Christian's Secret of a Happy Life
Written by: Smith, Hannah Whitnall Posted on: 03/26/2003
Category: Classic Christian Library
Christian's Secret of a Happy Life
o THE CHRISTIANS SECRET OF A HAPPY LIFE
+ Chapter 1
+ Chapter 2
+ Chapter 3
+ Chapter 4
+ Chapter 5
+ Chapter 6
+ Chapter 7
+ Chapter 8
+ Chapter 9
+ Chapter 10
+ Chapter 11
+ Chapter 12
+ Chapter 13
+ Chapter 14
+ Chapter 15
+ Chapter 16
+ Chapter 17
+ Chapter 18
+ Chapter 19
+ Chapter 20
+ Chapter 21
+ Chapter 22
THE CHRISTIAN'S SECRET OF A HAPPY LIFE
By Hannah Whitall Smith
As Published by Christian Witness Co.
"One of the most inspiring and influential books we have ever
read." -- Dale Evans and Roy Rogers "IS YOUR LIFE ALL YOU WANT IT
TO BE? Hannah Whitall Smith--Quaker, rebel, realist--faced life as
she found it, and she found it good. She took her Bible promises
literally, tested them, and found them true as tested steel. She
stepped out of conjecture into certainty, and the shadows
disappeared. Here she reveals the secret--how to make unhappiness
and uncertainty give way to serenity and ocnfidence in every day
of your life." -- from the Spire edition.
Origial text document from the "Wesley Center for Applied Theology" at
Northwest Nazarene College (Nampa, ID)
Chapter 1 Introductory. -- God's Side and Man's Side
Chapter 2 The Scripturalness of This Life
Chapter 3 The Life Defined
Chapter 4 How To Enter In
Chapter 5 Difficulties Concerning Consecration
Chapter 6 Difficulties Concerning Faith
Chapter 7 Difficulties Concerning The Will
Chapter 8 Is God in Everything?
Chapter 9 Growth
Chapter 10 Service
Chapter 11 Difficulties Concerning Guidance
Chapter 12 Concerning Temptation
Chapter 13 Failures
Chapter 14 Doubts
Chapter 15 Practical Results
Chapter 16 The Joy of Obedience
Chapter 17 Oneness With Christ
Chapter 18 "Although" and "Yet"
Chapter 19 Kings and Their Kingdoms
Chapter 20 The Chariots of God
Chapter 21 "Without Me Ye Can Do Nothing"
Chapter 22 "God With Us"; or, The One Hundred and Thirty-ninth Psalm
THE CHRISTIANS SECRET OF A HAPPY LIFE
By Hannah Whitall Smith
This is not a theological book. I frankly confess I have not been trained in
theological schools, and do not understand their methods nor their terms.
But the Lord has taught me experimentally and practically certain lessons
out of his Word, which have greatly helped me in my Christian life, and have
made it a very happy one. And I want to tell my secret, in the best way I
can, in order that some others may be helped into a happy life also.
I do not seek to change the theological views of a single individual. I dare
say most of my readers know far more about theology than I do myself, and
perhaps may discover abundance of what will seem to be theological mistakes.
But let me ask that these may be overlooked, and that my reader will try,
instead, to get at the experimental point of that which I have tried to say,
and if that is practical and helpful, forgive the blundering way in which it
is expressed. I have tried to reach the absolute truth which lies at the
foundation of all "creeds" and "views," and to bring the soul into those
personal relations with God which must exist alike in every form of
religion, let the expression of them differ as they may.
I have committed my book to the Lord, and have asked Him to counteract all
in it that is wrong, and to let only that which is true find entrance into
any heart. It is sent out in tender sympathy and yearning love for all the
struggling, weary ones in the Church of Christ, and its message goes right
from my heart to theirs. I have given the best I have, and could do no more.
May the blessed Holy Spirit use it to teach some of my readers the true
secret of a happy life!
HANNAH WHITALL SMITH, GERMANTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA.
GOD'S SIDE AND MAN'S SIDE
In introducing this subject of the life and walk of faith, I desire, at the
very outset, to clear away one misunderstanding which very commonly arises
in reference to the teaching of it, and which effectually hinders a clear
apprehension of such teaching. This misunderstanding comes from the fact
that the two sides of the subject are rarely kept in view at the same time.
People see distinctly the way in which one side is presented, and, dwelling
exclusively upon this, without even a thought of any other, it is no wonder
that distorted views of the whole matter are the legitimate consequence.
Now there are two very decided and distinct sides to this subject, and,
like all other subjects, it cannot be fully understood unless both of these
sides are kept constantly in view. I refer, of course, to God's side and
man's side; or, in other words, to God's part in the work of sanctification,
and man's part. These are very distinct and even contrastive, but are not
contradictory; though, to a cursory observer, they sometimes look so.
This was very strikingly illustrated to me not long ago. There were two
teachers of this higher Christian life holding meetings in the same place,
at alternate hours. One spoke only of God's part in the work, and the other
dwelt exclusively upon man's part. They were both in perfect sympathy with
one another, and realized fully that they were each teaching different sides
of the same great truth; and this also was understood by a large proportion
of their hearers. But with some of the hearers it was different, and one
lady said to me, in the greatest perplexity, "I cannot understand it at all.
Here are two preachers undertaking to teach just the same truth, and yet to
me they seem flatly to contradict one another." And I felt at the time that
she expressed a puzzle which really causes a great deal of difficulty in the
minds of many honest inquirers after this truth.
Suppose two friends go to see some celebrated building, and return home
to describe it. One has seen only the north side, and the other only the
south. The first says, "The building was built in such a manner, and has
such and such stories and ornaments." "Oh, no!" says the other, interrupting
him, "you are altogether mistaken; I saw the building, and it was built in
quite a different manner, and its ornaments and stories were so and so." A
lively dispute would probably follow upon the truth of the respective
descriptions, until the two friends discover that they have been describing
different sides of the building, and then all is reconciled at once.
I would like to state as clearly as I can what I judge to be the two
distinct sides in this matter; and to show how the looking at one without
seeing the other, will be sure to create wrong impressions and views of the
To state it in brief, I would just say that man's part is to trust and
God's part is to work; and it can be seen at a glance how contrastive these
two parts are, and yet not necessarily contradictory. I mean this. There is
a certain work to be accomplished. We are to be delivered from the power of
sin, and are to be made perfect in every good work to do the will of God.
"Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord," we are to be actually
"changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of
the Lord." We are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, that we
may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. A real
work is to be wrought in us and upon us. Besetting sins are to be conquered.
Evil habits are to be overcome. Wrong dispositions and feelings are to be
rooted out, and holy tempers and emotions are to be begotten. A positive
transformation is to take place. So at least the Bible teaches. Now somebody
must do this. Either we must do it for ourselves, or another must do it for
us. We have most of us tried to do it for ourselves at first, and have
grievously failed; then we discover from the Scriptures and from our own
experience that it is a work we are utterly unable to do for ourselves, but
that the Lord Jesus Christ has come on purpose to do it, and that He will do
it for all who put themselves wholly into His hand, and trust Him to do it.
Now under these circumstances, what is the part of the believer, and what is
the part of the Lord? Plainly the believer can do nothing but trust; while
the Lord, in whom he trusts, actually does the work intrusted to Him.
Trusting and doing are certainly contrastive things, and often
contradictory; but are they contradictory in this case? Manifestly not,
because it is two different parties that are concerned. If we should say of
one party in a transaction that he trusted his case to another, and yet
attended to it himself, we should state a contradiction and an
impossibility. But when we say of two parties in a transaction that one
trusts the other to do something, and that that other goes to work and does
it, we are making a statement that is perfectly simple and harmonious. When
we say, therefore, that in this higher life, man's part is to trust, and
that God does the thing intrusted to Him, we do not surely present any very
difficult or puzzling problem.
The preacher who is speaking on man's part in this matter cannot speak
of anything but surrender and trust, because this is positively all the man
can do. We all agree about this. And yet such preachers are constantly
criticised as though, in saying this, they had meant to imply there was no
other part, and that therefore nothing but trusting is done. And the cry
goes out that this doctrine of faith does away with all realities, that
souls are just told to trust, and that is the end of it, and they sit down
thenceforward in a sort of religious easy-chair, dreaming away a life
fruitless of any actual results. All this misapprehension arises, of course,
from the fact that either the preacher has neglected to state, or the hearer
has failed to hear, the other side of the matter; which is, that when we
trust, the Lord works, and that a great deal is done, not by us, but by Him.
Actual results are reached by our trusting, because our Lord undertakes the
thing trusted to Him, and accomplishes it. We do not do anything, but He
does it; and it is all the more effectually done because of this. The puzzle
as to the preaching of faith disappears entirely as soon as this is clearly
On the other hand, the preacher who dwells on God's side of the
question is criticised on a totally different ground. He does not speak of
trust, for the Lord's part is not to trust, but to work. The Lord does the
thing intrusted to Him. He disciplines and trains the soul by inward
exercises and outward providences. He brings to bear all the resources of
His wisdom and love upon the refining and purifying of that soul. He makes
everything in the life and circumstances of such a one subservient to the
one great purpose of making him grow in grace, and of conforming him, day by
day and hour by hour, to the image of Christ. He carries him through a
process of transformation, longer or shorter, as his peculiar case may
require, making actual and experimental the results for which the soul has
trusted. We have dared, for instance, according to the command in Rom. 6:11,
by faith to reckon ourselves "dead unto sin." The Lord makes this a reality,
and leads us to victory over self, by the daily and hourly discipline of His
providences. Our reckoning is available only because God thus makes it real.
