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CHRIST SANCTIFIED AS LORD
Finally, be ye all likeminded, compassionate, loving as brethren, tenderhearted, humbleminded: not rendering evil for evil, or reviling for reviling; but contrariwise blessing; for hereunto were ye called, that ye should inherit a blessing. For, He that would love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: and let him turn away from evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears unto their supplication: but the face of the Lord is upon them that do evil. And who is he that will harm you, if ye be zealous of that which is good? But and if ye should suffer for righteousness sake, blessed are ye: and fear not their fear, neither be troubled; but sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord: being ready always to give answer to every man that asketh you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear.
“Sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord.” [Verse 15] The heart is a sanctuary. It is a place of worship. Worship is always proceeding. There is a large congregation. Who are the worshippers? Let me name a few. There are our wishes, our ambitions, our motives, our willings. All these are worshippers, bowing in the heart before 127some enthroned and sovereign Lord. Our dispositions are also among the crowd. All the forces of thought and feeling are mingled in the varied congregation! Go into the sanctuary of any heart, and you will find, kneeling side by side in homage and obeisance, wishes, motives, sentiments, purposes, dispositions, all bowing before some central shrine. “Who is the Lord of the temple? In some temples it is Mammon! He is sanctified as Lord, and round him are kneeling the congregated thoughts, passions, and ambitions, offering him incense, supplication, and praise. Who is the Lord? In some temples it is the Lord of Misrule. He is sanctified as Lord! Chaos reigns, and in riotous disorder the mob of tumultuous thoughts and feelings offer him noisy acclamation. Who is the Lord of the temple? In some temples indifference is en throned. Indifference is sanctified as Lord! The atmosphere is opiated; life is a lounge; everything comes and goes in carelessness; all the worshippers are narcotised in thoughtlessness, or sunk in profound and perilous sleep. Who is the Lord of the temple? In some temples it is the devil. Every worshipper bends in adoration of vice, reciting the liturgy of uncleanness, and every member of the congregation, every thought, every feeling, every ambition, bears upon its forehead the mark of the beast. Who 128is the Lord of the temple? In some temples it is the Christ. All the assembled forces and powers of the life willingly prostrate themselves in fervent and lowly worship. Every hour of the day there is a worshipper in the radiant temple! Now it is a wish, now a shaping plan, now a completed purpose, now a penitent feeling, now a gay delight—these all stoop in reverent homage before the exalted Christ, and as we always appropriate the worth of the object we worship, the bending congregation of thoughts and sentiments acquire the beauty of the Lord. The worshipping motive is chastened and refined; the kneeling wish is etherealised; the stooping sorrow is transfigured; all the reverent forces of the personality are transformed into children of light. Who is the Lord in the temple? That is the all-determining question. “Sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord.” In your temple let the Christ be enthroned. Let everything in the life be made to kneel in that sanctuary. Bring ye everything to the foot of the great white throne. Let the Lord be King!” Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”
“Sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord.” [Verse 15] That is the creative centre of the passage. All the surrounding context is resultant and consequent. This is the all-originating fountain! Around it are stretches of land, threaded with 129rivers which are the children of its creative springs. Let us pass from the springs to the rivers. If Christ be sanctified in the heart as Lord, if everything in the deep, secret places of the life bow before His throne, if at Matins and Evensong, and through all the intervening hours of the day, the endless procession of mystic forces in the soul reverently bend to His dominion, what will be the quality of the issues, what will be the striking characteristics of the life?
Are you surprised that the apostle’s answer begins with an enumeration of the softer graces: “compassionate, tenderhearted, humbleminded”? [Verse 8] Did you anticipate that he would begin with attributes more majestic, more manly and commanding? Is it disappointing that the apostle should give emphasis to graces which we commonly associate with women rather than with men? I have called them the softer graces; perhaps I ought to have called them the riper fruit. The ultimate expression of the strongest tree is its sweetest and ripest fruit. The tender, exquisite colour of a ripening acorn is the finest expression of the oak. Hearts of oak reach their finished achievement in the softest hues of their ripest fruit. Manliness is never perfected until it issues in tenderest grace. Therefore I am not surprised to find the apostle giving 130prominence to the finished and ripened attainments in sanctified life. What, again, are their names?
