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BT 15 
















OCT 9r^ ] 







Copyright, 1916 





The Cause of God (1 Kings 19:9) 1 

Old Testament Religion (Psalm 51:12) 14 

The Wrath of Man (Psalm 76:10) 24 

: For Christ's Sake (Matt. 5 :11) 32 

This- and Other-Worldliness (Matt. 6:33) 43 

Light and Shining (Mark 4 :31-35) 53 

; Childlikeness (Mark 10:15) 65 

" The Glory of the Word (Jno. 1 :1) 81 

Looking to Men (Jno. 5 :44) 93 

y A Half -learned Christ (Jno. 6:68:69) 103 

The Conviction of the Spirit (Jno. 16:8-11) 116 

Christ's Prayer for His People (Jno 17:15) 128 

The Outpouring of the Spirit (Acts 2:16, 17) 135 

Prayer as a Means of Grace (Acts 9:11) 146 

Surrender and Consecration (Acts 22:10) 154 

,. The Summation of the Gospel (Acts 26:18) 165 

The Spirit's Testimony to Our Sonship (Rom 8:16) .... 179 

The Spirit's Help in Our Praying (Rom. 8:26, 27) 193 

All Things Working Together for Good (Rom. 8:28) 202 

Man's Husbandry and God's Bounty (1 Cor. 3:5-9).. . . 211 
Communion in Christ's Body and Blood (1 Cor. 10:16 

-17) 222 

The Spirit of Faith (2 Cor. 4:13) 231 

- New Testament Puritanism (2 Cor. 6:11—7:1) 243 

^ Paul's Great Thanksgiving (Eph. 1 :3-14) 259 

Spiritual Strengthening (Eph. 3:16) 267 

The Fulness of God (Eph. 3:19) 279 

The Sealing of the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30) 289 

-7 Working Out Salvation (Phil. 2:12, 13) 298 




The Alien Righteousness (PhU. 3:9) 314 

Peace With God (PhU. 4:7) 326 

The Heritage of the Saints in Light (Col. 1 ;12) 340 

The Hidden Life (Col. 3:1-4) 350 

Entire Sanctifieation (1 Thess. 5:23, 24) 361 

The Mystery of Godliness (1 Tim. 3:16) 373 

The Inviolate Deposit (1 Tim. 6:20, 21) 385 

The Way of Life (Tit. 3:4-9) 393 

The Eternal Gospel (2 Tim. 1:9, 10) 402 

Communion with Christ (2 Tim. 2:11-13) 415 

Prayer as a Practice (James 5 :16) 428 

God's Holmess and Ours (1 Pet. 1 :15) 440 

Childship to God (1 Jno. 2:28—3:1) 448 

n^HOSE who are unfamiliar with the life of Princeton Theo- 
logical Seminary and desire to learn something of the nature 
and the early history of the "Conferences "held in the "Oratory" 
of the Seminary may be referred to the Life of Archibald Alexander 
by his son, James W. Alexander, pp. 420 ff ; the Life of Samuel 
Miller by his son, Samuel Miller, vol. ii, p. 400; and the Life 
of Charles Hodge by his son, A. A. Hodge, pp. 453 ff ; with the 
last of which may be compared the Preface to Conference Ad- 
dresses by Charles Hodge. 



1 Kings 19:9: " What doest thou here, Elijah? " 

The history of Elijah suppHes us with one of 
the most striking, and, we may add, one of the 
most instructive, sections of the Old Testa- 
ment. With him begins the wonderful history 
of Prophetism. Through him we obtain a glimpse 
which we would not willingly lose of God's deal- 
ings with His people: His faithfulness to them 
when they were unfaithful to Him; His unre- 
mitting efforts to withdraw them from sin and 
keep them in that intimate and obedient relation 
to Him in which alone was safety to be found. 

At first sight the narrative may appear ob- 
jective to a fault. We are told nothing of who 
Elijah w^as, how he had been trained, whence he 
came as he passes across the page of history. 
In the midst of Ahab's wicked rule suddenly he 
stands before the idolatrous King and pronounces 
the curse of God, which for his sake should fall on 
the land which he had polluted with his apostasy. 
And as suddenly as he appears, so suddenly he 
withdraws again. Hidden at Cherith or at Zarep- 


hath for a period measured by years, he appears 
on the scene of public history once again as un- 
expectedly and as much a messenger from on 
high as at first. Everywhere he goes the powers 
of heaven accompany him, and his appearances 
and disappearances are almost as sudden as the 
bolts of heaven themselves. 

But, however rapid the action, and however 
much, at first view, the narrative may seem to 
wear the appearance of objectivity; however 
much it may seem to be concerned only with the 
history of Israel and God's endeavour through the 
words and works of His prophet to awaken His 
people to righteousness and rescue them from the 
slough of their idolatry; the story of Elijah yet 
manages to be primarily and above all else the 
story of Elijah. Somehow, as in music some- 
times a secondary strain is carried on, shot through 
the dominant theme of the composition, in har- 
mony with it and yet separable from it, and need- 
ing but a little emphasizing to make it the chief 
burden of the whole; so within the bosom of this 
narrative of how God sent His prophet to Israel 
with His thunder-message calling it back to the 
service of Him, of how He dealt thus faithfully 
with His people and sought to save them from 
themselves and for Him, there lies, not hidden, 
but embraced and preserved for us, the touching 
account of how God dealt with and trained the 
prophet himself. As Jesus, when He sat in the 


judgment hall of Annas offering Himself a victim 
for the saving of the world, yet had time to turn 
a significant glance upon Peter as he stood deny- 
ing Him before the courtyard fire, and thus saved 
His poor repentant follower in the saving of the 
world; so God in His use of Elijah for the teach- 
ing of Israel also found time to train the heart 
of the prophet himself. 

These chapters are crowded with teaching for 
us. We must select, from the wealth they bring 
to us, some one thing on which our minds may 
especially dwell to-day. Let it be this instruc- 
tive element in them: God's way of training His 
prophet. Let us observe in the case of Elijah 
how God dealt with him in His grace so as to 
bring him to a better knowledge of himself, of 
God and of the nature of the work to which he 
was called. When once we approach the narra- 
tive with this purpose in view, it becomes diflScult 
to see anything else in it. We forget Israel in 
Elijah. Israel seems only the instrument upon 
which and by means of which Elijah's heart and 
soul were taught. We have in a word empha- 
sized the subordinate strain until it becomes domi- 
nant; and the very possibility of this is a clear 
proof that the subordinate strain was planted in 
the music by the Great Composer, and that it was 
meant that our ears should hear it. 

We are told, we say, nothing of the early life, 
the early training, or directly, of the character of 


Elijah. He appears suddenly before us as the 
messenger of God's wrath. Like his great anti- 
type — who was greater, our Lord being witness, 
than even he — he is a voice from the wilderness 
crying the one word, Repent! He is the human 
embodiment of the wrath of God. AMierever he 
goes destruction accompanies him. Drought, 
fire from heaven, floods of rain, death for the ene- 
mies of God, follow hard on his footsteps. He is 
embodied law. And as such he is a swift witness 
against his people. Obedience, repentance, strict 
account, these form the essence of his message. 

God chooses appropriate instruments for His 
work. And we have reason to believe that the 
sternness of Elijah's mission was matched by the 
sternness of his aspect and the sternness of his 
character. We are therefore justified in having 
said that he was, not merely the messenger of 
God's law and wrath, but their embodiment. He 
was by natural disposition, as framed under prov- 
idential circumstances, and by \artue of the side 
of God which he had as yet apprehended, nothing 
loath but rather naturally inclined to act as the 
witness of God against his people, well-fitted to 
call down the vengeance of God upon them and 
to delight in the overthrow of His enemies. He 
was in danger of thinking of God only as a law- 
giver and the just avenger of His wounded honour. 
Hence arose the necessity of the training of the 
prophet. Every incident of his career, as it is 


recorded for us, entered into this training. As 
we cast our eye over it, we observe that what 
Elijah needed to be taught was (1) dependence on 
God; (2) fellowship with man in his sufferings; 
(3) confidence in God's plans; and (4) a sense 
of their essential and broad mercifulness. 

These lessons are brought home to him by 
means of two stupendous miracles over nature, 
wrought for the purpose of teaching the people 
that Jehovah and He alone is God, — so closely 
intertwined were the two lines of Divine work, 
the training of the people and the training of 
Elijah. No sooner had the prophet declared to 
the apostate King the word of God sent to him, 
"As the Lord, the God of Israel liveth, before 
whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain 
these years but according to my word," than a 
special personal message came from the Lord to 
him saying, "Get thee hence, and turn thee east- 
ward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is 
before Jordan. And it shall be that thou shalt 
drink of the brook, and I have commanded the 
ravens to feed thee there." Thus it was brought 
about that both Israel and Elijah were simul- 
taneously learning the lesson of the littleness of 
man before God. But diversely. Israel was 
learning that it could not with impunity break 
God's law; Elijah that even God's servants de- 
pend on Him for their every want. The self- 
willed nation was learning to submit to its Lord; 


the perhaps too self-confident prophet was learn- 
ing the weakness of flesh and man's utter depend- 
ence on his Maker. 

In the silence of the wilderness, hidden in one 
of those torrent-clefts which fall into the Jordan 
valley, Elijah was dependent on God's hand for 
his daily food; on the water which flowed at 
first in quantities full enough for his needs over 
the rocks of the brook's bed, but gradually grew 
less and less until it trickled in drops scarcely 
numerous enough to moisten his parched lips; 
on food brought to him by the unclean ravens. 
Thus gradually he learned to sympathize with his 
suffering fellows and to rest on God. It was meet 
that he who seemed to have the dominion of the 
heavens in his hands, who prayed that it should 
not rain and it rained not, should share in the 
want which resulted; and should learn to sym- 
pathize with poor suffering, even if sinful, human- 
ity, like that greater one who was yet to come and 
learn also how to sympathize with us through His 
participation in our griefs. How fully he learned 
his lesson the subsequent narrative tells us in the 
beautiful story of his dealings with the widow of 
Zarephath with her cruse and barrel, and her sick 
and dying child — one of the most Christlike nar- 
ratives among all the Old Testament miracles. 
Thus then as Israel was prepared for repentance, 
the prophet was prepared inwardly to be a fit 
messenger to his suffering brethren, bringing 


them relief from their sore affliction. We re- 
peat it, God sends His messages by fit instru- 

And so, in due time, Elijah comes to bring the 
famished land relief. We all remember the story 
of the tremendous scene wherein Elijah — the 
"prodigious" Tishbite, as an old author calls 
him — challenges the prophets of Baal to meet him 
in a contest of worship on Carmel, and defeats 
them by simply calling on his God; and then 
draws down rain on the parched ground by the 
almighty virtue of his prayer. No scene of higher 
dramatic power is to be found in all the world's 
literature. As we read, we see the prophet ruling 
on the mount; we see him bent in prayer on the 
deserted summit; we see him when, the hand of 
God upon him, he girded up his victorious loins 
and ran before the chariot of Ahab, the sixteen 
miles through the driving storm, from Carmel 
to Jezreel. No scene we may say could have 
been more nicely fitted to his mind or to his nature. 
Here the king of men was king indeed and his vic- 
tory seemed complete. But God's children must 
suffer for their triumphs. Were there no thorns 
in the flesh, messengers of Satan, sent of God to 
buffet them, there would be no one of men who 
could serve the Lord in the scenes of His triumph 
without grave danger to his own soul. And 
Elijah needed to learn other lessons yet. He 
needed to learn that God's victories are not of the 


external sort and are not to be won by the weapons 
of men. 

How quickly after the triumph comes the mo- 
ment of dismay. "And Ahab told Jezebel," says 
the simple narrative, "all that Elijah had done, 
and withal, how he had slain the prophets with 
the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto 
Elijah, saying, *So let the gods do to me and more 
also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of 
them by to-morrow about this time.' And when 
he saw that, he arose and went for his life and came 
to Beersheba." Thus, Elijah has his lesson to 
learn again after his miracle. We need not won- 
der at his sudden flight. It is the price that strong, 
fervent spirits pay for their very strength, that 
they suffer a correspondingly strong reaction. So 
it was with the prophet's antitype, John the Bap- 
tist, when in the prison he lost his faith and sent 
to ask Him whom God had Himself pointed out 
to him on the banks of Jordan, whether, indeed, 
He was the Coming One. So it was with Peter 
also, who could venture on the waves, but only 
to cry, "Lord save me, I perish"; who could 
draw his sword and smite the High Priest's ser- 
vant, but only at once to deny his Lord at the 
challenge of a servant maid. So now it was with 
Elijah. God's hand had been outstretched at his 
call. He had shut up the heavens at his bidding 
and had nourished him at Cherith and given him 
miraculous sustenance at Zarephath, and the 


widow's son back from the grave. He had sent 
down His fire from heaven and dehVered the 
priests of Baal into his hand and opened the 
heavens at his prayer. But Elijah could not 
trust God, now, to deliver him from a woman's 
hate; and that, although her very message bore 
in it the betrayal of her weakness. 

Was there not a deeper spring for this distrust 
still.? With all his training, Elijah did not as 
yet know his God. His life had fallen on evil 
days, times of violence that demanded violent 
remedies for their diseases. And he could not 
beheve in the efficacy of any but violent remedies. 
Fresh from Carmel and the slaughter of the priests 
he was impatient of the contuiuance of evil, and 
expected the miracles of Carmel to be but the 
harbinger of the greater miracle of the conversion 
of the people to God in a day. \Mien Elijah 
awoke on the morrow and found Israel altogether 
as it had been yesterday, he was dismayed. Had 
then the triumph of yesterday been as nothing.? 
Was Jezebel still to lord it over God's heritage? 
What then availed it that the fire had fallen from 
heaven? That the false priests' blood had flowed 
like water? That the rain had come at his bid- 
ding? Was the hand of God outstretched only 
to be withdrawn again? Elijah loses heart be- 
cause God's ways were not as his ways. He can- 
not understand God's secular modes of working; 
and, conceiving of His ways as sudden and mirac- 


ulous only, he feels that the Most High has de- 
serted His cause and His servants. He almost 
feels bitter towards the Lord who had let him 
begin a work which He leaves him without power 
to complete. Hence Elijah must go to the wil- 
derness to learn somewhat of the God he serves. 
After his first miracle of closing the heavens, he 
learned what man was in his sufferings and in his 
needs. Now he has opened the heavens and is to 
learn what God is and what are the modes of His 
working and the nature of His plans. 

There is no mistaking the purpose of God in 
leading the prophet into the wilderness; nor the 
import of the teaching He gives him there. The 
disheartened prophet, despairing of the cause of 
God because all things had not turned out as he 
had anticipated, throws himself on the desert 
sands to die. But there God visits him; and leads 
him on to Horeb, where the Law had been given, 
where it had been granted to Moses to see God's 
glory, the glory of the Lord, the Lord God, mer- 
ciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in 
mercy and truth. Reaching the Mount the 
stricken prophet seeks a cave and lodges in it. 
And then the word of the Lord came to him with 
the searching question, '* What doest thou here, 
Elijah.^ " We do not need to doubt that there 
was reproof in the question; but surely it is not 
reproof but searching inquiry that forms its main 
contents. The Lord had Himself led Elijah here. 


for his lesson. And now the Lord probes him 
with the deepest of questions. 

After all, why was Elijah there? The question 
calls for reflection; and reflection which will bring 
light with self-condemnation; and with the self- 
condemnation, also self -instruction. " What doest 
thou here, Elijah? " The honest soul of the prophet 
gives back the transparent truth: "I have been 
very jealous" . . . and so on. Here we see dis- 
trust in God and despair of His cause; almost 
complaint of God, for not guarding His cause bet- 
ter; nay, more, almost complaint of God that He 
had left His servant in the lurch. The Lord deals 
very graciously with His servant. There is no 
need now of reproof; only the simple command 
to go forth and stand upon the mount before the 
Lord. And then the Lord passed by; first a 
great, strong wind rent the mountains and brake 
in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but it was 
not in the wind that the Lord was. And after 
the wind, an earthquake; but the Lord was not in 
the earthquake. And after the earthquake, fire; 
but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the 
fire, a sound of gentle stillness. Elijah does not 
now need to be told where the Lord is. The 
terror of the storm, of the earthquake, and of the 
flame, is as nothing to the awesomeness of the 
gentle stillness. "And it was so, when Elijah 
heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, 
and went out and stood in the entering in of the 


cave." Did he already begin to suspect that he 
had mistaken the storm that goes before Jehovah 
for Jehovah's self? The terror of the law for the 
very hand of Him whose essence is love? The 
terrible preparation for the Gospel for the Gospel 
itself? But there is still no word of direct instruc- 
tion. Only the old question still sounds in his 
ears. "And behold there came a voice to him 
and said *What doest thou here, Elijah?'" To it 
he returns the same answer as before; but surely 
in deep humility of spirit. Be that as it may, how- 
ever, the Lord proceeds to tell him that He has 
yet work for him to do and sends him back with 
instructions which imply that there is a long future 
for the fruition of His plans. And whether at 
once or more slowly we cannot doubt that the 
lesson had its effect and Elijah learned not to 
lose hope in God's cause because God's ways in 
accomplishing it are not our ways. 

How full all this is of lessons to us! Let us at 
least not fail to learn from it: (1) That the cause 
of God does not depend on our single arm to save 
it. "I, I only, am left," said Elijah, as if on him 
alone could God depend to secure His ends. We 
depend on God, not God on us. (2) That the 
cause of God is not dependent for its success on 
our chosen methods. Elijah could not under- 
stand that the ends of God could be gained unless 
they were gained in the path of miracles of mani- 
fest judgment. External methods are not God's 


methods. (3) That the cause of God cannot fail. 
EHjah feared that God's hand was not outstretched 
to save and fancied that he knew the dangers and 
needs better than God did. God never deserts 
His cause. (4) That it is not the Law but the 
Gospel, not the revelation of wrath but that of 
love, which saves the world. Wrath may pre- 
pare for love; but wrath never did and never will 
save a soul. 

We close then, with a word of warning and one 
of encouragement. The word of warning: We 
must not identify our cause with God's cause; 
our methods with God's methods; or our hopes 
with God's purposes. The word of encourage- 
ment: God's cause is never in danger; what He 
has begun in the soul or in the world, He will com- 
plete unto the end. 


Psa. 51:12: "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation." 

"And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned 
against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, 
The Lord also hath put away thy sin." It may al- 
most seem that David escaped from his crime too 
easily. We may read the narrative and fail to 
observe the signs of that deep contrition which 
such hideous wickedness when once recognized 
surely must engender. There is the story of the 
sin drawn in all its shocking details. Then Nathan 
comes in with his beautiful apologue of the ewe- 
lamb, and its pungent application. And then we 
read simply: "And David said unto Nathan, I 
have sinned against The Lord. And Nathan said 
unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin." 
After that comes only the story of how the child 
of sin was smitten, and how David besought the 
Lord for its life and finally acquiesced in the 
Divine judgment. One is apt to feel that David 
was more concerned to escape the consequences 
of his sin than to yield to the Lord the sacrifices of 
a broken and a contrite heart. Does it not seem 
cold to us and external, David's simple acknowl- 
edgment of his sin, and the Lord's immediate re- 
mission of it? We feel the lack of the manifesta- 



tions of a deeply repentant spirit, and are almost 
ready, we say, to wonder if David did not escape 
too easily from the evil he had wrought. 

It is merely the simplicity of the narrative 
which is deceiving us in this. The single-hearted 
writer expects us to read into the bare words of 
David's confession, " I have sinned against the 
Lord," all the spiritual exercises which those words 
are fitted to suggest and out of which they should 
have grown. And if we find it a little difficult to do 
so, we have only to turn to David's penitential 
Psalms, to learn the depths of repentance which 
wrung this great and sensitive soul. One of them 
— perhaps the most penetrating portrayal of a truly 
penitent soul ever cast into human speech — is 
assigned by its title to just this crisis In his life; 
and I see no good reason why this assignment 
need be questioned. The whole body of them 
sound the depths of the sinful soul's self-torment 
and longing for recovery as can be found nowhere 
else in literature; and taken in sequence present 
a complete portrayal of the course of repentance 
in the heart, from its inception in the rueful review 
of the past and the remorseful biting back of the 
awakened heart, through its culmination in a true 
return to God In humble love and trusting confi- 
dence, to its issue in the establishment of a new 
relation of obedience to God and a new richness 
of grateful service to Him. 

Let us take just these four. Psalms 6, 38, 51, 32. 


In Psa. 6 sounds the note of remorse — it is the 
torment of a soul's perception of its sin that is 
here prominently brought to our most poignant 
observation. In Psa. 38, the note of hope — not 
indeed absent even from Psa. 6 — becomes dom- 
inant and the sorrow and hatred of sin is coloured 
by a pervasive tone of relief. In Psa. 51, while 
there is no lessening of the accent of repentance 
there is along with the deep sense of the guilt and 
pollution of sin which is expressed also a note of 
triumph over the sin, which aspires to a clean 
heart and a steadfast spirit and a happy service 
of God in purity of life. While in Psa. 32, the 
sense of forgiveness, the experience of joy in the 
Lord, and the exercises of holy and joyful service 
overlie all else. Here we trace David's penitent 
soul through all its experiences; his remorseful 
contemplation of his own sin, his passionate reach- 
ing out to the salvation of God, the gradual re- 
turn of his experience of the joy of that salvation, 
his final issuing into the full glory of its complete 

In some respects the most remarkable of this 
remarkable body of pictures of the inner experi- 
ences of a penitent soul, is that of Psa. 51. It 
draws away the veil for us and permits us to look 
in upon the spirit in the most characteristic act 
of repentance, just at the turning point, as it de- 
serts its sin and turns to God. Here is revealed 
to us a sense of sin so poignant, a perception of the 


grace of God so soaring, an apprehension of the 
completeness of the revolution required in sinful 
man that he may become in any worthy sense a 
servant of God so profound, that one wonders in 
reading it what is left for a specifically Christian 
experience to add to this experience of a saint of 
God under the Old Testament dispensation in 
turning from sin to God. The wonderful depth 
of the religious experience and the remarkable 
richness of religious conception embodied in this 
Psalm have indeed proved a snare to the critics. 
"David could not have had these ideas," says 
Prof. T. C. Cheyne, brusquely; and, indeed, the 
David that Prof. Cheyne has constructed out of 
his imaginary reconstruction of the course of re- 
ligious development in Israel, could not well have 
had these ideas. These are distinctively Chris- 
tian ideas that the Psalm sets forth, and they 
could not have grown up of themselves in a purely 
natural heart. And therein lies one of the values 
of the Psalm to us; it reveals to us the essentially 
Christian type of the religion of Israel; it opens 
to our observation the contents of the mind and 
heart of a Spirit-led child of God in the ages agone, 
and makes us to know the truly Christian charac- 
ter of his experiences in his struggle with sin and 
his aspirations towards God, and thus also to 
iJnow the supernatural leading of God's people 
through all ages. 

For consider for a moment the conception of 


God which throbs through all the passionate lan- 
guage of this Psalm. A God of righteousness 
who will not look upon sin with allowance; nay, 
who directs all things, even the emergence of acts 
of sin in His world, so that He may not only be 
just, but also "may be justified when He speaks 
and clear when He judges." A God of holiness 
whose Spirit cannot abide in our impure hearts. 
A God of unbounded power, who governs the 
whole course of events in accordance with His 
own counsels. But above all, a gracious God, full 
of lovingkindness, abundant in compassion, whose 
delight is in salvation. There is nothing here 
which goes beyond the great revelation of Ex. 
34:6, "a God full of compassion and gracious, 
abundant in lovingkindness and truth; keeping 
lovingkindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity 
and transgression and sin." Indeed the lan- 
guage of the Psalm is obviously modelled on this 
of Exodus. But here it is not given from the lips 
of Jehovah, proclaiming His character, but re- 
turned to us from the heart of the repentant sin- 
ner, recounting the nature of the God with whom 
he has to do. 

And what a just and profound sense of sin is 
revealed to us here. The synonymy of the sub- 
ject is almost exhausted in the effort to complete 
the self -accusation. "My transgression, my in- 
iquity, my sin;" I have been in rebellion against 
God, I have distorted my life, I have missed the 


mark; I have, to express it all, done what is evil 
in Thy sight — in the sight of Thee, the Standard 
of Holiness, the hypostatized Law of Conduct. 
And these acts are but the expression of an inner 
nature of corruption, inherited from those who 
have gone before me; it was in iniquity that I 
was born, in sin that my mother conceived me. 
Shall a pure thing come from an impure? Nay, 
my overt acts of sin are thought of not in them- 
selves but as manifestations of what is behind 
and within; thrown up into these manifestations 
in act, in Thine own ordinance, for no other 
cause than that Thy righteous condemnation on 
me may be justified and thy judgment be made 
clear. For it is not cleanness of act merely that 
Thou dost desire, but truth in the inward parts 
and wisdom in the hidden parts. Obviously the 
Psalmist is conceiving sin here as not confined to 
acts but consisting essentially of a great ocean of 
sin within us, whose waves merely break in sinful 
acts. No wonder the commentators remark that 
here we have original sin "more distinctly ex- 
pressed than in any other passage in the Old Tes- 
tament." Nothing is left to be added by the 
later revelation in the way of poignancy of con- 
ception — though much is, of course, left to be 
added in developed statement. 

Accordingly, the conception of the radicalness 
of the operation required for the Psalmist's de- 
liverance from sin, is equally developed. No sur- 


face remedy will suffice to eradicate a sin which is 
thus inborn, ingrained in nature itself. Hence the 
passionate cry: Create — it requires nothing less 
than a creative act — create me a clean heart — 
the heart is the totality of the inner life — and 
make new within me a constant spirit — a spirit 
which will no more decline from Thee. Nothing 
less than this will suffice — a total rebegetting as 
the New Testament would put it; an entire mak- 
ing over again can alone suffice to make such an 
one as the Psalmist knows himself to be — not by 
virtue of his sins of act which are only the mani- 
festation of what he is by nature, but by virtue 
of his fundamental character — acceptable to Him 
who desires truth in the inward part; nay, noth- 
ing less than this can secure to him that stead- 
fastness of spirit which will save his overt acts 
from shame. 

Nor does the Psalmist expect to be able, un- 
aided, to live in the power of his new life. One 
of the remarkable features of the doctrinal sys- 
tem of the Psalm is the clear recognition it gives 
of the necessity, for the cleansing of the life, of the 
constant presence and activity of the Holy Spirit. 
"Take not thy holy Spirit from me and uphold 
me with a spirit of willingness." Thine to lead, 
mine to follow. Not autonomy but obedience, 
the ideal of the religious life. The operations 
of the Holy Spirit in the sphere of the moral life, 
the ethical activities of the Spirit, His sanctifying 


work, are but little adverted to in the Old Tes- 
tament, and when alluded to, it is chiefly in 
promises for the Messianic period. Here, David 
not merely prays for them in his own case, but 
announces them as part of the experience of the 
past and present. His chance of standing, he 
says in effect, hangs on the continued presence 
of the Holy Spirit of God in him; in the up- 
holding within him thereby of a spirit of wiUing- 

Thus we perceive that in its conception of God, 
of sin, of salvation alike, this Psalm stands out 
as attaining the high-water mark of Old Testa- 
ment revelation. It was by a hard pathway that 
David came to know God and himself so inti- 
mately. But he came thus to know both his 
own heart and the God of grace with a fullness 
and profundity of apprehension that it will be 
hard to parallel elsewhere. And it was no merely 
external knowledge that he acquired thus. It 
was the knowledge of experience. David knew 
sin because he had touched the unclean thing 
and sounded the depths of iniquity. He knew 
himself because he had gone his own way and had 
learned through what thickets and morasses that 
pathway led, and what was its end. And he 
knew God, because he had tasted and seen that 
the Lord is gracious. Yes, David had tasted 
and seen God's preciousness. David had ex- 
perience of salvation. He knew what salvation 


was, and He knew its joy. But never had he 
known the joy of salvation as he knew it after 
he had lost it. And it is just here that the spe- 
cial poignancy of David's repentance comes in: 
it was not the repentance of a sinner merely, it 
was the repentance of a sinning saint. 

It is only the saint who knows what sin is; for 
only the saint knows it in contrast with salva- 
tion, experienced and understood. And it is only 
the sinning saint who knows what salvation is: 
for it is only the joy that is lost and then found 
again that is fully understood. The depths of 
David's knowledge, the poignancy of his con- 
ceptions — of God, and sin, and salvation — car- 
rying him far beyond the natural plane of his 
time and the development of the religious con- 
sciousness of Israel, may be accounted for, it 
would seem, by these facts. He who had known 
the salvation of God and basked in its joy, came 
to know through his dreadful sin what sin is, 
and its terrible entail; and through this horrible 
experience, to know what the joy of salvation is — 
the joy which he had lost and only through the 
goodness of God could hope to have restored. 
In the biting pain of his remorse, it all becomes 
clear to him. His sinful nature is revealed to 
him; and the goodness of God; his need of the 
Spirit; the joy of acceptance with God; the de- 
light of abiding with Him in His house. Hence 
his profound disgust at himself; his passion- 


ate longing for that purity without which he 
could not see God. And hence his culminat- 
ing prayer: "Restore unto me the joy of Thy 


Psa. 76:10: — "Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee." 

The Seventy-sixth Psalm is represented by a 
very old tradition — it is already embodied in the 
Septuagint version — as a hymn of praise to God 
for the destruction of Sennacherib. There is no 
reason why this tradition may not be supposed to 
preserve the truth. But its truth or falsehood 
does not particularly concern us. The Psalm 
was in any case written upon some such occasion 
as the destruction of Sennacherib. It celebrates 
a great deliverance wrought by the power of God; 
a deliverance beyond all expectation, wrought by 
God alone. The essence of its representation is 
that Jehovah is a man of war, above all comparison 
great. When He enters the field, all the machin- 
ery of conflict stops. The lightning-like arrows 
which fly from the bow cease in their courses; 
the shield and the sword fall helpless to the ground; 
the stoutest-hearted with their chariots and horses 
drop into the inactivity of death. For Jehovah 
is terrible. None can stand before Him when 
His wrath begins to bum but a little. 

As the Psalmist contemplates the certain de- 
struction that befalls all the foes of Israel, when 
Jehovah speaks, he rises from the particular to 



the general. He proclaims the praises of the 
eternal and universal providence of God, as it is 
illustrated in the great fact that even the most 
violent passions of men are under His control, 
and conduce only to the fulfilment of His ends. 
"Surely," he cries, "the wrath of man shall praise 
Thee, and the residue of wrath Thou wilt restrain," 
or "the residue of wrath wilt Thou gird upon 
Thee." The fundamental sense is that the ebul- 
litions of the wrath of man, however violent and 
outbreaking they may be, are, nevertheless, like 
all else that occurs, under the complete control of 
God and are employed by Him as instruments for 
working out His ends. Like all else that comes to 
pass, then, they illustrate God's glory. For the 
rest, the passage teaches, according as we con- 
strue the last half of the verse, either that all the 
wrath of man which would not conduce to the 
divine glory God restrains and does not permit 
to manifest itself in action, so that the complete- 
ness of His control over man's wrath is what is 
emphasized; or else, that after all the wrath of 
man raging in its utmost fury has exhausted itself 
in vain struggles against the rising wrath of Je- 
hovah, there remains to Jehovah, in opposition 
to it, the fullness of wrath, with which He girds 
Himself for action, so that the resistless might of 
Jehovah as over against the puny weakness of 
man is what is emphasized. We need not now 
attempt to decide between the two interpreta- 


tions; it is enough to fix our minds on the main 
declaration — this to wit: that the wrath of man 
also is under divine control, and it too, like all 
else that occurs in the world, conduces only to 
the divine glory. 

It is well for us to remind ourselves of this great 
fact in a time like this. It may seem to us as if 
the fountains of the great deep were broken up 
and the world were on the point of being over- 
whelmed by the violence of human passion. Men 
seem to have broken away from the government 
of conscience, and even from the guidance of the 
common instincts of humanity. The whole earth 
appears to have become a churning mass of rage. 
We see millions of our fellow-creatures flying at 
one another's throats in a ruthless struggle, and 
whole countries harried and reduced to ruin. 
Up from the battle-fields, and up from the v;asted 
lands behind the battle-fields, rise only cries of 
rage and despair. It is good for us to remember 
that the Lord God Omnipotent reigns over all. 
That all this welter of blood and iron He holds 
well in hand. That none of it would have oc- 
curred without His direction; that nothing can 
occur in it apart from His appointment; and I do 
not say merely that He will overrule it all for 
His glory, but that all of it will conduce to His 
praise. For, "surely the wrath of man is to Him 
for praise, and the remainder of wraths will He 


It may be hard for us to understand or even to 
believe it — for our sight is dim and the range of 
our vision is narrow — but all things work together 
under God's governing hand for good. Even the 
things which in themselves are evil, in all their 
workings work together for good in this world of 
ours; for it is God's world after all, and He is the 
Governor of it, and He governs it for good, and 
that continually. John Calvin reminds us that 
though Satan may rage about like a roaring lion 
seeking whom he may devour, yet he has a bit in 
his mouth and it is God who holds the reins. 
"Oh, Assyrian, the rod of My anger," cries Je- 
hovah. It was for his own ends — lust of con- 
quest, delight in power — that the Assyrian on his 
part was doing it. He knew not that he was but 
the instrument in God's hands for working higher 
ends, and that when they were secured, the sword 
would drop from his inert fingers and he would 
himself fall on sleep. "Glorious art Thou and 
excellent," sings the Psalmist, "more than the 
mountains of prey: the stout-hearted are made a 
spoil, they have slept their sleep; and none of the 
men of might have found their hands. At thy 
rebuke, O God of Jacob, both chariot and horse 
are cast into a dead sleep." In the midst of the 
turmoil of war, let us remember that war too is of 
God, and that it, too, will in His hands work for 
good: that even the wrath of man shall be to 
Him for praise. 


But there is more than even this in the Psalm 
for our learning, at least by implication. We 
read in it not only of the wrath of man, but also 
of the wrath of Jehovah; and the wrath of Je- 
hovah is set over against the wrath of man as 
greater than the wrath of man — greater, more 
lasting, more prevailing. None can stand when 
the wrath of Jehovah only begins: when all other 
wrath is quenched the wrath of Jehovah abides — 
He girds Himself with it and is terrible to the 
kings of the earth. We must not then fall into 
the fancy that all wrath is evil, and that we must 
always and everywhere suppress it. There is a 
righteous anger, as well as an unrighteous. Else 
we would not read, "Be ye angry, and sin not." 
If to be angry were already sin, we could not be 
exhorted not to sin in our anger. God is angry. 
He is angry with the wicked every day. His 
wrath is revealed from heaven against all that 
work iniquity. If it were not so, He would not 
be a moral being: for every moral being must 
bum with hot indignation against all wrong per- 
ceived as such. That is precisely what we mean 
by a moral being : a being which knows right and 
wrong, and which approves the right and repro- 
bates the wrong. If we do not react against the 
wrong when we see it, in indignation and avenging 
wrath, we are either unmoral or immoral. 

Therefore also, Christ was angry. The Gos- 
pels are filled with instances of the manifestation 


by Him of the emotion of anger in all the varieties 
of this emotion: from mere annoyance, as when 
He rebuked His disciples for forbidding the chil- 
dren to be brought unto Him, to burning indigna- 
tion, as when the imfeeling Scribes would not 
permit Him to heal the suffering on the Sabbath 
day — yes, even to what the Evangelists do not 
scruple to call outbreaking rage which shook with 
its paroxysm His whole physical frame, as when 
He advanced to do battle with death and sin — the 
destroyers of men — at the grave of Lazarus. Even 
the Lamb feels and shows wrath. Christ is our 
perfect example. And if we are to be His perfect 
imitators, we not only may, but must, be angry; 
we not only m.ay, but must, exhibit wrath — when- 
ever, that is, good is assaulted and evil is exalted. 
We too, must be found, on proper occasion, with 
the whip of small cords in our hands; we too, 
must not draw back when righteousness is to be 
vindicated or when the oppressed are to be res- 
cued. In this sense too, the wrath of man is to 
God for praise. We please Him when we are 
righteously angry. He who never feels stirring 
within him the emotion of just indignation is not 
like God in that high element of the image of 
God in which he was made — His moral nature. 
Indignation is an inevitable reaction of a moral 
being in the presence of wrongdoing, and it is 
not merely his right, but his duty to give it play 
when righteousness demands it. 


No doubt we are to seek peace and ensue it. 
But this is the peace not of the condonation of 
evil, but of the conquest of it. We are to con- 
quer evil in ourselves. We are to know no in- 
ordinate anger. We are to be slow to anger and 
quick to put it aside: we are not to let the sun 
go down upon our wrath. We are to remember 
that anger is a short madness, and not trust our- 
selves too readily in wreaking it on others — even 
when we think it righteous: not avenging our- 
selves, but giving place to the wrath of God, 
knowing that in His own good time and way He 
will avenge us. W^e are to conquer it in others: 
by the soft word which takes away anger, by the 
patient endurance which disarms it, by the un- 
wearying kindness which dissolves it into repen- 
tance and love. Love is the great solvent; and 
love is the bond of peace. Where love is, there 
wrath will with difficulty live, and only that 
wrath which is after all outraged love can easily 
assert itself. But so long as there is wrongdoing 
in the world, so long will there be a place in the 
world for righteous indignation. 

It is only when the world shall have been re- 
made and there is no longer anything in it that 
can hurt or destroy that the lion and the lamb shall 
lie down together — because now the lion has 
ceased to be a lion. These things are to us an 
allegory. They mean that peace is the crowning 
blessing of earthly life and comes in the train of 


righteousness. Peace is, in the strictest sense, a 
by-product and is not to be had through direct 
effort. He works best for the world's peace who 
works for the world's righteousness. It is only 
when the world shall come to know the Lord and 
obey Him, that the peace of God can settle down 
upon it. We may cry, "Peace, peace," and there 
be no peace. But he who cries, "Righteousness, 
righteousness," will find that he has brought peace 
to the earth in precisely the measure in which he 
has brought righteousness. Jesus Christ is the 
Prince of Peace, because He takes away sin; and 
you and I are workers for peace when we preach 
His Gospel, which is the Gospel of peace just be- 
cause it is the Gospel of deliverance from sin. Sin 
means war, and where sin is, there will war be. 
Righteousness means peace, and there can never 
be peace where righteousness has not first been 


Matt. 5:11:— "For My Sake." 

"He came to his own and his own received him 
not." Though they had been for generations 
under the tutelage of the law, the schoolmaster 
to lead them to Christ; though the forerunner 
had come to prepare the way before Him, pro- 
claiming repentance to be the gate to His spiritual 
kingdom; yet He found the majority of the people 
inflamed by earthly hopes and passions and 
wedded to their expectation of a kingdom of 
flesh, in which they as kings and priests should 
revel in the discomfiture of all their enemies. 
Consequently we find our Lord taking an early 
opportunity in His ministry, w^hen He saw the mul- 
titudes before Him, to teach them the real nature 
of the kingdom which He came to found. In this 
aspect, the Sermon on the Mount is closely anal- 
ogous to the marvellous discourse on the Bread of 
Life, recorded for us in the sixth chapter of John. 
In both alike our Lord found Himself in the pres- 
ence of a carnal-minded crowd whose hopes were 
set upon an earthly kingdom of might and worldly 
glory, and who sought Him only in the hope that 
through Him they might gratify their ambitious 
aspirations. In both alike the purpose of the 



Divine teacher is instruction and sifting, or sifting 
through instruction. They knew not of what 
spirit they were; He would open to them the 
nature of the work He came to do, the nature of 
the spiritual kingdom He came to found. 

By historical necessity, the Sermon on the 
Mount is, then, the proclamation of the law of 
the kingdom. How beautifully it opens! Not, 
as the listening crowd, hanging eagerly upon the 
lips of the wondrous teacher, expected, with a 
clarion call to arms, or a ringing promise of re- 
ward to him who fought valiantly for Israel. 
Not as we might expect, with a stinging rebuke 
to their carnal hopes and a stern correction and 
repression of their ungentle spirit. But gently 
and winningly, wooing Ihe hearers to the higher 
ideal, by depicting in the most attractively simple 
language the blessedness of those in whom should 
be found the marks of the true children of the 
kingdom. When the Lord speaks to His chil- 
dren it is not in the voice of the great and strong 
wind that rends the mountain and breaks in 
pieces the rocks, nor in that of the earthquake, or 
of the fire, but in that still small voice or "sound 
of a gentle stillness" in which He spoke to Elijah 
in the mountain. The Lion of the Tribe of Judah 
had come and He opens His mouth and blesses 
the people in the voice of a Lamb. 

Look at this ninefold twisted cord of the be- 
atitudes and learn what the followers of the Lamb 


must be. As we look does it seem a mirror giving 
us back the lines and features of our own faces? 
Or rather, some strange picture of an unknown 
race brought home by some traveller to a far 
country — a race of almost unhuman lineaments, 
so different are they from our own? Indeed, 
here is the portrait of the dwellers in a far land, 
even a heavenly; here we trace in living charac- 
ters the outlines of those who live with God; the 
citizens of His kingdom whose home and abiding 
city is above, where Jesus is on the right hand of 
God. They are not of lofty carriage — but "poor 
in spirit"; nor are they of gay countenance — 
they "mourn" rather, and "hunger and thirst" 
eagerly "after the righteousness" which they lack 
within themselves; they are "merciful, poor in 
heart, peacemakers." Surely then, they are well- 
esteemed among men! Nay, this is another of 
their characteristics. They are supremely lov- 
able; but men hate them. They are persecuted 
for their very righteousness' sake. But they have 
their reward. Blessed are they — nay, "blessed are 
ye — when men shall reproach you and persecute 
you and say all manner of evil against you falsely 
for Christ's sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad, 
for great is your reward in heaven." 

The promises of Christ are not earthly but 
heavenly. He promises His servants evils here 
below; so true is it that "prosperity is the blessing 
of the Old Testament, adversity of the New." 


Yet in the midst of all this lowliness and evil, 
they are blessed. As heaven is higher than earth 
so high is their blessedness above any earthly 
success or glory or delight. Though they see 
their earthly house of this tabernacle being hter- 
ally worn away, then, by afflictions oft and en- 
durances many they need not faint; for even this 
affliction is light in comparison with the weight 
of yonder glory. More, they may rejoice and be 
exceeding glad, for great is their reward in heaven. 
The more suffering for Christ here, the more 
glory with Christ there. As an old writer has 
it, the more the vessels of mercy are scoured here, 
the more may they be assured that God wants 
them to shine there; the more clear it is that we 
are being preserved not in sugar but in brine, the 
more clear that God is preserving us not for a 
season but for eternity. The last of the beati- 
tudes thus pronounces blessed those who suffer 
affliction for Christ's sake and bids them rejoice 
and be exceeding glad, because their reward shall 
be great 

Let us punctually observe, however, that it is 
not affliction in itself that is pronounced blessed. 
It is affliction for Christ's sake. This is the key- 
phrase which locks up the whole list of beatitudes. 
For Christ's sake. It is this that transmutes pov- 
erty of spirit into heavenly humility, that brings 
comfort to the mourning, and glorious riches to 
the meek, and plenty to those that hunger and 


thirst after righteousness. It is this that has been 
the spring of mercy in the merciful, of purity in 
the pure of heart, of peace in the peacemakers. 
And it is this and this only that makes it a glory 
to endure the scoffs and revilings and persecutions 
of men. As truly as we may say that the blessed- 
ness of affliction and persecution is due to its re- 
lation to the reward, is due to the fact that it is 
the gateway to the kingdom, so also may we say 
that it depends on its cause. For Christ's sake 
is the little phrase that points us to its source and 

When we selected these three words, "For my 
sake" as the centre of our meditation this after- 
noon, therefore, we elected to ask you to give 
your attention this hour to the great determining 
motive of the Christian life, above which the 
Scriptures know no higher, above which no higher 
can be conceived. Christ adverts to it as the 
great moving spring of Christian activity and en- 
durance in the ninth beatitude. When reproach 
and persecution and reviling are endured on 
Christ's account, then and then only are we 
blessed. But this is not the only place or the most 
moving way that this motive is adduced. The 
Scriptures are full of it. Let us sum up what we 
have to say of it in two propositions. (1) For 
Christ's sake is the highest motive which could 
be adduced to govern our conduct. (2) For 
Christ's sake ought and must be our motive in all 


our conduct. In other words it is the grandest 
and most compelling, and we should make it our 
universal and continual motive, in all our conduct 
of life. 

Let us consider then, the greatness of this motive 
as a spring of action, and here let us observe, first, 
that its greatness as a motive is revealed to us by 
the greatness of the requirements that are made 
of us on its account. This ninth beatitude is an 
example in point. Men are expected to endure 
reproaches and persecutions and all manner of 
evil for Christ's sake. That is, "for Christ's 
sake" is expected to sweeten the bitterest cup, 
and to make every affliction joyful to us. Dis- 
graceful scourgings, unjust imprisonments (Matt. 
10:18), burning hates (10:22), malignant slanders 
(Luke 6:22), death itself (Matt. 10:39), and that 
with the utmost refinement of cruelty and the 
deepest depths of disgrace; all these are enumer- 
ated for us as things before which no Christian 
should hesitate when it is for Christ's sake. All 
these are things which Christians have joyfully 
met with praises on their lips for Christ's sake. 
The enumeration in the eleventh chapter of He- 
brews is but a bare catalogue of what since then 
has been endured with delight by those who bore 
this strengthening talisman in their bosom. For 
Christ's sake. These too have had trial of mock- 
ings and scourgings, of bonds and imprisonments, 
of stonings and sawings asunder, and of long 


lives of privation in deserts and eaves and have 
for Christ's sake witnessed a good confession. 
These all, in one word, have testified to us the 
supreme strength of the motive "for Christ's 
sake," by joyfully suffering everything for Christ, 
that they might be glorified with Him, becoming 
sharers in His sufferings that they might be par- 
ticipants in His glory. 

And this leads us to observe, secondly, that the 
greatness of this motive is revealed to us by the 
greatness of the promises that are attached to 
living by it. So in this ninth beatitude, those 
who are afflicted for Christ's sake are pronounced 
blessed, and are called upon to rejoice and be ex- 
ceeding glad, because — because, so it is added, 
"great is your reward in heaven." And so is it 
everywhere. "Every one" it is said, without 
exception (Matt. 19:39), "every one that hath 
left houses or brethren or sisters or fathers or 
mothers or children or lands for my name's sake, 
shall receive a hundredfold and shall inherit eter- 
nal life." Thus it is that those whose eyes are 
opened may see the recompense of the reward 
and may be enabled to account the reproach of 
Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. 
He that denieth Christ before men may, indeed, 
receive the applause of men; but men pass away 
and their applause is empty air. But, he that 
denieth men for Christ's sake is received into the 
eternal habitations. "He that findeth his life 


shall lose it; but he that loseth his life for my sake 
shall find it." If we suffer with Him so also shall 
we be glorified together with Him (Rom. 8:17). 
There is, indeed, no limit to the reward promised; 
truly "great is our reward in heaven." And the 
greatness of the motive may be justly measured 
by the greatness of the reward. As high as heaven 
is above earth, as long as eternity is beyond time, 
as great as perfection is above lack, as strong as 
stability is above that which endureth but a 
moment; so high is the heavenly reward above 
the earthly suffering and so strong is the motive to 
act for Christ's sake. 

But, thirdly, let us observe that the greatness 
of this motive is revealed to us by the fact that 
God honours it as the motive of His own most mys- 
terious acts of redemption. He not only asks us 
to do for Christ's sake what is hard for us, but He 
Himself for Christ's sake does what is hard for 
Him. What could be more difficult for a just and 
holy God than to pardon sin and take the sinner 
into His most intimate love and communion.^ 
Yet for Christ's sake God does even this. "I 
write unto you, little children," says the beloved 
Apostle, "because your sins are forgiven you for 
his name's sake" (1 John 2:12). All the instru- 
mentalities of grace are set at work in the world, 
only for Christ's sake. It is for His sake that we 
are accepted by God, that we have the gift of 
the Spirit, that we are regenerated, adopted, jus- 


tified, sanctified, glorified. Nay, even the little 
things of life are for His sake. It is not only for 
His sake that we are received by God, but for 
His sake that we are treated even here and now 
while yet sinners as God's children, allowed free- 
dom of access to the Throne of Grace, and have 
all our petitions (little and great alike) heard and 
answered. "Verily I say unto you," says the 
Saviour, "whatever ye shall ask in my name, that 
will I do" (Jno. 14:13). 

And thus we are led finally to observe that the 
greatness of the motive rests on the greatness of 
Christ's work for us. As He has stopped at noth- 
ing for our sakes, so we must not stop at anything 
for His sake. All that we are and all that we 
have are His. And as He has loved us and given 
Himself for us, so must we love Him and give 
ourselves to Him. Behind the phrase "for thy 
sake" lurks thus all the motive power of a great 
love, the fruit of a great gratitude. As we can 
never repay Him for our redemption, so there is 
nothing that we can pause at, if done for His 
sake. Is not this the core of the whole matter.^ 
What difference will it make to us what men may 
judge or what they will do? Need we hesitate 
because they consider us beside ourselves.^ If 
this is lunacy, it is a blessed lunacy! Nay, shall 
we not rather say with the Apostle of old, " whether 
we be beside ourselves it is to God. . . . For the 
love of Christ constraineth us." And why should 


the love of Christ constrain us? "Because we 
thus judge, that if one died for all then all died; 
and He died for all that those that live should no 
longer live unto themselves, but unto Him who 
for their sakes died and rose again." Yes, here 
it is : for our sakes He died and rose again. And 
because He died for our sakes, we shall live for 
Him, yea, and if need be, for His sake also die. 
Is there, can there be asked, a stronger motive 
than this.f^ 

Or need we ask at this point how universal is 
this obligation — how far, into what details of life, 
we should carry it as our motive .^^ It is clear that 
there can be no call so great that this motive 
should not dominate it; we must be glad and will- 
ing to go to death itself "for His sake." But 
perhaps, the other side needs emphasis too. Can 
there be a call so small that this motive need not 
govern us.^ Nay, we are bought with a price and 
are asked not only to be ready to die, but also 
(sometimes a harder task) to be ready to live for 
Christ. Whatever we do, however small, how- 
ever seemingly insignificant — must needs be for 
Him. We are now new creatures — no more 
worldlings but Christ's children; let us see to it 
that we live like Christ's own children; doing all 
we do for Him and for His sake. So the Scrip- 
tures teach us to do: "Whatsoever ye do in word 
or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, 
giving thanks to God the Father through Him." 


"Whatsoever ye do, do from the soul, as unto the 
Lord, and not unto men; knowing that from the 
Lord ye shall receive the recompense of the m- 
heritance." (Col. 3:17, 23.) As Christians, let 
us be Christians, recognizably followers of Christ, 
doing His will in all we do and trying our duty at 
every stage simply by these questions: Is it ac- 
cording to His will.^ Does it subserve His glory? 
Is it for His sake? So doing, we cannot but ap- 
prove ourselves before man and God as followers 
of Him. 


Matt. 6:33: — "But seek ye first his kingdom and his righteous- 
ness; and all these things shall be added unto you." 

This verse is in a sense the summing up of the 
whole lesson of the Sermon on the Mount up to 
this point. This great discourse had opened 
with an enumeration of the classes to whom the 
advent of the kingdom would bring joy and bless- 
ing, in whom the leading characteristic is seen to 
be other- worldliness. It then proceeded to enun- 
ciate the law of the kingdom, which demanded 
holiness before God rather than external right- 
eousness before men. At the nineteenth verse of 
the sixth chapter the summing up begins with a 
direct appeal to lay aside care for earthly things 
and to set the mind on heavenly things. This 
summing up culminates and finds its fullest ex- 
pression in the verse before us: "But seek ye first 
the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and 
all these things shall be added unto you." This is 
the precipitate of the whole sermon; in a few 
words it contrasts the two cares which press on 
man, the two seekings which may engage his at- 
tention. It does not commend to us a nerveless 
life of Buddhist-like retirement from desire and 
destruction of activity. It presupposes in all 
men who are men, desire, energy, activity directed 



to a goal. But it discriminates activities and 
goals. We are to seek. But not what the heathen 
seek — worldly ease and goods and advantages. 
We are to seek heavenly things. Hence, it bans 
one class of seekings and commends the other. 
Our chief end is not to gain earthly things but 

Approaching the verse somewhat more closely, 
we observe of it — that it is a protest against prac- 
tical atheism. There is a formal atheism of opin- 
ions and words and reasonings which declares 
that there is no God and seeks to sophisticate the 
understanding into believing that there is none. 
This the Bible describes as an open folly: the 
fool has said in his heart, There is no God. But 
even when the lip and the mind behind the lip 
are true to right reason and confess that there is 
a God who rules the world and to whom Ve are 
responsible in our every thought and word and 
deed, there is often a practical atheism that lives 
as if there were no God. Formal atheism denies 
God; practical atheism is guilty of the possibly 
even more astounding sin of forgetting the God it 
confesses. How many men who would not think 
of saying even in their hearts. There is no God, 
deny Him practically by ordering their lives as if 
He were not.^^ And even among those who yield, 
in their lives, a practical as well as a formal ac- 
knowledgment of God, many yet manage, prac- 
tically, to deny in their lives that this God, ac- 


knowledged and served, is the Lord of all the earth. 
How prone we are to limit and circumscribe the 
sphere in which we practically allow for God! 
We feel His presence and activity in some things 
but not in others; we seek His blessing in some 
matters but not in others; we look for His guid- 
ance in some affairs but not in others; we can 
trust Him in some crises and with some of our 
hopes but not in or with others. This too is a 
practical atheism. And it is against all such prac- 
tical atheism that our passage enters its protest. 
It protests against men living as if they were the 
builders of their own houses, the architects of their 
own fortunes. It protests against men reckoning 
in anything without God. 

How are we to order our lives .^ How are we 
to provide for our households — or, for our own 
bodily wants.? Is it true that we can trust the 
eternal welfare of our souls to God and cannot 
trust to Him the temporal welfare of our bodies.? 
Is it true that He has provided salvation for us 
at the tremendous cost of the death of His Son, 
and will not provide food for us to eat and 
clothes for us to wear at the cost of the directive 
word that speaks and it is done.? Is it true 
that we can stand by the bedside of our dying 
friend and send him forth into eternity in good 
confidence in God, and cannot send that same 
friend forth into the world with any confidence 
that God will keep him there.? O, the prac- 


tical atheism of many of our earthly cares and 
earthly anxieties! Can we not read the lessons 
of the birds of heaven and the lilies of the field 
which our Father feeds and clothes? What a 
rebuke these lessons are to our practical atheism, 
which says, in effect, that we cannot trust God 
for our earthly prosperity but must bid Him wait 
until we make good our earthly fortunes before 
we can afford to turn to Him. How many men 
do actually think that it is unreasonable to serve 
God at the expense of their business activity? 
To give Him their first and most energetic ser- 
vice? How many think it would be unreasonable 
in God to put His service before their provision for 
themselves and family? How many of us who 
have been able to "risk" ourselves, do not think 
that we can "risk" our families in God's keeping? 
How subtle the temptations ! But, here our Lord 
brushes them all away in the calm words, "Seek 
ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness ; 
and all these things shall be added unto you." 
Is this not a rebuke to our practical atheism? 
But the verse does not take the form of a re- 
buke; it takes the form of an appeal; and we 
observe next of it, therefore, that it is an appeal 
to make God's kingdom and righteousness the 
prime objects of our life. And looking closely at 
it we see that it is not an empty appeal but in- 
cludes a promise. We are, primarily, to make 
God's kingdom and righteousness our chief con- 


cem; but, doing so, we shall more surely secure 
the earthly things we need. The passage does 
not proceed on the presumption that we do not 
need these earthly things; it asserts our need of 
them. It does not proceed on the assumption 
that they are not to be in their appropriate place 
and order and way the objects of seeking. It 
merely corrects our mode of seeking them. We 
may seek them without and apart from God or 
we may seek them in and of God. It tells us that 
the former way — the atheistic way, in which we 
seek to provide for ourselves — is the way not to 
get them; the latter way in which we seek them 
in and from God is the way to get them. Who 
can doubt it.? 

In the first place we have God's promise. He 
tells us that if we will seek first His Kingdom and 
His righteousness He will add all these things. He 
tells us in effect that to godliness there is the prom- 
ise both of this world and of the world to come. 
Men find it hard to believe this. It is a standing 
problem of the wise of the earth and has been 
from Job's day down. But we have the promise. 

In the next place we may add, despite the diffi- 
culties of life and the clouding of judgment, it, 
after all, does stand to reason. Isn't, after all, it 
the best way to secure the reward, to enter into 
the service of the King.? And God is the King 
of all the earth. How shall we obtain the goods 
of the earth better than by hearty service of the 


King of the earth? True we shall obtain them as 
gifts and not as acquired by us. But is not the 
best path for man, to seek them at His hands? 
The King suffers not His faithful servants to 

But more fundamentally still, we may add that 
it belongs to the very nature of things. If we 
want to enjoy those earthly goods which God has 
placed in this world for the benefit and use of His 
children, the best way to secure their enjoyment 
is obviously not to seek to do it individually but 
socially. It is a social axiom that everything that 
betters the condition of society as a whole increases 
our enjoyment of our material goods. A savage 
acquires a pot of gold. How shall he enjoy it? 
His fellow savages covet it; and who shall secure 
it to him? He is liable to be waylaid at night for 
it. Every bush hides an enemy; the poisoned 
arrow may fly upon him from any tree; his sleep 
is driven from him as he seeks to protect his life. 
Hidden by friendly darkness he may bury his 
treasure under some great tree in the tangled 
forest; and anxiously guard its neighbourhood lest 
he may have been watched and still be bereft of 
it. In such conditions there is no enjoyment of 
the treasure for him; he can enjoy only the pro- 
tection of it. But, now, he is a wise savage and 
instead of giving his energies to protecting his 
treasure, he gives it to civilizing his people. Out 
of the savage tribe rise the rudiments of a state; 


the majesty of law emerges— protecting under 
its powerful aegis the person and property of its 
citizens. What a change! No need of hiding 
the treasure now. He can wear it displayed upon 
his person. He now can enjoy at least its pos- 
session. But a higher stage is still possible; the 
community may be not only civiHzed but Chris- 
tianized; Christian principles take the place of 
external laws; love the place of force. And he, 
touched with the same spirit, goes about with his 
treasure, transmuting it into aid for the suffering 
and needy. Now he is truly enjoying it, enjoying, 
not only protecting it, not only possessing it but 
using it. When such a time fully comes to this 
world of ours — that is what we mean by the Mil- 
lennium — the kingdom of God has come for 
which we daily pray in the prayer our Lord has 
taught us, when men no longer prey on one an- 
other but help and support one another. 

Meanwhile how shall we approach it.^ By cur 
Lord's prescription— by seeking the kingdom of 
God and His righteousness. In proportion as we 
seek and find this kingdom, in the measure in 
which we bring it into practical life in the narrow 
circle around us, is it not necessarily true that we 
shall have and enjoy the best goods of this earth.? 
Is there not a deep foundation in the nature of 
things for our Lord's promise: "Seek ye first the 
kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all 
these things shall be added to you?" Is not this 


the most hopeful way to obtain and hold and 
enjoy these other things? 

But it is time for us to take note of another and 
the most characteristic element in this appeal. 
When we observe it narrowly we will see that it is 
not an appeal to seek the kingdom of God and 
His righteousness on the ground that this is the 
best way to obtain the other goods. It does not 
say: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His 
righteousness" "because" — but simply "and" 
— "and all these things shall be added unto you." 
It is a fact that Godliness has also the promise of 
this life, but that is not the reason why Godliness 
should be sought. It is a better reason that it 
has the promise of the life to come. It is a bet- 
ter reason still that it is Godliness. Nor does our 
passage itself fail to bring this out. It does not 
say "and all these things shall be your reward." 
It does not propose to pay us for seeking God's 
Kingdom and righteousness by giving us earthly 
things. It says: "and all these things shall be 
added unto you." The Greek word is not the 
word for pay, reward, but for the small gratuitous 
addition to the promised wages, given as we should 
say "in the bargain." The worldly goods that 
come to us are in a word here represented not as 
our reward, but as something "in the bargain." 
The appeal of the passage is made to rest else- 
where; that is, in the contrast between goods 
earthly and goods heavenly. We are to seek the 


heavenly, not for the sake of the earthly, but for 
their own sake. For, as Paul says, after all the 
Kingdom of God is not meat and drink but 
righteousness. And our passage sets, as Bengel 
points out, this celestial food and drink over 
against the earthly. 

Herein resides the "hft" of the passage. It 
places the highest good before us — God and His 
righteousness — fellowship with God; and pries at 
our hearts with this great lever of. Who will seek 
earthly food and drink when they can seek the 
kingdom of God and His righteousness.? In the 
restitution of the harmony between man and God 
thus involved, every blessing is included. Here is 
something worth losing all earthly joys for. Here 
is something worth the labour of men, the very end 
of whose being is to glorify God and enjoy Him 
forever. Would we not purchase it with loss of all 
earthly — if we can speak of loss in the exchange 
of the less for the greater.? Will we not take this 
for our seeking when in addition to this great 
reward, we shall have also "all these things added 
to us".? See the tenderness of our Lord in this 
constant regard for our human weakness. 

And there is another tender word in the pas- 
sage when restored to its right reading, which 
reaches down into our hearts to summon another 
motive from their depths, whereby we may be led 
to seek God's kingdom and righteousness. The 
fact that this is the best way to obtain these very 


eaTthly blessings which we need may be a suffi- 
cient motive. The glory of the things sought 
may be a higher and more prevailing motive. 
But there is a more powerful one still; it is 
love — love not to a principle but to a person. 
And our Lord does not fail to touch on this. 
In its right reading the passage does not run: 
"Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His 
righteousness," but " Seek ye first His king- 
dom and His righteousness." And the ante- 
cedent to "His" is "your heavenly Father." 
Here our Lord is tugging at our hearts. " For 
your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have 
need of all these things. But seek ye first His 
kingdom and His — your heavenly Father's — 
righteousness; and all these things shall be added 
unto you." Did we say the passage is a protest? 
Did we say it is a command.? Do we not now 
see that it is rather a pleading .^^ O, the subtlety 
of love! Love speaks here to us; will not love 
respond in us.'^ Under such pleading what can 
we do but seek first our heavenly Father's 
kingdom, our heavenly Father's righteousness.'^ 
And because He is our Father, we are sure both 
that we shall find it, and with it — how compari- 
tively little it seems now! — whatever else we 
need, added to us. 


Mark 4:21-25: — "And he said unto them. Is the lamp brought 
to be put under the bushel, or under the bed, and not to be put 
on the stand? For there is nothing hid, save that it should be 
manifested; neither was anything made secret, but that it should 
come to light. If any man hath ears to hear, let him hear. And 
he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure 
ye mete it shall be measured unto you; and more shall be given 
unto you. For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that 
hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath." 

One of the peculiarities of our Lord's method 
of teaching is His repeated use of a number of fav- 
ourite sayings — or maxims, we may call them — in 
varied connexions and in differing applications. 
This gives a remarkable piquancy to His speech 
and must at the time have served the double 
purpose of fixing the several teachings which He 
embodied in these gnomic sayings firmly in the 
minds of His hearers, and of attracting them to the 
matter of them as something peculiarly weighty. 
In the passage before us we have a cluster of 
these "proverbs," all of which meet us elsewhere 
and sometimes with other applications, but which 
are combined here to give pregnancy and force 
to the specific message of this passage. Here is 
the beautiful parable of the lamp. Here is 
the amazing paradox of secrecy in order to open- 
ness. Here is the crisp proverb that ears are 



given for hearing. Here is the simile of equitable 
measures. Here is the gnome of the relation of 
possession to receptivity. No one of these is a 
stranger to readers of the Gospels. They are 
found elsewhere also in much the same connexion 
as here; but they are found elsewhere also in 
other connexions. They are marshalled to- 
gether here to give wings to a specific teaching. 

What is that specific teaching .^^ 

Well, there is too much in it — too much depth 
of suggestion, too many implications of meaning, 
for us to attempt to draw it all out at once. But 
we may direct our attention to at least four 
things that lie on the surface. Obviously this 
cluster of sayings lays before us an important 
declaration, presses on our attention an urgent 
exhortation, reveals to us a profound philosophy 
of life, and founds on this a serious warning. 
Let us attend for a moment to these four things. 

The important declaration that is made in 
these sayings amounts to this: that there is no 
esoteric element in Christian teaching. This is 
the primary suggestion of the parable of the lamp 
and the explicit assertion of the startling paradox 
which immediately follows it, to the efiPect that 
"there is nothing hid save that it may be man- 
ifested, neither has anything been made secret 
save that it might come abroad." For a lamp 
exists, the parable tells us, for no other purpose 
but to illuminate; it comes not to be put under 


the bushel or under the couch, but on the stand — 
that its light may shine. And, the paradox adds, 
there is to be nothing cryptic or apocryphal in the 
whole sphere of Christian teaching. It is, in 
effect, the very contradiction of Christianity as 
truth, to imagine that it can exist for any other 
end but to serve the purpose of truth — to en- 

The strength of our Lord's emphasis on this 
important declaration just on this occasion finds 
its explanation of course in the need that had 
arisen to guard from misapprehension His own 
methods of teaching. For a change had just 
been introduced into His modes of instruction, 
from which His disciples might be tempted to 
infer that Christianity was a double system, 
with an esoteric and an exoteric aspect. Our 
Lord, who had hitherto spoken plainly, had sud- 
denly begun to speak in parables; and He had 
not concealed from His disciples that His object 
was to veil His meaning. Was there not intro- 
duced thus the full-blown system of esoterism? 
It is to correct this not unnatural inference that 
our Lord declares so emphatically that the truth 
He is teaching — even in parabolic form — is a 
lamp, and has for its one end to shine; that what 
is now hid and made secret under this parabolic 
veil, is hid and made secret not that it may not be 
made known, but just that it may be made known. 
The impulse to use parables thus arises from wis- 


dom and prudence in teaching, not from a desire 
to conceal. He teaches in parables in order 
that He may teach; not in order that He may 
not teach. This method of veiled teaching, in a 
word, is forced on Him by the conditions under 
which He is teaching and arises from the state 
of mind of His hearers; it is not chosen by Him 
in order to conceal His meaning, but in order to 
convey it to those for whom it is intended. It is 
with Him either to teach thus or not to teach at 
all; and He consequently teaches thus. This is 
the fundamental doctrine of parabolic teaching. 
I do not say it is the whole account to be given of 
it; we may see in the sequel that there is more to 
say, and that the adoption of paraboHc teaching 
has a punitive side — as, indeed, it could not fail 
to have — with reference to those who could and 
would not endure sound doctrine; whom it puz- 
zled, therefore, rather than instructed. But this 
is the fundamental account of it. 