And yet the preacher who dwells upon this practical side of the matter, and
tells of God's processes for making faith's reckonings experimental
realities, is accused of contradicting the preaching of faith altogether,
and of declaring only a process of gradual sanctification by works, and of
setting before the soul an impossible and hopeless task.
Now, sanctification is both a sudden step of faith, and also a gradual
process of works. It is a step as far as we are concerned; it is a process
as to God's part. By a step of faith we get into Christ; by a process we are
made to grow up unto Him in all things. By a step of faith we put ourselves
into the hands of the Divine Potter; by a gradual process He makes us into a
vessel unto His own honor, meet for His use, and prepared to every good
To illustrate all this: suppose I were to be describing to a person,
who was entirely ignorant of the subject, the way in which a lump of clay is
made into a beautiful vessel. I tell him first the part of the clay in the
matter, and all I can say about this is, that the clay is put into the
potter's hands, and then lies passive there, submitting itself to all the
turnings and overturnings of the potter's hands upon it. There is really
nothing else to be said about the clay's part. But could my hearer argue
from this that nothing else is done, because I say that this is all the clay
can do? If he is an intelligent hearer, he will not dream of doing so, but
will say, "I understand. This is what the clay must do; but what must the
potter do?" "Ah," I answer, "now we come to the important part. The potter
takes the clay thus abandoned to his working, and begins to mould and
fashion it according to his own will. He kneads and works it, he tears it
apart and presses it together again, he wets it and then suffers it to dry.
Sometimes he works at it for hours together, sometimes he lays it aside for
days and does not touch it. And then, when by all these processes he has
made it perfectly pliable in his hands, he proceeds to make it up into the
vessel he has purposed. He turns it upon the wheel, planes it and smooths
it, and dries it in the sun, bakes it in the oven, and finally turns it out
of his workshop, a vessel to his honor and fit for his use."
Will my hearer be likely now to say that I am contradicting myself;
that a little while ago I had said the clay had nothing to do but lie
passive in the potter's hands, and that now I am putting upon it a great
work which it is not able to perform; and that to make itself into such a
vessel is an impossible and hopeless undertaking? Surely not. For he will
see that, while before I was speaking of the clay's part in the matter, I am
now speaking of the potter's part, and that these two are necessarily
contrastive, but not in the least contradictory, and that the clay is not
expected to do the potter's work, but only to yield itself up to his
Nothing, it seems to me, could be clearer than the perfect harmony
between these two apparently contradictory sorts of teaching on this
subject. What can be said about man's part in this great work, but that he
must continually surrender himself and continually trust?
But when we come to God's side of the question, what is there that may
not be said as to the manifold and wonderful ways in which He accomplishes
the work intrusted to Him? It is here that the growing comes in. The lump of
clay would never grow into a beautiful vessel if it stayed in the clay-pit
for thousands of years. But once put into the hands of a skilful potter,
and, under his fashioning, it grows rapidly into a vessel to his honor. And
so the soul, abandoned to the working of the Heavenly Potter, is changed
rapidly from glory to glory into the image of the Lord by His Spirit.
Having, therefore, taken the step of faith by which you have put
yourself wholly and absolutely into His hands, you must now expect Him to
begin to work. His way of accomplishing that which you have intrusted to Him
may be different from your way. But He knows, and you must be satisfied.
I knew a lady who had entered into this life of faith with a great
outpouring of the Spirit, and a wonderful flood of light and joy. She
supposed, of course, this was a preparation for some great service, and
expected to be put forth immediately into the Lord's harvest field. Instead
of this, almost at once her husband lost all his money, and she was shut up
in her own house, to attend to all sorts of domestic duties, with no time or
strength left for any Gospel work at all. She accepted the discipline, and
yielded herself up as heartily to sweep, and dust, and bake, and sew, as she
would have done to preach, or pray or write for the Lord. And the result was
that through this very training He made her into a vessel "meet for the
Master's use, and prepared unto every good work."
Another lady, who had entered this life of faith under similar
circumstances of wondrous blessing, and who also expected to be sent out to
do some great work, was shut up with two peevish invalid nieces, to nurse,
and humor, and amuse them all day long. Unlike the first lady, this one did
not accept the training, but chafed and fretted, and finally rebelled, lost
all her blessing, and went back into a state of sad coldness and misery. She
had understood her part of trusting to begin with, but not understanding the
divine process of accomplishing that for which she had trusted, she took
herself out of the hands of the Heavenly Potter, and the vessel was marred
on the wheel.
I believe many a vessel has been similarly marred by a want of
understanding these things. The maturity of Christian experience cannot be
reached in a moment, but is the result of the work of God's Holy Spirit,
who, by His energizing and transforming power, causes us to grow up into
Christ in all things. And we cannot hope to reach this maturity in any other
way than by yielding ourselves up utterly and willingly to His mighty
working. But the sanctification the Scriptures urge as a present experience
upon all believers does not consist in maturity of growth, but in purity of
heart, and this may be as complete in the babe in Christ as in the veteran
The lump of clay, from the moment it comes under the transforming hand
of the potter, is, during each day and each hour of the process, just what
the potter wants it to be at that hour or on that day, and therefore pleases
him. But it is very far from being matured into the vessel he intends in the
future to make it.
The little babe may be all that a babe could be, or ought to be, and
may therefore perfectly please its mother, and yet it is very far from being
what that mother would wish it to be when the years of maturity shall come.
The apple in June is a perfect apple for June. It is the best apple
that June can produce. But it is very different from the apple in October,
which is a perfected apple.
God's works are perfect in every stage of their growth. Man's works are
never perfect until they are in every respect complete.
All that we claim then in this life of sanctification is, that by a
step of faith we put ourselves into the hands of the Lord, for Him to work
in us all the good pleasure of His will; and that by a continuous exercise
of faith we keep ourselves there. This is our part in the matter. And when
we do it, and while we do it, we are, in the Scripture sense, truly pleasing
to God, although it may require years of training and discipline to mature
us into a vessel that shall be in all respects to His honor, and fitted to
every good work.
Our part is the trusting, it is His to accomplish the results. And when
we do our part, He never fails to do His, for no one ever trusted in the
Lord and was confounded. Do not be afraid, then, that if you trust, or tell
others to trust, the matter will end there. Trust is only the beginning and
the continual foundation; when we trust, the Lord works, and His work is the
important part of the whole matter. And this explains that apparent paradox
which puzzles so many. They say, "In one breath you tell us to do nothing
but trust, and in the next you tell us to do impossible things. How can you
reconcile such contradictory statements?" They are to be reconciled just as
we reconcile the statements concerning a saw in a carpenter's shop, when we
say at one moment that the saw has sawn asunder a log, and the next moment
declare that the carpenter has done it. The saw is the instrument used, the
power that uses it is the carpenter's. And so we, yielding ourselves unto
God, and our members as instruments of righteousness unto Him, find that He
works in us to will and to do of His good pleasure; and we can say with
Paul, "I labored; yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." For we
are to be His workmanship, not our own. (Eph. 2:10.) And in fact, when we
come to look at it, only God, who created us at first, can re-create us, for
He alone understands the "work of His own hands." All efforts after
self-creating, result in the marring of the vessel, and no soul can ever
reach its highest fulfillment except through the working of Him who "worketh
all things after the counsel of His own will."
In this book I shall of course dwell mostly upon man's side in the
matter, as I am writing for man, and in the hope of teaching believers how
to fulfil their part of the great work. But I wish it to be distinctly
understood all through, that unless I believed with all my heart in God's
effectual working on His side, not one word of this book would ever have
THE SCRIPTURALNESS OF THIS LIFE
When I approach this subject of the true Christian life, that life which is
hid with Christ in God, so many thoughts struggle for utterance that I am
almost speechless. Where shall I begin? What is the most important thing to
say? How shall I make people read and believe? The subject is so glorious,
and human words seem so powerless! But something I am impelled to say. The
secret must be told. For it is one concerning that victory which overcometh
the world, that promised deliverance from all our enemies, for which every
child of God longs and prays, but which seems so often and so generally to
elude their grasp. May God grant me so to tell it, that every believer to
whom this book shall come, may have his eyes opened to see the truth as it
is in Jesus, and may be enabled to enter into possession of this glorious
life for himself.
For sure I am that every converted soul longs for victory and rest, and
nearly every one feels instinctively, at times, that they are his
birthright. Can you not remember, some of you, the shout of triumph your
souls gave when you first became acquainted with the Lord Jesus, and had a
glimpse of His mighty saving power? How sure you were of victory then! How
easy it seemed, to be more than conquerors, through Him that loved you.
Under the leadership of a Captain who had never been foiled in battle, how
could you dream of defeat? And yet, to many of you, how different has been
your real experience. The victories have been but few and fleeting, the
defeats many and disastrous. You have not lived as you feel children of God
ought to live. There has been a resting in a clear understanding of
doctrinal truth, without pressing after the power and life thereof. There
has been a rejoicing in the knowledge of things testified of in the
Scriptures, without a living realization of the things themselves,
consciously felt in the soul. Christ is believed in, talked about, and
served, but He is not known as the soul's actual and very life, abiding
there forever, and revealing Himself there continually in His beauty. You
have found Jesus as your Saviour and your Master, and you have tried to
serve Him and advance the cause of His kingdom. You have carefully studied
the Holy Scriptures and have gathered much precious truth therefrom, which
you have endeavored faithfully to practise.
