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Bible Commentaries

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
1 Corinthians 11

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-34

The Teachings of Nature

1 Corinthians 11:14

The Apostle is speaking about a particular subject; it is of no interest to us: but the principle which he lays down is of perpetual value and application. I wish to lure you into two or three simple admissions. The church in which we assemble built itself. I want you to admit that simple statement to be true. No human hand touched it; whether it came down, or whether it rose up from the earth, it is impossible to say; but precisely as it now stands it was found by those who occupy it. No man built it, no man touched it, no man charged for it; the whole edifice came to earth just as we see it. Do you receive the statement with a smile? Why should you do so? There may be more in the admission or supposition than you expect. Be careful how you admit anything at any time. Things are so connected one with another that, in talking the commonest speech, you may be committing yourselves to the most subtle and complicated scheme of metaphysics. Let me then make a less demand upon your imagination, and get you to admit that, if the church did not build itself, the pulpit did. That is a much smaller area, and therefore will tax, in proportionate degree, much less of your credulity and imagination. The pulpit came up out of the earth or descended from the roof, we cannot tell which; but here it is: no man touched it, no tool fashioned it, no fingers polished it; but just as you see it, it came to be. Do you still smile? Do you think I would lead you into fooldom, and tease and torture you with your own folly? Then let me circumscribe still more, and say that if the church did not build itself, or the pulpit did not build itself, the glass in one of the windows made itself. Let us circumscribe still further and say one of the panes; let us still further circumscribe and say, the Very smallest pane of glass in this building made itself. Now how do we stand? Just as badly as ever; I cannot get any one to assent to these propositions. If you think it worth while to condemn them you simply dismiss them with a sneer, or turn aside from them with most suggestive indifference.

You have a theory, which has sometimes led you into trouble. Your theory is to believe nothing that transcends the circle of positive human experience. Within the four corners of that theory you are prepared to believe largely, but beyond the four corners of that theory you will not go one inch. So you exclude miracles, supernaturalism, inspiration, the unseen universe, God. You take rank with those philosophers who are experiental; they subject every theory, suggestion, proposition to the test of actual human experience, saying, Has man ever known anything like this? Does this thing come within our experience and observation? Can we subject it to the test of our hands? Will it confine itself within the bounds of our reason? If not, we dismiss it; therefore we take up all books of divinity, according to Hume"s suggestion, and we simply commit them to the flames. Our theory, say you, is the theory of experience. So you will not believe that the church built itself, that the pulpit built itself, or that the smallest pane of glass in the windows of the church made itself; you have never known any such self-making in any department of life; the very suggestion of self-making in these directions excites the resentment of your reason. So be it. Let us go away from the church altogether.

Above us, around us, beneath us, there is a great structure called the universe: I propose that we say it made itself. What do you say in reply to that suggestion? Let us circumscribe and say, If the whole universe of the telescope did not make itself, our own little world is self-made. Again you pause, again I cannot get you to assent to my suggestion; then let us try within more circumscribed limits to get some assent to this theory of self-creation, let us pluck a blade of grass from the meadow and say, This one blade is its own creator. You will not even admit so small a proposition as that; you are as consistent in your denials with regard to the universe, the earth, and the grass as you were with regard to the church, the pulpit, and the window pane. What do you know about nature? That is a very common word in the books of the day. Suppose a man should come to the city and write a book about it, and suppose that he should state in the preface of the book that he has only stood at one street-corner of the city, and has seen nothing of the city beyond what he could see from that position; and he has written an elaborate treatise about the metropolis. He has never seen its libraries, its galleries of art; he has never walked through its museums, or inspected its historical and monumental buildings; he has simply stood at one street-corner, and taken in as much as he could by glancing round from right to left, and he has written a large book upon the metropolis of England. What would you think of him? Would you buy the book? You would not even borrow it. Yet this is very much more than anybody has done in relation to God"s great city of the universe. We have not even stood at one little street-corner in it; yet we tell what the universe Isaiah , and what nature Isaiah , and what nature can do, and has done, and will do. It is very impertinent! Were a man to publish what he had seen from his own street-corner he would be acting legitimately and reasonably: were men to say all they now know about the little piece of nature that has come under their survey, they, too, would be acting in a rational manner. Beyond that, however, they must not go. We know nothing about nature beyond a very limited line; and what there is in the further nature, the deeper, loftier, grander nature, that shall modify and rectify and explain the little portion of nature we do know, no man can tell.

You acknowledge that the church must have been built by some one; you acknowledge that the universe must have had a maker or a making; and you say you do not know who made it. Very well: what does that matter? That is of no consequence. You do not know who made the glass that is in your windows at home. Who was he? You cannot tell. What is his name? You never heard it. Where was he born? Impossible to say. And yet you believe it was made; you cannot get out of that admission. But your agnosticism amounts to nothing. If you really and truly wanted to find out the man you would at least make some inquiry about him; you could at least fee a detective; if you wanted to find out who made the universe, you could at all events reverently inquire. The main point is that we admit that this universe must have been made. Deny that it was made as a whole: what does that amount to? Nothing. If you taunt Paley and his followers with the suggestion that they only remove the inquiry one step backward, so do we taunt all other men who are supposed to deny the Divine creatorship of the universe. Say the universe came out of a speck, a germ, a tuft of fire-mist—who made it? It takes as much wisdom to account for one little tuft of fire-mist as to account for the universe. It may take even more, for how wondrous must have been that little cloud of fiery particles out of which came all constellations, all systems, all things great, beautiful, musical, majestic, tender! Who hid in so small a receptacle wonders so infinite, so dazzling? No matter therefore what your theory of making Isaiah , and no matter whether you say the universe was made by a Secret, an Energy, a Force, you still come to the grand religious point. Whether that point can be amplified, put into words, set in a broader aspect before your mind, is a question which for the moment may be reserved: enough has been admitted to give us a teaching nature when it is admitted that according to human experience nothing known to men ever made itself; therefore the universe, if it is to be accepted as a fact, must be accepted according to the limits of this doctrine of experience. This might be enough to begin with.

Now let us see how much of a Bible we can make for ourselves. We have human experience bearing evidence in a certain direction, we have a universe as the basis of induction and inference; we will not listen to prating theologians, to pedantic divines who have learned lessons from books and are reciting them from treacherous memories! we will have nothing to do with the brood theological: we will write a book upon what we do see of the universe that is round about us. Now, begin! Shall I dictate what you write, and will you stop me the moment you cannot assent to what I dictate? Let that be the understanding between us for a moment. Thus then would I dictate the new Bible:—Whoever made this universe must have infinite strength—or say, in equal words, infinite power. It is a big thing to have made. It is so broad, deep, so cubic; it measures in every direction, length, breadth, depth, height, diametrically, diagonally: how full of measure! That is verse1. Verse2read thus:—Whoever made this universe must have continuing strength enough to keep it going. This is not the work of some giant, who in a moment of spasmodic strength threw off the miracle of creation; there is abiding, sustaining, providential strength in the maker of this universe, be he man or angel, God or devil, personality or influence and energy. Science tells us that there are orbits, circles of movement, so great that the orbit made by our solar system would lie upon their infinite distances like a straight line. No wheel goes wrong, no planet makes a noise as it drives its chariot through the fields of immensity. The stars have all been there, not according to the theologians, but according to the men of science—thousands of years. That would be a mean time. Tens of thousands of years? You scarcely relieve the meanness even by that heightening suggestion. Millions of years, billions countless. Put down therefore as the second verse in the Bible suggested by nature, that whoever or whatever made this universe must have continuing strength to sustain it.

Put another verse down:—Whoever or whatever made the universe constantly utilises danger as an element in education, This is a great school, and it is full of peril, and this peril is utilised as an agent or instrument in the education of the whole human family. We learn by what we suffer; we are made cautious by what we fear. A yard off there may be a bottomless pit; near at hand there may be devouring fire. We are led. therefore, constantly to look out, to study, to consider, to test by careful experiment. If we put our hand into the fire, we are burned; there is poison in the very air; the next little plant I pluck for my hunger may kill me because it is a poison-flower. The lightning may be sleeping, but it is never absent; it may strike the proudest tower and level the proudest town: I must take care how I build, I must bribe that dangerous fluid if I can; I must offer it the hospitality of iron that it may be conducted away from the tower into the ditch. Nature herself has taught us thus much. We cannot riot and be wanton in nature. Nature hath her constables, nature hath her code of laws and her register of punishments, her magistrates and Judges , and her gaols and hulks and penal settlements. "Doth not even nature itself teach you" that life is subject to continual danger, and that danger is to be regarded as an element in the culture of our judgment and in the distribution and control of our faculties?