We may see this from an illustration. Take 
as such the teaching which was the immediate 
occasion of these remarks of our Lord's. He 
had just been delivering the first cycle of the 
parables of the Kingdom. Why had He taught 
the fundamental facts as to the Kingdom in par- 
ables? Briefly, because He could not have taught 
them in any other way. For His conception of 
the Kingdom was at just the antipodes of that of 
the people He was addressing. Should he have 


plainly and didactically proclaimed just what 
their error was, just what the truth was? He 
certainly would have been understood in that 
case. But there would have been an end to His 
teaching and so of His mission as Teacher. And 
so, instead, He told them some beautiful stories. 
In these stories He embodied the whole funda- 
mental doctrine of the Kingdom. What was the 
effect? To those open to His instruction the 
whole doctrine of the Kingdom was conveyed. 
Those not receptive to it were simply puzzled; 
instead of being outraged and driven to violence, 
they were simply puzzled and thrown back into 
dull inertia. When He said, the Kingdom of 
Heaven is like the sower, and the like, they could 
only look perplexed and shake their heads. The 
Kingdom of Heaven as they understood it was 
like nothing less than these things. What could 
He mean? And thus He obtained opportunity — 
the Great Sower that He was — to sow His seed 
and to exemplify His own parable. Meanwhile 
receptive souls pondered and understood, under- 
stood, that is, more or less. For even His own 
disciples, nay, the Apostles themselves, were not 
yet capable of receiving the truth in its purity 
and entirety. And, accordingly to them too. He 
taught as occasion offered, in parables, by which 
He lodged the truth in their minds that it might 
germinate and grow. 

Nothing is more obvious than that this wise 


prudence in the mode of disseminating the truth 
has nothing in common with esoteric teaching; 
and our Lord's broad denial of esoterism was as 
justified as it was needed. A lamp that is shaded 
is shaded, not for the benefit of the lamp, as if it 
were too good for common use, or existed for some 
other end than enlightening, but for some extrinsic 
end. There may be a violence of wind from which 
it needs temporary protection; there may be weak- 
ness of eyes which require guarding. So with the 
truth which Jesus came to teach. It is not too 
sacred for the knowledge of men; it exists to be 
known. But it may require temporary protec- 
tion from violent opposition; it may require 
veiling because of the weakness of men's under- 
standing. Hence it is spoken under the veil of 
parables. But this is that it may be spoken, 
that it may be made known, and not that it may 
be concealed. No crypticism, no apocryphalism 
is in place here ! 

Accordingly, then, within this declaration there 
is embodied also an urgent exhortation. It is 
interlaced with the declaration in this passage of 
Mark^so as to be scarcely distinguishable from it. 
Elsewhere it is brought out most explicitly and 
with tremendous emphasis. It is an exhortation 
to the recipients of the truth to see to it that it is 
not quenched in the darkness of their own hearts, 
but permitted to act in accordance with its nature 
as light — to shine. In Matthew, for example, we 



read: "Even so let your light shine before men, 
that they may see your good works and glorify 
your Father which is in heaven." Here it appears 
only in the way of implication. Jesus says in 
eflFect: The truth I am delivering in this veiled 
form is, like all truth, of the nature of light; it 
comes to enlighten; temporarily it is veiled, but, 
emphatically, it is hid only that it may be man- 
ifested; it is made secret only that it may come 
to light. Ye are my chosen witnesses; to you I 
say with significant emphasis, "If any man have 
ears to hear, let him hear." There is a subtle 
implication that not the truth only which He 
spoke is the lamp, brought to be put on the stand; 
but these disciples of His, to whom the truth has 
been brought, have been lighted by the truth, 
and having been lighted, are lighted that they too 
may shine. In effect, there is a solemn commis- 
sion given here to His disciples — not to His 
Apostles only, but (as. verse 10 shows), to the 
whole body of His disciples, to see to it that what 
He is now preaching in parables shall be in its 
due season brought out on the housetop. There 
is careful provision made, in a word, for the cul- 
tivation of the seed He was now sowing. He was 
speaking in parables — the times required it — but 
they are to see to it that what is thus taught 
veiledly shall in due time be announced openly. 

No doubt, in this whole procedure, there is di- 
vine sanction given to the principle of wise adap- 


tation of our preaching to times and circum- 
stance. But, O, how easy it is to misapply this 
principle and pervert it to cowardly ends of per- 
sonal profit. Preach to our times? Yes, of 
course. But preach what to our times? Our 
Lord's example does not give warrant to the sup- 
pression of unpalatable truth. It only sets an 
example of how still to preach the unpalatable 
truth while staving off for the fitting time the 
inevitable rupture, and providing for its full 
proclamation in the end. He spoke in parables? 
Why in parables? First, because by speaking in 
parables, He could still teach the unpalatable 
truth. If He had been willing to suppress the 
unpalatable truth He would have had no need of 
preaching in parables. There will be no need of a 
veil if we remove the thing to be veiled. And 
secondly, because He would so teach the unpala- 
table truth, that men must needs hear it before 
they know what they are hearing, and thus He 
would catch them with holy guile. You see 
there is nothing here so little as an example of 
suppression of the truth. There is only an exam- 
ple of finding a way to preach to men, despite 
their opposition, what they do not choose to hear. 
Christ does not yield to men; He triumphs over 
men. And this is the commission He gives to us: 
Let your light shine! Do not think you are imi- 
tating Him when you quench your light; when 
you permit the clamours of men to drown your 


voice of teaching. You imitate Him only when, 
despite men's opposition, you find a way to make 
your voice heard and the truth with which you 
are charged a power among them. Silent, Christ 
was not; compromising. He was not; He was 
only persistently inventive in modes of procla- 
mation. You imitate Him least of all when you 
put your light under a bushel or under a couch; 
to be like Him you must let your light shine. 

It is already clear to us, no doubt, that there is 
implicit in this passage a fully developed philos- 
ophy both of teaching and of life. Why did 
Christ preach in parables? To conceal the truth 
or to teach the truth? The proper answer is, 
of course, both. The two are not mutually ex- 
clusive. Fundamentally we say, it was in order 
to teach the truth. Proximately it was, of course, 
so far to conceal the truth as to be able to teach 
it in the circumstances in which He stood. People 
who would not listen when He told them plainly 
what the Kingdom He came to found was like, 
would listen to His story and so have the unpal- 
atable truth told them before they were aware. 
But this is not the whole story. There is more 
to be said and Christ says it. Truth so taught 
becomes a touchstone and discriminates among 
men. When Jesus said "the Kingdom of God 
is like to . . ." that was an opening familiar 
enough to the whole body of His audience. The 
most rigid Pharisee, the most fanatical zealot 


would prick up his ears at that. But when He 
went on and told them what — in His view — the 
Kingdom of God was like, what would the Phar- 
isee, what would the zealot, make of that? Noth- 
ing. The disciples themselves could not make 
much of it. The others naturally could make 
nothing. Thus, the method of teaching by par- 
ables, certainly did not succeed in illuminating all. 
The plainest teaching under heaven could not 
have illuminated those minds. They were too 
filled with preconceptions, prejudices, personal 
desires, to be accessible to the truth. How could 
veiled teaching dispel their darkness? It could 
only avail to make the darkness of their minds 
deeper; they could only say in puzzlement, "We 
do not understand ! " How can the glorious King- 
dom of Heaven — God come to triumph over Is- 
rael's foes, how can this be like the sower sowing 
His seed, and the like? So our Saviour explains 
that the teaching is given to them in parables, 
that seeing they may see and not understand. 
In effect, parabolic teaching becomes the test of 
men. Whether men understand or do not under- 
stand the teaching veiled in the parable, is the 
revelation of their state of mind and heart, or, as 
it is fashionable nowadays to call it, of their 
receptivity. Parabolic teaching then comes into 
the world as a rock of decision; those who are 
open to the truth understand, those not open to 
the truth do not understand. 


Observe how pointedly our Lord develops this 
idea in the later verses of our passage; with what 
piercing directness He asserts the effect in the 
last verse of all : For he that hath to him shall be 
given, and he that hath not from him shall be 
taken away even that which he hath. Here is 
the underlying philosophy of parabolic teaching; 
and along with it of all teaching. And is it not 
so, our own hearts being the judge.? Let the 
parables fall on the ears of one instructed in the 
Kingdom of Heaven and how beautifully rich in 
their teaching they are. Points of attachment 
are discovered at every step and the conceptions 
that rest half-formed in us are developed in the 
richest manner. Let them fall on the minds in 
which no thought of the Kingdom of Heaven was 
ever lodged; and they are but as rocks in the sky. 
All teaching as to divine and heavenly things is, 
in a measure, parabolic; we can reach above the 
world and ourselves only by symbols. All such 
teaching comes to us, then, as a test, and the prox- 
imate account of its varied reception may be 
found in the condition of the ears that hear it. 
Have we ears to hear this music. f^ Or does it 
beat a vain jangling discord only in our ears.^* 
The philosophy of the progress of the Kingdom in 
the world rests on the one fact — the condition of 
the hearer. He that has ears to hear, hears; 
he that has no ears to hear this music, remains 


Accordingly, then, the passage culminates in 
a great warning. "Take heed how ye hear." 
And this warning is supported by the verses al- 
ready incidentally adduced: "With what measure 
ye mete . . ." ; "He that hath . . . ; He that 
hath not ..." The warning is, of course, of 
universal application. It is spoken here to 
Christ's immediate disciples, and it is most im- 
mediately a warning to them to look with care 
and loving scrutiny on the teaching He was giv- 
ing about the Kingdom. Do you not fail, it 
says, to hear and ponder; to understand and 
profit by this teaching. But it stretches further. 
As we, too, are His disciples it comes in these 
times also to us. Let us not fail to-day to hear 
and ponder and understand and profit by the 
teaching brought to us by these pungent words! 


Mark 10:15: — "Verily I say unto you. Whosoever shall not re- 
ceive the Kingdom of God as a little child, he shall in no wise enter 

The declaration embodied in this verse, ap- 
parently very simple, and certainly perfectly 
clear in its general sense, is not without its per- 
plexities when examined in its detailed implica- 
tions. The occasion of its enunciation was an 
incident in the life of our Lord which manifests 
His beautiful tenderness as few others of those 
narrated in the Gospels. In the prosecution of 
His mission He went up and down the land, as we 
are told, "doing good." It was characteristic 
of His teaching that the common people heard 
Him gladly. It was of the essence of the benefi- 
cent impression that He made that He drew to 
Him all who were afflicted and were suffering 
with diverse diseases. 

The Evangelists stud their narratives thickly 
with accounts of how the people flocked to him, 
bringing all their sick and receiving from Him 
healing of body and mind. This appeared to 
His closest followers well worth while. It was all 
part of his office as One sent from God to heal the 
hurt of Israel. But the people did not stop 
there. Mothers brought their babies also to Him, 



and asked Him to lay His hands on them and bless 
them, too. Here His disciples drew the line. 
These babies were not sick and did not need the 
healing touch of the Great Physician. By the 
very fact that they were babies they were incap- 
able of profiting by His wonderful words. To 
intrude them upon His attention was to interfere 
unwarrantably with His prosecution of His press- 
ing labors, and to supplant those who had superior 
claims on His time and strength. So the dis- 
ciples rebuked the parents and would fain have 
sent the babies away. 

But the Lord, perceiving what was toward, was 
moved with indignation and intervened with His 
great, "Let the little children come to me, pre- 
vent them not." And taking them in His own 
arms. He laid His hands on them and blessed 
them; the word employed being a very emphatic 
one, meaning a calhng down fervently of blessings 
upon the objects of the prayer. The mothers 
went away comforted, bearing their blessed babies 
in their arms. 

What a picture we have here of the Master's 
loving -kindness ! It is not strange if, when we 
read the narrative, we stop, first of all, to adore 
and love Him. It is a revelation of the charac- 
ter of Jesus; and what can we contemplate with 
more profit than the character of Jesus .^ But 
we soon begin to realize that the incident is 
freighted with instruction for us relatively to 


our Lord's mission as well, and to question what 
messages it brings us from this point of view. 
We ask why was our Lord "moved with indigna- 
tion" at His disciples for intercepting the ap- 
proach of the mothers with their babies to Him. 
They meant well; surely He needed protection 
from unnecessary and useless draughts upon His 
energies. Indignation was certainly out of place 
unless there was some very harmful misunder- 
standing somewhere. 

And so it begins to dawn upon us that the dis- 
ciples ought to have known better. And that 
means ultimately that they ought to have 
known better than to suppose that Jesus' mis- 
sion was summed up in instruction and heal- 
ing. Were this all that it was, it had been right 
enough to exclude the babies from His pres- 
ence. Only if He had something for these babies 
too; only if His blessing on them — not needing 
healing and incapable of instruction — neverthe- 
less, brought to them the supreme benefit; would 
it be a crime to shut them out from His oJ95ces. 
Whence we may learn that the blessing which 
Jesus brought was something above His instruc- 
tion and superior to His healing ministry. A 
great physician, yes; a prophet come from God, 
yes; but above and beyond these, the bearer of 
blessings which could penetrate even to the help- 
less babes on their mothers' breasts. 

Perhaps if the disciples stopped short of this, 


it is not inexplicable that men of to-day, having 
proceeded so far, should show a tendency to stop 
right here and utilize this much gain with such 
devotion that they do not stay to search further. 
We have obviously here a warrant for infant 
baptism, they say. For does not Jesus declare 
that infants are to be permitted to come to Him 
and are not to be hindered — aflSrming further 
that the Kingdom of Heaven is of such, and taking 
them in His arms and blessing them.^ And can 
His Church, representing Him on earth, do less.^^ 
Must not His Church suffer the infants to be 
brought to Him and take them in her arms and 
mark them with His name and bless them.'^ Nay, 
say others, this and more: A warrant here for con- 
fidence in the salvation of infants. For how can 
we believe that He who on earth so tenderly and 
solemnly took them in His arms and blessed them, 
forbidding their access to Him to be hindered, 
will now in heaven refuse to receive them when 
they come flocking to His arms? And does He 
not distinctly declare that the Kingdom of God 
belongs to such; and does that not mean first of 
all — whatever else it may mean — just this simple 
thing, that infants as such are citizens of His 
heavenly kingdom and must be accredited with 
all the rights of that heavenly citizenship.^ 

It is no part of my purpose to stop and examine 
the validity of these inferences. Let it be enough 
for us to-day to note clearly, merely that they are 


inferences. And having noted that they are in- 
ferences, let us for the moment at least pass them 
by, and engross ourselves in the teaching which is 
explicit and for the sake of which, therefore, we 
must suppose that the incident is recorded. For 
our Lord did not leave His disciples to draw in- 
ferences from the incident, unaided. He draws 
one for them; and that one is what we have 
chosen as the subject of our meditation to-day. 
In this inference He withdraws our minds from 
the literal children He had taken and blessed, 
and focuses them upon the spiritual children who 
should constitute the Kingdom of Heaven. 

You will observe that He passes at once from 
the one to the other. When He says "For of 
such is the Kingdom of God," He does not mean 
that the Kingdom of God consists of literal in- 
fants, but rather of those who are like infants. 
You may assure yourselves of this by turning to 
the first beatitude: "Blessed are the poor in 
spirit; for theirs" — or "of them" — "is the King- 
dom of heaven." That is to say, the Kingdom of 
heaven belongs to — or is constituted of — the 
"poor in spirit." So, here, if what were in- 
tended were that the Kingdom of God belongs to 
— is constituted of — infants, we should have: 
"For of them''— or "theirs"—" is the Kingdom of 
God." What we do have, however, is not that, 
but, on the contrary, "For of such as they — of 
their like — is the Kingdom of heaven." The 


Kingdom of heaven is declared, therefore, to be 
constituted not of children but of the childlike. 
And the declaration is at once clinched by the 
words of our text, introduced by the solemn 
formula "Verily," "Verily I say unto you, Who- 
soever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a 
little child, he shall in no wise enter therein." 

The message which the incident is made by our 
Lord to bring us, therefore, — and which, accord- 
ingly, the passage directly teaches us with no 
inferences of ours — does not concern either in- 
fant baptism or infant salvation, but distinctly 
the constitution of the Kingdom of God. The 
Kingdom of God, it asserts, is made up, not of 
children, but of the childlike. And that con- 
cerns directly you and me. The Kingdom of 
God, our text asserts, is made up of people like 
these children whom our Lord took in His arms 
and blessed. And that being so, we are warned 
that no one can enter that Kingdom who does not 
receive it "hke a little child." This is as much as 
to say, not only that childlikeness characterizes 
the recipients of that Kingdom, but that child- 
likeness is the indispensable prerequisite to en- 
trance into it. It certainly behoves you and me 
who wish to be members of the Kingdom of God 
to know what this childlikeness means. 

Well, many think at once of the innocence of 
childhood. The statement is, in effect they say, 
that the Kingdom of God consists solely of those 


who are in their moral innocence like children. 
Only such can enter it. A grave difficulty at once 
faces us, however, when we enunciate this view. 
That is that Jesus does not seem elsewhere to 
announce innocence as a — as the — condition of 
entrance into the Kingdom which He came to 
establish. On the contrary, He declared that He 
came not to call the righteous, but sinners, and 
announced that His mission was to seek and save 
what is lost. The publicans and harlots. He tells 
us, go into the Kingdom before the righteous 
Pharisees. To give point to this we note that in 
Luke's narrative the parable of the publican and 
pharisee praying in the temple immediately pre- 
cedes the account of our present incident, and is 
placed there evidently because of the affinity of 
the two narratives. It would read exceedingly 
oddly if the publican was justified and the phar- 
isee, with all his righteousness, rejected, and im- 
mediately afterwards it were asserted that the 
Elngdom was solely for the innocent. No, there 
is nothing clearer than that Jesus' mission was 
specifically to those who were not innocent — that 
it is characteristic of those who enter His Kingdom 
that they do not feel innocent — that, in a word, 
the Kingdom is built up from and by the "chief 
of sinners" like Paul, and those who say of them- 
selves that "if any man say he hath no sin he is a 
liar, and the truth is not in him," like John. Not 
the "righteous" but "sinners" Jesus came to save. 


Remembering the pharisee and publican, shall 
we not say, then, that the trait of childhood here 
celebrated is, if not exactly innocence, at least 
humility? It was precisely humility that char- 
acterized the prayer of the publican and our 
Lord elsewhere commends humility as in some 
sense the primary Christian grace. "Blessed," 
He says in that first beatitude, which we have 
already cited, "blessed are the poor in spirit, for 
theirs — of them — is the Kingdom of heaven." 
Is not this an express parallel to our present pas- 
sage, saying in plain words what is here said in 
figure.'^ When we read, then, that the Kingdom 
of heaven belongs to those who are childlike, and 
only he can enter it who receives it as a child — is 
not the very thing meant, that none but the 
humble-minded, the poor in spirit, can possess 
the Kingdom? Indeed, is not this very thing 
spoken out in so many words in a closely related 
previous incident when Jesus took a child and set 
it among His disciples, as they were disputing 
as to who should be greatest, and bade them to 
humble themselves and become as that little 
child if they would be great m the Kingdom of 
heaven — enforcing the lesson moreover with a 
declaration almost the sa,me as that of the text: 
"Verily I say unto you, Except ye turn and be- 
come as little children, ye shall in no wise enter 
into the Kingdom of heaven"? It certainly 
seems as if in that passage at least the humility 


of little children is just the thing signalized, and 
entrance into the Kingdom is hung on the pos- 
session of that specific virtue. 

Even in that passage, however, it may be well 
to move warily. Is humility the special charac- 
teristic of childhood? To become like a child 
may certainly be an act of humility in one not a 
child, and it is very intelligible that our Lord 
should, therefore, tell those whom He was ex- 
horting to become like a child that they can only 
do it by humbling themselves. But is that quite 
the same as saying that humility is the charac- 
teristic virtue of childhood, or that a humble 
spirit is the precedent condition of entering the 
Kingdom of heaven .^^ We seem to be in danger of 
reading the passage too superficially. Our Lord 
tells His disciples that they cannot enter the 
Kingdom which He came to found except they 
turn and become like little children; and He tells 
them that they cannot become like little children 
except by humbling themselves, and, therefore, 
that when they were quarrelling about greatness 
they were not "turning and becoming like little 
children." But He does not seem to tell them 
that humility of heart is the characterizing quality 
of childlikeness; in this statement it is rather the 
pathw^ay over which we must tread to attain 
something else which is the characterizing quality 
of childlikeness. Childlikeness is one thing; that 
by which that state is attained is another. 


Much less is humility suggested to us in our 
present passage as the constitutive fact of child- 
likeness. These babies that Jesus took into His 
arms, in what sense were they lowly minded, and 
the types of humility of soul? If they were like 
other children of their age, they were probably, 
so far as they showed moral characteristics at all, 
little egotists. There is no period of life so 
purely, sharply, unrelievedly egotistic as infancy; 
and there is, consequently, no period of life less 
adapted to stand as the typical form of that 
lowliness of mind which seeks another's, not one's 
own, good. 

Others have gone further and I think done bet- 
ter, therefore, when they have suggested that it is 
the simplicity of childhood, its artlessness and 
ingenuousness, which is the trait which our Lord 
intends when He declares that the Kingdom of 
Heaven is made up "of such" as they, and that 
no one who does not receive that Kingdom like a 
child — that is, in childlike simplicity and ingen- 
uousness — shall enter into it. Above everything 
else the mental life of a child is characterized, 
perhaps, by directness. It lacks the sinuosities, 
double motives, complications, of the adult in- 
telligence. The child does not think of "serving 
two masters," but gives itself altogether to one 
thing or the other, and possesses at least the 
single purpose if not always that precise single- 
ness of eye which our Lord commends. We know 


what an encomium our Saviour passed on that 
singleness of eye because of which the whole body 
should be full of light; and what an echo of this 
teaching His apostles sound in the praise of that 
singleness of heart or simplicity of soul in which 
they make the Christian disposition to consist. 
May it not, then, be this lack of duplicity in 
thought and feeling, this clear simplicity of heart 
which results in singleness of devotion, that our 
Lord declares here to be characteristic of child- 
hood and of those spiritual children who alone 
may be true disciples? 

This is a very attractive idea; but attractive as 
the idea is, it seems a little artificial and not easily 
deducible from the passage itself. It might fit 
very well in the eighteenth chapter of Matthew — 
and, indeed, would give a far better sense there 
than the conception of humility; but it seems to 
be outside the scope of our present passage. 
These children were mere babies — and in what 
clear and outstanding sense are babies charac- 
terized by simplicity of heart and singleness of 

We feel, then, that a great step is taken when 
others step in and suggest that the particular 
trait which our Saviour has in mind when He de- 
clares that only the childlike can enter His King- 
dom is the trustfulness of the child. Here we 
touch, indeed, what seems really the fundamental 
trait of the truly childish mind, that colors all its 


moral life, and constitutes, not merely its dominant 
but we might almost say, its entire disposition — 
implicit trustfulness. The age of childhood is, 
above everything else, the age of trust. De- 
pendent upon its elders for everything, the whole 
nature of the child is keyed to trust; on trust it 
lives, and by means of trust it finds all its means of 
existence. Its virtues and its faults alike grow 
out of trust as its fundamental characteristic. 
There is no picture of perfect and simple and im- 
plicit trust discoverable in all the world com- 
parable to the picture of the infant lying peace- 
fully and serenel}^ on its mother's bosom. And 
we must remember that this is the spectacle that 
our Lord had before Him. The mothers were 
bringing their babies to Him to be blessed; He 
looked at them as they approached; and, observ- 
ing the utter trustfulness of the attitude of the 
child reclining in the nest of its mother's arms. 
He announced that here is the type of the King- 
dom of God and of its children. In these trust- 
ing babies He saw the symbol of the citizens 
of His Kingdom. "Of such as these," He de- 
clared, *'is the Kingdom of God"; and then He 
added that no man who did not receive the King- 
dom like one of these little trustful babies, could 
even enter it. Trust, simple, utter trust, that is 
the pathway to the Kingdom. 

We cannot doubt that in thus directing its 
attention to the trustfulness of little children 


as their characteristic trait, the mind has been 
turned in the right direction for the proper un- 
derstanding of our Lord's declaration. But even 
yet, I think, we have scarcely reached the bot- 
tom fact. You will observe that all the supposi- 
tions hitherto made move in the subjective sphere. 
Dispositions of mind alone have been suggested; 
men have been seeking to discover the disposi- 
tion of mind which is most characteristic of child- 
hood; to which we may suppose, therefore, that 
our Saviour, referred, when He declared that His 
disciples must be like children if they would enter 
His Kingdom. But our passage says nothing 
of dispositions of mind; and why should we.^^ 

Why not seek an objective characteristic here? 
These babies, which Christ took in His arms — 
what dispositions of mind had they.^^ We must 
now revert to the narrative, and observe with 
care that these children were, in point of fact, 
mere babies. Perhaps we have been thinking of 
them rather as well-grown children, and picturing 
them as standing around our Lord's knees, giving 
Him eager, if wondering attention, as He spoke to 
them. Nothing of the kind. They were babies 
in arms, perhaps of only a few weeks or months 
old, perhaps of only a few days. TJiey had no 
disposition of mind. Luke calls them distinctly 
infants, and speaks, therefore, of their being 
brought as remarkable: "They were bringing to 
Him even their babies." And that is the reason 


why the disciples rebuked their parents for bring- 
ing them — mere babies who could get nothing 
from the Master. The same thing is less clearly 
but equally really suggested in the other narra- 
tives; we read that they were brought; that 
Jesus took them in His arms, and the like. We 
must think of them, then, as distinctively babies. 
What dispositions of soul were characteristic of 
them.^ Just none at all. They lay happy and 
thoughtless in their mother's arms and in Jesus' 
own arms. Their characteristic was just helpless 
dependence; complete dependence upon the care 
of those whose care for them was necessary. 
And it would seem that it is just this objective 
helpless dependence which is the point of com- 
parison between them and the children of the 

What our Lord would seem to say, then, when 
He says: "Of such is the Kingdom of heaven," is 
that the Kingdom of heaven is made up of those 
who are helplessly dependent on the King of the 
Heavens. And when He adds that only those 
who "receive" the Kingdom like a child can 
enter into it He seems to mean that the chil- 
dren of the Kingdom come into it hke chil- 
dren of the world into the world — naked and 
stripped of everything, infants who are to be 
done for, who can not do for themselves. 
There is every indication of this as our Lord's 
meaning. Among others we note that the rec- 


ord of the incident is followed immediately in 
all three Gospels by the record of the incident 
of the rich young man — which goes on, you see, 
to illustrate the same idea. For what was the 
trouble with the rich young man? Just this: 
that he could not divest himself of everything and 
come into the Kingdom naked. "He had great 
possessions." "How hard, children," — this "chil- 
dren" is possibly a reminiscence of His demand 
that they should be "like children" — "children, 
how hard it is for a rich man — or for anyone — to 
enter the Kingdom of heaven." Into this King- 
dom we can enter only as poor and naked and 
helpless as children enter the world. That we 
have nothing is the condition that we may have 
all things. Perhaps it may not be too much even 
to say that what the passage teaches is that we 
enter the Kingdom of heaven as we enter the 
world only by a birth — a birth which comes to us 
— which we do not secure. In that case we have a 
parallel passage in the third chapter of John which 
is one of the very few passages in John where the 
term "Kingdom of God" occurs. 

The upshot of it all is, then, this: that the 
Kingdom of God is not taken — acquired — laid 
hold of; it is just "received." It comes to men, 
men do not come to it. And when it comes to 
men, they merely "receive" it, "as" — "like" — 
"a Httle child." That is to say, they bring noth- 
ing to it and have nothing to recommend them to 


it except their helplessness. They depend wholly 
on the King. Only they who so receive it can 
enter it; no disposition or act of their own com- 
mends them to it. Accordingly the Kingdom of 
God is "of such as little children." The helpless 
babe on the mother's breast, then, now we can 
say it with new meaning, is the true type of the 
Christian in his relation to God. It is of the 
very essence of salvation that it is supernatural. 
It is purely a gift, a gift of God's; and they who 
receive it must receive it purely as a gift. He 
who will not humble himself and enter it as a 
little child enters the world, in utter nakedness 
and complete dependence, shall never see it. 


John 1:1: — "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was 
with God, and the Word was God." 

The first verse of the Gospel of John contains 
one of the most weighty statements of the deity 
of our Lord in the New Testament. It is not 
the only weighty statement, much less the only 
distinct statement, of the deity of our Lord in 
the New Testament. Rather, the whole New 
Testament is a testimony to our Lord's deity; 
and we can read no part of it sympathetically 
without catching this note sounding through it. 

Particularly we need to disabuse our minds of 
the banality by which the Synoptic Gospels used 
to be distinguished as the Gospels of the human 
Jesus, from the Gospel of John as the Gospel of 
the Divine Jesus. The Synoptic Gospels teach 
the deity of Jesus as truly and, indeed, as em- 
phatically as the Gospel of John, though not in 
precisely the same manner. Whatever else 
William Wrede did or did not do with his book on 
the Gospel of Mark, he made it impossible for- 
ever afterwards to look upon Mark as a naive col- 
lection of all that His followers could recall of the 
human Jesus; and Johannes Weiss will not be 
gainsaid when he points out that the Jesus of "the 



oldest Gospel" has already advanced far toward 
the Jesus of the latest Gospel. He is to be crit- 
icized only for speaking of an "advance" in this 
connexion, and of that *' advance" as not 
quite complete. Recent critics are fairly falling 
over one another in their rush to recognize that 
the conception of a Divine Messiah was not only 
Primitive-Christian, but Pre-Christian, and that 
belief in the deity of Jesus, was, therefore, al- 
ready included in acceptance of Him as Messiah. 
We meet no new thing, then, when we read in 
the first verse of John's Gospel a crisp declara- 
tion that Jesus is God. But we do meet some- 
thing new in the manner in which this declaration 
is made. It would not be quite exact to say that 
it is new that John begins his Gospel with a dec- 
laration of the deity of Jesus. Mark also begins 
his Gospel with a declaration of the deity of Jesus; 
if, at least, the reading is right which makes him 
use the term, "the Son of God," in his opening 
sentence — "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus 
Christ, the Son of God." It can hardly be main- 
tained that the "Son of God" is not to be under- 
stood here in its ontological sense. The differ- 
ence between the Synoptics and John here is only 
a difference in what we may call their mode of 
approach to the common theme. It would not 
be misleadingly expressed if we said that in the 
Synoptics the divine nature of the man Jesus is 
exhibited, while in John the human life of the 


divine Word is portrayed. In this sense, John 
does take his start from the deity of our Lord as 
the Synoptics do not. The deity of our Lord is 
made by John his point of departure in his dehnea- 
tion of this divine hfe in the world, while the Syn- 
optics take their start from the birth of Jesus, 
or the opening of his public ministry. 

It is due to this difference that John's Gospel 
alone opens with a prologue, which takes us back 
at once into the depths of Eternal Reality, and 
tells us who and what that being actually was, 
whose life-history in the world is about to be 
depicted. There is probably no more pregnant 
piece of writing in the world than this prologue to 
John's Gospel. And there is no part of this preg- 
nant prologue more pregnant than its first verse. 
There are just seventeen words in it; we can 
count only eight different words in it: but these 
few words are simply bursting with significance. 
In the first place, our Lord is designated here 
by a unique name, and that a name big with 
meaning. And then, under this unique name, 
three declarations are calmly made of Him — so 
calmly as almost to betray us into taking them as 
mere matters of course — each of which, separately 
considered, is of tremendous import, and the three 
together, in combination, of more tremendous 
import still. When we have read these three 
limpid sentences — *'In the beginning was the 
Word, and the Word was with God, and the 


Word was God" — we have read things which 
even the angels, desiring to look into them, might 
well despair of plumbing. 

When we say that the name given here to our 
Lord — the "Word" — is unique, we have, of 
course, the New Testament only in mind. And 
even so, to be absolutely exact, we must note 
that John repeats it a little lower down in this 
prologue, when he tells us of this Word, here de- 
clared to have been in the beginning, with God, 
and Himself God, that he became flesh; and in- 
deed echoes it in the opening words of his first 
Epistle and in a splendid description of the con- 
quering Christ in the Apocalypse. These in- 
stances, however, do not abate the fact that this 
designation belongs in a very special sense to 
these opening clauses of John's prologue. There 
is nothing to prepare us for it here: it just sud- 
denly appears before us in these three great dec- 
larations in unrelieved startlingness. And per- 
haps the most striking thing about it is that John 
does not present it to us as a mysterious designa- 
tion of Jesus, as a remarkable designation of Him, 
or, we must add, even as a new designation of 
Him. He employs it quite simply and without 
apparent consciousness that he is doing anything 
either startling or new. 

That it is not a new designation of our Lord to 
either John or to his readers, is already apparent 
from the fact that no emphasis falls on it what- 


ever. It occurs three times, it is true, in these 
three short clauses. But the words are so ar- 
ranged that the emphasis is always thrown else- 
where — on what is asserted of the Word, not on 
the designation itself — while the designation ap- 
pears as a matter of course. And the employ- 
ment of the same designation in the opening 
words of the contemporaneous First Epistle of 
John is a clear proof that it was not first applied 
to our Lord in this prologue. We must dismiss 
from our minds, therefore, the fancy that John 
invented the designation, "The Word," for our 
Lord. We must suppose it to have been a current 
designation of our Lord in the circles for which 
John was writing, and that it needed no explana- 
tion from him of its meaning. 

Whence the term came, and precisely what 
it means when applied to Jesus, are, of course, 
another matter. We cannot talk of its being 
borrowed from Philo, or from the philosophy 
which Philo represents. There is nothing more 
certain than that John does not use it in the 
sense which it bears in Philo, or in the philosophy 
which lies behind Philo. It is not much more 
likely that it was borrowed directly from the 
native Jewish speculations, which, like the specu- 
lations of Philo and those whom he most closely 
followed, are governed by the need for something 
to mediate between the transcendent God and 
the world of space and time. But this general 


type of thinking was very widely diffused, and 
the modes of speech which it developed naturally 
penetrated, in more or less modified meanings, 
much more deeply into the life and language 
of the people than the conceptions these modes of 
speech were invented to express. All terms 
of this sort have their roots in some system 
of thought, but come to those who ultimately em- 
ploy them with a varied history behind them, in 
the course of which they have lost much of the 
shades of suggestion with which they started, and 
have picked up others on the way. We have no 
safe guidance to their meaning on the lips of any 
given speaker, except his actual usage of them. 
And to judge by John's actual usage of the term, 
"the Word," applied as a designation to our Lord, 
it has travelled far indeed from its Neo-Stoic or 
Philonian beginnings — if those were its begin- 
nings — ^before it reached his hands. What he 
means by it is obviously so different from what 
Philo or the Neo-Stoics meant by it, that, in most 
important respects, it is its precise contradiction. 
What is clearest about it is that he uses it as a 
designation of Jesus of the highest import, as 
attributing to Him properly divine functions, if 
not directly a properly divine nature. As a man's 
word is the expression of his being, so, when Jesus 
is spoken of as the Word by way of eminence, that 
is, as the Word of God, He is designated as the 
manifested God. 


Speaking thus of Jesus by this great designation, 
John makes three assertions concerning Him, 
In the first of these he declares His eternal sub- 
sistence. In the second, His eternal intercom- 
munion with God. In the third, His eternal 
identity with God. Let us look briefly at these 
three great assertions in turn. 

The first of them runs in our English version 
thus: "In the beginning was the Word." This 
rendering, however, scarcely brings out its full 
sense. The words are so ordered in the original 
as to throw all the emphasis — and it is a strong 
emphasis — on the words, "in the beginning," and 
"was." The verb "was," in other words, is not a 
mere copula, but a strong assertion of existence. 
We might perhaps bring part of its meaning out 
by changing the order of the words and reading: 
"In the beginning the Word was.'* What is de- 
clared is that "in the beginning" — not "from the 
beginning" but "in the beginning," — when first 
things began to be, the Word, not came into being, 
so that He might be the first of those things which 
came into being, but already was. Absolute eter- 
nity of being is asserted for the Word in as pre- 
cise and as strong language as absolute eternity of 
being can be asserted. The Word antedates the 
beginning of things; He already was — the imper- 
fect of continuous existence — when things began 
to be. Go back now to the first verse of Genesis, 
of which there is an obvious echo here, and read 


that in the beginning God created the heavens 
and the earth — the Hebrew periphrasis for the 
universe. The Word already was before God 
thus began to speak things into existence. We 
cannot be surprised, then, to read in the next 
verse, with the emphasis of accumulated asser- 
tion, that "all things" without exception "were 
made by Him, and apart from Him there was not 
one thing made which has been made." The 
Word was not made; He always was. All that 
has been made was made by Him. 

To this great assertion of express eternity of 
being, there is now added in the second clause an- 
other equally great assertion; or rather a greater 
assertion, for these three clauses are arranged in a 
climactic series. "In the beginning the Word 
already was — and the Word was with God." 
This new assertion is still under the government 
of the words, "in the beginning": it declares the 
eternal mode of existence of this eternally ex- 
istent Word. And the mode of existence declared 
for Him places Him in an ineffable immediacy 
of relation to God. The phrase, "with God," 
is not the common expression for "with God," 
but a more pregnant one. It intimates not merely 
co-existence, or some sort of local relation, 
but an active relation of intercourse. The Word, 
existing from all eternity, exists from all eternity 
in intercommunion with God. His eternal exist- 
ence was not a solitary one. A relation is as- 


serted; and a relation implies a duality. The 
relation which is asserted is a very intimate one; 
and it is a distinctly personal one. There can 
be intercourse only between persons. When it is 
said, then, that the Word "was" — it is still the 
eternal "was" of continuous existence — "in the 
beginning" in communion with God, the eternally 
distinct personality of the Word is not obscurely 
suggested. From all eternity the Word sub- 
sisted alongside of God in personal intercom- 
munion with Him. He has been from all eternity 
God's Fellow. 

The intimacy of the relation intimated is start- 
lingly brought home to us by a later phrase of 
this prologue. Here we are told in language of 
almost unexampled pregnancy that the Word — 
called on this occasion by the tremendous name 
of "God Only-begotten" — is (the timeless pres- 
ent of eternal existence) ceaselessly, not merely 
in, but "into the bosom of God." This is the 
expression for the closest and most intimate re- 
lation conceivable for persons; and the language 
in which it is cast conveys the idea at once of a 
continuation of its unbroken continuity and of its 
ceaseless renewal. It is in this intimacy of com- 
munion that the Word is declared to have been 
eternally "with God." 

But even this great assertion is not enough to 
declare of the Word. There is a supplement to 
even it; and a supplement which is so far a cor- 


rection that it seems purposely added to prevent 
it from being supposed that enough has already 
been said. The Word is not merely even thus 
closely associated with God; He is God Himself. 
"And the Word was with God — and the Word was 
God." Eternally subsisting alongside of and in 
communion with God, the Word is yet not a 
separate Being over against God. In some deep 
sense distinct from God, He is at the same time in 
some high sense identical with God. 

It is difficult to reproduce in English the strength 
of this assertion. The term "God" not only oc- 
cupies the position of emphasis, but is placed in 
immediate juxtaposition with the words "with 
God" of the preceding clause, and, therefore, in 
sharp contrast with them. The term "God" 
thus comes out with a tremendous corrective 
force. "The Word was with God, do I say — nay 
God is what the Word was!'' The rapidity of the 
movement of thought and the stress thrown thus 
on this new assertion are extreme. The meaning 
is that John was not willing to have the one state- 
ment made without its complement being at once 
added to it. He wishes us to understand that it is 
too little to say of the Word even that He is God's 
co-eternal Fellow. We must say of Him that He 
is the eternal God's very self. 

The term God in this great assertion is without 
the article. This does not weaken the affirmation. 
It is primarily merely a grammatical fact. The 


predicate regularly lacks the article; quasi- 
proper names, like "God," require it only when 
an individualizing emphasis is necessary. The 
bearing of the absence of the article here on the 
force of the assertion is that thus there is thrown 
into relief the quality of Godhood in the God with 
whom the Word is identified. Whatever makes 
God the Being which we call God, that John 
affirms the Word to have eternally been. Thus 
the Word is with the utmost energy and explica- 
tion asserted to be all that God is; and yet the 
correction of the assertion that the Word "was 
with God" as incomplete, is not pushed into a 
contradiction of it as untrue. The Word, though 
identical with God, is not in such a manner iden- 
tical with God, that he may not also be declared 
to be "with God" — in communion with God. 
There remains a duality of Persons standing in 
the express relation of intercommunion, while 
there is established an identity of Being. What 
is asserted is that He who has been eternally with 
God has been at the same time in an ineffable 
fashion eternally God's self. 

Certainly these are three tremendous assertions 
which John makes here of that Word, who, hav- 
ing become flesh, we know as Jesus Christ — eter- 
nal subsistence, eternal intercommunion with 
God, eternal identity with God. The conception 
in which they can combine is certainly not an easy 
or a simple one. It is what we know as the doc- 


trine of the Trinity. In telling us who and what 
Jesus Christ really is, John thus introduces us to 
the doctrine of the Trinity. If we were told 
nothing about the Trinity except what we are 
told in this single verse, it would yet lie before us 
in its whole principle. There is no other key 
which will unlock the mj^stery of the eternal Being 
of the Word as here described to us. We are but 
expressing John's meaning, then — in other words, 
but nevertheless nothing but his meaning — 
when we declare that Jesus Christ is the Second 
Person of the Adorable Trinity. This is, in 
brief, what John teaches us in the first verse of his 


Jno. 5:44: — "How can ye believe, which receive glory one of 
another, and the glory that cometh from the only God ye seek not?" 

The fifth chapter of John marks one of the great 
turning points of his narrative. Up to this point, 
he has given us great typical representations of 
how Jesus wrought faith in the hearts of His 
hearers — at Jerusalem (in the case of Nicodemus), 
in Samaria (in the case of the Samaritan woman), 
in Galilee (in the case of the nobleman of Caper- 
naum). Now he begins to show us the develop- 
ment of the opposition. With the fifth chapter 
the conflict begins; and in three great typical in- 
stances, each gathering around a miracle, we see 
how Jesus' work gathered opposition to itself, 
until opposition culminated in the black tragedy 
of His death. Here we have laid bare the springs, 
nature and deeds of unbelief. 

Not that we have no longer an exhibition of 
Jesus begetting, by word and work, faith in His 
life-giving Person. In each instance in which the 
process of the hardening of unbelief is pictured to 
us, there is a picture of faith too, in contrast with 
it. The impotent man, the man born blind, the 
family of Lazarus, are heroes of faith, and nothing 
can be more beautiful than the manner in which 



it is shown how simple, unsophisticated faith fixed 
itself on Jesus. But on each occasion of faith- 
begetting work, blind unbelief hardened itself to 
deeper and deeper blackness, and it is this progress 
which forms the salient feature of the narrative. 

In the fifth chapter the grounds of unbelief 
are laid bare to us, as rooted in an essentially self- 
seeking and worldly spirit. No part of the chap- 
ter is unimportant for understanding the lesson 
which is most pointedly expressed in the verse 
more especially before us. The miracle out of 
which grew the discourse, of which this verse is 
the culmination, is, of course, appropriate to its 
lesson; and the conversation and discourse are 
carried inevitably up to this end. 

The miracle was wrought on an impotent man, 
and out of it was to grow the discourse which was 
to uncover the impotence of sinners, on their own 
part, to believe in the Saviour of the world. Long 
had the man lain helplessly by the very pool of 
healing, where the ordinary means of cure were; 
but he had no power to make a healing use of 
them, nor was there any to help him — until Jesus 
passed by and spoke the wonderful word of heal- 
ing to his weary soul. But it was on the Sabbath 
day, and the Jews, the types of that Pharisaic 
religiosity which loved to make long prayers on 
the corners of the streets and to make broad their 
phylacteries to be seen of men, whose religion in a 
word was a religion for men to mark and praise, 


at once judged that the due observance of the 
Sabbath law was of more importance than the 
heahng of a diseased sinner. At once are brought 
into contrast the religion that seeks God's ap- 
proval and that which seeks the applause of men. 
Jesus meets the healed man and bids him sin no 
more; they meet Jesus and in their rage at the 
disregarding of their laws seek to slay him. 

Our Lord does not permit the contrast to pass 
unnoticed. And this is the burden of His dis- 
course. All He did was of the Father and to the 
Father and for the Father; and sought only His 
approval. All they did was of man and to man 
and for the approval of man. His eye was turned 
upwards, theirs downwards. And, therefore, they 
were impotent to believe in Him; though He, the 
water of life, was in their reach, they could not 
reach out and take and live. How could they be- 
lieve, though in word and work the Father was 
bearing witness to Him, when they cared nothing 
for the Father, but only for men; when they were 
receiving glory from one another and not seeking 
glory from God, the Only One. 

Now note: — 

(1) Our Lord asserts that the Jews were unable 
to believe. He asserts a true inability to faith in 
them; but by no means allows that they have 
thereby become irresponsible. How can ye — how 
are ye able to — believe.'^ 

(2) He traces this inability to its source in a 


wrong disposition. He asserts that the reason 
that they could not believe was because of their 
condition of mind and heart. How are ye able to 
believe, seeing that ye are receiving glory one of 
another and seek not the glory that cometh from 
the Only One.? 

(3) The special sin that darkened their eyes to 
Christ's truth and worthiness as one sent from God 
was the sin of hving for the world's eye, not God's; 
of seeking the world's applause, not God's ap- 
proval. They wished a Messiah for worldly 
glory, not for salvation. 

The passage will teach us then : 

(1) That a true inability may well consist with 
responsibility; an inability that rises out of the 
moral condition and is constituted by the im- 
manent choice. 

(2) That the habit of living for the applause 
of our fellow men in religious things is deadly to 
the religious affections and life, which in their 
very nature are Godward and must look upwards 
only to Him. 

(3) That from God alone can true glory come; 
and He is the sole source of the Christian's 

There can be no doubt that our Lord asserts 
of these Jews that they could not, were not able, 
had not the ability to believe. And He assigns 
the reason for this; a reason not derived from any 
outward compulsion, and not due to any lack of 


evidence. They had sent to John and John had 
testified to Jesus, and if they would look to the 
Scriptures they witnessed to Him; nay, would 
they look to heaven, heaven itself bore witness 
to Him in His wonderful works. They were 
caught in a network of evidence. Whence it all 
the more fully follows that if they believed not, it 
was due to some inabihty. Yes, a true inability, 
an induration of beheving tissue which rendered 
it unable to react to any testimony, however 
great. But this inabihty did not render them 
irresponsible for their lack of faith. Our Lord 
closes His discourse with a solemn asseveration 
that they did not need Him to accuse them to the 
Father: "There was one that accused them, even 
Moses, on whom they had set their hopes. For if 
they believed Moses, they would have believed 
Him, for he wrote of Him." In a word, our Lord 
arraigns them for their inability to believe, not as 
though it was an excuse for their lack of faith, but 
as though it was the blackest item in the indict- 
ment against them. They could not believe, but 
it was because of their wicked hearts, because 
they had set their hearts on earthly things and 
cared not for the heavenly. 

And now we understand why the healing of the 
impotent man is the miracle out of which this dis- 
course grows. All Christ's miracles are parables. 
For thirty-eight years this man had lain there just 
alongside the healing floods, and he was impotent 


to use them for the heahng of his disease — neither 
had he anyone who could apply them to him. 
And here before these Jews stood One offering 
the water of life, and they were impotent to reach 
out their hand to take it, because they were re- 
ceiving their glory one frt)m another and sought 
not the glory that comes from the Only One. It 
is the impotence of man by his natural powers to 
believe — be the evidence never so convincing — 
that Jesus would teach us by His parable and by 
His discourse. The impotent man might have 
ocular evidence every time the water moved of its 
healing virtues. What good did the demonstra- 
tion do him, when he could not reach out and take 
the healing floods.^ These impotent Jews might 
have, did have, demonstrative evidence that the 
Lord of Life stood before th'em. John had 
spoken, God in His word had spoken, God by 
sign and miracle had spoken. And yet what good 
did evidence do them so long as they could not 
believe, because their hearts were set on the earth 
and not on the heavens? 

Is it not plain to you that it is not evidence alone 
that produces faith .^ Did the abundant evi- 
dence of the Divine mission of Christ convince 
the Jews; who sought His life the more vindic- 
tively for every item of evidence they could not 
resist; who answered His demonstration of deity 
by hanging Him on the tree? Nay, be the evi- 
dence never so perfect, we cannot believe who have 


evil hearts of unbelief. Never until that Divine 
voice, freighted with supernatural power, which 
said to the impotent man, Arise, take up thy bed 
and walk, has sounded with a personal message to 
our souls, do we gain the power to believe, though 
Moses himself and the law written in our hearts 
pronounce us inexcusable. 

Now as we have learned a doctrinal lesson from 
our text, let us learn also a practical one. Surely 
the text teaches us that the habit of living in 
religious things for the observation and applause 
of our fellows is deadly to all religious affections, 
and, indeed, to all religious life itself. Nor could 
it indeed be otherwise. Are not the religious af- 
fections in their very nature God ward .^^ And is 
not the religious life dependent on our preserving 
in ourselves an attitude of dependence and recep- 
tivity with reference to God.^^ Turn our eyes from 
Him, and religion in any true sense of the word is 
gone. Rites may remain; forms may remain; 
genuflections and prayers may remain; a strict 
mode of life may remain, but not religion. The 
husk of religion — like the shell of nuts — may en- 
dure when the kernel is gone; it is often harder 
to destroy the hull and husk than that subtle 
kernel, for which alone the husk exists. But of 
what worth is the husk after what it was formed 
to protect is gone.^^ Of course this is not to con- 
demn the outward forms of religion. This is in- 
volved in the very figure used. Like the shell of a 


nut, it is needed; needed for the protection and 
preservation of the kernel. But without the ker- 
nel? That is a different matter. 

As ministers, we have, and we ought to recog- 
nize it, special temptations to religiosity, as 
distinguished from religion. We are profession- 
ally religious men. Let the lesson come home es- 
pecially to us then, that the habit of being relig- 
ious for the eye of men is deadly to true religion. 
It does not follow that we ought to be careless of 
our influence over men. It only follows that we 
ought to be careful with respect to what we in- 
fluence them. We should set an example to 
them to be truly religious, lovers of God and 
seekers only of His approval; and not only to seem 
to be religious. How subtle the temptation is! 
How grand a thing to have the reputation of being 
the most religious man in the community, the 
most careful in our religious services, the most 
punctual in our religious duties! Well, the Phar- 
isees were all this. No men in the land were more 
religious; they were models for all men in the 
strictness of their lives. And they could not be- 
lieve! There is a better thing than having the 
reputation of being religious; and that is being 
rehgious. And the difference is just this: That 
the one has praise of men and the other of 

And thus we are led to lay emphasis, in closing, 
on the third point of teaching which I would have 


you receive from our text: that all true glory 
comes from God only. This is the pointed an- 
tithesis of the text; and Christ uses it as the suf- 
ficient uncovering of the failure and folly of the 
Jews. They received glory from their fellow men, 
and did not remember that true glory comes from 
God only. It is hard for men to feel this. We 
do so long after the approval of our fellows. Men 
go in crowds. Truth has a poor show, when the 
tide sets against it. How hard it is to face the 
gibes of our companions. "Old Fogy," "Nar- 
row-minded" — these are not very bad words in 
themselves, but they have a baleful power. How 
natural to desire to be "in the swim"! How 
delightful to feel the approval and to enjoy the aid 
of our fellows pressing us on. It is human to love 
human applause and to seek it. 

But it is Divine to stem the tide for God. Jesus 
preached unpopular truth. Men could so little 
endure it that they crucified Him for it. Paul 
preached unpopular truth, and suffered a thousand 
deaths for doing so. Will we say that they were 
wrong? After all, it is only when the "vox populi" 
is really the "vox dei"as well, that we can afford 
to follow it. When the "vox populi" stands in 
opposition to the "vox dei," let us breast it at all 
hazards! In other words, let it be the "vox dei" 
that we unhesitatingly and unwaveringly follow; 
and if the "vox populi" agree with it, so much the 
better for the "vox populi." As ministers of 


God's grace let us make up our minds firmly and 
once for all to seek His glory and not men's. After 
all, is it not to his own Master that every man 
stands or falls? 


Jno. 6:68, 69: — "Simon Peter answered him. Lord to whom 
shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we have 
believed and know that Thou art the Holy One of God." 

The first impression made on us by this re- 
sponse of Peter's to our Lord's pathetic appeal, 
"Surely ye too will not wish to go?" is the nobil- 
ity of the confession which it contains. We are 
not surprised to find one of the commentators, 
therefore, speaking of it as "this immortal reply "; 
nor are we surprised that it is commonly treated 
by commentators and expounders alike from 
this point of view. Thus, for instance, one ex- 
pounder develops it as a "serious answer" to our 
Lord's "searching inquiry"; and finds in it, (1) 
a "reverential address" — "Lord"; (2) a signifi- 
cant inquiry," which is only a "strong way of 
asserting not alone that our Lord's disciples in- 
tended to adhere to Him, but that they reckoned 
Him the only Teacher, Messiah, Saviour, to whom 
they could adhere" ; (3) a "confidant avowal" — 
viz., that He had the words of eternal life; and 
(4) a "simple confession," that they saw in Him 
none other than "the Holy One of God," — God's 
own incarnate Son. 

Now, we should certainly be sorry to miss this 


side of the matter. Surely, the verse does con- 
tain, fundamentally, a confession of Peter's and 
through him of the apostles' faith; and assuredly 
this confession is, in contrast with the thought 
of Jesus entertained by the crowds which had 
been flocking to Him, a very noble confession, 
which explains why the twelve cleaved to Him 
in the midst of the general defection that had now 
set in. At bottom, this confession does mean 
that these men were seeking in Jesus satisfaction 
for spiritual and not carnal wants; and that they, 
therefore, understood Him incomparably better 
than the crowds of carnal men which had hitherto 
surrounded Him; and that, finding satisfaction in 
Him for their spiritual needs, they could not leave 
Him as the others left Him, however puzzlingly 
He spoke, but could not fail to recognize in Him 
the very consecrated messenger from God whom 
their hearts craved. 

To mean this was, at that time and in those cir- 
cumstances, to mean almost incredibly much. 
But it is not to mean everything. There is an- 
other side to the declaration, and this other side 
is obviously the side that was in John's mind when 
he recorded it. For clearly he does not put it 
forward as a supreme confession, marking a com- 
plete appreciation of Jesus' person and claims, 
and standing out, therefore, in startling and in- 
structive contrast with the unbelief of others, to 
the manifestation of which the whole preceding 


chapter is consecrated — as exhibiting in a word 
the immense contrast of the fullness of the apos- 
tles' faith and appreciation with the slowness or 
rather grossness of heart of the lesser followers of 
Christ. On the contrary, he presents it evi- 
dently as standing in contrast, indeed, with the 
unbelief and incapacity to believe of the others, 
and therefore marking out the apostles as 
Christ's especially faithful followers; but as, 
nevertheless, exhibiting more fully the great crisis 
that had come into our Lord's life by showing how, 
even among His closest companions, there existed 
no full appreciation of Him in His work and claims. 
When Jesus, out of the midst of the scenes that 
lay about Him, turned to this innermost circle of 
His followers with the sorrowful inquiry: "Surely 
ye too will not go away!" — Oh, the pathos of it! — 
He obtained no doubt a reassurance. No, they 
would cleave to Him. And this reassurance must 
have been a balm to His wounded human spirit. 
But the reassurance He obtained was so little 
to His mind, that He felt it necessary to meet it 
with a rebuke: "Was it not I that chose you — the 
twelve; and of you, one is diabohcal!" This very 
confession was an element, thus, in the crisis 
through which He was passing, the manifestation 
of how little even those who were nearest to Him 
really understood Him or were ready to carry on 
His work. 

Surely it will not be without its lessons to us to 


seek, without derogating from the essential nobil- 
ity of the confession, to trace out also the elements 
of incompleteness that enter into it, and that 
make it less than what a confession of Christ 
ought to be. 

First of all, then, we notice that there seems to 
be an element of boastfulness in this confession. 
This suggests itself by the obtrusion of the personal 
pronoun. We might read our English version and 
think of the emphasis falling on the beheving 
and knowing which is asserted. We cannot so 
read the Greek. The emphasis falls rather on 
the "we." "And as for us," says Peter, "we at 
least" have believed. Peter is contrasting him- 
self and his fellow apostles with others and priding 
himself on the contrast. We will remember that 
our Lord had just said, "The words that I have 
spoken unto you are spirit and are life; but there 
are of you some who do not believe." Peter 
seems to swell with pride to think that he is not 
of these. Repeating his Master's words, he says, 
"Thou hast words of eternal life, and as for us, 
we at least have believed!" You see Peter is 
Peter himself in this confession. How often do 
we find him pushing forward with his rash and 
boastful words. "That be far from Thee, Lord," 
he cries on a similar occasion — to receive the sharp 
rebuff, "Get thee behind me, Satan!" "Although 
all shall stumble," he had yet to boast on still 
another occasion, "yet will not I. If I must die 


with Thee, I will not deny Thee." We all know 
with what sorrowful sequence. And so here; "As 
for us, we, at least, have believed." We perceive 
the pride in his faith which dictated the words. 
And now we understand the sharpness of our 
Lord's rebuke, with its emphasis on the personal 
pronoun. "You boast yourselves," replies Jesus, 
"that you at least have believed — was it after 
all you that believed in Me, or I that chose you — 
the twelve? And even so, of you, one at least is 
a devil ! ' ' Poor Peter — always boasting and always 
getting the "Get thee behind me, Satan." 

How plain the lesson to us is. A warning, 
clear, sharp, overwhelming, against all spiritual 
pride. I am afraid that we too are prone to pride 
ourselves on what we have only received, as if 
by our own power we had done these things. 
There is nothing more unlovely than pride in 
spiritual things. Do we not feel it moving in us 
sometimes, however, in the precise form in which 
it attacked Peter here.^^ Are we not inclined, not 
merely to felicitate ourselves, but also to boast 
ourselves that we have believed in Jesus, as if it 
were the mark of some peculiar excellence in us? 
But, brethren, if we do indeed believe, who, who 
is it that has made us thus to differ? Is it that 
we have believed, or that He, our Lord and Mas- 
ter, has chosen us? Surely it is not we but He 
who deserves the glory. Let the "Soli Deo 
Gloria" ring ceaselessly in our breasts. For, we 


may well believe it, not pride but humility is the 
root of the Christian life; not boasting of ourselves 
but glorying in God the Saviour is becoming in 
us. God give us that small measure of humility 
which will be willing to acknowledge that it is 
of Him and not of ourselves that we are partakers 
of Christ. So shall we learn Peter's lesson: "It 
is not ye that have believed, but I that have 

We notice in the second place that Peter's 
confession in its form looks very much like what 
we may perhaps call a counsel of despair. "Lord, 
to whom shall we go," he asks, "Thou hast words 
of eternal life?" Here, too, our English version 
may lead us astray as to the tone of the remark. 
There is no emphasis on the "Thou"; there, in- 
deed, is no "Thou" at all in the Greek. Christ's 
person, in other words, is not put prominently 
forward. It is rather conspicuously kept in the 
background. Neither is there any article to give 
significance to "words of eternal life." We do 
not read ^'the words of eternal life" as if Peter 
recognized in Jesus' words their supreme peculi- 
arity, that they were themselves spirit and life. 
The phrase is purely general; Peter has found 
"words of eternal life" in Jesus' talk; that is all. 
In fact, there is little more here than an echo of 
our Lord's words a few verses earlier. Our Lord 
had declared that the words He had spoken were 
words of spirit and life; Peter echoes that Jesus' 


words were words of eternal life. It is to his 
credit that he recognizes them as such; it shows 
that he is really at bottom spiritually minded. 
But we cannot help feeling that — like echoes in 
general — there is some lack of substance in this. 
There appears to be exhibited acquiescence rather 
than intense conviction. Peter was, as a spirit- 
ually minded man, in search of spiritual nourish- 
ment; his heart was keyed to and set upon eternal 
things — the everlasting welfare of his soul rather 
than the temporal pleasure of his body. He finds 
satisfaction in Christ. He finds such satisfaction 
in Him as he had found in no one else. He can- 
not look with anything but dismay at losing Him. 
He recognizes Him as unique among the teachers 
of Israel and rejoices in Him as such. But there 
he seems as yet half inclined to stop. And to 
stop there is to stop fatally short of a true appre- 
ciation of Jesus. For there is something negative 
rather than positive attaching to this position. 
It would, doubtless, be going too far to say that it 
all amounts to no more than satisfying oneself 
with Jesus in the absence of a better. But there 
is a suggestion of such a state of mind in it. "Will 
you too leave me.'^" Jesus asks. "Why, to whom 
should we go?" is the reply; "Thou hast words of 
eternal life." There is no adequate entering into 
the supremeness of Jesus' claims here; there is 
only a recognition that none better than He could 
be found. Now, it is not its uniqueness that 


makes a thing really precious to us. That 
is a negative attribute. It is the appreciation 
of the positive content of preciousness in any- 
thing which makes the thing unique — because 
nothing conceivable could surpass it or take its 

It is well worth our while, brethren, to ask our- 
selves seriously to-day if we are perhaps our- 
selves adhering to Christ only because, and so far 
as, and while, we have no one else to go to.^^ Is 
our reason for enrolling ourselves His summed up 
only in this — that we know no better.'^ Well, it is 
certain that we shall never know a better. For a 
better does not and cannot exist. Because He is 
the Supremely Best. Better recognize this at 
once, however, and feel the uplift of His glory! 
"Christ and other Masters" — in collocation — is 
derogatory to Him. His uniqueness is absolute, 
not relative; and our attitude to it must be a posi- 
tive and not a negative one. There is enthusiasm 
demanded here. Let us be bound to Christ by a 
true appreciation of what He actually is, and we 
will never question whether perchance we may not 
some time discover a better; and will never feel an 
impulse to express our devotion to Him in such 
words as these, "We must cling to Him because 
we know not to whom else to go." No, no, we 
must cleave to Him because He is such that to 
separate from Him would be to separate from all 
that makes life worth living, all that gilds this 


world or blesses the next. This is the attitude 
that does justice not to what we would fain find 
in Him but to what He really is. 

And this leads us to notice an element of (shall 
we say?) selfishness in Peter's confession. Peter 
adheres to Jesus because — so he says — he does 
not know where else to find the blessings which 
Peter wants. Now Peter was a spiritually minded 
man and he was not seeking earthly but heavenly 
good. This is greatly to his credit. It shows a 
high and noble nature, with high and noble aspira- 
tions, living on a high and noble plane, above all 
the dross which satisfies so many men. But it 
is possible to be selfish even on this high plane; 
and a dash of this selfishness seems to show itself 
in Peter's confession. He cleaves to Christ, for 
what reason,^ Because his longing for words of 
eternal life is satisfied by Christ. It would be 
going too far to say that Peter clung to Christ for 
what, as the coarse saying goes, he could get out 
of Him. But this coarse language hints at the 
true state of the case. Surely we will feel that 
there is something lacking in this attitude, the 
attitude which cleaves to Jesus because we do not 
know where else to go to obtain what we want, 
even though we want the highest good — eternal 
life itself. Does it not place it on a distinctly 
lower plane than that fine self-abandonment 
which cleaves to another, like Ruth to Naomi, 
out of pure appreciation and love? Think of 


Ruth and think of Peter: do not we feel that 
Ruth was living on a higher plane? 

Now, I am not going to preach to you the gospel 
of "disinterested love" in the sense of the mystics. 
You all know the fine story of the vision of a 
woman going forth with fire and water, to burn 
up heaven and put out hell, that men may here- 
after love God neither for fear of hell nor for desire 
for heaven, but for His Lovely Self alone. We 
feel the inspiration of it. But we feel doubtless 
that there is something a little too absolute in its 
antithesis. There is a proper self-seeking — a 
proper place for self-love — to which Jesus Him- 
self appeals, and which should be operative to 
draw us to Him. It is not wrong, but distinctly 
right, to long for heaven and to fear hell. xAnd 
that we find all the higher wants of our souls satis- 
fied in Christ is surely no mean commendation of 
Him to us. The desire for eternal life is no low 
longing. He who can supply this desire is worthy 
of our adherence and love. 

There is assuredly a place in life for all these 
things. But after all, they are not quite the 
highest things. They are the things with which 
we should begin, not those with which we should 
end. Let us come to Christ for our own sakes — 
for our own sakes how can we not come to Him ! — 
but when, having come to Him for our own sakes, 
we find all that He is, let us learn to love Him and 
cleave to Him for His own sake. For His own 


sake, because He is altogether lovely and One to 
be desired above our chief joy. Why, even in 
these earthly unions, which we call marriage, we 
take the loved one "for better, for worse." Shall 
we take Jesus only for better.? And should the 
worse come to the worst, are we to leave Him and 
seek some other one who seems to us to have words 
of eternal life.'^ There is a sense, let us try to un- 
derstand that, in which it would be better, in- 
finitely better, to perish with Jesus, than to live 
without Him. Thank God, such an alternative 
can never occur. With Him is life, and nothing 
but life; life ever more and more abundantly. 
But it is well worth our while to distinguish and 
to see that we love Him and cleave to Him, not 
merely for the life that is in Him for us, but for all 
the glorious perfections that are in Him Himself. 
To do this we must, of course, know Him as He 
is and in all that He is. And here we see the 
final flaw in Peter's confession. He had not yet 
come to know Christ fully. And that is, doubtless, 
the ultimate reason of all the other shortcomings 
we have found in it. Had he known Christ fully, 
he never would or could have confessed Him only 
thus — with a boastful spirit as if he had found 
Christ out instead of having been found by Him; 
with half-hearted zeal as if He were only the best 
he had yet found; and with a somewhat selfish 
outlook as if it were only because he could obtain 
from Him satisfaction for his felt needs. I am 


not blaming Peter for not yet knowing Christ 
better. It rather is wonderful, when all is con- 
sidered, that he knew Him actually so well, and 
was ready boldly to declare Him, in the face of all, 
to be "God's Holy One." It was a great thing 
for Peter to have seen this clearly; and a great 
thing for him to have been ready to announce it 
in the presence of the great defection which was 
going on at the moment. Herein lies the nobility 
of this noble confession. But there is a great deal 
more than this to be known and confessed about 
Jesus, and Peter afterwards learned it. 

The point of importance to us is, Have we 
learned it? We may be quite sure that our whole 
attitude to Christ will turn on the fullness and the 
intimacy with which we know Him. We have no 
such excuses as Peter had for not knowing Christ 
in all the fullness of His Being and all the splen- 
dour of His Nature. Surely, He must, for instance, 
be something more to us than "the Holy One of 
God" — "God's saint" — that is to say, no doubt, 
by way of eminence, the one whom God has 
chosen and consecrated and endowed for His ser- 
vice. We have seen how in Peter's case even, 
such a knowledge of Him did not suflfice to make a 
full confession. And surely He must be something 
more to us than "the historical Christ" — espe- 
cially if we begin to doubt or bicker over what 
history it is that we will accept as a trustworthy 
account of this "historical Christ." Christ the 


Teacher, Christ the Example, Christ the Founder 
of the Kingdom of God, Christ the King — surely 
He must be something much more than even all 
these to us if we are to confess Him aright. The 
historical Christ, yes, but also the exalted Christ. 
Christ our Prophet, yes, and Christ our King; but 
also Christ our Priest and Christ our Sacrifice. 
Christ that died and also Christ that rose again. 
The Son of Man and also the Son of God. To 
Peter as yet He was not all these things, though 
Peter was feeling His way towards them. To us 
He is all these things, and more, even Christ, 
the All in All. Ah, brethren, if we could only see 
Him in His beauty, how our hearts would go out 
to Him! No boastful, half-hearted, selfish con- 
fession then! Only adoration and joy and un- 
speakable satisfaction in Him! Let us see and 
know and confess Him, as He is, and in all that 
He is! 


Jno. 16:8-11: — "And he, when he is come, will convict the 
world in respect of sin, and of righteousness and of judgment: of 
sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because 
I go to the Father, and ye behold me no more; of judgment, be- 
cause the prince of this world hath been judged." 