But notwithstanding all your knowledge and all your activities in the
service of the Lord, your souls are secretly starving, and you cry out again
and again for that bread and water of life which you saw promised in the
Scriptures to all believers. In the very depths of your hearts you know that
your experience is not a Scriptural experience; that, as an old writer says,
your religion is "but a talk to what the early Christians enjoyed,
possessed, and lived in." And your souls have sunk within you, as day after
day, and year after year, your early visions of triumph have seemed to grow
more and more dim, and you have been forced to settle down to the conviction
that the best you can expect from your religion is a life of alternate
failure and victory; one hour sinning, and the next repenting; and beginning
again, only to fail again, and again to repent.
But is this all? Had the Lord Jesus only this in His mind when He laid
down His precious life to deliver you from your sore and cruel bondage to
sin? Did He propose to Himself only this partial deliverance? Did He intend
to leave you thus struggling along under a weary consciousness of defeat and
discouragement? Did He fear that a continuous victory would dishonor Him,
and bring reproach on His name? When all those declarations were made
concerning His coming, and the work He was to accomplish, did they mean only
this that you have experienced? Was there a hidden reserve in each promise
that was meant to deprive it of its complete fulfillment? Did "delivering us
out of the hands of our enemies" mean only a few of them? Did "enabling us
always to triumph" mean only sometimes; or being "more than conquerors
through Him that love us" mean constant defeat and failure? No, no, a
thousand times no! God is able to save unto the uttermost, and He means to
do it. His promise, confirmed by His oath, was that "He would grant unto us,
that we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve Him
without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our
life." It is a mighty work to do, but our Deliverer is able to do it. He
came to destroy the works of the devil, and dare we dream for a moment that
He is not able or not willing to accomplish His own purposes?
In the very outset, then, settle down on this one thing, that the Lord
is able to save you fully, now, in this life, from the power and dominion of
sin, and to deliver you altogether out of the hands of your enemies. If you
do not think He is, search your Bible, and collect together every
announcement or declaration concerning the purposes and object of His death
on the cross. You will be astonished to find how full they are. Everywhere
and always His work is said to be, to deliver us from our sins, from our
bondage, from our defilement; and not a hint is given anywhere, that this
deliverance was to be only the limited and partial one with which the Church
so continually tries to be satisfied.
Let me give you a few texts on this subject. When the angel of the Lord
appeared unto Joseph in a dream, and announced the coming birth of the
Saviour, he said, "And thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His
people from their sins."
When Zacharias was "filled with the Holy Ghost" at the birth of his
son, and "prophesied," he declared that God had visited His people in order
to fulfil the promise and the oath He had made them, which promise was,
"That He would grant unto us, that we, being delivered out of the hands of
our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness
before Him, all the days of our life."
When Peter was preaching in the porch of the Temple to the wondering
Jews, he said, "Unto you first, God, having raised up His Son Jesus, sent
Him to bless you in turning away every one of you from his iniquities."
When Paul was telling out to the Ephesian church the wondrous truth
that Christ had loved them so much as to give Himself for them, he went on
to declare, that His purpose in thus doing was, "that He might sanctify and
cleanse it by the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to
Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing;
but that it should be holy and without blemish."
When Paul was seeking to instruct Titus, his own son after the common
faith, concerning the grace of God, he declared that the object of that
grace was to teach us "that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should
live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world"; and adds, as
the reason of this, that Christ "gave Himself for us that He might redeem us
from all iniquity, and purify us unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of
When Peter was urging upon the Christian, to whom he was writing, a
holy and Christ-like walk, he tells them that "even hereunto were ye called
because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that ye should
follow His steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth"; and
adds, "who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we,
being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were
When Paul was contrasting in the Ephesians the walk suitable for a
Christian, with the walk of an unbeliever, he sets before them the truth in
Jesus as being this, "that ye put off concerning the former conversation the
old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed
in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God
is created in righteousness and true holiness."
And when, in Romans 6, he was answering forever the question as to
continuing in sin, and showing how utterly foreign it was to the whole
spirit and aim of the salvation of Jesus, he brings up the fact of our
judicial death and resurrection with Christ as an unanswerable argument for
our practical deliverance from it, and says, "God forbid. How shall we, that
are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not that so many of us as
were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we
are buried with Him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up
from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in
newness of life." And adds, "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified
with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should
not serve sin."
Dear Christians, will you receive the testimony of Scripture on this
matter? The same questions that troubled the Church in Paul's day are
troubling it now: first, "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?"
And second, "Do we then make void the law through faith?" Shall not our
answer to these be Paul's emphatic "God forbid"; and his triumphant
assertions that instead of making it void "we establish the law"; and that
"what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God
sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned
sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us
who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit"?
Can we suppose for a moment that the holy God, who hates sin in the
sinner, is willing to tolerate it in the Christian, and that He has even
arranged the plan of salvation in such a way as to make it impossible for
those who are saved from the guilt of sin to find deliverance from its
As Dr. Chalmers well says, "Sin is that scandal which must be rooted
out from the great spiritual household over which the Divinity rejoices . .
. Strange administration, indeed, for sin to be so hateful to God as to lay
all who had incurred it under death, and yet when readmitted into life that
sin should be permitted; and that what was before the object of destroying
vengeance, should now become the object of an upheld and protected
toleration. Now that the penalty is taken off, think you that it is possible
the unchangeable God has so given up His antipathy to sin, as that man,
ruined and redeemed man, may now perseveringly indulge under the new
arrangement in that which under the old destroyed him? Does not the God who
loved righteousness and hated iniquity six thousand years ago, bear the same
love to righteousness and hatred to iniquity still? . . . I now breathe the
air of loving-kindness from Heaven, and can walk before God in peace and
graciousness; shall I again attempt the incompatible alliance of two
principles so adverse as that of an approving God and a persevering sinner?
How shall we, recovered from so awful a catastrophe, continue that which
first involved us in it? The cross of Christ, by the same mighty and
decisive stroke wherewith it moved the curse of sin away from us, also
surely moves away the power and the love of it from over us."
And not Dr. Chalmers only, but many other holy men of his generation
and of our own, as well as of generations long past, have united in
declaring that the redemption accomplished for us by our Lord Jesus Christ
on the cross at Calvary is a redemption from the power of sin as well as
from its guilt, and that He is able to save to the uttermost all who come
unto God by Him.
A quaint old divine of the seventeenth century says: "There is nothing
so contrary to God as sin, and God will not suffer sin always to rule his
masterpiece, man. When we consider the infiniteness of God's power for
destroying that which is contrary to Him, who can believe that the devil
must always stand and prevail? I believe it is inconsistent and disagreeable
with true faith for people to be Christians, and yet to believe that Christ,
the eternal Son of God, to whom all power in heaven and earth is given, will
suffer sin and the devil to have dominion over them.
"But you will say no man by all the power he hath can redeem himself,
and no man can live without sin. We will say, Amen, to it. But if men tell
us, that when God's power comes to help us and to redeem us out of sin, that
it cannot be effected, then this doctrine we cannot away with; nor I hope
"Would you approve of it, if I should tell you that God puts forth His
power to do such a thing, but the devil hinders Him? That it is impossible
for God to do it because the devil does not like it? That it is impossible
that any one should be free from sin because the devil hath got such a power
in them that God cannot cast him out? This is lamentable doctrine, yet hath
not this been preached? It doth in plain terms say, though God doth
interpose His power, it is impossible, because the devil hath so rooted sin
in the nature of man. Is not man God's creature, and cannot He new make him,
and cast sin out of him? If you say sin is deeply rooted in man, I say so,
too, yet not so deeply rooted but Christ Jesus hath entered so deeply into
the root of the nature of man that He hath received power to destroy the
devil and his works, and to recover and redeem man into righteousness and
holiness. Or else it is false that `He is able to save to the uttermost all
that come unto God by Him.' We must throw away the Bible, if we say that it
is impossible for God to deliver man out of sin.
"We know," he continues, "when our friends are in captivity, as in
Turkey, or elsewhere, we pay our money for their redemption; but we will not
pay our money if they be kept in their fetters still. Would not any one
think himself cheated to pay so much money for their redemption, and the
bargain be made so that he shall be said to be redeemed, and be called a
redeemed captive, but he must wear his fetters still? How long? As long as
he hath a day to live.
"This is for bodies, but now I am speaking of souls. Christ must be
made to me redemption, and rescue me from captivity. Am I a prisoner any
where? Yes, verily, verily, he that committeth sin, saith Christ, he is a
servant of sin, he is a slave of sin. If thou hast sinned, thou art a slave,
a captive that must be redeemed out of captivity. Who will pay a price for
me? I am poor; I have nothing; I cannot redeem myself; who will pay a price
for me? There is One come who hath paid a price for me. That is well; that
is good news, then I hope I shall come out of my captivity. What is His
name, is He called a Redeemer? So, then, I do expect the benefit of my
redemption, and that I shall go out of my captivity. No, say they, you must
abide in sin as long as you live. What! must we never be delivered? Must
this crooked heart and perverse will always remain? Must I be a believer,
and yet have no faith that reacheth to sanctification and holy living? Is
there no mastery to be had, no getting victory over sin? Must it prevail
over me as long as I live? What sort of a Redeemer, then, is this, or what
benefit have I in this life, of my redemption?"
