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THE GREAT MOTIVE.
“Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
THIS great command is here given between some of the highest, and some of the homeliest duties of the Christian life. St. Paul, a little before, has said, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above.” He then presses upon the Colossians the great mysteries of the resurrection and ascension of our Lord, as incitements to a holy life. He bids them live as men dead to the world, living in and to God alone, in mortification, purity, devotion, and peace. After these high counsels of saintliness, he gives a series of minute and homely precepts to wives and husbands, parents and children, and servants and masters: and then, between these two branches of his exhortation, he says, “Whatsoever ye do in 40word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus;” shewing us that all duties are sacred, and that none are too little to be done for Christ’s sake.
Now in these words St. Paul gives us the great motive of Christian obedience.
When God in the beginning created man in His own image, the aim or motive of his obedience was God; His will, bliss and glory. After the fall, by perversion, it became, in manifold shapes, his own self; self-pleasing, self-indulgence, and self-worship. This was the true fall of mankind. The Divine law of order was lost, and man’s spiritual being was confounded by the turbulence of his own fallen nature. It had no law, or supreme control, and so became its own bondage and affliction, This has been the source of all sin and sorrow to mankind. His nature had lost its keystone, and fell into a ruin. It was this great want of a governing law or motive which was again filled up by the Gospel of Christ. The true principle, or moving cause, of all obedience in man is the Name of Christ. And this is what St. Paul implies in these words. Let us, then, see what this precept means—to do all in the name of Christ?
First, it means to do all things for His sake; and that because, by the redemption of the world, we have passed into His possession. We are no 41 longer our own, but His. We were dead; He has made us to live again: we were condemned, He has blotted out the doom that was against us: we were under the powers of sin, and He has set us free. Not only are all gifts from Him, but we ourselves have the very gift of our new and spiritual life through His incarnation and His atonement on the cross. Therefore St. Paul says in another place, “The love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead” (that is, all died with Him); and that He died for all, that they which live, should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again.”2424 2 Cor. v. 14. “Ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price; wherefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”2525 1 Cor. vi. 20. And again, “Ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.”2626 1 Cor. iii. 23.
But, further, to do all in His name, means to do all in His sight. When He was upon earth, His apostles saw and conversed with Him. They went in and out at His bidding. All they did and said was as in His presence, and in His hearing. Whether they were with Him in the mountain or on the sea, by the wayside or in the Temple, He saw all and knew all. Even the words they spoke among themselves in secret, 42 and the thoughts that arose, as they journeyed, in their hearts,—all was manifest to Him. So it was before He suffered. After He rose from the dead, still more. In those forty days of mysterious abiding upon earth, whether seen or no, He watched all their ways, noted every thought. They were under His penetrating gaze while they communed of Him and of His departure; while they toiled all night upon the sea of Galilee; or wondered among themselves when He should reveal Himself again. And not less—nay, even more—when He went up into heaven, after He had sent them forth into all the earth, and said, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” He sent them into all lands, and He went with them unseen. In market-places, and before councils, in prisons and in travel, in the desert and on the deep, He was always near. And His presence has abode with their lineal successors even to this hour. This high promise stands sure. His invisible fellowship is with us still, not less than with them. What is the Church, but the presence of Christ, and the company of the apostles, drawn out unto the world’s end? What is the visible Church, but the very fellowship of the eleven who were gathered in the upper chamber, then personal and local, now universal and perpetual? With Him time is not. He reigns in time, but His presence 43is neither past nor to come, but now and always: seen and unseen is nothing in Christ’s kingdom; visibleness is but an accident. He sees us here and now, as He saw them at Emmaus, or on the mountain of ascension. All our whole life bears the same relation to Him as theirs; and ought, therefore, to be governed by the same abiding consciousness. Wheresoever we be, whatsoever we are doing, in all our work, in our busy daily life, in all schemes and undertakings, in public trusts, and in private retreats, He is with us, and all we do is spread before Him. Do it, then, as to the Lord. Let the thought of His eye unseen be the motive of your acts and words. Do nothing you would not have Him see. Say nothing which you would not have said before His visible presence. This, again, is to do all in His name.
And, once more, to do all in Christ’s name, means, further, to do all as a witness for Him.