These chapters which contain the closing dis- 
course of Christ to His disciples are wonderingly 
dwelt upon by every Christian heart, as the deep- 
est and richest part of the riches of this Gospel. 
That we may obtain an insight into the marvellous 
words which we take as the subject of our med- 
itation to-day, it is essential for us to realize the 
setting which our Lord gave them in the midst 
of this discourse. He had described to His dis- 
ciples the conditions of their life, in continuous 
union and communion with Him, purchased as 
they were by His death for them and elevated to 
the lofty position of His special friends from whom 
He withholds nothing — not even His life itself. 
Then He had opposed to this picture of their exal- 
tation, a delineation of their condition in the world, 
opposed and hated and persecuted and slain ; while 
they, on their part, were to bear quietly their wit- 
ness, endure their martyrdom, and trust in their 
Redeemer. But was this all.? Were they con- 
demned to a hopeless witness-bearing through all 



the coming years, while the world triumphed over 
them and in them over their crucified Lord? 
What an end to the hope they had cherished that 
this was He who should redeem Israel! 

No, says the Lord, not the world but they were 
to win the victory; the laurel belongs by right not 
to Satan's but to His own brow. But we will not 
fail to notice the air of reproof with which He 
opens the section of His discourse which He has 
consecrated to an exposition of the victory over 
the world which He intended that they — as His — 
should win. "But now," he says, "I am going 
to Him that sent me, and no one of you asketh 
me, 'Whither goest thou.^^', but because I said 
these things to you, sorrow hath filled your hearts." 
They had, indeed, expected Him to redeem Israel. 
It was therefore that they had given Him their 
trust, their love; that they had left their all to 
follow Him. But now sad days had come; and 
they saw their trusted Lord on the eve of giving 
Himself up to death. Was not this a dashing of 
their hopes .^^ And had they, then, been so long 
time with Him and had not learned that the 
Father had ten myriads of angels who were en- 
camped about Him and who would bear up His 
every footfall lest by chance He might dash His 
foot against a stone .^ Nay, that He had Himself 
power to lay down His life and to take it again .^^ 
How could they look upon this coming death as 
an interference with His plans, the destruction of 


their hopes, and so sorrow as those without hope, 
instead of rejoicing as those who see the bright 
promise of the coming day in the east? 

On the hnes of these needs of the babes with 
which He had to deal, our Lord disposes His com- 
forting words. The sorrow of their hearts He 
deprecates, not merely because He might expect 
them to rejoice like friends in His approaching 
departure to the higher and better life, but be- 
cause He might expect them, after so much that 
He had done in their sight and spoken in their 
hearing, to have confidence in His mission and 
work, and to know that the power of Satan could 
not prevail against Him. What a spectacle we 
see here ! The Master girding Himself for His last 
stroke of battle with the joy of victory in His eyes, 
while His surrounding friends are with stream- 
ing tears anointing Him for burial! He plants 
His foot firmly upon the steps of His Eternal 
Throne; and they smite their breasts with the 
sorrowful cry, " We had hoped that thou mightest 
have been He that should have redeemed Israel! " 
No wonder that He gives them the loving rebuke, 
" But now I go my way to Him that sent me," — 
to Him that sent me; on the completion of His 
work, then; not as balked, defeated, — " and no 
one of you asketh me ' Whither goest thou? ', but 
because I have said these things sorrow hath filled 
your hearts." 

Note how our Lord presses forward His per- 


sonality here. " But I tell you the truth " — 
none of you has asked me, but I lovingly 
volunteer to tell you, — "It is good for you that I 
go away." This departure is not a forced one, by 
way of defeat and loss; it was planned from the 
beginning and is part of the great plan by which I 
am to redeem not only Israel but the world. Note 
the emphatic "I": "It is good for you that I 
go away." Why this emphasis .^^ Because there 
is another to whom this work has been committed 
and whose offices are necessary for the consum- 
mation of the work. "Because unless I go, 
the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will 
send Him to you ; and it is He who, on His coming, 
will convict the world as to sin, and as to right- 
eousness and as to judgment." 
Let us observe: — 

I. That Christ proclaims the victory. 

II. That He announces the agent through 

whose holy offices the victory will be 
realized in the world. 

III. That He describes the manner in which 

the victory will be realized — by con- 
victing the world. 

IV. That He names the three elements in 

which this conviction takes effect — sin, 
righteousness and judgment. And finally, 

V. That He points out the means which the 

Spirit uses to bring home this conviction, 
in each element, to the hearts of men. 


Christ, I say, proclaims here the victory. Why 
are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? he says in 
effect to his tearful disciples. I go to the Father, 
and the world will hate you as it hated me, and the 
world will persecute you and the world will slay 
you. But still the world is conquered. It is not 
because Satan is victor that I go to the Father; 
it is because I have completed my work, because 
redemption has been won, and I go to take my 
place upon the throne, that from that throne I 
may cause all things to work together for your 
good, — that from it I may send the Helper forth 
to you, who will convict the world. 

Here He announces the agent through whom the 
victory is to be realized in the world. He has 
won the victory; the Spirit is to apply His work 
that the fruits of the victory may be reaped to the 
full. A new age has dawned on this sin-stricken 
world; the Prince of the Power of the Air is de- 
throned; the Prince of Peace reigns. Henceforth 
men strive not single-handed against the spiritual 
hosts of wickedness in high places; they have a 
Comforter, Advocate, Helper, Paraclete ever at 
their right hand, and He will give them the vic- 
tory. It will be observed that Christ is here 
dealing with His apostles, not merely as individ- 
uals striving against the sin that is within them, 
but as His Lieutenants, leading His hosts against 
the sin that is in the world. The world may per- 
secute them — and slay them. But they will win 


the victory; by the power of their Helper they 
will lead captivity captive. 

Hence the nature of the victory that is to be 
realized in the world is here declared for us. It 
is a moral victory, a spiritual victory, and its 
essence is not physical subjection but mental and 
moral conviction. That Christ dies, that His 
followers are imprisoned, persecuted, slain, in no 
wise detracts from the victory; these things are 
disparate to it; they move on different planes and 
cannot conflict. What the Helper is to do is to 
convict the world; and in this conviction rests 
their victory. 

It is easy to see that this was a hard saying. No 
doubt when it was spoken it fell like a deeper 
knell on the hearts of the apostles; instead of 
comforting, it pained, instead of encouraging, 
it slew. But then, Christ was not yet risen and 
their eyes were holden that they should know 
neither Him nor His victory. But turn to Pen- 
tecost. Then the Spirit came as He was prom- 
ised and gave the convicting power to Peter's 
sermon that here was announced. See the joy in 
the victory, the exulting courage of the apostles, 
from that day to the end. Paul declares that he 
spoke not in the wisdom of the world but in the 
demonstration of the Spirit and in power. Al- 
though he uses a different word, what he means by 
the demonstration of the Spirit seems to be what 
Christ here promised under the name of the proof. 


convincing, conviction of the Spirit. This phrase 
of Paul's, indeed, is perhaps the best verbal com- 
mentary on our passage. The best actual com- 
mentary is found, doubtless, in the narrative of 
the results of the apostolic preaching in the Book 
of Acts. This, then, is the victory; not an ex- 
ternal one over men's bodies, but the conquest of 
the world to Christ by the demonstration of the 
Spirit in the proclamation of the Gospel, whereby 
the world is convicted of sin and righteousness and 
judgment. The conquest is a spiritual one; the 
apostles are the agents in it; but the source of the 
power is the Holy Ghost — our one and true Helper 
in the world, who convicts the world of sin and 
righteousness and judgment. 

We approach now the center of our subject 
and perceive what it is that the world is convicted 
of by the demonstration of the Spirit. The Sav- 
iour pointedly discriminates between the three 
elements: As to sin, as to righteousness, as to 
judgment. Conviction of the world is the work 
of the Holy Ghost. Conviction as to what.^^ (1) 
As to sin. The world which as yet knows not sin 
is convicted of it as the first and primary work of 
the Holy Ghost. It is not without significance 
that this is placed first. There is a sense in which 
it underlies all else, and conviction of sin becomes 
the first step in that recovery of the world, which 
is the victory. Once convicted of sin, another 
conviction is opened out before it. (2) It may 


then be convicted of righteousness, that is, of 
what righteousness is and what is required to form 
a true righteousness, and (3) it may be convicted 
of judgment, that is, of what judgment is, what 
justice requires and its inevitableness. These 
two together form the correlates of sin. It is 
only by knowing sin that we can know righteous- 
ness; as it is only by knowing darkness that we 
know hght. We must know what sin is and how 
subtle it is, before we can realize what righteous- 
ness is. We must know how base the one is be- 
fore we can know how noble the other is. We 
must know the depth that we may appreciate the 
heights. In like manner we must know sin in 
order to know judgment. We mu^t know sin in 
its native hideousness that we may understand its 
ill-desert, and perceive with what judgment the 
sinner must be judged. So, too, we must know 
righteousness to know judgment. Not only the 
depths of sin, but also the heights of righteousness 
are involved in the judgment. Sin on the one side, 
righteousness on the other; these give us our true 
conviction of judgment. And the work of the 
Holy Ghost in the world is declared to be convic- 
tion; and by convicting men He conquers the 
world. The Gospel is preached and it everywhere 
brings a crisis to men. Shall they hear or forbear? 
Some hear; to some it is hid; but on all the con- 
viction takes effect. Sin is made known; right- 
eousness is revealed; judgment is laid bare. And 


men convicted of their sin have but a choice of the 
righteousness or judgment. 

For our Saviour does not leave us in ignorance 
of the import and instruments of this threefold 

(1) "Of sin," he says, "because they believe 
not on me." This does not seem to mean that 
there would be no sin save for rejection of Christ, 
but that the proclamation of Christ is the great 
revealer of sin, the great distinguisher of men. 
When Christ is preached the touchstone is ap- 
plied and men are convicted of being sinners and 
of the depths and hideousness of their sin by their 
exhibited attitude towards the Son of God. The 
Gospel is never hid save to them whose eyes the 
god of this world has blinded, lest they should see 
the glory of the Saviour and come to Him and be 
saved. There is no revelation of character so 
accurate, so powerful, so unmistakable, so inev- 
itable, as that wrapped up in the simple question, 
"What think ye of Christ.?" Like a loadstone 
passing over a rubbish heap, His preaching draws 
to His side all that is not hopelessly bad. And all 
who come not are demonstrated to be sinners, and 
the depth of their sin is thus revealed. 

(2) "As to righteousness," he adds, "because 
I go to my Father and ye see me no more." This 
seems to mean that the fact of Christ's completed 
work, closed by His ascension to His primal glory, 
is the demonstration of righteousness. Convicted 


of sin, the world is also convicted of righteousness ; 
that is, of the need of a righteousness such as it 
cannot frame for itself, and such as will match in 
its height, the depth of its own sin. This is 
brought to light only in the Gospel, in which a 
righteousness of God is revealed from faith to 
faith. The convicting of the Holy Ghost con- 
sists no more of a conviction of human sinfulness 
and need of salvation than it does of the perfect 
righteousness of Christ wrought out on earth and 
sealed and warranted by His triumphal departure 
from this world. Men are convicted of sin, be- 
cause of their unbelief in Christ: of righteousness 
because of His finished work. 

(3) But there is one more step. "As to judg- 
ment, because the Prince of this world has been 
judged." If there is a sin, and a righteousness, 
there is also a judgment. And men must know 
it. The third element in the Spirit's demonstra- 
tion is the conviction of men of the overhanging 
judgment. This He performs by means of the 
obvious condemnation in Christ's person and work 
of the Prince of this world, involving those who 
hold of his part in the same destruction. That 
the world and all that is in it is of the Evil One, 
that there is no life in it and no help for the chil- 
dren of men, is one element of the Spirit's testi- 
mony to the preached Gospel; that this world 
is under condemnation and reserved for the eternal 
fire is but another element of it. Everywhere 


where the Spirit carries His demonstration men 
know what judgment is, and they know it by 
perceiving the judgment of the Evil one. 

We should not permit to slip from our minds 
that we have here the Saviour's own exposition 
of the method and manner of His spiritual con- 
quest of the world. This conquest is assured. It 
is the Spirit who performs it. And the method 
of His work in it is by accompanying the preached 
word with His demonstration and power. This 
demonstration of the Spirit consists in convicting 
the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. 
Is conviction of sin then, we may ask, necessary to 
salvation .f^ Is conviction of sin the first step of 
salvation? Let those smitten souls at Pentecost 
answer, who cried aloud. Men and Brethren, what 
shall we do.^^ Is conviction of righteousness neces- 
sary to salvation.'^ A convinced and convicted 
appreciation of the needs of our soul which alone 
can be found in. Christ Jesus .^^ Ask him who has 
proved to us that the whole world lies alike under 
the wrath of God, and that by the works of the 
law no flesh can be justified, and who adds to 
this word of terror the only word of hope: But 
now apart from the law a righteousness of God 
has been revealed, even the righteousness of God 
through faith in Jesus Christ, unto all them that 
believe; for there is no difference, for all have 
sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And 
as to conviction of judgment, ask Felix, who 


trembled as this same Paul reasoned of right- 
eousness and temperance and judgment to come. 
Assuredly, my brethren, would we be saved, 
we must know what sin is, we must know what 
righteousness is and where it may be found, and 
we must tremble before the judgment which that 
righteousness must pass on our sin. Christ has 
performed His work, and with the shout of "It 
is finished" upon His lips, has ascended to His 
throne on high, and there, seated by the right 
hand of God, He has shed forth this which we 
even now see and hear. The Spirit is in the 
world and wherever the Gospel of God's grace is 
faithfully preached He attends it with His dem- 
onstration and power. And what does He dem- 
onstrate to our souls .f^ That we are sinners; 
that we need a God-provided righteousness; that 
otherwise we must partake in the judgment of 
the Prince of this world. This is God's way and 
it is the only way. Let us be fully assured of it! 


Jno. 17:15: — "I pray not that thou shouldst take them from the 
world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil one." 

The text suggests strongly the contrast be- 
tween the world and heaven, and the relations 
which the servants of Christ bear to each. The 
world and heaven are contrasted ideas; con- 
trasted places, and contrasted states. And the 
peculiarity of the relations which Christians bear 
to these contrasted places and states is that they 
may be at the same time in very express relations 
to both. Our Lord Himself, while walking this 
earth of ours as a man among men, was yet in the 
bosom of the Father. And the Christian, His 
follower, while still in the world, the object of the 
world's hate and the recipient of its persecution, 
may yet be in the heavenly places with his Lord. 
Let us resolve the paradox, by considering in turn : 

I. Our Lord's idea of "the world." 
II. His idea of heaven. 
III. His desire for His followers. 

It is often said, and this is the first thought 
that occurs to us on facing this paradox, that our 
Lord's idea of "the world," as recorded in John, is 
an ethical rather than a local one. But this must 
not be taken too exclusively. Our present verse 



is the disproof of too exclusive an attribution of 
the ethical idea to the Lord. Christ prays that 
his followers should not be taken out of the world, 
but yet should be kept from the evil. In this 
single prayer, the word "world" is used in quito 
a variety of implications. In the fifth verse it 
means apparently the universe, as a creation. In 
the eleventh verse, it is equivalent to the earth, 
with the implication that it is the world of man 
that is in mind. It is plainly the world of man 
in the fifteenth verse. But as man is sinful man, 
it usually in this sense has the connotation of what 
we call the sinful world, and this sense comes out 
strongly in the ninth verse, where Christ's follow- 
ers are contrasted with the world, and more 
strongly still in verses fourteen and sixteen, where 
the world is said to hate the good, and so also in 
the twenty -first and twenty-third verses. In a 
word, then, the term world means usually the 
world of mankind, which, because man is uni- 
versally sinful, comes to bear the implication of 
the world of sinful man, which then is brought 
into contrast with Christ's children in whom the 
power of sin is broken and a radical divergence 
from the world begun. Accordingly, when they 
come to Christ, they come "out of the world," 
even though they remain in the world. The 
"world" therefore designates a place, but this 
place as the abode of man, and this man as sinful. 
And though there is an ethical colouring to the 


term, yet this ethical colouring does not constitute 
its essence. Because there is an ethical colouring 
to it Christ represents His people as gathered out 
of the world; and because this ethical colouring 
does not constitute its essence, we can, neverthe- 
less speak of them remaining in the world while 
kept from its evil. 

The idea of heaven, as the contrast to that of 
the world, must, therefore, partake of this two- 
fold sense. It is primarily a place, to which 
Christ's children would be removed if they were 
taken out of the world. But as the world is a 
bad place, so heaven, its contrast, is a good place; 
and those who are good are, therefore, already in 
principle in it. Therefore Paul tells us that our 
citizenship is in heaven, and that we may even 
here and now be with Christ in the heavenly 
places. The word "heaven" does not occur in 
this prayer. It does occur in the introduction to 
it, where we are told that "Jesus, lifting up his 
eyes to heaven, said Father," as if His pure eyes 
pierced the wall of space and saw the Invisible 
One. Heaven is, therefore, in this context, the 
place where God is in His manifested glory, in 
contrast with the world where the "god of this 
world" manifests his power for a season. Ac- 
cordingly our Lord speaks of it as the place where 
God can be known and enjoyed, or with more per- 
sonal point and pathos, as the place where He 
Himself should be, in His destined glory which 


was also His primal glory; where He, as He is, 
and not as, in His humiliation. He has seemed, 
should be and be manifested, and where His 
children should be partakers of His glory. 

And now what is Christ's desire for His people? 

It is certainly not that they should remain in 
the world, in its ethical sense. Already they had 
been given Him out of the world, and therefore 
they were no more of the world — no more than 
Christ Himself was. The truth had already been 
given them, that truth which should free from 
sin, — God's own name had been manifested to 
and in them, — and they were in radical opposi- 
tion to the world, so that the world hated them. 
Accordingly His prayer distinctly is that they 
should be kept from that evil which constituted 
the very characteristic of the world, and that their 
sanctification should be continued in the truth. 
He does not desire them to remain in the world in 
this sense. He has instituted a radical contrari- 
ety between them and "the world" ethically con- 
sidered; and He is providing for this contra- 
riety to widen into an ever broadening gulf. 

Just as certainly, it is not that they should 
remain always in the world, in its more local sense. 
The tone of joy with which the Lord notes that 
the time of His sojourn on earth is over and He is 
ready to re-enter His heavenly glory is unmis- 
takable. Equally unmistakable is the tone of 
sadness with which He adverts to leaving His 


followers in the world. They are in danger there; 
in danger from the world's hate; and in danger 
from the world's temptation. They are away 
from their true and proper home there — in the 
enemy's country — not householders at home, but 
soldiers on duty, pilgrims on their journey. He 
longs for them to enter their rest. And though 
He leaves them joy and the means of more joy 
in the word of truth. His desire for them is some- 
thing higher than they can find here below. Nay, 
His distinct "will" for them is that they also may 
be with Him where He is to be; that they may be- 
hold His glory; that they may share in that glory. 
He wishes for them what His servant afterwards 
declared to be "far better," that they too like 
Him should go out of the world and enter into 
glory — where Christ is on the right hand of God, 
where God dwells and His knowledge is, and where 
love is perfected in all. 

But it is that they may temporarily remain in 
the world, out of which they have in one sense 
already come, but in which, in the other sense, 
they are still left, while kept from the evil 
of it. 

Why? Well, for one thing, for their own sakes 
— that they may be sanctified. God's name has 
already been manifested to them; God's words 
have already been given them; and they have re- 
ceived them; and men hate them for it. The 
good work is already, therefore, begun with them. 


Its fruits are already shown in their radical de- 
parture from the world and the world's conse- 
quent hatred. But the work is not completed. 
Therefore, the Saviour prays that "they may be 
sanctified in the truth," that "they themselves 
also may be sanctified" in truth, just as He had 
been. They are to remain in the world then for 
their own sakes that the good work begun in them 
may be perfected unto the end. This appears as 
needful. Not, of course, as if they might not 
conceivably, like the dying thief, be prepared 
for heaven in a moment. God's almighty grace 
can work wonders. But that is not God's or- 
dinary way; the muscles of holiness must grow 
by practice; hence temptation itself and trials are 
blessings. Hence, too, it emerges that sanctifi- 
cation is to take place in this life, in the ordinary 
provision of God. God's children are to remain 
in the world for their sanctification. 

For another thing, for others' sake. God's 
plans need their presence in and work for the 
world. They are not the whole harvest, but the 
first fruits only. And that the first fruits may 
share in the harvest, it is needful to have them 
stay and labour here. They are to be the seed — 
** the good seed are they who ..." And after a 
while this sowing is to ripen into a goodly in- 
gathering. Accordingly, our Lord prays not only 
for them but for them also who believe — through- 
out the whole future — on Him by their word. His 


glance takes in His whole Church, of all the ages; 
and these are to abide for it. 

For still another thing, for the sake of the world 
itself. There is a testimony to be borne to the 
wicked world itself. "The wicked world," ap- 
parently, because in contrast here not only with 
those whom Christ left behind, but also with 
those who should believe on His name through 
their word. The world is to be convicted of sin 
and convinced of Christ's mission and glory. His 
own are to remain in the world and to propagate 
and grow into a mighty, unitary Church, in order 
that the world itself may know that the lowly 
Jesus whom it has despised and rejected is none 
other than the Son of God; and that these lowly 
followers of His, despised and persecuted by it, 
are loved of the Father even as the Father loves 
Him. The mighty testimony of the Church of 
God! How little we are bearing it! How we 
ought to bestir ourselves to it! 

And then, finally, we must say also, for the 
Son's own sake. For He, too, reaps advantages 
from their abiding below. So, and humanly 
speaking, so only, may His mission be vindicated 
and His glory manifested to the world, in His 
Church; may His glory be fully manifested to 
His own, when at last they come to Him; may 
His love then be perfected in them. 

For these reasons, at least, it is well that Christ's 
people remain for a season in this wicked world. 


Acts 2:16, 17: — "This is that which hath been spoken through 
the prophet Joel. ... I will pour forth of my Spirit." 

In any attempt to estimate the significance of 
the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, consid- 
ered as the inauguration of the New Dispensa- 
tion, the following two considerations must be 
made fundamental. 

The Spirit was active under the Old Dispensa- 
tion in all the modes of His activity under the 
New Dispensation. This is evinced by the rec- 
ords of the activities of the Spirit of God in the 
Old Testament, which run through the whole 
series of the Spirit's works; and by the ascription 
by the writers of the New Testament of all the 
working of the Spirit of God in the Old Testament 
to their own personal Holy Ghost. Thus, for 
example, the inspiration of the Old Testament 
prophets and writers is ascribed to the Holy 
Ghost (2 Pet. 1:21; 1 Pet. 1:11; Heb. 3:7, 10:15; 
Matt. 22:43; Mark 12:36; Acts 1:16, and 28:25). 
The authorship of the ritual service of the sanc- 
tuary is ascribed to Him (Heb. 9:8). The leading 
of Israel in the wilderness and throughout its 
history is ascribed to Him (Acts 7:51). It was in 
Him that Christ preached to the antediluvians 



(1 Pet. 3:18). He was the author of faith then 
as now (2 Cor. 4:13). 

Nevertheless, the change of dispensation con- 
sisted primarily just in this: that in the New Dis- 
pensation the Spirit was given (so John 7:39; 
16:7; 20:22; Acts 2). 

The problem, therefore, is to understand how 
the New Dispensation can be thus by way of dis- 
crimination the Dispensation of the Spirit, char- 
acterized by the giving of the Spirit, while yet He 
was active in the Old Dispensation in all the modes 
of His activity under the New. For the solving 
of this problem we shall need to exercise a humble 
courage in embracing the standpoint of Scripture 

In order to do this, we must observe that the 
operations of the Holy Ghost were forfeited by 
man through sin. Adam enjoyed the influence 
of the Holy Spirit and it was through the Spirit's 
inworking that Adam was enabled to withstand 
temptation, and by it that he might have been 
led safely through his probation and afterwards 
confirmed in holiness. When Adam sinned he 
lost the gift of original righteousness, indeed, but 
with it also the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the 
depravation into which he and his posterity 
sank — according to the fearful history recorded 
in the first chapter of Romans — has lying at its 
foundation the deprivation of the Holy Ghost's 


The Lord never, indeed, wholly turns away from 
any work of His hands; did He do so, it would fall 
at once on the removal of His upholding hand, 
like the unhooped barrel, back into nothingness. 
In His providence, and in what we call His com- 
mon grace. He continues to work among even 
His sinful creatures who have lost all claim upon 
His love. But just because they are sinful, they 
have forfeited all the operations of His grace and 
deserve at His hands only wrath. After the sin 
of Adam, the whole world lies in wickedness; and 
just because it lies in wickedness it is deprived 
of the inhabitation of the Spirit of holiness. 

But though the race has thus by its sin for- 
feited the right to the inward work of the Holy 
Ghost, God may in His infinite grace restore the 
Spirit to man, as soon as, and in so far as. He can 
make it just and righteous so to do. In the aton- 
ing work of Christ, He has laid the foundation 
for such a restoration in righteousness. But we 
are dependent on the Scriptures to inform us how 
far this restoration extends intensively and ex- 
tensively. We are not authorized to argue that 
because of the remedy for sin offered in Christ, 
God must or may treat sin as if it never had ex- 
isted, so that all that the race has lost in Adam is 
restored in Christ, and that for all the sinful race 
alike. It may be consonant with what we could 
wish to be true, so to argue. But it is obvious 
that were this, in fact, the state of the case, 

138 lAlTlI AND LIFE 

th(* Titer, would luivc Ix'rn rcstorcrl in Christ, from 
the inoincnt ol' Aihim's fiill, and would have been 
continued iji holy development unbrokenly. 
Adam's sin wouhJ, in that case, have been a ben- 
efit to the race; it would have curtailed its pro- 
bation and placed the nice at once at tin; goal of 
attainment which been promised to obedi- 
ence. Obedience and (iisobedience obviously 
would, in case, have been all one; the end 
ol)tained would have been precisely the same. 
Whence it woidd follow that Ailam's probation 
was a mere farce, if not even that the Divine re- 
gard for moral distinctions was a pretence. 

Nothing can be more obvious according to either 
Scrii)tnre or the experience of the race than that 
this course was not taken. The Lord did not, at 
once, treat sin as if it had never occurred. He 
did, inch'cd, at on(!e institute a remedial scheme 
by which the ed'ect of sin rrnght be obliterated 
to the extent and in the mariner whic'h was pleas- 
ing to His glorious judgment; but clearly it was 
not |)lea,sing to Dim, on I he basis of the atone- 
ment, to set aside the fad of sin altogether. ITow 
far, on this basis. He was pleased to set aside the 
fact of sin and restore to men the Spirit of holiness 
of whom they had been deprived on account of 
sin, we are wholly dependent u|)()n His Word to 
tell us. 

On the basis of the Scriptural declarations, it is 
perfectly evident that it was not the plan of God 


to rcslon' I lie, Spiril, lo man universally. 'Vhr. 
(ircadfnl fact, .slarcs ns full in tli<' face that, God 
lias llioii^dil w<ll l<» \rnvr soiric men <'t(Tnally 
vvillioiil IIk' Spiril of liolirH'ss. 1 1 is ohvions l,li;il, 
in I lie cxrculion of Mis pl.-iri of <iis(TiininaLion 
afiion^ irMMi, il, w.js fioI His plan lo <lisl,ril)iit(; the 
saving operations of His Spiril, e(jnally tliroii^Ii 
eillier si)a('e or time. His sov<'rei^nly shows it- 
self not only in f)assin^ hy one individujil and 
^'ranlin^ His /^q;ie<' l,o ;inolli<*r; l>nl also in i)assin^ 
hy one nnlion, or one ;i^e, ;iiid ^r.irilin^ His ^rae(^ 
lo another. And in His insernl;d)le wisdom it 
has obviously heen His plan to eonfin<' IIm^ op(Ta- 
lions of His ^vncv Ihrouf^h many a^M's to on<; 
people of His choice, passing hy llw rial ions of the 
world at lar^'e, arul leaving IImmu to I heir sin. 
This is IIm' riManiri^' of llie choice of Israel and IIk; 
divine ^niidance of llial, chosen people. 

W<' cannot fa I horn all the i)uri)ose of (iod in 
I his dis[)osition of His ^'rac<'. W<' may Me<' (h*- 
reclly, however, that III us a, twofohi <'rid was se- 
cured. Sin was allowed t,o work ilself out on the 
sta^<' of a, world-wide life, willi the result that it 
cxhihii.ed all ils horror and all its lu'lplessncss. 
And ^ra<'e conlinuously had its lroi)hies on the 
sialic of Israel itisli life. Israel thus served as a 
foil to exhihit t}i<' corrui)l.ion of the nalions; 
and at the sanie lime pr*es<'rved th<' continuity of 
(iod's people thr'oii/^h lime and suf)plied the 
starting' point for the universal extension of His 


Kingdom when at length the set time for its in- 
auguration should come. At all events, it is a 
fact that the Scriptures, on which we are depend- 
ent for all knowledge of the work of God's Spirit, 
confine all their declarations of the work of the 
Spirit through these gathering years to the theo- 
cratic people. Only within and for the benefit of 
the theocracy does the Spirit of God work from 
Adam to Christ — from the first man through 
whom came death to the Second Man through 
whom came redemption. 

And now we are, perhaps, in a position to under- 
stand the contrast between the first and second 
dispensations, when the second is called the Dis- 
pensation of the Spirit, inaugurated by the visi- 
ble outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, al- 
though the Spirit had been the guide of Israel, 
and the sanctifier of the people of God from the 
beginning. The new dispensation is the Dispen- 
sation of the Spirit, whether we consider the ex- 
tent of the Spirit's operations, the object of His 
operations, the mode of the Divine administra- 
tion of His Kingdom, or the intensity of the Spir- 
it's action. 

The new dispensation is the dispensation of the 
Spirit because in it the Spirit of God is poured 
out upon all flesh. This element in the change is 
made emphatic in the predictions w^hich prepared 
the way for it — as in the prophecy of Joel which 
Peter quotes in his Pentecostal sermon; and it is 


symbolized in the miraculous attestation by 
which it is inaugurated — in the tongues that dis- 
tributed themselves on the heads of the agents 
of the new proclamation — "as if of fire" — and 
in the "gift of tongues" by which the universality 
of their mission was intimated. Here is the central 
idea of the new dispensation. It is world-wide 
in its scope; the period of preparation being over, 
the world-wide Kingdom of God was now to be 
inaugurated, and the Spirit was now to be poured 
upon all flesh. No longer was one people to be its 
sole recipients, but the remedy was to be applied 
to all peoples alike. 

The new dispensation is the dispensation of the 
Spirit, again, because now the object of the Spir- 
it's work is, for the first time, to recover the world 
from its sin. Of course, this was its ultimate 
object from the beginning; but during the period 
of preparation it was only its ultimate, not its 
proximate object. Its proximate object then 
was preparation, now it was performance. Then 
it was to preserve a seed, sound and pure for the 
planting; now it was the reaping of the harvest. 
It required the Spirit's power to keep the seed 
safe during the cold and dark winter; it requires it 
now to plant the seed and water it and cause it 
to grow into the great tree, in the branches of 
which all the fowls of the air may rest. The 
Spirit is the leaven which leavens the world; in 
Israel it is that leaven laid away in the closet until 


the day of leavening comes; when that day comes 
and it is drawn out of its dark corner and placed 
in the heap of meal — then, indeed, the day of the 
leaven has come. Or to use a figure of Isaiah's, 
during all those dark ages the Kingdom of God, 
confined to Israel, was like a pent-in stream. 
The Spirit of God was its life, its principle, during 
all the ages; it was He that kept it pent in. Now 
the Kingdom of God is like that pent-in stream 
with the barriers broken down, and the Spirit of 
God driving it. 

The new dispensation is, once more, the dis- 
pensation of the Spirit, because now the mode of 
the administration of God's Kingdom has be- 
come spiritual. This is in accordance with its 
new extent and its new object, and is intended to 
secure and to advance its universality and its 
rapid progress. In the old dispensation, the 
Kingdom of God was in a sense of this world; 
it had its relation to and its place among earthly 
states; it was administered by outward ordinances 
and enactments and hierarchies. In the new dis- 
pensation the Kingdom of God is not of this 
world; it has no relation to or place among earthly 
states; it is not administered by external or- 
dinances. The Kingdom of God now is within 
you; its law is written on the heart; it is admin- 
istered by an inward force. Where the Jewish 
ordinances extended, there of old was the King- 
dom of God; where men were circumcised on the 


eighth day, where they turned their faces to the 
Temple at the hours of sacrifice, and whence they 
went up to Jerusalem to the annual feasts. A 
centralized worship we say; for the Temple at 
Jerusalem was the place where God might be 
acceptably worshipped and they were of the 
Kingdom who owned its sway. Now, "where 
the Spirit of the Lord is, there is the Church" — 
as Tertullian and Irenseus and Ignatius tell us; 
wherever the Spirit works — and He works when 
and where and how He will — there is the Church 
of God. We are freed from the outward ordi- 
nances. Touch not, taste not, handle not; and are 
under the sway of the indwelling Spirit alone. 
An inward power takes the place of an out- 
ward commandment; love shed abroad in our 
hearts supplants fear as our motive; a Divine 
strength replaces our human weakness. 

Finally, we may say that the new dispensa- 
tion is the dispensation of the Spirit, because now 
the Spirit works in the hearts of God's people 
with a more prevailing and a more pervading 
force. We cannot doubt that He regenerated and 
sanctified the souls of God's saints in the old dis- 
pensation; we cannot doubt that He was operat- 
ing creatively in them in renewing their hearts, 
and that He was powerfully present in them, 
leading them in right paths. "Create within me 
a new heart and renew a right spirit within me" 
is an Old Testament prayer; and it must repre- 


sent an Old Testament experience. And yet we 
seem to be not merely authorized but compelled 
to look upon the mode of the Spirit's work as 
more powerful and prevailing in the new dispen- 
sation than in the old. For in these new times, 
God seems to promise not only that He will pour 
out His Spirit upon all flesh, but that He will pour 
Him out in an especial manner on His people. 
In what sense would the fact that He will pour 
out the Spirit on the seed of Israel be character- 
istic of the new dispensation, if there were not 
some advance here on the old.^^ Such a passage as 
Ezekiel 36:26 or Zech. 12:10 would seem to mean 
as much as this: that the Holy Spirit will work 
so powerfully in the hearts of God's people in the 
new time, that the sanctification which had lagged 
behind in the«old should be completed now. That 
is to say, there is here the promise of a holy 
Church. This too, no doubt, is of progressive 
realization. After a number of Christian cen- 
turies we have cause still to weep over the back- 
slidings of the people of God as truly as Israel had. 
But Christ is perfecting His Church even as He 
perfects the individual, and after a while He will 
present it to Himself a holy Church, without spot 
or wrinkle or any such thing. 

Surely it must mean much to us that we live 
in the dispensation of the Spirit, a dispensation 
in which the Spirit of God is poured out upon all 
flesh with the end of extending the bounds of 


God's Kingdom until it covers the earth; and 
that He is poured out in the hearts of His people 
so that He reigns in their hearts and powerfully 
determines them to do holiness and righteousness 
all the days of their lives. Because we live under 
this dispensation, we are free from the outward 
pressure of law and have love shed abroad in our 
hearts, and, being led by the Spirit of God, are 
His Sons, yielding a willing obedience and by in- 
stinct doing what is conformable to His will. 
Because this is the dispensation of the Spirit we 
are in the hands of the loving Spirit of God whose 
work in us cannot fail; and the world is in His 
powerful guidance and shall roll on in a steady 
development until it knows the Lord and His 
will is done on earth as in heaven. It is because 
this is the dispensation of the Spirit that it is a 
missionary age; and it is because it is the dispen- 
sation of the Spirit that missions shall make their 
triumphant progress until earth passes at last 
into heaven. It is because this is the dispensa- 
tion of the Spirit that it is an age of ever-increasing 
righteousness and it is because it is the dispensa- 
tion of the Spirit that this righteousness shall 
wax and wax until it is perfect. Blessed be God 
that He has given it to our eyes to see this His 
glory in the process of its coming. 


Acts 9:11: — "For behold, he prayeth." 

We read these words, "For behold, he prayeth," 
of Saul of Tarsus, immediately after the account 
of how, when he was journeying from Jerusalem 
to Damascus on his persecuting errand, he was 
smitten to the ground by the Divine hand and 
raised again by those gracious words — how gra- 
cious, how inexplicably gracious they must have 
seemed to him! — which promised him service for 
the very One whom he was now persecuting. 
And when we read them our first thought is likely 
to turn on the appropriateness of prayer in the 
circumstances. Thus the theme is obviously sug- 
gested of prayer as the appropriate expression of 
the renewed sinner's heart. On this subject I 
I shall not, however, speak to you just now. I 
wish to call your attention, rather, to another sub- 
ject for meditation which also lies in our passage, 
though perhaps not so prominently. That is, 
Prayer as a means of Grace. 

If we look closely at this verse we shall see that 
it suggests prayer as a means of grace. You will 
notice that it reads, ''For behold, he prayeth, and 
he hath seen" a vision of Ananaias coming to him 
to restore him to sight. ''For behold he prayeth 



and''; that is, this statement is given as a reason, 
and as a reason why Ananaias should now go to 
him. And the reason is that Paul is now pre- 
pared for the visit. And the preparation con- 
sists of the two items that he is praying and that 
he has seen in a vision Ananaias coming. In 
other words, that he is in a state of preparedness 
for the reception of grace in general is evidenced 
by his being in prayer; while he is prepared for 
Ananaias' coming in particular through the vision. 
The passage thus represents prayer as the state of 
preparedness for the reception of grace; and, 
therefore, in the strictest sense as a means of 
grace. We purpose to look at it for a few mo- 
ments in this light. 

Even if we should not rise above the naturalis- 
tic plane, I think we might be able to see that the 
attitude into which the act of prayer brings the 
soul is one which especially softens the soul and 
lays it open to gracious influences. Say that we 
hold with those who believe in prayer, but do not 
believe in answer to prayer. Well, is not the 
mental attitude assumed in prayer, at least, an 
humble attitude, a softening attitude, a bene- 
ficfal attitude .f^ Do we not see that thus the very 
act of prayer by its reflex influence alone — could 
we believe in no more — will tend to quiet the soul, 
break down its pride and resistance, and fit it 
for a humble walk in the world. ^^ In its very na- 
ture, prayer is a confession of weakness, a con- 


fession of need, of dependence, a cry for help, a 
reaching out for something stronger, better, more 
stable and trustworthy than ourselves, on which 
to rest and depend and draw. No one can take 
this attitude once without an effect on his char- 
acter; no one can take it in a crisis of his life with- 
out his whole subsequent life feeling the influence 
in its sweeter, humbler, more devout and restful 
course; no one can take it habitually without 
being made, merely by its natural, reflex influ- 
ence, a different man, in a very profound sense, 
from what he otherwise would have been. Prayer, 
thus, in its very nature, because it is an act of 
self-abnegation, a throwing of ourselves at the 
feet of One recognized as higher and greater than 
we, and as One on whom we depend and in whom 
we trust, is a most beneficial influence in this hard 
life of ours. It places the soul in an attitude of 
less self-assertion and predisposes it to walk simply 
and humbly in the world. 

The significance of all this is, of course, vastly 
increased, when we rise above the region of natur- 
alism into that of supernaturalism. If when we 
believe only in prayer but not in its answer, if 
when we look only for a natural, reflex influence 
on our life of the attitude into which prayer 
brings us, we can recognize in it a softening, 
blessing effect; how much more when we perceive 
a Divine person above who hears and answers the 
prayer. If there were no God, we can see that it 


would be a blessing to men to think there was a 
God and throw themselves at His feet in prayer. 
If there is a God who sits aloft and hears and an- 
swers, do we not see that the attitude into which 
prayer brings the soul is the appropriate attitude 
which the soul should occupy to Him, and is the 
truest and best preparation of the soul for the 
reception of His grace? The soul in the attitude 
of prayer is like the flower turned upwards to- 
wards the sky and opening for the reception of the 
life-giving rain. What is prayer but an adoring 
appearing before God with a confession of our 
need and helplessness and a petition for His 
strength and blessing.^ What is prayer but a 
recognition of our dependence and a proclamation 
that all that we dependent creatures need is 
found abundantly and to spare in God, who gives 
to all men liberally and upbraids not.^ What is 
prayer but the very adjustment of the heart for 
the influx of grace .'^ Therefore it is that we look 
upon the prayerful attitude as above all others the 
true Christian attitude — just because it is the 
attitude of devout and hopeful dependence on- 
God. And, therefore, it is that we look upon that 
type of religious teaching as, above all others, the 
true Christian type which has as its tendency to 
keep men in the attitude of prayer, through all 
their lives. 

Every type of religious teaching will inevitably 
beget its corresponding type of religious life. 


And that teaching alone which calls upon man to 
depend wholly on the Lord God Almighty — our 
loving Father who has given His Son to die for us 
— for all the exercises of grace, will make Chris- 
tians whose whole life is a prayer. Not that other 
Christians do not pray. But only of these Chris- 
tians can it be said that their life is an embodied 
prayer. In so far as any Christian's life is a 
prayerful life, pervaded by and made up out of 
prayer, it approaches in its silent witness the ideal 
of this type of teaching. What other attitude is 
possible to a Christian on his knees before God but 
an attitude of entire dependence on God for His 
gifts, and of humble supplication to Him for His 
favour? But are we to rise from our knees only 
to take up a different attitude towards God.^ Says 
one of the greatest thinkers of modern times: 
"On his knees before God, every one that has 
been saved will recognize the sole efficiency of 
the Holy Spirit in every good work. ... In a 
word, whoever truly prays ascribes nothing to 
his own will or power except the sin that con- 
demns him before God, and knows of nothing 
that could endure the judgment of God except it 
be wrought within him by the Divine love. But 
whilst all other tendencies in the Church preserve 
this attitude so long as their prayer lasts, to lose 
themselves in radically different conceptions as 
soon as the Amen has been pronounced, the Cal- 
vinist adheres to the truth of his prayer, in his 


confession, in his theology, in his Hfe, and the 
Amen that has closed his petition re-echoes in 
the depths of his consciousness and throughout 
the whole of his existence." That is to say, for us 
Calvinists the attitude of prayer is the whole 
attitude of our lives. Certainly this is the true 
Christian attitude, because it is the attitude of 
dependence, and trust. But just because this 
is the attitude of prayer, prayer puts the soul 
in the attitude for receiving grace and is essen- 
tially a means of grace. 

But once again, prayer is a means of grace be- 
cause it is a direct appeal to God for grace. It is 
in its very innermost core a petition for help and 
that is — proportionately to its sphere — for grace. 
The means — the most direct and appropriate, 
the most prevailing and sure means of obtaining 
aid from a superior, is to ask for it. If a com- 
munity desires a boon from the government, it 
petitions for it. The means above all others by 
which we are to obtain God's blessing is natu- 
rally and properly to petition for it. It is true 
that all prayer is not petition. The Apostle gives 
us a list of the aspects of prayer in 1 Tim. ii:l sq. 
under the names of "supplications, prayers, in- 
tercessions, thanksgivings." All these elements 
enter into prayer. Prayer in its full conception 
is then, not merely asking from God, but all in- 
tercourse with God. Intercourse, indeed, is the 
precise connotation of the standing word for 


prayer in the New Testament — the second in the 
list of 1 Tim. ii:l, translated in our version sim- 
ply "pra^^ers." The sacred idea of prayer "per se 
is, therefore, to put it sharply, just communion 
with God, the meeting of the soul with God, and 
the holding of converse with Him. Perhaps we 
would best define it as conscious intercourse or 
communion with God. God may have com- 
munion with us without prayer; He may enter 
our souls beneath consciousness, and deal with 
us from within; and because He is within us we 
can be in communion with Him apart from prayer. 
But conscious communion with Him is just prayer. 
Now, I think we may say, emphatically, that 
prayer is a means of grace above everything else 
because it is in all its forms conscious communion 
with God. This is the source of all grace. When 
the soul is in contact with God, in intercourse 
with God, in association with Him, it is not only in 
an attitude to receive grace; It is not only ac- 
tually seeking grace; it is already receiving and 
possessing grace. And intercourse with God is 
the very essence of prayer. 

It is impossible to conceive of a praying man, 
therefore, as destitute of grace. If he prays, really 
prays, he draws near to God with heart open for 
grace, humbly depending on Him for its gift. 
And he certainly receives it. To say, Behold he 
prayeth! is equivalent, then, to saying, Behold a 
man in Christ! Dr. Charles Hodge used to 


startle us by declaring that no praying soul ever 
was lost. It seemed to us a hard saying. Our 
diflSculty was that we did not conceive "praying" 
purely enough. We can, no doubt, go through the 
motions of prayer and not be saved souls. Our 
Saviour tells us of those who love to pray on the 
street corners and in the synagogues, to be seen 
of men. And He tells us that they have their 
reward. Their purpose in praying is to be seen 
of men, and they are seen of men. What can 
they ask more.^ But when we really pray — we 
are actually in enjoyment of communion with 
God. And is not communion with God salva- 
tion? The thing for us to do is to pray without 
ceasing; once having come into the presence of 
God, never to leave it; to abide in His presence 
and to live, steadily, unbrokenly, continuously, 
in the midst of whatever distractions or trials, 
with and in Him. God grant such a life to every 
one of us ! 


Acts 22:10:— "What shall I do. Lord?" 

When Paul was stricken to the ground on his 
way to Damascus by the glory of the risen Christ, 
bursting on him from heaven, he had but two 
questions to ask: Who art thou, Lord? and What 
shall I do. Lord? By the first he certified him- 
selt as to the person before whose majesty he lay 
prone; by the second he entered at once into His 
willing service. 

In this, too, Paul's conversion is typical. No 
one can call Jesus Lord save by the Holy Ghost; 
but when the Holy Ghost has moved with power 
upon the soul, the amazed soul has but two ques- 
tions to ask: Who art thou, Lord? and What shall 
I do, Lord? There is no question in its mind as 
to the legitimacy of the authority claimed, as to 
its extent and limitations, as to its sphere, as to 
its sanction. He whose glory has shone into the 
heart is recognized at once and unquestioningly as 
Lord, and is so addressed no less in the first ques- 
tion than in the second. Who art thou. Lord? 
is not a demand for credentials; it is a simple in- 
quiry for information, a cry of wondering adora- 
tion and worship. And it is, therefore, followed 

at once with the cry of. What shall I do, Lord? 



In this latter question there unite the two es- 
sential elements of all religion, surrender and con- 
secration — the passive and active aspects of that 
faith which on the human side is the fundamental 
element of religion, as grace is on God's side, when 
deahng with sinful men. "What shall I do. Lord? " 
In that simple question, as it trembled on the lips 
of Paul lying prostrate in the presence of the 
heavenly glory, there pulsated all that abnegation 
of self, that casting of oneself wholly on Christ, 
that firm entrusting of oneself in all the future to 
Him and His guidance, — in a word, the whole of the 
"assensus" and "fiducia," which (the "notitia" 
being presupposed) constitute saving faith. And 
saving faith wherever found is sure to take this 
position, perhaps not purely — for what faith of 
man is absolutely pure.^ — but in direct propor- 
tion to its purity, its governing power over the 
life. Surrender and consecration, we may take 
it then, are the twin key-notes of the Christian 
life: "What shall I do, Lord.^^" the one question 
which echoes through all the corridors of the Chris- 
tian heart. 

And as our life as ministers of the Gospel is 
nothing else but one side of our Christian life — 
the flower and fruit of our Christian life — sur- 
render and consecration must be made also its 
notes. It is in direct proportion as they are made 
its key-notes that we may hope for success in our 
ministry; for only in this proportion are we 


Christ's ministers and not servitors of our own- 
selves. Let us, then, approach this holy calling 
in this spirit, the spirit of Paul before us and of 
every child of Christ through all the ages. Let us 
now as we enter these halls to begin or to re-begin 
our preparation for the great work before us, have 
no reservations — that we will serve the Lord in 
this sphere, but not in that; that we will serve 
Him to this extent, but not to that; that we will 
serve Him in this mode, but not in that. Let 
surrender and consecration be our watch-words. 
"What shall I do, Lord.^" — ^let that question be 
the spirit of all our lives. 

And now let us observe what is involved in such 
a spirit. I think we may say this much on even a 
surface survey of the matter — (1) that there is an 
element of humility that enters into it; (2) that 
there is an element of true dignity that enters 
into it, and (3) that there is an element of power 
that enters into it. Humility, dignity, power — 
at least these three things. 

Humility — what a difference in this regard be- 
tween Saul the Pharisee and Paul the Christian! 
Before his conversion Saul seems to have had no 
doubt of what he should do. His fundamental 
characteristics seem to have been those of the 
type of character which we call masterful. He 
was a man of decision, of energy; somewhat self- 
sufficient, as indeed a Pharisaic training was apt 
to make one; little inclined, one would think, to 


defer to the guidance of others. We must guard 
against supposing him to have been a man of 
violent and wicked impulses, as we may be misled 
into fancying by his career as a persecutor and 
his own words of subsequent sharp self -rebuke — 
after his eyes were opened. A man of deep relig- 
ious heart at all times, set on serving the Lord, 
his very vices were but the defects of his virtues. 
But somewhat headstrong, opinionated, undocile, 
perhaps; bent on serving God with a pure con- 
science, but constitutionally apt to go his own way 
in that service — for the God of Israel had never 
bidden him persecute the saints, and that was an 
outgrowth, we may be sure, of his habitual self- 
direction. What can I do to glorify the God of 
Israel — we may be sure that he had often asked 
himself that very question — nay, that it was always 
echoing through his soul and was the lode-star 
of all his life. There was nothing small or little 
in Paul's Pharisaic life; no reserves in his devo- 
tion to his ideal, and no shrinking from labor, or 
diflSculty, or danger. Paul never was a place- 
seeker, never was a sycophant, never was self- 
indulgent, or self-sparing. The elements of a 
great character wrought in him mightily. What 
he lacked was not readiness to do and dare; what 
he lacked was humility. And the change that 
took place in him on the road to Damascus was 
in this regard no less immense than immediate. 
It was a totally new note which vibrated through 


his being, that found expression in the humble in- 
quiry, "What shall I do. Lord?" It is no longer 
a question directed to himself: "What shall I 
do? — what shall /, in my learning and strength 
and devotion — what shall I do to the glory of 
God?" It is the final and utter renunciation of 
self and the subjection of the whole life to the 
guidance of another. "What shall I do, Lord?'' 
Heretofore Paul had been, even in his service to 
God, self -led; hereafter he was to be, even in the 
common affairs of life, down to his eating and 
drinking, God-led. It is the characteristic change 
that makes the Christian; for the Christian is 
particularly the Spirit-led man : they that are led 
by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 
And as the Christian more and more perfectly 
assumes the attitude of a constant and unre- 
served "What shall I do, Lord?", he more and 
more perfectly enters into his Christian heritage, 
and lives out his Christian life — the very key- 
note of which is thus easily seen to be humility. 

Dignity — there is an element of dignity which 
enters into this attitude also. For humility is 
not to be mistaken for a degrading supineness. 
Lowliness of mind is far from being the same with 
lowness of mind. When Paul ceased to be self- 
led and became Christ-led, he did not by that step 
become low in mind or morals; it was a step up- 
wards, and not downwards. There is a lurking 
feeling in most of us, no doubt, that our dignity 


consists just in our self-government. Self-suf- 
ficiency is its note, or, as we perhaps prefer to 
call it, self-dependence. That man is really a 
man, we are prone to think, who carves out his 
own fortune, rests on his own efforts, and seeks 
favour and certainly direction from no one. Now 
there is a proper basis for this feeling; we need 
courageous men who call no man master and 
swear in the words of none; this self-centred, 
self-poised, and independent nature is one of the 
best gifts of God — cultivate it! But it is very 
easy for a proper self-pride and a high-minded in- 
dependence to pass into a very improper self- 
sufficiency. We were not intended to defer with 
servile incapacity to any fellow-creature's direc- 
tion; but there is a place for authority in the 
world after all; and as liberty must not be allowed 
to lapse into licence, so independence must not be 
permitted to degenerate into self-assertion. God 
did not create mankind atomistically but as a 
race; and it is the part of true dignity to find our 
true relations and to subject ourselves to them. 
It is not a mark of manhood to separate ourselves 
from the bands that unite mankind into an organ- 
ism, but to take each his place in the organism 
and thoroughly to fill it. 

He who hitches his chariot to a star is not 
thereby sinking to a lower status. True as this 
is in worldly matters it is superlatively true in 
spiritual aflPairs. The man led by the Spirit of 


God — the Christ-led man — is the man of highest, 
and not of lowest, dignity. As it is the mark of a 
Christian man that he is "under orders," so it 
is the source of all his dignity that he is "under 
orders." With that odd . penetration into the 
essence of things, which so often characterizes 
the words of Rudyard Kipling, he seems to have 
grasped and set forth this fundamental fact of the 
Christian life in the refrain of one of his "Barrack 
Room Ballads." He says: 

" The 'eathen in 'is blindness bows down to wood and 
stone — 
'E don't obey no orders, unless they is 'is own." 

The point is, of course, the fine soldierly concep- 
tion of the value of order and discipline; the sol- 
dier recognizes the fact that he is "under orders" 
as the source of all that gives value and worth to 
his life; his coming "under orders" was his trans- 
mutation from a "hoodlum" into a "soldier"; 
the discipline of the army has made, as we say, a 
man of him. But Rudyard Kipling has so 
phrased his refrain as to make it hint a far wider 
and higher truth. The characteristic of heathen- 
ism, as he sees it, from this soldier-like point of 
view, is precisely that the heathen man — like the 
hoodlum, — that the heathen world — like a mob — 
obeys no orders; each man goes his own way; is 
left, as the Scriptures say, to his own devices. 
On the other hand, the characteristic of the Chris- 
tian man is that he has orders to obey — he is 


"under orders." And the soldier, conscious of 
all that being under orders is to him — of what it 
has wrought in him — of how it has given him 
self-respect, a sense of his value, a consciousness 
of dignity and worth, — sees in this parallel fact 
the essence of Christianity. The Christian man 
is the man who is under orders; the heathen, he — 
who like the man in the slums — obeys nothing but 
his own caprices. 

Rudyard Kipling was, perhaps, speaking more 
wisely than he knew; for what is the primary 
characteristic of Christendom but just this, — that 
God has taken charge of it, given it His orders, a 
revelation we call it; while heathendom is with- 
out this book of general orders. And what is the 
characteristic of the Christian man but just this: 
that he has found his Captain and receives his 
orders from Him? "What shall I do, Lord?" — 
that is the note of his life. And is it not clear 
that it is the source of an added dignity and worth 
to his life? Just as the soldier is nothing but the 
hoodlum licked into shape by coming under orders 
— under the establishing and forming influence of 
legitimate and wise authority — so the Christian is 
nothing but the sinner, come under the formative 
influence of the Captain of us all. 

Power — it lies in the very nature of the case 
that such a coming under orders is the source of a 
vast increase also of power. For it is at once to 
find our place in a great and powerful organism. 


So the soldier finds it, though this is not the 
primary fact of his betterment which he per- 
ceives as a result of his coming under orders. 
That, as Kipling rightly sees, is the subjective 
effect on himself, the increase of self-respect and 
of general dignity and conscious worth which 
comes to him. But the increase of power also is 
a factor of high moment. A cog wheel is a use- 
less piece of iron by itself; but in its legitimate 
place in the machine it works wonders. An in- 
dividual is as nothing in this seething mass of 
humanity which we call the world; be he never 
so energetic he can work no effect, but all his ac- 
tivity is like the aimless dashing of a moth about 
the destroying flame. But let him find his true 
place in the organism of humanity, and the weak- 
est of us becomes a factor in the inevitable rush 
of the whole towards its destined end. See, then, 
the element of power in the question, "What 
shall I do. Lord?" For we must keep fully in 
mind that this human race of which we are mem- 
bers is not simply a chance aggregation of indi- 
viduals, like a mass of worms crawling restlessly 
this way and that as the native impulse of each 
directs. It cannot be atomistically conceived. 
It is an organism, in which each individual has 
his appointed place and function. It is not 
merely the dictate of wisdom but the condition of 
eflSciency and power that we should each find this, 
our place, and fulfil our own function. 


If sin had never entered the world, this would 
doubtless be an easy task; we should each fit well 
into the place in which we find ourselves and 
should fulfil our required functions smoothly and 
easily, and each in his appointed measure advance 
the race to its destined goal. But sin has spoiled 
all; and the disjointed mechanism lies broken 
and dismantled and unable to work at its task. 
It is, therefore, that Christ Jesus has come into 
the world, the head of a new humanity, for the 
restoration of the race to its harmony with itself, 
the universe, and its appointed work. It is only 
through Him and through His direction as the 
Captain of our salvation that we may discover 
or occupy our place in His Church, which is only 
another name for reorganized humanity. There- 
fore the noble figure of Paul, which compares the 
Church to a body and us to members in particular. 
How shall the members of a body act? Each 
going his own way, independently of and incon- 
siderately of the others.^ Where then would be 
the body.f^ But how find our true place and task 
in this organism of the body of Christ.^ There 
can be but one way and that way is pointed to by 
Paul's question, "What shall I do. Lord.?" He 
and He only can appoint to their functions the 
members of His body, and thus the way of con- 
tinued humility and dignity is easily seen to be 
also the way of power. 

Take another example from military affairs. 


What shall the soldier in battle do, if he would 
wish to be effective as a factor in the result? 
Go his own way, or obey orders? Let each seek 
to go his own way, and that army is doomed. 
But let each only strictly obey orders, and if 
the leading is wise and sure — as our leading under 
our Divine Captain is — the end is certain victory. 
Each soldier may seem to himself isolated as he 
makes his way through the underbrush; he can 
see no companion; he can hear no neighbour. It 
may seem to him that on his sole arm is laid the 
whole burden and heat of the day. Let him but 
obey orders and he is, on the contrary, a link in 
the one great design, and after a while, as the 
brushwood is threaded and the open plain is 
reached, the bugle sounds the charge, and out he 
charges — all by himself — to find suddenly that 
he is not by himself. Out of the ground as it 
seems, to the right and to the left of him, others 
start up — who have obeyed orders like himself — 
and they sweep a united band to the victory. 
Brethren, that is the way we are to conquer the 
world; and our part in it is just to obey orders. 
"What shall I do. Lord?" is to be our one ques- 
tion, and simple obedience to the response our 
one duty. Ah, in all our ministerial life, if we 
value success — the success of Christ — let us make 
Paul's question the one single, simple matter of 
our lives. Let "Lord, what shall I do?" be our 
sole chart for all the journey of life. 


Acts 26:18: — "To open their eyes, that they may turn from 
darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that 
they may receive remission of sins and an inheritance among 
them that are sanctified by faith in me." 

We are given in the Book of Acts three accounts 
of Paul's conversion — one by Luke in the course 
of his history of the advance of the church, and 
two from the lips of the Apostle himself in ad- 
dresses reported by the historian in the course of 
his narrative. The account in the apology which 
the Apostle in chains made before King Agrippa 
is the fullest account of the three, and especially 
in the report it makes of the words spoken by 
Jesus to Paul. We may be especially grateful 
for this. For these words are simply marvellous 
in the compressed fullness of their content and 
the richness of their teaching to us, even after 
the passage of so many ages. 

The superior completeness here of the narrative 
of what passed between the Lord in heaven and 
him whom He would make a chosen vessel for the 
conveyance of His precious Gospel to the world, 
is already apparent in certain preliminaries to 
the main declaration — comparatively unimportant 
no doubt, but not without their significance. 
Here only we are told that the ascended Christ 



addressed the future Apostle in the Hebrew dia- 
lect, — the sacred tongue in which all the prophets 
had spoken and Moses, when they foretold His 
sufferings and how first out of the resurrection of 
the dead He should proclaim light to the people 
and to the Gentiles. Here only also are we told 
that to the sad inquiry, "Saul, Saul, why perse- 
cutest thou me?" was added that proverbial say- 
ing, "It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks" 
— intimating that like the harnessed ox he was 
in the hands of a master who would direct his 
path whither He would, and it was useless for him 
to strive against the performance of the duties 
which were appointed him. Better accept the 
commission given you and perform the work of 
the Lord assigned to you, with joy that you are 
chosen to serve the Lord, than to seek hopelessly 
to go your own way. 

But it is not until we reach the words by which 
Saul was commissioned to be the Lord's Apostle 
that the full richness of this report breaks upon us. 
* 'Arise and stand upon thy feet" — so the record 
of the words runs — "for it is for this that I have 
appeared to thee; to ordain thee as a servant and 
a witness both of those things because of which 
thou hast seen me and of those things because 
of which I shall appear to thee, delivering thee 
from the people and from the nations, unto whom 
I send thee." Here is Paul's appointment to 
the apostleship. Was ever man appointed to an 


oflSce in a manner so authoritative or with words 
so decisive? Christ comes from heaven itself 
to make the appointment. The appointment is 
to the work of a servant, a servant of Himself. 
The nature of the service required is that of wit- 
ness-bearing; "a servant and a witness," that is, 
a servant whose service is witnessing. The mat- 
ter to be witnessed to is provided by the appointer: 
"a witness of that with respect to which I shall 
appear unto thee." The witness is to add noth- 
ing of himself but to testify only what he has 
heard, what he has seen with his eyes, what he 
beheld and his hands have handled. And as the 
scope of the testimony is thus set him so also is 
its sphere; it is to be borne to the "people and 
the peoples" — to Jew and Gentile, — unto whom, 
says the voice, "I send you" — with majestic em- 
phasis on the "I." 

Truly it is to the office of a servant that Paul 
is called, a servant with a specific work to do and 
with specific instructions how to perform it. Thus 
he was made an "apostle," an apostle by the 
same call to the same work which all the apostles 
had received. It is even odd how perfectly 
Paul's commission accords with the very terms 
given to his fellows: "Go, and make disciples of 
all the nations . . . and lo, I am with you always, 
even to the end of the world." "The people and 
the Gentiles unto whom I send thee" — here is 
the universal commission; he is to go to Jew and 


Gentile alike, to all the world. "Delivering thee 
from the people and from the Gentiles, unto whom 
I send thee" — here is the accompanying promise 
of "Lo, I am with thee." xAnd note the nature 
of the apostolic promise. It is not that Paul 
shall suffer no harm from Jew and Gentile, that 
he shall not be hard-bested, baffled and perse- 
cuted. How could Paul the prisoner have re- 
peated such a promise as that.^^ It was that he 
should not be balked in his witness-bearing to 
them; that through divine intervention he should 
be successful in performing his duty as a servant 
and witness. Here, says Calvin, we see the 
Divine hand instilling courage into His servant 
for his task by assuring him of Divinely given 
success and at the same time forewarning him of 
the cross he was to bear. He shall need deliver- 
ance; but he shall have it. 

What then is the task laid upon this servant? 
We have it already adumbrated in the call. He is 
called to serve as a witness. Witness-bearing is 
his one function. But in the wonderful words 
which are more particularly before us to-day, we 
have it opened out to us in all its richness. I 
send thee to all peoples, says the heavenly King, 
in imposing upon him His mission: I send thee 
to all peoples, "to open their eyes." There we 
have in the briefest compass possible, the whole 
apostolic mission. The apostles are sent into a 
world, blinded by sin, sunk in the darkness of 


soul that comes from sin, "to open men's eyes." 
Witness-bearers as they are, their duty corre- 
sponds with their equipment: they have received 
of the Lord, let them impart of what they have 
received to others. They have only to "open 
men's eyes," to open them to a clear vision of 
their state, of their danger and destiny, and of 
the love of God in Christ which has provided a 
reprieve from the danger. 

To what end are they to open men's eyes? 
"To the end," says the heavenly King, "that they 
may turn from darkness to light, and from the 
power of Satan to God." As the whole apostolic 
duty consists in opening men's eyes, so the end 
for which they perform this duty consists wholly 
in the "conversion" of men; they are to open 
men's eyes to the end that men may "turn" — 
turn "from darkness to light and the power of 
Satan to God." 

Why should they thus turn? The heavenly 
Xing condescends to explain even this to us. It 
is that "they may receive forgiveness of sins and 
inheritance among the saints." Those who are 
in darkness and under the tyranny of Satan, 
having had their eyes opened to their true state 
and the provision for their relief made by a lov- 
ing God, may turn from the darkness to light 
and from the power of Satan to God. The con- 
dition of so doing is to have their eyes opened. 
This the Apostle was to perform. The effect of 


so doing was to receive forgiveness of sin and a 
lot among the saints. This God was to do; and 
He alone could do it. Turning to God, they re- 
ceive from God these blessings. 

How then do they receive them? The heav- 
enly King does not omit to tell us plainly, though, 
no doubt, it is involved in the nature of the case. 
If, by turning to God, they receive from God 
these blessings, it must needs be by faith that 
they receive them, for what is faith but a looking 
to God for blessings .f^ Nevertheless the ascended 
Christ fails not to state the matter for us and to 
state it in a manner and in a position in the sen- 
tence which throws upon it a tremendous em- 
phasis. "By faith" He says; and He says more, 
— "by faith in Me." And there is where the 
Christianity of the declaration comes in. 

One might be sent to open men's eyes without 
being a Christian. Socrates was so sent; and he 
opened men's eyes to much that was true, and 
right, and good; and Sakya Muni was so sent; 
and Zoroaster and Confucius; and since them a 
host have been so sent, who, by their investiga- 
tions into nature or their profound philosophy, 
have made men to know things, and, let us hope, 
have made men's darkness less intense — though 
we must never forget that the world by all its 
wisdom does not know God. Men might be 
even sent to open men's eyes as to their religious 
state — so that their religious darkness might be 


ameliorated and they be led to see some rays of 
religious light, and to long to be delivered from 
the power of Satan and to turn to God — without 
being Christians. Even should we say that we 
are sent to op en men's eyes that they may turn 
from darEness to light and the power of Satan to 
Gqd^nd so might obtain forgiveness of sins and a 
lot with the sanctified — the proclamation might 
remain not yet Christian. Nor would the mere 
addition of the words "by faith" Christianize it. 
But when we say that all this is obtained by faith 
in Jesus, and say this as the ascended Jesus has 
said it here — then, indeed, we have a Christian 
proclamation, or let us rather say, the Christian 
proclamation. For in these words we have the 
very essence of Christianity. 

And now, perhaps, we shall be able to under- 
stand why, ever since the Book of Acts has been 
written, men have been accustomed to look upon 
this little verse as one of the most pregnant in the 
whole scope of revelation, and why they have 
learned to call it the "Breviarium Apostolicum," 
the "Summarium Evangelicum." It is the com- 
pendium of apostolic duty. It is the summation 
of the Gospel. It tells the Apostle briefly that 
his one duty is to "open men's eyes"; it tells the 
world briefly that the Gospel consists in forgive- 
ness of sins and a title to eternal life through faith 
in Jesus. Out of one and out of the other it ex- 
tracts the core and holds that up to us for our un- 


distracted contemplation. As such it surely is 
worthy of our most serious consideration. 