Put down another verse. We are getting now, I see, a rather useful Bible without the aid of the theologians at all. Whoever made or whatever made this universe has established within it the principle of obedience. If we do not obey we die; if we disobey we die. We make no laws except little ones, subsidiary laws, mere transcripts of the great ordinances of nature. We must obey. Doth not even nature herself teach you so? And we must obey the sun. The sun settles all your customs and habits. You may not have thought of that, but everything even in your civilisation goes right back to the sun. When George Stephenson said that the engine that was flying across the landscape was being driven by light he was right. That same light drives all the engines of civilisation. The sun tells you what coat to put on. Do not distress yourself as to how you will dress your poor body; the sun will settle that. Here let us suppose is a burning summer day and a man is going to put on his very thickest top coat. His children laugh. I am not now speaking of instances of infirmity or of any special and unique instances of feebleness, I am speaking of the broad customs of society. The sun settles your wardrobe. And you must obey the sun in the food you take. What is good in one climate is intolerable in another; consult the sun. The sun determines what kind of houses you will build; the sun is the architect. In some climates he permits you to build wooden shanties, and they are quite enough; in other countries he forbids any such poor building, and says, You must build in this country of granite. And you cannot help it. Freemen!—bondmen. The sun settles all business. The merchant has to look up to the sun to see what he must buy next, how his next speculation is to run; there is one speculation for summer and another speculation for winter, and all the shop-windows simply say where the sun is. Sometimes the sun seems to play them rather vexatious tricks. Still, he is the sun and he settles the profits of Regent-street. Regent-street can never get over one thorough wet day. A wondrous nature. Can we not do double business the next day? No. If there has been one day lost by rain it can never be recovered.

Doth not even nature itself teach thee? Is there not something more in all this? Have we not here a field of vivid and practical suggestion? We might continue the inquiry along all directions. Suppose therefore now we terminate our dictation of the new Bible, because the Bible, as we know it, has been put into our hands. Now we are prepared in some degree to read it. What does it say? It says:—"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth"; and we say, Blessed be his name! It does look as if this might be true; it seems as if it were worthy of God, so great, so bright, so wondrous, so adapted in part to part, so silent, yet so musical; it may be true, "And God said, Let there be light": it looks as if he might have said Song of Solomon , the light is so beautiful, so glorious, so silent. It fills all things, yet takes up no room; it does not displace the tiniest child from the tiniest chair. It may be God"s light; it shines as brightly upon the poor man"s cottage as upon the monarch"s palace; it kisses as tenderly the poor man"s one little window-flower as it does the radiant, glowing parterre in the king"s garden: it may be that God did make this light. "God said, Let us make man": he may have done so; man is so strange, so complex, so wondrous altogether: now an angel, now almost a demon; now writing his Iliad and his Paradise Lost, and now degrading himself into the lowest, basest life, and then suddenly springing up into song and prayer, and stretching out eloquent hands to condescending heaven. God may have made us! The Christian believer has no difficulty in stepping from nature to nature"s God. The Christian believer has no difficulty in going up from providence to redemption. The Christian believer does not discard reason, he takes up his reason under the wings of his faith. The Christian believer finds no difficulty in saying to Christ, "My Lord, and my God": and in saying this he does not give up his reason, he sanctifies it, he turns it to its divinest uses. The Christian believer has no doubt or difficulty about the miracles of Christ; the miracles were in the hem of his garment, in every tone of his voice, in the glance of his gentle or rebuking eyes. He himself was the supreme miracle, and all lesser miracles fall out of him as gentle showers from the infinite clouds. Let us abide in this faith; let us rest and content ourselves as in a divine sanctuary. Let nature herself be our first teacher, and if we submit ourselves to her eloquent lessons, so patiently given, there shall come in upon us another voice, and yet not another,—the voice that made nature will interpret nature, and the voice that made nature will not keep heaven from us.

The Night of Betrayal

1 Corinthians 11:23

These words were used by the Apostle Paul. There is a word put in—"The same night in which he was betrayed": omit the word "same"—"The night in which he was betrayed." Events make time memorable. Our sufferings are our birthdays, or our burial-days, or our resurrection-days, according to the view we are enabled to take of them whilst we tarry beside the all-engulfing and all-sanctifying woe of Christ. There is a subtle music in the very words. We could not have read—"The morning in which he was betrayed: the glorious summer noontide in which he was betrayed." It is better thus: the night, the darkness, the gloom, the midnight involved in midnight, in which he was betrayed. But this is only one view, and it is only our view. We are shocked with a great surprise. Even the verbal fitness of things adds to our soul"s disquiet. What view did Jesus Christ himself take of the night in which he was betrayed? What did he do? That is the very point. How did he use that darkness? Did he accept it as a signal of despair, and say, I have failed, and must return whence I came? Properly read, these words are the beginning of the sublimest revelation of Christ"s character. "The same night in which he was betrayed"—he was overwhelmed? No. He yielded himself to the malign spell of despair? No: He "took bread." He was always taking bread that he might give it. He would be great in darkness; the tragedy shall but reveal his majesty. What did Jesus Christ do the same night in which he was betrayed? He founded a sacrament; the simplest of feasts, a memorial banquet; and he said, As often as ye gather around this table ye gather around your Lord; and as oft as ye do this simple deed you do it in remembrance of me." Is that all? No,—"in remembrance" takes us back away over the stony road of our yesterdays when we did all the sin, and committed all the folly; and this sacrament is intended to do more—it is to show forth the Lord"s death till he come. There is the future, the road we have never travelled, the unstained, unsullied path, the road of sunbeams and flowers, without a footprint but his own. This he did on the same night in which he was betrayed. He thought of his Church, he arranged the feast, suiting his own simplicity, he set up a memorial beautiful as love, and simple as the thought of a child; he condescended to poverty, so that any man who has one crumb of bread can eat the Lord"s body. This was no feast for kings of wealth, for sons of splendour and children of luxury; it was the world"s simple but ample board. Wherever there is bread—and there is bread wherever there is life—the Lord"s death can be set forth till he come. Then he was not overwhelmed? Contrariwise, he was prophetic, poetic, victorious; the only quiet, noble, royal heart in the midst of the gathering gloom.

Not only did he take bread, he "gave thanks." He looked up where he was always looking. It is the upward look that saves you; the upward look is the cure for dizziness, the upward look shows the vastness of things; what you want is never down, it is always up and beyond, the stars being a mere trellis-work through which you catch gleamings of the splendour which is fitted for your soul"s vision alone. Never was Jesus so great as on the night in which he was betrayed. He took the simple wine of the supper table, and made it blood, and called it the new covenant. Whoever can take a draught of water from the spring can drink Christ"s blood. The man cannot turn the water into wine, but Christ can. Whatever you have, if you take it in the right spirit, it is the right thing; and whatever luxury you may have, if you take it in the wrong spirit, it is poison. If you cannot afford one mouthful of milk, take one mouthful of water, and in that water you will find the Lord"s blood. Do not be led away by prosaic minds, those fools that spoil the garden, and say, How can this be so? Say, Art thou a master in Israel, and knowest not these things? art thou a rational being, and art thou degrading all God"s poetry into this mean prose? The thing is what it is made by the thought, the motive, the spirit, the love. There are those who find great things in things that are small. Even the child finds the baby in her doll. There are those who see great sights in flowers that are burning but not consumed; there are minds that halt in all their urgency and forget all their need in the presence of a dawning day. "Things would be greater if we greater deemed them." If we said, "There is nothing common or unclean in God"s house, all the universe is his, and there is nothing in it that is not pure," we should find more purity than we should ever find through the medium of our criticism and pedantry. To the pure all things are pure; to the good, true, honest heart all bread is sacramental, all water is symbolic of the blood of Christ, and every day is an opening into the eternity out of which all days come, as rain-drops fall from the rain-clouds. Thus the Lord set in that darkness a glowing star, whose solemn splendour shall rule the thought of men till stars are needed no longer, until the face of the Lord shall become the one light and the one glory of creation.

Is this all that he did on the night in which he was betrayed? No. What more did the Lord do on that memorable night? He sang a hymn. That proved him to be Lord. No other soul could have sung that night; that darkness would not have brought music into any other heart; that black curtain would have shutout God from any eyes but Christ"s. The Lord and the little Church sang together. To have heard that hymn!—minor, low, pensive, tremulous, grand because of self-suppression, saying more to the ear of the imagination than could be said to the ear of flesh. "They had sung an hymn." That old English suits the occasion better than your new-made grammar would ever do. It makes the occasion venerable and tender with a subtle melancholy. Old age lingers around the scene; this grey moss makes the table old as eternity. We sing our hymns at midday, our psalms are all retrospective; the trouble we came out of, the rivers we were taken across, the seas that were divided as we approached them,—these are the subjects of our modern psalmody; but to be singing while the gathering darkness is descending is really to praise God. The doxology should be an intermediate as well as a final act of worship; when the stroke falls the tongue should sing,—"I will sing as long as I live: my song shall be of mercy and judgment: unto thee, O Lord, will I sing." We are greater in gratitude—and we are never very great in that—than we are in trust. Give us to feel that not a feather has been taken away out of our nest, and we are willing to sing a doxology: give us to feel that the nest is being torn up and scattered on the winds, and where is our hallelujah? What shall be said concerning us when we think of the night in which we were ruined?

On that solemn occasion, after the Lord had discoursed about his betrayal, the disciples said one to another and to the Lord, "Is it I?" Yes, it is every one of us. Who betrayed the Lord? Everybody. There must always be one hand objective and concrete that does the deed, but it is only done representatively: it is a question of agency. It was not the hand of Iscariot that did it, else Christ had fallen a prey to a plot: it was Man that did it; therefore Christ submitted to the sacrifice. Jesus was not worsted by a gang of murderers: all the men that ever lived, and that ever are to live, gathered together in that one infernal representation, and betrayed the Lord when Iscariot kissed him. Iscariot is nobody; Iscariot is but a speck of dust that could have been cast off; but the Lord would not cast off" Prayer of Manasseh , for then had he cast off his own image, and disavowed his own signature, and laid himself prostrate before the conquering work of his own hands. Let us not adopt the shuffling piety that says, "Is it I?" either the question of an imperfect consciousness, or the question of a doubly-involved and unpardonable cowardice. There are those who would keep aloof from Iscariot. Why? We may not stand one inch away from that black character. He did what we wanted to do, and what we ourselves did. Thus again God"s great gleaming axe is flying down to the root of the tree of our respectability, and we stand in one condemnation before God. Let us repeat the commonplace that, as amongst ourselves and between ourselves, there are good men and bad men, faithful men and unfaithful men: but as before God what is there? Only one human nature. There are those who have found that human nature to be very excellent, and they have done everything to establish that doctrine except proving it. They have praised it and repeated it and lauded it and magnified it and revelled in it: we have simply, quietly, and hopelessly waited for the proof.