Similar extracts might be quoted from Marshall, Romaine, and many
others, to show that this doctrine is no new one in the Church, however much
it may have been lost sight of by the present generation of believers. It is
the same old story that has filled with songs of triumph the daily lives of
many saints of God throughout all ages; and is now afresh being sounded
forth to the unspeakable joy of weary and burdened souls.
Do not reject it, then, dear reader, until you have prayerfully
searched the Scriptures to see whether these things be indeed so. Ask God to
open the eyes of your understanding by His Spirit, that you may "know what
is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe, according to
the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised
Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly
places." And when you have begun to have some faint glimpses of this power,
learn to look away utterly from your own weakness, and, putting your case
into His hands, trust Him to deliver you.
In Psalms 8:6, we are told that God made man to "have dominion over the
works of His hand." The fulfillment of this is declared in 2 Cor. 2, where
the apostle cries, "Thanks be unto God which always causeth us to triumph in
Christ." If the maker of a machine should declare that he had made it to
accomplish a certain purpose, and if upon trial it should be found incapable
of accomplishing that purpose, we would all say of that maker that he was a
Surely then we will not dare to think that it is impossible for the
creature whom God has made, to accomplish the declared object for which he
was created. Especially when the Scriptures are so full of the assertions
that Christ has made it possible.
The only thing that can hinder is the creature's own failure to work in
harmony with the plans of his Creator, and if this want of harmony can be
removed, then God can work. Christ came to bring about an atonement between
God and man, which should make it possible for God thus to work in man to
will and to do of His good pleasure. Therefore we may be of good courage;
for the work Christ has undertaken He is surely able and willing to perform.
Let us then "walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham," who
"staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in
faith, giving glory to God; being fully persuaded that what He had promised,
He was able also to perform."
THE LIFE DEFINED
In my last chapter I tried to settle the question as to the scripturalness
of the experience sometimes called the Higher Christian Life, but which to
my own mind is best described in the words, the "life hid with Christ in
God." I shall now, therefore, consider it as a settled point that the
Scriptures do set before the believer in the Lord Jesus a life of abiding
rest and of continual victory, which is very far beyond the ordinary line of
Christian experience; and that in the Bible we have presented to us a
Saviour able to save us from the power of our sins, as really as He saves us
from their guilt.
The point to be next considered is, as to what this hidden life
consists in, and how it differs from every other sort of Christian
And as to this, it is simply letting the Lord carry our burdens and
manage our affairs for us, instead of trying to do it ourselves.
Most Christians are like a man who was toiling along the road, bending
under a heavy burden, when a wagon overtook him, and the driver kindly
offered to help him on his journey. He joyfully accepted the offer, but when
seated, continued to bend beneath his burden, which he still kept on his
shoulders. "Why do you not lay down your burden?" asked the kind-hearted
driver. "Oh!" replied the man, "I feel that it is almost too much to ask you
to carry me, and I could not think of letting you carry my burden too." And
so Christians, who have given themselves into the care and keeping of the
Lord Jesus, still continue to bend beneath the weight of their burden, and
often go weary and heavy-laden throughout the whole length of their journey.
When I speak of burdens, I mean everything that troubles us, whether
spiritual or temporal.
I mean, first of all, ourselves. The greatest burden we have to carry
in life is self. The most difficult thing we have to manage is self. Our own
daily living, our frames and feelings, our especial weaknesses and
temptations, and our peculiar temperaments, our inward affairs of every
kind, these are the things that perplex and worry us more than anything
else, and that bring us oftenest into bondage and darkness. In laying off
your burdens, therefore, the first one you must get rid of is yourself. You
must hand yourself and all your inward experiences, your temptations, your
temperament, your frames and feelings, all over into the care and keeping of
your God, and leave them there. He made you, and therefore He understands
you and knows how to manage you, and you must trust Him to do it. Say to
Him, "Here, Lord, I abandon myself to thee. I have tried in every way I
could think of to manage myself, and to make myself what I know I ought to
be, but have always failed. Now I give it up to thee. Do thou take entire
possession of me. Work in me all the good pleasure of thy will. Mould and
fashion me into such a vessel as seemeth good to thee. I leave myself in thy
hands, and I believe thou wilt, according to thy promise, make me into a
vessel unto thine honor, `sanctified, and meet for the Master's use, and
prepared unto every good work.'" And here you must rest, trusting yourself
thus to Him continually and absolutely.
Next, you must lay off every other burden, -- your health, your
reputation, your Christian work, your houses, your children, your business,
your servants; everything, in short, that concerns you, whether inward or
Christians always commit the keeping of their souls for eternity to the
Lord, because they know, without a shadow of a doubt, that they cannot keep
these themselves. But the things of this present life they take into their
own keeping, and try to carry on their own shoulders, with the perhaps
unconfessed feeling that it is a great deal to ask of the Lord to carry
them, and that they cannot think of asking Him to carry their burdens too.
I knew a Christian lady who had a very heavy temporal burden. It took
away her sleep and her appetite, and there was danger of her health breaking
down under it. One day, when it seemed especially heavy, she noticed lying
on the table near her a little tract called "Hannah's Faith." Attracted by
the title, she picked it up and began to read it, little knowing, however,
that it was to create a revolution in her whole experience. The story was of
a poor woman who had been carried triumphantly through a life of unusual
sorrow. She was giving the history of her life to a kind visitor on one
occasion, and at the close the visitor said, feelingly, "O Hannah, I do not
see how you could bear so much sorrow!" "I did not bear it," was the quick
reply; "the Lord bore it for me." "Yes," said the visitor "that is the right
way. You must take your troubles to the Lord." "Yes," replied Hannah, "but
we must do more than that; we must leave them there. Most people," she
continued, "take their burdens to Him, but they bring them away with them
again, and are just as worried and unhappy as ever. But I take mine, and I
leave them with Him, and come away and forget them. And if the worry comes
back, I take it to Him again; I do this over and over, until at last I just
forget that I have any worries, and am at perfect rest."
My friend was very much struck with this plan and resolved to try it.
The circumstances of her life she could not alter, but she took them to the
Lord, and handed them over into His management; and then she believed that
He took it, and she left all the responsibility and the worry and anxiety
with Him. As often as the anxieties returned she took them back; and the
result was that, although the circumstances remained unchanged, her soul was
kept in perfect peace in the midst of them. She felt that she had found out
a blessed secret, and from that time she tried never again to carry he own
burdens, nor to manage anything for herself.
And the secret she found so effectual in her outward affairs, she found
to be still more effectual in her inward ones, which were in truth even more
utterly unmanageable. She abandoned her whole self to the Lord, with all
that she was and all that she had, and, believing that He took that which
she had committed to Him, she ceased to fret and worry, and her life became
all sunshine in the gladness of belonging to Him. And this was the Higher
Christian Life! It was a very simple secret she found out. Only this, that
it was possible to obey God's commandment contained in those words, "Be
careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with
thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God"; and that, in
obeying it, the result would inevitably be, according to the promise, that
the "peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and
minds through Christ Jesus."
There are many other things to be said about this life hid with Christ
in God, many details as to what the Lord Jesus does for those who thus
abandon themselves to Him. But the gist of the whole matter is here stated,
and the soul that has got hold of this secret has found the key that will
unlock the whole treasure-house of God.
And now I do trust that I have made you hunger for this blessed life.
Would you not like to get rid of your burdens? Do you not long to hand over
the management of your unmanageable self into the hands of One who is able
to manage you? Are you not tired and weary, and does not the rest I speak of
look sweet to you?
Do you recollect the delicious sense of rest with which you have
sometimes gone to bed at night, after a day of great exertion and weariness?
How delightful was the sensation of relaxing every muscle, and letting your
body go in a perfect abandonment of ease and comfort. The strain of the day
had ceased for a few hours at least, and the work of the day had been thrown
off. You no longer had to hold up an aching head or a weary back. You
trusted yourself to the bed in an absolute confidence, and it held you up,
without effort, or strain, or even thought on your part. You rested.
But suppose you had doubted the strength or the stability of your bed,
and had dreaded each moment to find it giving away beneath you and landing
you on the floor; could you have rested then? Would not every muscle have
been strained in a fruitless effort to hold yourself up, and would not the
weariness have been greater than not to have gone to bed at all?
Let this analogy teach you what it means to rest in the Lord. Let your
souls lie down upon His sweet will, as your bodies lie down in your beds at
night. Relax every strain and lay off every burden. Let yourselves go in
perfect abandonment of ease and comfort, sure that when He holds you up you
are perfectly safe.
Your part is simply to rest. His part is to sustain you, and He cannot
Or take another analogy, which our Lord Himself has abundantly
sanctioned, that of the child-life. For "Jesus called a little child unto
Him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you,
Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter the
kingdom of Heaven."
Now, what are the characteristics of a little child and how does he
live? He lives by faith, and his chiefest characteristic is thoughtlessness.