There is another circumstance about it which 
gives it an especial claim on our attention. These 
are the words of the ascended Christ. Men 
to-day seem to find it very difficult to discern an 
authority in religion. Surely we cannot trust 
the mere "ipse dixit" of men in the affair of the 
salvation of the soul ! Let us find firm footing for 
our feet ! And so the cry has risen, Back to Christ ! 
Back even from the apostles whom He commis- 
sioned to make Him known to men; back to 
Christ Himself! But when we go back to Christ, 
a new doubt seizes the wavering soul. Was not 
Christ, too, in the time of His sojourn on earth, 
a man? Mayhap — so it is suggested — mayhap 
He not only walked as a man and spake as a man, 
but thought as a man and taught as a man. Can 
we trust even His deliberate declarations in the 
days of His flesh? Well, if we are earnest in all 
this, we may find relief for our souls in a passage 
like the one before us. In it we have gone back 
to Christ. It is He who speaks these words to us. 
And we have gone back, not to the earthly Christ 
but to the heavenly Christ. It is not the Christ 
in His humiliation but the Christ in His glori- 
fication who here speaks to us. He has put off 
the Servant-form, and been exalted to the right 
hand of the Majesty on High; and He rends the 
heaven to give to men from the very Throne, this 


"Breviarium Apostolicum," this "Summarium 
Evangelicum." It may, indeed, be that Hke an 
Old Testament hero we are ourselves unstable as 
water — "like the surge of the sea driven of the 
wind and tossed" — and cannot feel our footing 
firm though the Eternal Rock be beneath our 
feet. But surely if we are earnestly in search of a 
secure basis for our faith, the word spoken from 
heaven by the exalted Christ supplies it to us; 
making known to us what the duty of the Apostle, 
and of us, too, the successors of the Apostles in 
witnessing to the Word, is, and what the Gospel 
is to which as Christ's messengers we are to bear 

Approaching the passage in this spirit, let us 
mark well the supreme lessons it brings to us, as 
messengers of the grace of God in the Gospel — as 
seekers of the salvation that is in Jesus. 

Mark, then, first of all, the function which the 
Ascended Jesus assigns to His witnessing servants. 
It is summed up in a single term — it is "to open 
men's eyes." Now, of course, the eye of the 
heart can be opened only by the Spirit of God; 
and it is not this unperformable duty which 
Christ lays on His servants. But the eyes of 
the mind are opened, in a lower sense, by the pres- 
entation of the truth and it is this that the Lord 
requires of His servants. They are "witnesses"; 
their duty is not to tickle men's ears or to allay 
their fears; their duty is to make known the 


truth, though it is precisely the truth that is not 
agreeable to their ears and that arouses and 
gives leash to their most terrifying fears. What 
men need is to have their eyes opened, and the 
duty laid on Paul and on all who would be fol- 
lowers of Paul is to open men's eyes. That it 
was in this sense that Paul understood his com- 
mission is obvious from the succeeding context. 
He was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, he 
tells the king, but having been sent to open men's 
eyes, that they might turn to God, he preached 
the Gospel of repentance and turning to God, 
bearing his witness to small and great alike. So 
will we, too, fulfil our commission as messengers 
of God's grace. We owe, as ministers, a teaching 
duty and our prime duty — our one duty — is to 
teach : we must open men's eyes. 

We must not fail to mark the honour which is 
thus put by the Ascended Jesus on what we have 
learned to call by way of eminence, the Truth, — 
or, the Gospel message. Everything is made to 
turn on that. It lies at the root of all. The 
Apostle's duty is to open men's eyes. Whatever 
of salvation may come to men comes subsequently 
to that and as an outgrowth of this root. "Truth 
is in order to godliness" — that is a true formula. 
But it must not be read — should we wish to re- 
main in harmony with the Ascended Christ — as 
a depreciation of the value of "truth" and 
"knowledge" (its subjective form), but as an 


enhancement of their importance. Truth exists 
only to produce godliness; that is true and needs 
to be kept constantly in mind. But no truth, no 
godliness, — that, too, is true and that, too, needs 
to be kept fully in mind. The only instrument 
in your hands or my hands for producing godli- 
ness is the truth; we are not primarily anything 
else but witnesses to truth; and the truth of God 
is the one lever by which we can pry at the hearts 
of men. Preach the Word; that is our one com- 
mission. And it is no more true that the Word 
cannot be preached without a preacher, than that 
the preacher cannot preach without a Word. 
Men are in darkness, they need light, and we are 
sent to give it to them. 

It is equally important to observe that the im- 
plication of our Ascended Saviour's words of 
commission as to the condition of men, is that 
they are in darkness. That is the reason why 
they require to have their eyes opened. In what 
darkness let the Apostle who received the com- 
mission elsewhere tell us. As to the Gentiles, he 
tells us sufficiently in the first chapter of Romans; 
they have held back the knowledge of God in un- 
godliness until their foolish mind is darkened and 
they cannot know God; and under what bondage 
to Satan this has brought them, let the cata- 
logue of evils with which that chapter closes in- 
form us. Nor are the Jews in better case: for a 
Veil lies on their hearts also which will not be 


taken away except on turning unto the Lord. 
The dense darkness in which men live, the terrible 
bondage into which they have been brought; this 
is part of the revelation of the Ascended Saviour, 
connected with which is the necessary implication 
of their hopelessness apart from the preaching of 
the Gospel. The appointed means of breaking 
this darkness is the proclamation of the Gospel 
by which alone can men's eyes be opened. 

As it is the single duty laid by the Ascended 
Christ on His messengers that they shall open 
men's eyes, the single duty He lays on their 
hearers is correspondingly that they should turn 
from the darkness to the light, and (what is the 
same thing) from the power of Satan to God. 
It is, of course, as evident that men cannot turn 
from darkness to light, from the tyranny of Satan 
to God, in their own strength, as it is that men 
cannot open other people's eyes by their own 
power. As in the one case, so in the other, the 
immanent work of the Holy Spirit is not excluded 
because it is not mentioned. But as in the one 
case, so in the other, the action of man is required. 
Christ requires His apostle to "open men's eyes" 
— that is, to proclaim the truth which opens their 
eyes. Christ requires their hearers to turn from 
the darkness to the light, to shake off their bond- 
age to Satan and turn to God. In both cases. He 
requires the "sowing" and "watering," while it is 
He alone who gives the increase. What we need 


to mark is that in this we have the one require- 
ment of the Gospel. All that the ascended Christ 
demands is that when the light is brought to the 
eye the eye shall follow the light; that when the 
darkness is made visible to it as darkness, it 
shall not cling to the darkness by preference; that 
when Satan and God are set before it, it shall not 
choose Satan's bondage rather than the liberty 
which is in God. 

Let us mark now the declaration made by the 
Ascended Christ of the benefits received from the 
Gospel. Those who under the message turn from 
Satan to God receive "remission of sins and a 
share with the sanctified," and that is to say, they 
receive a complete salvation. For what does man 
want in this world of darkness and subjection to 
Satan.f^ What but, on the one hand, remission of 
the sins by virtue of which alone he can be held 
under Satan's tyranny, and, on the other, a title to 
the bliss prepared for the saints.^ Here are the two 
sides of what is technically termed Justification, 
proclaimed as the essence of salvation from heaven 
itself. Freedom from sin — that is the negative 
side; an inheritance among the saints — that is 
the positive side. Saints may have an inherit- 
ance — a lot or share — in bliss on their own ac- 
count. But surely a sinner has no right to share 
it with them. Not even if his sins be forgiven 
him has he a right to share it. Enough for him 
that his sins are forgiven. On what ground shall 


he receive so great an additional reward? But 
the Gospel offers him not only relief from the 
penalty of sin but a place among those who are 
sanctified. "Who have been sanctified" — that 
he cannot yet say of himself. But by God's 
grace he has a title to a place among those who 
can say it. Holy angels and sanctified men — 
they stand before God's face forever. 

Nor must we fail to mark the emphatic ad- 
junction of the means by which they receive these 
gifts — the instrumental cause of their reception 
of them. The Ascended Jesus says it is by faith, 
and adjoins the emphasized definition — "that 
faith which is in Him." Thus the whole procla- 
mation is bound together. Paul is to be Christ's 
witness. What he is to preach is what he has 
seen of Him and is to see of Him. It is Christ 
that is preached. It is the preaching of Christ 
which is to open blind eyes and lead men to turn 
to God. It is, therefore, through faith in this 
preachment of Christ that men are to receive for- 
giveness and adoption; through faith in the Christ 
preached that all the reward comes. Surely here 
is the centre of the Gospel. Ministers are sent 
forth to open men's eyes; men's eyes are opened 
that they may turn to God; men turn to God to 
receive forgiveness and acceptance; men receive 
this forgiveness and acceptance by faith — the 
faith that is in Christ. 


Rom. 8:16: — "The Spirit himself beareth witness with our 
spirit that we are children of God." 

"The Spirit himself beareth witness with our 
spirit that we are children of God." This is one 
of the texts of the Bible to which the Christian 
heart turns with especial longing and to which 
it clings with especial delight. On it has been 
erected the great Protestant doctrine of Assur- 
ance — the great doctrine that every Christian 
man may and should be assured that He is a 
child of God — that it is possible for him to attain 
this assurance and that to seek and find it is 
accordingly his duty. So much as that it cer- 
tainly, along with kindred texts, does establish. 
The Holy Spirit Himself, it affirms, bears witness 
with our spirit that we are children of God; and 
then it goes on to develop the idea of childship to 
God from the point of view of the benefits it 
contains — "and if children then heirs, heirs of 
God and joint heirs with Christ." 

It is quite obvious that the object of the whole 
is to encourage and enhearten; to speak, in a 
word, to the Christian's soul a great word of 
confidence. We are not to be left in doubt and 



gloom as to our Christian hope and standing. A 
witness is adduced and this no less a witness than 
the Holy Spirit, the author of all truth. We are 
not committed to our own tentative conjectures; 
or to our own imaginations and fancies. The 
Holy Spirit bears co-witness with our spirit that 
we are God's children. Surely, here there is firm 
standing ground for the most timid feet. 

No wonder that men have seized hold of such 
an assurance with avidity, and sought and found 
in it peace from troubled consciences and hesi- 
tating fears. No wonder either if they have some- 
times, in their eagerness for a sure foundation for 
their hope, pressed a shade beyond the mark and 
sought on the basis of this text an assurance from 
the Holy Ghost for a fact of which they had no 
other evidence, if, indeed, they did not feel that 
they had evidence enough against it; an assur- 
ance conveyed, moreover, in a mode that would be 
independent of all other evidence, if, indeed, it 
did not bear down and set aside abundant evi- 
dence to the contrary. This occasional use of 
the text to ground an assurance which seems to 
the observer unjustified if not positively negatived 
by all appearances, has naturally created a cer- 
tain amount of hesitation in appealing to it at all 
or in seeking to attain the gracious state of as- 
surance which it promises. This is a most un- 
profitable state of affairs. And in its presence 
among us, no less than in the presence of a some- 


what exaggerated appeal to the testimony of the 
Spirit, we may find the best of warrants for seek- 
ing to understand just what the text affirms and 
just what privileges it holds out to us. 

And here, first, the text leaves no room for 
doubt that the testimony of the Holy Spirit 
that we are God's children is a great reality. This 
is not a matter of inference from the text; it is 
expressed by it in totidem verbis. Exactly what is 
affirmed is that "the Spirit himself beareth wit- 
ness with our spirit that we are children of God." 
The actuality of the Spirit's testimony to our 
childship to God is established, then, beyond all 
cavil; it is entrenched in the same indeclinable 
authority by which we are assured that there is a 
Spirit at all, that there is any such thing as an 
adoption into sonship to God, or that it is possible 
for sinful mortals to receive that adoption, — the 
authority of the inspired word of God. That the 
Spirit witnesses with or to our spirits that we are 
children of God is just as certain, then, as that 
there is such a state as sonship to which we may 
be introduced or that there is such a being as the 
Spirit of God to bear witness of it. These great 
facts all stand or fall together. And that is as 
much as to say that no Christian man can doubt 
the fact of the testimony of the Spirit that we are 
children of God. It is accredited to him by the 
same authority which accredits all that enters 
into the very essence of Christianity. It is in 


fact one of the elements of a full system of Chris- 
tian truth that must be acknowledged by all who 
accept the system of Christian truth. 

It would seem to be equally clear from the text 
that the testimony of the Spirit is not to be con- 
founded with the testimony of our own conscious- 
ness. However the text be read, the "Spirit of 
God" and "our spirit" are brought into pointed 
contrast in it, and are emphatically distinguished 
from one another. Accordingly, not only does 
H. A. W. Meyer, who understands the text of the 
joint testimony of the Divine and human spirits, 
say: "Paul distinguishes from the subjective 
self-consciousness, I am the child of God, the 
therewith accordant testimony of the objective 
Holy Spirit, Thou art the child of God"; but 
Henry Alford also, who understands the text to 
speak solely of the testimony of the Spirit, borne 
not with but to our spirit, remarks: "All are 
agreed, and indeed the verse is decisive for it, that 
it is something separate from and higher than all 
subjective conclusions" — language which seems, 
indeed, scarcely exact, but which is certainly to 
the present point. It is of no importance for 
this whether Paul says that the Spirit bears wit- 
ness with or to our spirit; in either case he dis- 
tinctly distinguishes the Spirit of God from our 
spirit along with which or to which it bears its 
witness. And not only so but this distinction is 
the very nerve of the whole statement; the scope 


of which is nothing other than to give the Chris- 
tian, along with his human conclusions, also a 
Divine witness. 

Not only, then, is the distinction, here emphat- 
ically instituted, available, as Meyer reminds us, 
as a clear dictum probans against all pantheistic 
confusion of the Divine and human spirits in 
general, and all mystical confusion and inter- 
smelting of the Divine and human spirits in the 
Christian man, as if the regenerated spirit was 
something more than a human spirit, or was in 
some way interpenetrated and divinitized by the 
Divine Spirit; but it is equally decisive against 
identifying out of hand the testimony of the 
Spirit of God here spoken of with the testimony of 
our own consciousness. These are different things 
not only distinguishable but to be distinguished. 
The witness of the Holy Ghost is something other 
than, additional to, and more than the witness of 
our own spirit; and it is adduced here, just be- 
cause it is something other than, additional to, 
and'more than the witness of our own spirit. The 
whole sense of Paul's declaration is that we have 
over and beyond our own authority ,a Divine 
witness to our childship to God, on which we may 
rest without fear that we shall be put to shame. 

It is to be borne in mind, however, that dis- 
tinctness in the source of this testimony from that 
of our own consciousness is not the same as sepa- 
rateness from it in its delivery. Paul would seem, 


indeed, while thus strongly emphasizing its dis- 
tinct source — namely, the Divine Spirit — never- 
theless to suggest its conjunction with the testi- 
mony of our own spirit in its actual delivery. This, 
indeed, he would seem frankly to assert, if, as 
seems most natural, we are to understand the 
preposition in the phrase "beareth testimony 
with," to refer to our spirit, and are to translate 
with our English version, "The Spirit itself bear- 
eth witness with our spirit." So taken, the con- 
junction is as emphatic as the distinction. It 
must not be overlooked, however, that some 
commentators prefer to take "our spirit" as the 
object to which the testimony is borne: "the 
Spirit beareth witness to our spirit" — in which 
case the emphasis on the conjunction of the tes- 
timony of the Spirit of God with that of our spirit 
may be lost. I say, may be lost: for even then 
the preposition in the verb will need to be ac- 
counted for; and it would seem to be still best 
to account for it by referring it to our spirit — 
"the Spirit itself beareth its consentient witness 
to our spirit," its witness consenting to our spirit's 
witness. And I say merely that the emphasis 
on the conjunction may be lost; for even if this 
interpretation be rejected and the force of the 
preposition be found merely in the accordance of 
the witness with the fact, by which it is the truth 
and trustworthiness of the testimony alone which 
is emphasized; nevertheless the connection of the 


verse with the preceding one is still implicative of 
the conjoined witness of the two spirits. For it 
is in our crying "Abba, Father," that the wit- 
ness of the Spirit of God is here primarily found — 
the relation of this verse to the preceding being 
practically the same as if it were expressed in the 
genitive absolute — thus: "the Spirit which we 
received was the Spirit of adoption whereby we 
cry Abba, Father,— the Spirit Himself testifying 
thus to our spirit that we are children of God." 

The fact that the conjunction of the two wit- 
nesses thus dominates the passage, however its 
special terms are explained, adds a powerful reason 
for following the natural interpretation of the 
terms themselves and referring the preposition 
"with" directly to the "our spirit." It is with 
considerable confidence, therefore, that we may 
understand Paul to say that "the Spirit himself 
beareth witness together with our spirit that we 
are children of God," and thus not merely to imply 
or assert — as in any case is the fact — but pointedly 
to'emphasize the conjunction, or, if you will, the 
confluence of the Divine testimony with that of 
the human consciousness itself. Distinct in its 
source, it is yet delivered confluently with the 
testimony of our human consciousness. To be 
distinguished from it as something other than, 
additional to, and more than the testimony of our 
human consciousness, it is yet not to be separated 
from it as delivered apart from it, out of connec- 


tion with it, much less, in opposition or contra- 
diction to it. "The Spirit of God," says that 
brilUant young thinker whose powers were the 
wonder, as well as the dependence, of the West- 
minster Divines, "is not simply a martyr — a wit- 
ness — but co-martyr — qui simul testimonium dicit 
— he bears witness not only to but with our spirit; 
that is, with our conscience. So that if the wit- 
ness of our conscience be blank, and can testify 
nothing of sincerity, hatred of sin, love to the 
brethren, or the like, then the Spirit of God wit- 
nesses no peace nor comfort to that soul; and the 
voice that speaketh peace to a person who hath 
no gracious mark or qualification in him, doth not 
speak according to the Word, but contrary to 
the Word, and is, therefore, a spirit of delusion." 
— "So that in the business of assurance and full 
persuasion, the evidence of graces and the testi- 
mony of the Spirit are two concurrent causes or 
helps, both of them necessary. Without the evi- 
dence of graces, it is not a safe nor a well-grounded 
assurance; without the testimony of the Spirit, 
it is not a plerophory or full assurance." And 
then he devoutly adds: "Therefore, let no man 
divide the things which God hath joined to- 

These remarks of George Gillespie's will al- 
ready suggest to us the function of this testimony 
of the Holy Ghost, as set forth by Paul as a co- 
testimony with the witness of our own spirit. It 


is not intended as a substitute for the testimony 
of our spirit — or, to be more precise, of "signs 
and marks" — but as an enhancement of it. Its 
object is not to assure a man who has "no signs" 
that he is a child of God, but to assure him who 
has "signs," but is too timid to draw so great an 
inference from so small a premise, that he is a 
child of God and to give him thus not merely a 
human but a Divine basis for his assurance. It 
is, in a word, not a substitute for the proper evi- 
dence of our childship; but a Divine enhance- 
ment of that evidence. A man who. has none of 
the marks of a Christian is not entitled to believe 
himself to be a Christian; only those who are 
being led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 
But a man who has all the marks of being a Chris- 
tian may fall short of his privilege of assurance. 
It is to such that the witness of the Spirit is super- 
added, not to take the place of the evidence of 
"signs," but to enhance their effect and raise it to 
a higher plane; not to produce an irrational, un- 
justified, conviction, but to produce a higher and 
more stable conviction than he would be, all un- 
aided, able to draw; not to supply the lack of 
evidence, but to cure a disease of the mind which 
will not profit fully by the evidence. 

We are here in the presence of a question which 
has divided the suffrages of Christian men from the 
beginning. The controversy has raged in every 
age, whether our assurance of our salvation is to 


be syllogistically determined thus : the promise of 
God is sure to those who believe and obey the 
Gospel; I believe and obey the Gospel; hence 
I am a child of God : or is rather to be mystically 
determined by the witness of the Holy Spirit 
in the heart. Whether we are to examine our- 
selves for signs that we are in the faith, or, neg- 
lecting all signs, are to depend on the immediate 
whisper of the Spirit to our heart, "Thou art a 
child of God." The debate has been as fruitless 
as it has been endless. And the reason is that it is 
founded on a false antithesis, and, being founded 
on a false antithesis, each side has had something 
of truth to which it was justified in clinging in the 
face of all refutation, and something of error which 
afforded an easy mark for the arrows of its op- 
ponents. The victory can never be with those 
who contend that we must depend for our assur- 
ance wholly on the marks and signs of true faith; 
for true assurance can never arise in the heart save 
by the immediate witness of the Holy Spirit, and 
he w^ho looks not for that can never go beyond a 
probable hope of being in Christ. The victory 
can never be with those who counsel us to neglect 
all signs and depend on the testimony of the Holy 
Spirit alone; for the Holy Spirit does not deliver 
His testimony save through and in confluence 
with the testimony of our own consciences that 
we are God's children. "All thy marks," says 
Gillespie with point, "will leave thee in the dark, if 


the Spirit of Grace do not open thine eyes that 
thou mayest know the things which are freely 
given thee of God"; and again with equal point, 
**To make no trial by marks and to trust an in- 
ward testimony, under the notion of the Holy 
Ghost's testimony, when it is without the least 
evidence of any true gracious mark ... is a 
deluding and an ensnaring of the conscience." 

It is obvious that the really cardinal question 
here, therefore, concerns not the fact of the testi- 
mony of the Holy Spirit, not its value or even its 
necessity for the forming of a true assurance, but 
the mode of its delivery. It is important, there- 
fore, to interrogate our text upon this point. The 
single verse before us does not speak very decis- 
ively to the matter; only by its conjunction of the 
testimony of the Spirit with that of our own spirit 
does it suggest an answer. But nowhere than in 
these more recondite doctrines is it more neces- 
sary to read our texts in their contexts; and the 
setting of our text is very far from being without 
a message to us in these premises. For how does 
Paul introduce this great assertion.^ .As already 
remarked, as practically a subordinate clause to 
the preceding verse, with the virtual effect of a 
genitive absolute. He had painted in the seventh 
chapter the dreadful conflict between indwelling 
sin and the intruded principle of holiness which 
springs up in every Christian's breast. And he 
had pointed to the very fact of this conflict as a 


banner of hope. For he identifies the fact of the 
conflict with the presence of the Holy Spirit work- 
ing in the soul; and in the presence of the Holy 
Spirit is the earnest of victory. The Spirit would 
not be found in a soul which was not purchased 
for God and in process of fitting for the heavenly 
Kingdom. Let no one talk of living on the low 
plane of the seventh chapter of Romans. Low 
plane, indeed! It is a low plane where there is 
no confiict. Where there is conflict — with the 
Spirit of God as one party in the battle — there is 
progressive advance towards the perfection of 
Christian life. So Paul treats it. He points to 
the conflict as indicative of the presence of the 
Spirit; he points to the presence of the Spirit 
as the earnest of victory; and on this experi- 
ence he foimds his promise of eternal bhss. 
Then comes our passage, introduced with one 
of his tremendous "therefores." "Accordingly, 
then, brethren," — since the Holy Spirit is in you 
and the end is sure, — "accordingly, then, we are 
debtors not to the flesh to live after the flesh, but 
to the Spirit to live after the Spirit. . . . For as 
many as are being led" (notice the progressive 
present) "by the Spirit of God, these are sons of 
God, for" (after all), "the spirit that ye received 
was not a spirit of bondage, but a spirit of adop- 
tion, whereby we cry Abba, Father, — the Spirit 
Himself bearing witness with our spirit that we 
are children of God." "The Spirit Himself" 


bearing this witness? When? How? Why, of 
course, in this very cry framed by Him in our 
souls, "Abba, Father!" Not a separate wit- 
ness; but just this witness and no other. The 
witness of the Spirit, then, is to be found in His 
hidden ministrations by which the filial spirit is 
created in our hearts, and comes to birth in this 
joyful cry. 

We must not fancy, however, that, therefore, 
the witness of the Spirit adds nothing to the syl- 
logistic way of concluding that we are children of 
God. It does not add another way of reaching 
this conclusion, but it does add strength of con- 
clusion to this way. The Spirit is the spirit of 
truth and will not witness that he is a child of 
God who is not one. But he who really is a child 
of God will necessarily possess marks and signs 
of being so. The Spirit makes all these marks and 
signs valid and available for a true conclusion — 
and leads the heart and mind to this true con- 
clusion. He does not operate by producing con- 
viction without reason; an unreasonable conclu- 
sion. Nor yet apart from the reason; equally 
unreasonable. Nor by producing more reasons 
for the conclusion. But by giving their true 
weight and validity to the reasons which exist 
and so leading to the true conclusion, with Divine 
assurance. The function of the witness of the 
Spirit of God is, therefore, to give to our halting 
conclusions the weight of His Divine certitude. 


It may be our reasoning by which the conclusion 
is reached. It is the testimony of the Spirit 
which gives to a conclusion thus reached inde- 
fectible certainty. It is the Spirit alone who is 
the author, therefore, of the Christian's firm as- 
surance. We have grounds, good grounds, for 
belie\^g that we are in Christ, apart from His 
witness. Through His witness these good grounds 
produce their full effect in our minds and hearts. 


Rom. 8:26, 27: — "And in like manner the Spirit also helpeth 
our infirmity: for we know not how to pray as we ought; but the 
Spirit himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which 
cannot be uttered; and he that searcheth the hearts knoweth 
what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession 
for the saints according to the will of God." 

The direct teaching of this passage obv-iously is 
that the Holy Ghost, dwelling in Christian men, 
indites their petitions, and thus secures for them 
both that they shall ask God for what they really 
need and that they shall obtain what they ask. 
There is here asserted both an effect of the Spirit's 
working on the heart of the believer and an effect 
of this. His working on God. Even Christian 
men are full of weakness, and neither know what 
they should pray for in each time of need, nor 
are able to pray for it with the fervidness of desire 
which God would have them use. It is by the 
operation of the Spirit of God on their hearts 
that they are thus led to pray aright in matter 
and manner, and that their petitions are rendered 
acceptable to God, as being according to His will. 
This is the obvious teaching of the passage; but 
that we may fully understand it in its implica- 
tions and shades it will be desirable to look at it in 
its context. 

The eighth chapter of Romans is an outburst 


of humble triumph on the Apostle's part, on real- 
izing that the conflict of the Christian life as de- 
picted in the seventh chapter issues in victory, 
through the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. Evil 
may be entrenched in our members ; but the power 
of God unto salvation has entered our hearts by 
the Holy Ghost and by the prevalent working of 
that Holy Spirit in us we are enabled to cry Abba, 
Father; and being made sons of God are consti- 
tuted His heirs and co-heirs with Jesus Christ. 
Not as if, indeed, we are to be borne withbut 
effort of our own into this glorious inheritance — 
"to be carried to the skies on flowery beds of 
ease." No! "Surely we must fight, if we would 
win." For, after all, the Christian life is a pil- 
grimage to be endured, a journey to be accom- 
plished, a fight to be won. Least of all men was 
the Apostle Paul, whose life was in labours more 
abundant and in trials above measure, liable to 
forget this. It is out of the experiences of his own 
life as well as out of the nature of the thing that he 
adds, therefore, to his cry of triumph a warning 
of the nature of the life which, nevertheless, we 
must still live in the flesh. If "the Spirit Him- 
self beareth witness with our Spirits that we are 
the Sons of God," and the glorious sequence fol- 
lows, "and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and 
joint heirs with Christ," no less do we need to be 
reminded further of the condition underlying the 
victory — "if so be that we suffer with Him that 


we may also be glorified with Him." To share 
with Christ His glory implies sharing with Him 
His sufferings. "Must Jesus tread the path alone 
and all the world go free.^" Union with Him im- 
plies taking part in all His life experiences, and we 
can ascend the throne with Him only by treading 
with Him the pathway by which He ascended the 
throne. It was from the cross that He rose to 

The rest of this marvellous chapter seems to be 
devoted to encouraging the saint in his struggles 
as he treads the thorny path with Christ. The 
first encouragement is drawn from the relative 
greatness of the sufferings here and the glory yon- 
der; the second, from the assistance in the jour- 
ney received from the Holy Ghost; and the third 
from the gracious oversight of God over the whole 
progress of the journey. This whole section of 
the chapter, therefore, appears as Paul's word of 
encouragement to the believer as he struggles on 
in his pilgrimage — in his "Pilgrim's Progress" — 
in view of the hardships and sufferings and trials 
attendant in this sinful world on the life in Christ. 
It is substantially, therefore, an Apostolic com- 
mentary on our Lord's words, "If any man would 
come after me, let him deny himself and take up 
his cross and follow me;" "he that doth not take 
up his cross and follow after me, is not worthy of 
me." These sufferings, says Paul, are inevitable; 
no cross, no crown. But he would strengthen us 


in enduring the cross by keeping our eye on the 
crown, by assuring us of the presence of the 
Holy Spirit as our ever-present helper, and 
by reminding us of the Divine direction of it 
all. Thus he would alleviate the trials of the 

Our text then takes its place as one of these en- 
couragements to steadfast constancy, endurance, 
in the Christian life — to what we call to-day 
"perseverance." The "weakness," "infirmity," 
to which it refers is to be taken, therefore, in the 
broadest sense. No doubt its primary reference 
may be to the remnant of indwelling sin, not yet 
eradicated and the source of all the Christian's 
weaknesses. But it is not confined to this. It 
includes all that comes to a Christian as he suffers 
with Christ; all that is included in our Lord's 
requirement of denying ourselves and taking up 
our cross. Paul's life of suffering for the Gospel's 
sake may be taken by us, as it, doubtless, was felt 
by him as he penned these words, as an illustra- 
tion of the breadth of the meaning of the word. 
He who would live godly must in every age suffer 
a species of persecution; a species, differing in 
kind with the tone and temper and quality of 
each age, but always persecution. He who would 
follow after Christ must meet with many opposers. 
A strenuous life is the Christian life in the world; 
it is appropriately designated a warfare, a fight. 
But we are weak. And the weakness meant is in- 


elusive of all human weaknesses in the stress of 
the great battle. 

The encouragement which Paul offers us in this 
our confessed weakness, is the ever-present aid of 
the Holy Ghost. We are not to be left to tread 
the path, to fight the fight, alone; the Spirit ever 
"helpeth" our weakness, "takes our burden on 
Himself, in our stead and yet along with us," as 
the double compound word expresses. He does 
not take it away from us and bear it wholly Him- 
self, but comes to our aid in bearing it, receiving 
it also on His shoulders along with us. In giving 
this encouragement of the ever-present aid of the 
Spirit in our weakness, the Apostle adds an illus- 
tration of it. And it is exceedingly striking that, 
in seeking an illustration of it, the Apostle thinks 
at once of the sphere of prayer. It shows his 
estimate of the place of prayer in the Christian 
struggle, that in his eye, prayer is really "the 
Christian's vital breath." Our weakness, he 
seems to say, is helped primarily by the Spirit 
through His inditing our prayers for us. Per- 
haps this will not seem strange to us if we will fitly 
consider what the Christian life is, in its depend- 
ence on God; and what prayer is, in its attitude of 
dependence on God. Prayer is, in a word, the 
correlate of religion. The prayerful attitude is 
the religious attitude. And that man is religious 
who habitually holds toward God, in life and 
thought, in act and word, the attitude of prayer. 


Is it not fitting, after all, that Paul should encour- 
age the Christian man, striving to live a Chris- 
tian life — denying himself and taking up his 
cross and following Christ — by assuring him 
primarily that the Holy Ghost is ever present, 
helping him in his weakness, to this effect that his 
attitude towards God in his conscious dependence 
on Him, should be kept straight? For this it is 
to help us in prayer. 

Nor can it seem strange to us that Paul adverts 
to our need of aid in prayer in the very matter of 
our petitions. It is worth noting how very vitally 
he writes here, doubtless, again out of his own ex- 
perience. "We know not what we should pray 
for," he says, "in each time of need" — according, 
that is, to the needs of each occasion. It is not 
lack of purpose — it is lack of wisdom, that he in- 
timates. We may have every desire to serve God 
and every willingness to serve Him at our imme- 
diate expense, but do we know what we need at 
each moment.? The wisest and best of men must 
needs fail here. So Paul found, when he asked 
thrice that the thorn in the flesh might be re- 
moved and stayed not till the Lord had told him 
explicitly that His grace was sufficient for him. 
How often we would rather escape the suffering 
that lies in our path than receive of the grace of 
God! Nay, a greater than Paul may here be our 
example. Did not our Lord Himself say, "Now 
ismy soul troubled; and what shall I say.? Father, 


save me from this hour." Quick though came the 
response back from His own soul, "But for this 
cause came I unto this hour: Father, glorify thy 
name," yet may we not see even in this momentary 
hesitation a hint of that uncertainty of which all 
are more or less the prey? It is not merely in the 
recalcitrances of the Christian life — God knows 
we have need enough there ! — but it is not only in 
the recalcitrances and the mere unwillingnesses of 
the Christian life that the Spirit aids us; but in the 
perplexities of the Christian life too. Under His 
leading we shall not only be saved from sins, but 
also from mistakes, in the will of God. And thus 
He leads us not only to pray, but to pray "ac- 
cording to the will of God." 

And now, how does the Spirit thus aid us in 
praying according to the will of God.^ Paul calls 
it a making of intercession for us with groanings 
which cannot be uttered; making intercession for 
us or in addition to us, for the word could have 
either meaning. It is clear from the whole pas- 
sage that this is not an objective intercession in 
our behalf — made in heaven as Christ our Medi- 
ator intercedes for us. That the Spirit makes in- 
tercession for us is known to God not as God in 
heaven, but as "searcher of hearts." It is 
equally clear that it is not an intercession through 
us as mere conduits, unengaged in the intercession 
ourselves; it is an intercession made by the Spirit 
as our helper and not as our substitute. It is 


equally clear that it is not merely in our natural 
powers that the Spirit speaks; it is a groaning of 
which the Spirit is the author and "over and 
above" our own praying. It is clear then that 
it is subjective and yet not to be confused with our 
owTi prayings. Due to the Spirit's working in 
our hearts we conceive what we need in each hour 
of need and ask God for it with unutterable 
strength of desire. The Spirit intercedes for us 
then by working in us right desires for each time 
of need; and by deepening these desires into un- 
utterable groans. They are our desires, and our 
groans. But not apart from the Spirit. They 
are His; \\Tought in us by Him. And God, who 
searches the heart, sees these unutterable desires 
and "knows the mind of the Spirit that He is 
making intercession for the saints according to the 
will of God." 

Thus, then, the Spirit helps our weakness. By 
His hidden, inner influences He quickens us to the 
perception of our real need; He frames in us an 
infinite desire for this needed thing; He leads us 
to bring this desire in all its unutterable strength 
before God; who, seeing it within our hearts, can- 
not but grant it, as accordant with His will. 
Is not this a very present help in time of trouble.^ 
As prevalent a help as if we were miraculously 
rescued from any danger? And yet a help 
wrought through the means of God's own appoint- 
ment, that is, our attitude of constant dependence 


on Him and our prayer to Him for His aid? And 
could Paul here have devised a better encourage- 
ment to the saints to go on in their holy course and 
fight the battle bravely to the end? 


Rom. 8:28: — "And we know that to them that love God all 
things work together for good, even to them that are called 
according to his purpose." 

There is a sense in which this verse marks the 
climax of this glorious eighth chapter of Romans. 
The whole chapter may properly be looked upon 
as the reaction from the depths of the seventh 
chapter. The key-note of that chapter is sounded 
in the despairing cry, "O wretched man that I 
am, who shall deliver me out of the body of this 
death." The key-note of this is sounded in the 
blessed shout, "If God is for us, who is against 
us?" In the seventh chapter Paul uncovers the 
horror of indwelling sin; in the eighth he reveals 
the glory of the indwelling Spirit. The Christian 
life on earth is a conflict with sin. And therein is 
the dreadfulness of our situation on earth dis- 
played. But we are not left to fight the battle 
alone. The Christian life is a conflict of God — 
not of us — w^ith sin. And therein is the joy and 
glory of our situation on earth manifested. As 
sinners we are in terrible plight. As the ser- 
vants of God, fighting His battle, we are in glori- 
ous case. 

The whole eighth chapter of the Romans is a 


development of the blessedness which arises from 
the discovery of the Holy Spirit within us, as the 
real power making for righteousness which is in 
conflict with indwelling sin. It opens with the 
proclamation that the liberation of the sinner is 
effected by the presence in him of the "law of the 
spirit of life." It proceeds by dwelling on the 
blessings that are ours by virtue of this great fact 
of the indwelling Spirit. First, a new and uncon- 
querable principle of life and holiness is implanted 
in us (1-11); next, a new relationship to God, as 
His sons and heirs, is revealed to us (12-17); 
still further, a new and unquenchable hope is 
made ours (18-25), which has respect amid what- 
ever sufferings attend us here to the supreme 
greatness of the reward. Lastly, a new support 
in our present weakness is granted us (26-30). 

The section from verse 26 to verse 30 is thus re- 
vealed to us as one of the grounds of the Chris- 
tian's encouragement amidst the evils of life. 
It was not enough for Paul to paint the coming 
glory. Even in the present weakness we are not 
left without efficient aid. It is true that in this 
weakness — it is part of the very weakness — we 
cannot be sure what we need and cannot even 
pray articulately; we can only, like nature itself 
(vs. 22), groan and travail in pain, for we scarcely 
know what. But there is one who knows. In 
these very inarticulate groans the Spirit's hand 
is active; and the searcher of hearts according to 


whose appointment it is that the Spirit inter- 
cedes for saints, understands and knows. There 
is no danger, then, that we shall fail of the needed 
help. Maybe we do not know what we need — 
God does. He can and will read off our groans 
of pain and longing in terms of intelligence and of 
love. "For we know that with those that love 
God, God co-worketh in respect to all things unto 
good." There is nothing that can befall us which 
is undirected by Him; and nothing will befall 
those that love Him, therefore, which is not di- 
rected by Him to their good. 

The fundamental thought is the universal gov- 
ernment of God. All that comes to you is under 
His controlling hand. The secondary thought is 
the favour of God to those that love Him. If He 
governs all, then nothing but good can befall those 
to whom He would do good. The consolation 
lies in the shelter which we may thus find beneath 
His almighty arms. We are weak, we are blind; 
He is strong and He is wise. Though we are too 
weak to help ourselves and too blind to ask for 
what we need, and can only groan in unformed 
longings. He is the author in us of these very 
longings — He knows what they really mean — 
and He will so govern all things that we shall reap 
only good from all that befalls us. All, though for 
the present it seems grievous; all, though it be 
our sin itself, as Augustine properly saw and as 
the context demands (for is not the misery of the 


seventh chapter the misery of indwelling sin, and 
is not the joy of the closing verses of the eighth 
chapter the joy of salvation from sin?) — all, there 
is no exception allowed: in all things God co- 
operates so with us that it can conduce only to 
our good. Our eternal good, obviously; be- 
cause it is throughout the good of the soul, the 
good of the eternal salvation in Christ, that is in 

We say this is the climax of the eighth chapter 
of Romans. After this nothing remains but the 
psean of victory that fills the concludmg verses. 
If there is not only a power withm us making for 
righteousness to which the final victory is as- 
sured; not only an inheritance far surpassing the 
present evil, awaiting us; but also everything that 
befalls us is so governed that it, everything, is for 
our good and befalls us only because it is for our 
good; why we certainly are m excellent case. 

It is possible to say, indeed, that there is noth- 
ing revealed here which deserves to be thought of 
as the culmination of a specifically Christian en- 
couragement. What, indeed, is here announced 
that devout souls have not always possessed.? 
In what does this fervent declaration, for example, 
go beyond the philosophy of Joseph in the world's 
early prime — in the simple days of patriarchal 
faith— when, looking back on the fortunes of his 
own chequered life, on the plots of his brethren 
against his person when sold by them into Egypt, 


and the marvellous befallings which came to him 
there, he said to them at the last, "As for you, ye 
meant evil against me; but God meant it for 
good, to bring to pass as it is this day ? " Did not 
Joseph already hold the secret of Paul's consola- 
tion — that God is Lord of all, that nothing comes 
to us except by His ordering, that therefore to 
those who serve Him, all that occurs to them, black 
as it may seem to their short vision, is meant for 
good and will bring to pass the peaceable fruits of 
joy and righteousness? Nay, did not that half- 
heathen Jew, the son of Sirach, who wrote the 
book of Ecclesiasticus, have adequate under- 
standing of the whole matter, when he wrote, in a 
context which magnifies the all-reaching power of 
God, "For the good are good things created from 
the beginning ... all these things are for good to 
the godly," adding on the other hand, that evil 
things are equally created for sinners and what is 
good for the godly is turned into evil for sinners? 
Lideed, is there anything here to which the 
heathen themselves could not attain.^ Can we 
forget, for example, that beautiful discussion in 
the tenth book of the Republic in which Socrates 
reasons with Glaucon on the rewards of virtue.^ 
Must we not suppose, he urges, that the gods accu- 
rately estimate the characters of men, and know 
thoroughly both the just and the unjust? And 
must we not suppose that they look with friendly 
eye upon the just and with enmity upon the un- 


righteous? And must we not suppose, still further, 
that they will be good to those whom they recog- 
nize as their friends, and grant them every good — 
excepting, of course, only such evil as is the con- 
sequence of their former sins? "Then, this," 
Socrates continues, "must be our notion of the 
just man, that even when he is in poverty or sick- 
ness, or any other seeming misfortune, all things 
will in the end work together for good to him in 
life and death : for the gods have a care for anyone 
whose desire is to become just and to be like God, 
as far as man can attain His likeness by the pur- 
suit of virtue." What is there in Paul's assevera- 
tion that goes beyond this calmly expressed con- 
viction — the very language of which is so closely 
assimilated to Paul's — except a little characteristic 
fervency of tone? 

Well, it is to be admitted at once that there is 
much in Paul's great statement which is not pe- 
culiar to it. The assurance of God's providential 
conduct of the whole complex of the universe that 
He has made; the conviction that in His control 
of the details of life He will not forget those who 
are specially well-pleasing to Him; the firm faith 
therefore that the path of happiness is to see to it 
that we are well-pleasing to God ; that, as all that 
occurs is of God's ordering, so all that occurs to 
the friends of God will work out good to them — 
this is, of course, of the very essence of natural 
religion, and he who really believes in a personal 


God clothed with ethical attributes, must needs 
believe it. All the more shame, then, when men 
who profess to believe in such a God — to be The- 
ists — relax the height of this great and most fun- 
damental faith, as many of the heathen have done; 
as some even of our modern Christian teachers 
have done, asking doubtfully or denyingly, for 
example, whether God sends trouble, as if trouble 
could come to one of God's beloved ones without 
His behest, — and totally failing to retain, we will 
not say Paul's height, but even the height of the 
higher heathenism, which could see that it is a 
higher as well as a truer view that trouble is an in- 
strument of God's good to God's friends. Never- 
theless, there is more in Paul's statement than was 
reached by the heathen sage; something more even 
perhaps than underlies the more enlightened and 
more penetrating view of Joseph. 

We cannot stop to develop the differences in 
detail. But we may note briefly at least one of 
the most fundamental of them, one so funda- 
mental that it transforms everything. 

This is the difference in the ground of the assur- 
ance which is cherished. The ground on which 
the heathen sage founded his conviction was the 
essential righteousness of the expectation. God 
owes to those who love Him different treatment 
from that accorded to those who hate Him. Pos- 
sibly we may think that the modern heathen rise 
a step higher when they substitute the idea of 


goodness for that of bare righteousness, and say 
that God will do good to those who love Him be- 
cause He is essentially love and will do good to all 
men. The ground of Paul's assurance is some- 
thing far higher. It is not merely an inference 
from a conception of God not obviously validated 
by a broad survey of His works. It is not even 
an inference from the ineradicable and thoroughly 
authenticated conviction that He is righteous. It 
is an express declaration of God's own. It is a 
"revelation from heaven" spoken by the lips of 
prophets and of the Son Himself. 

To the heathen God is to bless His friends be- 
cause they are His friends; to Paul they are His 
friends because God blesses them. The whole 
basis of the heathen's conviction is a judgment in 
righteousness; it is purely abstract; if a man is 
righteous then God must treat him as such. 
Granted. But, is a man righteous .^^ I — am I 
righteous.'^ If a man is righteous, God will, un- 
doubtedly, treat him as such; God owes him good 
and not evil. But I — I myself — how will God 
treat me? Will that depend on whether I am now 
righteous? And on what my past sins deserve? 
Well, w^ho is now righteous? And what do my 
past sins deserve? For the righteous man — who 
has no present and no past sins to come into con- 
sideration — this may be satisfactory enough. But 
where is that righteous man? This is what we 
mean by saying that the heathen's proposition is 


purely abstract. It is true enough; but it is of 
no personal interest to sinners. 

Paul was thinking not of righteous men but of 
sinners. It is concerning sinners that he is talk- 
ing, concerning those who had had and were having 
the experience of the seventh chapter of Romans. 
Essentially different, his good tidings to sinners 
from the cold deduction of reason which Plato 
offers to the just! And this is the exact differ- 
ence: righteous men amid the evils of earth seek 
a theodicy — they want a justification of God; 
sinners do not need a theodicy — all too clear to 
them is the reason of their sufferings — they want 
a consolation, a justification from God. Paul's 
words are in essence, then, not a theodicy but a 
consolation. Such a consolation can rest on noth- 
ing but a revelation; and Paul founds it on a rev- 
elation which he represents as of immanent knowl- 
edge in the Church: "We know," says he, "that 
all things work together for good to them that 
love God." We bless God that we know it! For 
we are sinners, and what hope have we save in a 
God who is gracious rather than merely just? 


1 Cor. 3:5-9:— "What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? 
Ministers through whom ye believed; and each as the Lord gave 
to him. I planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. 
So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that water- 
eth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and 
he that watereth are one: but each shall receive his own reward 
according to his own labour. For we are God's fellow- workers: ye 
are God's husbandry, God's building." 

These verses form a natural section of this 
Epistle. The Corinthians had sent a letter to 
the Apostle, making inquiries on several important 
matters. But when the Apostle came to make 
reply, he had matters to speak to them about 
which were far more important than any of the 
questions asked in their letter. Trusty friends 
had reported to him the serious deterioration 
which the Corinthian Church was undergoing, 
the strange, as we may think them, and certainly 
outbreaking, immoralities into which they were 
falling. Chiefest of these, because most funda- 
mental and most fecund of other evils, was the 
raging party spirit, which had arisen among them. 
Greek-like, the Corinthians were not satisfied 
with the matter of the simple Gospel, in whatever 
form, but had begun to clothe its truths (and to 
obscure them in the act) in philosophical garb 
and rhetorical finery; and had split themselves 



into factions, far from tolerant of one another, 
rallying around special teachers and glorifying, 
each, a special mode of presentation. So far 
had this gone that the rival parties had long ago 
broken the peace of the Church, and were threat- 
ening its unity. 

Paul devotes himself first of all to the sham- 
ing of this spirit and the elimination of its results. 
In doing so he cuts to the roots. He begins with 
a rebuke of the violence of the Corinthians' party 
spirit, sarcastically suggesting that they had made 
Christ, who was the sole Redeemer of God's 
Church and in whom were all, a share; and so par- 
celled Him out to one faction — as if others had 
had Paul to die for them and had been baptized in 
his name, and so on. He then sets himself seri- 
ously to refute the whole basis of their factions and 
to place firmly under his readers' feet the elements 
of the truth. To do this, he first elucidates the 
relation of wisdom — philosophy and rhetoric, we 
would say now — to the Gospel; pointing out that 
the Gospel is not a product of human wisdom and 
is not to be commended by it; although, no doubt, 
it proclaims a Divine wisdom of its own to those 
who are capable of receiving it. Thus he de- 
stroys the very nerve of their strife. Then, with 
our present passage, he turns to the parallel oc- 
casion of their strife and explains the relation 
of the human agents through which it is propa- 
gated to the Gospel. This he declares to be none 


other than the relation of hired servants to the 
husbandry of the good-man of the farm. Pro- 
ceeding to details, Paul and Apollos, he declares, 
are alike but servants, each doing whatever work 
is committed to him, work which may no doubt 
differ, externally considered, in kind, though it is 
exactly the same in this — that it is nothing but 
hired service, while it is God that gives the in- 
crease. There is no difference in this respect; 
not that the work is not deserving of reward; 
reward, however, not as if the increase was theirs 
but only proportioned to the amount of their 
work as labour. The harvest is God's; that har- 
vest which they themselves are. They, the 
labourers, are fellow-labourers only, working for 
God. They, the Corinthians, do not belong to 
them; they are God's husbandry, God's building. 

Thus the Apostle not only intimates but em- 
phatically asserts that the Church of God is not 
the product of the ministry; no, nor is any indi- 
vidual Christian. Every Christian and the Church 
at large is God's gift. God sets workmen to labour 
in His vineyard; and rewards them richly for 
their labour, paying each all his wages. But these 
labourers, it is not theirs to give the increase, nor 
even to choose their work. It is theirs merely to 
work and to do each the special work which God 
appoints. The vineyard is God's and so is the 
increase, — which God Himself gives. 

Now, looking at this general teaching of the 


passage in a broad and somewhat loose way, we 
see that the following important truths are in- 

(1) Christianity is a work which God accom- 
plishes in the heart and in the world. It may even 
be said to be the work of God : the work that God 
has set Himself to do in this dispensation, and 
hence the second creation. 

(2) Shifting the emphasis a bit, we perceive 
that the passage emphasizes the fact that Chris- 
tianity is a work which is accomplished in the 
heart and in the world directly by God. 

(3) Men are but God's instruments, tools, 
"agents" (ministers) in performing this work. 
They do not act in it for God, that is, instead of 
God; but God acts through them. It is He that 
gives the increase. 

(4) All men engaged in this work are in equally 
honourable employment. If one plants and an- 
other waters and another reaps, it is all "one." 
They are all only fellow-labourers under God; equal 
in His sight and to be rewarded, not according to 
what they did, but according to how they did it. 
This would not be true if man made the increase; 
but the reaper no more makes the harvest than 
the sower. Nor would it be true if the reaper had 
the increase. But it is not the reaper's "field." 
He is a hired labourer, not an owner. It is God's 
field. Each gets his wages; little or much ac- 
cording to the quality of his work. Wages are 


measured fey labour, not results. And therefore it 
is all one to you and me, as labourers in God's field, 
whether He sets us to plough, plant, water or reap. 

Looking at these truths in turn: 

What an encouragement it is to the Christian 
worker to know that Christianity is, so to speak 
(in the figure of the text), the crop which God the 
great husbandman has set Himself to plant and to 
raise in this "season" in which we live. There- 
fore this dispensation is called "the year of sal- 
vation." And therefore, when pleading a little 
later with these same Corinthians to receive the 
grace of God not in vain, Paul clinches the ap- 
peal with the pointed declaration that now, this 
dispensation, is that accepted time, that day of 
salvation, at last come, to which all the prophets 
pointed, for which all the saints of God had 
longed from the beginning of the world. It is 
therefore again, leaving the figure, that this same 
Apostle declares that our Lord and Saviour has 
for the whole length of this dispensation assumed 
the post of the Ruler of the Universe, in order that 
all things may be administered for the fulfilment 
of His great redemptive purpose; in order that 
all things may, in a word, be made to work to- 
gether for good to those that love Him. Li a 
word, God is a husbandman in this season which 
we call the inter-adventual period; and the crop 
that He is planting and watering and is to reap is 
His Church. 


No wonder our Saviour declared the Kingdom 
of Heaven like unto a sower who went forth to 
sow; who spread widely the golden grain, and 
reaped it too, a harvest of many-fold yield. For 
God's husbandry cannot fail. Other husband- 
men are not in this wholly unlike their hired ser- 
vants: they plant and water, — but they cannot 
compel life; and what may be the results of their 
labour they know not. The floods may come, the 
winds may blow, the sun may parch the earth, 
the enemy may destroy the grain. But God gives 
the increase. It is therefore that the Redeemer 
sits on the throne, that floods and rain and sun — 
all the secret alchemy of nature — may be in His 
control, that "all things shall work together for 
good to them that love Him." There, I say, is 
our encouragement. Christianity is the work of 
God, the work He has set Himself to do in this 
age in which we live. As we go forth as His ser- 
vants to plant and water, we may go upheld by a 
deathless hope. The harvest cannot fail. WTien 
the sands of time run out and God sends forth 
His reapers, the angels, there will be His harvest 
thick on the ground — and the field is the world. 
The purpose of God stands sure. We may not be 
called to see the end from the beginning. But if 
God calls you and me to plant or to water, it is 
our blessed privilege to labour on in hope. 

All this is just because the result is not ours to 
produce or to withhold. It is God that gives 


the increase. As Christianity is the work which 
God has set before Himself to accompKsh in this 
age; so Christianity in the world and in the heart 
is a work which God alone can accomplish. It is 
not in the power of any man to make a Christian, 
much less to make the Church — that great or- 
ganized body of Christ, every member of which is 
a recreated man. Why, we cannot make our own 
bodies; how much less the body of Christ! If 
in this work Paul was nothing and Apollos noth- 
ing, what are we, their weak and unworthy suc- 
cessors! This is the second great lesson our pas- 
sage has to teach us; or, rather, we may better 
say this is the great lesson it teaches, for it was 
just to teach this that it was written. The fault 
of the Corinthians was that they had forgotten 
who was the husbandman, who alone gave the in- 
crease. Hence their divisions, making Christ only 
the share of one party, while others looked to Paul 
or Apollos or Cephas, just as if they stood related 
to the harvest in something of the same way as 
Christ. Nay, says Paul, Christ alone is Lord of 
the harvest. It is God alone who can give the 

Paul had reason to know this in his own 
experience. He knew how he had been gath- 
ered into the Kingdom. He was soon to ac- 
quire new reason for acknowledging it, in that 
journey of his from Ephesus to Macedonia, in 
which, while his heart was elsewhere, all unknown 


to himself God was leading him in triumph, 
compelling ever-increasing accessions to his 
train. Nor did he ever stint his declaration of it. 
Thus, take that passage (Eph. 2:10), where he, 
completing a long statement of God's gracious 
dealings with Christians in quickening them into 
newness of life, without obscurity or hesitation 
outlines the whole process as a creative work of 
God. " For it is by grace that ye are saved, through 
faith: nor is this of yourselves, it is God's gift; 
not of works, lest some one should boast. For 
we are His workmanship — creatures — created in 
Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath 
afore prepared that we should walk in them." 
This is Paul's teaching everywhere: that as it is 
God who created us men, so it is God who has re- 
created us Christians. And the one in as direct 
and true a sense as the other. As He used agents 
in the one case — our natural generation (for none 
of us are born men without parents), so He may 
use instruments in the other, our spiritual regen- 
eration (for none of us are born Christians where 
there is no Word). But in both cases, it is 
God and God alone who gives the increase. 

Let us not shrink from this teaching; it is the 
basis of our hope. Though we be Pauls and Apol- 
loses we cannot save a soul; though we be as elo- 
quent as Demosthenes, as subtle as Aristotle, as 
convincing as Plato, as persistent as Socrates, we 
cannot save. And though we be none of these. 


but a plain man with lisping lips, that can but let 
fall the Gospel truth in broken phrases — we need 
no eloquent Aaron for our prophet. We need 
only God for our Master. It is not we who save, 
it is God ; and our place is not due to our learning 
or our rhetoric or our graces, it is due to the hon- 
ouring of God, who has mercy on whom He will 
have mercy, and whom He will, He hardens. 

Hence we have the great consolation of knowing 
that the responsibility of fruitage to our work does 
not depend absolutely on us. We are not the 
husbandman; the field is not ours; its fruitage is 
not dependent on or limited by our ability to 
produce it. All Christian ministers are but God's 
"agents" (for that is the ultimate implication of 
the term used), employed by Him to secure His 
purposes; God's instruments, God's tools. It is 
God who plans the cultivation, determines the 
sowing and sends us to do it. Now this is to 
lower our pride. Some ministers act as if they 
owned the field; they lord it over God's heritage. 
More feel as if they had produced all the results; 
made, "created," the fruit. They pride them- 
selves on the results of their work and compare 
themselves to others' disadvantage with their 
neighbours in the fruits granted to their ministry. 
This is like a reaper boasting over the sower or 
ploughman, as if he had made the crop it has been 
allowed him to harvest. Others feel depressed, 
cast down, at the smallness of the fruitage it has 


been allowed them to see from their work, and 
begin to suspect that they are not called to the 
ministry at all, because the work given them 
to do was not reaping. And herein is the con- 
solation: just because we are not doing God's 
work for Him, but He is doing His own work 
through us; just because we do what work He 
appoints to us; not we but He is responsible for 
the harvest. All that is required of stewards is 
that they be found faithful. 

Hence — and this is the final and greatest con- 
solation to us as ministers — it ought to be a mattei* 
of indifference to us what work God gives us to 
do in His husbandry. Reaping is no more honour- 
able than sowing; watering no less honourable 
than harvesting. Men disturb themselves too 
much over the kind of work they are assigned to, 
and can scarcely believe they are working for God 
unless they are harvesting all the time. But in 
the great organized body of labour it is as in 
the organized body to which Paul compares the 
Church later: if all were reapers, where were the 
sowing, where were the cultivating, where the 
watering? And if no sowing, and no watering, 
where were the reaping .^^ It is not ours to deter- 
mine what work we are to do. It is for us to de- 
termine how we do it. For none of us will fail 
of our wages and the wages are not proportioned 
to the kind of work, as if the reaper because he 
reaped would have all the reward. The field 


is not liis, and the harvest is not his. He does 
not get the crop because he reaped it. He gets 
just what the planter and waterer get, his wages. 
Wages, I say, not proportioned to the kind of 
work, but to the labour he does. Each one, says 
Paul, shall receive "his own reward" according 
to his own labour. The amount of labour, not the 
department of work, is the norm of our reward. 
What a consolation this is to the obscure work- 
man to whom God has given much labour and, 
few results; reward is proportioned to the labour, 
not the results ! And this for a very good reason. 
God apportions the work on the one hand and 
gives the increase on the other. But it is we that 
do the labour. And, of course, we are rewarded 
according to what is done by us, not God. Let 
us then labour on in whatever sphere God gives 
it to us to labom', content, happy, strenuous, un- 
tiring, determined only to do God's work in God's 
way; not seeking to intrude into work to which He 
has not appointed us, and not repining because He 
has given us this work and not that. Each one 
to his own labour, and God the re warder of all! 


1 Cor. 10:16, 17: — "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not 
a communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, 
is it not a communion of the body of Christ? Seeing that we, 
who are many, are one bread, one body: for we all partake of the 
one bread." 

There are few injunctions as to methods 
of interpretation more necessary or more fruitful 
than the simple one. Interpret historically. 
That is to say, read your text in the light of the 
historical circumstances in which it was written, 
and not according to the surroundings in which, 
after say two thousand years, you may find your- 
self. And there is no better illustration of the 
importance of this injunction than the interpre- 
tations which have been put on the passages in 
the New Testament which speak of the Lord's 
Supper. Little will be hazarded in saying that 
each expositor brings his own point of view to the 
interpretation of these passages, and seems in- 
capable of putting himself in the point of sight 
of the New Testament writers themselves. He 
who reads the several comments of the chief 
commentators, for instance, on our present pas- 
sage, quickly feels himself in atmospheres of very 
varied compositions, which have nothing in com- 
mon except their absolute dissimilarity to that 



which Paul's own passage breathes. If we are 
ever to understand what the Lord's Supper was 
intended by the founder of Christianity to be, we 
must manage somehow to escape from the com- 
mentators back to Paul and Paul's Master. Here 
then is a specially pressing necessity for inter- 
preting according to the historical circumstances. 

The allusion to the Lord's Supper in our pres- 
ent passage, it will be noted, is purely incidental. 
The Apostle is reasoning with the Corinthians on 
a totally different matter; on a question of casu- 
istry which affected their every-day life. Im- 
mersed in a heathen society, intertwined with 
every act of the life of which was some heathen 
ordinance, the early Christian was exposed at 
every step to the danger of participating in idol- 
atrous worship. One of the places at which he 
was thus menaced with what we may call con- 
structive apostacy was in the very provision for 
meeting his need of daily food. The victims of- 
fered in sacrifice to heathen divinities provided 
the common meat-supply of the community. If 
one were invited to a social meal with a friend, it 
was to an idol's feast that he was bidden. If he 
even bought meat in the markets, it was a por- 
tion of the idol sacrifice alone that he could pur- 
chase. How, in such circumstances, was he to 
avoid idolatry.^ 

The Apostle devotes a number of paragraphs in 
the first Epistle to the Corinthians to solving this 


pressing question. The wisdom and moderation 
with which he deals with it are striking. His 
fmidamental proposition is that an idol is nothing 
in the world, and meats offered to idols are noth- 
ing after all but meats, good or bad as the case 
may be, and are to be used simply as such, on the 
principle that the earth is the Lord's and the full- 
ness thereof. But. side by side with this, he lays 
a second proposition, that any involvement in 
idol worship is idolatry and must be shunned by 
all who would be servants of the One True God 
and His Son. ^Miether any special act of par- 
taking of meats offered to idols involves sharing 
an idol worship or not, will depend mainly on the 
subjective state of the participant: and his free- 
dom with respect to it is conditioned only by his 
debt of love to his fellow Christians, who may or 
may not be as enlightened as he is. The Corin- 
thians appear to have been a heady set and the 
Apostle evidently feels it to be the more pressing 
need to restrain them from hasty and unguarded 
use of their new-foimd freedom. He does not 
urge them to treat the idols as nothing. He urges 
them to avoid entanglement with idolatrous acts. 
And our passage is a part of his argument to se- 
cure their avoidance of such idolatrous acts. 

The argument here turns on a matter of fact 
which would be entirely lucid to the readers for 
whom it was first intended, but can be fathomed 
by us only by placing ourselves in their historical 


position. Its whole force depends on the readers' 
ready understanding of the nature and signifi- 
cance of a sacrificial feast. This was essentially 
the same under all sacrificial systems. The eat- 
ing of the victim offered whether by the IsraeUte 
in obedience to the Di\Tne ordinances of the Old 
Covenant, or by the heathen in Corinth, meant 
essentially the same thing to the participant. 
Therefore the Apostle begins the passage by ap- 
pealing to the intelligence of his former heathen 
readers and submitting the matter to their natural 
judgment. He asks them themselves to judge 
whether it is consistent to partake in the sacri- 
ficial feasts of both heathen and Christian. This 
is the gist of the whole passage. 

Participation in a sacrificial feast bore such a 
meaning, stood in such a relation to the act of 
sacrifice itself, that it was ob^-ious to the meanest 
intelligence that no one could properly partake 
both of the \'ictims offered to idols and of that 
One Victim offered at Calvary to God. To feel 
this as the Corinthians were expected to feel it, 
we must put ourselves in their historical position. 
They were heathen, lived in a sacrificial system, 
and knew by nature what participation in the 
victim offered in sacrifice meant. We may put 
ourselves most readily in their place by attending 
to what Paul says here of the Jewish sacrificial 
feasts, which he adduces as altogether parallel, 
so far, with the significance of the same act 


on heathen ground. "Consider Israel after the 
flesh," he says, "are not those that eat the sac- 
rifices, communicants in the altar?" Here it is 
all in a nut-shell. All those who partake of the 
victim offered in sacrifice were by that act made 
sharers in the act of sacrifice itself. They — this 
body of participants — were technically the offerers 
of the sacrifice, to whose benefit it inured, and 
whose responsible act it was. Whether a Greek, 
sharing in the victim offered to Artemis or Aphro- 
dite, or a Jew sharing in the victim offered to Je- 
hovah, or a Christian sharing in that One Vic- 
tim who offered Himself up without spot to God, 
the principle was the same; he who partook of 
the victim shared in the altar — in the sacrificial 
act, in its religious import and in its benefits. 
Is it not capable of being left to any man's judg- 
ment in these premises, whether one who shared in 
the One Offering of Christ to God could inno- 
cently take part in the offerings which had been 
dedicated to Artemis .^^ 

The point of interest for us to-day in all this 
turns on the implication of this argument as to 
the nature of the Lord's Supper in the view of 
Paul and of his readers in the infant Christian 
community at Corinth. Clearly to Paul and the 
Corinthians, the Lord's Supper was just a sacri- 
ficial feast. As such — as the Christians' sacri- 
ficial feast — it is put in comparison here with the 
sacrificial feasts of the Jews and the heathen. The 


whole pith of the argument is that it is a sacrificial 
feast. And if we wish to know what the Lord's 
Supper is, here is our proper starting point. It is 
the sacrificial feast of Christians, and bears the 
same relation to the sacrifice of Christ that the 
heathen sacrificial feasts did to their sacrifices 
and that the Jewish sacrificial feasts did to their 
sacrifices. It is a sacrificial feast, offering the 
victim, in symbols of bread and wine, to our par- 
ticipation, and signifying that all those who par- 
take of the victim in these symbols, are sharers in 
the altar, are of those for whom the sacrifice was 
o£Pered and to whose benefit it inures. 

Are we then to ask, what is the nature of the 
Lord's Supper .f^ A Babel of voices may rise about 
us. One will say. It is the badge of a Christian 
man's profession. Another, It is the bloodless 
sacrifice continuously offered up by the vested 
priest to God in behalf of the sins of men. His- 
tory says, briefly and pointedly, it is the Christian 
passover. And, so saying, it will carry tis back 
to that upper room where we shall see Jesus and 
His disciples gathered about the passover meal, 
the typical sacrificial feast. There lay the lamb 
before Him; the lamb which represented Himself 
who was the Lamb slain before the foundation 
of the world. And there was the company of 
those for whom this particular lamb was offered 
and who now, by partaking of its flesh, were to 
claim their part in the sacrifice. And there 


stood the Antitype, who had for centuries been 
represented year after year by lambs like this. 
And He is now about to offer Himself up in ful- 
filment of the type, for the sins of the world! 
No longer will it be possible to eat this typical 
sacrifice; typical sacrifices were now to cease, in 
their fulfilment in the Antitype. And so our 
Lord, in the presence of the last typical lamb, 
passes it by and taking a loaf, when He had given 
thanks, broke it and said. This — I hope the em- 
phasis will not be missed that falls on this word, 
this — no longer the lamb but this loaf — is my 
body which is broken for you; this do in remem- 
brance of me. And in like manner also the cup 
after supper, saying, This cup is the New Cove- 
nant in my blood; this do in remembrance of me; 
for as often as ye eat this bread and drink this 
cup, ye proclaim the Lord's death, until He come. 
How simple, how significant, the whole is, when 
once it is approached from the historical point of 
view. The Lord's Supper is the continuation of 
the passover feast. The symbol only being 
changed, it is the passover feast. And the eating 
of the bread and drinking of the wine mean pre- 
cisely what partaking of the lamb did then. It is 
communion in the altar. Christ our Passover is 
sacrificed for us; and we eat the passover when- 
ever we eat this bread and drink this wine in 
remembrance of Him. In our communing thus 
in the body and the blood of Christ we partake of 


the altar, and are made beneficiaries of the sacrifice 
He wrought out upon it. 