But, supposing that we are anxious to press the matter personally and say, "Lord, is it I?" even there we can be gratified. Do you remember the time when you had an opportunity of speaking for Christ, and lost it? it was then that you betrayed the Lord. He was looking on, he was expecting a heroic defence, and you were criminally silent. Pray do not abuse Iscariot. Do you remember the time when two courses were set before you, the one dishonourable but leading to immediate wealth, the other honourable but meaning strenuous endeavour and doubtful success in a worldly sense, and you paused, and then took the course that led to pelf and pleasure, to gluttony and suicide? It was then, though you did not speak one word, that you betrayed the Lord. Do you remember making a selfish use of your Christianity, pawning your certificate of Church membership that you might receive some little dole of influence or praise, some small recognition of honour? It was then that you betrayed the Lord. Do you remember wriggling over the words—"He that taketh not up his cross"—do you remember trying to make them mean something else? do you remember your resort to the subtle grammarians who might help you out of the Cross by paving some way across to self-indulgence? Do you remember when criticism collided with criticism, and you accepted the one that involved the least pain and the least surrender and the least sacrifice? Think! it was then that you betrayed the Lord. Do you remember that night when you had two gifts in your hands, the one tolerably large and the other very small, and you said, Which shall I give? and the devil said, Begin by giving the little one: and you said falteringly, No, no, and he said, Certainly: and you put the larger donation back into your purse? It was then you lost the fight; after that the devil took you by the throat and shook you, and led you about whither he would; and the devil is never very dainty as to how he lays his terrific fingers upon the throat of man. Ever since then he could have sold you in any market; ever since then he laid his black hand upon your head and chuckled over you and said, This is the one that I fooled when he was parleying before the Cross.

We have not one of us betrayed the Lord in all points. There is the danger. We run off at points. There is hardly a man who has not some speck of respectability, some little redeeming point, some one excellence, which he can speak of and magnify and put up to public view. Would God sin were one huge black vice! we might escape it; if it were one overshadowing beast, fiercer than all tigers, we might run away: but sin is thick as the air is full of motes, as the sunbeam is crowded with specks of dust; we breathe them; we shut our mouths, and yet inhale them; we call it fresh air and are yet poisoned by them. Sin hath a thousand forms, yea ten thousand times ten thousand forms, and a man is not to be found, probably, who has submitted to sin in every form and in every aspect. Great Trinity, Father, Song of Solomon , and Holy Ghost, there are some chaste men who stand aside to let the poor drunkard go past: whereas he is a purer man than is the chastity that stands aloof from him. And there are some Pharisees in thy Church, O living Christ, who would not for the world utter a profane word, who are telling lies all day long. You may betray your friend, and yet not speak of him in wholesale disrespectfulness. A man may admire you, praise your genius, stand in awe of your fine intellectual capacity, and yet all the while may be robbing you. Where is the point of betrayal? Not in the admiration but in the robbery. A man may help you, and at the same time may slander you when you are not present; a man may know you in sunshine but he may never call upon you in adversity—he betrays you. We betray a friend when we reveal his secrets, when we abuse his confidence, when we lead him into complications. It is easy to betray. A faithful man who can find? an honest white soul that says the same thing on both sides of the door, a downright frank spirit that cannot lie, cannot even look a lie? If judgment begin at the house of God, where shall the ungodly and the sinner be? The word of God is quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword, piercing to the dividing asunder of the joints and marrow, and there is not a thought hidden in the plasm of the soul that it does not find out and examine and pronounce upon.

The Lord is being betrayed every morning, every noonday, every twilight, every midnight. We live to betray him. It is a gainful process of betraying him. We may betray him by professing him; the certificate would not have carried us through but for the sprinkled water of Christian baptism; but for the punctuation of Christian profession, but for the clerical signature. The other side is one of hope. We come to the eternal principle that if we can say from our hearts, Lord, all the preacher has said is true, and a thousand other things he might have said without exaggerating the truth: but, Lord Jesus, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that though my heart is often the house of devils, still I love thee; Jesus, Son of God, thou knowest that though there is no man out of hell that is so familiar with the pit as I Amos , yet thou knowest that I love thee. This is the tragedy of human consciousness and human experience. These are realities we can only approach after a lifetime of education, a lifetime of struggle, a lifetime of loss—the kind of loss that prepares the soul for gain. Remember, the same night in which he was betrayed the Lord founded a sacrament, and sang a hymn, and set two new stars in the coronet of night. The Lord conquered in the very act of falling. When he died he became victor. He said to a wondering universe—"Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die." He then planted one ear of wheat. Today he fills the wheatfields of the universe with golden grain. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied.

Prayer

Lord, abide with us, for it is toward evening and the day is far spent. Come into our hearts, and break bread to our soul"s hunger, and we shall know of a surety that it is the Lord. We are hungered, and we are smitten with thirst in the world; we cannot find satisfaction to our best desire; we have hewn out to ourselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water: God pity us, God be merciful unto us sinners. We come to thy house that we may see heaven; we draw near to God that we may receive pardon. We long for forgiveness; it means release and liberty and hope and progress. If we confess our sins, thou art faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We confess all our sins; we confess them at the Cross; and we behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. The Lord pity us, the Lord cleanse us, through the precious blood of Christ. We come for light, we come for help; we are often in great darkness, our life is a constant need: Lord, guide us with thine eye, and feed us with thine hand. Amen.


Verse 27

Conditions of Renewal

Hebrews 6:4-6

1 Corinthians 11:27, 1 Corinthians 11:29

There are some few passages of Scripture which have caused a great deal of difficulty and heartache. There are others which have kept away from the altar, yea, from the Cross itself, many a young, timid, reverent spirit. The question is whether there is any need for this? I think not. I do not know of any passage of Scripture that ought to keep any soul from God, from God"s house, from God"s ordinances. We are so differently constituted that some of us can only be nursed for heaven. We want continual encouragement; we are soon made afraid by shadow, by unexplained and sudden sound, by incidents uncalculated and unforeseen. We must take care of that section of society; they must be encouraged, consoled, stimulated, comforted; whatever lies in their way of progress towards the Kingdom of heaven must be resolutely removed. Others are very courageous by nature: are extremely robust, words of encouragement are misspent upon them; they have a fountain of encouragement within their own hearts. Whether they are physically so strong, or intellectually so robust, or spiritually so complete, we need not stay to inquire; suffice it to say that they have no shadows, no spectres, no doubts, no difficulties.

There are two passages of Scripture which seem to have kept a good many men in a state of fear and in a state of apparent alienation from the Church. It may be profitable to look at these passages. If the difficulty can be taken out of them by fair reasoning, and by established laws of grammar, and the philosophy of language, a great point will have been gained. One of them is that remarkable passage already quoted in the text—"It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame." This has been a great battleground; innumerable Calvinists have slain innumerable Arminians within the four corners of this most solemn declaration. There was no need for the fray. All the energy was misspent All the high debate about election, reprobation, apostasy, was utterly in vain, so far as this particular text is concerned. There is nothing here to cast down the heart of any man who wants to come back again. One version of the Bible has put in the word "difficult" instead of the word "impossible." This little contribution of clemency we have received from the sternest of all languages, the Latin. We do not need the contribution. The word "impossible" is better than the word "difficult" in this connection. It is clearer, more to the point: it comprehends the case more entirely; let it therefore stand in all its tremendous import. There can be no doubt as to the characters represented by Apollos or Paul, whoever the writer may have been. He is urging the great doctrine and duty of progress; he wants the Church to get on—"Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith towards God," and many other things. The Apostle was a man of progress. Speaking thus of baptism, he says, "It is impossible for those who were once enlightened"—literally, for those who were really baptised: we say really baptised, because he is not referring to water-baptism, he is referring to the inner, the spiritual baptism, the chrism of fire, the visitation of the Holy Ghost upon the soul. It is impossible for those who have been baptised by the Holy Ghost, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and who were not only baptised by the Holy Ghost, but have been made partakers of the Holy Ghost,—it is impossible for them if they fall away, to renew them again unto repentance. What construction can we put upon these words but that if we once leave Christ for one moment we can never get back again? If having been in Christ we do wrong, we commit one sin, we must commit a thousand more, for we are on the downward road, and we cannot be arrested in the infinite descent. There is no such reading in the text. We cannot stop the text at a given point, and say, "That is the doctrine, and certainly it would appear to be such."