His life is one long trust from year's end to year's end. He trusts his
parents, he trusts his caretakers, he trusts his teachers, he even trusts
people often who are utterly unworthy of trust, because of the confidingness
of his nature. And his trust is abundantly answered. He provides nothing for
himself, and yet everything is provided. He takes no thought for the morrow,
and forms no plans, and yet all his life is planned out for him, and he
finds his paths made ready, opening out to him as he comes to them day by
day, and hour by hour. He goes in and out of his father's house with an
unspeakable ease and abandonment, enjoying all the good things it contains,
without having spent a penny in procuring them. Pestilence may walk through
the streets of his city, but he regards it not. Famine and fire and war may
rage around him, but under his father's tender care he abides in utter
unconcern and perfect rest. He lives in the present moment, and receives his
life without question as it comes to him day by day from his father's hands.
I was visiting once in a wealthy house, where there was one only
adopted child, upon whom was lavished all the love and tenderness and care
that human hearts could bestow or human means procure. And as I watched that
child running in and out day by day, free and light-hearted, with the happy
carelessness of childhood, I thought what a picture it was of our wonderful
position as children in the house of our Heavenly Father. And I said to
myself, "If nothing could so grieve and wound the loving hearts around her,
as to see this little child beginning to be worried or anxious about herself
in any way, about whether her food and clothes would be provided for her, or
how she was to get her education or her future support, how much more must
the great, loving heart of our God and Father be grieved and wounded at
seeing His children taking so much anxious care and thought!" And I
understood why it was that our Lord had said to us so emphatically, "Take no
thought for yourselves."
Who is the best cared for in every household? Is it not the little
children? And does not the least of all, the helpless baby, receive the
largest share? As a late writer has said, the baby "toils not, neither does
he spin; and yet he is fed, and clothed, and loved, and rejoiced in," and
none so much as he.
This life of faith, then, about which I am writing, consists in just
this; being a child in the Father's house. And when this is said, enough is
said to transform every weary, burdened life into one of blessedness and
Let the ways of childish confidence and freedom from care, which so
please you and win your hearts in your own little ones, teach you what
should be your ways with God; and leaving yourselves in His hands, learn to
be literally "careful for nothing"; and you shall find it to be a fact that
"the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep (as in a
garrison) your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Notice the word
"nothing" in the above passage, as covering all possible grounds for
anxiety, both inward and outward. We are continually tempted to think it is
our duty to be anxious about some things. Perhaps our thought will be, "Oh,
yes, it is quite right to give up all anxiety in a general way; and in
spiritual matters of course anxiety is wrong; but there are things about
which it would be a sin not to be anxious; about our children, for instance,
or those we love, or about our church affairs and the cause of truth, or
about our business matters. It would show a great want of right feeling not
to be anxious about such things as these." Or else our thoughts take the
other tack, and we say to ourselves, "Yes, it is quite right to commit our
loved ones and all our outward affairs to the Lord, but when it comes to our
inward lives, our religious experiences, our temptations, our besetting
sins, our growth in grace, and all such things, these we ought to be anxious
about; for if we are not, they will be sure to be neglected."
To such suggestions, and to all similar ones, the answer is found in
our text, --
"In NOTHING be anxious."
In Matt. 6:25-34, our Lord illustrates this being without anxiety, by
telling us to behold the fowls of the air and the lilies of the field, as
examples of the sort of life He would have us live. As the birds rejoice in
the care of their God and are fed, and as the lilies grow in His sunlight,
so must we, without anxiety, and without fear. Let the sparrows speak to us:
"I am only tiny sparrow,
A bird of low degree;
My life is of little value,
But the dear Lord cares for me.
I have no barn nor storehouse,
I neither sow nor reap;
God gives me a sparrow's portion,
But never a seed to keep.
"I know there are many sparrows;
All over the world they are found;
But our heavenly Father knoweth
When one of us falls to the ground.
"Though small, we are never forgotten;
Though weak, we are never afraid;
For we know the dear Lord keepeth
The life of the creatures he made.
"I fly through the thickest forest,
I light on many a spray;
I have no chart nor compass,
But I never lose my way.
And I fold my wing at twilight
Wherever I happen to be;
For the Father is always watching,
And no harm will come to me.
I am only a little sparrow,
A bird of low degree,
But I know the Father loves me;
Have you less faith than we?"
HOW TO ENTER IN
Having tried to settle the question as to the scripturalness of the
experience of this life of full trust, and having also shown a little of
what it is; the next point is as to how it is to be reached and realized.
And first, I would say that this blessed life must not be looked upon
in any sense as an attainment but as an obtainment. We cannot earn it, we
cannot climb up to it, we cannot win it; we can do nothing but ask for it
and receive it. It is the gift of God in Christ Jesus. And where a thing is
a gift, the only course left for the receiver is to take it and thank the
giver. We never say of a gift, "See to what I have attained," and boast of
our skill and wisdom in having attained it; but we say, "See what has been
given me," and boast of the love and wealth and generosity of the giver. And
everything in our salvation is a gift. From beginning to end, God is the
giver and we are the receivers; and it is not to those who do great things,
but to those who "receive abundance of grace, and of the gift of
righteousness," that the richest promises are made.
In order, therefore, to enter into a realized experience of this
interior life, the soul must be in a receptive attitude, fully recognizing
the fact that it is to be God's gift in Christ Jesus, and that it cannot be
gained by any efforts or works of our own. This will simplify the matter
exceedingly; and the only thing left to be considered then will be to
discover upon whom God bestows this gift, and how they are to receive it.
And to this I would answer in short, that He bestows it only upon the fully
consecrated soul, and that it is to be received by faith.
Consecration is the first thing. Not in any legal sense, not in order
to purchase or deserve the blessing, but to remove the difficulties out of
the way and make it possible for God to bestow it. In order for a lump of
clay to be made into a beautiful vessel, it must be entirely abandoned to
the potter, and must lie passive in his hands. And in order for a soul to be
made into a vessel unto God's honor, "sanctified and meet for the Master's
use, and prepared unto every good work," it must be entirely abandoned to
Him, and must lie passive in His hands. This is manifest at the first
I was once trying to explain to a physician, who had charge of a large
hospital, what consecration meant, and its necessity, but he seemed unable
to understand. At last I said to him, "Suppose, in going your rounds among
your patients, you should meet with one man who entreated you earnestly to
take his case under your especial care in order to cure him, but who should
at the same time refuse to tell you all the symptoms, or to take all your
prescribed remedies; and should say to you, `I am quite willing to follow
your directions as to certain things, because they commend themselves to my
mind as good, but in other matters I prefer judging for myself and following
my own directions.' What would you do in such a case?" I asked. "Do!" he
replied with indignation, -- "do! I would soon leave such a man as that to
his own care. For of course," he added, "I could do nothing for him, unless
he would put his whole case into my hands without any reserves, and would
obey my directions implicitly." "It is necessary then," I said, "for doctors
to be obeyed, if they are to have any chance to cure their patients?"
"Implicitly obeyed!" was his emphatic reply. "And that is consecration," I
continued. "God must have the whole case put into His hands without any
reserves, and His directions must be implicitly followed." "I see it," he
exclaimed, -- "I see it! And I will do it. God shall have His own way with
me from henceforth."
Perhaps to some minds the word "abandonment" might express this idea
better. But whatever word we use, we mean an entire surrender of the whole
being to God; spirit, soul, and body placed under His absolute control, for
Him to do with us just what He pleases. We mean that the language of our
soul, under all circumstances, and in view of every act, is to be, "Thy will
be done." We mean the giving up of all liberty of choice. We mean a life of
To a soul ignorant of God, this may look hard. But to those who know
Him, it is the happiest and most restful of lives. He is our Father, and He
loves us, and He knows just what is best, and therefore, of course, His will
is the very most blessed thing that can come to us under all circumstances.
I do not understand how it is that Satan has succeeded in blinding the eyes
of the Church to this fact. But it really would seem as if God's own
children were more afraid of His will than of anything else in life; His
lovely, lovable will, which only means loving-kindnesses and tender mercies,
and blessings unspeakable to their souls. I wish I could only show to every
one the unfathomable sweetness of the will of God. Heaven is a place of
infinite bliss because His will is perfectly done there, and our lives share
in this bliss just in proportion as His will is perfectly done in them. He
loves us, loves us, and the will of love is always blessing for its loved
one. Some of us know what it is to love, and we know that could we only have
our way, our beloved ones would be overwhelmed with blessings. All that is
good, and sweet, and lovely in life would be poured out upon them from our
lavish hands, had we but the power to carry out our will for them. And if
this is the way of love with us, how much more must it be so with our God,
who is love itself. Could we but for one moment get a glimpse into the
mighty depths of His love, our hearts would spring out to meet His will, and
embrace it as our richest treasure; and we would abandon ourselves to it
with an enthusiasm of gratitude and joy, that such a wondrous privilege
could be ours.
A great many Christians actually seem to think that all their Father in
heaven wants is a chance to make them miserable, and to take away all their
blessings, and they imagine, poor souls, that if they hold on to things in
their own will, they can hinder Him from doing this. I am ashamed to write
the words, and yet we must face a fact which is making wretched hundreds of
A Christian lady who had this feeling, was once expressing to a friend
how impossible she found it to say, "Thy will be done," and how afraid she
should be to do it. She was the mother of one only little boy, who was the
heir to a great fortune, and the idol of her heart. After she had stated her
difficulties fully, her friend said, "Suppose your little Charley should
come running to you tomorrow and say, `Mother, I have made up my mind to let
you have your own way with me from this time forward. I am always going to
obey you, and I want you to do just whatever you think best with me. I know
you love me, and I am going to trust myself to your love.' How would you
feel towards him? Would you say to yourself, `Ah, now I shall have a chance
to make Charley miserable. I will take away all his pleasures, and fill his
life with every hard and disagreeable thing I can find. I will compel him to
do just the things that are the most difficult for him to do, and will give
him all sorts of impossible commands." "Oh, no, no, no!" exclaimed the
indignant mother. "You know I would not. You know I would hug him to my
heart and cover him with kisses, and would hasten to fill his life with all
that was sweetest and best." "And are you more tender and more loving than
God?" asked her friend. "Ah, no," was the reply, "I see my mistake, and I
will not be afraid of saying `Thy will be done,' to my Heavenly Father, any
more than I would want my Charley to be afraid of saying it to me."
