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THE HOLINESS OF THE FATHER
And if ye call on Him as Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to each man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning in fear: knowing that ye were redeemed, not with corruptible things, with silver or gold, from your vain manner of life handed down from your fathers; but with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, even the blood of Christ: who was foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world, but was manifested at the end of the times for your sake, who through Him are believers in God, which raised Him from the dead, and gave Him glory; so that your faith and hope might be in God.
“If ye call on Him as Father, who . . . judgeth.” [Verse 17] That is an extraordinary conjunction of terms. It is a daring and surprising companionship to associate, in immediate union, the function of the judge with the personality of Father. I had anticipated that the term “Father” would have suggested quite other relationships, and would have emphasised functions of an altogether different type. I did not anticipate the intimate wedlock of “Father” and “judge.” I had thought that the glad 46succession would have proceeded somewhat on this wise: “If ye call on Him as Father, who loveth!” “If ye call on Him as Father, who pitieth!” “If ye call on Him as Father, who forgiveth!” I had interpreted the word “father” as being suggestive of the free and kindly intimacies of the fireside; but here it stands indicative of the august prerogatives of a throne. “If ye call on Him as Father, who judgeth.” The element which I had forgotten is made conspicuous and primary, and determines the shape and colour of man’s relationship to God.
“If ye call on Him as Father, who judgeth.” Then the element of holy sovereignty must be a cardinal content in our conception of the Fatherhood of God. What does the term “Father” immediately suggest to me? Good nature or holiness; laxity or righteousness; a hearthstone or a great white throne? The primary element in my conception will determine the quality of my religious life. If the holiness of Fatherhood be minimised or obscured, every other attribute will be impoverished. Denude your conception of holiness, and it is like withdrawing the ozone from the invigorating air, or detracting the freshening salt from the healthy sea. Suppress or ignore the element of holiness, and think of the Father as affectionate, and the love that you attribute to Him 47will be only as a close and enervating air. Love without holiness is deoxygenated, and its ministry is that of an opiate or narcotic. Pity without holiness is a bloodless sentiment destitute of all healing efficiency. Forgiveness without holiness is the granting of a cheap and superficial excuse, in which there is nothing of the saving strength of sacrifice. Begin with pity or forgiveness, or forbearance or gentleness, and you have dispositions without dynamics, poor limp things, which afford no resource for the uplifting and salvation of the race. But begin with holiness, and you put a dynamic into every disposition which makes it an engine of spiritual health. Forgiveness with holiness behind it is a medicated sentiment, fraught with healing and bracing ministry. Gentleness with holiness behind it touches the aches and sores of the world with the firm and delicate hand of a discerning and experienced nurse. Exalt the element of holiness, and you enrich your entire conception of the Fatherhood of God. The “river of water of life” flows “out of the throne.” “The Father who judgeth.” “Our Father, hallowed be Thy name.”
And now the apostle proceeds to tell us how his conception of the holiness of God is fostered and enriched. Wherever he turns it is God’s holiness, and not God’s pity, which smites and 48arrests his attention. He is never permitted to become irreverent, for lie is never out of sight of “the great white throne.” He moves in fruitful wonder, ever contemplating the glory of the burning holiness of God. If he meditates upon the character of the Father’s judgments, it is their holiness by which he is possessed. If he moves with breathless steps amid the mysteries of redemption, even beneath the blackness of the cross he discovers the whiteness of the throne. If he dwells upon the purposes of the Divine yearning, it is the holiness of the Father’s ambition for His children which holds him entranced. The holiness of the Father emerges everywhere. It is expressed and placarded in all His doings. Everywhere could the apostle take upon his lips the words of another wondering spirit who gazed and worshipped in a far-off day: “I saw the Lord, high and lifted up! Holy, holy, holy is the LORD.”
“The Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to each man’s work.” [Verse 17] The apostle finds the holiness of the Father expressed in the character of His judgments. The elements which so commonly shape the judgments of men do not count in the judgments of God. He judgeth “without respect of persons.” Fine feathers do not count as 49refinement. Faces may be masks. The “persona” may be an actor. The Father pays no respect to the mere show of things. All masks become transparent. All veils become trans lucent. The material show, with all ephemeral titles, and nobilities, and dignities, and degrees, are not accepted as evidence, but are put down, and only spiritual characteristics and moral essentials are permitted as testimony of personal worth. “The Father, without respect of persons, judgeth according to each man’s work.” [Verse 17] And what is the bulk and quality of my work? If the Father judge me by my output in the shape of finished and realised achievement, then I shrink from the wretched unveiling! I have laboured for the salvation of men; how will He judge my “work”? Will He tabulate the results? Will He count my converts? Is that how James Gilmour will be judged, who after long years of labour in Mongolia could not record a single regenerated soul? If “work” means finished results, how few of us will be crowned! “This is the work, that ye believe.” That is the basis of judgment. How much of holy energy is expressed in our relationship to God? What is the strength of our fellowship with the Divine? That is the primal energy of character, and that is the criterion of the Divine judgment. Out of that 50energy of belief there is born the magnificent force which expresses itself in prolonged labours in Mongolia, in fearless pioneering in New Guinea, in unromantic, educational ministry in India, in plucky, unyielding struggle with great evils in England, in tiring, unapplauded toil among the poor, in dry and heart-breaking service among the rich, in steady, persistent battle with “the world, the flesh, and the devil.” All these toils are the offspring of belief. In the energy of belief they find their life and the secret of their dauntless perseverance. And so James Gilmour will not be judged by his “results,” but by his “bloody sweat.” He will be judged, and so shall we all, by the supplicating wrestle of the heart, by the quality of our aspiration, by the depth and fervour of our belief. In this type and character of judgment the apostle sees the mark of the holiness of God. “I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God,” and the Father judged them “according to each man’s work.” “I remember thy work of faith.”