But the text proceeds to give a reason why it is impossible to renew certain persons again to repentance, and that reason is this—"Seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame." Is not that a final reason? Yes, it is: but it is not a correct representation of the Apostle"s reasoning. The English is to blame for the ruin it has brought. Over this false grammar have men fallen into despair. The Revisers were timid, because they were conservative. I blame them distinctly for want of courage. They had learning enough, prestige enough; they could have encountered momentary prejudices in a dignified and successful manner: but who ever got twelve or twenty Christian scholars together without their devouring one another, so courteously as sometimes perhaps in some degree to fall short of the point of courage? The tense changes in the latter part of the statement. "Seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame" should read thus:—"It is impossible for those who"—then read the description—"If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance, whilst they are crucifying the Son of God afresh, and putting him to an open shame." The latter tense is present, it indicates an immediate and continuous action, something that is going on now, at this very moment; and the Apostle says, Brethren, if you continue to crucify the Son of God afresh, you can never get back again to your original state of acceptance, you can never recover your sense of adoption; the very act you are doing is fatal. Why then, should you be discouraged, if you really want to come back to Christ, and if you are endeavouring to lead a good life? If you are bethinking yourself, and trying to say the old sweet prayer, and if it be really your heart"s desire to be recovered from your backslidings, there is nothing in this passage to hinder you coming home now.

The passage thus rendered is supported by all the experience of life. It is impossible for any man who has fallen from sobriety to be renewed again to temperance, so long as he is debauching himself night and day with the drink which overcame him; if he will set it down, and retire from it, he shall yet be a sober Prayer of Manasseh , but if he mean to recover his sobriety by drinking more deeply, then manifestly he is perpetrating an irony that is ridiculous and shameful. It any man have fallen from honesty it is impossible to recover him so long as he continues to steal. He must drop the action, he must feel burning shame on account of what he has done, and when his felonious hands would go forth to repeat the nefarious deed, he must draw them back and say, No: I will cry mightily unto God if haply I may yet be an honest man. Thus talking there shall be no doubt about his honesty. The Apostle"s reasoning then is simply this: that if we continue to sin we cannot repent; whilst we are in the very act of crucifying the Son of God afresh, and putting him to an open shame, it is impossible for us to repent, to pray, to return. This is the noble teaching of the Apostle, this ought to be a comfort to us all. We sin every day, and yet it we do not want to sin, and if the sin be followed by heartache, confession, contrition, and mighty prayer at the Cross, we shall be renewed again unto repentance every eventide; but if we think we can, by simply confessing the sin, gain a new licence to recommit it, then our confession is a lie, and the very act of contrition is a trick which aggravates our guilt. The action must be bonâ-fide, the soul must mean what it says, the reality must be equal to the profession. We have therefore to declare this sweet gospel—would God we could declare it in adequate music! There is no soul that has gone so far away from God to be unable to repent: and we have to declare this solemn truth, that any man who talks of repentance, and is at the same time crucifying the Son of God afresh, continuing to love his sins and to wallow in them, is a liar in the sanctuary. Return, O wanderer, to thy home: come back, poor soul, made afraid by backsliding. We have all been guilty of backsliding; the oaths are lying round about us like a million withered leaves: but if we really do not want to crucify the Son of God afresh, if we are really earnest about desiring to return, we can return. "Return, ye backsliders, and I will heal your backsliding!" is the cry of the Old Testament, is the gospel of the Cross.

Now, nearly immediately connected with this passage is one which the Apostle has written in connection with the administration of the Lord"s Supper. The two passages may fairly be said to have a distinct and almost vital relation. How many people have been kept back from the Lord"s table by these words:—"Whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.... For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord"s body." Timid souls by the hundred have been kept away from the Lord"s Supper by these words. Yet there is nothing in them to keep away any soul. We have been frightened by shadows. We cannot but admire the timidity which says, I am so conscious of unworthiness that I dare not touch the sacramental bread, and sacramental cup. But such unworthiness is not referred to in this particular passage; therefore this passage must never be quoted when that sense of unworthiness is felt. When that sense of unworthiness is most deeply upon us, then should we come most reverently and hopefully to the Lord"s table. What were the circumstances under which this declaration was made? Everything depends upon understanding the circumstances of the case. We must penetrate the atmosphere, if we would understand the admonition. Everything was debased in the Church at Corinth. That early Christian Church seemed to have a genius for deprivation and perversion and all manner of wrong. The Lord"s Supper was instituted there as in other churches; the people came together to partake of the Lord"s Supper, and instead of making a distinctly religious festival of it, they turned it into a carnival, holiday-making, feasting, rioting; so much that the Apostle says, "Have ye not houses to eat and drink in?"—why should you come to the Lord"s table to have a saturnalia, to feast yourselves in this way, and to debase yourselves in this riotous manner? Understand, therefore, that the Corinthians were not recognising the Lord"s body in this matter but were simply feasting together and rioting together, eating bread and drinking wine together, until the religious consciousness was lost, and the whole ceremony became one of simple social festivity. Addressing himself to such circumstances, the Apostle said, Beware: you are contracting a guilt you ill suspect: if the light that is in you be darkness, how great is that darkness!—the Lord"s Supper was meant to be a religious festival, a time of solemnity, a time of heart-inquest, a time of memory, so that all the pages of the Lord"s earthly story might be recalled and felt in ever-deepening emotion; instead of this, you are making that holy feast a riot: whoever eateth this bread, and drinketh this cup, unworthily, irreverently, debasing the whole action into its very lowest forms, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself. And that is right.

Then will you not come to the Lord"s table? Shall there not be a great inrush upon the holy scene? Men have been afraid lest their unworthiness would keep them back. The unworthiness was not in reference to the individuals but in relation to their want of discernment as to the meaning of the feast. No longer was the Lord"s body present amongst them, but a mere ceremony of eating and drinking. Will you then stand back any longer? Will you not come in, it may be timidly, and say, I, too, would like to touch this bread and this cup of memorial? Thus two classes are addressed, the backslider who says, "I once could pray, but I do not pray now"—if he can add, "but I want to pray," then the first passage need not stand in his way; secondly, the timid, self-distrustful, and self-renouncing, the passage in the Corinthians has no reference whatever to you. If you say, "This feast is holy," and wish to observe it with becoming reverence, the doors are thrown wide open, and God"s welcome is as broad as God"s love. Why stand ye then outside? Come in! Come now! See me, or your own minister or friends in your own locality immediately, and say you wish to come to the Lord"s table. That means making a profession without ostentation, doing a deed the sanctifying effect of which ought to flow through the whole life. Will you not say Yes? Then this will be your birthday if you will.

Prayer

Almighty God, we bless thee for the uplifted Cross, whose light fills creation. We see a Cross everywhere; its great shadow makes the night and the morning of the world; without that Cross there is no security. It is in everything; where anything lives something else has died. We found this in the garden, and in the nest of the birds, and in the jungle of the wild beasts, and in our family life, and in our spiritual and educational life; that some may live some must die. Thou hast put death upon thy table, and made thy sacrament and oath and immortality even in the grave and in the presence of death. God forbid that we should glory save in the Cross! If men would lead us to the throne may we go to it by the Cross. Inasmuch as we have been called by thy love to see the Cross and know somewhat of its holiest meaning, if we be risen with Christ may we prove our resurrection by the heavenliness of our love, by the heavenliness of our citizenship, by the heavenliness of our service. O Christ, the Living One, thou didst come to take us to the Father. Show us the Father: may we know that he is close at hand, though we cannot see him; that if we could but open our soul"s eyes we should see the Father in every little child, in every broken heart, in every budding flower. Oh, for eyes to see, heart-eyes, soul-eyes, the vision of the inner life, penetrating all cloud and darkness, and seeing the Shining Glory. Then should our life be rid of its burdens, its pains and its sorrow and its fear, and we should live the life of liberty. If any man is foolish enough to be making his own gospel, do thou chastise him with many disappointments day by day, until he shall begin to pray at the right altar. Thou hast sent thy Son to save us, to seek and to save the lost, to call sinners to repentance: help us to hear the music of his inviting voice, and to answer it because our sin is exceeding great. Oh, hear thou in heaven thy dwelling-place the prayer thy servant prayeth, and when thou hearest, Lord, forgive! Amen.


Things That Accompany Salvation

Hebrews 6:9

IT is quite right to be interested in a salvation that is central; that is essential, but salvation is not solitude. Salvation represents a great sociality. Salvation is the heart of a noble fellowship. Many writers and preachers have, no doubt, set forth the text as conveying the idea of a procession; salvation red as blood, bright as light, tuneful as embodied music, at the head, and then all the retinue, a thousand or ten thousand strong, following, their very march music, their very look an expectation and a prophecy. It is a beautiful picture. Every man"s life is to be such. If we have regarded salvation as monasticism, loneliness, one little or great idea dissociated from other thoughts, and especially dissociated from active and expressive character, we have done injustice to its first, midst, and last idea and purpose.

There may be too much said about salvation when that term is too narrowly interpreted. No selfishness is so selfish as pious selfishness. No cruelty is so cruel as Christian cruelty. The bite of the wolf is nothing to the lie of the soul. What if your salvation and mine are of infinitely less consequence than we have supposed? If we have been looking on that term as simply expressive of that comfort, individual certainty of going higher and higher, and doing less and less, and enjoying the indolence of doing nothing, some strong man may one day arise who will tear that idea of salvation to rags and tatters. It is not true, therefore it is not healthy, therefore it ought to be put down. "Are you saved?" may be a wicked inquiry. Some will not understand how this can be, because some are only at the alphabet, and some have not begun to study their letters. There are children in the world who have never heard of the existence of the alphabet. We do not consult them upon higher statesmanship or the higher mathematics. In another sense there is no greater question than, "Are you saved? are you a new creature, a liberated soul, a mind on which there shines the whole heaven of God"s light? Are you a soldier, a servant, a helper of the helpless, a leader of the blind? Are you akin to the soul of Christ?" It is impossible for us to get at Christ in any sense of acceptance, assurance, and identification, except through one gate. Can we not climb up, pierce the roof, and enter by a way of our own making? No. What is the name of the only gate that opens upon the presence-chamber of the Saviour? The name is the Cross. Have you ever heard it? That you have heard it as a name, we know, but there is hearing and hearing. The Cross may be a word, or it may be a sacrifice; a literal fact, or a suggestion infinite in its resources as the heart of God. It is in the latter larger, truer sense that the Cross is a gate, the one gate and the only gate to the presence and favour of the King.