The primary lesson of our text to-day is, then, 
that in partaking of the Lord's Supper we claim a 
share in the sacrifice which Christ wrought out on 
Calvary for the sins of men. This is the funda- 
mental meaning of the Lord's Supper as a sacri- 
ficial feast. The bread and wine of the Lord's 
Supper represent the body and blood of Christ; 
but they represent that body and blood not abso- 
lutely but as a sacrifice — as broken and outpoured 
for us. We are not to puzzle our minds and 
hearts by asking how His blood and body become 
ours; how they, having become ours, benefit us; 
and the like. We are to recognize from the be- 
ginning that they were broken and outpoured in 
sacrifice for us, and that we share in them only 
that, by the law of sacrificial feast, we may partake 
of the benefits obtained by the sacrifice. It is as a 
sacrifice and only so that we enter into this union. 
A second lesson of our text to-day is, that in 
the Lord's Supper we take our place in the body 
of -Christ's redeemed ones and exhibit the oneness 
of His people. The text lays special stress on this. 
The appeal of the Apostle is that by partaking of 
these symbols Christians mark themselves on the 
one hand off from the Jews and heathen, as a body 
apart, having their own altar and sacrifice, and, 
on the other hand, bind themselves together in 
internal unity, for "by all having a share out of 


the one loaf, we who are many are one body be- 
cause there is (only) one loaf." The whole Chris- 
tian world is a passover company gathered around 
the paschal lamb, and by their participation in it 
exhibiting their essential unity. When we bless 
the cup of blessing, it is a communion in the blood of 
Christ; when we break the loaf, it is a communion 
in the body of Christ; and because it is one loaf, 
however many we are, we are one body, as all shar- 
ing from one loaf. The Apostle very strongly em- 
phasizes this idea of communion here; and it is ac- 
cordingly no accident that we have so largely come 
to call the Lord's Supper the "Communion." It 
is the symbol of the oneness of Christians. 

Another lesson which our text to-day brings us 
is that the root of our communion with one an- 
other as Christians lies in our common relation to 
our Lord. We are "many," says the Apostle; 
that is what we are in ourselves. But we "all" 
— all of this "many" — are "one" — one body, be- 
cause there is but one loaf and we all share from 
that one loaf. Christ is one and we come into 
relations of communion with one another only 
through our common relation to Him. The root 
of Christian union is, therefore, the uniqueness, 
the solity of Christ. There is but one salvation; 
but one Christian Kfe; because there is but one 
Saviour and one source of life; and all those who 
share it must needs stand side by side to imbibe it 
from the one fountain. 


2 Cor. 4:13: — "But having the same Spirit of faith, according 
to that which is written, I beUeved, and therefore did I speak; 
we also believe, and therefore also we speak." 

This verse is a declaration on the Apostle's 
part of the grounds of his courage and faithfulness 
in preaching the glorious Gospel of Christ. The 
circumstances which attended his proclamation 
of this Gospel were of the most oppressive. In 
the preceding verses we have a picture of them 
which is drawn by means of a series of declara- 
tions which rise, one after another, to a most 
trying climax. He says that in the prosecution 
of his work he is in every way pressed, perplexed, 
pursued, smitten down. Here is a vivid picture 
of the defeated warrior, who is not only pressed 
by the foe, but put at his wits, ends, — not merely 
thus discouraged but put to flight, — not merely 
pursued but smitten down to the earth. A lurid 
picture of the befallings of Paul as a minister of 
Christ amid the spiritual conflicts on this side and 
that, in Galatia and in Corinth! Nevertheless 
things have not come to an end with him. Side 
by side with this series of befallings he places a 
contrasting series which exhibits the marvellous 
continuance of the Apostle in his well-doing, in 
spite of such dreadful happenings to him. Though 



he is in every way pressed yet he is not brought to 
his last straits; though he is in every way per- 
plexed, yet he has not gone to despair; though he 
is pursued yet he is not overtaken; though he is 
actually smitten down he is yet not destroyed. 

In the prosecution of Paul's work as a minister 
of Christ, there is thus a marvellous co-existence 
of experiences the most desperate and of deliver- 
ances the most remarkable. It is as if destruc- 
tion had continually befallen him; yet ever out 
of destruction he rises afresh to the continuance 
of his work. In this remarkable contrast of his 
experiences the Apostle sees a dramatic re- 
enactment of Christ's saving work, who died that 
He might live and might bring life to the world. 
In it he sees himself, he says, ever re-enacting the 
putting to death of Jesus, that the life also of 
Jesus may be manifested in his body. As Jesus 
died and rose again, so he daily dies in the service 
of Christ and comes to life again; and so, abiding 
in life, he is ever delivered to death for Jesus' 
sake that the life also of Jesus might be manifested 
in his mortal flesh. Oh, marvellous destiny of 
the followers of Christ, in the very nature and cir- 
cumstances of their service to placard before the 
world the great lesson of the redemption of 
Christ — the great lesson of life by death ; to man- 
ifest thus to all men the life of Jesus and the life 
from Jesus springing constantly out of His death. 
Thus the very life-circumstances of Paul become a 


preached Gospel. They manifest Christ and His 
work for souls. They manifest it. For the dying 
is for Paul and the life for his hearers. 

Now Paul gives a twofold account of those cir- 
cumstances in which he preached the Gospel. He 
assigns them ultimately to the purpose of God. 
This great treasure of the glorious Gospel has been 
put into such earthen vessels for the very pur- 
pose of more fully manifesting its divine glory. 
In contrast with its vehicle, the power of the mes- 
sage is all the more discernible. It is just that 
the exceeding greatness of its power may be seen 
to be of God that it is delivered to men in vessels 
whose exceeding weakness may be apparent. On 
the other hand, that these earthen vessels are able 
to endure the strain put upon them in conveying 
these treasures, is itself from God. Paul at- 
tributes it to God's upholding power, operating 
through faith. That in the midst of such trials 
he is enabled to endure; that though smitten down 
continuously he is not destroyed; that though 
dying daily he still lives with a living Gospel still 
on his lips; it is all due to the support of his firm 
conviction and faith. "So then, it is death that 
worketh in us, but life in you, and having the 
same Spirit of faith, according as it is written, I 
believed and, therefore, did I speak; we also be- 
lieve and therefore speak, since we know that He 
that raised up Jesus shall raise us up also with 
Jesus, and shall present us with you." Here are 


the sources of the Apostle's strength and of his 
courage. It is only because of his firm faith in 
the Gospel he preaches that he can endure through 
the trials into which its service has immersed him. 
With a less clear conviction and less firm faith in 
it, he would long ago have succumbed to the evils 
of his life and his lips have long ago become dumb. 
But he believed; and, therefore, though earth 
and hell combined to destroy him, he could not 
but speak. Let earthly trials multiply; beyond 
the daily deaths of earth there was an eternal life 
in store for him; and the more he could rescue 
from death to that life, the more multiplied grace 
would redound to increased thanksgiving and 
abound to God's glory. In the power of this 
faith the Apostle can face and overcome the trials 
of life. 

There are many important lessons that may 
come to us from observing this declaration of the 
Apostle's faith. 

Beginning at the remoter side we may be sur- 
prised to observe that he seeks the noi-m of his 
faith in the Old Testament saints. "Having the 
same Spirit of faith," he says, "according as it is 
written, I believed, and therefore did I speak" — 
referring for the model of faith back to the words 
of this hero Psalmist. Now we may not be ac- 
customed to think of the Old Testament saints as 
the heroes of faith. The characteristic emotion of 
Old Testament religion, we are accustomed to say^ 


was awe or even fear. The characteristic ex- 
pression of it is summed up in the term, "The fear 
of the Lord." The New Testament on the other 
hand is the dispensation of faith. And if we have 
consideration only for the prevaiHng language of 
the Old Testament this is true enough. The 
word "faith" is scarcely an Old Testament word; 
it occurs but twice in the English Old Testament, 
and it is disputable whether on either occasion 
it fairly — or at least fully — represents the He- 
brew. Even the word "to believe" applied to 
divine things is rare in the Old Testament. 

But the word and the thing are different matters. 
And it may be doubted whether the conceptions 
of awe, fear, and of faith, trust, are so antagonistic 
as is commonly represented. Certainly rever- 
ence and faith are correlative conceptions. A 
God whom we do not fear with religious rever- 
ence, we cannot have such faith in as the Apostle's. 
And certainly the New Testament writers do 
always look to the Old Testament saints as the 
heroes of faith. This is the burden of one of the 
most magnificent passages in the New Testament, 
the eleventh chapter of Hebrews. And of others 
too. It is the faith of Abraham which is the 
standing model of faith to both Paul and James; 
and it is he who both in the subjective and ob- 
jective senses of the word is represented to us as 
the Father of the Faithful. Let it be allowed 
that these heroes of faith lived in the twilight of 


knowledge; knowledge and faith stand in rela- 
tion to one another, but are not the measure of 
one another. If there can be no faith where there 
is no knowledge, on the other hand it is equally 
true that the realm of dim knowledge is often the 
region of strong faith, — for when we walk by sight, 
faith has no place. No; he that believes in Jesus 
whom he has seen, must yield in point of heroism 
of faith and the blessedness promised to it, to 
him who having not seen yet has believed. Those 
great men of God of old, not being weak in faith, 
believed in the twilight of revelation, and waxing 
strong, died in faith; and we could wish nothing 
higher for ourselves than that we might be like 
them in their faithful faith. 

It is observable next that the Apostle attributes 
the faith of the Old Testament heroes to whom he 
would direct our eyes as the norm of faith, to the 
work of the Holy Ghost. He felicitates himself 
not merely on having the same quality of faith 
with them. He looks deeper. The ground of 
rejoicing in their fellowship is that he shares with 
them the "same Spirit of faith." "Having the 
same Spirit of faith," he says. It may be doubted, 
once again, if we should have naturally spoken in 
this way. We may be accustomed to think of the 
Holy Spirit as an esssentiall}' New Testament pos- 
session; and to conceive, in a more or less for- 
mulated manner, of the saints of the Old Testa- 
ment as left to their own native powers in their 


serving of God. Heroes of faith as they were, it 
would be peculiarly difficult, however, to believe 
that they reached the height of their pious at- 
tainment apart from the gracious operations of 
the Spirit of God. Or shall we say that only in 
New Testament times men are dead in sin, and 
only in these days of the completed Gospel and 
of the New Covenant do men need the almighty 
power of God to raise them from their spiritual 

Certainly the Bible lends no support to such a 
notion. Less is said of the gracious operations of 
the Spirit in the Old Testament than in the New, 
but to say less of it is one thing and its absence is 
quite another. And there is enough in the Old 
Testament itself — by prayer of Psalmist that the 
Holy Spirit should not be taken away from him, 
by statement of historian that through the Spirit 
God gave this one and that one a new heart, by 
assurance of prophet that the Spirit of God is the 
author of all right belief and of all good conduct, — 
to assure us that then, too, on Him depended all 
the exercises of piety, to Him was due all the holy 
aspirations and all the good accomplishments of 
every saint of God. And certainly the New Tes- 
tament tells us in repeated instances that the Holy 
Spirit was active throughout the period of the Old 
Dispensation, in all the varieties of activities 
which characterize the New. The difference be- 
tween the two lies not in any difference in the utter 


dependence of men on Him, or in the nature of 
His operations, but in their extent and aim with 
reference to the Hfe of the Kingdom of God. Our 
present passage is one of those tolerably numerous 
New Testament ones in which the gracious oper- 
ations of the Spirit in the Old Covenant are as- 
sumed. Paul here tells us that the faith of the 
Old Testament saints was the product of God's 
Holy Spirit; and he claims for himself nothing 
more than what he asserts for them. "Having 
the same Spirit of faith," he says. He is content — 
nay, he is full of joy — to have the same Spirit 
working faith in him that worked faith in them. 
He claims no superiority in the matter. If he 
has a like faith, it is because he is made by God's 
grace to share in a like fountain of faith. The one 
Spirit who works faith is the common possession 
of them and of him; and therein he finds his high- 
est privilege and his greatest glory. What David 
had of the operations of the Spirit, that is what 
Paul represents as the height of Christian privi- 
lege to possess. 

It may not be wholly needless to observe further 
the naturalness of Paul's ascription of faith to the 
working of the Holy Spirit — whether under the 
Old or the New Dispensation. He means to ex- 
press the confidence he has in the glorious Gospel 
which he proclaims. He does not say, however, 
simply "having a confident faith." He says, 
"having the Spirit of faith," the same Spirit of 


faith which wrought in the Psalmist. So much 
was faith to him the product of the Spirit that 
he thinks of it in terms of its origin. Clearly to 
him, no Spirit, no faith. Faith is, therefore, most 
absolutely conceived by the Apostle as the product 
not of our own powers but of the Spirit of God, 
and it is inconceivable to him that it can exist 
apart from His gift. 

We may sometimes fall short of the Apostle's 
conception and fancy that we can — nay, that we 
must — ^first believe before the Spirit comes to us. 
No, it is the Spirit who gives faith. Faith is the 
gift of God in its innermost essence; and the 
Apostle continually thanks God for it, as His gift. 
We find it enumerated in Gal. 5:23 among the 
fruits of the Spirit; in 1 Cor. 12:7 we find it among 
the gifts which the Spirit distributes to men. In 
our present passage it is emphasized as the work 
of the Spirit, by its being used as a characterizing 
description of the Spirit. We do not describe 
or define a thing by something which is common 
to it and others. The possession of a vertebral 
column will not define a man; and we should 
never use the designation of vertebrate as a syn- 
onym of man. That the Spirit is called the 
"Spirit of faith" means that faith does not exist 
except as His gift; its very existence is bound up 
in His working. Just as we call Him the Spirit of 
life, the Spirit of holiness, and the like, because 
all life comes from Him and all holiness is of His 


making, so, when Paul calls Him the Spirit of 
faith, it is the evidence that in Paul's conception 
all faith comes from Him. 

It matters not where faith is found — under 
the Old Testament or the New — in Psalmist or in 
Apostle — or in the distant believers of the Twenti- 
eth Century, — it matters not what degree of faith 
is present, weak, timid faith which scarcely dares 
believe in its own existence, or strong faith that 
can move mountains, — it matters not what of 
divine things be its object, God as our Ruler and 
Governor, the Scriptures as His Word, Christ as 
our Saviour; if it exists at all, in any time, in 
any degree, the Holy Ghost has wrought it. He 
is the Spirit of faith and faith is His unique 

Finally, it will be of interest to us who are 
charged with the same duty of proclaiming the 
Gospel of salvation with which the Apostle was 
charged, to take especial note that he attributes 
that supreme faithfulness and steadfastness which 
pre-eminently characterized his work in the Gos- 
pel to a Spirit-wrought faith in the Gospel which 
he preached. The secret, he tells us, of his ability 
to continue throughout his dreadful trials in the 
work to which he had been called; the secret of 
his power to faint not, that is, not to play the 
coward, but to renounce the hidden things of 
shame and refuse to walk in craftiness or handle 
the Word of God deceitfully; the secret of his 


power to preach a simple Gospel in honest faith- 
fulness in the face of all temptations to please 
men, and to preach the saving Gospel in the face 
of all persecution — was simply that he had a 
hearty and unfeigned faith in it. When we really 
believe the Gospel of the Grace of God — when we 
really believe that it is the power of God unto 
salvation, the only power of salvation in this 
wicked world of ours — it is a comparatively easy 
thing to preach it, to preach it in its purity, to 
preach it in the face of a scoffing, nay, of a trucu- 
lent and murdering world. Here is the secret — 
I do not now say of a minister's power as a preacher 
of God's grace — but of a minister's ability to preach 
at all this Gospel in such a world as we live in. 
Believe this Gospel, and you can and will preach 
it. Let men say what they will, and do what they 
will, — let them injure, ridicule, persecute, slay, — 
believe this Gospel and you will preach it. 

Men often say of some element of the Gospel: 
"I can't preach that." Sometimes they mean 
that the world will not receive this or that. Some- 
times they mean that the world will not endure this 
or that. Sometimes they mean that they cannot 
so preach this or that as to win the respect or the 
sympathy or the acceptance of the world. The 
Gospel cannot be preached.^ Cannot be preached.'^ 
It can be preached if you will believe it. Here is 
the root of all your difficulties. You do not fully 
believe this Gospel! Believe it! Believe it! and 


then it will preach itself! God has not sent us 
into the world to say the most plausible things we 
can think of; to teach men what they already 
believe. He has sent us to preach unpalatable 
truths to a world lying in wickedness; apparently 
absurd truths to men, proud of their intellects; 
mysterious truths to men who are carnal and can- 
not receive the things of the Spirit of God. Shall 
we despair? Certainly, if it is left to us not only 
to plant and to water but also to give the increase. 
Certainly not, if we appeal to and depend upon 
the Spirit of faith. Let Him but move on our 
hearts and we will believe these truths; and, even 
as it is written, I believed and therefore have I 
spoken, we also will believe and therefore speak. 
Let Him but move on the hearts of our hearers 
and they too will believe what He has led us to 
speak. We cannot proclaim to the world that 
the house is afire — it is a disagreeable thing to 
say, scarcely to be risked in the presence of those 
whose interest it is not to believe it? But be- 
lieve it, and how quickly you rush forth to shout 
the unpalatable truth ! So believe it and we shall 
assert to the world that it is lost in its sin, and 
rushing down to an eternal doom; that in Christ 
alone is there redemption; and through the Spirit 
alone can men receive this redemption. What 
care we if it be unpalatable, if it be true? For 
if it be true, it is urgent. 


2 Cor. 6:11-7:1. — "Our mouth is open unto you, O Corinth- 
ians, our heart is enlarged. Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are 
straitened in your own affections. Now for a recompense in like 
kind (I speak as unto my children), be ye also -enlarged. Be not 
unequally yoked with unbelievers: for what fellowship have right- 
eousness and iniquity.? or what communion hath light with dark- 
ness.'' And what concord hath Christ with Belial.? or what portion 
hath a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement hath a 
temple of God with idols? for we are a temple of the living' Ood; 
even as God said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I 
will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come 
ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and 
touch no unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be to you 
a Father, and ye shall be to me sons and daughters, saith the Lord 
Almighty. Having therefore these promises, beloved, let us cleanse 
ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness 
in the fear of God." 

It is not easy to determine with exactitude the 
circumstances which gave occasion to this striking 
paragraph, which stands out so prominently 
on the pages of Second Corinthians as almost to 
separate itself from its context and form a whole 
of its own. Of two things, however, we may be 
reasonably sure. There was a party in the Corin- 
thian Church which we may perhaps fairly de- 
scribe as the party of the Libertines; and out of 
this party, too, there had arisen an opposition to 
the leadership of Paul, and a tendency to accuse 
him of insincerity and self-seeking in his work 



at Corinth. We must picture the Apostle, there- 
fore, as compelled to defend himself and the pur- 
ity of his ministry, in this Epistle, not only against 
a narrow Judaistic formalism, with its touch not, 
taste not, handle not, but also against a loose 
worldliness which was inclined to adapt its Chris- 
tianity to the usages current in the heathen society 
about it. Differing in everything else, both par- 
ties agreed in unwillingness to subject themselves 
unreservedly to the guidance of Paul; and in de- 
fence of themselves represented hfm as acting 
towards the church from interested motives. 

Bearing this in "mind, we may readily under- 
stand how, when in the course of his self-defence 
the Apostle has been led to dwell upon the hard- 
ships he had suffered in the prosecution of his 
mission, he should break off suddenly with an 
appeal to his Corinthians to separate themselves 
from heathen practices and points of view, and 
themselves to walk worthily of the Gospel they 
professed. "See, O Corinthians," he exclaims, 
"how freely I am speaking to you, how widely 
open my heart is to you. You find no constraint 
on my part with reference to you; the only con- 
straint there is between us lies in your own hearts. 
Give me what I give you — I am speaking as to my 
children; open wide your heart to me. Seek not 
your standards of life in the unbelievers about you. 
Remember who you are and what you should be 
as organs of the Holy Spirit; and be not content 


until you have attained that perfect holiness 
which becomes the children of God." So the 
Apostle transforms his defence of his ministry 
into an exhortation to his readers, in which he 
again exercises his ministry of love in a disinter- 
ested plea to them to walk worthily of the Gospel 
of hohness. 

Dr. James Denney in his commentary on this 
Epistle, published in "The Expositor's Bible," 
heads the chapter in which he deals with this 
section, "New Testament Puritanism." On the 
face of it, this is a very good designation for it. 
The note of Puritanism, which is the note of sep- 
aration, certainly throbs through the section. 
"Come ye out from among them and be ye sep- 
arate, saith the Lord" — that assuredly expresses 
the very essence of Puritanism. Or, perhaps, we 
may more precisely say that it is exactly that con- 
formity with the world which, above all things, 
Puritanism dreads, that Paul here declares, almost 
with indignation, to be inconceivable in a true 
Christian. "For what fellowship," he demands 
"is there between righteousness and iniquity? 
Or what communion is there for light with dark- 
ness? Or what concord of Christ with Belial? 
Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 
Or what agreement has a temple of God with 
idols ? " Here certainly is Puritanism at the height 
of its expression. 

Nevertheless we must be careful not to give the 


Apostle's exhortation a turn which does not be- 
long to it. The Apostle is not here requiring of 
Christians a withdrawal from the world, consid- 
ered as the social organism; and most certainly 
he is not asking of them to segregate themselves 
into a community apart, between which and the 
mass of men there shall be no, or only the least 
possible, intercourse. On a former occasion, when 
addressing these same readers, he does indeed 
command them not to keep company with forni- 
cators. But he immediately adds that he means 
this aloofness only as a disciphnary measure 
towards sinning brethren. If a man who is called 
a Christian be a fornicator. Christian fellowship 
must be withdrawn from him, that it may be 
brought home to him that a man cannot be both a 
Christian and a fornicator. But, says the Apos- 
tle, I do not mean that you should not associate 
with fornicators of the world; else you would 
need to remove out of the world — a thing, he im- 
plies, which would be manifestly impossible; and 
let us add, for the leaven which is placed in the 
world, grossly inconsistent with the prosecution of 
its function in the world, which is to leaven the 
whole mass. And if we will scrutinize our pres- 
ent passage closely we shall quickly see that the 
separation which the Apostle is urging here, too, 
is not separation from men but from evil — apply- 
ing, indeed, to the Corinthians in the way of ex- 
hortation what our Lord prayed for in behalf of 


His followers, not that they should be taken out 
of the world, but that they should be kept from 
the evil of the world. The exhortation: "Come 
ye out from among them and be ye separate, 
saith the Lord," is immediately followed by the 
explanation, "And touch no unclean thing." And 
the whole exhortation closes with a poignant 
prayer that they may "cleanse themselves from 
every defilement." It is not from their fellow- 
men that the Apostle would have Christians hold 
themselves aloof; it is from the sin and shame, 
the evil and iniquity, which stains and soils the 
lives of so many of their fellow-men. This is the 
Apostolic variety of Puritanism. 

The opposite impression is perhaps fostered 
among simple Bible readers by the phrase which 
stands in the forefront of the exhortation in our 
English Bibles: "Be not unequally yoked to- 
gether with unbelievers." This certainly appears 
at first sight to represent any commerce with 
unbelievers as indecorous and to forbid it on that 
account. This impression is wholly due, however, 
to the awkwardness of the rendering given to an 
unusual Greek phrase. This Greek phrase is an 
exceedingly awkward one to render; and I am 
not sure that it is possible to give it an English 
equivalent which will convey its exact sense. The 
figure which underlies it is, no doubt, the yoking 
together, in the bizarre way of the East, incon- 
gruous animals for labour, say an ox and an ass. 


And the English version is a very creditable effort 
to bring the figure home to the English reader; 
for surely such a yoking of incongruous animals 
together is a very unequal one. Yet the English 
phrase fails to express the exact shade of meaning 
of the Greek term. This does not say: "Be not 
unequally yoked together with unbelievers" but 
rather, "Become not bearers of an alien yoke 
along with unbelievers" — or, in other words, 
"Take not on yourselves a yoke that does not fit 
you, in order to be with unbelievers." You see 
the point is very different from that which is often 
taken from the English phrase. What is for- 
bidden is not that we should company with un- 
believers; but that we should adopt their points 
of view and their modes of life. It is a question, 
in other words, not of intercourse, but of standards. 
What the Apostle is concerned about is not that 
his converts lived in social communion with their 
heathen neighbours; this he would have them do. 
What he is concerned about is that they took 
their colour from the heathen neighbours with 
whom they lived. He wished them to be leaven 
and to leaven the lump; they were permitting 
themselves rather to be leavened ; and this made 
him indignant with them. 

We see, then, that the Apostle's urgency here 
is against not association with the world, but 
compromise with the worldly. Compromise! In 
that one word is expressed a very large part of a 


Christian's danger in the world. We see it on 
all sides of us and in every sphere of life. We 
must be all things to all men, we say, perverting 
the Apostle's prescription for a working ministry; 
for there was one thing he would on no account 
and in no way have us be, even that we may, as 
we foolishly fancy, win the more; and that is, 
evil. From evil in all its forms and in all its man- 
ifestations he would have us absolutely to separate 
ourselves ; the unclean thing is the thing he would 
in no circumstances have us handle. Associate 
with the world, yes! There is no man in it so vile 
that he has not claims upon us for our association 
and for our aid. But adopt the standards of the 
world? No! Not in the least particular. Here 
our motto must be and that unfailingly: No 
compromise ! 

The very thing which the Apostle here presses 
upon our apprehension is the absolute conflict be- 
tween the standards of the world and the standards 
of Christians; and the precise thing which he re- 
quires of us is that in our association with the 
world we shall not take on our necks the alien 
yoke of an unbeliever's point of view, of an un- 
believer's judgment of things, of an unbeliever's 
estimate of the right and wrong, the proper and 
improper. In all our association with unbelievers, 
we, as Christian men, are to furnish the standard; 
and we are to stand by our Christian standard, in 
the smallest particular, unswervingly. Any de- 


parture from that standard, however small or 
however desirable it may seem, is treason to our 
Christianity. We must not, in any ease, take the 
alien yoke of an unbeliever's scheme of life upon 
our necks. 

Interesting to us as this exhortation itself is, 
and important beyond expression for the guidance 
of our lives, it, perhaps, yields in interest to the 
grounding which the Apostle supplies for it in an 
explanation of the essential springs of a Chris- 
tian's life. This grounding he gives in a series of 
rhetorical questions, by means of which he sets 
forth the absolute contrariety of the Christian's 
and the unbeliever's points of view, sources of 
judgment and principles of conduct. The order- 
ing of these questions is such that they begin by 
setting over against one another the obvious con- 
tradictions of righteousness and iniquity; and 
then proceed in a series of rapid and convincing 
antitheses until they end in setting the believer 
and the unbeliever over against one another as 
the embodiment respectively — at least in prin- 
ciple — of those contradictions, righteousness and 
iniquity. "What fellowship have righteousness 
and iniquity," the Apostle demands in support of 
his exhortation not to take on themselves the 
alien yoke of unbelievers, "or," he continues, 
"what communion has light with darkness? or 
what concord has Christ with Belial.^ or what 
portion has a believer with an unbeliever? or — 


clinching the whole matter with a reference to the 
source of the entire contrast — what agreement has 
a temple of God with idols?" 

The force of the appeal lies in the necessary — 
and inevitable — identification, as we go on through 
the series, of each pair with the preceding; so 
that with the fundamental "righteousness" is 
identified the light; and, of course, Christ; and 
because he is Christ's, the believer, who is the 
temple of the living God: and with the funda- 
mental iniquity is identified the darkness, Belial, 
and the unbeliever, because he is the worshipper 
of idols and partaker of the idolatrous point of 
view. The reason, then, why a Christian must 
not take on himself the alien yoke of unbelievers 
is just because it is to him alien; he is in and of 
himself, because a believer in Christ and, there- 
fore, a temple of the living God, a different, a con- 
trary, an opposite kind of being from the unbe- 
liever; and it is, therefore, incongruous in the 
extreme for him to put his neck in the same yoke 
with an unbeliever, seek to live on the same plane, 
or consent to order his life or to determine ques- 
tions of conduct by his standards, in any degree 

Now it is just in this contrast drawn by the 
Apostle between the believer and the unbeliever — 
in its firmness, its clearness, its extremity if you 
will — that we discern the most interesting, the 
most important, teaching of our passage. Ac- 


cording to the Apostle, obviously, there are two 
kinds of men in the world, believers and unbe- 
lievers. And these two kinds of men stand over 
against one another in complete, not only con- 
trast, but contradiction; as complete contra- 
diction as righteousness and iniquity. There can 
be no compromise between them any more than 
between righteousness and iniquity. There may 
be intercourse — mutual action and reaction — but 
never compromise. 

The Apostle is far from saying, of course, that 
in any given individuals this fundamental con- 
tradiction is fully manifested. It finds its com- 
plete manifestation only in the abstract — in the 
contrariety of righteousness and iniquity; and 
in the full concrete manifestation of righteousness 
and iniquity in Christ and Belial. Between 
Christians and unbelievers the manifested con- 
tradiction is only relative. Compromise there 
ought not to be — in principle there can not be — 
but compromise in fact there is. Christians are 
not, like Christ, pure embodiments of righteous- 
ness; they require exhortation not to admit in- 
iquity into the governing principles of their life. 
Alas, alas, though they are temples of the living 
God, they are far, far from having no commerce 
with idols. The Apostle recognizes all this. On 
his recognition of it he founds the urgent exhorta- 
tion of our passage. Nevertheless he founds this 
exhortation also on the fact that this contradic- 


tion exists in principle — that Christians, like 
Christ, their Lord, are in principle righteousness, 
and that unbelievers are, like Belial, their lord, 
in principle iniquity. It is because Christians 
are thus in principle holy and unbelievers are thus 
in principle unholy that he proclaims that it is 
incongruous that Christians should adopt their 
standards of life from unbelievers, who are not 
merely their opposites but their contradictories; 
so that there can be no mean between them but 
every one must be one or the other. 

There are then, according to the Apostle, two 
kinds of men in the world, believers and unbe- 
lievers; and these two kinds of men stand in con- 
tradiction to each other. One may conquer and 
eliminate the other; but there can be no mixture 
between them. The ultimate source of the fun- 
damental difference between them he finds in the 
indwelling in Christians of the Holy Ghost: "Or 
what agreement hath a temple of God with idols .^^ 
For we'' — emphatic here, in contrast with the un- 
believers, "as for us, we are a temple of the living 
God." The influx of the Holy Spirit into the 
heart constitutes, then, a new humanity. Over 
against those who have not the Spirit, and who 
are, therefore, as another Scripture puts it, 
earthly, sensual, devilish, — the children of Belial, as 
this Scripture suggests, — those who have the Spirit 
are a new creation, with new standards and new 
powers of life alike. There can be no compromise 


between such opposites. It has become custom- 
ary among theologians to speak of these two kinds 
of men as the men of nature and the men of the 
palingenesis; or as it is now becoming fashionable 
to call them, once born and twice born men. 
They who are born of the flesh are fleshly; and 
they only who are born of the Spirit are spiritual; 
and to the spiritual man belong all things. The 
message which Paul brings to us in this passage is, 
then, that we who are spiritual, because we are 
believers in Christ Jesus, have in principle the 
righteousness which belongs to Him, and though 
it may not yet appear what we shall be, we must 
in all our walk comport ourselves as what we are, 
the temples of the living God, having the powers 
and potencies of a new, even a Divine, hfe within 
us. The ultimate reason why the Christian man 
is not to compromise with the world is, because 
as a Christian man, he is a new creature, born 
from above, with the vigour of the Divine life itself 
moving in him and with an entirely new life- 
course marked out for him. Why should — ^how 
can — such an one put his neck incongruously 
within the yoke of worldly policy or self-seeking, 
or evil-living with unbelievers; and seek to de- 
flect his Spirit-given powers to a life on this lower 
plane and for these ignoble ends.f^ O, says the 
Apostle, O, Christian men, this is surely impos- 
sible to you; do you not see that in the power of 
your new life you are to — ^you must — take an 


utterly new course, directed to a new goal, and 
informed with new aspirations, hopes and striv- 

On the basis of this great declaration the Apos- 
tle erects, then, his exhortation. Nor is he con- 
tent to leave it in a negative, or merely inferential 
form. In the accomplishment of the Spirit-filled 
life he sees the goal, and he speaks it out in a final 
urgency of exhortation into which he compresses 
the whole matter: "Having, therefore, such 
promises as these (note the emphasis), beloved," 
he says, "let us purify ourselves from every de- 
filement of flesh and spirit and perfect holiness in 
the fear of God." It is perfection, we perceive, 
that the Apostle is after for his followers; and he 
does not hesitate to raise this standard before the 
eyes of his readers as their greatest incitement to 
effort. They must not be content with a moder- 
ate attainment in the Christian life. They must 
not say to themselves, O, I guess I am Christian 
enough, although I'm not too good to do as other 
men do. They must, as they have begun in the 
Spirit, not finish in the flesh; but must go on unto 

What are they to cleanse themselves from.^^ 
Every defilement — every kind of defilement — not 
only of the flesh but of the spirit. Aiming at 
whsii? At the completion of holiness in the fear 
of God ! The Apostle does not tell them they are 
already holy — except in principle. They ob- 


viously were not already holy — except in princi- 
ple. They were putting their necks in the alien 
yoke of unbelieving judgments. They were con- 
tenting themselves with heathen standards. They 
were prepared to say, O, the Lord doesn't ask 
all that of us; O, there is nothing wrong in this; 
O, I guess it will be enough if I am as good as the 
average man; O, you can't expect me to live at 
odds with all my neighbours ; O, these things are 
good enough for me. Such compromises with the 
spirit of the world are wrong; and the Apostle 
tells his readers plainly that they are unworthy of 
them as Christian men. They were, if not born 
to better things, yet certainly born anew to better 
things. Let them turn their backs on all such in- 
consistencies and live on their own plane of life 
as believers, believers in Christ, Christ the Light, 
Christ our Righteousness. Let them remember 
they are temples of the living God and have no 
commerce with idols. 

No, they were not perfect — except in principle. 
But in principle, they were perfect; because they 
had within them the principle of perfection, the 
Spirit of the Most High God. Let them walk in 
accordance with their privileges, then, on a level 
with their destiny. Hear God's great promise. 
And having these promises, cleanse yourselves; 
O, cleanse yourselves, the Apostle cries; cleanse 
yourselves from every defilement whether of flesh 
or spirit, and so perfect — complete, work fully 


out to its end — holiness in the fear of God. Let 
your standard be the hoHness of the indwelHng 
Spirit whose temples you are. Let your motive be, 
not merely regard to the good of others, much less 
to your own happiness, but joy in God's gracious 
promises. Let your effort be perfect sanctifica- 
tion of soul and body, cleansing from all defile- 
ment. Let your end be, pleasing God, the Holy 
One. In a word, says the Apostle in effect, here 
as elsewhere: O, ye Christians, work out your 
own salvation in fear and trembling, for it is God 
who is working in you the willing and the doing 
according to His own good pleasure. 

We perceive, thus, in the end that the thing 
Paul is zealous for is the holiness of his followers. 
For in their holiness he sees the substance of their 
salvation. We are saved by Christ and only 
Christ; and Christ is righteous; both for us and 
unto us. For it is by grace that we are saved, 
through faith; and that not of ourselves, it is the 
gift of God — not out of works, lest we should 
boast, but unto good works, which God has afore 
prepared that we should walk in them. And if we 
walk not in them — are we, then, saved .^^ Holiness 
of life is, I repeat, precisely the substance of sal- 
vation, that which we are saved to, that in which 
salvation consists. If then we are in Christ Jesus, 
shall we not live like Christ Jesus .^^ "If we are 
in the Spirit, shall we not walk by the Spirit?" 
This is Paul's final exhortation to us; since we are 


Christ's, and the Spirit dwells in us and we are 
the temples of the living God, let us be careful of 
good works; let us, remembering the great prom- 
ises He has given us, cleanse ourselves from all 
defilement of body and soul; and let us perfect 
holiness in the fear of God, so that we approve 
ourselves His children and He will be to us as a 
Father and we shall be to Him sons and daughters. 


Eph. 1 :3-14, especially 3 — "Blessed be the God and Father of our 
Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing 
in the heavenly places in Christ." 

If we would know how Paul felt about the gos- 
pel of the grace of God, by which he was saved, 
we could not do better than go to "the great 
thanksgiving" with which he opens the epistle to 
the Ephesians. The epistle to the Ephesians is, 
of course, not singular in beginning with a thanks- 
giving to God. That is Paul's customary method 
of beginning his letters. But it is, perhaps, sin- 
gular in the marvellous richness and fervor of the 
thanksgiving with which it begins. And this is, 
perhaps, due to what we might have thought an 
entirely unimportant circumstance. The Apostle 
was accustomed to draw the theme of his thanks- 
giving from the special conditions and attain- 
ments of those he was addressing. But, unlike 
his other letters, this was addressed neither to an 
individual friend and fellow-worker, nor to a 
separate church with its special circumstances 
fresh in the Apostle's mind. There was in this 
case, therefore, no particular subject of thanks- 
giving, peculiar to the person or church ad- 
dressed, pressing in on the Apostle's mind and 
requiring mention. He was thrown back on 



what was common to Christians to thank God for 
in behalf of his readers. And that is as much as 
to say he was thrown back on the great funda- 
mental theme of the Gospel. Now, Paul's fervour 
always rises when he is face to face with the first 
principles of the Gospel. 

What Paul returns thanks to God for here, is 
nothuig less than the salvation in Christ. And 
with what magnificence of diction as well as depth 
of feeling and comprehensiveness of view he deals 
with it! The salvation in Christ involves, nat- 
urally, the saving action of the whole triune God : 
and it is easy to make out a trinitarian distinction 
in the parts of this long ascription of praise to God 
for His salvation. Many expositors have, there- 
fore, so divided it. And in any event it is useful to 
note that there is described to us here the loving 
activity of God the Father in salvation (in verses 
3-6), of God the Son (in verses 7-12), and of God 
the Holy Spirit (in verses 13-14). This successive 
adduction of the work of the persons of the trin- 
ity in salvation would seem, however, only an in- 
evitable incident of any full description of the 
process of salvation; for in it all three persons of 
the trinity are, of course, concerned. And it is 
more useful to us, therefore, as an indication of the 
place which the doctrine of the trinity held in 
the mind of the Apostle, than as a principle of 
division of the thanksgiving before us. They 
gravely err who imagine that the trinity is only 


rarely or incidentally alluded to in the New Tes- 
tament. On the contrary, it forms the underlying 
presupposition of the entire account of salvation 
given in the New Testament; and its elements are 
continually cropping out in the New Testament 
descriptions of the saving process. It lies in the 
very nature of the case, therefore, that a trini- 
tarian suggestion should be visible through this 
description of the salvation in Christ. 

The principle of arrangement in the present 
instance would seem, however, to be what we 
would call chronological, rather than economical. 
We would seem to be following more closely the 
natural lines of the development of the passage, 
if we note that Paul traces in it the salvation in 
Christ for which he blesses God, consecutively, in 
its preparation, execution, publication and appli- 
cation: in its preparation (verses 4-5), its execu- 
tion (verses 6-7), its publication (verses 8-10), 
and its application (verses 11-16), both to Jews 
(verses 11-12) and to Gentiles (verses 13-14). 
Thus he brings before us the whole ideal history 
of the salvation in Christ, from eternity to eter- 
nity — from the eternal purpose as it formed itself 
in the loving heart of the Father, to the eternal 
consummation when all things in heaven and earth 
shall be summed up in Christ as under one head, 
and He shall be ready to restore the now perfected 
kingdom to the Father, that God may again be all 
in all. So looked upon, this splendid passage ex- 


hibits lucidly its true character as a compressed 
history of the kingdom of God in the world — an 
apostolic precis of human history conceived from 
the point of view of the Divine activity in the es- 
tablishment and development and consummation 
of the kingdom. 

Let us observe how the contemplation of the 
unrolling of this great historical process affects 
the Apostle's own mind and heart. This is re- 
vealed to us in the intense fervour that informs the 
whole passage — which is not a measured expres- 
sion of the Apostle's thanks to God, but can be 
literally described as an inextinguishable burst 
of praise. Its keynote is struck in the opening 
word — "Blessed!" Note the reiteration of the 
term: ''Blessed be God who hath blessed us with 
every spiritual blessing!" It is easy to perceive 
where Paul's mind and heart were when he was 
writing down these words. When a man's lips 
can frame only this one word — "Blessing, bless- 
ing, blessing!" we know what is in his heart. 
We should not fail to observe the ingenious, and 
more than ingenious, for it is the ingenuity of the 
heart, correlation of the term "Blessed" here, as 
applied to God, with the same term as applied to 
man. Paul blesses God because God has so highly 
blessed man: only, God blesses with deeds while 
man can bless Him only with words. But the 
thing to be especially observed is the joyful grat- 
itude, the delighted wonder, the swelling praise 


that fills the Apostle's heart, as he contemplates 
what man has received in the salvation of Christ. 
He thinks and speaks of it as summing up in 
itself every conceivable good. Blessed be God! 
he cries. Why? Because He hath blessed us! 
How.? With every possible blessing! For that 
is what this outburst of praise means. Every 
conceivable blessing, says Paul, is poured out on 
us in the salvation in Christ. And the form of 
the language shows that he means this to the utter- 

As the Apostle goes on to describe the blessings 
received in the salvation in Christ, it would almost 
seem as if his pen had run away with him. Only 
it is not a matter of the pen, but of the heart: it 
is not a question of words, but of the feelings. But 
it must needs be confessed that the Apostle has 
so accumulated phrases at this point in the fervour 
of his emotions of gratitude and praise that it is 
very diflficult to follow him in his heaped-up 
epithets. He is not content to say that in the 
salvation in Christ, God has blessed us with 
"every kind of blessing." He adds two further 
characterizations which seem to pile Pelion on 
Ossa and which distress us as we unavailingly 
strive to rise to the height of the great argument. 
"Blessed be God," he cries, "who hath blessed 
us — in every kind of spiritual blessing — in the 
heavenlies — in Christ." What are we to make of 
this chain of threefold enhancement? 


No wonder the commentators are divided as 
to how the successive clauses are to be related to 
one another. When the heart speaks, there is 
such a fullness of meaning that the analyzing 
.understanding stands sometimes aghast at the 
task set it. Are we, it asks, to take these clauses 
in one continuous string, each qualifying the im- 
mediately preceding? Or, are we to take them 
as parallel to one another, each further explaining, 
in the light of the preceding, the one matter of the 
nature of the blessing adverted to? In other 
words, is this what Paul praises God for — "that 
He has blessed us in the salvation in Christ with 
every kind of Spirit-given blessing that is in the 
heavenly places in Christ": so that he affirms 
that all the blessings that heaven contains are 
poured out on us by the Spirit, nay, that all the 
blessings deposited in Christ, Christ the exalted 
Conqueror of sin and death, seated now in heaven, 
clothed with all power in heaven and earth in be- 
half of His people, His body. His church, are lav- 
ished on us by His Spirit sent forth to minister to 
the heirs of salvation? Or is it rather this that 
the Apostle praises God for — "that He has blessed 
us with every possible kind of blessing that is 
given by the Spirit of God — that is to say with 
specifically heavenly things, supernatural things, 
those precious heaven-born gifts which are so 
much greater and more to be desired than any 
earthly things — that is to say, rather, with Christ 


himself, in whom are hidden not only all the 
treasures of knowledge and wisdom, but of blessing 
as well, and who is Himself so much greater than 
all His gifts that in Him are summed up all and 
more than all that we can mean by every kind of 
blessing"? One or the other of these things is 
what Paul seems to have meant. It is hard to 
say which: and it is probable that expositors will 
always differ as to which. 

It does not seem to be of much importance, to 
be sure, after which fashion we analyze this great 
utterance of a full heart. For in either case, has 
not Paul said everything that could be said, to 
declare the blessing that has come to men in the 
salvation in Christ the supremest blessing man 
can conceive, nay, as "what eye hath not seen, nor 
ear heard, and what hath entered not into the 
heart of man, what God hath prepared for them 
that love him.^^" As he permits what God has 
prepared for them that love Him to display itself 
before his astonished eyes, Paul is overwhelmed 
with a sense of the blessing it brings to sin-laden 
men. What wonder if we are overwhelmed with 
his description of what he saw! What God has 
prepared for them that love Him ! Ah ! here is the 
key-note of the passage. It is all of God. It is 
not of our deserving : it is not of our doing. It is 
all of God. It is, therefore, that Paul blessed 
God for it all with such fervour of language. Were 
it of man, in any of its items, so far the voice of 


his praise would be stilled. And it is, therefore, 
that he simply sows his expressions of grateful 
praise with asseverations of the origin of all our 
blessings in Christ in God's gracious purpose, and 
with acclamations of praise to Him alone for its 
gift. The fundamental note in all Paul's praise is 
the note of "soli Deo gloria." All that comes to 
man in this salvation is of the grace of God alone, 
a grace prepared of God in eternity past, poured 
out on us now in the sovereign work of the Spirit, 
and to abide on us to the eternities to come in ac- 
cordance with His gracious purpose — all to the 
praise of the glory of His grace. It is for this 
cause, says the Apostle, that when he heard that 
his readers now believed in Christ, he turned his 
eyes in thanksgiving to God — ^because to believe 
in Christ is of God, and he that believes in Christ 
is in the hands of His unutterable grace. It is 
obviously only another way of saying that "if 
God be for us, there is none who can be against 
us." And it is this thought that moves the Apos- 
tle with the deepest emotion of praise. 


Eph. 3:14-19, especially 16: — "That he would grant you, accord- 
ing to the riches of his glory, that ye may be strengthened with 
power through his Spirit in the inward man." 

This certainly may be fairly called one of the 
great passages of the Bible. Note the series of 
great topics which are adverted to in it: the in- 
ward strengthening of the children of God by the 
Holy Ghost, the continual abiding of Christ in 
their hearts, their rooting and grounding in love, 
their enlargement in spiritual apprehension, even 
to the knowledge of the unknowable, their filling 
with all the fullness of God. Surely here is a cat- 
alogue of great things for God's people! These 
great topics do not lie on one level, however, set 
side by side as parallel facts, but are exhibited 
in special relations the one to the other. Paul is 
praying here for these high blessings to descend 
on the Ephesian Christians. But he does not 
pray for them simply as a bunch of blessings, arbi- 
trarily selected to be on this occasion sought at 
the great Father's hands — the Father of these 
Ephesian Christians too, because He is the God 
of the Gentiles as well as of the Jews, and from 
Him every fatherdom derives its name. Here are 
rather a connected body of blessings which go 
naturally together: one being the ground and an- 



other the effect of the one great thing he craves 
for his readers. 

The central thing he prays for is spiritual 
strengthening. "I bow my knees to the Father 
that He may give to you to be strengthened by 
His Spirit in respect to the inner man." Spiritual 
strengthening, then, that is the main thing that 
he prays for. By the mere term "spiritual 
strengthening" two things might be suggested to 
us. We might think of spiritual as distinguished 
from physical strengthening. Or we might think 
of strengthening by the Spirit as distinguished 
from some earthly agency. The Apostle's prayer 
includes both ideas. He prays that we may be 
strengthened in the inner man; that is, for the 
strengthening of our spirit, in distinction from the 
body. And he prays that we may be strength- 
ened with respect to the inner man by God's 
Spirit; that is, for the Divine strengthening of our 
inward man. And this, I say, is the substance of 
his prayer — that we may be strengthened with 
respect to the inner man by the Spirit of God. 
All else is descriptive of this and tells us what it is, 
and what it results in ; and so enhanees our idea of 
what spiritual strengthening is. 

First, Paul tells us somewhat further what it is. 
It is identical, he tells us, with the abiding of 
Christ by faith in our hearts. Of course it is not 
absolutely certain what the relation of this second 
clause is to its predecessor. It might express the 


aim or end of the spiritual strengthening, or (what 
comes to practically the same thing) its result, as 
well as (as we should take it), its more precise ex- 
planation. As it is followed by a series of ex- 
pressly telic clauses, formally introduced by the 
proper telic particle, it would seem most natural 
to take it as epexegetical of the preceding clause. 
"I bow my knees to the Father, . . . that He may 
give to you, according to the riches of His glory, 
to be strengthened with might as to the inner 
man — to wit, that Christ may abide in your 
hearts by faith." To be sure, the sense would not 
be essentially different if we took it otherwise — ^to 
the end that, or so that, Christ may abide in your 
hearts by faith. In the one case it tells what the 
spiritual strengthening consists in — ^it is identical 
with the abiding of Christ in the heart; in the other, 
what it eventuates in, — it issues in the abiding 
of Christ in the heart. In either case the thing to 
be noted is that it is not the coming of Christ into 
the heart that is spoken of, but His abiding in the 
heart; and that it is just this idea that receives 
the emphasis in the sentence, the position of the 
words being such as to throw a strong stress on 

Two things result from this. The first is, that 
Christ is supposed to have already entered the 
hearts of those whom the Apostle is praying for. 
It is not a question of His coming but of His abid- 
ing. The Apostle is not praying that his readers 


should be converted; but, presuming their con- 
version, that they may be spiritually strengthened. 
The second result is that the spiritual strength- 
ening is contingent on, or let us rather say, is 
dependent on the abiding presence of Christ in 
their hearts. The indwelling Christ is the source 
of the Christian's spiritual strength. This is, of 
com-se, not to set aside the Holy Spirit. But he 
has read his New Testament to little purpose who 
would separate the Holy Spirit and Christ: 
Christ abides in the heart by the Spirit. The 
indwelling of the Holy Ghost is the means of 
the indwelling of Christ and the two are one and 
the same great fact. We are strengthened in the 
inner man with might by the Holy Spirit, be- 
cause by the operation of the Spirit in our hearts, 
Christ abides there — thus and not otherwise. 
And here we learn then the source of the Chris- 
tian's strength. Christ is the ultimate source. 
His indwelling is the ground of all our strength. 
But it is only by the Spirit — the executive of the 
Godhead in this sphere too — that Christ dwells in 
the heart. It is the Spirit that strengthens us, 
and He so strengthens us that He gives us 
"might" in our inner man. The way He does 
this is by forming Christ within us. 

The Apostle is one of the most fecund writers 
extant, and thus it happens that he does not leave 
the matter even there. It is by the Spirit that 
Christ dwells in us — that is the objective fact. 


But there is a subjective fact too, and the Apos- 
tle does not fail to touch it — it is by our faith, 
too, that Christ dwells in us. "That Christ may 
abide in your hearts by your faith," he says. He 
does not say "by faith" merely, though he might 
well have said that, and it would have covered the 
whole necessary idea. But, in his habitual full- 
ness of expression, he puts in the article, and thus 
implies that he recognizes their faith as already 
existent. They are Christians, they already be- 
lieve, Christ is already dwelling in them by faith; 
he prays that He may abide in them by their 
faith. The stress is everywhere laid on contin- 
uance. May God strengthen your inner man, he 
says, by His Spirit. That is to say, he adds, may 
that Christ whom ye have received into your 
hearts by faith abide continuously in your hearts 
by that faith of yours. As much as to say, Christ 
is brought into your hearts by the Holy Ghost. 
He abides there by that Holy Ghost. May God 
thus continually strengthen your hearts by His 
Spirit, and that, even with might. I pray to Him 
for it, for it is He that gives it. But do not think, 
therefore, that you may lose hold on Christ. It 
is equally true that He abides in your hearts by 
your faith. When faith fails, so do the signs of 
His presence within: the strengthening of the 
Spirit and the steady burning of the flame of 
faith are correlative. As well expect the ther- 
mometer to stand still with the temperature 


varying as the height of your faith not to index 
the degree of your strength. Your strength is 
grounded in the indwelhng Christ, wrought by 
the Spirit by means of faith. 

Thus we have laid before us the sources of the 
Christian's strength. It is rooted in Christ, the 
Christ within us, abiding there by virtue of the 
Spirit's action quickening and upholding faith in 
us. And only as by the Spirit our faith is kept 
firm and clear, will Christ abide in us, and will 
we accordingly be strong in the inner man. 

Such then is the nature and source of the Chris- 
tian's strengthening. What does it issue in.^ 
How does it exhibit itself.? Briefly, the Apostle 
tells us, in love and knowledge. "May God 
grant you," he says, "to be strengthened as to 
the inner man by His Spirit, that is, the abiding 
presence of Christ in your hearts, to the end that 
being rooted and grounded in love, you may be 
fully enabled to apprehend. ..." The end of 
the prayer is, then, expansion of spiritual appre- 
hension. May God grant that you may be 
strengthened with might ... to the end that you 
may be full of strength to apprehend. The ap- 
propriate result of strengthening is that they may 
have full strength. The Apostle accumulates 
words expressive of strength to enhance the idea. 
He uses three separate words, but all impinging 
on the one idea, that he wishes his readers by 
the Holy Spirit's operations to be raised to the 


capacity of spiritual apprehension indicated. 
"God grant that ye may be empowered (relative 
and manifested power) with might (inherent 
general power), with which ye may have full 
strength (as your own endowment) to appre- 
hend. ..." This then is the proximate end of the 
prayer: Expansion of heart for the apprehension 
of spiritual things. "God grant that you may be 
strengthened with might by the Holy Spirit in 
the inner man, that you may have full strength 
to apprehend. ..." These things to be appre- 
hended are too great for man's natural powers 
He must have new strength from on high given 
him to compass them. He may by the Spirit be 
raised to a higher potency of apprehension for 
them. God grant it to you ! 

What are these things .^^ The Apostle speaks 
quite generally about them. He says "that ye 
may have full strength to apprehend with all the 
saints, what is the breadth and length and height 
and depth. ..." His mind is for the moment 
not on the thing itself but on the bigness of the 
thing. It is because the thing is so big that they 
need strengthening in the inner man before they 
have full strength to apprehend it. Yet it is not 
something for these special readers alone, but for 
all Christians. This strengthening the Apostle 
asks for is the heritage of the saints. The Apostle 
prays not that we may be expanded in spiritual 
apprehension by these great ideas, but up to 


them. This expanding is not to be done by them, 
but by the Holy Ghost. To enhance our con- 
ception of how big they are, he gives us a sample, — 
for that the last clause here is not adjoined as a 
parallel but as a subordinate clause seems indi- 
cated by the particle by which it is adjoined and 
as well by the concluding words "unto the whole 
fullness of God," which appear to return to a 
quite general idea : that ye may have full strength 
to apprehend with all saints what is the breadth 
and length and height and depth and to know the 
"knowledge-surpassing love of Christ." 

Here is a sample of the broad and wide and high 
and deep knowledge to apprehend which we need 
to have our minds stretched: the quality of the 
love of Christ. It is too high for us; we cannot 
attain unto it. Do we wonder that the thing the 
Apostle prays for is that we should be strength- 
ened in the inner man by the Spirit of God, that 
we may have full strength to apprehend this? 
Do we wonder that he speaks of this and such 
knowledge as too broad and wide and high and 
deep for us, not to be apprehended save by him 
in whose heart Christ abides? If, indeed, Christ 
be in us — then, possibly, we may know Christ 
without us. But surely in no other way. Here 
then is the gist of the matter, as to the end of our 
strengthening in the inner man. It is to give us 
full strength for the apprehension of these great 
and incomparable mysteries of our faith. 


But in that fullness of the Apostolic speech 
to which we have already alluded, Paul does not 
content himself with simply saying this. He so 
says it as both to suggest an intermediate step 
in the attainment of this large spiritual appre- 
hension, and to indicate a still higher goal. He 
suggests, I say, an intermediate step. He does 
not say simply, " God grant you spiritual strength- 
ening, that you may have enlarged spiritual ap- 
prehension." He says, "God grant you spiritual 
strengthening that, having been rooted and 
grounded in love, you may have enlarged spiritual 
apprehension." Here then is an intermediate 
link between the strengthening by the Spirit and 
the enlargement of our spiritual understanding. 
It is "love." The proximate effect of the Spirit's 
work in empowering the inner man with might is 
not knowledge but love; and the proximate cause 
of our enlarged spiritual apprehension is not the 
strengthening of our inner man, but love. The 
Spirit does not immediately work this enlargement 
of mind in us; He immediately works love, and 
only through working this love, enlarges our ap- 
prehension. The Holy Ghost "sheds love abroad 
in our hearts." Love is the great enlarger. It is 
love which stretches the intellect. He who is 
not filled with love is necessarily small, withered, 
shrivelled in his outlook on life and things. And 
conversely he who is filled with love is large and 
copious in his apprehensions, Only he can ap- 


prehend with all saints what is the breadth and 
length and height and depth of things. The 
order of things in spiritual strengthening is there- 
fore: (1) the working by the Spirit of a true faith 
in the heart, and the cherishing by the Spirit of 
this faith in a constant flame; (2) the abiding of 
Christ by this faith in the heart; (3) the shedding 
abroad of love in the soul and its firm rooting in 
the heart; (4) the enlargement of the spiritual 
apprehension to know the unknowable greatness 
of the things of Christ. 

There is yet one further step, for even this spir- 
itual apprehension is not its own end. "God 
grant," says the Apostle, "that you may be em- 
powered with might by the Spirit, so to have 
full strength to apprehend the great things of 
God" — but he does not stop there. He adds "to 
the end that you may be filled unto the whole full- 
ness of God." Here is the goal at last. And 
what a goal it is! We were weak — ^for it was 
"when we were without strength" that Christ 
died for us. We are to be strengthened, strength- 
ened by the Spirit, by means of the constant in- 
dwelling of Christ, the source of all good. We are 
to be strengthened so as to know, to know the 
great things of God (read some of them in the 
parallel passage. Col. 1 :11). But not that we may 
know for the mere sake of knowing. What good 
would such a bare knowing do us? We are to 
know that we may be "filled unto all the full- 


ness of God." Look at this standard of fullness. 
"Unto" — not "with" — it is the standard, not the 
material. God's fullness is not to be poured into 
us; we are to be raised toward that standard of 
fullness, not in one particular but in all — unto the 
whole fullness of God. It may mean unto the 
fullness which God possesses; or it may mean 
unto the fullness which He provides. It may 
mean either that the enlargement of our spiritual 
apprehension is a means toward obtaining all 
the wonderful goods that God has in store for us; 
or it may mean that by it we shall be brought to a 
height of attainment comparable only to His at- 
tainments. No matter which it means. It is 
enough in either meaning for any Christian's hope. 
But there is no reason to doubt that it does mean 
the greatest thing: we shall be filled unto the 
whole fullness of God. We shall be like Him, 
and like Him only of all Beings in the universe. 
It is a giddy height to which our eyes are thus 
raised. No wonder we need spiritual strength- 
ening to discern the summit of this peak of 

Of course it does not mean that we are to be 
transmuted into God, so that each of us will be 
able to assert a right to a place of equality in the 
universe with God. Of course, again, it does not 
mean that God is to be transfused into us, so that 
we shall be God, part of His very essence. It 
means just what it says, that God presents the 


standard towards which we, Christian men, are to 
be assimilated. We are to be made like Him, 
holy as He is holy, pure as He is pure. Our eyes, 
even in the depths of eternity, will seek Him tow- 
ering eternally above us as our unattainable 
standard towards which we shall ever be as- 
cending, but we shall be like Him; He and we 
shall belong to one class, the class of holy beings. 
We shall no longer be like the Devil, whose chil- 
dren we were until we were delivered from his 
kingdom and translated into the kingdom of God's 
dear Son. No more shall we be what we were as 
men in this world, still separated from God by a 
gulf of moral difference, a difference so great that 
we are almost tempted to call it a difference of 
kind and not merely of degree. Nay, we shall, 
perhaps, be more like God than even the holy 
angels are; in our head, Christ Jesus, we shall be 
in Him who in a pre-eminent sense is like God. 
The process of the "filling" may take long; it is 
but barely begun for most of us in this life; but 
that is the standard and that the goal — "we shall 
be filled unto the fullness of God"; and it shall 
never cease. Such is the goal of the spiritual 
strengthening spoken of in our text. 


Eph. 3:14-19, especially v. 19:— "That ye may be filled unto all 
the fullness of God." 

The Epistle to the Ephesians is the poem among 
the Epistles. Its whole fabric is wrought in a 
grandeur of language, corresponding to the lofti- 
ness of its thought. The main subject of the 
Epistle is God's infinite and unspeakable mercy to 
the Gentiles, and the Apostle busies himself with 
two chief ends. These are (1) to beget in his 
readers an adequate sense of the immensity of 
their privilege, in the mercy of God, in that He 
has chosen them before the foundation of the 
world, redeemed them in Christ and called them 
by the Spirit out of their former Gentile darkness 
and alienation to be sharers in the glorious fight 
of the Gospel, and to be admitted into the very 
household of God; and (2) to quicken them to a 
proper apprehension of the duties that grow out 
of their changed relation and life. 

The noble prayer of the Apostle's, which the 
present passage constitutes, stands at the end 
of the first section of the letter. Li that section 
he has described in the most lofty and glowing lan- 
guage the privileges which have been so freely 
granted his readers by God, in Christ. That 
section had been, it is true, closed at the end of 



the second chapter; and the Apostle begins the 
third chapter with a clause meant to make the 
transition to the* second subject that weighed on 
his heart, the duties, arising from their very con- 
dition, pressing upon his readers. But he has no 
sooner begun the transition than he interrupts 
himself to give expression to a thought which 
struggled within him for utterance, concerning 
the relation of his own apostleship to the announce- 
ment of God's unsearchable riches to the Gentiles. 
Having unburdened his soul with praise to God 
for calling him to be the instrument in His hands 
for working out this glorious broadening of the 
boundaries of His Church, he resumes the sen- 
tence that had been broken off and makes the 
transition to the declaration of the duties of his 
readers, once more resumed, by means of a fer- 
vent prayer to God for their perfection in the 
Christian life. 

This prayer is one of the most wonderful pas- 
sages ever penned even by this wonderful Apostle. 
Look at it in its parts. 

First, we observe to whom the prayer is offered. 
It is to "the Father," name of love and gratitude. 
But note how the Apostle expresses his sense of 
what this word "Father" means when applied to 
the all-merciful and all-glorious God. He calls 
Him not merely "the Father" but "the Father 
from whom every fatherhood in heaven and earth 
is named." His is not a figurative fatherhood; 


He is not addressed as Father because we find 
some things in Him which remind us of the ten- 
derness and love of our parents and so apply to 
Him, as in a figure, the name we have learned to 
love in them. On the contrary, His is the normal 
fatherhood; His is not derived by figure from 
theirs, but theirs is the poor and broken shadow 
of His. He is the Father of our Lord and Sav- 
iour Jesus Christ: the gloss, though a gloss, is a 
correct interpretation, and the closeness and in- 
timacy and love of that relation is the norm from 
which every fatherhood in heaven and earth is 
named. What we know of fatherhood — dear as 
the name has become to us through our earthly 
relations — is but a faint shadow of what He, the 
true Father, first of Christ and then of us in 
Christ, is to His children. After his glowing 
outline of what God had done for his readers — 
Gentiles as they were, born in sin and hitherto 
living in sin — in receiving them into His very 
household and making them its members, not 
friends merely but His children, the Apostle's 
fervour cannot address Him in less full recognition 
of His glorious fatherhood than this: the Father 
of fathers, the normal, perfect, ideal father, of 
which all other fatherhood is but a broken and 
poor imitation, — "the Father, of whom every 
fatherhood in heaven and earth is named." 

Next, let us observe the measure of the gifts 
prayed for: "according to the riches of his glory." 


No earthly measure, but only according to the 
richness of that glory of the great God pictured 
in His majesty, power and love in all the preced- 
ing chapters. The gifts of Him who giveth to all 
men liberally, were according, not to their desert, 
not to their prospective usefulness, not even ac- 
cording to their needs which are greater than 
either, but away above all these, according to the 
riches of God's glory — the glory of the Father 
from whom every fatherhood in heaven and earth 
is named. 

Next, observe the thing that is prayed for, in 
this marvellous prayer. And here there is a be- 
ginning and a middle and an end. The blessing 
which the Apostle craves for the Ephesians is 
nothing less than this: that they may be filled 
unto all the fullness of God, that is, that all of 
God's inestimable treasures of spiritual blessings 
— life, strength, love, holiness, — shall be poured 
out immeasurably imto them, — ^that they should 
be filled with all those spiritual perfections which 
assimilate them to the fullness of God. 

The Apostle craves nothing less than that divine 
perfection which belongs to children of God, for 
his readers. But he knows that God does not 
deal magically with His children: there are 
means without which the end is not to be had. 
And this end of Christian perfection of life and 
heart, the being holy as God the Father is holy, 
the being perfect as God is perfect, is not to be 


had save in the path which God has marked out as 
leading to the goal. And the Apostle prays not 
for the goal but for the path which leads to the 
goal. Knowledge is in order to holiness and it is 
knowledge of the Gospel for which Paul prays for 
his readers, that they may by it be enabled to 
be "filled unto all the fullness of God." He prays 
that they may "apprehend with all the saints 
what is the breadth and length and height and 
depth," and that they may "know the love of 
Christ that passeth knowledge." It is this love 
of Christ that he has been speaking to them about 
for the whole of the Epistle, the love of Christ 
that led Him to immolate Himself for them be- 
fore the foundation of the world, that led Him to 
come into the world and suffer and die for them in 
the fullness of time, that led Him now that He 
has been taken up to the Father's right hand to 
send forth the Spirit to call them inwardly, and 
the Apostle to call them outwardly. This love 
of Christ which the Apostle would have them 
know, in order that they may become holy, is 
briefly comprehended in the Gospel. And he 
prays for them to have an adequate apprehension 
of the riches of the "Gospel," the glad tidings of 
Christ's love, in order that they may be filled unto 
all the fullness of God. 

But why pray for such knowledge? Is knowl- 
edge to be had by prayer, or by publication.'^ 
Certainly not without publication, and Paul had 


published it in his long visits in Ephesus and his 
journeys through Asia; and he had just repub- 
lished it in the whole of the former part of this 
Epistle. But such knowledge as he desires for 
his readers is not to be had by mere publication. 
It is not merely that they may hear the Gospel, 
not merely that they may be, in an intellectual 
and mechanical way, informed that nothing can 
account for Christ's work but love, love compelling 
Him to leave His glory behind Him in heaven 
and come to earth as a servant to save men, that 
he wishes for them. He wants them to under- 
stand, feel, and realize this; in the language of the 
present passage, to apprehend it in its height and 
breadth and length and depth : to have a realizing 
sense of it. For this, something more than mere 
informing is needed: even a preparation of the 
heart. Let the husbandman fling the seed never 
so widely and strew them never so thickly: if 
there is no prepared soil, how can he hope to have 
a harvest? So the knowledge which the Apostle 
desires for his readers is not merely external mind- 
knowledge, but the real knowledge of full feeling 
and apprehension; knowledge not of the mere 
head but of the heart. And for this, something 
more is needed than the mere proclaiming of the 
Gospel, which may be grasped in its propositions 
by the mere mechanical action of the intellect: 
even a new heart. Spirit-made and Spirit-deter- 


Accordingly, this is not all that the Apostle 
prays for. As this is a means to the end sought, 
that they may be filled unto all the fullness of 
God, so there is a means even to this means — 
that the Spirit should prepare their hearts. And 
this also he prays for: "that ye may be strength- 
ened with power, through His Spirit, in the in- 
ward man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts 
through faith." This is first. Then, this is to 
"the end that being rooted and grounded in 
love, ye may apprehend and know the love of 
Christ." This is second. Then, this knowledge 
is in order that we may be "filled unto all the 
fullness of God." This is the end of all. 

We note then first of all, the comprehensiveness 
of this prayer. Is there any blessing not pro- 
vided for in it.f^ That our souls may be taken 
possession of by the Spirit and Christ may dwell 
in us by faith. That we may have a perfect and 
realizing knowledge of the Gospel. That we may 
be filled unto the very fullness of God. Is there 
any good thing lacking? 

Next we note the significant order of the re- 
quests. First, the work of the Spirit in the 
heart; second, the realizing knowledge of the 
Gospel; third, the Christian life. Men some- 
times seek other orders. We hear the cry around 
us daily of first the life, then the doctrine. Paul's 
order is, first the doctrine, then the life. We 
hear the cry around us of first know, then believe. 


