2, p. 5
Sowing Discord (September, 1952)
(Inside back cover)
EVERY SCRIPTURE IS GOD BREATHED AND IS
PROFITABLE FOR INSTRUCTION IN RIGHTEOUSNESS
Every Scripture is God breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction In righteousness; in order that the man of God may be fitted, having been furnished for every good work.
-- 2 TIMOTHY 3:16 & 17
A Literal English Translation of The Nestle Greek Text by Alfred Marshall D. Litt. Samuel Bagster and Sons Limited London, England (1958)
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