Many men are saved who do not know it. I have known Song of Solomon -called bad men whose disposition I have coveted. I have known them more largely than they have known themselves, though their breath is burned with unholy suggestion. I have known that their souls have been fruitful in noble and kindly thoughts. Let God say who is saved. "Lord, are there few that be saved?" No answer. Christ takes the statistics, but he does not publish them. He says in reply, rather than in answer, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate; do not be inquiring so much whether there be few or whether there may be many that be saved. Strive ye yourselves to enter in at the strait gate." We may be asking questions about others when we should be executing duties on our own behalf. There is nothing meaner in all God"s universe, so far as we know it, than a pious miser, a miser by self-thought, self-condolence, self-flattery, self-regard, as though he should shut himself into his own garden and his own banqueting-hall, and should say, "What a wicked world it Isaiah , and how few that attend to religious ordinance and ceremony, and how much men are to blame themselves for the evil they are in and for the suffering they endure!" Talk of a man Song of Solomon , he is the devil"s hired servant.

What are the things that accompany salvation? To the youngest, let me say, to accompany is to go with—as we should say, "Are you walking to-day in the field? if Song of Solomon , I will go with you." Things that accompany salvation are things that go with salvation, keep it company, belong to it, have a right by kindred and by quality to be there. But what things can accompany salvation when salvation is interpreted in its higher and deepest sense? Is it a virgin beautiful with ineffable loveliness? Oh! were it not better she should walk in her fine linen alone on the green hills, in the flowering gardens, in the laden orchards? No. She will have with her a thousand little children, multiplied by ten thousand more, and cubed up into an unimaginable number. That virgin is social, friendly, a great housekeeper, and she goes forth, not in vanity, but in a natural expression of kindliness accompanied by others akin to her own soul.

Sometimes you see a procession and not the head of it. Did that sight ever deceive you? Never. Beholding the retinue, the procession, you say, Who is this? Not, Who are these? but, What is this? as if it were a single and not a plural explanation. Who is it? One soul. What is it? One event, yet not a soul alone, not an event dissociated from a common history. Are you satisfied to look upon the procession, upon the retinue, to see nothing besides? You know you are not. You want to see the leading figure, the main idea, the life of which these are the lives. Is the child satisfied to see the tail of the kite? The dear little child rounds his eyes and looks for the kite itself, and with joy he points it out, saying, "There, I see it." Dear little child, was it not enough to see the floating tail of the kite? No! the child will see the chief image itself. In that little figure, homely enough, and therefore all the better, we see the whole idea of this conception of a procession, a retinue.

"Things that accompany salvation." That word "accompany" might be made much larger and much more vital. Sometimes the procession is abreast of the king. It so happens that in this march sometimes the things do not accompany in the sense of following behind, but in the better and the excellent sense of going along with, as if arm in arm, placed so that it shall be difficult to say who leads so far as the mere stepping is concerned, and yet not difficult to say who leads so far as the larger life and regnacy of will are concerned. Some men make places for themselves. You say there is no room, these men soon find room enough. They do not claim it, it is conceded to them. There may be momentary opposition or envious interpretation, but all things give way before sovereign power, before supreme and noble character. At the last, confidence is promoted, integrity is crowned, but who has the deepest, clearest, largest, best ideas will always lead the empire and make republics into sovereignties.

What are the "things that accompany salvation"? There are some things that would not accompany it. There are some things that through the very force of shame would decline to be in the retinue. Can a poor, tattered, ragged, dishonoured, self-discredited vagrant join the procession of the king? He says, "No, it is not my place, put me out of sight, let me die in darkness." Among the "things that accompany salvation," we find first of all purity of character. But does purity of character mean perfection? It does not. There is no perfect man. This cold space, this cage of time, could not hold him. Perfect man can only bloom in heaven, where the climate is pure and where the day has no night. By purity of character let us mean a real, honest motive, a just and noble desire, a wish to be, not in heaven, but heavenly in mind, thought, life, speech. This definition enables me to include a great number of persons in the Church who do not include themselves. It is sad to see how things are always placed in the Christian kingdom. There are some pedants who will not come in, and therefore ought always to be outside. Pedantry has no status in the New Jerusalem. There are some conceited persons who think they have attained all that is desirable; they do not come in, and in very deed they ought to be kept out. Self-complacency is not a virtue anywhere; in the New Jerusalem it is a blasphemy.

There, are, however, men who are getting wrong seven times a day who ought to be in the Church. They are Christlike and do not realise the fact. I have seen in their eyes tears which must have travelled to their eyes by way of the heart. Yet they blunder; I know it well; they fall flat down in the devil"s mire. I have seen them many times; they are inflammable, passionate, wanting in self-control. Surely. But they are pressed and driven by five hundred ancestors who were worse than they are. The five hundred ancestors are smiting them as with scorpions. Blessed be God, it is not ours to judge. Christ will shut out no one that he can bring in, and he must be a son of perdition whom Christ cannot bring into his own feast of love and eternal fellowship.

Among the "things that accompany salvation" I give a foremost place to unselfishness of service; the service that never looks at itself in the Church mirror; that never dresses itself to go out to be seen ostentatiously in public; the service that is crowned with self-unconsciousness; that does good things by stealth and blushes to find them fame; the service that does things as a monarch does them, not knowing that they are being done, without any sense of taxation, and sacrifice, and painfulness. There is a doing that would rather do than not do. There is an action that must take place because the suppression would be not only unreasonable but intolerable. Love must serve. Many are working in that way who have no earthly fame. The Apostle recognised all such in the very text in which we find the words on which we are discoursing, for he says, "God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love." Here is one of the things, therefore, which accompany salvation. Doing, always doing; doing simply, doing kindly, doing lovingly, doing in the Christly spirit. There are some actions that are oppressive to the very individuals for whom they are performed. Why? Because the manner of doing them is burdensome, aggressive, oppressive. Some people help you and therefore hinder you. Some people do for you things little or great with such self-effusiveness and self-display and with such an unreasoning expectation of gratitude, that the receiver of such services would gladly dispense with them. There is an action subtle as the atmosphere, silent as the night, always operating, never displaying, or demonstrating, or self-magnifying.

What shall we say of charity of heart? Does not that also accompany salvation? That is the larger love, that great mother-love which says, "If the house will not hold you, we must add another wing to it." Great love never takes out a two-foot rule and says, "There will only be room at this table for thirty," but love says, "You must find another table." But the room will not hold it. "Then take down the wall, and go into the garden." Love keeps pace with necessity. When the great feast was spread those who went out to call in the unfamiliar guests said, "Lord, it is done as thou hast said, and yet there is room." It was Christ who spoke that parable. He is great in finding room, but never was prevented from doing anything because there was nothing, or because there was little to begin with. "Five loaves" would do to begin with. The prodigal said, "There is bread enough in my father"s house and to spare." All the evangelists who went out to call the hungry people to the supper said, "Lord, we have searched everywhere, and brought in everybody we can find from hedge and ditch and hole and rock, and still there is room." Who ever exhausted God? Who ever overthronged his heaven?

This must be the spirit of the individual Christian also. But here is a poor heretic who does not see his way clear to several of the dogmas of the Church. Oh! tell him to speak nonsense no longer, but to come in at once. Here is a soul greatly troubled because his experience is different from other experience that he has heard of. Tell him to come in this very instant, for there is a chair set on purpose for him at the corner of the table. Here is a man who rather revels in his infidelity, and gets drunk on his unbelief. Then keep him out. If a man is proud of his scepticism, we do not want him inside the Church, or out of it. He is not wanted anywhere. But if a poor soul should come in and say, "Oh, sirs, it is so dark; which is the way? Will a little child take hold of my hand; and if any wise man is here, will he kindly tell me where I ought to begin, what I ought to do, and how I ought to begin?" make room for him. You need not make room for him; the King, in drawing up his list of wedding guests, set a chair for him next himself.

Where there is this charity, Christ is. Where, then, charity does not exist, there is no Church. Unutterably do I hate a man and the disposition that would keep out of the Church any poor, maimed, bruised soul that wants to be in it. "But he does not think as we do." And who are we that should do the superior thinking and set up a standard theology? I will not be one of the number. I was born yesterday; to-day I am groping and struggling and wandering and stumbling in prayer; and tomorrow I shall not be here. Does the poor soul want to love Christ? If Song of Solomon , here is a seat for him at the Lord"s table. "Is not the Lord"s table set up for perfect people?" By no means. For then would it be a banquet in a wilderness far from any human heart.