This was the commission of the apostles. He bade them tarry in Jerusalem till they had received power from on high; and then, He said, “Ye shall be witnesses unto Me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”2727 Acts i. 8. “And ye are witnesses of these things;”2828 St. Luke xxiv. 48. that is, of His incarnation, teaching, and miracles, of His passion and 44resurrection, of His mysteries and sacraments, of His ascension and perpetual presence, of the whole invisible kingdom of their exalted Head. This was the witness of the apostles. And they bare it by their preaching and suffering, but chiefly by their purity of life. He that overcame sin and death, when He went up on high, endowed them with His own power to overcome death and sin. “I appoint unto you a kingdom, as My Father hath appointed unto Me.”2929 St. Luke xxii. 29. “All power is given unto Me, in heaven and in earth. Go ye, therefore.”3030 St. Matt. xxviii. 18, 19. The whole apostolic ministry—the founding and expansion of the Church throughout the world—its resistless might against all opposition—its universal mastery, overthrowing altars, temples, legions, kingdoms, and whatsoever reared itself against the cross—all this was a visible witness for Christ. It proved that they were the living members of a living Head; that in them He was still ever going forth with the armies of heaven, conquering, and to conquer. They were the witnesses of the true and only King, who reigns, conquers, and governs in heaven and in earth. And this is our work and trial now. There are, at this very hour, two kingdoms in presence of each other. The world is still divided between the kingdom of Christ and 45the kingdom of antichrist. For one, or for the other, every man must be. These two kingdoms have their standards, powers, and tribunals. The one, loud, pompous, and majestic, gorgeous in its apparel and in the pageantry of its strength. In its train are pleasures, honours, decorations, high estate, refinement, luxury, and splendour. This is the kingdom of the world, and its glory. The other is lowly and despised—its ensign a cross, and its crown a wreath of thorns; in its retinue are the poor and slighted—its badges are sorrows, stigmas, and wrongs. It has no splendour of outward array—no legions but the army of martyrs—no throne but one that is set in heaven. Between these you must make your choice; and yet your choice is already foregone and past. It was made for you in your baptism. You are set here to witness—by the confession of your baptismal faith, in word and deed—by acts of visible worship, especially in the sacrament of His death and passion—by visible purity of heart—by a life like His—by His light shining in you and from you, overcoming the world, be it in the highest or the lowest paths of life, in the homeliest and the simplest duties of every day. None are too humble, or too weak, to witness for the Holy Name. In the crush and struggle of the world, you are on trial at every turn; and your truth, 46loyalty, and faith, are being always proved. A thousand tests touch you on every side: even in the still measured round of domestic life, in the home duties of parents, children, and brethren, if your motive is His name, and your law is His example, if your life be pure and gentle, it bears all day long a clear-toned witness for your Lord.
This, then, is to do all in His name;—to do all for His sake, in His sight, and in witness for His person and His kingdom. But who can hear it without trembling? If this be our calling, what must be our judgment? Our election is fearful and blessed: to live for His name in Whose blood alone we can wash our sins, our prayers, and our repentance.
Let us try, as best we may, to lay this great truth to heart, by dwelling on some direct and practical inferences from it, bearing upon our daily life. It shews us, then:
1. First, that sin in a Christian is a plain denial of Christ. It denies His name more emphatically than to say, “I know not the man.” In early times, when the Church was under heathen persecution, Christians were required by the enemies of Christ to deliver up their sacred vessels, the paten and the chalice of the holy Eucharist, and the volumes of Holy Scripture. By giving up these consecrated trusts, they might make an easy 47purchase of life; and, more than this, they were led to the lighted altars of Pagan worship, and if they would so much as cast a grain of incense upon the glowing embers, they were set free. But these light acts were pregnant with an intense meaning. They were implicit denials of the name of Christ, constructive treason against the kingdom of the Son of God. His true servants rather died than deny Him by so much as this silent homage to the kingdom of darkness, by the slightest ambiguous motion of hands or lips. Such is our probation now. The least acts of sin are louder than the loudest recital of the faith. One such act drowns all our confessions and creeds. They make themselves heard above all our specious and weak words of religious intention. One sin of sensuality, pride, falsehood, or malignity, deliberately conceived, consciously put in act, is an overt and high rebellion. For what is it but to take the side of antichrist, in the warfare between heaven and earth—to swell the powers of darkness, and to lift up our weapons among the banners of the evil one? Sometimes the greatest secret treachery is found under a religious cloak, as in schism for spurious charity and lax indulgence of other men’s sins. But howsoever concealed, it is only an illusion of Satan. Sometimes it is by a temper contrary to this. Insubordination, uncharitableness, 48a bitter spirit, selfish insensibility of the spiritual dangers of those for whom Christ died, these again are so many denials of His name. What will it avail at that day to say, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name; and in Thy name have cast out devils, and in Thy name done many wonderful works?”3131 St. Matt. vii. 22. “We have eaten and drunk in Thy presence, and Thou hast taught in our streets. But He shall say, I tell you I know you not.”3232 St. Luke xiii. 26, 27.
2. And another truth following from the last, is, that worldliness is a suppressed contradiction and secret betrayal of Christ. “He gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world.”3333 Gal. i. 4. “The friendship of the world is enmity with God.”3434 James iv. 4. We “cannot serve two masters;” we cannot be a link between two spiritual opposites. There is no neutrality between the world and God. God is the eternal fountain of truth, purity, and peace. The world without God is false, impure, and turbulent; a mighty heaving confusion of fallen spirits wrestling with each other and with God. As such the world is in eternal opposition to Him. It can only be reconciled by passing out of itself into His kingdom; by receiving the laws of truth and obedience, 49of holiness and order, that is, in ceasing to be the world, and being taken up into the will of God. Besides the grosser kinds of sensual and spiritual evil, this world has a multitude of refined and subtil powers of enmity against the Divine will. There is, besides the lust of the flesh, also the lust of the eyes; the vain-glory, pomp, glitter, ostentation of ease, luxury, and self-pleasing; and there is, moreover, the pride of life, the stately self-worship, the fastidious self-contemplation of intellectual or secular men. And with this comes also a throng of less elevated sins,—levity, love of pleasure, full fare, a thirst for money, a hunger for popularity, and its debasing successes. These things steal away the heart, and make men false to their Heavenly Master. Their obedience becomes habitually double, vain-glorious, self-advancing; or heartless, hollow, and reluctant. If they do not by express acts betray Him, it is either because they are not tempted, or because they would lose in the scale of the world’s esteem or in their own. Surely there must be something highly incensing to our Heavenly Master in such earthly hearts, all fair outside, but eaten out by the world even to the core.