The apostle now turns to another expression of the holiness of the Father, and he finds it in the character of our redemption. “Knowing that,” reflecting that, “ye were redeemed, not with corruptible things . . . but with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, even 51the blood of Christ.” [Verses 18, 19] Now, link to this a previous word which forms a vital part of the apostle’s reasoning. “I am holy.” He immediately unites the conception of holiness with the ministry of redemption. To keep that holiness in mind I am to reflect upon the character of redemption. I am to gaze into the mysterious depths of redemption, and I shall behold the holiness of my Father. Now, that is not our common inclination. We look into redemption for mercy, forgiveness, condescension, love. We look for the genial flame of affection; have we been blind to the dazzling blaze of holiness? We have felt the warm, yearning intimacy of love, inclining towards the sinner; have we felt the fierce, burning heat where holiness touches sin?
Redemption is more than the search of Father for child; it is a tremendous wrestle of holiness with sin. Have we felt only the tenderness of the search, and partially over looked the terribleness of the conflict? The fear is that we may feel the geniality of the one without experiencing the consuming heat of the other. I proclaim it as a modern peril. We do not open our eyes to the holiness that battles in our redemption, and so we gain only an enervated conception of redemptive love. Is not this a characteristic of many of the 52popular hymns which gather round about the facts of redemption? They are sweet, sentimental, almost gushing; the light, lilting songs of a thoughtless courtship: deep in their depths I discern no sense of bloody conflict, nor do I taste any tang of the bitter cup which made our Saviour shrink. And so, because we do not discern the majestic crusade of holiness, we do not realise the enormity of sin. If we look into the mystery of redemption, and do not see the august holiness of God, we can never see the blackness of the sovereignty of sin. Dim your sense of holiness, and you lighten the colour of sin. Now see what follows. Obscure the holiness and you relieve the blackness of sin. Relieve the blackness of sin and you impoverish the glory of redemption. The more we lighten sin the more we uncrown our Redeemer. If sin be a light thing, the Redeemer was superfluous. And so, with holiness hidden and sin relieved, we come to hold a cheap redemption, and it is against the conception of a cheap redemption that the apostle raises an eager and urgent warning—“There was nothing cheap about your redemption. It was not a light ministry which cost a mere trifle. Ye were redeemed, not with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with precious blood, even the blood of Christ.” Reason from the cost of 53redemption to the nature of the conflict; reason from the nature of the conflict to the black enormity of sin; reason from the enormity of sin to the glory of holiness! A lax God could have given us licence and so redeemed us cheaply! A cheap redemption might have made us feel easy; it would never have made us good. A cheap forgiveness would only have confirmed the sin it forgave. If we are to see sin we must behold holiness, unveiled for us as in a “lamb without blemish and without spot.” [Verse 19 ] And so in the sacrifice of Christ, the apostle discerns something of the holiness of the Father, and thus apprehends the unspeakable antagonism of holiness and sin. To him redemption is more than a search; it is a conflict. It is more than a tender yearning; it is the mighty bearing of an appalling load. Between the Incarnation, when Christ was manifested, and the Resurrection, when God raised Him from the dead, the powers of holiness and sin met face to face in mighty combat, and in the appalling darkness of Gethsemane and Calvary sin was overthrown and holiness was glorified. When I move amid the mysteries of redemption, I never want to become deaf to my Saviour’s words, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.” I never want His cry to go out of my life, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” So 54long as that cry sounds through the rooms of my life I can never have a cheap Redeemer, and I shall be kept from the enervating influence of a cheap redemption. In redemption I behold an unspeakable conflict which keeps me ever in mind of the holiness of the Father hood of God. In my conception of redemption there shall be “no curse,” nothing withering and destructive, for “the throne of God and the Lamb shall be in it.” In the sacrifice of love I shall behold the holiness of God.
Out of this large conception of a holy Father hood there will arise a worthy conception of sonship. If God be holy, expressing His holiness in all His dealings, and “if ye call on Him as Father,” what manner of children ought ye to be? If I call the holy God “my Father,” the assumption of kinship implies obligation to holiness. If I say “Father,” I may not ignore holiness. “If God were your father,” ye would bear His likeness. “Ye shall be holy; for I am holy.” If then ye call on Him as “Father,” put yourselves in the way of appropriating His glory, and of becoming radiant with the beauty of His holiness: “pass the time of your sojourning in fear.” [Verse 17] There is no suggestion in the counsel of any enslaving timidity. We are not to cringe like slaves, or to move as though we expected that at any moment an abyss might 55open at our feet. The Christian’s walk is a fine swinging step, born of hope and happy confidence. To “pass the time in fear “is not to move in paralysing dread. Nor is it to be the victim of a paralysing particularity which converts every trifle into a thorn, and makes the way of life a via dolorosa of countless irritations. The Christian is neither a faddist nor a slave. To “pass the time in fear “is just to be fearful of sleep, to watch against indifference, to be alert against an insidious thoughtlessness, to be spiritually awake and to miss no chance of heightening the purity of our souls by all the ministries of holy fellowships, and by a ready obedience to the Master’s will. “If ye call on Him as Father,” let the majestic claim inspire you to a spacious ambition: “pass your time “in a fervent aspiration after His likeness, “perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord.”56
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