Paul's order is, first believe, then know. And as 
this is of theological importance to-day, as well 
as of practical importance in all days, observe it 
more closely. We have confined ourselves to 
broad outlines. Paul, however, writes with such 
rich fullness that every detail is counted in, in 
its proper place. What in detail is his order of 
salvation .f^ Just this: first, the Gospel is pro- 
claimed; secondly, there is the preparation of the 
heart by the Spirit; thirdly, then faith and Christ's 
indweUing through faith; fourthly, through this 
indwelling we grow strong to apprehend the truth 
of Christ's love; fifthly, by this apprehended 
knowledge we are enabled to live a Christian life. 
Search and look : and you will find the same order 
everywhere in Paul and in the New Testament. 

We observe then, finally, that the prayer that 
Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith is the 
opening prayer to a series. This is not the end 
but the beginning: and just because it is a Di- 
vine beginning it is a beginning that has in itself 
the promise and pledge of the end. If we have 
this we will have all. 

(1) It itself rests on a preparation of the heart 
by the Spirit : " That ye may be strengthened with 
power through the Spirit in the inward man." 
The idea here is a communication of power to the 
soul. We almost seem to be reading the West- 
minster Confession, for exactly what "power" 
here means is "ability." The soul then lacks 


"ability" until moved upon by the Holy Ghost. 
The whole soul is there; the Spirit does not give 
it more faculties. But it is weak. The action of 
the Spirit is to strengthen it and the strengthening 
takes place by an infusion of "ability." Now the 
soul can exercise faith, and it exercises it. Faith 
lays hold of Christ. And so the enabled soul 
through faith obtains the indwelling of Christ. 
This indwelling of Christ is mediated by faith, 
and the exercise of faith is rendered possible by 
the strengthening of the soul by the Holy Ghost, 
by the infusion of "power," "ability." 

(2) It consists in the constant presence of 
Christ in the soul. Presence is predicated of God 
wherever He manifests Himself, whether in the 
Temple by the Shekinah or in Israel or in the 
Church or in the individual. The indwelling of 
Christ is then the manifestation of Christ's power. 
The agent by which Christ manifests Himself to 
the soul is the Holy Ghost. So that the indwell- 
ing of Christ and the indwelling of the Spirit is 
one and the same. But the Spirit does not enter 
the soul to separate Christ and the believer but to 
unite them, and hence this indwelling draws 
Christ and the soul into communion. Christ 
dwells in us, that is, is present in us, quickening 
all our activities and making us but members of 
His body of which He is the directing Head. 

(3) It issues hence into all Christian senti- 
ments and activities. First the Apostle mentions 


love; "being rooted and grounded in love" is 
the intermediate step to the apprehension of 
Christ's love. Love apprehends love. Out of 
this Christ-filled and Christ-led heart, we are able 
to see His love and to appreciate it. Hence, next, 
knowledge. And then, out of this knowledge, 

Now, observe as to Christ's indwelling: (1) 
Christ may dwell in us; (2) He dwells in us 
through faith; (3) His dwelling in us is the source 
of all our knowledge of the Gospel and of all our 
Christian walk. 


Eph. 4:30: — "And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, in whom 
ye were sealed unto the day of redemption." 

It is Paul's custom in his epistles to prepare 
for exhortation by the enunciation of truth; to 
lay first the foundation of fact and doctrine, and 
on that foundation to raise his appeals for con- 
duct. The Epistle to the Ephesians is no excep- 
tion to this rule. The former chapters of this 
epistle are a magnificent exposition of doctrine, a 
noble presentation to Paul's readers of what God 
has done for them in election and redemption and 
calling, and of the great privileges which they 
have obtained in Christ. To this he adjoins, 
according to his custom, a ringing appeal, based 
on this exposition of truth and privilege. This 
appeal to his readers is to live up to their privi- 
leges, or, in his own words, to walk worthily of 
the calling wherewith they were called. The 
whole latter or practical part of the letter is thus 
expressly based on the former or doctrinal part. 
And this is true of the exhortations in detail as 
well as in general. Paul wrote always with vital 
connectedness. There never was a less artificial 
writer, and none of his epistles bears more evi- 
dent traces than the Epistle to the Ephesians of 
having been written, as the Germans say, "at a 



single gush." All here is of a piece, and part is 
concatenated with part in the intimate connec- 
tion which arises out of — not artificial effort to 
obtain logical consecution — but the living flow of 
a heart full of a single purpose. 

Take, as an example, the beautiful appeal of our 
text. The Apostle is not perfunctorily or me- 
chanically repeating a set phrase, a pious plati- 
tude. He is making an appeal, out of a full 
heart, to just the readers he has in mind, in just 
their situation; and under the impulse of his own 
vivid appreciation of their peculiar state and con- 
dition. On the basis of the privileges they had 
received in Christ he had exliorted them gener- 
ally to an accordant inner and outer conduct; and 
he had presented these general exhortations both 
positively and negatively. Now he has come to 
details. He has enumerated several of the sins 
to which they in their situation were liable, per- 
haps, in a special degree, sins of falsehood, wrath, 
theft, unbecoming speech. Shall they, they, the 
recipients of this new life and all these Divine 
favours, fall into such sins ? He suddenly broadens 
the appeal into an earnest beseeching not so to 
grieve the Holy Spirit of God in w^hom they were 
sealed unto the day of redemption. That they, 
too, had this sealing, had he not just told them? 
Nay, had he not just pointed them to it as to 
their most distinguishing grace .^^ It is not by a 
new or a merely general motive by which he would 


move their hearts. It is distinctly by the motive 
to which he had already adverted and which he 
had made their own. It was because he had 
taught them to understand and feel that they, 
even they, Gentiles according to the flesh, had 
been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, as 
an earnest of their inheritance, and could count 
on this being a living and moving motive in their 
minds — or rather it is because he himself felt this 
great truth as real and as a motive of power — that 
he adduces it here to move them to action. 

If we are«to feel the motive power in the appeal 
as Paul felt it and as he desired his readers to feel 
it, we must approach it as he approached it and 
as he desired them to approach it, namely, 
through a preliminary apprehension and appre- 
ciation of the fact underlying the appeal and giving 
it force. To do this we should approach the con- 
sideration of the text under some such logical an- 
alysis of its contents as the following. First, we 
should consider the great fact on which the appeal 
is based, namely, that Christians have been sealed 
by the Holy Spirit unto the day of redemption. 
Secondly, we should consider the nature of this 
sealing Spirit as the Holy Spirit, and the pain 
which all sin must bring to Him as the indwelling 
and sealing Spirit. Thirdly, we should consider 
the nature and strength of the motive thence 
arising to us, who are the recipients of His grace, 
to refrain from the sin which grieves Him, and 


to seek the life of holiness which pleases Him. 
Time would fail us, however, on this occasion 
fully to develop the contents of these proposi- 
tions. Let us confine ourselves to a few brief 
remarks on (1) the nature of the basal fact on 
which Paul founds his appeal, as to our position 
as Christians; and (2) the nature of the motive 
which he seeks to set in action by his appeal. 

The fundamental fact on which Paul, in the 
text, bases his appeal to a holy life is that his 
readers, because Christians, "have been sealed 
in the Holy Spirit unto the day of redemption." 
Now, "sealing" expresses authentication or se- 
curity, or, perhaps, we may say, authentication 
and security. It is, then, the security of the 
Christian's salvation which is the fact appealed 
to; the Christian is "sealed," authenticated as a 
redeemed one, and made secure as to the comple- 
tion of the redemption; for he is sealed unto the 
day of redemption. 

The reference to Paul's teaching, in a former 
chapter, as to the grace given to his readers, will 
help us to understand the fact here adduced as a 
motive to action. There we have the fuller state- 
ment, that these Christians had had the Word of 
the Truth, the Gospel of salvation, preached to 
them; that they had heard it, and had believed 
it; and then, that they had been "sealed with the 
Holy Spirit of promise," in other words, the Holy 
Spirit who works out all the promises to us to 


fruition; "who," adds the Apostle, "is an earnest 
of our inheritance," an earnest being more than a 
pledge, inasmuch as it is both a pledge and a part 
of the inheritance itself. Then the Apostle tells 
us unto what we were thus sealed by the Holy 
Spirit of promise, who is Himself an earnest of 
our inheritance, namely, "unto the redemption of 
God's own possession" unto the praise of His 

Let us read these great words backwards, that 
we may grasp their full import. Christians are 
primarily the purchased possession of God: God 
has purchased them to Himself by the precious 
blood of His Son. But, the purchase is one 
thing, and "the delivery of the goods" another. 
Their redemption is, therefore, not completed 
by the simple purchase. There remains, accord- 
ingly, a "day of redemption" yet in the future, 
unto which the purchased possession is to be 
brought. Meanwhile, because we are purchased 
and are God's possession, we are sealed to Him 
and to the fulfilment of the redemption, to take 
place on that day. And the seal is the Holy 
Spirit, here designated as the "Holy Spirit of 
promise" because it is through Him that this 
promise is to be fulfilled; and the "earnest of our 
inheritance" because He is both the pledge that 
the inheritance shall be ours, and a foretaste of 
that inheritance itself. The whole is a most 
pointed assertion that those who have been bought 


by the blood of Christ, and brought to God by the 
preached Gospel, shall be kept by His power unto 
the salvation which is ready to be revealed at the 
last day. 

The great fact on which Paul bases his appeal 
is, therefore, the fact of the security of believers, 
of the preservation by God of His children, of the 
"perseverance of the saints" — to use time-hon- 
oured theological language. We are sealed, ren- 
dered secure, by the Holy Ghost, unto the day of 
redemption: we are sealed by the Holy Spirit, 
the fulfiller of the promises, and the earnest of 
our inheritance, unto the full redemption of us, 
who are God's purchased possession. The fact 
the Apostle adverts to is, in a word, that our sal- 
vation is sure. 

How is this a motive to holiness.^ Men say 
that security acts rather as a motive to careless- 
ness. Well, we observe at least that the Apostle 
does not think so, but uses it rather as a motive to 
holiness. Because we have been sealed by the 
Spirit of God, he reasons^ let us not grieve Him by 
sin. Men may think that a stronger appeal might 
be based on fear lest we fall from the Spirit's 
keeping; as if Paul should rather have said. Be- 
cause you can be kept only by the Spirit, beware 
lest you grieve Him away by sinning. But Paul's 
actual appeal is not to fear but to gratitude. Be- 
cause you have been sealed by the Spirit unto the 
day of redemption, see to it that you do not grieve. 


bring pain or sorrow to this Spirit, who has done 
so much for you. 

It is not to be denied, of course, that the motive 
of fear is a powerful one, a legitimate one to ap- 
peal to, and one which in its due place is appealed 
to constantly in the Scriptures. It is, no doubt, a 
relatively lower motive than that here appealed 
to by Paul; but as Bishop Doane once truly said, 
most men are more amenable to appeals addressed 
to the lower than to those addressed to the higher 
motives. When men cease to be of a low mind, 
we can afford to deal with them on a higher plane. 
I have no sympathy, therefore, with the view, 
often expressed, that man must not be urged to 
save his soul by an appeal to his interests, by an 
appeal to the joys of heaven or to the pains of 
torment. You all know the old story of how St. 
Iddo, once, when he journeyed abroad, met an 
old crone with a pitcher of water in one hand and 
a torch ablaze in the other, who explained that 
the torch was to burn up heaven and the water to 
quench hell, that men might no longer seek to 
please God because of desire for one or fear of the 
other, but might be led only by disinterested love. 
History says that St. Iddo went home wondering. 
Well he might. For on such teachings as this 
he should have to forego the imitation of his Lord, 
who painted to men the delights of the heavenly 
habitations and forewarned men to fear him who 
has power after he has destroyed the body also 


to cast into hell, where, so He says, their worm 
dieth not and the fire is not quenched. The mo- 
tives of fear of punishment and vision of reward, 
though relatively low motives, are yet legitimate 
motives, and are, in their own place, valuable. 

But the Apostle teaches us in our present pas- 
sage that the higher motives too are for use and 
in their own place are the motives to use. Do not 
let us, as Christian ministers, assume that our 
flocks, purchased by the blood of Christ, and 
sealed unto the day of redemption by the Spirit, 
are accessible only to the lowest motives. "Give 
a dog a bad name," says the proverb, "and hang 
him." And the proverb may be an allegory to us. 
Deal with people on a low plane and they may 
sink to that plane and become incapable of oc- 
cupying any other. Cry to them, "Lift up your 
hearts" and believe me you will obtain your re- 
sponse. It is a familiar experience that, if you 
treat a man as a gentleman, he will tend to act 
like a gentleman; if you treat him like a thief, 
only the grace of God and strong moral fibre can 
hold him back from stealing. Treat Christian 
men like Christian men; expect them to live on 
Christian principles; and they will strive to walk 
worthily of their Christian profession. 

So far from Paul's appeal to the high motive of 
gratitude here, then, being surprising, it is, even 
on the low ground of natural psychology, true 
and right. The highest motives are relatively 


the most powerfuL And when we leave the low 
ground of natural psychology and take our stand 
on the higher ground of Christian truth, how sig- 
nificant and instructive it is. If the Holy Spirit 
has done this for me; if He in all His holiness is 
dwelling in me, to seal me unto the day of re- 
demption, shall I have no care not to grieve Him? 
Fear is paralyzing. Despair is destruction of effort. 
Hope is living and active in every limb, and when 
that hope becomes assurance, and that assurance is 
recognized as based on the act of a Person,' lovingly 
dealing with us and winning us to holiness, can we 
conceive of a motive to holiness of equal power .f^ 
Brethren, we must not speak of such things 
historically only. We are not here simply to ob- 
serve how Paul appealed to the Ephesians, as he 
sought to move them to holy endeavor; nor to 
discuss whether or not this is a moving manner of 
dealing with human souls. His appeal is to us. 
The fact asserted is true of us, — we are sealed by 
the Holy Spirit to the day of redemption. He is 
in us too as the Holy Spirit whom sin offends, and 
as the loving Spirit who is working in us towards 
good. Do we feel the pull of the appeal.? Shall 
we listen to and feel and yield to and obey Paul's 
great voice crying to us down through the ages: 
"Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God in whom ye 
were sealed unto the day of redemption"? Com- 
mune with your souls on these things to-day! 


Phil. 2:12, 13: — "So then, my beloved, even as ye have always 
obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my 
absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for 
it is God who worketh in you both to will and to work, for his good 

Nothing could be more fundamental to Paul's 
conception of salvation than his teaching as to its 
relation to "works." He is persistently insistent 
that this relation is that of cause rather than of 
effect. The "not out of works, but unto good 
works," of Ephesians 2:9, 10, sounds the key- 
note of his whole teaching. In "good works," 
therefore, according to Paul "salvation" finds its 
realization: the very essence of salvation is holi- 
ness of life, " sanctification of the spirit." And 
equally in "salvation" "good works" find their 
only root: and it is only on the ground of the 
saving work of God that men may be hopefully 
exhorted to good works. As it is pregnantly 
stated in the passage from Ephesians we have al- 
ready adverted to, God has prepared beforehand 
good works, to our walk in which we are intro- 
duced by a creative act on His part, in Christ 
Jesus (Eph. 2:10). Accordingly Paul's epistles 
(as is the whole New Testament), are full of par- 
ticular instances of appeals to conduct based on 
the inception and working in us of the saving ac- 



tivity of God (e.g., 1 Thess. 2:12; 2 Thess. 2:13- 
15; Rom. 6:2; 2 Cor. 5:14; Col. 1:10; Phil. 1:21; 
2:12, 13; 2 Tim. 2:19). Possibly in the words of 
our text we meet with the most precise expression 
of this appeal. Here the saint is exhorted to 
"work out his own salvation" just because "it is 
God who is the worker in him of both the willing 
and the doing, in pursuance of His good pleasure." 
If there is an antinomy involved in this colloca- 
tion of duty and motive, it is in this passage cer- 
tainly brought to its sharpest point. There are 
also many minor matters of interest in the lan- 
guage of the passage, which attract us to its study. 
Let us try to see briefly just what the Apostle 
says in it. 

It will be useful to bear in mind from the be- 
ginning that the exhortation is addressed not to 
sinners but to saints: it is to "the saints in Christ 
Jesus" (1:1), that Paul is speaking. That is to 
say, this exhortation has reference not to entrance 
into Christian life but to the prosecution to its 
appropriate goal of a Christian life already entered 
into. This is already advertised to us by the 
very verb used. Paul does not say simply "work 
your salvation," but "work out your salvation" — 
employing a compound verb which throws its 
emphasis on the end, "bring your salvation to its 
completion." It is also involved in the contextual 
connection. This exhortation closes a paragraph 
which had begun (1:27) with the appeal, "Only 


let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of 
Christ"; and it closes it with a reversion to the 
same dominant thought. These Philippian read- 
ers already stood with the Apostle in the fellow- 
ship of the gospel : his earnest desire for them was 
a complete realization in life of all that the gospel 
meant. They had entered upon the race; let 
them run it through to the goal. They had in 
principle received salvation in believing; let them 
work this salvation now completely out in life. 
At the opening of the letter Paul had expressed 
his confidence that, as God had begun a good work 
in them. He would perfect it until the day of Jesus 
Christ (1:6). He now exhorts them to strive to 
attam the same high end. "Work out your own 
salvation," i.e., work it completely out, advance 
it to its accomplishment, bring it to its capstone 
and crown it with its pinnacles. 

Had it not been brought into doubt by some 
students of the passage, it would seem a work of 
supererogation to pause to assure ourselves that 
what Paul has in mind in his exhortation to "work 
out salvation" is primarily the attainment of 
ethical perfection. The eschatological reference 
of "salvation" must not, of course, be obscured. 
But neither must it be obscured that the pathway 
that leads to the eschatological goal of salvation 
is that walk in good works unto which Christians 
have been created in Christ Jesus, that "fruitage 
of righteousness" which is through Jesus Christ 


unto the glory and praise of God, with which the 
Apostle longs to see the Philippians filled "against 
the day of Christ" (1:10, 11). When he exhorts 
his readers at the close of this paragraph "to 
work out their own salvation," he obviously has 
the same thing in mind which he had at its be- 
ginning, when he exhorted them to "let their 
manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ"; 
and the same thing which he explains in the course 
of it to include steadfastness in testimony to the 
gospel, love to the brethren, humility of mind and 
the like Christian virtues. In the acquisition and 
cultivation of such graces they would be "working 
out their salvation," realizing in life in its ever- 
growing completeness what is involved in "sal- 
vation" as its essential contents. 

The form and language in which the exhortation 
is cast are naturally coloured by the situation in 
which the writer found himself at the moment 
and the condition in which he conceived his 
readers to stand. For the Apostle was no ab- 
stract essayist, but wrote out of a burning heart, 
as a practical man to practical men, eager to meet 
the actually existent state of affairs. He had 
himself been interrupted in the midst of his work 
and cast into prison: he was labouring under deep 
anxiety lest his violent removal from the care 
of the infant churches should unfavorably affect 
their Christian development. He had, there- 
fore, already described at considerable length how 


his imprisonment had not elsewhere injured the 
progress of the gospel (1:12 sq.), and had sought 
to separate the Philippians from dependence on 
his initiative (1:27). He very naturally reverts 
to the same consideration now and makes his 
absence from his hearers only a reason for re- 
doubled exertions on their part, even hinting, per- 
haps, that they should know that, after all, each 
man must busy himself with "his own salvation," 
and the help he can obtain from others must be in- 
significant. This surely is, in part at least, the 
account to give of the emphatic pronoun — "work 
out your own salvation" — immediately connected 
as it is with the reference to the effect which his 
presence or absence should have on their activity : 
"not as if (you did so), only because I was pres- 
ent, but now much rather because I am absent, 
work out your own salvation." It is as much as 
to say, that the things that have happened to me 
fall out in your case, too, rather for the furtherance 
of the gospel : for if you have ever in any measure 
depended on me, my very removal should stir 
you up to increased effort — for after all it is your 
own salvation not my joy that is primarily at 
stake for you. It is possible meanwhile that this 
emphasis on "your own" may be, in part, due 
also to a reference back to the work of Christ so 
touchingly portrayed in the immediately preced- 
ing context : if Christ was willing to do and suffer 
all this for the salvation of others, should not you 


be willing to do and suffer in imitation of Him, for 
your own salvation? But in any case the main 
account of the emphasis thrown on the words 
would seem to be found in the reference to his 
readers' possible over-dependence on Paul's in- 

One of the chief dangers in which the Apostle 
had found the Philippians to stand arose from a 
tendency among them to pride and high-minded- 
ness, or, rather, perhaps, we should say, to party 
spirit, and to selfishness (2:1-4). It was, there- 
fore, that he was led to devote the early part of 
this chapter to urging them to beware of faction 
and vainglory and to cultivate lowliness of mind: 
and it was on this account that he adduces for 
their imitation Christ's great example of self- 
humiliation for the good of others (2:5 sq.). Of 
course allusion to their most prominent ethical 
danger could not be absent from this closing ex- 
hortation, in which he sums up his desire for their 
ethical perfection. It is natural, therefore, that 
the Apostle, after his gracious conciliatory habit, 
should pause at the outset to recognize the gen- 
eral submissiveness of disposition which his readers 
had hitherto shown, in accordance with the ex- 
ample of Christ: for the back reference of the 
words, "even as ye have always submitted," to 
the "becoming submissive even unto death" of 
verse 8 is unmistakable. And it is due, doubt- 
less, to the same clause that he throws so strong 


an emphasis, in the very exhortation itself, on the 
spirit in which they were to "work out their own 
salvation," namely, "with fear and trembling," 
that is to say, with due recognition of their hum- 
ble estate in the sight of that God whose servants 
they were, and whose salvation they were now 
exhorted to use all diligence in realizing. 

We must pause a moment on these words, 
"with fear and trembling." For the immense 
emphasis that is thrown upon them constitutes 
them, as has been convincingly pointed out by E. 
Schaeder, the hinge of the passage. The effect of 
this emphasis is that Paul does not here exhort his 
readers so much to "work out their salvation" as 
to work it out specifically "with fear and trem- 
bling." What he says in effect is, "Let it be with 
fear and trembling that you work out your own 
salvation." The whole force of the exhortation, 
in fact, accumulates on these words, "with fear 
and trembling." It is to the preservation of this 
state of mind in the working out of their salva- 
tion that the Apostle is really urging his readers. 
Now it is undeniable that there seems something 
strange in this. Why should the Apostle lay 
such stress on "fear and trembling" as the char- 
acterizing spirit of the Christian effort.^ Is 
Christianity, after all, even more than Judaism, 
which Hegel (though mistakenly) called the re- 
ligion of fear j)ar excellence, just the religion of 
slavish terror — every step in the cultivation of 


which is to be driven on by "fear and trembling"? 
What becomes then of that fundamental tone 
which resounds through every sentence and word 
and syllable of this very Epistle to the Philip - 
pians — that of "rejoice in the Lord" (3:1)? What 
harmony can exist between the two exhortations: 
"Let it be specifically with fear and trembling 
that ye work out your own salvation," and "Re- 
joice in the Lord always; again I will say. Re- 
joice" (4:4)? What union can there be between 
such carking anxiety and abounding joy, as twin 
states of heart characterizing the entire Christian 
walk? It is certainly puzzling to find the Apostle 
throwing the stress of his exhortation on these 
words; and it deserves our most careful scrutiny. 
This puzzle is only increased when we observe, 
as we must observe at once on reading the ex- 
hortation itself — that is, the twelfth verse — in its 
context, that Paul's purpose is obviously to en- 
courage not to frighten his readers, to enhearten 
not to dishearten them in their Christian walk. 
WTien we consider the inducements which he 
brings to bear on them to give force to his exhor- 
tation, we cannot believe that its nerve is fear 
lest they should after all not attain the end, 
but rather assurance that the end shall be cer- 
tainly gained. For Paul places this exhortation 
between the two most powerful encouragements 
that could possibly be brought to bear upon a 
Christian's conduct — the example of Christ and 


the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. ''So then, my 
beloved," he says, in introducing the exhortation. 
And this "so then" looks back upon and takes 
hold upon that marvellous exposition of the self- 
abnegation of Christ and His consequent great 
reward, which the Apostle had given in verses 
5-11. "So then" — seeing then that you have 
this great example so plainly and so powerfully 
set before you, in imitation of it and inspired by 
its great lesson — do you "work out your own sal- 
vation." This exhortation is, to be sure, broad- 
ened beyond the specific application of the pre- 
mise; the particular exemplary act adduced from 
Christ's great transaction is His self-abnegation, 
"accounting others better than Himself"; and 
the exhortation to the Philippians to "work out 
their own salvation" includes more than a rec- 
ommendation of self-abnegation. The logical 
nexus, of course, lies in the fact that the special 
fault of the Philippians, fresh in the Apostle's 
mmd as requiring eradication, as they advanced 
toward Christian perfection, was precisely that 
high-mindedness which was slow to look on the 
things of others as well as on their own things; and 
the special virtues they needed to cultivate in 
completing their salvation were just those vir- 
tues of self-abnegation to which the example of 
Christ would inspire them. Hence the fitness of 
this example to their case. But there seems no 
fitness in it to ground a specific appeal to "fear 


and trembling" as the proper state of mind in 
which they should prosecute their working out of 
their own salvation. Awe, reverence, humility, 
yes: these would be suitable frames of feeling 
for him who would work under the inspiration of 
such an example. But fear and trembling, — anx- 
ious dread lest failure after all should be the 
end of endeavour, — how could the example of 
Christ's great act of humiliation, issuing in so 
tremendous a reward, fitly call out such a state 
of mind? 

The case is similar with the support which the 
Apostle brings to his exhortation from the other 
side. "Let it be with fear and trembling," says 
the Apostle, "that you work out your own salva- 
tion, for^^ — and this "for" looks forward to and 
takes hold upon the sharpest possible assurance of 
divine aid. "For He that worketh in you both 
the willing and the doing, in pursuance of His 
good pleasure, is none other than God." Surely 
this tremendous assertion of the implication of 
God Himself in the work he is exhorting his readers 
to prosecute, affords no reason why they should 
carry on that work in the grip of a dreadful fear 
lest they should after all fail. We must not neg- 
lect the emphasis that falls on the word "God" 
here — second only to that which falls on the words 
"with fear and trembling," so that in effect these 
two ideas are brought into sharp collocation, and 
each enhances the stress thrown on the other. 


Nor should we neglect to notice, what has been 
well brought out by Kiihl, that Paul is adducing 
here a general proposition — one in one form or 
another familiar to all readers of his epistles — the 
great truth central to his whole system of doc- 
trine, that "it is God who in all matters of salva- 
tion, is the energizer in men of both the willing 
and the doing, in pursuance of His good pleasure." 
It is the same great fact that the Apostle planted 
at the root of the confidence of his Ephesian read- 
ers (1:11), when he traced all the blessings that 
had been brought them to the purpose "of Him 
who worketh all things after the counsel of His 
own will." It is the same great fact that rings 
out in the triumphant cry of Romans 8:31 — "If 
God be for us, who can be against us." Surely, 
when he placed the Almighty Arms beneath them, 
the Apostle cannot have intended to instil into 
his readers a more poignant sense of the uncer- 
tainty of the issue of their labours, and to justify 
to them a demand that it shall be especially "in 
fear and trembling" — in doubt and terror as to 
the result — that they must prosecute their great 
task of "working out their own salvation." The 
great fact that he adduces is awe-inspiring enough. 
How solemnizing the assurance that God works 
in us all our good impulses! How fitted to teach 
us humility and beget in us a godly fear as we 
walk the pathway provided for us ! But how little 
fitted to lead us to despair of the result, to live 


in dreadful uncertainty as to the outcome! "K 
God is for us, who is against us ! " 

The context, then, certainly lends no support 
to the emphatic words "with fear and trembling," 
if they be taken as an exhortation to an attitude 
of doubt and hesitation — to the presentation of a 
fear of failure as an incitement to diligence in 
labour. On the contrary, the context demands 
an encouraging, not a warning, note for the ex- 
hortation. This raises the suspicion that we may 
have mistaken the sense of Paul in the use of the 
phrase "with fear and trembling." And a closer 
scrutiny confirms this suspicion. The colloca- 
tion of the two words "fear" and "trembling," it 
seems, had become something of a set formula 
with the Apostle, possibly grounded in the usage 
of the two together in such passages of the Sep- 
tuagint as Genesis 9 :2, Is. 19 :16; and this formula 
seems no longer to have had the value to him of 
the two words in combination, but rather to have 
come to express little more than the proper rev- 
erence due to a superior. For example, in Ephe- 
sians 6:5, when the Apostle exhorts servants to 
be obedient to their masters "with fear and 
trembling," he can scarcely intend to recommend 
to servants a spirit of craven fear before their 
master's face. Did he not rather wish to com- 
mend to them an appropriate recognition of the 
distance between master and slave, and the re- 
spectful reverence befitting the relation in which 


they stood? So in 2 Cor. 7:15, when we are told 
that the Corinthians received Titus "with fear 
and trembHng," we are surely not to understand 
that they received him with a vivid dread lest 
they should fall short of winning his favour, but 
rather simply that they received him with the 
respect and obedience due to his official position 
as one set over them in the Lord. Similarly, in 
1 Cor. 2:3, the Apostle surely means only to say 
that he acted in his work at Corinth with due 
respect to his commission and subjection to the 
Spirit who accompanied his preaching with His 

In a word, it is clear enough that in the phrase 
"with fear and trembling," we have to do with a 
set formula, which, in the Apostle's mind and 
lips, finds its reference to the attitude of depend- 
ence, reverence and obedience befitting an in- 
ferior, and is, therefore, especially related to the 
ideas of submissiveness and subjection. It owes 
its place in our present passage obviously to its 
correlation with the immediately precedent phrase, 
"As ye have always obeyed" (verse 12), which 
itself goes back to the obedience of Christ's great 
example (verse 8). If Chrysostom, therefore, is 
formally wrong in, without more ado, para- 
phrasing it by "with humility of spirit," he is not 
so far astray as might at first sight be thought in 
the substance of the matter. What the Apostle 
would seem to say, in effect is just this: "As ye 


have always hitherto been submissive, so let it 
be with the same submissiveness of spirit that ye 
bring your salvation to its completion, seeing 
that, as you know, the energizer who works in 
you both the willing and the doing is God, in pur- 
suance of His good pleasure." It is to reverence, 
obedience, humility in their Christian walk in 
the consciousness of the same power of God oper- 
ating in them, to which he exhorts his readers; 
not to terror and dread lest after all their labour 
they might yet prove to be castaways. It is not 
the difficulty of the task that he is emphasizing; 
but the solemnity of it. 

It is under the encouragement of these two great 
facts, then, that Paul here stirs up his Philippian 
readers to the sacred work of advancing in the 
Christian walk steadily to the great end — the ex- 
ample of Christ and the interior working of God 
in their hearts. We have ventured to speak of 
the latter as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. 
The Holy Spirit is not mentioned by name. But 
it is obviously His indwelling work that is ad- 
verted to; and accordingly the seventh chapter of 
Romans, with its sequel in the eighth chapter, 
really provides an extended commentary on this 
passage. The process which is there displayed 
to us, as the new power not ourselves making for 
righteousness is implanted in the heart, and from 
that vantage ground wages its victorious war 
against the sin still entrenched in the members. 


is here compressed for us into one sharp, crisp 
word of declaration. The Christian works out 
his own salvation under the energizing of God, to 
whose energizing is due every impulse to good that 
rises in him, every determination to good which 
he frames, every execution of a good purpose 
which he carries into effect. And in view of the 
great fact that this power within him making for 
righteousness is none other than God Himself, 
surely the only proper attitude for the Christian 
in working out His salvation is one of "fear and 
trembling," — of awe and reverence in the presence 
of the Holy One, of submission and obedience to 
His leading, of dependence and trust on His 
guidance. This, in effect, seems to be the Apos- 
tle's meaning. It is, in a word, an uncovering of the 
sources of sanctification, and a reference of it as to 
its origin in every step to God's gracious activities. 

We may then perhaps attempt a paraphrase of 
the passage. "So, then, my beloved, in view of 
Christ's great example of self-abnegation — even 
as ye have always obeyed, so now, not as if it were 
only because I was present, but much more just 
because I am absent, let it be in a spirit of rever- 
ent submissiveness that you carry your salvation 
to its completion. For remember that He that 
effects in you not only the willing but also the 
doing, is none other than God Himself. And He 
does it in pursuance of His good pleasure." Or 
more at large : " Under the inspiration of this great 


example that Christ Jesus has set us, an example 
of humble submission even down to death, and 
of His consequent reward, I may repeat and 
strengthen my exhortation to you. I gladly allow 
that you have never been failing in submissiveness 
of spirit. When I was present with you I saw it 
and rejoiced in it. I trust it was not due to my 
presence only that you were able to exhibit so 
Christlike a disposition. After all, it is not my 
pleasure but your own salvation that should pri- 
marily engage your thoughts. And if my presence 
were, indeed, useful to you, how much more effort 
should you make, now that I can no longer be 
with you and you are thrown on your own re- 
sources. Nay, let me not so speak. You are not 
in any case thrown on your own resources. Let it 
be with godly awe in your hearts and reverent 
fear of mind that you engage in this solemn work. 
For it is, you remember, none other than God 
Himself who prompts you to the effort, — whose it 
is to effect within you both the wish and the per- 
formance : and this He does in the prosecution of 
His blessed purpose of good towards you. It is 
in His hands that you are in this work: it is thus a 
holy work — in the prosecution of which you may, 
therefore, well put off the sandals from your feet. 
In devout submissiveness, then, carry it on, with 
all diligence, and depend on no creature's impulse or 
help : it is God who in it works in and through you 
and so fulfils His gracious will with respect to you." 


Phil. 3:9: — "And be found in Him, not having a righteousness 
of mine own, even that which is of the law, but that which is 
through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." 

"When we attempt to gain an apprehension of 
Paul's doctrine of salvation on the ground of an 
alien righteousness," remarks Professor George 
B. Stevens, "we must bear in mind that Paul was 
waging an intense polemic — the great conflict of 
his life." The remark is true enough in itself, but 
will scarcely warrant Professor Stevens' inference 
from it, namely, that we must be careful therefore 
not to take Paul's statements in this matter au 
pied de la lettre; that we must expect (and will 
find) ascertain exaggeration in his language at this 
polemic point, a certain one-sidedness in his as- 
sertions; and be, therefore, prepared to tone down 
the extremity of his statements to more reason- 
able proportions. From this warning of Pro- 
fessor Stevens' we may, perhaps, learn this much, 
however: that Paul's statements at this point are 
radical and leave little room for that nice balancing 
so dear to the hearts of so-called "moderate" 
thinkers, by which they would fain retain some 
room for glorying in the flesh while yet joining 
in the universal song of the saints of God, Gloria 
Deo Soli. 



It is clear, at once, that the forms of Paul's 
language at least do not easily lend themselves 
to the notion that, though Divine aid is requisite 
to salvation, yet the fundamental movement 
thereunto must be of man's own making; or 
even that, though salvation is predominatingly 
from God, yet this is not to the exclusion of the 
necessity on man's part of at least assent and con- 
sent to the Divine working; that if the basis of 
the Divine acceptance of man is to be found in 
the work of Christ, at least faith is demanded of 
man as the condition on the performance of which 
alone will this acceptance be accorded to him. It 
is something like this that Professor Stevens 
wishes to reserve to man as his part in salvation. 
And it is in his effort to rescue this to man from 
the obviously unwilling hands of Paul that he is 
led to remark that Paul's language must be inter- 
preted as that of a headlong controversialist, 
who in his zeal falls into "a certain one-sided- 
ness" in his representations, and keys his reason- 
ings so high that they must be taken rather as 
"purposely one-sided argumenta ad hominem" 
and do not fairly set forth perhaps Paul's whole 
thought on the subject. Whence, we say, it 
seems perfectly clear that the language of Paul, 
taken as it stands, excludes even so much of a 
human element lying at the basis of salvation. 
What he says — whatever he means — is obviously 
that our own righteousness — in every item and 


degree of it — is wholly excluded from the ground 
of our salvation; and the righteousness provided 
by God in Christ is the sole ground of our accept- 
ance in His sight. According to his express 
statements, at least, we are saved entirely on the 
ground of an alien righteousness and not at all on 
the ground of anything we are or have done, or 
can do, — ^be it even so small a matter as believing. 
For the rest, true as it is that in this matter 
Paul was involved in an ineradicable conflict with 
the Judaizers — in what may be with good right 
called indeed "the conflict of his life" — it is 
very easy to press beyond the mark in our esti- 
mate of the effect of this conflict upon his thought 
or even upon his language. After all, Paul's in- 
terest in the ground of human salvation was a 
positive one, rather than a negative one. In the 
providence of God he was led to develop his doc- 
trine of salvation for the benefit of his disciples in 
conflict with Judaizers; and we view it to-day 
in the forms of statement given it under the neces- 
sities of that controversy. But there is no reason 
to believe that he would not have taught precisely 
that same doctrine of salvation, though, doubt- 
less, in different forms of statement, had he been 
required to meet erroneous teaching of a totally 
different kind, proceeding from a wholly different 
quarter — that is, if we really believe that the 
essence of his doctrine is the truth of God, given 
him by revelation, and not merely his personal 


position assumed to hold standing ground for him- 
self as a determined opponent of the old Jewish 
party in the Church. In other words, the con- 
flict with the Judaizers was not first with Paul and 
his doctrine of salvation second, either in time or 
importance; but, on the contrary, his doctrine of 
salvation was first and his controversy with the 
Judaizers both subsequent and consequent to it. 
He did not hold this doctrine of salvation because 
he polemicized the Judaizers, but he polemicized 
the Judaizers because he held this doctrine of 
salvation. He did not attain this doctrine of sal- 
vation then in controversy with the Judaizers, 
but he controverted the Judaizers because their 
teaching impinged on this precious doctrine. 
Though, therefore, the forms in which he states the 
doctrine in these epistles take shape from the fact 
that he is rebutting the assaults on it and the 
subtle undermining of it derived from the con- 
ceptions of the Judaizers, the doctrine stated is 
prior in the order of time and thought in his mind 
to the rise of the danger to it which he is repelling 
in these expressions. The interest and impor- 
tance of this to us is that it thereby is brought to* 
our clear consciousness that Paul's fundamental 
interest in this matter turns not on the violence 
of his conflict with the Judaizers but on the pro- 
fundity of his conviction of the truth of his po- 
sition. Whenever he replies to the Judaizers' 
assault in whatever sharpness of rebuke and 


keenness of polemic thrust, his primary interest 
is not in silencing his opponents but in uphold- 
ing his teaching. 

We could not have a better illustration of this 
than in the passage now before us. The whole of 
it is suffused with an emotion which is far deeper 
and far purer than polemic zeal. Nowhere do 
Paul's polemics burn more fiercely. Nowhere is 
his language sharper or his expressions more "ex- 
treme." But nowhere is it clearer that his heart 
is set on higher things than on the refutation of 
errorists whom he would correct; and nowhere is 
it less legitimate to pare down his expressions to 
the level of mere controversial violence. The 
Apostle as he opened the third chapter of this 
Epistle was contemplating drawing it to a close. 
"Finally, my brethren," he says, using the familiar 
formula for introducing the concluding words, — 
"finally, my brethren," he says, closing the let- 
ter, as is his wont, with some striking fundamen- 
tal thought that would abide in the mind of his 
readers as a last message to their souls, — "finally, 
my brethren, let your joy be in the Lord." This 
is no mere formula of farewell, as some, misled 
by the "rejoice" — which is to be sure an ordinary 
formula of epistolary salutation — ^have imagined. 
The conception of Christian rejoicing is a funda- 
mental note of this letter, and here it has all the 
emphasis that this gives it. And it is not merely 
the idea of rejoicing that is here emphatic, but 


the added idea of rejoicing "in the Lord." "Fi- 
nally, my brethren," says the Apostle, "let your 
joy be in the Lord." Ah, this is where the 
Apostle's heart is as he opens this paragraph — 
this is the thought he would leave with his readers. 
"Let your joy be in the Lord" — not in your- 
selves, but in the Lord. We should say, perhaps, 
rather. Let your boast be in the Lord; let your 
glorying be only in the Lord. It means funda- 
mentally the same thing. The Apostle would 
bring his letter to a close by reminding his readers 
of the very core of the saving proclamation. 
They are saved — not self -saving souls. Let them 
rejoice, let them continually joy, in the Lord ! 

This is not a new theme with the Apostle. It is 
rather one of his favourite subjects, this of boast- 
ing in Christ Jesus. He is conscious that he 
harps on it. But he is not ashamed of harping 
on it; it is the heart of the Gospel and he is not 
ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. But he makes 
a quasi-apology for so harping on it. "I know 
this is repetitious," he says at once, "but I like 
to say it, and it may be useful to you." "To 
write the same things to you, to me on the one 
hand is not irksome, but to you on the other it is 
safe." It is a joy to Paul to cry over and over 
and over again, "Let your joy be in the Lord"; 
in Him only put your boasting; in Him alone do 
your glorying; and it is a safe thing to impress on 
his readers. At the mention of this, the floods of 


polemics rush in. Paul remembers those who 
were endangering the purity of this attitude of 
dependence on the Lord alone in his flocks, and 
remembering them, what can he do but burst out 
with renewed warnings? 

So the letter does not close, after all, at this 
point, but instead, we have the sharp exhortation, 
"Mark ye the dogs! Mark ye the evil workers! 
Mark ye the concision!" Why does his polemic 
burn so hotly against these men? Simply be- 
cause they endangered that attitude which he was 
impressing on his readers, and in which the whole 
Gospel consisted for him — the attitude of entire 
dependence on Christ to the exclusion of every- 
thing in themselves. Accordingly his rapid and 
clearly cut speech leaps at once into the reason: 
"Mark ye the concision, — the concision I say, the 
mere imitation; for we are the circumcision, the 
real sealed ones to God, who worship by the Spirit 
of God and boast in Christ Jesus, and put no con- 
fidence in the flesh." 

We do not need to follow the subsequent turns 
of the polemic into which the Apostle here enters. 
It is enough for us to note that the language abun- 
dantly confirms the interpretation of the drift of 
the paragraph and the intent of its opening words 
on which we have insisted. Paul exhorts his 
readers "to let their joy be in the Lord," and he 
repudiates the concision on the express ground 
that their claims are antagonistic to a purely 


spiritual worship, to boasting in Christ Jesus alone 
and the withdrawal of all confidence from the 
flesh. This is that to which the Apostle is en- 
gaged in exhorting his readers therefore — ^boasting 
in Christ Jesus alone and the removal of all con- 
fidence in the flesh. We all know how richly he 
develops this idea in the following words — enu- 
merating his own high claims in the flesh and as- 
serting roundly that all of them are but as refuse 
to him in the matter of salvation. Christ Jesus is 
all. The language of our text is but the elabora- 
tion of this vital idea in other and more precise 
language. All that he is, all that he has sought 
after, all that he has done, — though from a fleshly 
point of view far superior to what most men can 
appeal to — all, all, he counts (not merely useless 
but) loss, all one mass of loss, to be cast away and 
buried in the sea, "that he may gain Christ and 
be found in Him." On the one side stand all 
human works — they are all loss. On the other 
hand stands Christ — He is all in all. That is the 
contrast. And this is the contrast re-expressed 
more formally in our text: "not having my own 
righteousness that is out of law, but that which is 
through faith in Christ, the righteousness that 
is from God on faith." 

The contrast is between the righteousness which 
a man can make for himself and the righteousness 
that God gives him. And the contrast is abso- 
lute. On the one, in the height and the breadth 


of its whole idea — we cannot exaggerate here — 
Paul pours contempt, as a basis or, nay, even the 
least part of the basis, of salvation. On the other, 
exclusively, he bases the totality of salvation. 
The outcome is, that not merely polemically but 
fundamentally, he founds salvation solely on an 
alien righteousness, with the express exclusion 
of every item of our own righteousness. The 
whole contents of the passage demands this as 
Paul's fundamental thought. 

Now, it is not necessary for us, on this occasion, 
to stop to analyze in its details Paul's thought; 
to show by detailed exposition how utterly the 
righteousness rejected by him is rejected and how 
exclusively the righteousness laid hold of by him 
is trusted in, and how completely the ground of 
our trust is cleansed by Paul from every scintilla 
of human works. It will suffice for the present to 
accept the discrimination he makes in the large 
and to try to realize how fully to him the totality 
of the Gospel lay just in this discrimination. The 
Gospel, to Paul, consists precisely in this: that 
we do nothing to earn our salvation or to secure 
it for ourselves. God in Christ does it all. 

It is easy, of course, to brand such an assertion 
as immoral. Men were not slow to brand it as 
immoral in Paul's day, and men are not slow to 
brand it as immoral ("unethical" is their way of 
phrasmg it) to-day. "What," they say, "we are 
to do nothing! Christ does it all! Nothing de- 


pends on us! Not even our believing! Then, let 
us eat, drink and be merry!" They do not stop 
to consider that the repetition against those who 
draw this doctrine from Paul's teaching, of pre- 
cisely the same charge that was urged against 
Paul, is the last thing which could be needed to 
prove that Paul has not been misunderstood when 
he is interpreted as advancing by set purpose just 
this doctrine. Paul does not meet the charge by 
explaining that he wishes his words concerning 
the exclusion of all our righteousness from the 
ground of salvation to be taken cum grano sails; but 
by explaining that, being saved not indeed "out of 
works" but certainly "unto good works," we 
cannot walk in sin and yet be saved. This posit- 
ing of a new antithesis, not out of works but unto 
good works, clinches the essence of his doctrine, 
and may be adopted by us as the sole defence it 
needs against the accusations of men. 

You remember how Mr. J. A. Froude in a 
famous essay adduced as a speaking evidence of 
the "immorality of Evangelicalism," the well- 
known revival hymn beginning: 

"Nothing either great or small. 
Nothing, sinner, no; 
Jesus did it, did it all. 
Long, long, ago." 

What was particularly offensive to him was the 
assertion that 


"Doing is a deadly thing. 
Doing ends in death"; 

and the consequent exhortation 

"Cast your deadly doing down, 
Down at Jesus' feet, 
Stand in Him, in Him alone. 
Gloriously complete." 

It is, nevertheless, the very cor cordis of the Gos- 
pel that is here brought under fire. The one anti- 
thesis of all the ages is that between the rival 
formulse: Do this and live, and, Live and do this; 
Do and be saved, and Be saved and do. And the 
one thing that determines whether we trust in 
God for salvation or would fain save ourselves is, 
how such formulae appeal to us. Do we, like the 
rich young ruler, feel that we must "do some good 
thing" in order that we may be saved? Then, 
assuredly, we are not yet prepared to trust our 
salvation to Christ alone — to sell all that we have 
and follow Him. Just in proportion as we are 
striving to supplement or to supplant His perfect 
work, just in that proportion is our hope of sal- 
vation resting on works, and not on faith. Ethi- 
cism and solafideanism — these are the eternal 
contraries, mutually exclusive. It must be faith 
or works; it can never be faith and works. And 
the fundamental exhortation which we must ever 
be giving our souls is clearly expressed in the words 
of the hymn, "Cast your deadly doing down." 
Only when that is completely done is it really 


Christ Only, Christ All in All, with us; only then, 
do we obey fully Paul's final exhortation: "Let 
your joy be in the Lord." Only then do we re- 
nounce utterly "our own righteousness, that out 
of law," and rest solely on "that which is through 
faith in Christ, the righteousness of God on 


Phil. 4:7: — "And the peace of God, which passeth all under- 
standing, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ 

The exact phrase which we have given as the 
subject of our reflection this afternoon, though 
one of the most familiar phrases in our religious 
speech, has a very slender claim to be looked upon 
as Biblical. It occurs but once in the Bible 
(Rom. 5:1), and then, as it seems to me (though 
on this the commentators differ), not in its fun- 
damental sense, or in the sense in which it is prob- 
ably most prominent in the minds of most of us 
here this afternoon, but in its subjective sense of 
consciousness of peace with God. The thing de- 
noted by the phrase is of course a frequent and 
basal idea in Scripture, though not expressed by 
the exact phrase now before us. The correlated 
terms "enmity," "reconciliation," "peace," occur 
with sufficient frequency and express what may 
properly be called a fundamental idea of the 

We are told that we are naturally "enemies" of 
God, that God looks upon us as such, and that we 
cherish the feelings appropriate to that condi- 
tion — being enemies in our minds by wicked 
works, and because of a carnal mind necessarily at 



enmity with the Holy God. This enmity we are 
told Christ has "abolished," "slain" on His cross, 
"reconciling" us with God by His propitiatory 
work. As a result of this "propitiation," we are 
told, He has made "peace" (Eph. 2:18); and, 
therefore. He is called "our peace," and His Gos- 
pel, "the Gospel of peace" (Rom. 10:15; Eph. 
6:15). His whole work was "that we might have 
peace in Him" (Jno. 16:33), and His gospel con- 
sisted in "preaching peace by Jesus" (Acts 10:36). 
Even in the Old Testament prophecy. He is prom- 
ised as the "Prince of Peace" (Isa. 9:6), and it is 
clearly perceived that He is such because the 
"chastisement of our peace shall be on Him" 
(Isa. 53 :5) ; in other words, because that punish- 
ment by which our sins are expiated and we are 
reconciled with God should be borne by Him. 

There is no lack, therefore, of the most explicit 
enunciation in Scripture of the fact which our 
phrase expresses; it is rather one of the pervading 
representations of Scripture that we are at en- 
mity with God and can have peace with Him only 
in the blood of Christ. Only it so happens that 
the connection in which the word "peace" occurs 
most frequently in Scripture is one which raises 
our eyes rather to God as the giver of peace than 
emphasizes the fact that it is with Him that the 
peace is established. "Peace from God" hap- 
pens, therefore, to be a commoner Scriptural 
locution than "peace with God." "I will give unto 


him my covenant of peace" (Numb. 28:12), 
though not spoken with this broad implication 
may almost be represented as the primary promise 
of the Old Covenant, under which the longing of 
God's people expressed itself in the assurance that 
"He would speak peace with His people and to 
His saints" (Psa. 85:8). Wherefore that Old 
Covenant saint upon whose glad eyes the dawn of 
salvation had fallen, expresses his joy that the 
coming of the Day-spring from on high was a 
promise that now, at length, the feet of God's 
people should be guided in the way of peace (Luke 
1:79). Accordingly Jesus represents the result of 
His work as giving peace to His followers (Jno. 
16:33) — "My peace I leave with you, my peace I 
give unto you" (Jno. 16:27), and His disciples 
going everywhere "preached peace by Jesus" 
(Acts 10:36). It is the "peace of God" that 
passeth all understanding, that the Apostle would 
have rule in the hearts of His converts (Phil. 4:7); 
and the prayer that "peace from God" should be 
on them became the fixed form of Apostolic ben- 
ediction (Rom. 1:7). 

This pervading longing for peace and promise 
of it as one of the most precious gifts of God, cer- 
tainly enhances our sense of its value. Perhaps 
we may say that the chief difference in the feeling 
of the two terms "peace from God" and "peace 
with God" is that the primary emphasis in the 
former falls naturally on subjective peace — 


though by no means to the exclusion of objective 
peace; while, with the latter the reverse is the 
case. When we speak of "peace from God" 
coming upon us, of the peace of God that passes 
all understanding "sen trying" our hearts and 
thoughts, of the peace of Jesus which He left with 
us, when He added: "Let not your heart be 
troubled, neither let it be fearful," we necessarily 
think first of all of the deep sense of inner peace 
and satisfaction which pervades the hearts of 
none in the world who have not "found their 
peace" as we say, in Christ. On the other hand, 
when we speak of "peace with God" our thoughts 
go primarily back to that great transaction on 
Calvary when He who is our peace reconciled us 
to God by His cross, having slain the enmity 
thereon; and we who were alienated in our wicked 
minds from Him were brought nigh in the blood 
of Christ. We cannot think of the one, indeed, 
without thinking of the other; nor can one exist 
apart from the other. We cannot have peace of 
heart, until our real and actual separation from 
God is bridged by the blood of Christ. We can- 
not have the breach between God and us healed 
without a sense of the new relation of peace steal- 
ing into our hearts. And possibly we cannot do 
better to-day than just to realize how inter- 
dependent the two are and how rich the peace is 
which we obtain in Christ Jesus. 

To this end, let us consider (1) the utter lack of 


peace which man suffers by nature; (2) the full- 
ness of peace brought to us by Jesus; and (3) the 
process by which this peace is made the possession 
of the mind and soul. 

It is a curious thing if you look at it, how little 
peace man out of Christ, that is, apart from God 
and His right relation to him, has in the world; 
how utterly out of joint he is — at war, in fact — 
with even his physical environment. Every 
other creature finds a place for itself in nature; 
nature cares for them all. "She spreads a table 
for the tiger in the jungle, for the buffalo on the 
prairie, for the dragon-fly above the summer 
brook." But she spreads no table for man. 
Foxes may have holes and the birds of the air, 
nests; but like his Lord, man has no place in na- 
ture where he can safely lay his head. As a mere 
animal, he is the weakest and most helpless of all, 
with no natural covering to keep him warm, with 
no natural weapons to protect himself, with no 
speed for escape, and no cunning for hiding. The 
sun burns him and the winter freezes him. A 
brilliant writer, upon whom I am drawing very 
freely in these paragraphs, calls him justly, the step- 
child of time. Revelation accounts for it by the fall. 
Man stood at the gate of Eden, an exile, facing a 
wild world, a world of briers and thorns, of hos- 
tile fears, of death. What man out of Christ 
thinks of it, the myths he has invented tell us; 
from the shrinking terror of the fetish worshipper 


at every old bone or bit of stick, to the weird 
shapes and glowing myths of our own Scandina- 
vian fathers. Man knows himself to be at war 
with the world. 

It is much if he can get his food. Most do not. 
But food does not satisfy him. " Put an ox in a 
fat pasture beside a clear stream and the ox is as 
happy as an ox can be. The hungry tiger with 
reeking jaws, tearing the slaughtered buffalo, is 
happy to the utmost limit of tiger nature." But 
after man has conquered nature, he is still not at 
peace with her. He is no happier in the palace 
than in the hut. 

" In the cool hall with haggard eyes 
The Roman nobly lay; 
Then rose and drove in furious wise 
Along the Appian Way. 

He made a feast, drank fierce and fast 
And crowned his head with flowers. 

No easier and no swifter passed 
The impracticable hours." 

Man assuredly is at odds with nature; but not 
only with nature, there is something deeper than 
that. Man is at odds with himself. So that, 
even though he were not the stepchild of nature 
and all that is external to him existed only to do 
his pleasure, so that like the lotus-eaters he could 
merely lie and be happy; man would not be 
happy. The deep unrest of his nature has a 
deeper cause than merely his lack of physical ad- 


justment to his environment. He is out of joint 
with himself. He has a conscience and knows the 
right. But he also knows what is not right. And 
this sense of sin, ineradicable instinct in every 
soul, is the source of a restless uneasiness which 
knows and can know no peace. His very dis- 
quietedness with nature receives half its terror 
from it. If man merely felt that he must manip- 
ulate nature for his comfort, he might, at least, be 
inwardly easy or troubled only by those natural 
anxieties for the future that cluster around the 
questions, What shall I eat, and what shall I 
drink, and wherewith shall I be clothed. But his 
inward unrest clothes nature with a thousand 
terrors; her forces become avenging furies, her 
thunders the voice of an accusing God, her light- 
nings and tornadoes — her quietly working poisons 
of miasma and disease — become the tools of God's 
anger. Because he is a sinner, man's inward war 
is inflicted on his outward environment. And 
his conscience it is that will give him no peace. 

But neither is conscience the ultimate fact. 
As the terrors of nature are due to the fact that 
they are not ultimate but point upwards and in- 
wards to the war in the heart, so the terrors of 
conscience are due to the fact that they, too, are 
not ultimate but point upwards to a higher Power. 
Conscience is the voice of God proclaiming war 
in man; and through it man knows that he is not 
at peace with God. Hence its pain and terror. 


Everywhere, man knows that because he is a 
sinner, he is at enmity with God. Man's sense 
of enmity with God is the source of all his terror, all 
his unrest, all his misery. It is ineradicable and 
universal. It must abide so long as man knows he 
is a sinner. But so long as it abides, he cannot be 
other than miserable. 

Now the Apostle, in the text, recognizing this 
state of things, promises us as if it were the fun- 
damental blessing, the peace of God. And he 
promises it to us in language which exhibits his 
high appreciation of its nature. He calls it, a 
peace that passes all conception. And he prom- 
ises it as something that will guard or "sentry" 
our hearts and thoughts — as if it were able to 
keep us pure and holy as few things can. Let us 
note then in opposition to the restlessness of man's 
heart by nature the surpassingness of God's peace. 

And here, note especially, the universality of 
this peace of God; how it supplies the whole lack 
of peace in which we are by nature. 

It is fundamentally peace with God. "But 
now in Christ Jesus ye that once were afar off are 
made nigh in the blood of Christ. For he is our 
peace, who made both one, and broke down the 
middle wall of partition, having abolished in his 
flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments 
and ordinances, that he might create in himself 
of the twain one new man, so making peace; and 
might reconcile them both in one body unto God 


through his cross, having slain the enmity there- 
by." Christianity does not come crying peace, 
peace, when there is no peace, and when we know 
there is no peace. It does not come crying that 
God is love and nothing but love, and the Father 
of all, not at enmity to us, not needing any recon- 
ciliation. It comes recognizing the enmity and 
laying an adequate foundation for peace. It rec- 
ognizes our sin and guilt and offers an atonement 
for it. It recognizes our condemnation and makes 
provision for its reversal. It institutes peace out 
of war, and that by a method which commands our 
assent as complete, availing, effective. Thus it 
makes peace between us and God. 

And just because it does not talk of a peace 
already existing when our hearts know there is 
war, it relieves also our unrest of conscience and 
brings us to peace with ourselves. Looking upon 
the satisfaction of Christ, the heart can comfort 
itself in the knowledge of a reconciled God and 
receive His promises that on the basis of that 
atonement the Spirit shall come and work peace 
in the soul. 

And once again, this peace of soul mightily 
works to produce peace in our environment, for 
now the soul no longer looks upon the external 
world as its enemy and no longer on the laws of 
nature as purely natural forces, grinding out evil 
for it. It sees that in nature and above nature a 
Father sits — truly a Father, now, that He is rec- 


onciled to us in Christ, and that all Providence is 
in His hands, touching us. In nature itself — in 
history — the reconciled soul meets God and per- 
ceives everywhere the hand of One who loves him 
and cares for him. Amid all happenings he is 
peaceful and serene; he knows nothing can harm 
him now; he knows nothing can take away his 
peace; he knows that all things shall work to- 
gether for good to him. The external world is no 
longer his enemy, but his friend. 

In our absorption with the weightier matters of 
the fundamental reconciliation of the soul with 
God in Christ and the operation of the Spirit 
working peace in us, we are apt to neglect this ele- 
ment of peace, in which we are ourselves at peace 
in the world, no longer orphans but communing 
with God in all our happenings. How important 
an aspect of the matter it is may be advertised 
to us by the comfort which the theologians of the 
school of Ritschl find in it, the only form of com- 
munion with God they acknowledge, and how it 
fills their hearts to be able by the revelation of 
Christ to look on the world as God's Kingdom in 
which His children are not orphans but sons of a 
living God. 

The inestimable value of the peace of God is 
apparent next from the reasonableness and surety 
of this peace. There may be a peace which is not 
reasonable; a peace which is not assured. The 
worldly man's peace on which he strives to stay 


himself is of this kind ; the peace of a drunkard in a 
house on fire, the peace of a lunatic who fancies 
himself a king, the peace of a fool who cries Peace ! 
Peace! when there is no peace. Such a peace can 
be maintained only by shutting our eyes to what 
we are and where we are and the relations that 
actually exist about us and between us and God. 
Any accident that calls us to ourselves destroys it. 
Any ray of true light arising in our conscience ex- 
tinguishes it. And when evil and death come, 
where is it then.^^ But God's peace is a rational 
peace, and a stable peace. It arises not from 
shutting our eyes to our real state, but from open- 
ing them to it, and the more our eyes are open and 
the more we reahze our real condition, under- 
standing what Christ is, what we are, and what 
He has done for us, the more peace flows into our 
hearts. The more searching the light we turn on 
the scene, the more glorious the prospect. Light 
turns a false peace into torment. Light awakes 
in the countenance of the true peace, happy smiles. 

Is this peace ours.'^ How can we obtain it? 
Whence obtain it.^^ We must distinguish. It is 
not our peace; it is God's. We do not make it; 
He makes it. But we can by God's grace enjoy 
it more and more. 

(1) Its foundation is, of course, in Christ and 
Christ's work. It can be had on no other basis, 
in no other way. "Being justified by faith, we 
have peace with God." We cannot go about to 


establish it; we should be doomed to utter failure. 
We are by nature at enmity with God. No peace 
can be found until that enmity is removed. It 
cannot be removed by aught but a perfect sac- 
rifice, a perfect righteousness. Christ alone can 
do it. For the inestimable peace of God, there- 
fore, we must look to Christ. It can have no 
other foundation than His perfect work. 

(2) Its formation in us is, of course, by the Holy 
Ghost. We cannot produce it for ourselves, even 
on the basis of Christ's work. A fountain cannot 
rise higher than its source and a sure and stable 
peace — an everlasting peace — an infinite and per- 
fect peace — must be the work of Him who is Him- 
self all this. "Now the works of the Spirit 
are love, joy, peace." 

(3) But the cultivation of it is placed by God's 
grace in our hands. Christ may have died for 
us; the Spirit may have applied that death sav- 
ingly to us; and yet we may still hold back from 
the full consciousness of our safety; wrong 
thoughts and feelings may stand in our way. We 
are at peace with God; our conscience knows it. 
But we may so seldom look to Him who is our 
Peace, and so much to ourselves, that we fail to take 
the true comfort and joy of our changed position. 

Hence a good old writer (William Bridge) 
draws two useful distinctions: a distinction be- 
tween Fundamental Peace and Additional Peace; 
a distinction between Dormant Peace and Awak- 


ened Peace, — peace in the seed and peace in the 
flower. Fundamental Peace, he tells us, is that 
peace which naturally and necessarily arises from 
our justification; those who are justified by faith 
have peace with God. We cannot cultivate 
this, we have it; it cannot be less true or be made 
more true. But it is objective. There is, then, 
the subjective peace, founded on this: the addi- 
tional peace that arises from the sense of our jus- 
fication. This we may neglect to cultivate; it 
may be lost for a time. As the thief breaking in 
at night can steal the accumulated income 
hoarded in the safe, but cannot steal the capital 
invested in the land ; so the great thief of the uni- 
verse, Satan, may take away our additional peace 
but never the fundamental. So we may also 
speak of Dormant peace — a peace we have ever 
in heart but do not realize always ; and Awakened 
peace, which manifests itself to the soul. 

On the one hand, the wicked man may give him- 
self great comfort till the day of death comes, but 
when trouble breaks forth upon him, he is at 
length awake. The sin and guilt were in his heart 
always; they lay sleeping there, but now they are 
awakened. So the German poet sings: 

The heart hath chambers twain. 

Which inhabit 
Sweet joy and bitter pain : 
Oh joy, take thou good heed! 

Tread softly, 
Lest pain should wake indeed! 


Just so, on the other hand, men may have a 
great reservoir of true peace within them, and 
yet have never drawn on it for the supply of their 
needs. After a while the need arises that breaks 
the retaining wall and the whole soul is flooded 
with peace. This is peace indeed! O, that we 
may have this peace! Not merely Fundamental 
peace — though that is the main thing — but Addi- 
tional peace; not merely Dormant peace, but 
Awakened peace — the sense of being at peace 
with God. 


Col. 1:12: — "Giving thanks unto the Father who made us meet 
to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in Ught." 

Our passage is one of those fervent descrip- 
tions of the blessed state of the saved soul in 
which the writings of Paul abound. It occurs in 
the midst of the prayer which he says he has been 
offering for the Colossians ever since their con- 
version. The Colossians were not brought to 
Christ by his own preaching, but by that of his 
faithful minister in the Gospel, Epaphras. And 
when Epaphras brought him the good news of the 
turnmg of the many at Colossse from darkness to 
light, the heart of the Apostle overflowed with 
thanksgiving. From that day, he says, he has 
been continually thanking God for the Colossian 
Christians, and mingling with his thanks earnest 
petitions for their Christian walk. 

The gist of his petition is that they — so lately 
brought to Christ and so surrounded by danger — 
should be filled with the knowledge of God's will 
in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that 
they might walk worthily of the Lord unto all 
pleasing. Two points are to be noted here. 

The thing which Paul desires for the Colossian 
converts is that they may, in their walk and con- 
versation, be well pleasing to Christ. This is 



expressed by means of a term of rather startling 
strength; a term which in its classical usage bore 
an implication of cringing subjection to the whims 
of another and was applied to the sycophant and 
the flatterer. Of course, the nobler association 
with Christ voids it of its unworthy suggestions, 
but there is left on the mind a strong impression 
of the fullness of the devotion which the Apostle 
would fain see in the lives of Christians to 
their Lord. External service — eye service — is not 
enough ; our thoughts must run ahead of the com- 
mand and all our lives be suffused with this prin- 
ciple — that we may be well pleasing to Christ. 
This is what the Apostle asks in behalf of the Co- 
lossian converts. 

The second thing to be noted is that Paul ex- 
pected this perfection of service to be mediated 
by perfection of knowledge. What he directly 
asks for is that these converts may be filled with 
the knowledge of God's will in all wisdom and 
spiritual understanding — and the word used here 
for "knowledge" is the term for precise, full, ac- 
curate, profound knowledge. He prays directly 
that they may have the knowledge — in order that 
they may walk worthily of their Lord unto all 
kinds of pleasing. Obviously it seemed to the 
Apostle that the pathway to a right life lay through 
a right knowledge. It was only as they knew the 
will of God that they could hope to please Christ 
in action. Knowledge comes thus before life and 


is the constructive force of life. Thus the Apostle 
teaches us the supreme value of a right and pro- 
found and exact knowledge of Divine things. 
Not as if knowledge were the end — life, undoubt- 
edly, is the end at which the saving processes are 
directed; but because the sole lever to raise the 
life to its proper height is just right knowledge. 
It is life — the right life — that the Apostle is pray- 
ing for in behalf of the Colossians: but he repre- 
sents knowledge — right knowledge — as possessing 
the necessity of means to that life. 

The nature of this right life is perhaps suflS- 
ciently outlined in the single phrase in which Paul 
gives expression to his longing. He says that he is 
asking that the Colossians may walk worthily of 
the Lord in every kind of pleasing. It is a Christ- 
pleasing life that he wishes for them. But it is 
not the Apostle's way to content himself with 
broad phrases. And he proceeds at once to sug- 
gest more fully what kind of a life he conceives a 
Christ-pleasing life to be. There are three char- 
acteristics which he throws into emphasis. It 
must be a fruitful life. It must be a stable life. 
It must be a thankful life. Here is the way he 
develops its idea. That ye may walk worthily 
of the Lord unto every kind of pleasing, he says — 
(1) by bearing fruit and yielding increase in every 
good work, through the knowledge of God; (2) 
by being strengthened in every sort of strength 
according to the might of His glory, unto all obe- 


dience and long-suffering; (3) by joyfully giving 
thanks to the Father, who has qualified us for our 
share in the lot of the saints in the light. Abound- 
ing fruitfulness in good works; strong patience 
in the trials of Hfe; joyful thankfulness for the 
blessings of salvation; these are the traits of the 
Christian walk which shall be worthy of the Lord 
unto all pleasing; these are the marks of that life 
on which our Saviour will smile. 