3. Let us, then, learn farther, that obedience in His name, for His sake, and in His sight, is the only obedience which is stedfast and persevering. 50It is the only obedience that is sincere. No other obedience springs from the heart. This is a principle not to be swayed by custom or reputation, or by the maxims and eyes of men. It is always the same, in every place, season, and state. All other motives change with our outward circumstances, with the judgments, tone, wishes, suggestions of those about us. But this is internal, self-supported, and unchangeable. And as it never changes, so it is ever gaining strength, ever advancing, uniting the whole power of the mind in one aim and force, binding all the affections of the heart about the conscience and the will, ever growing in self-command, in the pure happiness of conscious sincerity, and in the sensitive discernment of a tender conscience.
In such a character all the complex motives of daily life are sanctified. The one governing purpose, that is, to do all in the name of Christ, consecrates them all. The healthy play of all pure and natural affection is not crossed, but perfected by the control of a higher principle. God has made man’s heart manifold in its thoughts and emotions; and for all these He has ordained a manifold counterpart in the scheme of perfect obedience. No doubt, when Solomon saw the Temple of God rising in silence and beauty, a multitude of thoughts stirred within him. The stately shafts 51and polished corners, the sculptured chapiters, and elaborate grace of the house, which was “exceeding magnifical,” filled his eye and soul with forms of beauty, and suggestions of more than visible perfection. There was a pure and hallowed pleasure distinct from the one presiding consciousness that all this was for the dwelling of the Most High God. So in all the sphere of our life. In our homes and relative affections, in our lawful use of God’s good creatures, in our honest labours, in our temperate ease, in all works of mercy and devotion; though a complex multitude of thoughts and emotions work upon us, it is but the various movement of one manifold and mysterious nature, created in the image of Him Who, though manifold, is One. All these motives are pure in His sight, and all accepted of Him for Christ’s sake, in whose name our highest and governing purposes are all conceived. There is no discord so long as they are subordinate. As all harmony, however intricate, has some one tone high and dominant, by which all are united in a perfect strain. And this chief aim, if not always consciously before us, yet may be always habitual in our minds. The presence of Christ may be our ruling motive, even when the thought of His presence is, for a time, suspended. We do not cease to be affected by the will of a friend, though we be not always looking 52 upon him. Sometimes the very depth and fulness of our habitual feeling makes us less conscious of its detailed and momentary action. Like the power of sight and hearing, we do not reflect upon them while we hear and see; or like the fondest affections, which are seldom uttered, so taken for granted as to he passed by in silence, never transgressed, though never abstracted from the thoughts and words which flow from them all day long.
This, then, is our law of life in this confused and perilous world. It will be good to try ourselves daily by this rule. The first thing in the morning, offer all your intentions and all the works of the day to God. During the day, renew this intention by intervals of prayer, or by momentary aspirations. Before you begin any new work, ask,—“Am I doing this for His name? Can I do this in His sight? Will He accept this as done for His sake? Can I ask His blessing upon it? Can I offer it up to Him?” If you are met by difficulties, renew the consciousness for Whom you are at work. If tempted to impatience or to anger, or to resentment, say this holy Name in secret to yourself. If you suffer, call to mind, “This I suffer for Him who suffered all for me. This is my cross for His sake, the shadow of His cross for mine.” Be it sickness, pain, anguish, anxiety, sorrow, solitude, it is all one; we may join it to His sorrows and 53to the darkness of His Cross. In this you will find consolation, strength, guidance, ever fresh and ever near. This will keep your feet in all your ways, be they never so slippery, be they never so strait. His Name, through faith in His Name, shall hold you up. In a little while, where will be all the things that we are fretting about? Where will be honours, wealth, power, ambition, high place, science, learning, pleasures, and refinement? Where will be home and its soft cares, its keen anxieties, its tender affections, its blinding attachments? Where will all these be, when the sign of the Son of Man shall be seen in heaven?
Live, then, in obedience to that great law which binds heaven and earth in one. All things on high worship Him; to Him all things in earth and under the earth bow the knee. The Name of Jesus is the law of angels, archangels, principalities, and powers; it is the healing of penitents, the song of God’s elect. Be it your motive and your law, and it shall be your strength and stay; your shield, and your exceeding great reward,54
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