Better and sweeter than health, or friends, or money, or fame, or ease,
or prosperity, is the adorable will of our God. It gilds the darkest hours
with a divine halo, and sheds brightest sunshine on the gloomiest paths. He
always reigns who has made it his kingdom; and nothing can go amiss to him.
Surely, then, it is nothing but a glorious privilege that is opening before
you when I tell you that the first step you must take in order to enter into
the life hid with Christ in God, is that of entire consecration. I cannot
have you look at it as a hard and stern demand. You must do it gladly,
thankfully, enthusiastically. You must go in on what I call the privilege
side of consecration; and I can assure you, from a blessed experience, that
you will find it the happiest place you have ever entered yet.
Faith is the next thing. Faith is an absolutely necessary element in
the reception of any gift; for let our friends give a thing to us ever so
fully, it is not really ours until we believe it has been given and claim it
as our own. Above all, this is true in gifts which are purely mental or
spiritual. Love may be lavished upon us by another without stint or measure,
but until we believe that we are loved, it never really becomes ours.
I suppose most Christians understand this principle in reference to the
matter of their forgiveness. They know that the forgiveness of sins through
Jesus might have been preached to them forever, but it would never have
become theirs consciously until they believed this preaching, and claimed
the forgiveness as their own. But when it comes to living the Christian
life, they lose sight of this principle, and think that, having been saved
by faith, they are now to live by works and efforts; and instead of
continuing to receive, they are now to begin to do. This makes our
declaration that the life hid with Christ in God is to be entered by faith,
seem perfectly unintelligible to them. And yet it is plainly declared, that
"as we have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so we are to walk in Him." We
received Him by faith, and by faith alone; therefore we are to walk in Him
by faith, and by faith alone. And the faith by which we enter into this
hidden life is just the same as the faith by which we were translated out of
the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear Son, only it lays
hold of a different thing. Then we believed that Jesus was our Saviour from
the guilt of sin, and according to our faith it was unto us. Now we must
believe that He is our Saviour from the power of sin, and according to our
faith it shall be unto us. Then we trusted Him for our justification, and it
became ours; now we must trust Him for our sanctification, and it shall
become ours also. Then we took Him as a Saviour in the future from the
penalties of our sins; now we must take Him as a Saviour in the present from
the bondage of our sins. Then He was our Redeemer, now He is to be our Life.
Then He lifted us out of the pit, now He is to seat us in heavenly places
I mean all this of course experimentally and practically. Theologically
and judicially I know that every believer has everything the minute he is
converted. But experimentally nothing is his until by faith he claims it.
"Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given
unto you." God "hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly
places in Christ," but until we set the foot of faith upon them they do not
practically become ours. "According to our faith," is always the limit and
But this faith of which I am speaking must be a present faith. No faith
that is exercised in the future tense amounts to anything. A man may believe
forever that his sins will be forgiven at some future time, and he will
never find peace. He has to come to the now belief, and say by faith, "My
sins are now forgiven," before he can live the new life. And, similarly, no
faith which looks for a future deliverance from the power of sin, will ever
lead a soul into the life we are describing. The enemy delights in this
future faith, for he knows it is powerless to accomplish any practical
results. But he trembles and flees when the soul of the believer dares to
claim a present deliverance, and to reckon itself now to be free from his
To sum up, then: in order to enter into this blessed interior life of
rest and triumph, you have two steps to take: first, entire abandonment; and
second, absolute faith. No matter what may be the complications of your
peculiar experience, no matter what your difficulties or your surroundings
or your associations, these two steps, definitely taken and unwaveringly
persevered in, will certainly bring you out sooner or later into the green
pastures and still waters of this higher Christian life. You may be sure of
this. And if you will let every other consideration go, and simply devote
your attention to these two points, and be very clear and definite about
them, your progress will be rapid and your soul will reach its desired haven
far sooner than now you can think possible.
Shall I repeat the steps, that there may be no mistake? You are a child
of God, and long to please Him. You love your precious Saviour, and are sick
and weary of the sin that grieves Him. You long to be delivered from its
power. Everything you have hitherto tried has failed to deliver you, and now
in your despair you are asking if it can indeed be, as these happy people
say, that the Lord is able and willing to deliver you. Surely you know in
your very soul that He is; that to save you out of the hand of all your
enemies is in fact just the very thing He came to do. Then trust Him. Commit
your case to Him in an absolute abandonment, and believe that He undertakes
it; and at once, knowing what He is and what He has said, claim that He does
even now fully save. Just as you believed at first that He delivered you
from the guilt of sin because He said so, believe now that He delivers you
from the power of sin because He says so. Let your faith now lay hold of a
new power in Christ. You have trusted Him as your dying Saviour, now trust
Him as your living Saviour. Just as much as He came to deliver you from
future punishment, did He also come to deliver you from present bondage.
Just as truly as He came to bear your sins for you, has He come to live His
life in you. You are as utterly powerless in the one case as in the other.
You could as easily have got yourself rid of your own sins, as you could now
accomplish for yourself practical righteousness. Christ, and Christ only,
must do both for you, and your part in both cases is simply to give the
thing to Him to do, and then believe that He does it.
A lady, now very eminent in this life of trust, when she was seeking in
great darkness and perplexity to enter in, said to the friend who was trying
to help her, "You all say, `Abandon yourself, and trust, abandon yourself,
and trust,' but I do not know how. I wish you would just do it out loud, so
that I may see how you do it."
Shall I do it out loud for you?
"Lord Jesus, I believe that Thou art able and willing to deliver me
from all the care, and unrest and bondage of my Christian life. I believe
thou didst die to set me free, not only in the future, but now and here. I
believe thou art stronger than Satan, and that thou canst keep me, even me,
in my extreme of weakness, from falling into his snares or yielding
obedience to his commands. And, Lord, I am going to trust thee to keep me. I
have tried keeping myself, and have failed, and failed most grievously. I am
absolutely helpless; so now I will trust thee. I will give myself to thee; I
keep back no reserves. Body, soul, and spirit, I present myself to thee, a
worthless lump of clay, to be made into anything thy love and thy wisdom
shall choose. And now, I am thine. I believe thou dost accept that which I
present to thee; I believe that this poor, weak, foolish heart has been
taken possession of by thee, and thou hast even at this very moment begun to
work in me to will and to do of thy good pleasure. I trust thee utterly, and
I trust thee now!"
Are you afraid to take this step? Does it seem too sudden, too much
like a leap in the dark? Do you not know that the steps of faith always
"fall on the seeming void, but find the rock beneath"? A man, having to
descend a well by a rope, found, to his horror, when he was a great way
down, that it was too short. He had reached the end, and yet was, he
estimated, about thirty feet from the bottom of the well. He knew not what
to do. He had not the strength or skill to climb up the rope, and to let go
was to be dashed to pieces. His arms began to fail, and at last he decided
that as he could not hold on much longer, he might as well let go and meet
his fate at once. He resigned himself to destruction, and loosened his
grasp. He fell! To the bottom of the well it was -- just three inches!
If ever your feet are to touch the "rock beneath," you must let go of
every holding-place and drop into God; for there is no other way. And to do
it now may save you months and even years of strain and weariness.
In all the old castles of England there used to be a place called the
keep. It was always the strongest and best protected place in the castle,
and in it were hidden all who were weak and helpless and unable to defend
themselves in times of danger. Had you been a timid, helpless woman in such
a castle during a time of siege, would it have seemed to you a leap in the
dark to have hidden yourself there? Would you have been afraid to do it? And
shall we be afraid to hide ourselves in the keeping power of our Divine
Keeper, who neither slumbers nor sleeps, and who has promised to preserve
our going out and our coming in, from this time forth and even forever more?
DIFFICULTIES CONCERNING CONSECRATION
It is very important that Christians should not be ignorant of the devices
of the enemy; for he stands ready to oppose every onward step of the soul's
progress. And especially is he busy when he sees a believer awakened to a
hunger and thirst after righteousness, and seeking to reach out to apprehend
all the fulness that is in the Lord Jesus Christ for him.
One of the first difficulties he throws in the way of such a one is
concerning consecration. The seeker after holiness is told that he must
consecrate himself; and he endeavors to do so. But at once he meets with a
difficulty. He has done it, as he thinks, and yet does not feel differently
from before; nothing seems changed, as he has been led to expect it would
be, and he is completely baffled, and asks the question almost despairingly,
"How am I to know when I am consecrated?"
The one grand temptation which has met such a soul at this juncture is
the temptation which never fails to assert itself on every possible
occasion, and generally with marked success, and that is in reference to
feeling. The soul cannot believe it is consecrated until it feels that it
is; and because it does not feel that God has taken it in hand, it cannot
believe that He has. As usual, it puts feeling first and faith second. Now,
God's invariable rule is faith first and feeling second, in everything; and
it is striving against the inevitable when we seek to make it different.