Now it is particularly to the third of these traits 
of a Christ-pleasing life that our text draws our 
attention to-day. It is one of the marks of right 
Christian living when we are joyfully thankful to 
the Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ 
for our introduction into the blessings of the 
Christian life. For, more accurately speaking, 
that is the substance of the thanksgiving which 
the Apostle desires to see illustrated in the Colos- 
sian Christians. The terms in which he ex- 
presses it are worth our careful consideration. 
"With joy, giving thanks to the Father," he 
phrases it, "who made us sufficient for a share 
of the lot of the saints in light." The ground of 
the thankfulness which he would fain find in them 
is that supernal act of the Father of our Saviour 
by which he has introduced us into the company 
and endowed us with the heritage of the saints. 
Of course, the reminiscence of our primal estate as 
aliens from the household of God underlies the 
thought; but it is not explicitly adverted to until 


the next verse. What is emphasized here is the 
wonder of the act by which we were transformed 
into fellow-citizens of the saints, and fellow-heirs 
with them of God. That, says the Apostle, is 
the ground of a thanksgiving on our part which 
should transfuse our whole life and by which our 
life will be characterized as a Christian one. 

For the development of the thought, let us em- 
phasize in turn the four chief elements which 
seem to enter most prominently into it. These 
words of the Apostle would seem to advise us, 
then, of at least these important facts : 

1. That the saints have a heritage. 

2. That the heritage of the saints is "in the 

3. That it is God and God alone who has the 
power to introduce men into this heritage. 

4. That it is a matter of profound thanksgiving 
to men, therefore, when they find themselves in- 
vested with this heritage — a thanksgiving which 
should transform their whole lives and make them 
conscious debtors to God to such an extent that 
henceforth they should live to Him and His glory 
should be their one pursuit — in a word, that 
they should walk worthily of the Lord unto all 

That the saints have a heritage is obviously the 
central implication of the passage. What Paul 
wishes his readers to be thankful for is their 
capacitating by the Father for their share "in the 


inheritance of the saints." Our term "heritage" 
may indeed be misleading in this connection. The 
Greek term may not naturally emphasize the same 
connotations, possibly may not contain all that 
we are^accustomed to think of in connection with 
it. It may be better to use the word "lot," for 
example, and speak of "the lot" of the saints. 
The main implication is that of a possession which 
becomes ours, not by our earning it but by gift 
from another. What the saints obtain is not 
merited by them, is not theirs by right and their 
own desert; it is allotted to them. The language 
is founded on and is reminiscent of the allot- 
ment of Canaan to the Tribes which composed the 
ancient people of Jacob. As in that typical 
transaction the whole land was the gift of God to 
the people and was allotted to the several tribes 
and families, each having his own portion, so, in 
the antitype, the saints are conceived as having 
in possession their allotted heritage, in which 
each has his specific portion which is to be his in- 
disputably and his forever. As under the Old 
Testament, so imder the New, there remains a 
land, a country, an abiding home, for the people 
of God, into which abode the true Joshua leads 
them to their rest. And this, I say, is the fun- 
damental implication of the passage. 

The designation of this country of the saints as 
"in the light" follows a symbolism which per- 
vades the whole Bible, and the grandeur of which 


is, perhaps, liable to be missed by us through our 
very wontedness to it. Throughout the Scrip- 
tures "light" is used as the designation of all that 
is of consummate and unapproachable perfection, 
whether in the physical, intellectual, moral or 
spiritual spheres. In contrast with the darkness 
of sorrow and peril we have the light of joy and 
safety; in contrast with the darkness of death we 
have the light of life; in contrast with the dark- 
ness of error we have the light of truth; in con- 
trast with the darkness of sin we have the light of 
holiness; in contrast with the darkness of de- 
struction we have the light of salvation. Physi- 
cally, intellectually, ethically, spiritually, sav- 
ingly, "light" is all that is pure and true, bright 
and holy and blissful. And light is the heritage 
of the saints. It is the sphere in which God lives, 
for we are to walk in the light as He is "in the 
light." It is the glorious city built foresquare of 
luminous stones, in which the saints have their 
real citizenship and the "light" of which is God 
Himself. God Himself is "light" and we, as His 
children, are the "children of light." In Him is 
no darkness at all, or as the strongly emphatic 
language of John seems to say, "Darkness is not 
in Him; no not in any way" — not in the way of 
physical infirmity, of intellectual error, of moral 
fault, of spiritual stain, or of sullied blessedness. 
In Him and in Him only, who dwelleth in light inac- 
cessible, is there no darkness, — no, not in any way. 


Meanwhile we fairly wallow in darkness. But 
for the saints there is a heritage "in the light" 
that streams out from the Throne of God, that 
light which is the source and condition of all life, 
and health, and strength, and all knowledge and 
righteousness, hohness and bliss. There lapped 
in the actinic rays of the "light of life," dwell the 
saints. There each has his appointed portion, 
his home. There each obtains his own higher 
qualities of knowledge, righteousness, holiness and 
bliss; and becoming thus luminiferous is made 
himself a "light bearer" in the world. All this 
and more is meant by the Apostle when he tells 
us of the "heritage of the saints in light." 

Now he tells us further that it is God and God 
alone who can introduce men into this glorious 
region of "the light." It is God who is light and 
all the light that is in the world streams from Him. 
We, on our part, are under the dominion of "dark- 
ness," and darkness has filled our hearts. How 
can we be rescued from the rule of darkness and 
translated into the kingdom of the Son of God's 
love? Obviously it is only by an act of God, the 
Light, Himself shining into our darkened heart. 
And so the Apostle tells us, declaring that it is 
God who has made us meet for a share in the heri- 
tage of the saints. Our English word "meet" 
probably only brokenly represents the Greek 
word which he employs. In the Greek word the 
idea of sufficiency, adequacy, ability, is more 


prominent than that of worthiness, suitability. 
The notion conveyed is, perhaps, not so much that 
God has made us fit, worthy, to be in the King- 
dom of Hght — though that in any event is in- 
cluded, and as to the thing itself is not inharmoni- 
ous with the Apostle's main intention; but that 
He has made us able to enter into this state. Im- 
mersed in the kingdom of darkness, or worse than 
that, with the kingdom of darkness within our- 
selves, we were incapable of entering the kingdom 
of light. We needed to be made "suflScient," 
"competent," "adequate," "capable," to be 
"qualified," "capacitated" for entering into our 
portion in the allotment of the saints. There was 
no power in us for entering these light-sown re- 
gions; our natural home was elsewhere. Only 
by a creative act of God were we able to enter 
upon their sacred precincts. 

You see the idea is not that we had the power to 
enter but not the fitness to abide there; it is 
that we had no power to enter — the light striking 
us in the face drove us away because we were of 
the darkness and incapable of the light. It was 
God and God alone who made us able to receive 
a portion in the inheritance of the saints in light; 
He alone who delivered us from the authority (we 
were under its authority) of darkness and trans- 
lated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love. 
And we will utterly fail to catch Paul's real mean- 
ing unless we feel profoundly how entirely he as- 


cribes the totality of the transaction by which we 
are vested with a heritage among the saints "in 
the light" to God and to God alone. It is to God 
and not to ourselves — not to our fellow-men, nor 
yet to angels, — to God and to God alone, that we 
owe it that our part is with the saints in the light. 
It is He that has qualified, capacitated, compe- 
tentized, suflScientized us, for our part in the lot of 
the saints. 

And it is just on this basis that He calls on us 
to spend our lives in one long thanksgiving to 
God, as the one who has enabled us for our share < 
in the heritage of the saints in the light. Thanks- 
giving presupposes indebtedness. The nature of 
the indebtedness is already enshrined in the one 
word "who made us competent," but it is richly 
developed in the subsequent verses. We were 
held under the power of darkness; we have been 
delivered from it and translated into the Kingdom 
of the Son of God's love. We were under the 
curse of sin; we have received in Him redemp- 
tion, even the forgiveness of sins. In this great 
rescue we have been made suflScient for both 
things. There is obviously an objective and a 
subjective side to it; an ideal and an actual pos- 
session involved. But the upshot of it all is — 
that God has taken us out of darkness with all 
that that involves and placed us in the light, with 
all that that involves. And as children of the light 
we must rejoice in the light — which light God is. 


Col. 3:1-4, especially 3: — "Your life is hid with Christ in God." 

We cannot hope to empty so great a text as this 
into our minds and hearts in the course of a quar- 
ter of an hour's study of it. It is a great fountain 
filled with refreshment. But we may like to sip 
a little of its strengthening waters. To do so, let 
us in a very simple way just glance at its contents. 

And first we observe that the text assumes a 
fact. Its opening words, "If then ye were raised 
together with Christ" posit a fact beneath all 
that it has further to say. And the resurrection 
here adverted to implies a previous death; and 
looking back to the preceding chapter, we find it 
also mentioned. Here, then, are the two wings 
of the fact assumed: "If ye died with Christ from 
the rudiments of the world"; "If then ye were 
raised together with Christ." At the bottom of 
all, then, lies this great fact, the fundamental fact 
of the Christian religion: that Christ died and 
rose again. On this great fundamental fact 
everything in our present passage is based. But 
not upon it as a bare fact, without further sig- 
nificance than that it happened. For it is no 
more a fact that Christ died than that He died 
for our sins; and no more a fact that He rose 
again than that He rose again for our justification. 



This then is the fact assumed in our text, that 
Christ died for our trespasses and was raised again 
for our justification. But if He died for our sins, 
He died to take them away, and His death did take 
them away. All those for whose sins Christ died, 
died then with Him in the death which He ac- 
complished on the cross; died with Him to sin, 
that they might no longer be sinners. And if He 
was raised again for our justification. He rose 
again to usher us into acceptance with God and 
into all that is involved in that great word, life, 
and His resurrection has brought us into God's 
favour and into life indeed. All those for whom 
He rose again, rose again with Him, therefore; 
rose again with Him to life that they might live 
again to God. And here now is the great fact in 
its fullness which Paul assumes and lays at the 
base of our present passage: the great fact of the 
participation of Christians in Christ's death and 
rising again. 

If we be Christians at all, we are such only in 
virtue of the fact that when He died. He died for 
us, and we, therefore, died as sinners with His 
death ; and that when He rose again for our just- 
ification, we rose again into newness of life with 
Him, — the life that we now live is a new life, from 
a new spring, even the Spirit of Christ which He 
as the risen Lord has sent down to us. This is the 
great fact of participation in the saving work of 
Christ, with all that it involves. And what we 


have here is an assertion that such a participation 
involves seizing of us bodily and lifting us to 
another and higher plane. We were sinners, and 
lived as sinners; we lived an earthly life, in the 
lowest sense of that word. But now we have died 
with Christ as sinners and can live no more as 
sinners; we have been raised together with Him 
and can live only on the plane of this new life, 
which is not in sin, not "in the earth," but in 
heaven. In a high and true sense, because we 
have died to sin and been raised to holiness, we 
have already passed out of earth to heaven. 
Heaven is already the sphere of our life; our 
"citizenship is in heaven" — we are citizens of the 
Kingdom of Heaven, and have the life appropriate 
thereto to live. 

And now we observe, secondly, that on this 
fact the Apostle founds an exhortation. "If 
then ye were raised together with Christ, seek 
the things that are above." The exhortation is 
simply to an actual life consonant with our change 
of state. If we have participated in Christ's 
death for sin and rising again for justification; 
so that with Him we died to sin and rose again 
unto holiness; live accordingly. If we have thus 
died as sinners, as earth born, and earth confined 
crawlers on this low plane, and been raised to this 
higher plane, even a heavenly one, of living — 
show in walk and conversation that the change 
has been a real one. It is an exhortation to us to 


be in life real citizens of the heavenly kingdom to 
which we have been transferred ; to do the duties 
and enter into the responsibilities of our new cit- 
izenship. It is just as we might say to some 
newly enfranchised immigrant: You have left 
that country of darkness in which you were bred, 
where no liberty of action or of worship existed; 
you have been received into our free America, and 
have been clothed with the rights and duties of 
citizenship in this great Republic; now live worth- 
ily of your new citizenship; be now in life and 
thought no longer a serf but a freeman. So, Paul 
says in effect, you have passed out of the realm of 
sin and death, out of the merely earthly sphere; 
you have been made a citizen of the heavenly 
kingdom; do the deeds and live the life conform- 
able to your great change. 

And we observe, again, that the Apostle de- 
scribes to us the nature of this heavenly life to 
which we are committed, by passing out of the 
earthly into the heavenly sphere through partici- 
pation in the death and rising again of Christ. 
" Seek the things that are above." " Set your mind 
on the things that are above, not on the things 
that are upon the earth." What is meant by 
seeking the heavenly things rather than the 
earthly? We may, at least, say that the following 
is meant. 

To seek the things that are above, in distinc- 
tion from those that are upon the earth, means 


primarily to seek what is good and refuse what is 
evil. It is an exhortation to a moral life as op- 
posed to an immoral one. It is an exhortation to 
a life of purity and holiness as opposed to a life of 
sin. This at least is made evident to us by the 
immediately succeeding context. For just after 
giving the exhortation to seek the "things that 
are above and not the things that are upon the 
earth," the Apostle explains what the things that 
are upon the earth are which we are to refuse. 
"Mortify, therefore," he adds, at once, "your 
members that are upon the earth; fornication, 
uncleanness, passion, evil desire and covetous- 
ness." And he proceeds also to explain what the 
heavenly things are which we are to seek: "Put 
on, therefore, as God's elect, holy and beloved, a 
heart of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, 
long-suffering" and the like. These, then, are 
"the things that are above" which we are to seek: 
and those "the things that are upon the earth" 
that we are to keep ourselves free from, and, when 
they are already in us as members, which we are 
"to mortify," to "slay." But this is as much as 
to say that the heavenly life which, as those who 
have shared in Christ's death and resurrection, we 
are to live, is, first of all, a moral life, or better, 
a holy life, a life of purity and virtue, as distin- 
guished from a life of sin. And this, indeed, fol- 
lows from its very conception, for our death with 
Christ was a death to sin and our rising with Him 


was a rising out of sin, — which is the death of the 
soul, — to a new life, spiritual life, which in its 
very idea is holiness. Before all else, this, then, 
is to seek the things that are above: to put aside 
the sin that so easily besets us and to live holily 
as becomes saints. 

But this fundamental conception — and all in- 
clusive conception, too, when rightly under- 
stood — hardly exhausts, when only thus broadly 
stated, the matter as it lies in the Apostle's mind 
here. On closer observation we see that the Apos- 
tle has also a special application of it in mind, 
and we need to note it. Let us say, then, that the 
seeking of the things that are above, means here 
also this : the seeking of the things that are really 
good in contradistinction to those that are ap- 
parently good. For if the subsequent context is 
the professed explanation of the fundamental 
meaning of the exhortation, the preceding con- 
text, furnishing the occasion of the special form 
which the exhortation takes, is the explanation of 
this. "If, therefore, ye were raised together with 
Christ." Now, in this preceding context, the 
Apostle was attemptuig to save his readers from a 
grave heresy which had shown itself in their region. 
The characteristic of this heresy was that, along 
with certain speculative errors, a specific moral 
teaching was offered: a moral teaching of ap- 
parently high and lofty nature. The Apostle does 
not deny that the principles thus pressed upon his 


converts as a rule of life had the appearance of 
goodness, and of wisdom: "which things have a 
show of wisdom in severity to the body." He 
does not deny that there were real evils to be met. 
There were gross indulgences of the flesh to which 
men were prone: intemperance, impurity and all 
the catalogue of such evils. How apparently 
wise and right to preach: Handle not, nor taste, 
nor touch! Should Christian men fail to join in 
this great cyclone of moral reform? If they did, 
were they not open to the charge of indifference to 
morality itself — the very mark and sign of their 
profession of having died to sin and been raised 
again to righteousness .^^ 

Paul's deliberate judgment is that all such pre- 
cepts are precepts of men; that their tendency is 
to enslave men again under the yoke of legalism — 
men who had become free in Christ. And his 
deliberate exhortation is, to keep to the path of 
seeking the really good instead of these apparent 
goods. His exhortation becomes thus an exhor- 
tation to seek what we call the religious, rather 
than the moral way to reform man and the world. 
When men come saying. Touch not, taste not, 
handle not, Paul says they are offering you an 
inoperative mode of saving the world from sin; 
they are offering you law which only condemns, 
not grace in which alone is saving power. He 
says, reject such human commandments, and be 
content to hold fast to the Head — that Christ who 


has created all these things, whose they are, and 
who has given them to you for use, though, of 
course, not for abuse. He says, you are living 
on a higher plane than this earthly one of pre- 
cepts and prohibitions; see that you live on this 
higher plane; seek the real good even if you are 
evil-spoken of, because you refuse a path of ap- 
parent good, one which has a show of wisdom, 
indeed, but is no real "specific" against the evils 
of the flesh. 

But there is yet another special aspect of the 
exhortation, growing immediately out of these 
facts, which we must notice. Just because the 
seeking of the really good as over against the ap- 
parent good will necessarily bring misunder- 
standing, and even misrepresentation (for they 
that called the Master Beelzebub are not likely to 
mince matters in speaking of his followers), Paul 
represents the seeking of the thmgs above, as a 
seeking of the hidden good, as distinguished from 
the open, publicly recognized good. This life of 
ours is a hidden life; hid with Christ in God. God, 
not the world, is the sphere in which it is passed. 
Christ is it itself. And Christ is now with God. 
The Christian in seeking heavenly things must 
not seek to be known of the world to be good, but 
only to be seen of God. It belongs to the Phar- 
isee, not to the Christian, to do good to be seen 
of men. It is a hidden life he leads ; and he must 
be content to be misunderstood and misrepre- 


sented, even persecuted for righteousness' sake; 
for him it is not appearances, or even appearance 
that he seeks; it is only the good. Not that his 
good shall always be unrecognized. There comes 
a day of manifestation; "When Christ is mani- 
fested, then shall ye be manifested with him, in 
glory." For that day of the revelation of all, he 
can afford to and he must wait. 

But there is more in this hidden life than this. 
Here is an intimation of the quiet of the Christian 
life; here is also an intimation of its perfection. 
It is better than men know or even dream. The 
Christian is to refuse men's commands of "Touch 
not, taste not, handle not," not because he is in- 
different to morality, but because he has a better 
morality and a better way. He is not to fall be- 
hind human morality; he is to transcend it. He 
seeks not law but grace; he seeks not to make the 
outside of the platter clean — how diligently men 
are willing to work at that! — but to make the 
heart clean. His remedy for the world's ills, as 
for his own, is — a life hid with Christ in God. He 
points to Christ who can make pure the heart, 
from which are the issues of life, and, in His name 
and as His servant, he refuses all the outward in- 
operative nostrums which are offered as specifics 
for the deep disease of humanity; because they 
have no help or profit in them. He refuses the 
bad medicine only in favour of the good. 

And now let us pass on to observe that the 


Apostle adduces motives for this heavenly walk. 
And the motives he presents are three, drawn 
from the past, the present and the future. 

There is a motive drawn from the past. "If 
then ye were raised with Christ." The motive 
presented is our gratitude to our Lord for the great 
work He has done for and in us. That we have 
been made partakers of so great benefits is reason 
enough for striving to walk worthily of Him. 
This motive is the same as, "The love of Christ 
constraineth us." 

There is a motive drawn from the present. "For 
your Hfe is hid with Christ in God." Notice here 
that Christ is described as, not the humiliated 
Christ, but the exalted Christ— "He is seated on 
the right hand of God." The motive presented 
is that as we all are one with Him, who is exalted 
to the right hand of God, we are to walk worthily 
of our high dignity. Noblesse oblige. If we are 
co-regnant with Christ, how should a king in this 
world walk? As grovelling in its dust and dirt? 
As subject to man's petty precepts? No! As 
superior to all the prescriptions of men and as 
above all the temptations to evil, because one with 
Christ and possessing a life hid with Him in 

There is a motive drawn from the future. 
" When Christ, who is our life, shall be manifested, 
then shall we also with him be manifested in 
glory." The vindication, even before men, will 


come. We shall not always be misunderstood; 
we shall have the reward. And what a reward! 
Co-manifestation with Christ in glory! Do not 
our hearts spring within us with hope and 



1 Thess. 5:23-24:— "And the God of peace himself sanctify 
you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved 
entire without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
Faithful is he that calleth you, who will also do it." 

There is no feature of Christianity more 
strongly emphasized by those to whom its estab- 
lishment in the world was committed, than the 
breadth and depth of its ethical demands. The 
"salvation" which was promised in the "Gospel" 
or "Glad Tidings" which constituted its procla- 
mation, was just salvation from sin and unto holi- 
ness. In other words, it was a moral revolution 
of the most thoroughgoing and radical kind. 
" Sanctification " is the Biblical word for this moral 
revolution, and in " sanctification " the very es- 
sence of salvation is made to consist. "This is 
the will of God" for you, says the Apostle to his 
readers in this very epistle, "even your sanctifi- 
cation." A great part of the epistle is given, ac- 
cordingly, to commending the new converts for 
the progress they had already made in this sanc- 
tification, and to urging them onward in the same 

No moral attainment is too great to be pressed 
on them as their duty, no moral duty is too min- 
ute to be demanded of them as essential to their 



Christian walk. The standard the Apostle nas 
before him, and consistently applies to his readers, 
falls in nothing short of absolute perfection, a per- 
fection which embraces in its all-inclusive sweep 
the infinitely httle and the infinitely great alike. 
In the verses immediately preceding our text the 
Apostle had been engaged, as is his wont in all his 
epistles, in enumerating a number of details of 
conduct which he wished, especially, to emphasize 
to his readers. They are not chosen at hap- 
hazard, but are just the items of conduct which the 
particular readers with whom he is at the moment 
engaged required most to have urged upon their 
attention. But the Apostle would not have his 
readers suppose that their whole duty was summed 
up in the items he enumerates. As he draws to 
the close of his exhortations he therefore breaks 
off in the enumeration and adjoins one great com- 
prehensive prayer for their entire perfection: 
"But may the God of peace Himself sanctify you 
wholly: and may your spirit and soul and body 
be preserved perfect without failure, at the com- 
ing of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He that 
calleth you who also will do it." 

Here we have obviously a classical passage — 
possibly the classical passage — ^for "entire sanc- 
tification"; and it may repay us in the perennial 
interest which attends the discussion of the theme 
of "entire sanctification " to look at it somewhat 
closely, as such. 


First of all, let us settle it clearly in mind that it 
is of "entire sanctification " that the passage 
treats. There can certainly be no doubt of it, if 
we will only give the language of the passage a fair 
hearing. It is so emphasized, indeed, and with 
such an accumulation of phraseology that it be- 
comes almost embarrassing. The entirety, the 
completeness, the perfection of the sanctification, 
of which it speaks is, in fact, the great burden of 
the passage. In contrast with the details with 
which the Apostle had just been dealing, and 
which — just because they were details — could 
touch the periphery only of a perfect life, and that 
only at this or that point of the circumference, he 
here adverts to the complete sanctification that 
not merely touches but fills not the periphery only 
but the entire circle of the Christian — nay, of the 
human — ^life. It is a sanctification that is abso- 
lutely complete and that embraces the perfection 
of every member of the human constitution, that 
the Apostle here deals with. 

Observe the emphatic repetition of the idea of 
completeness. May the "God of Peace" — and 
this very designation of God, doubtless, has its 
reference to the completeness of the sanctification, 
peace being the opposite of all division, distrac- 
tion, hesitation and dubitation, — may the "God 
of Peace," the Apostle prays, "sanctify you com- 
pletely" — so as that ye may be perfect and want- 
ing nothing that enters into the perfection of your 


correspondence to the ends for which you were 
created. And not content with this, he adds 
explanatorily, "And may your spirit and your 
soul and your body be preserved entire, perfect," 
and not that merely, but "blamelessly entire, per- 
fect"; "blamelessly" — that is, in a manner which 
is incapable of being accused of not coming up to 
its idea. 

Observe further the distribution of the person- 
ality which is to be perfected into its component 
parts, of each of which, in turn, perfection is de- 
siderated. Not only are we to be sanctified 
wholly, but every part of us — our spirit, our soul, 
our body itself — ^is to be kept blamelessly perfect. 
The Apostle is not content, in other words, with 
the general, but descends into the specific ele- 
ments of our being. And for each of these ele- 
ments in turn he seeks a "blameless perfection," 
that the sum of them all — the "we" at large — 
may be, indeed, complete and entire, wanting 

Now, no doubt, this enumeration of parts is in 
a sense rhetorical and not scientific. The Apostle 
is accumulating terms to convey the great idea of 
completeness more pungently to us — something 
as our Lord did when He told us we must love the 
Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind 
and strength. But even so he makes a certain 
distinction between the three elements he enu- 
merates, by the accumulation of which he expresses 


completeness most emphatically. His meaning is 
that there is no department of our being into which 
he would not have this perfection penetrate, 
where he would not have it reign, and through 
which he would not have it operate to the per- 
fecting of the whole. 

By this double mode of accumulation, we per- 
ceive, the Apostle throws an astonishing em- 
phasis on the perfection which he desires for his 
readers. Here we may say is "Perfectionism" 
raised to its highest power, a blameless perfection, 
a perfection admitting of no failure to attain its 
end, in every department of our being alike, unit- 
ing to form a perfection of the whole, a complete 
attainment of our idea in the whole man. There 
is certainly no doctrine of "entire sanctification " 
that has been invented in these later days which 
can compare with Paul's doctrine in height or 
depth or length or breadth. His "perfectionism" 
is assuredly the very apotheosis of perfectionism. 
The perfection proposed is a real perfection (which 
is not always true of recent teachings on this sub- 
ject) and the man who attains it is a perfect man 
— every part of his being receiving its appropriate 
perfection (and this is seldom or never true of 
recent teachings). A perfect perfection for a 
perfect man — an entire sanctification for the en- 
tire man — surely here is a perfection worth long- 
ing for. 

Let us observe next that Paul does not speak 


of this perfecting of the entire man as if it were a 
mere ideal, unattainable, and to be looked up to 
only as the for ever beckoning standard hanging 
hopelessly above us. He treats it as distinctly 
attainable. He seriously prays God to grant it 
to his readers; and that as the end of his exhor- 
tation to them to study moral perfection as the 
aim of their endeavours. 

He does not, indeed, represent it as attainable 
by and through human effort alone, as if man in 
his own strength could reach and touch this his 
true ultimate goal of endeavour. Rather he em- 
phatically represents it as the gift of God alone. 
After exhorting men to their best endeavours, he 
turns suddenly from man to God and besieges 
Him with prayer. Strive, he says, strive always, 
do this thing and do that — and so work out this, 
your ethical salvation. ''But may God Himself — 
the God of peace Himself" — the stress is on the 
"Himself." It is in God, in God alone, the God 
of peace alone, that hope can be placed for such 
high attainments. 

But cannot hope be placed in God for this at- 
tainment? The whole gist of Paul's prayer — 
nay, the whole drift of his discourse — would be 
stultified, were it not so. Paul's prayer, and the 
way in which he introduces his prayer, all com- 
bine to make it certain that he is not mocking us 
here with an illusory hope but is placing soberly 
before us an attainable goal. This perfect per- 


fection is then, necessarily, according to Paul, 
attainable for man. God can and will give it to 
His children. 

Even more must be said. Paul not only prays 
seriously for it for his readers, and this implies 
that it may, nay, will be given them; he defi- 
nitely promises it to them, and bases this, his 
definite promise, on no less firm a foundation than 
the faithfulness of God. May God sanctify you 
wholly, he says, and the rest of it. But he does 
not stop there. He follows the prayer with the 
promise: "Faithful is He that calleth you," and 
he adds, " who also will do it." Thus Paul pledges 
the faithfulness of God to the completion of his 
readers' perfection. And we must not lose the 
force and pointedness with which he does this by 
failing to pay attention to the sharp, proverbial 
character of this pledging clause. It has all the 
quality of a maxim; and the gist of the maxim 
is that God, this God of whom Paul was praying 
our perfection, is not a caller only, but also a per- 
former. He has called us into the Christian life. 
This Christian life into which He has called us is 
in principle a life of moral perfection. And this 
God that calls is not a God that calls merely — He 
is a God that also accomplishes. His very calling 
of us into this life of new morality is a pledge, then, 
that He will perfect the good work in us which He 
has begun. "Faithful is He that calleth you: 
who also is one that shall do." 


The accomplishment of this our perfection then 
does not hang on our weak endeavours. It does 
not hang even on Paul's strong prayer. It hangs 
only on God's almighty and unfailing faithfulness. 
If God is faithful, He who not only calls but does — 
then, we cannot fail of perfection. Here you see 
is not only perfection carried to its highest power, 
but the certainty of attaining this perfection car- 
ried also to its highest power. Not only may a 
Christian man be perfect — absolutely perfect in 
all departments of his being — but he certainly and 
unfailingly shall be perfect. So certain as it is 
that God has called him "not for uncleanness but 
in sanctification " as the very sphere in which his 
life as a Christian must be passed, so certain is it 
that the God who is not merely a caller but a 
doer will perfect him in this sanctification. Such 
is the teaching of the text. And assuredly it goes 
in this, far, far beyond all modern teaching as to 
entire sanctification that ever has been heard of 
among men. 

And now, let us observe, thirdly, the period to 
which the Apostle assigns the accomplishment of 
this great hope. It is at once evident that he is 
not dealing with this perfection as a thing already 
in the possession of his readers. It is not a mat- 
ter of congratulation to them — as some Christian 
graces were, for the presence of which in their 
hearts he thanks God, — but a matter of prayer to 
God for them. It is a thing not yet in possession 


but in petition. It is yet to come to them. He 
does not permit us to suppose, then, that the 
Thessalonians had already attained — or should 
already have attained — it. He thanks God, in- 
deed, for their rescue from the state in which they 
were by nature. He thanks God for their great 
attainments in Christian living. But he does not 
suggest they had already reached the goal. On 
the contrary, a great part of the letter is taken up 
with exhortation to Christian duties not yet over- 
taken, graces of Christian living still to be culti- 
vated. His readers are treated distinctly and 
emphatically as viatores, not yet as comprehen- 
sores. Not in and of them, but in and of God, is 
the perfection which he prays for. What we see 
is not hoped for, what we pray for is not already 
attained. Moreover the very pledge he gives of 
the attainment of this perfection bears in it an 
implication that it is yet a matter of hope, not of 
possession. He pledges the faithfulness of God, 
the Caller. Accordingly, the perfection longed 
for and promised is not given in the call itself; it 
is not the invariable possession of the Christian 
soul. He that is called looks yet for it; it is 
sought still; and at the hands of the Caller whose 
faithfulness assures the performance. The per- 
formance, therefore, still lags. 

It is clear, therefore, that Paul, though prom- 
ising this perfection as the certain heritage of 
every Christian man, presents it as a matter of 


hope, not yet seen ; not as a matter of experience, 
already enjoyed. That it belongs to us as Chris- 
tians we can be assured only by the faithfulness of 
God, the Performer as well as the Caller. Can we 
learn from Paul when we can hope for it? As- 
suredly, he has not left us in ignorance here. He 
openly declares, indeed, the term of our imper- 
fection — the point of entrance into our perfection. 
"May the God of peace," he prays, "sanctify 
you wholly and may there be preserved blame- 
lessly perfect your spirit and soul and body, at the 
coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. "^^ You see it is 
on the second advent of Christ — and that is the 
end of the world, and the judgment day — that 
the Apostle has his eyes set. There is the point 
of time to which he refers the completeness of our 

And if you will stop and consider a moment, you 
will perceive that it must be so, for the entire per- 
fecting, at least, of which the Apostle speaks. 
For you will bear in mind that the perfecting in- 
cludes the perfecting of the body also. It is the 
perfecting of the whole man that he prays for, and 
this expressly includes the body as well as the soul 
and spirit. Now the perfected body is given to 
man only at the resurrection, at the last day, which 
is the day of the second coming of Christ. Until 
then the body is mouldering in the grave. Whether 
spiritual perfection may be attained before then, 
he does not in this passage say. But the analogy 


of the body will apparently go so far as this, at 
all events — it raises a suspicion that the perfect- 
ing of the soul and spirit also will be gradual, the 
result of a process, and will be completed only in a 
crisis, a cataclysmic moment, when the Spirit of 
God produces in them the fitness to live with God. 
This suspicion is entirely borne out by Paul's 
dealing with the whole matter of sanctification in 
this context, and in this whole epistle: as a mat- 
ter of effort, long-continued and strenuous, build- 
ing up slowly the structure to the end. There is 
no promise of its completion in this life; there is 
no hint that it may be completed in this life. 
There is only everywhere strong exhortations to 
ceaseless effort; and strong encouragements by 
promises of its completion in the end — against 
"that day." "That day" of judgment, that is, 
when God shall take account of all men and of all 
that is in man. 

What is thus fairly implied here is openly 
taught elsewhere. Men here are not compre- 
hensores but viatores; we are fighting the good 
fight; we are running the race. The prize is yon- 
der. And not until the body of this death is laid 
aside shall the soul be fitted to enter naked into 
the presence of its Lord, there expecting until the 
body shall be restored to it — ^no longer a body 
of death but of glory. Meanwhile the gradual 
process of sanctification goes on in soul and body 
— until the crisis comes when the "Spiritus Crea- 


tor" shall powerfully intervene with the final acts 
of renewal. 

Certainly the gradualness of this process ought 
not to disturb us. It may be inexplicable to us 
that the Almighty God acts by way of process. 
But that is revealed to us as His chosen mode of 
operation in every sphere of His work, and should 
not surprise us here. He could, no doubt, make 
the soul perfect in a moment, in the twinkling of 
an eye; just as He could give us each a perfect 
body at the very instant of our believing. He 
does not. The removal of the stains and effects 
of sin — in an evil heart and in a sick and dying 
body — is accomplished in a slow process. We all 
grow sick and die — though Jesus has taken on His 
broad shoulders (among the other penalties of 
sin) all our sicknesses and death itself. And we 
still struggle w^ith the remainders of indwelling 
sin; though Jesus has bought for us the sancti- 
fying operations of the Spirit. To us it is a weary 
process. But it is God's way. And He does all 
things well. And the weariness of the struggle is 
illuminated by hope. After a while! — we may 
say; after a while! Or as Paul puts it: Faithful 
is He that calls us — who also will do it. He will 
do it! And so, after a while, our spirit, and soul 
and body shall be made blamelessly perfect, all 
to be so presented before our Lord, at that Day. 
Let us praise the Lord for the glorious prospect! 


I Tim. 3:16: — "And without controversy great is the mystery 
of godliness. " 

"Confessedly great," says Paul, "is the mys- 
tery of piety." This does not mean that piety is 
exceedingly "mysterious." There is no "mys- 
tery" in piety as such. As Paul means it here it 
rests simply, objectively on the great fact, sub- 
jectively on the hearty conviction that God was 
in Christ reconciling the world with Himself. The 
word "mystery," in the usage of Paul, does not 
imply inherent incomprehensibility, but only 
actual inaccessibility to the natural inquisition of 
men. Whatever is known by revelation rather 
than by unaided reason, is, in his usage, a "mys- 
tery"; and the employment of the word by no 
means implies that the revelation has not already 
taken place and the hidden truth been made fully 
known, but rather just the contrary. The "mys- 
tery of piety" is thus just "the opened secret of 
piety." And what Paul affirms of it is that this 
"opened secret of piety" is confessedly of the 
highest importance. "Confessedly great" he 
says, and he throws these words forward with 
sharp emphasis, "of admittedly the highest im- 
portance," "is the mystery of piety." 

What Paul is doing in this clause, then, is sim- 


ply impressing on Timothy's mind as deeply as 
possible a sense of the supreme value of the Gospel, 
which he calls a "mystery" only because it is a 
matter of revelation, but without the faintest 
implication that it is difficult to grasp when once 
made known, or that it includes in it any elements 
of the inscrutable or incomprehensible. Chris- 
tianity, like other religions, had its mysteries, 
its sacred truths, made known to its initiates; 
and these mysteries, as they constituted its very 
essence, were to every Christian of the most 
supreme importance — to be carefully guarded, 
preserved intact, and kept whole and entire, pure 
and unadulterated, at every hazard. Confessedly 
great, says the Apostle here with marked emphasis, 
admittedly of supreme importance, is the mys- 
tery, the opened secret of Christian piety, the 

It is especially worth our while to observe two 
things here. First, preliminarily, why the Apos- 
tle is so strenuous in insisting here on the impor- 
tance of the opened secret of piety, the value and 
significance of the Gospel. And, secondly, and 
more at large, because it is this that constitutes 
the burden of the text, what the Apostle con- 
ceived to be this " opened secret of piety," that is 
to say, what he conceived to be the contents of 
the Gospel which he pronounces here to have 
such confessed importance. 

We need not delay long on the preliminary 


point. A glance at the context is enough to in- 
form us that the Apostle insists on the greatness 
of the Gospel here in order to impress Timothy 
with the importance of attending to the direc- 
tions he had been giving him as to the proper 
ordering of the Church. Somewhat minute pre- 
scriptions had been laid down especially as to the 
conduct of public worship and as to the organiza- 
tion of the Church. In particular the officers of 
the Church had been enumerated, and the quali- 
fications for their offices carefully described. At 
the close of these directions, now, the Apostle 
adds these pointed words: "I am writing these 
things to you, though I hope to come to you very 
soon: but if I am delayed that you may know 
what sort of behaviour is incumbent in God's 
house — seeing that it is the Church of the Living 
God, the pillar and buttress of the truth; and 
confessedly great is the mystery of piety. ..." 
You see, his appeal to the confessed greatness of 
the truth, for the support and propagation of 
which in the world the Church exists, is intended 
to impress Timothy with a sense of the importance 
of the proper ordering and right equipment of the 
Church for this, its high function. 

It is of the more importance that we should note 
this, that there is a disposition abroad to treat all 
matters of the ordering of public worship and even 
of the organization of the Church as of little im- 
portance. We even hear it said about us with 


wearisome iteration that the New Testament has 
no rules to give, no specific laws to lay down, in 
such matters. Matters of church government and 
modes of worship, we are told, are merely external 
things, of no sort of significance; and the Church 
has been left free to find its own best modes of 
organization and worship, varying, doubtless, in 
the passage of time and in the Church's own pas- 
sage from people to people of diverse characters 
and predilections. No countenance is lent to 
such sentiments by the passage before us; or, 
indeed, by these Pastoral Epistles, the very place 
of which in the Canon is a standing rebuke to 
them; or, in fine, by anything in the New Testa- 

On the contrary, you will observe, Paul's point 
of view is precisely the opposite one. He takes 
his start from the inestimable importance of the 
Gospel. Thence he argues to the importance of 
the Church which has been established in the 
world, so to speak, as the organ of the Gospel — the 
pillar and buttress on which its purity and its 
completeness rest. Thence again he argues to 
the proper organization and ordering of the Church 
that it may properly perform its high functions. 
And, accordingly, he gives minute prescriptions 
for the proper organization and ordering of the 
Church — prescribing the offices that it should 
have and the proper men for these offices, and 
descending even into the details of the public ser- 


vices. His position, compressed into a nutshell, is 
simply this : the function of the Church as guard- 
ian of the truth, that glorious truth which is the 
Gospel, is so high and important that it cannot be 
left to accident or to human caprice how this 
Church should be organized and its work ordered. 
Accordingly, he, the inspired Apostle — "an Apostle 
of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of 
God our Saviour and Christ, our Hope" — has 
prescribed in great detail, touching both organi- 
zation and order, how it is necessary that men 
should conduct themselves in the household of 
God — which is nothing other than the Church of 
the Living God, the pillar and ground of the 
truth. In other words, it is God's Church, not 
man's, and God has created and now sustains it 
for a function; and He has not neglected to order 
it for the best performance of this function. 

To imagine that it is of little importance how 
the Church shall be organized and ordered, then, 
is manifestly to contradict the Apostle. To con- 
tend that no organization is prescribed for it is 
to deny the total validity of the minute directions 
laid down in these epistles. Nay, this whole point 
of view is as irrational as it is unbiblical. One 
might as well say that it makes no difference how 
a machine is put together — ^how, for example, a 
typewriter is disposed in its several parts, — be- 
cause, forsooth, the typewriter does not exist for 
itself, but for the manuscript which is produced by 


or rather through it. Of course the Church does 
not exist for itself — that is, for the beauty of its 
organization, the symmetry of its parts, the ma- 
jesty of its services; it exists for its "product" and 
for the "truth" which has been committed to it 
and of which it is the support and stay in the 
world. But just on that account, not less but 
more, is it necessary that it be properly organ- 
ized and equipped and administered — that it may 
function properly. Beware how you tamper with 
any machine, lest you mar or destroy its product; 
beware how you tamper with or are indifiFerent to 
the Divine organization and ordering of the 
Church, lest you thereby mar its efficiency or de- 
stroy its power, as the pillar and ground of the 
truth. Surely you can trust God to know how it is 
best to organize His Church so that it may per- 
form its functions in the world. And surely you 
must assert that His ordering of the Church, which 
is His, is necessary if not for the "esse," certainly 
for the "bene esse" of the Church. 

But our main attention to-day must be given 
to the Apostle's elaboration of the contents of this 
"truth," or this "mystery of piety," to support 
and buttress which he tells us the Church has been 
established in the world. He moves Timothy to 
zeal in properly ordering the church under his 
care, by the declaration that "the opened secret 
of piety," to support and buttress which the 
Church exists, is confessedly of the utmost im- 


portance. And then he deepens and vitalizes 
the impression which this declaration is calculated 
to make by abruptly enumerating the chief items 
which enter into this "mystery of piety" — this 
"truth" for which the Church exists. 

This enumeration thus embodies Paul's con- 
ception of the essence of the Gospel, and takes its 
place among the numerous brief summaries of the 
essence of the Gospel which stud the pages of his 
epistles. It differs from most of them, however, 
in this circumstance — that it is not couched in 
language of his own, but the Apostle has availed 
himself here, as so often in the Pastoral Epistles, 
of a form of statement current in the churches, 
which would appeal to Timothy's eye and heart, 
therefore, with all the force of customary and 
well-loved words, in which he and the congrega- 
tion had been wont to express their apprehension 
of the truth most precious to their hearts. Whether 
the words thus adduced are derived from some 
current liturgical form, or from a hymn, or merely 
from some formulary of accustomed speech, we 
have no means of knowing. We can only be sure 
that the whole document is not quoted here and, 
from the balanced, almost mechanical form of its 
structure, that the original document possessed 
an elevated and festal character. 

The choice of the Apostle to adduce the essence 
of the Gospel from such a current formulary, 
rather than to frame it out of his own heart, nat- 


urally produces a certain abruptness in the words 
in which it is introduced. A fragment of current 
speech, torn out of its own context, is here simply 
juxtaposed by way of apposition to his own declar- 
ation, that the Gospel is a supremely important 
thing, and left to exhibit that importance by its 
contents. "Great," he says, "confessedly great, 
is the opened secret of piety," this to wit: "Who 
was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the 
Spirit, observed by angels, proclaimed among 
peoples, believed in by the world, received into 
glory." There is not a word to tell us who was 
the subject of all these transactions; that was a 
part of the original context of the fragment, and 
here goes without saying; no one of his readers — 
least of all his primary reader Timothy, who knew 
as well as Paul the whole document from which the 
fragment was derived, — would hesitate to supply 
the subject, Jesus Christ. What Paul does is 
simply to avail himself of this fervent fragment 
and set out the contents of the "mystery of piety" 
by means of its rapid enumeration of the prin- 
cipal transactions which concerned the redemptive 
work of Christ — beginning with the incarnation 
and ending with the ascension. 

Now, of course, this means that to Paul, Christ 
is the essence of the Gospel. As everywhere else, 
so here, he sums up the Gospel in Christ; not 
Christ, of course, merely as a person, but the ac- 
tive Christ — or in other words, in the great re- 


demptive work of Christ. And it will repay us 
to observe in some detail how the redemptive 
work of Christ is presented to us in this somewhat 
artificially because artistically ordered fragment 
of old Christian confessional expression. 

We observe, at once, that the fragment con- 
sists of a series of six passive verbs, rapidly suc- 
ceeding one another, with the common subject 
"Jesus Christ," each further defined by a brief 
predicative qualification; the verb being put em- 
phatically forward in each case: He was "mani- 
fested" in the flesh, "vindicated" by the Spirit, 
"seen" by angels. . . . We observe next that the 
clauses are so arranged as to fall necessarily into 
three contrasting pairs; and yet these three pairs 
are bound together by the contrast in each case 
being made to turn upon the contrariety of earth 
and heaven, or of the flesh and the spirit. Thus 
we have the successive triads on the one hand of 
the flesh, the peoples, the world; on the other of 
the Spirit, the angels, glory. There is no strict 
chronological order of occurrence followed in the 
enumeration, but the pairs so succeed one an- 
other as yet to suggest a beginning, a middle and 
an end; the inception, the prosecution, the con- 
summation of Christ's work. On the one hand, 
he was manifested in the flesh and vindicated by 
the Spirit. Here clearly His earthly life is in 
mind, with the stress laid perhaps on its inception 
in the incarnation and its culmination in the res- 


iirrection. Then we have the declaration that He 
was seen of angels and proclaimed among the 
nations. Here the process of the saving work is 
referred to, — chiasmically adduced. Finally, we 
read. He was believed on in the world and received 
into glory. Here the stress is laid obviously on 
the result of His work. The whole constitutes an 
exceedingly comprehensive description of the pro- 
cess of redemption, antithetically set forth in 
balanced clauses, which advert, one by one, to a 
characteristic transaction of which Christ was the 

Let us now briefly observe the several items of 
the description, seriatim. 

He "was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by 
the Spirit." Here we have the redemptive work 
itself adduced. First, the incarnated life in the 
flesh — He "was manifested in the flesh"; next, 
the successful issue of that work, — He "was 
vindicated by the Spirit." The two clauses 
together constitute a singularly vivid though 
compressed picture of the incarnated work of 
redemption. Note the clear implication of the 
pre-existence — the deity — of the worker: He "was 
manifested," — He existed then, hidden from human 
eyes, before; "in the flesh," — in his pre-existence, 
then, he was something other than flesh. It is as 
clear a declaration of pre-existence and incarna- 
tion as the Johannean, "The Word became flesh," 
itself. There is a change of state implied, a change 


by virtue of which what was hidden is now brought 
to light, and it is brought to Hght because brought 
into flesh. Note next the perfection of His work 
estabHshed: He was "justified by the Spirit"; 
that is to say, though appearing in the flesh, yet by 
virtue of the Spirit that dwelt in Him, His work of 
salvation was vindicated; He rose from the dead, 
and could not be holden of death, and so mani- 
fested the completeness of His work. 

He was "observed by angels, proclaimed among 
peoples." Here the progress of the saving work is 
outlined. It was not done in or for a corner. 
The object of the wondering contemplation of the 
hosts of heaven, it is made known also to the in- 
habitants of earth. Performed in Judea, in a life 
of confined and limited relations, to all appear- 
ance, yet it was all the time the focus of the ob- 
servation of the angels of God, who anxiously de- 
sired to look into it; and when brought to its 
glorious completion, it was made the subject of a 
world-wide proclamation. Obviously it is the 
glory of the Christ — of the redemptive work of 
Christ — that is the theme of the whole fragment, 
and in this couplet we begin to see it come to light; 
and, indeed, the chiasmic arrangement might well 
have advised us of it before, what is most glorious in 
it being thrust forward to attract our first attention. 

He was "believed on in the world, received into 
glory." Here we have the issue of the work ad- 
verted to; the earthly and the heavenly issue. So 


little chronological is the ordering that the con- 
quest of the world by Christ is actually adduced 
first, while His ascension is adduced last. The 
order is climactic, not chronological; He has His 
earthly reward and also His heavenly. In these 
two items the whole comes to the appropriate end. 
And now I think we are prepared to see clearly 
that the whole fragment is a hymn of praise to 
Christ. He was before all worlds; He was only 
"manifested" in the flesh and vindicated by the 
Spirit. He was the object of the contemplation 
of the angels of heaven and proclaimed in all the 
earth. He was believed on in the world and re- 
ceived into glory. It is the Glory of Christ that, 
according to Paul constitutes the essence of the 
Gospel. "O, Jesus, Thou art our head, we are 
thy body!" — so one of God's saints teaches us to 
pray. "How can the body but participate in the 
glory of the Head.^ As for Thyself, therefore, so 
also for us art Thou possessed of that heavenly 
glory: as Thou sufferedst for us, so for us Thou 
also reignest. . . . O then, my soul, seeing thy 
Saviour is received up into this infinite glory, . . . 
how canst thou abide to grovel any longer on this 
base earth? . . . With what longings and holy 
ambition shouldst thou desire to aspire to that 
place of eternal rest and beatitude into which thy 
Saviour has .ascended, and with him be partaker 
of that glory and happiness which he hath pro- 
vided for all that love him." 


I Tim. 6:20, 21:— "O Timothy, guard that which is committed 
mito thee, turning away from the profane babblings and opposi- 
tions of the knowledge which is falsely so called; which some pro- 
fessing have erred concerning the faith." 

This short paragraph looks very much like a 
concluding summary, added, possibly, by the 
Apostle's own hand, in which the whole gist of 
the First Epistle to Timothy is summed up. It is 
almost as if the Apostle — after all the explanations 
and exhortations in which he had instructed and 
encouraged his own son in faith to perform the 
great duties laid on him in errant Ephesus — had 
paused suddenly and said in effect, "Hear the 
sum of the whole matter. Be faithful to the Gospel 
committed to you and shun all the pretentious 
show of superior learning which is proving a snare 
to many.'* Such an exhortation, it is manifest, 
has its universal and perennial value; and is pe- 
culiarly applicable to those in our situation. As 
we begin another year of our intellectual prepara- 
tion for the ministry of the Gospel of grace, it is 
especially becoming that we should have in mind 
that it will be our wisdom too, as it is manifestly 
our duty, "to keep the deposit inviolate" and to 
shun the worldly inanities and contradictions of 
falsely so-called knowledge, by making profes- 



sion of which so many in every age, and in our age 
too, have gone astray with respect to faith. 

These latest epistles of Paul are commonly 
called Pastoral because of their direct address to 
the shepherds of the flock, and every word in such 
an exhortation as this, in such an Epistle as this, 
has a quasi-technical value. The key word among 
these words is the one which I have ventured to 
render after the Vulgate, "the deposit," and 
which the Authorized Version deals with by means 
of a paraphrase: "that which is committed to thy 
trust." It does not occur very often, but it does 
occur frequently enough to show that it and its 
cognate verb are employed by the Apostle as a 
well-known designation of the Gospel, considered 
as a body of Divine truth entrusted to those whom 
God has chosen as its ministers. As such, it 
stands in very clear relations with another tech- 
nical term employed by the New Testament writ- 
ers to describe the function of the ministers of the 
Gospel, — the term "witness." The Gospel is a 
"deposit"; the function of the minister is, there- 
fore, "witnessing." The two ideas, you see, go 
necessarily together. The witness is in his es- 
sential nature not a producer but a reproducer; 
he is not the author of his message but its trans- 
mitter; his message is, therefore, not of his own 
devising but something committed to his trust, — 
a deposit. I do not know where the fundamental 
significance of the word "deposit" and its impli- 


cations as to the duty of the minister is more 
richly developed than in a Fifth Century exposi- 
tion of this passage, by Vincent of Lerins. His 
comment is so instructive that I cannot forbear 
quoting a part of it to you. "What," he asks, 
"is a deposit?" "It is something," he answers, 
"that is accredited to thee, not invented by thee; 
something that thou hast received, not that thou 
hast thought out; a result not of genius but of in- 
struction; not of personal ownership but of pub- 
lic tradition; a matter brought to thee not pro- 
duced by thee, with respect to which thou art 
bound to be not an author but a custodian, not 
an originator but a bearer, not a leader but a 

It is this that Paul means to emphasize when he 
calls the Gospel a "deposit." I rightly say he 
means to emphasize this. For he not only calls 
the Gospel a "deposit," but he sets it as such in 
contrast with its opposite, and that opposite 
proves to be just irresponsible speculation. O 
Timothy, he says, keep the deposit inviolate ! And 
how is he to keep the deposit inviolate.^ "By 
shunning the profane inanities and contradic- 
tions of falsely so-called knowledge." You see 
the contrast is precisely between the Divine de- 
posit and worldly knowledge. And he describes 
this worldly knowledge by epithets which are suf- 
ficiently discrediting to it. It consists of a mass 
of inanities and self-contradictions; it is, there- 


fore, not real knowledge but only knowledge 
falsely so called. No doubt he had his eye on a 
specific instance, — the nascent Gnosticism, let us 
call it, which was disturbing the church at Ephe- 
sus, and to rebuke and correct which Timothy 
was in Ephesus. But I think that it would be 
wrong to suppose that the Apostle had this ex- 
clusively in mind. Rather he seems to be viewing 
it as a type, of a whole class. Or, let us at once 
put it as broadly as we think it lay in his own mind; 
there is no reason to doubt that the Apostle would 
speak in exactly these terms of any worldly knowl- 
edge whatever, any form of earthly philosophy or 
science, that infringed upon or sought to substi- 
tute itself more or less for the "deposit" of the 
Gospel of Christ. Any speculation, any philoso- 
phizing, any form of learning, any scientific the- 
orizing which sought to intrude itself, in the way 
of modifying it in the least respect, upon the Gos- 
pel of Christ, — which is a sacred deposit com- 
mitted to its ministers not to dilute or to alter or 
to modify, but to learn, hold, guard and preach, — 
would be characterized by Paul without hesita- 
tion as among the profane inanities and contra- 
dictions of knowledge falsely so called. 

Our memory reverts at once to the splendid 
passage in the opening chapter of the First Epistle 
to the Corinthians, in which Paul magnificently 
contrasts the wisdom of the world with the sim- 
pHcity of the message of the cross, and passion- 


ately declares that God has made the wisdom of 
the world mere foolishness. Yes, there is pas- 
sion, a holy passion, but real passion, in Paul's 
renunciation of all human wisdom and declaration 
that God will destroy the wisdom of the wise and 
reject the prudence of the prudent. And some 
of that same passion is throbbing in the vigorous 
language of our present passage. Not indeed 
knowledge as such, but all human knowledge as a 
substitute for, or a modifying force in, the Gospel 
of Christ, is to Paul a mass of mere profane inan- 
ities and self-contradictions, to give oneself to 
which is to miss the mark with respect to faith. 
Dirt has been illuminatingly defined as matter out 
of place. Any substance, no matter how previous 
in itself, if out of place is nothing more or less than 
just dirt. Gold-dust in your eye is just dirt; wash 
it out; it is an offence there. Diamonds scattered 
in your porridge are dirt; cast them out. To the 
starving man seeking nourishment and life, they 
are not only an offensive evil but a destructive evil. 
You all know how Kjng Midas found that gold in 
the wrong place could become the worst of ills. 
So it is with knowledge. What, in its proper 
place, is knowledge, — to be sought, loved and cher- 
ished as such, to be valued and utilized for its 
own good ends, — becomes knowledge falsely so 
called whenever it intrudes into a place not its 
own; a mass of mere inanities and self-contradic- 
tions. And it is just this that Paul means here. 


He is not condemning knowledge as such. He, 
too, would say with the poet — 

"Who loves not knowledge? Who shall rail 
Against her beauty? May she mix 
With men and prosper! . . . 
. . . Let her work prevail." 

But just so soon as it presses beyond its mark 
and presumes to substitute itself for the Gospel 
of Christ, or to demand an alteration in that Gos- 
pel, or a modification of it, however slight, his 
righteous passion rises. Dirt! he cries, — matter 
out of place! the profane inanities and self- 
contradictions of falsely so-called knowledge! 

"Falsely so-called knowledge" — that phrase is 
his tribute to the value of real knowledge. When 
thus debauched knowledge ceases to be knowledge 
and becomes mere "falsely so-called knowledge." 
"Profane inanities and self-contradictions,'* that 
is Paul's description of what knowledge out of place 
is; pressing beyond its mark to become procuress 
to the lords of hell. For, says he, those that 
make so much profession of such knowledge are 
too often observed to miss the mark with respect 
to faith. The passion that burns in these words 
rises to sight everywhere in these epistles, when 
the intrusion of human speculation into matters 
of faith falls to be mentioned, and quite a choice 
vocabulary of reprobation might be extracted 
from Paul's expression of it. On the other side, 
what a fervour of love is manifested for that " de- 


posit" which is the Gospel of God's saving grace! 
He calls it in the present passage, to be sure, sim- 
ply "the deposit," but I am not sure that the very 
simplicity of the designation is not surcharged 
with passionate devotion. "The Deposit," ''The 
Deposit," ''The Deposit/' "Guard the Deposit," 
** Keep The Deposit inviolate." It is as if there 
were but one deposit conceivable to him and 
to those to whom he wrote. And see how he 
claims it as his own, in 2 Tim. 1:12, calling it 
"my deposit." "I know whom I have believed 
and I am persuaded— though I fall by the way 
— yet He is able to keep my deposit against that 
day." To Paul his deposit was more than life 
itself. Paul may go— but what then.? "The 
deposit," "his deposit" is safe in the hands of 
Him who committed it to him. And then, again, 
two verses lower (2 Tim. 1:14), "Keep, O Tim- 
othy, keep inviolate, the beautiful deposit through 
the Holy Ghost that dwelleth in us." Ah, it is the 
devotion of Paul for "the deposit" that makes him 
speak such passionate words against that which 
would supplement or adulterate it. It is its sur- 
passing glory which makes dull the glory of that 
which away from it would itself be glorious. The 
glory of the world of intellect itself fades like that 
of the face of Moses, like that of the old covenant 
in the presence of the new, — by reason only of the 
glory that surpasses all— the glory of that glorious 
Gospel of the grace of God. It is, in a word, the 


inherent preciousness of the Gospel, not the in- 
herent valuelessness of knowledge, that makes all 
knowledge in contrast with it, but foolishness — 
but a mass of profane inanities and self-contra- 
dictions which should not be permitted to intrude 
into these sacred precincts. 

A practical lesson imposes itself upon us. Preach 
a full-orbed, a complete Gospel. The deposit is 
not yours to deal with as you will; it is another's 
entrusted to your care. The deposit is not your 
product to be treated as you will ; it is the creation 
of another placed in your keeping. You are but 
its witnesses. Bear your witness truly and bear 
it fully. Keep the deposit inviolate. 


Titus 3:4-7: — "But when the kindness of God, our Saviour, and 
his love towards man, appeared, not by works done in righteous- 
ness, which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy he saved 
us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy 
Ghost, which he poured out upon us richly, through Jesus Christ 
our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we might be made 
heirs according to the hope of eternal life." 

The short epistle to Titus contains, amid its 
practical and ecclesiastical directions for the giving 
of which it was written, two doctrinal statements 
of quite wonderful richness and compression both of 
which have been easily brought into the compass 
of the passage read in your hearing this afternoon. 
They differ from each other in intent and content, 
as you will doubtless have observed. But they are 
alike in gathering into the narrow space of a few 
words the essence of the Gospel, and expressing it in 
words of a singularly festal and jubilant character, 
words which strike the reader as at once precise and 
comprehensive, as at once theologically exact and 
peculiarly fitted for public credal use. 

Statements of this kind are characteristic of 
these latest epistles of the Apostle Paul, which we 
class together under the common title of the Pas- 
toral Epistles, and which share not only the late 
date but also a character appropriate to their 

origin at the end of Paul's life when he was busied 



with consolidating and extending the churches he 
had founded rather than with the first planting 
of Christianity in the fresh soil of an unbelieving 
world. They present the doctrines of Paul, after 
they had been used, and worn round by use. They 
represent the sifting down of his doctrinal expo- 
sitions into compact form; their compression into 
something like pebbles from the brook ready to be 
flung with sure aim and to sink into the foreheads 
of the Goliaths of unbelief. They represent the 
form which his doctrinal expositions had taken as 
current coin in the churches, no longer merely 
Paul's teaching, though all of that, but the pre- 
cious possessions of the people themselves, in 
which they were able to give back to him a re- 
sponse from their listening hearts. They are no 
longer mere dialectical elaboration of the truth; 
but have become forms of sound words. As such, 
such passages are sometimes accompanied by a 
phrase peculiar to these Pastoral Epistles, which 
advertises these statements as something other 
than a teacher's novel presentations of truth to as 
yet untaught hearers: "This is a faithful saying." 
"This is a faithful saying" — a "trustworthy say- 
ing" — in other words, this is a saying well-known 
among you, that has been long repeated in your 
ears, that has been tested and found not wanting. 
This is good coin; and "worthy," it is sometimes 
added, "of all acceptation." 

Our present passage is one of these "faithful 


sayings." "Faithful is the saying," the Apostle 
adds on completing it, "and concerning these 
things I will that thou shouldst affirm confidently." 
Thus he tells us how important, how well-con- 
sidered, how final and trustworthy this statement 
of truth is. Let us approach its study in a spirit 
suitable to so solemn an injunction. 

The first thing that we observe in the passage 
is the melody that rises from it of praise to God. 
It is the "kindness of God our Saviour and his 
love towards men" which sets its key-note. The 
special terms in which God's goodness is here 
praised. His "benignity" and "philanthropy," are 
due, indeed, to the context. The Apostle had just 
been thinking and speaking about men; and he 
could not think or speak of them as either "be- 
nignant" or "philanthropic." He would have 
them exhorted to be subject to those over them, 
obedient, prone to good works, and averse to evil 
speaking and contentiousness, gentle and meek. 
But such they were not showing themselves. 
Christians themselves could remember how afore- 
time they lived in malice and envy, hateful and 
hating one another. What could be expected 
from man? WHiat a contrast when one lifted his 
eyes from this scene of lust and malice and envy 
and hatred — men striving with one another to 
surpass each other in doing injury to their fellows 
— and set them on God, to see His benignity and 
philanthropy! The whole passage is pervaded by 


the suggestion of God's kindness and humanity; 
thrown out into sharp relief by its contrast with 
man's malice and hatred. Nothing can be ex- 
pected of or from man; but God has manifested 
His benignity and philanthropy to us and by 
them saved us. Man would destroy, God saves. 
But there is much more than this to be said. 
The passage is not only pervaded by the suggestion 
of God's general goodness; it is a psalm of praise to 
God for His saving love. It sings not only "Gloria 
Deo " but "Soli Deo Gloria." Our salvation is its 
subject. It not only ascribes salvation in its root 
to God's love; it ascribes it in every one of its 
details to God's loving activities and to them 
alone; it ascribes its beginning and middle and 
end to Him and to Him only. The various ac- 
tivities that enter into our salvation are enumer- 
ated; and every one of them is declared to be a 
loving activity of God and of Him alone. This 
passage is even remarkable in this respect. Even 
in that classical passage in Ephesians, which is 
designed to ascribe salvation wholly to God, and 
to empty man of all ground of boasting, we have 
faith, at least, mentioned: "We are saved by 
grace, through faith"; though it is immediately 
added: "And that not of yourselves, it is the 
gift of God." But this passage leaves faith itself 
to one side as not requiring mention. There are 
no subjective conditions to salvation, in the sense 
of conditions which we must perform in order to 


obtain or retain salvation. It is God alone who 
saves, "not by means of any works in righteous- 
ness which we have done ourselves but in con- 
sequence of his mercy" and of that alone. Not 
even faith itself, that instrument of reception to 
which salvation comes, can be conceived of as 
entering causally into God's saving work. It is 
He and He alone who saves; and the roots of 
His saving operations are set deep in His mercy 
only. If we are saved at all, it is because — ^not 
that we have worked, not that we have believed, — 
but that God has manifested His benignity and 
philanthropy in saving us out of His mere mercy. 
He has, through Jesus Christ, shed down His 
Holy Spirit to regenerate and renovate us that 
we might be justified "by His grace," — in other 
words, gratuitously, not on the ground of our 
faith, — and so be made heirs of eternal life. 

Our passage empties man of all glory in the 
matter of salvation and reserves all the glory to 
God. But this is not because it does not know 
how to distribute honour to whom honour is due. 
Man has no part in the procuring or in the apply- 
ing of salvation, but there are Three Persons who 
have; and our passage recognizes the praise due to 
each, and distributes to each Person of the Holy 
Trinity the saving operations which belong to Him. 
*^God . . . according to His mercy, . . . saved 
us, through the washing of regeneration and re- 
newal of the Holy Ghost, which He poured out on 


us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour." The 
source of our salvation is to be sought in the loving 
mercy of God the Father. The ground of the sav- 
ing activities exerted on us is to be sought in the 
work of Jesus Christ our Saviour. The agent in 
the actual saving work is to be sought in the Holy 
Ghost. Here are brought before us God our Lover, 
Christ our Redeemer, the Spirit our Sanctifier, as 
all operative in the one composite work of salva- 
tion. To God the Father is ascribed the whole 
scheme of salvation and the entire direction of the 
saving work; it is His benignity and philanthropy 
that is manifested in it; it is according to His own 
mercy that He has saved us; it is He that saved 
us; He saved us through the Holy Spirit; He 
poured out the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ: 
it is His salvation and it is He that has given it to 
us. To Jesus Christ is ascribed the work of 
"Saviour" by which the outpouring of the Holy 
Spirit was rendered possible to God. The nature 
of His work is not precisely outlined in our pas- 
sage; but in the preceding passage we are told 
that "He gave Himself for us, that He might re- 
deem us from all iniquity." This it is that the 
Son does for us. To the Holy Spirit is ascribed 
the actual application of the redemption wrought 
out by Christ. The items of this application are 
very richly developed, and the development of 
them constitutes the strength of the passage. 
If we will scrutinize the items in which the ap- 


plying work of the Holy Spirit is developed, we 
shall perceive that they supply us with a complete 
"order of salvation." We are told that God saves 
us in His mere mercy, by a renovating work of 
the Holy Spirit, founded on the redeeming work of 
Christ; and we are told that this renovating work 
of the Holy Spirit was in order that we might be 
justified and so become heirs. Here the purchase 
by the death of Christ is made the condition 
precedent of the regeneration of the Holy Spirit; 
but the action of the Holy Spirit is made the con- 
dition precedent to justification and adoption. We 
are bought unto God by Christ in order that we 
may be brought to God by the Holy Spirit. And 
in bringing us to God, the Holy Spirit proceeds by 
regenerating us in order that we may be justified 
so as to be made heirs. In theological language, 
this is expressed by saying that the impetration of 
salvation precedes its application: the whole of 
the impetration, the whole of the application. 
And in the application, the Spirit works by first 
regenerating the soul, next justifying it, next 
adopting it into the family of God, and next sanc- 
tifying it. In the more vital and less analytical 
language of our present passage, this is asserted 
by founding the gift of the Holy Ghost upon the 
work of Christ: "which He poured out upon us 
richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour"; by in- 
cluding in the work of the Holy Ghost, regenera- 
tion, justification, adoption, and a few verses 


lower dowii, sanctification; and by declaring that 
the regeneration of the Holy Spirit is "in order 
that being justified we might be made heirs." 