There is another accompaniment to salvation which must not be forgotten; let it be named as final in the list, but only as initial in its suggestions. And it is evangelistic zeal. What is the meaning of evangelistic? It means that some soul has a truth, a gospel, which he says he must go and tell everybody all over the world. That is the meaning of evangelistic. The truth burns him until he tells it. The gospel that fills his soul is the gospel for every creature. And he must talk about it; propagate it, publish it, circulate it. He must breathe it on every wind, and send it to every sea to be carried to every golden shore. What did the Apostle mean when he said he was a debtor to the barbarians? This has often been misinterpreted, and the Apostle Paul has been represented as a very humble person, because he confessed his obligations to everybody, to the Jew, to the Gentile, to the Greek, to the barbarian, to the bond, and to the free. And the favourite pulpit idea has been that Paul was so willing to acknowledge that everybody had been favourable to him, and kindly disposed towards his life, and had contributed something towards his service. Nothing of the kind. Paul"s idea was the evangelistic idea. What I hold, said Paul, belongs to the very first man I meet, and the man beside me, and the man behind me, and all the world, Jew, Gentile, Greek, barbarian, bond, free. Wherever there is a Prayer of Manasseh , I am his debtor. "Oh, Sirach , come, I know this truth, and therefore I owe it to you"—that is the Cross of Christ in eloquent action. Not, "I have received something from you, poor barbarian, and therefore I must give something back." "I never received a thing from you in my life, but I know a truth that would make a man of you, I know a gospel that would serve you, therefore I am your debtor. Come, and I will pay it. This truth I do not hold as mine only, but as yours also." Fly abroad, thou mighty gospel, go forth, thou queen of truth and love, and be thy retinue more in number than the sands upon the seashore, brighter than the stars that beam in the diadem of night!

Prayer

Almighty God, we have heard that thy mercy endureth for ever. All the great houses of history have said this. We know it of a truth; we take up the great song and sing it with our whole heart; for we have tasted and seen and handled of the Word of life. Thou hast saved us. Thy mercy has been near us all the day and all the night; thou hast come to us in the darkness of our despair and in the humiliation of our weakness, and thou hast breathed great gospels into our sinking hearts. Oh, how loving is thy voice, how majestic and tender in music! Behold, thou canst speak a word in season to him that is weary, and thou canst order the armies of heaven. We rejoice in thy love; we draw near to thy pity; because there are tears in thine eyes and thou didst look upon sinful men, we dare come quite close to thee and say, Have mercy upon me! Thy mercy endureth for ever; this we will say in the morning and in the evening; when we awake in the night-watches we will say, Thy mercy endureth for ever. Teach us that we live in thy mercy; because thy love faileth not, our life is permitted to add to its days. We do not live because of thy greatness or thy justice, thy power or thy majesty, but because of thy tenderness and love, and pity and gentleness, and fatherly-motherly care. What are these great, sweet words thou hast sent unto us to live upon, to hide in our hearts, and turn into daily life?—Like as a father pitieth his children;—casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you; last of all he sent his Son;—God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son:—these are thy words; we cannot mistake them; these voices are not earthborn; behold these great utterances fall from heaven, and bring all heaven with them. Help us to answer their grand appeal, that we may be broken in heart, humble in spirit, meek of disposition, obedient in will, and abounding alway in the fruits of the Spirit. Amen.


Verse 29

Conditions of Renewal

Hebrews 6:4-6

1 Corinthians 11:27, 1 Corinthians 11:29

There are some few passages of Scripture which have caused a great deal of difficulty and heartache. There are others which have kept away from the altar, yea, from the Cross itself, many a young, timid, reverent spirit. The question is whether there is any need for this? I think not. I do not know of any passage of Scripture that ought to keep any soul from God, from God"s house, from God"s ordinances. We are so differently constituted that some of us can only be nursed for heaven. We want continual encouragement; we are soon made afraid by shadow, by unexplained and sudden sound, by incidents uncalculated and unforeseen. We must take care of that section of society; they must be encouraged, consoled, stimulated, comforted; whatever lies in their way of progress towards the Kingdom of heaven must be resolutely removed. Others are very courageous by nature: are extremely robust, words of encouragement are misspent upon them; they have a fountain of encouragement within their own hearts. Whether they are physically so strong, or intellectually so robust, or spiritually so complete, we need not stay to inquire; suffice it to say that they have no shadows, no spectres, no doubts, no difficulties.

There are two passages of Scripture which seem to have kept a good many men in a state of fear and in a state of apparent alienation from the Church. It may be profitable to look at these passages. If the difficulty can be taken out of them by fair reasoning, and by established laws of grammar, and the philosophy of language, a great point will have been gained. One of them is that remarkable passage already quoted in the text—"It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame." This has been a great battleground; innumerable Calvinists have slain innumerable Arminians within the four corners of this most solemn declaration. There was no need for the fray. All the energy was misspent All the high debate about election, reprobation, apostasy, was utterly in vain, so far as this particular text is concerned. There is nothing here to cast down the heart of any man who wants to come back again. One version of the Bible has put in the word "difficult" instead of the word "impossible." This little contribution of clemency we have received from the sternest of all languages, the Latin. We do not need the contribution. The word "impossible" is better than the word "difficult" in this connection. It is clearer, more to the point: it comprehends the case more entirely; let it therefore stand in all its tremendous import. There can be no doubt as to the characters represented by Apollos or Paul, whoever the writer may have been. He is urging the great doctrine and duty of progress; he wants the Church to get on—"Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith towards God," and many other things. The Apostle was a man of progress. Speaking thus of baptism, he says, "It is impossible for those who were once enlightened"—literally, for those who were really baptised: we say really baptised, because he is not referring to water-baptism, he is referring to the inner, the spiritual baptism, the chrism of fire, the visitation of the Holy Ghost upon the soul. It is impossible for those who have been baptised by the Holy Ghost, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and who were not only baptised by the Holy Ghost, but have been made partakers of the Holy Ghost,—it is impossible for them if they fall away, to renew them again unto repentance. What construction can we put upon these words but that if we once leave Christ for one moment we can never get back again? If having been in Christ we do wrong, we commit one sin, we must commit a thousand more, for we are on the downward road, and we cannot be arrested in the infinite descent. There is no such reading in the text. We cannot stop the text at a given point, and say, "That is the doctrine, and certainly it would appear to be such."

But the text proceeds to give a reason why it is impossible to renew certain persons again to repentance, and that reason is this—"Seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame." Is not that a final reason? Yes, it is: but it is not a correct representation of the Apostle"s reasoning. The English is to blame for the ruin it has brought. Over this false grammar have men fallen into despair. The Revisers were timid, because they were conservative. I blame them distinctly for want of courage. They had learning enough, prestige enough; they could have encountered momentary prejudices in a dignified and successful manner: but who ever got twelve or twenty Christian scholars together without their devouring one another, so courteously as sometimes perhaps in some degree to fall short of the point of courage? The tense changes in the latter part of the statement. "Seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame" should read thus:—"It is impossible for those who"—then read the description—"If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance, whilst they are crucifying the Son of God afresh, and putting him to an open shame." The latter tense is present, it indicates an immediate and continuous action, something that is going on now, at this very moment; and the Apostle says, Brethren, if you continue to crucify the Son of God afresh, you can never get back again to your original state of acceptance, you can never recover your sense of adoption; the very act you are doing is fatal. Why then, should you be discouraged, if you really want to come back to Christ, and if you are endeavouring to lead a good life? If you are bethinking yourself, and trying to say the old sweet prayer, and if it be really your heart"s desire to be recovered from your backslidings, there is nothing in this passage to hinder you coming home now.

The passage thus rendered is supported by all the experience of life. It is impossible for any man who has fallen from sobriety to be renewed again to temperance, so long as he is debauching himself night and day with the drink which overcame him; if he will set it down, and retire from it, he shall yet be a sober Prayer of Manasseh , but if he mean to recover his sobriety by drinking more deeply, then manifestly he is perpetrating an irony that is ridiculous and shameful. It any man have fallen from honesty it is impossible to recover him so long as he continues to steal. He must drop the action, he must feel burning shame on account of what he has done, and when his felonious hands would go forth to repeat the nefarious deed, he must draw them back and say, No: I will cry mightily unto God if haply I may yet be an honest man. Thus talking there shall be no doubt about his honesty. The Apostle"s reasoning then is simply this: that if we continue to sin we cannot repent; whilst we are in the very act of crucifying the Son of God afresh, and putting him to an open shame, it is impossible for us to repent, to pray, to return. This is the noble teaching of the Apostle, this ought to be a comfort to us all. We sin every day, and yet it we do not want to sin, and if the sin be followed by heartache, confession, contrition, and mighty prayer at the Cross, we shall be renewed again unto repentance every eventide; but if we think we can, by simply confessing the sin, gain a new licence to recommit it, then our confession is a lie, and the very act of contrition is a trick which aggravates our guilt. The action must be bonâ-fide, the soul must mean what it says, the reality must be equal to the profession. We have therefore to declare this sweet gospel—would God we could declare it in adequate music! There is no soul that has gone so far away from God to be unable to repent: and we have to declare this solemn truth, that any man who talks of repentance, and is at the same time crucifying the Son of God afresh, continuing to love his sins and to wallow in them, is a liar in the sanctuary. Return, O wanderer, to thy home: come back, poor soul, made afraid by backsliding. We have all been guilty of backsliding; the oaths are lying round about us like a million withered leaves: but if we really do not want to crucify the Son of God afresh, if we are really earnest about desiring to return, we can return. "Return, ye backsliders, and I will heal your backsliding!" is the cry of the Old Testament, is the gospel of the Cross.