The way to meet this temptation, then, in reference to consecration, is
simply to take God's side in the matter, and to put faith before feeling.
Give yourself to the Lord definitely and fully, according to your present
light, asking the Holy Spirit to show you all that is contrary to God,
either in your heart or life. If He shows you anything, give it to the Lord
immediately, and say in reference to it, "Thy will be done." If He shows you
nothing, then you must believe that there is nothing, and must conclude that
you have given Him all. Then you must believe that He takes you. You
positively must not wait to feel either that you have given yourself or that
He has taken you. You must simply believe it, and reckon it to be the case.
If you were to give an estate to a friend, you would have to give it,
and he would have to receive it by faith. An estate is not a thing that can
be picked up and handed over to another; the gift of it and its reception
are altogether a mental transaction and therefore one of faith. Now, if you
should give an estate one day to a friend, and then should go away and
wonder whether you really had given it, and whether he had actually taken it
and considered it his own, and should feel it necessary to go the next day
and renew the gift; and if on the third day you should still feel a similar
uncertainty about it, and should again go and renew the gift, and on the
fourth day go through a like process, and so on, day after day for months
and years, what would your friend think, and what at last would be the
condition of your own mind in reference to it? Your friend certainly would
begin to doubt whether you ever had intended to give it to him at all; and
you yourself would be in such hopeless perplexity about it , that you would
not know whether the estate was yours, or his, or whose it was.
Now, is not this very much the way in which you have been acting
towards God in this matter of consecration? You have given yourself to Him
over and over daily, perhaps for months, but you have invariably come away
from your seasons of consecration wondering whether you really have given
yourself after all, and whether He has taken you; and because you have not
felt any differently, you have concluded at last, after many painful
tossings, that the thing has not been done. Do you know, dear believer, that
this sort of perplexity will last forever, unless you cut it short by faith?
You must come to the point of reckoning the matter to be an accomplished and
settled thing, and leaving it there, before you can possibly expect any
change of feeling what ever.
The very law of offerings to the Lord settles this as a primary fact,
that everything which is given to Him becomes by that very act something
holy, set apart from all other things, and cannot without sacrilege be put
to any other uses. "Notwithstanding, no devoted thing that a man shall
devote unto the Lord of all that he hath, both of man and beast, and of the
field of his possession, shall be sold or redeemed: every devoted thing is
most holy unto the Lord." Having once given it to the Lord, the devoted
thing henceforth was reckoned by all Israel as being the Lord's, and no one
dared to stretch forth a hand to retake it. The giver might have made his
offering very grudgingly and half-heartedly, but having made it, the matter
was taken out of his hands altogether, and the devoted thing by God's own
law became "most holy unto the Lord."
It was not the intention of the giver that made it holy, but the
holiness of the receiver. "The altar sanctifies the gift." And an offering
once laid upon the altar, from that moment belonged to the Lord. I can
imagine an offerer who had deposited a gift, beginning to search his heart
as to his sincerity and honesty in doing it, and coming back to the priest
to say that he was afraid after all he had not given it right, or had not
been perfectly sincere in giving it. I feel sure that the priest would have
silenced him at once with saying, "As to how you gave your offering, or what
were your motives in giving it, I do not know. The facts are that you did
give it, and that it is the Lord's, for every devoted thing is most holy
unto Him. It is too late to recall the transaction now." And not only the
priest but all Israel would have been aghast at the man who, having once
given his offering, should have reached out his hand to take it back. And
yet, day after day, earnest-hearted Christians, who would have shuddered at
such an act of sacrilege on the part of a Jew, are guilty in their own
experience of a similar act, by giving themselves to the Lord in solemn
consecration, and then through unbelief taking back that which they have
Because God is not visibly present to the eye, it is difficult to feel
that a transaction with Him is real. I suppose if, when we made our acts of
consecration, we could actually see Him present with us, we should feel it
to be a very real thing, and would realize that we had given our word to Him
and could not dare to take it back, no matter how much we might wish to do
so. Such a transaction would have to us the binding power that a spoken
promise to an earthly friend always has to a man of honor. And what we need
is to see that God's presence is a certain fact always, and that every act
of our soul is done right before Him, and that a word spoken in prayer is as
really spoken to Him, as if our eyes could see Him and our hands could touch
Him. Then we shall cease to have such vague conceptions of our relations
with Him, and shall feel the binding force of every word we say in His
I know some will say here, "Ah, yes; but if He would only speak to me,
and say that He took me when I gave myself to Him, I would have no trouble
then in believing it." No, of course you would not; but He does not
generally say this until the soul has first proved its loyalty by believing
what He has already said. It is he that believeth who has the witness, not
he that doubteth. And by His very command to us to present ourselves to Him
a living sacrifice, He has pledged Himself to receive us. I cannot conceive
of an honorable man asking another to give him a thing which, after all, he
was doubtful about taking; still less can I conceive of a loving parent
acting so towards a darling child. "My son, give me thy heart," is a sure
warrant for knowing that the moment the heart is given, it will be taken by
the One who has commanded the gift. We may, nay we must, feel the utmost
confidence then that when we surrender ourselves to the Lord, according to
His own command, He does then and there receive us, and from that moment we
are His. A real transaction has taken place, which cannot be violated
without dishonor on our part, and which we know will not be violated by Him.
In Deut. 26:17, 18, 19, we see God's way of working under these
"Thou hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God, and to walk in His
ways and to keep His statutes, and His commandments, and His judgments, and
to hearken unto His voice; and the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be
His peculiar people, as He hath promised thee, and that thou shouldst keep
all His commandments; . . . and that thou mayest be an holy people unto the
Lord, as He hath spoken."
When we avouch the Lord to be our God, and that we will walk in His
ways and keep His commandments, He avouches us to be His, and that we shall
keep all His commandments. And from that moment He takes possession of us.
This has always been His principle of working, and it continues to be so.
"Every devoted thing is most holy to the Lord." This seems to me so plain as
scarcely to admit of a question.
But if the soul still feels in doubt or difficulty, let me refer you to
a New Testament declaration which approaches the subject from a different
side, but which settles it, I think, quite as definitely. It is in 1 John
5:14, 15, and reads: "And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that
if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us; and if we know that
He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we
desired of Him." Is it according to His will that you should be entirely
consecrated to Him? There can be, of course, but one answer to this, for He
has commanded it. Is it not also according to His will that He should work
in you to will and to do of His good pleasure? This question also can have
but one answer, for He has declared it to be His purpose. You know, then,
that these things are according to His will, therefore on God's own word you
are obliged to know that He hears you; and knowing this much, you are
compelled to go further and know that you have the petitions that you have
desired of Him. That you have, I say, not will have, or may have, but have
now in actual possession. It is thus that we "obtain promises" by faith. It
is thus that we have "access by faith" into the grace that is given us in
our Lord Jesus Christ. It is thus, and thus only, that we come to know our
hearts are "purified by faith," and are enabled to live by faith, to stand
by faith, to walk by faith.
I desire to make this subject so plain and practical that no one need
have any further difficulty about it, and therefore I will repeat again just
what must be the acts of your soul in order to bring you out of this
difficulty about consecration.
I suppose that you have trusted the Lord Jesus for the forgiveness of
your sins, and know something of what it is to belong to the family of God,
and to be made an heir of God through faith in Christ. And now you feel
springing up in your soul the longing to be conformed to the image of your
Lord. In order for this, you know there must be an entire surrender of
yourself to Him, that He may work in you all the good pleasure of His will;
and you have tried over and over to do it, but hitherto without any apparent
At this point it is that I desire to help you. What you must do now is
to come once more to Him in a surrender of your whole self to His will, as
complete as you know how to make it. You must ask Him to reveal to you by
His Spirit any hidden rebellion; and if He reveals nothing, then you must
believe that there is nothing, and that the surrender is complete. This
must, then, be considered a settled matter. You have abandoned yourself to
the Lord, and from henceforth you do not in any sense belong to yourself;
you must never even so much as listen to a suggestion to the contrary. If
the temptation comes to wonder whether you really have completely
surrendered yourself, meet it with an assertion that you have. Do not even
argue the matter. Repel any such idea instantly and with decision. You meant
it then, you mean it now, you have really done it. Your emotions may clamor
against the surrender, but your will must hold firm. It is your purpose God
looks at, not your feelings about that purpose, and your purpose, or will,
is therefore the only thing you need attend to.
The surrender, then, having been made, never to be questioned or
recalled, the next point is to believe that God takes that which you have
surrendered, and to reckon that it is His. Not that it will be at some
future time, but is now; and that He has begun to work in you to will, and
to do, of His good pleasure. And here you must rest. There is nothing more
for you to do, for you are the Lord's now, absolutely and entirely in His
hands, and He has undertaken the whole care and management and forming of
you; and will, according to His word, "work in you that which is
well-pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ." But you must hold steadily
here. If you begin to question your surrender, or God's acceptance of it,
then your wavering faith will produce a wavering experience, and He cannot
work. But while you trust He works, and the result of His working always is
to change you into the image of Christ, from glory to glory, by His mighty
Do you, then, now at this moment surrender yourself wholly to Him? You
answer, Yes. Then, my dear friend, begin at once to reckon that you are His;
that He has taken you, and that He is working in you to will and to do of
His good pleasure. And keep on reckoning this. You will find it a great help
to put your reckoning into words, and to say over and over to yourself and
to your God, "Lord, I am thine; I do yield myself up to thee entirely, and I
believe that thou dost take me. I leave myself with thee. Work in me all the
good pleasure of thy will, and I will only lie still in thy hands, and trust
Make this a daily definite act of your will, and many times a day recur
to it, as being your continual attitude before Him. Confess it to yourself.