Now what are the practical fruits of this teach- 
ing? The Apostle says it is faithful teaching, 
which he wishes to have confidently affirmed, to 
the end that they which have believed God may be 
careful to maintain good works. It is encour- 
aging teaching to believers to tell them that they 
are not their own saviours but God is their Sav- 
iour; that their salvation is not suspended on 
their own works or the strength of their own faith, 
but on the strength of God's love and His mercy 
alone; that all Three Persons of the Trinity are 
engaged in and pledged to their salvation; that 
Christ's work for them is finished and they are 
redeemed to God by His precious blood and are, 
henceforth, God's purchased possession; that it is 
not dependent on their own weakness but on the 
Spirit's strength whether they will be brought into 
the enjoyment of their salvation; that the Spirit 
has been poured richly out upon them; that He has 
begun His work of renovation within them; that 
this is but the pledge of the end and as they have 
been regenerated and justified, so have they been 
brought into the family of God and made heirs of 
eternal life. This is encouraging teaching for be- 
lievers! Shall they, then, because they are saved 
out of God's mercy and not out of works in right- 
eousness which they have done themselves, be 


careless to maintain good works? I trow not; 
and the Apostle troweth not. Because of this, 
they will now be careful "to maintain good works." 
Let us see to it then that by so doing we approve 
ourselves as true believers, saved by God's grace, 
not out of works but unto good works, which He 
hath afore prepared that we should walk in them ! 
This is what the Apostle would have us do. 


2 Tim. 1:9, 10: — "Who saved us and called us with a holy 
calling, not according to our works, but according to his own pur- 
pose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before times 
eternal, but hath now been manifested by the appearing of our 
Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death, and brought life and 
incorruption to light through the Gospel." 

Second Timothy is the last letter written by 
Paul. More than that, it was written during the 
last days of his life. He had fought his fight and 
finished his course. What had the Gospel he had 
preached done for him.'^ What was his attitude 
towards the salvation in Christ Jesus which he 
had so long proclaimed, now that life was over and 
he could look back in a detached sort of a way 
over its whole course.^ Did it seem to him in those 
sad disillusioning days as — scarcely worth while .^ 

It certainly is interesting to catch Paul's last 
thoughts about the Gospel; to learn what that 
Gospel was and what it was to him as the sands of 
his life ran out; to compare it with the Gospel he 
had grasped with such enthusiasm at the outset 
and propagated with such zeal during the days of 
his strength and freedom. Well, it is reassuring 
to find that the Gospel Paul preached at the end 
was just the same old Gospel he had embraced at 
the beginning. And more than that, that it was 

the same to him. 



Tliere is even an odd echo in the very language 
he uses here to describe the Gospel of that which 
he had employed in the earlier, lustier days. To 
the Romans he had written that he was not 
ashamed of the Gospel, because it was the power 
of God unto salvation. To Timothy he gives the 
exhortation not to be ashamed of the Gospel but 
to endure manfully in its behalf, with an endur- 
ance measured only by the power of God mani- 
fested in the salvation it had brought. 

The echo in the language, I say, is oddly close, 
because there is no direct connection between the 
two passages; and when closely scrutinized they 
are perceived to speak of two very different things. 
In Romans we have an objective statement; in 
Second Timothy an intensely subjective one. Li 
the one case the contrast is with the scorn of 
the world. Paul will not be deterred by that; he 
cannot be ashamed to preach a Gospel in which is 
enshrined the power of God to save. In the other 
case, the contrast is with the persecution of the 
world. Timothy is not to shrink back before the 
dangers that now hang over the proclamation of 
the Gospel, but to witness straight on, emboldened 
by the saving power of this Gospel in his own heart. 

One passage is then in no sense a repetition of 
the other; both are rather embodiments of the 
same fundamental idea for completely different 
ends. This fundamental idea is that the Gospel 
is the power of God to salvation and therefore a 


thing of which no man with a mind to see can 
possibly be ashamed, and which no man with a 
heart to feel can possibly be frightened away from 
proclaiming. Because it has the dynamics of life 
in it, it stands immeasurably above all the so- 
called Gospels that men can proclaim. Nay, be- 
cause it has the dynamics of life in it, he who has 
it hidden in his heart cannot fear death. 

One sees the enheartening power there is in this 
perception of the Gospel as the power of God to 
salvation. We cannot wonder that Paul uses this 
conception, whether to enhearten himself in preach- 
ing it despite the scorn of men, or in enheartening 
Timothy in preaching it despite the persecutions of 
men. It is natural then that it should crop out 
here again, where the Apostle would fain put new 
courage into Timothy in the sad time that had 
come upon the Gospel proclamation. The propa- 
gation of the Gospel through the Roman world had 
hung largely on the arm of Paul. But that arm 
was now stricken down, and Paul was lying in 
the Roman prison with nothing to anticipate ex- 
cept an inglorious death. Something like a panic 
seems to have fallen upon the little circle of helpers 
on whom he was accustomed to depend as on 
hands and feet in the prosecution of his great mis- 
sionary task. Though in prison and nearing the 
fatal issue, the burden of the churches still rested 
on his stricken arm. He enumerates the dispo- 
sition of the forces he had made and was making. 


For the work at Rome, however, he was short- 
handed and felt helpless. One of those whom he 
had depended on for the dangerous work there 
had fled. Only Luke remamed with him; he 
needed two additional helpers. He turns to Tim- 
othy and Mark; and it is striking to see him turn 
to these two in his hour of need, and with obvious 
trust and confidence in them. On a former oc- 
casion Mark had forsaken him at a juncture 
of importance. And many commentators have 
thought that his general tone to Timothy implies 
that Paul thought him little endowed with the 
quality of daring. This appears to rest on a mis- 
take; the effort which the Apostle makes to en- 
hearten Timothy for his work does not seem to 
imply special timidity suspected in him so much 
as the need of special courage for what he asks of 
him. At all events, his choice of Timothy for aid 
in this hour of need and the express encomium 
which he passes on Mark as one fitted to be his 
companion in the arduous service asked of him 
would seem to be a diploma of trustworthiness 
given to these helpers. We may be sure that he 
wishes for Timothy and Mark in this sad time 
to be standing by his side, because he had special 
confidence in just Timothy and Mark. 

Nevertheless Paul recognizes that there is very 
special need of courage and boldness for the service 
he is asking. And in asking the service he points 
Timothy to the source of strength. That source 


of strength to which he points Timothy is, briefly, 
the Gospel, conceived as embodying the power of 
God to salvation. He reminds Timothy first of 
his hereditary faith; next of his endowment with 
grace by the laying on of the Apostle's hands; 
but finally and chiefly of the power of God he had 
himself experienced in the Gospel which he was 
called on to preach and for which he was to be 
ready also to suffer. It was not his human 
strength that was to be called on for this great en- 
durance; haply that might soon be exhausted. 
His endurance was to be limited only by the power 
of God, of that God who had saved him and called 
him with a holy calling, not according to any 
works of his own, but according only to God's 
own purpose and the grace that was given him in 
Christ Jesus before times eternal, and has now 
been manifested by the epiphany of our Saviour 
Jesus Christ, in His making naught of death, and 
bringing to light of life and incorruption through 
the Gospel. 

Surely there is gathered together in this great 
exhortation everything that could be needed to fill 
with deathless courage in the behalf of the Gospel 
even the most timid hearts. Let us try to point 
out one or two of the things that Paul does here, 
calculated to enhearten his companion. 

First, we shall certainly take notice that he 
places beneath Timothy the eternal arms of God 
Almighty. He lifts the eyes of Timothy from 


himself to God, and says to him in effect, There, 
there is your strength. And observe the pains 
Paul is at to impress on Timothy that the relation 
in which he stands to this God, by virtue of which 
God becomes his strength, is not, in any sense, — 
not in the remotest degree, not in the smallest 
particular, — dependent on Timothy himself, or 
anything that he has done, is doing, or can do. 
He would withdraw Timothy utterly from the 
least infusion of dependence on self and cast him 
wholly on dependence on God, that he may 
realize that his weakness is not in question, but 
the whole strength of God is behind him to up- 
hold him and bear him safely through. 

Therefore Paul describes this God on whose 
power he would throw Timothy back as one 
"who saved us and called us with a holy calling; 
not according to works of ours but according to 
His own purpose" — where the words "His own" 
are thrown out with a tremendous energy, — "and 
a grace that was given to us in Christ Jesus before 
times eternal," — where the words "was given," 
not "was promised" or even "was destined for," 
but actually and finally and unequivocally "was 
given" us before times eternal, are used with 
equally tremendous emphasis, to declare that 
what has appeared in time has been only a mani- 
festation of what was already done, concluded, ac- 
complished in eternity. How could this power of 
God fail us now because of aught we can do, or 


fail to do, when its gift to us is so thoroughly in- 
dependent of everything or anything that we can 
do ? Obviously, what Paul is doing is so completely 
to take away Timothy's consideration of himself in 
this whole matter of the Gospel that he will trust 
exclusively in God and feel that, therefore, there 
can be no failure — just because it is God alone and 
not he himself on whom the performance rests. 

An appeal to the well-recognized fact that it was 
thus and thus only that Timothy received his call 
from God, is nothing other, then, than to cast him 
back on the Almighty arms and to make him 
poignantly realize that it is God and not he who is 
conceived as carrying through the work so begun. 
"O Timothy," says Paul, in effect, "Faint not! 
It is not your own strength — or rather weakness — 
that is here in question; it is the power of Al- 
mighty God. Do not you remember how you 
were brought into relations with this God.^^ Was 
it of yourself that you were called with this holy 
calling? Nay, no works of your own entered in. 
It was of His own purpose that He called you; the 
grace that has come to you was given you from all 
eternity. What has come to you in time is only 
the manifestation of what was eternally done. It 
is this Almighty God who is using you as His in- 
strument and organ. Nothmg depends on your 
weakness; all hangs on His strength. Take cour- 
age and go onward." Thus Paul strengthens 
Timothy for the conflict before him. 


But there is another element in Paul's enheart- 
ening exhortation which we must not fail to take 
notice of if we would feel all the subtlety and force 
of its appeal. Paul not only throws Timothy 
back on the eternal arms of Almighty God; he 
fixes his eyes firmly also on an eternal Christ. 
For not less clearly than in the prologue to John's 
Gospel itself is the pre-incarnate Son of God 
brought before us in this great passage. So vivid, 
indeed, is the Apostle's realization of the great 
transaction in eternity; so pointed is his repre- 
sentation of all that has been wrought out in time 
as but the manifestation of what was already pre- 
pared in eternity; that it would be easier to read 
him as throwing an air of unreality over the tem- 
poral acts than as treating the eternal ones as 
merely ideal. 

The use of the word "given," the "grace given" 
to us before times eternal, is already a mark of his 
intense perception of the reality of the eternal 
transaction. But this is carried much further 
by the other terms emphasized. This grace given 
in eternity is only "manifested" in time; made 
visible — the conception being that it was already 
in existence and is only now brought to sight. 
And in like manner the Christ Jesus in whom the 
grace was given us before times eternal, can by no 
possibility be conceived as existing only ideally in 
this eternity, as if the notion were only that in 
foresight of Him and His work, the gift of grace 


was determined upon and so His historical life on 
earth was the logical prius and this eternal trans- 
action rested on it in prevision and provision. On 
the contrary, it is His eternal existence that is the 
actual reality and His historical manifestation is 
described as an "epiphany" — a term which dis- 
tinctly describes a glorious apparition of what 
already exists and now only breaks forth to the 
illumination of the world. As such it is elsewhere 
confined in the New Testament to the second 
coming of Christ, and when here applied to His 
first coming as fully implies as in the parallel case 
that He who is thus manifested exists and has 
existed beforehand gloriously, and now only 
bursts on Man's astonished sight like the breaking 
forth of the sun from thick clouds. The grace 
that was given us before all eternity, was given us 
in that eternity in Christ Jesus, as the then present 
mediator of grace; and as the grace then given has 
only been "manifested" in time, so the Christ 
Jesus in whom it was then given has only "ap- 
peared" in time. So clear and vital is Paul's re- 
alization of the eternal transaction in a word, that 
the danger would be not that we should read him 
as speaking of only an ideal eternal pre-existence 
of His and our Lord, but rather, as giving too little 
significance to the outworking of the eternal plan 
in the actual historical realization. 

It is interesting to observe this very complete 
doctrine of the eternal pre-existence of Jesus 


Christ in this epistle, for theological reasons, and 
more particularly, for biblical-theological reasons. 
Our interest in it now, however, turns on the use 
which Paul makes of it for the enheartening of 
Timothy. By fixing his eyes thus on the eternal 
Jesus and subtly suggesting that the events of 
time are (in a sense) but the shadows of the eter- 
nal realities; that the salvation wrought out on 
Calvary was but a corollary (so to speak) of the 
determining transaction in heaven; the Apostle 
leads his pupil to attach less importance to the 
course of affairs on earth in comparison with the 
eternal things thus vividly pictured before his 
eyes. The fashion of the earth passes away; the 
heavenly alone abides. This eternal Jesus — ^may 
He not be relied on quite independently of the 
temporary appearances of the things of earth .'^ 
For how many ages did He abide above — before 
He was manifested as Saviour! He may have 
removed again into the glory He had with the 
Father before the world was. But is He, there- 
fore, non-existent — unable to help? We have 
seen his epiphany once, when He burst from the 
skies bringing salvation. Shall we not see it 
again .'^ Sufferings meanwhile may come — ^per- 
secutions, trials — above what flesh is capable of 
enduring. But as the grace of God has appeared 
already bringing salvation, shall we not be sure 
that, in due season, there shall be another epiph- 
any of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ? 


Perhaps it is too much to say that the exhorta- 
tion of Paul bids Timothy to look forward to this 
second epiphany. But perhaps it is not too much 
to say that the use of the word here, consecrated 
elsewhere to our Lord's second coming, and the 
whole cast of the passage, can scarcely have failed 
to suggest by analogy this second coming to Tim- 
othy. And if so, the remembrance of it would 
add to the force of the exhortation to endurance. 
In any case, this vision of the eternal Christ forms 
a substantial element in Paul's great exhortation. 

There is, however, a third element in it that we 
must be sure that we perceive before we can say 
that we have appreciated its whole force; it fills 
Timothy's heart with the sense of an eternal sal- 
vation. We have seen that it points him back into 
eternity for the inception of this salvation. There, 
we will not say merely it was prepared for, pro- 
vided for; it was rather, prepared, provided. 
Before times eternal there was a purpose of God — 
His own sovereign purpose, independent of all 
works of man — in accordance with which we have 
in time been called. But there was also more — 
even a grace that had been given to us already in 
Christ Jesus, our eternal Lord. And it is in 
accordance with this grace also that we have 
been called with a holy calling and saved; in 
accordance with this grace, existent eternally, and 
only manifested in time, when Jesus burst on the 
astonished view of man and abolished death and 


brought to light Hfe and immortality. This salva- 
tion, thus manifested, therefore, is an eternal 
salvation. There was no time when it was not. 
Can there be any time when it shall cease to be? 

What we must, above all, however, see to it that 
we do is to focus our eyes on what this eternal 
salvation thus manifested in time consists in. It 
consists in just the abolishment of death and the 
bringing to light of life and immortality. Ah, 
this death that Timothy may have been in danger 
of fearing — that is the real shadow. This salva- 
tion — so long hidden in the heavens — that is the 
reality. It may again seem to be hidden in the 
heavens; death — does it not loom before him as a 
hideous threat of the immediate future.^^ Nay, 
the eternal salvation, revealed in Christ Jesus, is 
revealed in this very act — that He has abolished 
death and brought Hfe and immortality to light 
through the Gospel. Surely if Paul can quicken 
and give life and force to this conception in Tim- 
othy's mind and heart, his encouragement of him 
to face persecution and death with him for the 
Gospel's sake is complete. Then, this threatened 
death is naught; the Saviour has abolished death 
and brought life and immortality to light. 

In essence, shall we not say, then, that this 
appeal finds its deepest root in the assurance of a 
blessed immortality.^ That it unveils the life 
beyond the tomb.^ And puts the heart into us 
that was in Paul when he declared that he viewed 


with unconcern the wearing away of this earthly 
house because he knew he had a building of God, 
a house not made with hands, eternal in the 
heavens? It is because the salvation brought 
thus to Timothy is not only eternal in its incep- 
tion but eternal in its endurance, that the appeal 
has such force. Paul is seeking to fill the heart 
and mind of his follower with the realization of an 
eternal salvation, and so to lead him to courage in 
facing temporal trials. Is it not our wisdom to 
apply his words to ourselves.^ Shall we, too, not 
endure as seeing the invisible? 


2 Tim. i2:l 1-13:— "Faithful is the saying: For if we died with 
Him, we shall also live with him : if we endure we shall also reign 
with him: if we shall deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faith- 
less, he abideth faithful; for he cannot deny himself." 

The words which are before us this afternoon 
form one of those "faithful sayings" taken up by 
Paul from the mouth of the Christian community 
and given fresh significance and force by his em- 
ployment of them to wing his own appeals and 
point his own arguments to his fellow Christians. 
It is exceedingly interesting to observe the Apostle 
thus acting as a member of a settled community 
with its own standards of belief and maxims of 
conduct already to a certain degree established; 
and none the less so that he was himself the 
foimder of the community, who had impressed on 
it the faith to which it was now giving expression. 
The special *' faithful saying" he now adduces 
bears in it traits which point back to his teaching 
as the germ from which it had grown, but also to 
the teaching of our Lord Himself, a witness to the 
wide diffusion of which in the churches it thus sup- 
plies. If the phrase, "If we died with him we 
shall also live with him" is Pauline to the core and 
takes the mind of the reader irresistibly back to 
such a passage as Romans 6:8; and the next suc- 



ceeding phrase, "If we endure we shall also reign 
with him, " reminds us more remotely of such pas- 
sages as Rom. 5:17; 8:17; the clause which fol- 
lows that, "If we deny him, he, too, will deny us," 
cannot fail to remind us of Matt. 10:33, or rather, 
of the saying of Jesus there formally recorded. 

How this "faithful saying" had been formed 
in the church, whether merely as a detached 
gnome, or maxim, which Christians were wont to 
repeat to one another for their enheartening and 
encouragement; or, as a portion of some htur- 
gical form often used in the church service, until 
its language had become fixed; or as a passage 
from a hymn that had grown popular, as its 
rhythmic form may perhaps suggest, it may be 
difficult or impossible to decide. The way in 
which the Apostle adduces it appears in any event 
to bear witness that the words were a current 
formula in the church, to which he could appeal as 
such, and which would, from their familiarity and 
devout, if not sacred, association, appeal power- 
fully to Timothy's heart. Perhaps we may ven- 
ture to say that the Apostle himself felt the appeal 
of these devout associations, and employs the 
"saying" precisely because it had become by use 
the natural expression of his own strong feelings, 
at the moment aroused to a particular fervour. He, 
the great Apostle, yet leans with comfort on the 
church's own expression of its faith. What a tes- 
timony w have here to the solidarity of the church 


of God; or, as we prefer to put it, to the com- 
munion of the saints. And what an enforcement 
of the great commands that we bear one another's 
burdens, that we neglect not the assembhng of our- 
selves together, that we do not indulge the vanity 
of living each one to himself. The Church is ever 
to Paul, the inspired teacher of the Church, in a 
deep and true sense, the pillar and ground of the 
truth, on the testimony of which he gladly rests. 
The purpose for which he adduces this partic- 
ular "faithful saying" is to clinch his appeal to 
Timothy to steadfast adherence to his high duty 
and privilege of teaching the Gospel, despite 
every difficulty and danger besetting the pathway. 
He appears in this context to be urging three mo- 
tives upon Timothy to induce him to face bravely 
the hardships of the service he is pressing upon 
him. He points him first to the source of his 
strength: "Remember Jesus Christ as risen from 
the dead, of the seed of David"; keep your eyes 
set on the heavenly majesty of the exalted Christ, 
our King. Surely he who keeps vivid in his con- 
sciousness that He with whonx he has to do is the 
Lord of heaven and earth, who, though He had 
died, yet lived again, and is set on the throne of 
universal dominion, should have no fear in boldly 
obeying his behests. Paul points Timothy next 
to the important function performed by the 
preacher of the Gospel, faithfulness in proclaim- 
ing which he is urging upon him as so prime a 


duty that no danger must be allowed to intermit 
it. It is by it that the elect of God attain the sal- 
vation destined for them in Christ Jesus. Who 
will draw back when he realizes that he is a fellow- 
worker with God in bringing to their salvation 
God's own elect — those elect whom God has loved 
from the foundation of the world, for whom He 
has given His Son to shame and death, and sent 
His Spirit into the foulness of men's hearts? 
Surely he who apprehends that it is laid on him to 
carry this salvation to those whose own it is will 
never weary in conveying it to them. Let us 
learn how a brute beast may respond to an appeal 
to share in such a service of good by reading 
Browning's "How they brought the good news to 
Ghent." Shall we be less responsive to such 
appeals than even the brutes? Lastly Paul plies 
Timothy with this "faithful saying," the force of 
whose appeal lies in its subtle blending of encour- 
agement and warning: encouragement because 
it tells us what a glorious prospect lies before him 
who gives himself to Christ unreservedly here; 
warning because it discloses to us the dreadfulness 
of the award that lies before him who is unfaith- 
ful here to the service he owes his Lord. 

"If we died with him, we shall also live with 
him; if we steadfastly endure we shall also reign 
with him," but also, "if we shall perchance deny 
him, he will also deny us"; though of one thing we 
may be firmly assured, "though we prove faith- 


less, He abideth ever faithful, for He cannot deny 
Himself." Was ever warning and encourage- 
ment so subtly blended in a single composite ap- 
peal? So subtly indeed that one remains in 
doubt whether the appeal comes to its close on a 
note of hope or on one of despair. Is it that God 
will remain faithful to His gracious purposes of 
love despite our weakness; that, though we prove 
untrustworthy, yet He abides ever trusty — is it 
on this note of high hope and encouragement 
that the Apostle's great song sinks down to rest.^^ 
Or is it rather, that the God who has threatened 
to deny those that deny Him, will abide ever 
faithful to this dreadful threat, so that he who dis- 
owns Him here need cherish no hope that he shall 
escape the announced disavowal there— is it on 
this note of profoundest warning that the Apostle 
pauses? The language is flexible to either sense; 
the context leaves the way open to either; the 
appeal would be alike strong under either inter- 
pretation; but it is strongest of all, doubtless, 
under the subtle blending of the two, to which 
the phrasing of the whole "faithful saying" seems 
to invite us. 

For this "faithful saying" has the characteristic 
pregnancy and subtlety of all its fellows, which is 
the hall-mark of all true popular sayings that have 
passed from mouth to mouth until they have 
been compacted into the thought of a whole com- 
munity. For its interpretation we should con- 


fine ourselves primarily to its own narrow com- 
pass and remember that the context in which it 
comes to us is not its own original context, and 
can help us to its interpretation only so far as the 
propriety of its adduction here is concerned. So 
looking at it, it is clear that much of the current 
exposition of its clauses falls away of itself. For 
example, it seems obvious that the "dying with 
Christ" here adduced is not physical dying with 
Christ, martyrdom, but forensic dying with 
Christ, justification. It is clear that our frag- 
ment is a fragment of a piece in which the main 
theme is Christ's work of redemption. It is es- 
pecially clear that we have no right to supply 
"with Christ" with the second clause. It is not 
endurance "with Christ," but "steadfast endur- 
ance to the end" alone that is intended, and the 
conjunctive preposition is left off of this verb just 
to advise us of that. Nor may we omit to note 
and give effect to the changes of tense: first the 
aorist, then the present, then the future, then the 
present again; all of which changes are significant. 
Lastly, a careful observation of the consecution 
of the clauses will certainly bid us pause before we 
fall in with their division into two pairs, the first 
encouraging, the last warning; a division far too 
simple to do justice to the subtlety of the whole 
thought, or even the surface considerations de- 
rived from the sequence of the tenses and verbs. 
Let us look at the saying then a moment in its 


own light and then ask how it lends itself to Paul's 
purpose in adducing it here. 

We perceive at once that the passage consists 
of four conditional sentences which stand, there- 
fore, in a certain formal parallelism with one an- 
other. The first of these sentences declares that 
sharing in Christ's death entails sharing in 
Christ's life. The idea is a frequent one in the 
New Testament and must, indeed, in all Pauline 
churches at any rate, have become long ere this a 
Christian commonplace. The language in which 
it is expressed is the same as that which meets us 
in Rom. 6:8, and stands in express relation with 
that of, say, 2 Cor. 5:14f. It would be most un- 
natural violently to separate the statement here 
from the ordinary connotation of the language. 
This is reinforced by the fact that the aorist 
tense is employed, and thus a dying with Christ 
already accomplished by every Christian who took 
this language on his lips, most naturally suggested. 
It is most unnatural, therefore, to understand here 
a dying with Christ not yet accomplished, per- 
haps never to be accomplished; the language im- 
plies rather a dying which has been the invariable 
experience of every Christian heart. Are we to 
say that the passage teaches that only if we share 
in Christ's death in the sense that we like Him die 
for the Gospel, are we to share in his life.? Or, are 
we to say that the meaning is rather that every 
faithful Christian that dies shall live again? The 


latter is too flat a sense to be attributed to our 
passage; the former, obviously too narrow. The 
reference is neither to martyrdom, not yet merely 
to a Christian death. The death here is obviously 
ethical or rather, spiritual, and yet not quite in 
the exact sense of Rom. 6 :8, but more in that of 
2 Cor. 5 :14. The simple meaning obviously is that 
he who is united with Christ in His death shall 
share with Him His life also; that all those "in 
Christ Jesus" as they died with Him on Calvary, 
as that death which He there died, since it was for 
them, was their death in Him, so shall share with 
Him in His resurrection life, shall live in and 
through Him. 

The appeal is clearly to the Christian's union 
with Christ and its abiding effects. He is a new 
creation; with a new life in him; and should live 
in the power of this new and deathless life. For 
there is a stress laid also on the persistence of this 
life and a pointing of the reader to the deathless- 
ness of the life in Christ. Know ye not, says the 
Apostle in effect, that if ye died with Christ ye 
shall also live with Him, and that the life ye are 
living in the flesh ye live by the power of the Son 
of God, and it shall last for ever.? The pregnancy 
of the implication is extreme, but it is all in- 
volved in the one fact that if we died with Christ, 
if we are His and share His death on Calvary, we 
shall live with Him ; live with Him in a redeemed 
life here, cast in another mould from the old life 


of the flesh, and Hve with Him hereafter for ever. 
This great appeal to their union and communion 
with Christ lays the basis for all that follows. It 
puts the reader on the plane — sets him at the 
point of view — of "in Christ Jesus." 

Now, the second and third clauses present the 
contrasting possibilities, emerging from the situa- 
tion presented in the first clause, and belong as 
such together, as positive and negative state- 
ments. He who is in Christ may by patient con- 
tinuance in well-doing abide in union with his 
Lord, and he shall not fail of his reward. The 
metaphysical possibility remains open, however, 
that he may deny his Lord, in which case, he shall, 
himself, in accordance with our Lord's own ex- 
press threat, be denied by Him. Observe the 
precise justice of the contrasting expressions em- 
ployed in these alternatives. The tense changes 
first from the aorist to the present, because not 
tJie act of incorporation in Christ, but the process 
of steadfast endurance, is in question. The verbs 
in the apodosis are also varied to meet the exact 
case; we begin as sharers in Christ's life; if we 
continue steadfastly in that life we shall share in 
its glories. The thought is precisely that of Rom. 
8:16, 17; if we are God's children, we are heirs, 
joint heirs with Christ, "if so be that we suffer 
with Him, that we may be glorified with Him 
also." Only in our present passage the matter is 
not conceived so distinctly as suffering or as suffer- 


ing with Christ; in preparation for the companion 
clause yet to come the idea of "with Christ" falls 
away here. The two cases rest with us — abiding 
steadfastly or disowning. The "reigning with 
Christ" is an advance on "living with Christ"; it 
throws the emphasis on the reward: if we have 
died with Him we are sharers of His life; if we 
abide in this life we shall inherit with Him the 

The companion clause presents the other pos- 
sibility. The "deny" corresponds to "the stead- 
fast endurance" and Christ's disowning us cor- 
responds to the "reigning with Him"; both as 
opposite contrasts. The tense is changed in ac- 
cordance with the new nature of the case. It is 
not a matter of continually disowning Him; it is 
a matter of breaking the continuance of our stead- 
fast endurance. This is done by an act. Hence 
the future, expressing the possibility of the act: 
"should we disown Him," — if we shall disown 
Him, why then, He (emphatic), also will disown 
us! This is the dreadful contingency; all the more 
dreadful on account of three things: (1) the sim- 
ple brevity of its statement as a dire possibility to 
be kept in mind and steadfastly guarded against; 
(2) the express reminiscence of our Lord's own 
words in Matt. 10:33 carrying the mind back to 
the most solemn of associations possible to con- 
nect with the words; (3) the emphatic "He," 
thrusting the personality of Christ for the first 


time upon the consciousness of the reader; as be- 
fore, He is only gently kept in mind by the impli- 
cations of the "with." This emphatic "He" is 
partly due, of course, to the change of construc- 
tion, by which a new subject is needed for the suc- 
ceeding verb; though it would be, perhaps, better 
to say the desire for emphasis is the cause of the 
change of construction. We might have had a 
passive verb, "If we deny we shall be denied," 
with or without the "by Him." But the person- 
ality of Christ is too strongly felt here for mere 
suggestion or even for relegation to the predicate. 
The change to the active construction and the 
expression of the subject and its expression by the 
demonstrative "He," all pile emphasis on em- 
phasis; "If we disown, HE, too (not merely He, 
but HE, too), will disown us!" This is the climax 
of the sentence and a fitting pause is reached. 
"If we died with Him we shall also live with him; 
if we steadfastly endure we shall also reign with 
him; but if we shall ever, by any possibility, deny 
Him, He, too, will deny — us!" The thought is 
complete with this. Both alternatives are devel- 
oped. And the effect of the whole is a powerful 
incentive to abide in Christ. Patient endurance — 
nay, bold, steadfast, brave endurance — ^has its 
reward — reigning with Christ. But if we fall 
from this and disown Christ, do we not remember 
His dreadful threat: "He, too, can and will dis- 
own — even us!" 


Surely there is nothing required to enhance the 
terror of this situation. The poignancy of the 
appeal to steadfast endurance seems scarcely to 
need heightening. But on the other hand there 
would seem need for a closing word of encourage- 
ment to weak and faltering Christians. And there 
would seem a way open for it. For the very sharp- 
ness of the assertion that if there is disowning on 
one side there will be disowning on the other, too, 
seems to hint something else. The contrast be- 
tween the present tense of the second clause ex- 
pressing continuance and the tense of the third 
clause expressing an act, calls for consideration: 
"If we continue to — ," "If we shall perchance 
ever — ." Nothing is said of the continuance of 
the disowning on either side. Disowning begets 
disowning. True; but is that all.^^ Shall one act 
of even such dreadful sin divide us from all that 
we had hoped for, in a long life of endurance .^^ 
What shall poor weak, faltering Christians do in 
that case? It does not seem impossible, to say 
the least, that the last clause comes in to comfort 
and strengthen. There is hope even for the 
lapsed Christian! For "though we prove faith- 
less, He (emphatic), HE, at least, abides faithful: 
for deny Himself He cannot!" Deny us He may 
and will; every denial entails a denial. But 
deny Himself, He cannot. Our unbelief shall 
not render the faith of God of none effect. 

If this be the construction, the whole closes on a 


note of hope. The note of warning throbs through 
even the note of hope, it is true, for He who can- 
not deny Himself must remember His threats 
also; and no Christian holding this wonderful 
"faithful saying" in his heart will fail to note this. 
But the note of hope is the dominant one, and I 
take it this last clause is designed to call back the 
soul from the contemplation of the dreadfulness of 
denying Christ and throw it in trust and hope 
back upon Jesus Christ, the faithful One, who 
despite our unfaithfulness, will never deny Him- 
self — will never disown Himself, — ^but will ever 
look on His own cross and righteousness and all 
the bitter dole He has suffered, and will not let 
anything snatch what He has purchased to Him- 
self out of His hands. 

In this view of the matter, then, the arrange- 
ment of the clauses is not in a straightforward 
quartet — ^two by two — but rather this: 

If we died with Him we shall also live with Him; 

If we endure we shall also reign with Him; 

If we shall deny, He too will deny us. 
If we are faithless. He abideth faithful, for Himself He camiot 


James 5:16b: — "The supplication of a righteous man availeth 

I WANT to speak to you this afternoon about 
prayer, and I have chosen a text which, if we can- 
not quite say of it that it brings prayer before us 
at the height of its idea, yet, certainly, presents its 
value to us in the most emphatic way. 

Men ask, What is the use of praying? Above 
all, What is the use of bringing specific petitions 
to the throne of the Almighty? "To crave boons 
you know little of, from a God of whom you know 
nothing at all, save that you have made him in 
your own image — of what profit can that be?" 
That is the language of unbelief. 

Much, however, which passes for belief asks 
practically the same thing in somewhat more 
chastened forms of speech. This half belief also 
asks. What is the use of praying? We must have 
a very low conception of God, it suggests, to sup- 
pose that He does not know how to govern His 
universe without our telling Him. Do we really 
think He will subordinate His wisdom to the de- 
mands of our folly? Cannot we leave the direc- 
tion of affairs to Him? If He be, indeed, a good 
and wise God, must we not leave it to Him? Why 
rush hysterically into His presence and demand 



that the universe be ruled according to our no- 
tions? Are we competent to give Him advice? 
Do we fancy that we know what is best even for 
ourselves, as He does not? He cannot hear us 
unless He be God; He certainly ought not to 
hearken to us if He be God. If He is "mighty 
enough to make laws," why should we think Him 
"weak enough to break them" at our request? 
Prayer is in effect an attempt to undeify the 
Deity and substitute our will for His will. It is 
not only foolish and immoral, therefore, but su- 
premely self-contradictory. We cannot attempt 
it save on the supposition that it is God whom we 
are addressing; we would not attempt it if we 
really believed that He whom we are addressing is 
God. Of one thing, at least, we may be assured, 
that it is of no use to pray. 

Well, you see, it is precisely to this point that 
our text speaks. It speaks not of prayer in gen- 
eral, but of the specific act of petition. "Suppli- 
cation," our Revised Version calls it. It is that 
precise act of prayer which is the making of a re- 
quest, the urging of a desire, the preferring of a 
petition. And what it says about it is that so 
far from its being of no use, it is of very great use. 
"The prayer," — or more specifically, the "peti- 
tion," the "request," the " supphcation " — "of a 
righteous man availeth much," "is of great value," 
"exerts great power." There is another word in 
the sentence, but as it is of somewhat doubtful 


interpretation and in no way qualifies the sense of 
the declaration for our present purpose, we may 
pass it by here. It is variously rendered as quali- 
fying the prayer of the righteous man that availeth 
further as "earnest"; or as indicating the source 
from which such a prayer alone can come, by 
affirming that it is "inwrought" in him, that is, 
by the Holy Ghost; or as further describing the 
value of it as avaihng "in its working." It is 
obvious that whether we say "the fervent prayer 
of the righteous man availeth much," or "the 
prayer of a righteous man availeth much, seeing 
that it is inwrought," or "the prayer of a righteous 
man availeth much in its working," the one main 
thing asserted in every case is that a righteous 
man's prayer is of high value; that it is strong to 
obtain its end; that it is fully worth offering up. 
And this emphatic assertion is buttressed im- 
mensely by its context. The assertion is made in 
order to encourage the readers to pray for one 
another, and for themselves. To pray for one 
another when they are sick; to pray for one 
another when they are soul-sick. If any is 
sick among you, exhorts James, send for the elders 
of the Church and have them pray over such an 
one; and the prayer of faith shall heal the sick; 
yes, and if he have any sin on his conscience, it 
will heal that sin. And all of you — why, confess 
your sins to one another — and pray for one an- 
other, and the prayer will bring healing. Take 


everything to God. If you are suffering go in 
prayer; if you are in joy go in praise. But in any 
and every case, go. It is strong and reiterated 
advice, you see. Go continually, go always, to 
God. Go, go, because prayer is not of no profit; 
but, on the contrary, the "prayer of a righteous 
man profiteth much!" And then James supports 
this central declaration with a most telling exam- 
ple. It is taken from the Hfe of Elijah. Elijah 
prayed. He was a man just like us. And he got 
what he prayed for. And it was no little thing 
he asked for. He asked for drought and he asked 
for rain. And he got the drought and the rain 
he asked for. See, says James in effect, see, how 
much the prayer of a righteous man is good for! 

It looks as if we could not easily find a stronger 
assertion of the value of prayer; and of prayer at 
the very apex of its difficulty as I have said; 
prayer, specifically as petition. But I do not wish 
this afternoon to confine our thoughts to this one 
point- the value of petition, but to take encour- 
agement from this emphatic assertion of the value 
of prayer, and direct our minds to a general con- 
sideration of prayer in the large. 

First, then, the idea of prayer. In its most 
general connotation, prayer is the Godward ex- 
pression of subjective religion. Subjective religion 
is the state of mind consequent on the apprehen- 
sion of God. Prayer is, therefore, in its most gen- 
eral sense the Godward expression of that state of 


mind which is consequent on the apprehension of 
God. In short, all conscious communion with 
God is prayer. A great many elements, there- 
fore, enter into prayer. It is not to be confined to 
petition. Every form of expression of the soul 
Godward is a form of prayer. Many terms, 
therefore, are employed in the Scriptures, He- 
brew and Greek alike, to give expression to the 
various forms and modes of praying. In some 
passages several of these are accumulated and 
that with full consciousness of the variety of 
mental state and action expressed by them. 
One of the most formal of these summations 
occurs at the opening of the second chapter of 
First Timothy. Here four terms are gathered 
together to give more adequate expression to 
what Paul would have us do when we pray; four 
terms which emphasize the mental movements 
we call respectively adoration, petition, urgency, 
thanksgiving. These four elements, at least, 
ought, therefore, to intertwine in all our acts of 
prayer. When we come before God, we should 
come with adoration in our hearts and on our lips, 
with thanksgiving suffusing all our being for His 
goodness to us, and making known our desires 
with that earnestness which alone can justify our 
bringing them to Him. 

Next, the presuppositions of prayer. Obviously 
they are the presuppositions of subjective religion. 
And these may be summed up in the existence. 


the personality, the accessibility and the contin- 
ued activity of God in the world. The Scriptures 
themselves tell us that to come to God implies 
that we believe that He is, and that He is the re- 
warder of those who diligently seek Him. We 
must really believe in the existence of God and in 
His care for the works of His hands, or we cannot 
pray to Him. Not only then cannot the atheist, 
or the agnostic, or the pantheist, pray; nor yet 
the deist or the fatalist. But neither can ad- 
herents of many a variety of our modern thought 
which baptizes itself with the Christian name, 
pray as men ought to pray. I have particularly 
in mind in saying this, on the one hand, those ex- 
treme advocates of the reign of law in external 
nature who love to call themselves either spec- 
ulative theists or non-miraculous Christians; and 
on the other those extreme advocates of the au- 
tocracy of the human will, who fancy that the 
whole cause of liberty is bound up with the self- 
sufficiency of the human soul. 

The one of these would forbid us to pray for any 
external want; the other for any internal effect on 
the soul. So, between the two, they would take 
away the whole sphere of prayer. Unless we 
should prefer wisely to look at it from the oppo- 
site angle, and to say that each refutes the other, 
and between the two they allow us the whole 
sphere of prayer. Certainly, that is what the 
Scriptures do. They authorize, or rather require, 


us to pray both for external and internal blessings; 
for rain and drought like Elijah; for the healing 
of sickness like the elders of the Church; for the 
healing of sin-sick souls like Christians at large. 
There is, no doubt, a problem of how God an- 
swers prayers for external effects ; and we may be 
chary of supposing that miracles will be wrought 
when special providences will serve the end; and 
there is a problem of how God answers prayer 
for internal changes and we may be chary of sup- 
posing that violence is done to our nature, when 
confluent action along psychologically indicated 
lines will suffice. But one thing we must hold 
firmly to : God answers prayer. And that equally, 
and equally readily and equally easily, for in- 
ternal and for external things. 

Now, the conditions of acceptable prayer. Let 
us study here the simplicity of Scripture. We 
need not multiply conditions where the Scriptures 
do not multiply them. And, speaking strictly, 
Scripture knows of but one condition. It con- 
duces to the peace and comfort of our souls to 
remember that there is but one condition to ac- 
ceptable prayer. It is easiest and best, however, 
to state this one condition in a twofold manner: 
objectively and subjectively. There is an ob- 
jective condition of acceptable prayer and there 
is a subjective condition of acceptable prayer. 
The objective condition is that we should have ac- 
cess to God. The subjective condition is that 


we should have faith. The objective and sub- 
jective conditions are one, because it is only in 
Jesus Christ that we have access to God and only 
through faith that we are in Him. 

Whatever may be said of men as men — the 
creatures of God — you and I have nothing to do 
with. You and I are not men as men; we are 
sinners. And sinners as such have no access to 
God. They may go through all the motions of 
prayer, no doubt. It is like bodily exercises that 
profit nothing; one might as will turn a prayer 
wheel like the Thibetans. It goes no higher than 
our own heads. For this is of the very essence of 
sin — that it breaks communion with God. God 
is deaf to the sinner's cry. He owes the sinner 
punishment, not favour. In Jesus Christ alone 
has the breach between God and sinful man been 
filled in. In the blood of His sacrifice only can we 
penetrate within the veil. In Him only, as Paul 
repeatedly tells us, do we have our introduction 
into the Divine presence. All prayer that is ac- 
ceptable and reaches the ears of God, therefore, 
is prayer that is conveyed to Him through Jesus 
Christ. For sinners the atonement of Christ lays 
the only basis for real prayer. 

The subjective condition is faith; and faith is 
the sole subjective condition. No other condi- 
tion is ever announced in Scripture. And the 
promises to faith are repeated, emphatic and un- 
limited. He that prays in faith shall surely re- 


ceive. For faith can no more fail in prayer than 
in salvation; and if faith and faith alone is not 
the only but all-sufficient instrument of salvation, 
then we are yet in our sins and are of all men the 
most miserable. If any one is puzzled by so un- 
limited a promise, let him reflect what faith is and 
whence faith comes. If faith is the gift of God in 
this sphere, too — as assuredly it is — then faith 
can no more fail than the God who gives it can 
fail. Or think you that God will deceive you by 
working faith in you by His Holy Spirit when He 
has no intention of correspondingly blessing you? 
Man-made faith — that might fail; for that is no 
faith at all. But God-inspired faith, as it is God 
within you working, so is it sure to find God 
without you hearkening. That is what Paul says 
in that great passage in the eighth of Romans 
about the Holy Spirit groaning within us unutter- 
ably, and God knowing the mind of His Spirit. 
It is possibly also what James says in our present 
passage, when he says that it is an "energized 
prayer" which is effective. But the gist of the 
whole matter is that there is no condition of suc- 
cessful prayer but faith. 

No condition, but not therefore no character- 
izing qualities, which are always present where 
faithful prayer is; and the presence and absence 
of which you and I can observe as marks of ac- 
acceptable or unacceptable prayer. These are 
customarily enumerated as sincerity, reverence. 


humility, importunity, submission. Many more 
similar characteristic features of acceptable prayer 
could be added. We need not dwell on these in 

Lastly, the effects of prayer. These too are 
both objective and subjective. Which are the 
more important.^ That depends very much on 
the specific exercises of prayer which we have in 
mind; and on the specific things we pray for, 
if it is of the exercise of petition that we are 

The main point to emphasize is that prayer has 
an objective effect. It terminates on God, and 
does not merely bound back like a boomerang 
upon our own persons. We do not throw it up 
towards the heavens to have it do nothing but 
circle back to smite our own heads. But though 
this is to be mainly insisted upon, it does not fol- 
low that prayer may not also have subjective 
effects; or that these subjective effects may not 
be of unspeakable importance to us; or even that 
in some exercises of prayer, they may not be 
almost the most important of its effects. If the 
specific exercise of prayer in which we are engaged 
is adoration or thanksgiving, may not what we 
call its subjective effects be the most important.? 
No doubt, if we are engaging in petition, it may 
be different; may be even here, not must. If our 
petition be, Father, hallowed be Thy Name! — or, 
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth as 


in heaven! — no subjective effects can compare 
with the objective value of the petition. But 
suppose the petition be, "Give us this day our 
daily bread!" Or for some lesser blessing "of this 
life"! Is not the enjoyment in prayer of com- 
munion with God of more value than any of these 
things? Let us bless God that man does not live 
by bread alone; nay, not even chiefly. 

If we seek to enumerate the benefits obtained by 
prayer, then, I think we must say that they are, 
at least, threefold. There are the objective 
blessings obtained by means of the prayer in the 
answer to its petitions. There is the blessing that 
consists in the very act of prayer, that commu- 
nion with God which is the highest act of the soul. 
There are the blessings that arise from the as- 
sumption in prayer of the proper attitude of the 
creature, especially of the sinful creature, towards 
God. Perhaps these last alone can be strictly 
called purely subjective. The first we may speak 
of as purely objective. It is the second in which 
the highest value of prayer is to be found. 

We must not undervalue the purely subjective 
or reflex effects of prayer. They are of the high- 
est benefit to us. Much less must we undervalue 
the objective effects of prayer. In them lies the 
specific meaning of that exercise of prayer which 
we call petition. But the heart of the matter hes 
in every case in the communion with God which 
the soul enjoys in prayer. This is prayer itself. 


and in it is summed up what is most blessed in 
prayer. If it be man's chief end to glorify God 
and enjoy Him for ever, then man has attained his 
end, the sole purpose for which he was made, the 
entire object for which he exists, when he enters 
into communion with God, abides in His pres- 
ence, streaming out to Him in all the emotions, I 
do not say appropriate to a creature in the pres- 
ence of his Maker and Lord, apprehended by him 
as the Good Lord and Righteous Ruler of the 
souls of men, but appropriate to the sinner who 
has been redeemed by the blood of God's own Son 
and is inhabited by His Spirit and apprehends 
his Maker as also his Saviour, his Governor as 
also his Lover, and knows the supreme joy of him 
that was lost and is found, was dead and is alive 
again, — and all, through the glory of God's seeking 
and saving love. He who attains to this experi- 
ence has attained all that is to be attained. He is 
absorbed in the beatific vision. He that sees God 
shall be like Him. 


I Pet. 1:15: — "But like as He which called you is holy, be ye 
yourselves also holy in all manner of living." 

The first chapter of the First Epistle of Peter 
ranks with the most precious in the Bible. It 
opens with a singularly rich and beautiful de- 
scription of what God has done for us, and of the 
glory of that salvation which He has provided. 
He has given His Son to die and rise again that by 
His resurrection from the dead He might beget us 
anew unto a lively hope. Though we may have 
to suffer now and enter not yet into this hope, He 
Himself preserves for us the hoped-for inherit- 
ance, incorruptible and undefiled; and keeps us 
by His power for it, until the day comes when we 
shall enter into it. This glorious salvation He had 
prepared for us, indeed, before we were born, 
even from the beginnings of the ages, annoimcing 
it from time to time through the prophets who 
well knew that it was for us and not themselves 
that they ministered, but revealing it in its full 
glory not even to the angels as it has now been 
made known to us. Thus Peter makes known to 
his readers that it was not they who chose God 
but God who chose them; that their salvation is 
not dependent on their own effort but rests on 
God's almighty power; that the inheritance for 



which they hope in the end is not such an one as 
they could obtain with human weakness, but such 
an one as only God could prepare — more splendid 
than prophets could tell, more glorious than 
angels could imagine, prepared by God just for us 
from the foundation of the world. By this far-off 
glimpse of it, Peter would quicken our hope and 
awaken our love and gratitude to God. 

"Wherefore," he adds, — turning suddenly from 
this glorious prospect to stir us up to make this 
precious inheritance surely our own — "where- 
fore" see to it that you enter into this hope and 
lay such hold upon it that it cannot slip away. As 
we approach the text for the day, thus, we pass 
from the contemplation of the glorious inheritance 
of the saints to the most earnest exhortations to 
make our calling sure. Peter admonishes us by 
the greatness of the hope that is set before us, in 
other words, to a mode of life conformable to it. 
We must gird up the loins of our minds, be sober 
and set our hope perfectly on this grace that is to 
be brought to us at the revelation of our Lord. 
It is ready for us; it is kept in store for us in 
heaven; when Christ comes it will come with Him. 
Would we be meet for its reception? How then 
shall we be made meet for it? We are told first 
negatively and then positively. 

Christ is our King and to Him we owe our duty. 
Not with eye service only; not with grudging 
honour; but as the very children of obedience we 


must offer Him our willing service. And this 
service which He demands of us is summed up 
broadly in the negative rule that we must be sep- 
arated wholly from our former evil desires which 
we followed in the days of our ignorance, before 
He recalled Himself to us and made known to us 
what a glorious inheritance He had for us. Chil- 
dren of the flesh, born in the flesh, we have lived 
according to the lusts of the flesh; for who is there 
that sins not? But now that the eyes of our 
hearts have been opened that we may see what it 
is that we have done, and that we may know the 
evil that we have wrought, we must turn away 
from evil. This is the negative rule of life. But 
mere negation brings us nowhere. To separate 
from sin is not enough; we must go on to positive 
holiness; "like as He which called you is holy, 
become ye also yourselves holy in all manner 
of living.'* Here is the positive rule of life. 

Now let us look at this precept somewhat more 
closely. Doing so we will observe (1) what it 
is that we are exhorted to become — holy; (2) 
in what we are to become holy — in every manner 
of living; and (3) to what degree we are to become 
holy in all our life and all its activities, — as holy as 
God Himself is. In other words, we may ob- 
serve here (1) that God draws back the veil and 
exhibits His own holiness to His children; (2) that 
He makes His hoHness the incitement to them to 
become holy also; (3) that He holds His own holi- 


ness forth as the standard of the holiness which 
they must strive to attain; and (4) that He ac- 
tually proposes to share this His highest attri- 
bute with us. 

Observe, then, first, that God here proclaims 
His own holiness and so exhibits this His crown 
and glory to His children; "like as He which 
called you is holy" — "for I am holy." What, 
then, do we mean when we speak of the "holi- 
ness" of God? We need not trouble ourselves 
with the derivation of the Hebrew word, although, 
no doubt, its etymological sense of division, sepa- 
ration from, is conformable with its usage. The 
usage of the word, which is applied primarily to 
God, and only afterwards and secondarily to those 
that belong to Him, — especially if we will observe 
its contrasts — clearly indicates as its central idea 
that of separation; and specifically separation 
from the world conceived of as a sinful world. 
When we call God holy, then, the central idea in 
our minds concerns His absolute and complete 
separation from sin and uncleanness. Not that 
the idea has this negative form as it lies in our 
minds. There is no idea so positive as that of 
holiness; it is the very climax of positiveness. 
But it is hard to express this positiveness in a 
definite way, simply because this idea is above the 
ideas expressed by its synonyms. It is more than 
sinlessness, though it, of course, includes the idea 
of sinlessness. It is more than righteousness, 


although again it includes the idea of righteous- 
ness. It is more than wholeness, complete sound- 
ness and integrity and rightness, though, of course, 
again it includes these ideas. It is more than 
simpleness, high simplicity and guilelessness, 
though it includes this too. It is more than 
purity, though, of course, it includes this too. 
Holiness includes all these and more. It is God's 
whole, entire, absolute, inconceivable and, there- 
fore, unexpressible completeness and perfection of 
separation from and opposition to and ineffable 
revulsion from all that is in any sense or degree, 
however small, evil. We fall back at last on this 
negative description of it just because language 
has no positive word which can reach up to the 
unscaleable heights of this one highest word, holi- 
ness. It is the crown of God as mercy is His 
treasure; as grace is His riches, this is His glory. 
Who is like unto God, glorious in holiness? 

Such is the challenge of the Old Testament and 
safely might it be given. The holiness of God is a 
conception peculiar to the religion of the Bible. 
None of the gods of the nations was like unto our 
God in this, the crown and climax of His glory. 
But it is just this His ineffable perfection that He 
calls us to imitate. It is just the exhibition of 
this His glory that He trusts to quicken an un- 
quenchable thirst in us to be like Him. For ob- 
serve, secondly, that it is by this exhibition of 
His holiness that God incites us to holiness. "Like 


as He which called you is holy, become ye also 
yourselves holy." "Ye shall be holy for I am 
holy." God exhibits His glory to us for our 
imitation and expects the sight of the beauty of 
holiness in Him to beget in us an inextinguishable 
longing to be like Him. Holiness is a dread at- 
tribute. Reverence and awe attend its exhibi- 
tion. Who can look upon the holy God and not 
tremble? To the sinful man, no words so quickly 
spring to the lips when he is brought in sight of 
holiness as "Depart from me, for I am a sinful 
man, O Lord!" It is pre-eminently the holiness 
of God which constitutes the terror of the Lord, 
and as often as He appears to men we read the 
record that they feared a great fear. Does its 
contemplation not silence our tongues and abase 
our hearts rather than rouse our endeavours and 
quicken our efforts.^ It is but too true that sin 
and holiness are antagonistic and that holiness 
hates sin no less truly than sin hates holiness. 
Sinful man cannot be incited to holy activity by 
the sight of holiness; it begets no longing in his 
heart except a longing to hide himself away from 
it. When Adam sinned, he no longer wished to 
meet God in the garden. 

The very fact of the proposal of God to show us 
His holiness as an incitement to holiness in us 
means something, then, of infinite importance to 
our souls. It means that we are no longer averse 
to all that is good; no longer God's enemies but 


His friends. Peter is addressing here not man as 
man but Christian men as Christian men. Those 
to whom he speaks have been bought with a price, 
have been begotten anew unto a lively hope by the 
resurrection of Christ from the dead. As God's 
sons they are already like God, and he only ex- 
horts them to become more like Him. It is only 
as God's sons that they could be attracted by the 
exhibition of His holiness ; it is only as God's sons 
that they could find in it an incitement; it is only 
^.s such that they can hope to attain it. And it is 
just because we are God's sons that the exhorta- 
tion is necessary to us. If we are to call on Him 
as Father we must vindicate our right to use that 
ennobling name by living as His children. Thus 
the very proposal of God to incite us to holiness by 
the exhibition of His holiness to us, is itself an 
encouragement to and a pledge of our attainment 
of it. He expects us to see and to feel the beauty 
of holiness and that means that He has already 
recreated our hearts. 

Thus we observe, thirdly, that God not only ex- 
hibits His holiness here as an incitement to us, but 
also reveals to us by that act His gracious and 
loving purpose with us. We see God here not 
calling us up to seek communion with Him in our 
own strength; but rather stooping down that He 
may raise us to that communion. For let us ob- 
serve that it is, after all, communion with Him 
to which He has summoned us. There can be no 


communion between the holy and the sinful. He 
is here beseeching us to hold communion with 
Him, and He is providing the way by which it may 
be consummated. The Holy God has by the 
resurrection of Christ from the dead begotten us 
again into a living hope and here He holds out to 
this already formed hope the incitement of the 
sight of His holiness as the goal to which we must 
strive to attain. 

It is not unadvisedly that we say that His hoh- 
ness is here exhibited as the goal to which we must 
seek to attain. For not only is it in the text the 
incitement, but also the standard of the holiness 
for which we are to strive. We are to become 
holy as God is holy. Of course the finite cannot 
attain the infinite. But as the asymptote of the 
hyperbola ever approaches it but never attains, so 
we are eternally to approach this high and perfect 
standard. Ever above us, the holiness of God 
yet is ever more and more closely approached by 
us; and as the unending aeons of eternity pass by 
we shall grow ever more and more towards that 
ever-beckoning standard. That is our high des- 
tiny and it is not unfitly described as partaking in 
the Divine Nature. 


1 Jno. 2:28-3:3, especially 3:1: — "Behold what manner of love 
the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called chil- 
dren of God: and such we are." 

The conception of the divine birth as the root 
of the Christian Hfe is a specially Johannean one. 
Not that the other New Testament writers do 
not also teach all that is expressed by the term 
"regeneration." But that they teach it prevail- 
ingly under other figures, such as those of a re- 
pristination, a new creation, and the like. The 
Johannean expressions, "to be born again," "be- 
gotten of God," do not occur at all, for example, in 
Paul, whose use in a single passage of a similar 
term only serves to bring out the contrast. There 
is a corresponding difference in the use by Paul 
and John of the conception of childship or sonship 
to God. In accordance with his juridical point of 
view, Paul speaks of sonship as conferred by adop- 
tion, and thinks of our acquisition of the rights and 
the inheritance of sons. In accordance with his 
essential point of view, John speaks of childship as 
conveyed through birth and thinks of growing up 
into the likeness of God. Accordingly Paul pre- 
fers the term "sons." We are adults received by 
God's grace into the number of His sons. And 
John prefers the term "children" or even "Httle 



children." We are born into the family of God as 
the infants of His household. 

This difference in the use of the conception of 
childship is not a difference of doctrine; it is only 
a difference in the illustrative use of the concep- 
tion of childship in the setting forth of doctrine. 
It will not do to say on its ground that John 
teaches that our sonship to God is due to regener- 
ation and Paul that it is due to justification. It 
will not be accurate even to say that John em- 
phasizes regeneration and Paul justification. What 
is true is that Paul has adopted the conception of 
sonship to illustrate the title to life and holiness 
which we obtain through justification, and John 
to illustrate the communication of a new principle 
of holy life to us in regeneration. Paul uses it of 
an objective fact, John of a subjective one. Paul, 
to point us to what becomes ours through the work 
of Christ without us; John, to what is made ours 
by the working of Christ within us. It would lead 
to confusion to treat the several passages in John 
and Paul as if they were teaching us the same son- 
ship to God. It would lead to even greater con- 
fusion to suppose that because they illustrate 
different portions of the doctrine of salvation by 
the same figure, they teach a different doctrine of 
salvation, — one by the Christ without us, the 
other by the Christ within us. 

Perhaps no passage could be pitched upon which 
would more richly and completely than that be- 


fore us outline to us John's presentation of his 
doctrine of ehildship to God, begun in regeneration 
and growing up in ever-increasing sanctification 
to its goal of likeness to God. It may repay us to 
run over the points of doctrine that emerge in 
the course of these five verses. 

First then we are to observe that the ehildship 
of God of which John teaches us — as truly as the 
sonship to God of which Paul teaches us — is not 
a natural but a graciously conferred relation. 
Neither in John's sense nor in Paul's sense, nor in 
the sense of any New Testament writer, can we 
speak of a universal Fatherhood of God. The 
idea of the All-Father is rather a heathen than a 
Christian notion; that is to say it is a conception 
belonging to the sphere of natural religion, voicing 
the yearning of the human heart to find in its Cre- 
ator and Ruler something more than a Master or a 
Sovereign Lord. It contains no more Biblical 
truth than arises from the fact that according to 
the Bible we are like God in so far as by our first 
creation we were made in His image; He is in this 
sense the Father of our spirits. For from the Bib- 
lical point of view, sonship presents primarily the 
idea of likeness. Therefore, the bad are the sons 
of Belial and the good are the sons of God; and 
the high name of the children of God is, from Gen- 
esis to Revelation, reserved for those whose like- 
ness to Him extends beyond the mere natural 
fact that they have a spiritual nature similar to 


God's, to the moral fact that they have a spirit- 
ual character like God's. 

Holiness of heart, not immateriality of essence, 
is the ground in the Scriptural view of Divine son- 
ship. And as men are by nature not holy but 
wicked, they are naturally the sons of the Devil, 
the sons of wrath. Sons of God they can become 
only by an act of Divine mercy. The idea of the 
universal Fatherhood of God represents therefore, 
from the Biblical point of view, what God would 
fain have been when He made man in His own 
image, creating him in righteousness and true holi- 
ness; what God still fain would be; not what God 
is. He is in the Biblical sense, the Father only 
of those who are renewed unto holiness. So John 
puts it; so Paul puts it. Paul exhorts his readers 
to "do all things without murmurings and dis- 
putings, that they may be blameless and harmless, 
children of God, without blemish": and John in 
our present passage represents only those who do 
righteousness as the children of God. 

To John then, as we say, as to Paul and to the 
whole New Testament, childship to God is not a 
natural but a graciously constituted relation. 
It is so in our passage, "Behold what manner of 
love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we 
should be called the children of God." It is a 
matter of bestowment; it is a gift. And it is an 
undeserved and unmerited gift. John cries out 
in wonder and surprised gratitude at the love — 


not only the greatness, but the high quality of the 
love — which God bestowed on us, with ' the in- 
tent of having us called children of God: "Be- 
hold, what manner of love the Father hath be- 
stowed upon us to the end that we should be 
called children of God." And then his feelings 
overcome him as he contemplates this great, this 
indescribable, kind of love, and he adds, not as 
part of the statement but as an unrestrainable com- 
ment on the statement, "and such we are." The 
words themselves point out the ineffable mercy 
and love of God in making us — such as we — chil- 
dren of God. But these two words of comment of 
the responding heart of the beloved disciple pierce 
even deeper into our souls. As he declares the 
Father's love in making us His children, he cannot 
help jubilating over the blessed fact. "It is 
true," he cries, "it is true!" "And we are." As- 
suredly, to him this is no natural relation. We 
are the children of God only by the ineffable love 
of God, constituting us sons. It is not a thing 
we have by nature but of grace; it is not a thing 
to which we are born as men, but to which we are 
born again as Christians; it is not a thing to which 
all are born, but only those who are born not of 
blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of 
man, but of God. 

It is as clear as day, then, that this childship to 
God, of which John teaches us, is not a product 
of our own endeavours; it is a gift, a free favour, 


from God; and it has its root in the ineffable and 
indescribable and sovereign love of God. "Be- 
hold what manner of love the Father has be- 
stowed upon us that we should be called the sons 
of God." We have not earned it; the Father has 
given it; not paid it to us as our just due for effort 
made, labour performed, righteousness practised; 
but given it to us out of His free and inexplicable 
love; not out of His justice but out of His incom- 
prehensible love. It is a sovereign gift. So the 
New Testament everywhere and under all its 
figures represents it; so John always represents it. 
And it is therefore that he sings paeans to God's 
love on account of it. "Behold!" "What man- 
ner of love is this!" "To seek us out and make us 
the sons of God!" Language could not convey 
more clearly, more powerfully, the conception of 
the absolute sovereignty of the gift of childship 
to God. Elsewhere it is conveyed more didac- 
tically, more analytically; here it is conveyed 
emotionally. Elsewhere we are told that it came 
not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the 
will of man, but of God; here we have the answer- 
ing thrill of gratitude of the human heart at this 
unexpected, undeserved gift. Elsewhere the sov- 
ereignty is asserted, explained; here it is ac- 
knowledged, honoured. Elsewhere it is claimed, 
here it is yielded, admired, glorified. 

But the passage gives us not merely the origin 
and source of our childship to God in His love — 


free, and freely giving us this great benefit; it 
points out to us the evidence of its reality. Though 
we cannot purchase it by our righteousness, it is 
freely bestowed, it yet evidences itself through 
righteousness. It is not by righteousness that we 
obtain it; but only the righteous have it. As it is 
sonship to the righteous God that is conferred; 
as sonship implies likeness ; it follows that the test 
of such a sonship having been conferred is the 
presence of the likeness, the presence of the right- 
eousness. Accordingly we read: "If ye know 
that He is righteous, ye know that every one also 
that doeth righteousness is born of Him." This is 
the test. None but the righteous are sons of God. 
The Apostle does not say. None but the righteous 
can become the sons of God. Then it would not 
be true that the sonship is a free gift of ineffable, 
sovereign love. But he does say that none but 
the righteous are the sons of God. 

This is, indeed, essential to his point of view, 
that sonship hangs on an inward fact. Paul, too, 
teaches the same doctrine even though he is 
looking upon sonship as a juridical fact. For God 
leaves none of those whom He constitutes His 
sons by adoption without the Spirit of sonship in 
their hearts, crying Abba, Father; and only those 
who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 
But much more will John, who is thinking of re- 
generation rather than justification, under the 
figure of sonship, teach the same. Only he who 


doeth righteousness can really be begotten of the 
Righteous One. That we do righteousness be- 
comes thus the test and evidence of our sonship. 
Begetting is the implanting of a seed of life, and 
it is the very nature of life to live, that is, to man- 
ifest its essential nature in outward activities. 
But the seed implanted in this begetting is the 
seed of holy living; how can it be said to be there 
if it is not manifested in holy living? It is of the 
very nature of the thing that only those who do 
righteousness can have been begotten by the 
Righteous God unto newness of life. 

But is not John then blending regeneration 
with sanctification.f^ If none is born of God — 
regenerated — unless he doeth righteousness, is 
not this to say that by the mystical act of being 
begotten of God — regeneration — a man must be 
made holy, and unless he has been made holy, he 
is not born of God.^ Yes, and no. For John, 
while insisting that no one is born of God who does 
not do righteousness, does not represent him as 
having already in his new birth attained his goal. 
An infant is not a full-grown man. Nor is he who 
is born of God already perfected in likeness to 
God. John, too, represents this as a growth. 
He asserts that only those who do righteousness 
are the children of God; but he claims to be him- 
self — ^he claims that his readers are — already chil- 
dren of God. "And such we are." "Are"— 
already. "Beloved, now we are children of God." 


Does he claim perfected righteousness for himself 
or them? "If we say that we have no sin, we 
deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." Yet 
throughout our passage, and beyond, he insists 
with iterated emphasis that the mark of the child 
of God is that he does righteousness, and that he 
who does sin is of the devil. There is no contra- 
diction here. John, too, knows the root and the 
tree; the flower and the fruit. He, no more than 
Paul, claims to be already perfect. Even the 
infant is like his father; and whoever is born of 
God does righteousness like the Righteous Father, 
though he does it like an infant, with many a 
false step, with many a fall. He must, like other 
infants, grow up and learn to walk in the new path. 
And so John in our passage does not look upon 
the new birth as all; he expects a growth and 
promises it. "Beloved, we are already children 
of God" — his readers, after that formulated test 
of doing righteousness, needed assurance of it; 
"we are already children of God." "And it is 
not yet made manifest what we shall be" — not 
yet made manifest! The completed righteousness 
is not yet present — "we know that if He shall be 
manifested, we shall be like Him for we shall see 
Him as He is." Ah, here is the goal on which 
John sets his eyes! We have not yet the per- 
fected likeness to our Righteous Father, merely 
because we are born of God; we must grow up to 
be altogether like Him. It is a process; a growth; 


only when the infant becomes a man, is the like- 
ness complete. 

And, therefore, the Apostle has an exhortation 
for us as well as an instruction. We have re- 
ceived in our new birth the germ of our new life 
of righteousness; but we have not received in it 
that whole new life in perfection. God never 
intended to carry us to the skies on flowery beds 
of ease. The righteousness that we are to do does 
not consist in that; it does not rest unless and 
until it is done, done in spite of temptation, in 
conquest of evil. And so John points our eyes to 
the completed fruit of our endeavours — true, de- 
veloped likeness to God — as the goal of effort, 
and adds his exhortation. Are we born of God? 
Is the germ within us.? What a glory! But what 
a glory there is stretching yet beyond! Devel- 
oped likeness to God! "And every one having 
this hope within him, purifieth himself even as He 
is pure." Here is John's prescription for the life 
of the sons of God. Let us take it to heart and 
live by it. 

Perhaps, then, we may sum up by saying that 
in this pregnant passage John gives us : 

(1) The root of childship to God in God's in- 
effable love. 

(2) The creation of children of God through 
God's sovereign power. 

(3) The evidence of childship to God in the doing 
of righteousness. 


(4) The hope of the children of God, developed 
likeness to God. 

(5) The duty of the children of God, to purify 
themselves as God is pure. 

(6) The end of the children of God — ^the as yet 
unmanifested glory of perfect assimilation to 
their Father's character. 

Date Due 



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