Now, nearly immediately connected with this passage is one which the Apostle has written in connection with the administration of the Lord"s Supper. The two passages may fairly be said to have a distinct and almost vital relation. How many people have been kept back from the Lord"s table by these words:—"Whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.... For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord"s body." Timid souls by the hundred have been kept away from the Lord"s Supper by these words. Yet there is nothing in them to keep away any soul. We have been frightened by shadows. We cannot but admire the timidity which says, I am so conscious of unworthiness that I dare not touch the sacramental bread, and sacramental cup. But such unworthiness is not referred to in this particular passage; therefore this passage must never be quoted when that sense of unworthiness is felt. When that sense of unworthiness is most deeply upon us, then should we come most reverently and hopefully to the Lord"s table. What were the circumstances under which this declaration was made? Everything depends upon understanding the circumstances of the case. We must penetrate the atmosphere, if we would understand the admonition. Everything was debased in the Church at Corinth. That early Christian Church seemed to have a genius for deprivation and perversion and all manner of wrong. The Lord"s Supper was instituted there as in other churches; the people came together to partake of the Lord"s Supper, and instead of making a distinctly religious festival of it, they turned it into a carnival, holiday-making, feasting, rioting; so much that the Apostle says, "Have ye not houses to eat and drink in?"—why should you come to the Lord"s table to have a saturnalia, to feast yourselves in this way, and to debase yourselves in this riotous manner? Understand, therefore, that the Corinthians were not recognising the Lord"s body in this matter but were simply feasting together and rioting together, eating bread and drinking wine together, until the religious consciousness was lost, and the whole ceremony became one of simple social festivity. Addressing himself to such circumstances, the Apostle said, Beware: you are contracting a guilt you ill suspect: if the light that is in you be darkness, how great is that darkness!—the Lord"s Supper was meant to be a religious festival, a time of solemnity, a time of heart-inquest, a time of memory, so that all the pages of the Lord"s earthly story might be recalled and felt in ever-deepening emotion; instead of this, you are making that holy feast a riot: whoever eateth this bread, and drinketh this cup, unworthily, irreverently, debasing the whole action into its very lowest forms, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself. And that is right.

Then will you not come to the Lord"s table? Shall there not be a great inrush upon the holy scene? Men have been afraid lest their unworthiness would keep them back. The unworthiness was not in reference to the individuals but in relation to their want of discernment as to the meaning of the feast. No longer was the Lord"s body present amongst them, but a mere ceremony of eating and drinking. Will you then stand back any longer? Will you not come in, it may be timidly, and say, I, too, would like to touch this bread and this cup of memorial? Thus two classes are addressed, the backslider who says, "I once could pray, but I do not pray now"—if he can add, "but I want to pray," then the first passage need not stand in his way; secondly, the timid, self-distrustful, and self-renouncing, the passage in the Corinthians has no reference whatever to you. If you say, "This feast is holy," and wish to observe it with becoming reverence, the doors are thrown wide open, and God"s welcome is as broad as God"s love. Why stand ye then outside? Come in! Come now! See me, or your own minister or friends in your own locality immediately, and say you wish to come to the Lord"s table. That means making a profession without ostentation, doing a deed the sanctifying effect of which ought to flow through the whole life. Will you not say Yes? Then this will be your birthday if you will.

Prayer

Almighty God, we bless thee for the uplifted Cross, whose light fills creation. We see a Cross everywhere; its great shadow makes the night and the morning of the world; without that Cross there is no security. It is in everything; where anything lives something else has died. We found this in the garden, and in the nest of the birds, and in the jungle of the wild beasts, and in our family life, and in our spiritual and educational life; that some may live some must die. Thou hast put death upon thy table, and made thy sacrament and oath and immortality even in the grave and in the presence of death. God forbid that we should glory save in the Cross! If men would lead us to the throne may we go to it by the Cross. Inasmuch as we have been called by thy love to see the Cross and know somewhat of its holiest meaning, if we be risen with Christ may we prove our resurrection by the heavenliness of our love, by the heavenliness of our citizenship, by the heavenliness of our service. O Christ, the Living One, thou didst come to take us to the Father. Show us the Father: may we know that he is close at hand, though we cannot see him; that if we could but open our soul"s eyes we should see the Father in every little child, in every broken heart, in every budding flower. Oh, for eyes to see, heart-eyes, soul-eyes, the vision of the inner life, penetrating all cloud and darkness, and seeing the Shining Glory. Then should our life be rid of its burdens, its pains and its sorrow and its fear, and we should live the life of liberty. If any man is foolish enough to be making his own gospel, do thou chastise him with many disappointments day by day, until he shall begin to pray at the right altar. Thou hast sent thy Son to save us, to seek and to save the lost, to call sinners to repentance: help us to hear the music of his inviting voice, and to answer it because our sin is exceeding great. Oh, hear thou in heaven thy dwelling-place the prayer thy servant prayeth, and when thou hearest, Lord, forgive! Amen.


Things That Accompany Salvation

Hebrews 6:9

IT is quite right to be interested in a salvation that is central; that is essential, but salvation is not solitude. Salvation represents a great sociality. Salvation is the heart of a noble fellowship. Many writers and preachers have, no doubt, set forth the text as conveying the idea of a procession; salvation red as blood, bright as light, tuneful as embodied music, at the head, and then all the retinue, a thousand or ten thousand strong, following, their very march music, their very look an expectation and a prophecy. It is a beautiful picture. Every man"s life is to be such. If we have regarded salvation as monasticism, loneliness, one little or great idea dissociated from other thoughts, and especially dissociated from active and expressive character, we have done injustice to its first, midst, and last idea and purpose.

There may be too much said about salvation when that term is too narrowly interpreted. No selfishness is so selfish as pious selfishness. No cruelty is so cruel as Christian cruelty. The bite of the wolf is nothing to the lie of the soul. What if your salvation and mine are of infinitely less consequence than we have supposed? If we have been looking on that term as simply expressive of that comfort, individual certainty of going higher and higher, and doing less and less, and enjoying the indolence of doing nothing, some strong man may one day arise who will tear that idea of salvation to rags and tatters. It is not true, therefore it is not healthy, therefore it ought to be put down. "Are you saved?" may be a wicked inquiry. Some will not understand how this can be, because some are only at the alphabet, and some have not begun to study their letters. There are children in the world who have never heard of the existence of the alphabet. We do not consult them upon higher statesmanship or the higher mathematics. In another sense there is no greater question than, "Are you saved? are you a new creature, a liberated soul, a mind on which there shines the whole heaven of God"s light? Are you a soldier, a servant, a helper of the helpless, a leader of the blind? Are you akin to the soul of Christ?" It is impossible for us to get at Christ in any sense of acceptance, assurance, and identification, except through one gate. Can we not climb up, pierce the roof, and enter by a way of our own making? No. What is the name of the only gate that opens upon the presence-chamber of the Saviour? The name is the Cross. Have you ever heard it? That you have heard it as a name, we know, but there is hearing and hearing. The Cross may be a word, or it may be a sacrifice; a literal fact, or a suggestion infinite in its resources as the heart of God. It is in the latter larger, truer sense that the Cross is a gate, the one gate and the only gate to the presence and favour of the King.

Many men are saved who do not know it. I have known Song of Solomon -called bad men whose disposition I have coveted. I have known them more largely than they have known themselves, though their breath is burned with unholy suggestion. I have known that their souls have been fruitful in noble and kindly thoughts. Let God say who is saved. "Lord, are there few that be saved?" No answer. Christ takes the statistics, but he does not publish them. He says in reply, rather than in answer, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate; do not be inquiring so much whether there be few or whether there may be many that be saved. Strive ye yourselves to enter in at the strait gate." We may be asking questions about others when we should be executing duties on our own behalf. There is nothing meaner in all God"s universe, so far as we know it, than a pious miser, a miser by self-thought, self-condolence, self-flattery, self-regard, as though he should shut himself into his own garden and his own banqueting-hall, and should say, "What a wicked world it Isaiah , and how few that attend to religious ordinance and ceremony, and how much men are to blame themselves for the evil they are in and for the suffering they endure!" Talk of a man Song of Solomon , he is the devil"s hired servant.

What are the things that accompany salvation? To the youngest, let me say, to accompany is to go with—as we should say, "Are you walking to-day in the field? if Song of Solomon , I will go with you." Things that accompany salvation are things that go with salvation, keep it company, belong to it, have a right by kindred and by quality to be there. But what things can accompany salvation when salvation is interpreted in its higher and deepest sense? Is it a virgin beautiful with ineffable loveliness? Oh! were it not better she should walk in her fine linen alone on the green hills, in the flowering gardens, in the laden orchards? No. She will have with her a thousand little children, multiplied by ten thousand more, and cubed up into an unimaginable number. That virgin is social, friendly, a great housekeeper, and she goes forth, not in vanity, but in a natural expression of kindliness accompanied by others akin to her own soul.

Sometimes you see a procession and not the head of it. Did that sight ever deceive you? Never. Beholding the retinue, the procession, you say, Who is this? Not, Who are these? but, What is this? as if it were a single and not a plural explanation. Who is it? One soul. What is it? One event, yet not a soul alone, not an event dissociated from a common history. Are you satisfied to look upon the procession, upon the retinue, to see nothing besides? You know you are not. You want to see the leading figure, the main idea, the life of which these are the lives. Is the child satisfied to see the tail of the kite? The dear little child rounds his eyes and looks for the kite itself, and with joy he points it out, saying, "There, I see it." Dear little child, was it not enough to see the floating tail of the kite? No! the child will see the chief image itself. In that little figure, homely enough, and therefore all the better, we see the whole idea of this conception of a procession, a retinue.