“Compassion” [Verse 8] The range of a man’s life is just the range of his compassions, which is only another name for the range of his correspondences. Death is just the destruction of all correspondence. The dying lose correspondence after correspondence; nerve after nerve and sense after sense collapse; communications are slowly broken; and by gradual paralysis and benumbment all correspondences end. The measure of my life is determined by the quality and quantity of my correspondences. This is true of the life of the flesh. It is true in the realm of the mind. How much am I in touch with? What is the range of my interests? What are my correspondences? It is true in the domains of the soul. How much do I live? That depends upon my compassion, my responsiveness, my “correspondence.” What is the extent of my fellow-feeling? What is my power of apprehending and realising my brother, and by the ministry of an unveiling imagination planting myself in the heart of his interests and estate? That is one of the rarest attainments in the sanctified life. The Lord refines His disciples into compassionateness. He indefinitely enlarges their correspondences. He endows 131them with sensitive passion, with profundity of feeling. “Deep calleth unto deep,” and they maintain fruitful fellowship with the joys and sorrows of their fellow-men.
“Tenderheartedness.” [Verse 8] That carries one a step further than compassion. Tenderheartedness is more than correspondence; it is gentle ministry. It includes the service of the tender hand, it not only feels the pains of others; it touches the wounds with exquisite delicacy. Even the pitiful man can be clumsy. Six men may have the sympathy, but only one of the six may be able to touch the wound so as to heal it. The Lord will add a gentle hand to our compassion. He will take away all brusqueness, all spiritual clumsiness, so that in the very ministry of pity we may not “break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax.”
“Humblemindedness” [Verse 8] Surely that adds a still richer bloom to the heavenly grace! The Lord will not only give us a heart of compassion; it shall be compassion rid of all brusqueness; it shall also be purged of all superciliousness and pride! It shall be “humbleminded.” Even pity may wear some of the garments of pride! There is something bitter and offensive in all compassion which moves in patronage. The Man whose “compassions failed not” was “meek and lowly in heart!” 132Pity is petrifying when it comes from pride; it is soothing and healing when it flows from the humble mind, and this is the perfected grace of the sanctified life.
“Not Tendering evil for evil, or reviling for reviling; but contrariwise blessing.” [Verse 9] Surely that is the perfection of compassion! Compassion may go out on chivalrous errands with sensitive hands and lowly mind, and may meet with ingratitude and angry rebuff from those whom she seeks to serve. When the one we have been compassionately nursing turns and reviles us, and treats our ministry with contempt, how easy it is to become sour and hard, to return reviling for reviling, and to throw up the knightly service with disgust! But the Lord will so perfect the compassion that even in the midst of reviling it will continue in “blessing,” and in atmospheres of ingratitude and contempt will toil on in the ministry of “healing them that are bruised.” What say you now to these softer graces, these riper fruits of the sanctified life? Are they not a resplendent issue? He who continually, in his heart, sanctifies Christ as Lord, becomes possessed by a compassion which moves in delicate sensitiveness, and in humblemindedness, and which remains sweet and persistent in hostile atmospheres of murmuring and contempt.133
Now let us turn to the sterner products of the sanctified life. Let us turn to the hearts-of-oak of which the softer graces are the perfected fruit. Let us contemplate the severer virtues, the more commanding strength.
