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136

XXXIX

DULL SCHOLARS

“Slow of heart to believe.”—Luke xxiv. 25.

I REMEMBER seeing a letter from a very distinguished officer who was serving in the Gallipoli campaign. And the following passage occurred in the letter: “I think God is waiting for England to learn many things before the war will end, and she is so very, very slow in learning.” I wonder how many of those things have been learned, and I wonder whether we have got them, as we say, by heart. Or were the lessons never really learned, and were they like the seed by the wayside which the fowls of the air have devoured? It may be that much of our present confusion is due to lack of understanding, and it may be that our want of understanding is due to our reluctance to learn of Christ and boldly follow the leading of His 137Spirit. What kind of scholars have we been in the school of hard experience?

For instance, have we learned that the spiritual sides of things are always fundamental? Or are we still in materialistic bonds? How is it with us? How is it with our dominant aims? Are we spending money for that which is not bread, and are we labouring for that which satisfieth not? When we arrive at our own purposed ends do we enter a home of vital contentment and peace? Do material things constitute our goal, or are they only a thoroughfare to the secret things of the spirit Do we believe that material things are only rightly handled when they are the instruments of God’s holy will? Nay, even better than this, do we believe that things are only ordered aright when they become channels of God’s spirit, and all uses are determined and pervaded by His love and grace? Have we learned that lesson? When everything becomes a spiritual medium all life is sacramental. God’s holy presence moves among our commonplaces with the like reality in which He comes to us in sacramental bread and wine. 138Things become highways and the King of Glory enters in.

On the other hand, things can be just things and nothing more. And our daily life can be spent in a jostle for things and nothing more. And we may estimate the prosperity of our years by the things which we accumulate and by nothing more. “All these things will I give thee.” That is the temptation which lures us every day. Are we following the lure? After all the travail of the last five years are we still in hot pursuit of material things? Or have we learned some secrets of God’s spirit, and are we turning from the feverishness of living to the cooler and more blessed experience of life? What kind of scholars have we been in the school?

And what about this second lesson? Have we begun to know what the Lord Jesus meant when He pronounced the great beatitude that “The meek shall inherit the earth”? Without any taint of hypocrisy have we walked any steps along the way of that wonderful experience? It is possible for a man to own an estate and not possess the landscape. Have we learned that lesson? A man 139may own a library and have no taste for literature. A man may have the means to live and not be truly alive. A people may enlarge its empire and not enrich its own being. A nation can gain the world and lose its soul. And what shall it profit a nation if it gain the world and lose its soul? Have we learned any lessons in this realm of experience?

On the other hand it is possible “to have nothing and yet possess all things.” The meek distil the spiritual essences of things. They gather manifold satisfactions from continents in which they do not own an inch. And who are the meek? They are the lowly in heart who share the yoke of Jesus, and who have learned in that wonderful fellowship to attain to true dominion. Meekness constrains by its gentleness. It enters into power through the ministries of service. It washes away the aggressive arrogance of men by washing their feet. It inherits the earth by giving itself to everybody.

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