"Things that accompany salvation." That word "accompany" might be made much larger and much more vital. Sometimes the procession is abreast of the king. It so happens that in this march sometimes the things do not accompany in the sense of following behind, but in the better and the excellent sense of going along with, as if arm in arm, placed so that it shall be difficult to say who leads so far as the mere stepping is concerned, and yet not difficult to say who leads so far as the larger life and regnacy of will are concerned. Some men make places for themselves. You say there is no room, these men soon find room enough. They do not claim it, it is conceded to them. There may be momentary opposition or envious interpretation, but all things give way before sovereign power, before supreme and noble character. At the last, confidence is promoted, integrity is crowned, but who has the deepest, clearest, largest, best ideas will always lead the empire and make republics into sovereignties.

What are the "things that accompany salvation"? There are some things that would not accompany it. There are some things that through the very force of shame would decline to be in the retinue. Can a poor, tattered, ragged, dishonoured, self-discredited vagrant join the procession of the king? He says, "No, it is not my place, put me out of sight, let me die in darkness." Among the "things that accompany salvation," we find first of all purity of character. But does purity of character mean perfection? It does not. There is no perfect man. This cold space, this cage of time, could not hold him. Perfect man can only bloom in heaven, where the climate is pure and where the day has no night. By purity of character let us mean a real, honest motive, a just and noble desire, a wish to be, not in heaven, but heavenly in mind, thought, life, speech. This definition enables me to include a great number of persons in the Church who do not include themselves. It is sad to see how things are always placed in the Christian kingdom. There are some pedants who will not come in, and therefore ought always to be outside. Pedantry has no status in the New Jerusalem. There are some conceited persons who think they have attained all that is desirable; they do not come in, and in very deed they ought to be kept out. Self-complacency is not a virtue anywhere; in the New Jerusalem it is a blasphemy.

There, are, however, men who are getting wrong seven times a day who ought to be in the Church. They are Christlike and do not realise the fact. I have seen in their eyes tears which must have travelled to their eyes by way of the heart. Yet they blunder; I know it well; they fall flat down in the devil"s mire. I have seen them many times; they are inflammable, passionate, wanting in self-control. Surely. But they are pressed and driven by five hundred ancestors who were worse than they are. The five hundred ancestors are smiting them as with scorpions. Blessed be God, it is not ours to judge. Christ will shut out no one that he can bring in, and he must be a son of perdition whom Christ cannot bring into his own feast of love and eternal fellowship.

Among the "things that accompany salvation" I give a foremost place to unselfishness of service; the service that never looks at itself in the Church mirror; that never dresses itself to go out to be seen ostentatiously in public; the service that is crowned with self-unconsciousness; that does good things by stealth and blushes to find them fame; the service that does things as a monarch does them, not knowing that they are being done, without any sense of taxation, and sacrifice, and painfulness. There is a doing that would rather do than not do. There is an action that must take place because the suppression would be not only unreasonable but intolerable. Love must serve. Many are working in that way who have no earthly fame. The Apostle recognised all such in the very text in which we find the words on which we are discoursing, for he says, "God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love." Here is one of the things, therefore, which accompany salvation. Doing, always doing; doing simply, doing kindly, doing lovingly, doing in the Christly spirit. There are some actions that are oppressive to the very individuals for whom they are performed. Why? Because the manner of doing them is burdensome, aggressive, oppressive. Some people help you and therefore hinder you. Some people do for you things little or great with such self-effusiveness and self-display and with such an unreasoning expectation of gratitude, that the receiver of such services would gladly dispense with them. There is an action subtle as the atmosphere, silent as the night, always operating, never displaying, or demonstrating, or self-magnifying.

What shall we say of charity of heart? Does not that also accompany salvation? That is the larger love, that great mother-love which says, "If the house will not hold you, we must add another wing to it." Great love never takes out a two-foot rule and says, "There will only be room at this table for thirty," but love says, "You must find another table." But the room will not hold it. "Then take down the wall, and go into the garden." Love keeps pace with necessity. When the great feast was spread those who went out to call in the unfamiliar guests said, "Lord, it is done as thou hast said, and yet there is room." It was Christ who spoke that parable. He is great in finding room, but never was prevented from doing anything because there was nothing, or because there was little to begin with. "Five loaves" would do to begin with. The prodigal said, "There is bread enough in my father"s house and to spare." All the evangelists who went out to call the hungry people to the supper said, "Lord, we have searched everywhere, and brought in everybody we can find from hedge and ditch and hole and rock, and still there is room." Who ever exhausted God? Who ever overthronged his heaven?

This must be the spirit of the individual Christian also. But here is a poor heretic who does not see his way clear to several of the dogmas of the Church. Oh! tell him to speak nonsense no longer, but to come in at once. Here is a soul greatly troubled because his experience is different from other experience that he has heard of. Tell him to come in this very instant, for there is a chair set on purpose for him at the corner of the table. Here is a man who rather revels in his infidelity, and gets drunk on his unbelief. Then keep him out. If a man is proud of his scepticism, we do not want him inside the Church, or out of it. He is not wanted anywhere. But if a poor soul should come in and say, "Oh, sirs, it is so dark; which is the way? Will a little child take hold of my hand; and if any wise man is here, will he kindly tell me where I ought to begin, what I ought to do, and how I ought to begin?" make room for him. You need not make room for him; the King, in drawing up his list of wedding guests, set a chair for him next himself.

Where there is this charity, Christ is. Where, then, charity does not exist, there is no Church. Unutterably do I hate a man and the disposition that would keep out of the Church any poor, maimed, bruised soul that wants to be in it. "But he does not think as we do." And who are we that should do the superior thinking and set up a standard theology? I will not be one of the number. I was born yesterday; to-day I am groping and struggling and wandering and stumbling in prayer; and tomorrow I shall not be here. Does the poor soul want to love Christ? If Song of Solomon , here is a seat for him at the Lord"s table. "Is not the Lord"s table set up for perfect people?" By no means. For then would it be a banquet in a wilderness far from any human heart.

There is another accompaniment to salvation which must not be forgotten; let it be named as final in the list, but only as initial in its suggestions. And it is evangelistic zeal. What is the meaning of evangelistic? It means that some soul has a truth, a gospel, which he says he must go and tell everybody all over the world. That is the meaning of evangelistic. The truth burns him until he tells it. The gospel that fills his soul is the gospel for every creature. And he must talk about it; propagate it, publish it, circulate it. He must breathe it on every wind, and send it to every sea to be carried to every golden shore. What did the Apostle mean when he said he was a debtor to the barbarians? This has often been misinterpreted, and the Apostle Paul has been represented as a very humble person, because he confessed his obligations to everybody, to the Jew, to the Gentile, to the Greek, to the barbarian, to the bond, and to the free. And the favourite pulpit idea has been that Paul was so willing to acknowledge that everybody had been favourable to him, and kindly disposed towards his life, and had contributed something towards his service. Nothing of the kind. Paul"s idea was the evangelistic idea. What I hold, said Paul, belongs to the very first man I meet, and the man beside me, and the man behind me, and all the world, Jew, Gentile, Greek, barbarian, bond, free. Wherever there is a Prayer of Manasseh , I am his debtor. "Oh, Sirach , come, I know this truth, and therefore I owe it to you"—that is the Cross of Christ in eloquent action. Not, "I have received something from you, poor barbarian, and therefore I must give something back." "I never received a thing from you in my life, but I know a truth that would make a man of you, I know a gospel that would serve you, therefore I am your debtor. Come, and I will pay it. This truth I do not hold as mine only, but as yours also." Fly abroad, thou mighty gospel, go forth, thou queen of truth and love, and be thy retinue more in number than the sands upon the seashore, brighter than the stars that beam in the diadem of night!

Prayer

Almighty God, we have heard that thy mercy endureth for ever. All the great houses of history have said this. We know it of a truth; we take up the great song and sing it with our whole heart; for we have tasted and seen and handled of the Word of life. Thou hast saved us. Thy mercy has been near us all the day and all the night; thou hast come to us in the darkness of our despair and in the humiliation of our weakness, and thou hast breathed great gospels into our sinking hearts. Oh, how loving is thy voice, how majestic and tender in music! Behold, thou canst speak a word in season to him that is weary, and thou canst order the armies of heaven. We rejoice in thy love; we draw near to thy pity; because there are tears in thine eyes and thou didst look upon sinful men, we dare come quite close to thee and say, Have mercy upon me! Thy mercy endureth for ever; this we will say in the morning and in the evening; when we awake in the night-watches we will say, Thy mercy endureth for ever. Teach us that we live in thy mercy; because thy love faileth not, our life is permitted to add to its days. We do not live because of thy greatness or thy justice, thy power or thy majesty, but because of thy tenderness and love, and pity and gentleness, and fatherly-motherly care. What are these great, sweet words thou hast sent unto us to live upon, to hide in our hearts, and turn into daily life?—Like as a father pitieth his children;—casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you; last of all he sent his Son;—God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son:—these are thy words; we cannot mistake them; these voices are not earthborn; behold these great utterances fall from heaven, and bring all heaven with them. Help us to answer their grand appeal, that we may be broken in heart, humble in spirit, meek of disposition, obedient in will, and abounding alway in the fruits of the Spirit. Amen.

 


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Bibliography Information
Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:4". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jpb/1-corinthians-11.html. 1885-95.

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Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020
the Second Week after Epiphany
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