“Zealous of that which is good.” [Verse 13] That sounds suggestive of strength! “Clarify your conception of duty! Get it clearly in your eye! Set the good firmly before you! Then be zealous!” Such is the strong, definite virtue which is the fruit of the sanctified life. “Zealous of the good!” You will get the native energy of the word “zealous” if you recall its kinsman “jealous.” It is significant of consuming eagerness and ceaseless vigilance. It is suggestive of burning passion. There towers the “good!” The “zealous” soul confronts it, not with faint and timid aspiration, but possessed by a blazing and driving ambition! The strength of his passion is the measure of his defence. You may play tricks with a candle-flame; you must give margin to a bonfire. You may trifle with the lukewarm; who would try it on with the zealot? You may carry an evil suggestion to one man, and quite unembarrassed you may lay it across the threshold of his mind. You may take the suggestion to another man, and before you have got out of the preface you are scorched and consumed. There are lives so sanctified by 134the indwelling Christ that they blight all evil approaches, and cause them to wither away. Their fire is their defence. That is a wonderful figure employed by the prophet—“clad with zeal as a cloak.” The man wears a protective garment of fire! He is secured in his own enthusiasms! He is preserved in the spirit of burning. Now, that burning passion for “that which is good “is one of the strengths of the sanctified life. “Why, our very word “enthusiasm,” which is now suggestive of ardour, passion, fire, had no such significance in its earliest day. It literally signifies “in God,” and it is because men have found that souls which are united with God are characterised by zeal and fire, that the word has lost its causal content, and is now limited to the description of the effect. The enthusiastic is the fiery, but fiery because in fellowship with God. “He shall baptize . . . with fire.” One of the resultant virtues of sanctification is spiritual enthusiasm, a zeal for “that which is good.”
“Suffering for righteousness sake.” [Verse 14] That sounds like a masculine virtue! It is a phrase which unveils a little more of the firm strength of this spiritual ambition! The zealot goes right on, with “the good” as his goal, suffering loss, if need be, of ease and comfort and wealth and fame, and counting the loss as 135“blessed” if only it help him in the way of spiritual attainment, This is the character of spiritual enthusiasts! We may reserve for such character whatever criticism we please, we cannot deny it the eulogium of “strength.” At any rate it is not weak and effeminate. There is something about it granitic and majestic! Christ Jesus makes men and women who despise ease, who are “ready to be offered,” who will plod through toils and pains and martyrdom if these lie in the way of duty and truth. Only a few months ago our little chapels outside Pekin were destroyed by the Boxers, and the majority of the native Christians foully murdered. The chapels are being erected again. I have read the account of the opening of one of these restored sanctuaries. And who took part in the reopening? The remnant of the decimated church! Men stood there whose wives and children had been butchered in the awful carnival; there they stood, their love undimmed, their faith unshaken, themselves “ready to be offered” in their devotion to the Lord! I say, give to it any criticism you please, you cannot deprive it of the glory of superlative strength! “They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” That is the product of the sanctified life. The Lord lifts us 136above the common fear. See how the passage proceeds: “And fear not their fear, neither be troubled.” [Verse 14] That is the characteristic which is even now shining resplendently in the lives of the native Christians in China. They have been gloriously delivered from common fear and distraction. They are fearless and collected, quietly prepared to “suffer for righteousness sake,” and strongly holding on the way of life, “zealous of that which is good.” “Unto them it is given on the behalf of Christ, not only to believe in His name, but also to suffer for His sake.”
Now, let me sum up my exposition. The fruits of the sanctified life are to be found in the tender graces and in commanding virtues, in compassion, sensitive and humbleminded, and in moral and spiritual enthusiasm which is perfectly devoid of fear. Now, do you not think that where these soft compassions flow and these sterner virtues dwell—river and rock—a man will be able to “give answer to every man that asketh a reason concerning the hope that is in him”? [Verse 15] The finest reason a man can give for a spiritual hope is a spiritual experience. What have I seen, and heard, and felt, and known? In these experiences I shall find invincible reasons in days of inquiry and controversy. If a man has sanctified in his heart 137Christ as Lord, and discovers that his hardness has been softened into gracious sympathies, that his coldness towards the right has been changed into passionate enthusiasm, and that his trembling timidities have given place to firm and fruitful fearlessness, has he not a splendid answer to give to every man who asketh him a reason concerning the hope that is in him? The answer does not peep out in an apologetic “perhaps” or a trembling “if”; it is a masculine “verily,” a confident “I know.” As to the issues of such an answer the apostle is clear. A vital testimony is invincible. Fine living is not only a fine argument, it is the only effective silencer of bad men. “They will be put to shame who revile your good manner of life in “Christ.” Men may more than match you in subtlety of argument. In intellectual controversy you may suffer an easy defeat. But the argument of a redeemed life is unassailable. “Seeing the man that was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.”138
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