Confess it to your God. Confess it to your friends. Avouch the Lord to be
your God continually and unwaveringly, and declare your purpose of walking
in His ways and keeping His statutes; and you will find in practical
experience that He has avouched you to be His peculiar people and that you
shall keep all His commandments, and that you will be "an holy people unto
the Lord, as He hath spoken."
A few simple rules may be found helpful here. I would advise the use of
them in daily times of devotion, making them the definite test and attitude
of the soul, until the light shines clearly on this matter.
I. Express in definite words your faith in Christ as your Saviour; and
acknowledge definitely that you believe He has reconciled you to God;
according to 2 Cor. 5:18, 19.
II. Definitely acknowledge God as your Father, and yourself as His
redeemed and forgiven child; according to Gal. v: 6.
III. Definitely surrender yourself to be all the Lord's, body, soul,
and spirit; and to obey Him in everything where His will is made known;
according to Rom. 12:12.
IV. Believe and continue to believe, against all seemings, that God
takes possession of that which you thus abandon to Him, and that He will
henceforth work in you to will and to do of His good pleasure, unless you
consciously frustrate His grace; according to 2 Cor. 6:17, 18, and Phil.
V. Pay no attention to your feelings as a test of your relations with
God, but simply attend to the state of your will and of your faith. And
count all these steps you are now taking as settled, though the enemy may
make it seem otherwise. Heb. 10:22, 23.
VI. Never, under any circumstances, give way for one single moment to
doubt or discouragement. Remember, that all discouragement is from the
devil, and refuse to admit it; according to John 14:1, 27.
VII. Cultivate the habit of expressing your faith in definite words,
and repeat often, "I am all the Lord's and He is working in me now to will
and to do of His good pleasure; according to Heb. 13:21.
DIFFICULTIES CONCERNING FAITH
The next step after consecration, in the soul's progress out of the
wilderness of Christian experience, into the land that floweth with milk and
honey, is that of faith. And here, as in the first step, the enemy is very
skilful in making difficulties and interposing obstacles.
The child of God, having had his eyes opened to see the fulness there
is in Jesus for him, and having been made to long to appropriate that
fulness to himself, is met with the assertion on the part of every teacher
to whom he applies, that this fulness is only to be received by faith. But
the subject of faith is involved in such a hopeless mystery in his mind,
that this assertion, instead of throwing light upon the way of entrance,
only seems to make it more difficult and involved than ever.
"Of course it is to be by faith," he says, "for I know that everything
in the Christian life is by faith. But then, that is just what makes it so
hard, for I have no faith, and I do not even know what it is, nor how to get
it." And, baffled at the very outset by this insuperable difficulty, he is
plunged into darkness, and almost despair.
This trouble all arises from the fact that the subject of faith is very
generally misunderstood; for in reality faith is the plainest and most
simple thing in the world, and the most easy of attainment.
Your idea of faith, I suppose, has been something like this. You have
looked upon it as in some way a sort of thing, either a religious exercise
of soul, or an inward gracious disposition of heart; something tangible, in
fact, which, when you have got, you can look at and rejoice over, and use as
a passport to God's favor, or a coin with which to purchase His gifts. And
you have been praying for faith, expecting all the while to get something
like this, and never having received any such thing, you are insisting upon
it that you have no faith. Now faith, in fact, is not in the least this sort
of thing. It is nothing at all tangible. It is simply believing God, and,
like sight, it is nothing apart from its object. You might as well shut your
eyes and look inside to see whether you have sight, as to look inside to
discover whether you have faith. You see something, and thus know that you
have sight; you believe something, and thus know that you have faith. For,
as sight is only seeing, so faith is only believing. And as the only
necessary thing about seeing is, that you see the thing as it is, so the
only necessary thing about believing is, at you believe the thing as it is.
The virtue does not lie in your believing, but in the thing you believe. If
you believe the truth you are saved; if you believe a lie you are lost. The
believing in both cases is the same; the things believed in are exactly
opposite, and it is this which makes the mighty difference. Your salvation
comes, not because your faith saves you, but because it links you on to the
Saviour who saves; and your believing is really nothing but the link.
I do beg of you to recognize, then, the extreme simplicity of faith;
that it is nothing more nor less than just believing God when He says He
either has done something for us, or will do it; and then trusting Him to do
it. It is so simple that it is hard to explain. If any one asks me what it
means to trust another to do a piece of work for me, I can only answer that
it means letting that other one do it, and feeling it perfectly unnecessary
for me to do it myself. Every one of us has trusted very important pieces of
work to others in this way, and has felt perfect rest in thus trusting,
because of the confidence we have had in those who have undertaken to do it.
How constantly do mothers trust their most precious infants to the care of
nurses, and feel no shadow of anxiety? How continually we are all of us
trusting our health and our lives, without a thought of fear, to cooks and
coachmen, engine drivers, railway conductors, and all sorts of paid
servants, who have us completely at their mercy, and could plunge us into
misery or death in a moment, if they chose to do so, or even if they failed
in the necessary carefulness? All this we do, and make no fuss about it.
Upon the slightest acquaintance, often, we thus put our trust in people,
requiring only the general knowledge of human nature, and the common rules
of human intercourse; and we never feel as if we were doing anything in the
You have done all this yourself, dear reader, and are doing it
continually. You would not be able to live in this world and go through the
customary routine of life a single day, if you could not trust your
fellow-men. And it never enters into your head to say you cannot.
But yet you do not hesitate to say, continually, that you cannot trust
I wish you would just now try to imagine yourself acting in your human
relations as you do in your spiritual relations. Suppose you should begin
tomorrow with the notion in your head that you could not trust anybody,
because you had no faith. When you sat down to breakfast you would say, "I
cannot eat anything on this table, for I have no faith, and I cannot believe
the cook has not put poison in the coffee, or that the butcher has not sent
home diseased meat." So you would go starving away. Then when you went out
to your daily avocations, you would say, "I cannot ride in the railway
train, for I have no faith, and therefore I cannot trust the engineer, nor
the conductor, nor the builders of the carriages, nor the managers of the
road." So you would be compelled to walk everywhere, and grow unutterably
weary in the effort, besides being actually unable to reach many of the
places you could have reached in the train. Then, when your friends met you
with any statements, or your business agent with any accounts, you would
say, "I am very sorry that I cannot believe you, but I have no faith, and
never can believe anybody." If you opened a newspaper you would be forced to
lay it down again, saying, "I really cannot believe a word this paper says,
for I have no faith; I do not believe there is any such person as the queen,
for I never saw her; nor any such country as Ireland, for I was never there.
And I have no faith, so of course I cannot believe anything that I have not
actually felt and touched myself. It is a great trial, but I cannot help it,
for I have no faith."
Just picture such a day as this, and see how disastrous it would be to
yourself, and what utter folly it would appear to any one who should watch
you through the whole of it. Realize how your friends would feel insulted,
and how your servants would refuse to serve you another day. And then ask
yourself the question, if this want of faith in your fellow-men would be so
dreadful, and such utter folly, what must it be when you tell God that you
have no power to trust Him nor to believe His word; that "it is a great
trial, but you cannot help it, for you have no faith"?
Is it possible that you can trust your fellow-men and cannot trust your
God? That you can receive the "witness of men," and cannot receive the
"witness of God"? That you can believe man's records, and cannot believe
God's record? That you can commit your dearest earthly interests to your
weak, failing fellow-creatures without a fear, and are afraid to commit your
spiritual interests to the blessed Saviour who shed His blood for the very
purpose of saving you, and who is declared to be "able to save you to the
Surely, surely, dear believer, you, whose very name of believer implies
that you can believe, will never again dare to excuse yourself on the plea
of having no faith. For when you say this, you mean of course that you have
no faith in God, since you are not asked to have faith in yourself, and you
would be in a very wrong condition of soul if you had. Let me beg of you
then, when you think or say these things, always to complete the sentence
and say, "I have no faith in God, I cannot believe God"; and this I am sure
will soon become so dreadful to you, that you will not dare to continue it.
But you say, I cannot believe without the Holy Spirit. Very well; will
you conclude that your want of faith is because of the failure of the
blessed Spirit to do His work? For if it is, then surely you are not to
blame, and need feel no condemnation; and all exhortations to you to believe
But, no! Do you not see that, in taking up this position, that you have
no faith and cannot believe, you are not only "making God a liar," but you
are also manifesting an utter want of confidence in the Holy Spirit? For He
is always ready to help our infirmities. We never have to wait for Him, He
is always waiting for us. And I for my part have such absolute confidence in
the blessed Holy Ghost, and in His being always ready to do his work, that I
dare to say to every one of you, that you can believe now, at this very
moment, and that if you do not, it is not the Spirit's fault, but your own.
Put your will then over on to the believing side. Say, "Lord I will
believe, I do believe," and continue to say it. Insist upon believing, in
the face of every suggestion of doubt with which you may be tempted. Out of
your very unbelief, throw yourself headlong on to the word and promises of
God, and dare to abandon yourself to the keeping and saving power of the
Lord Jesus. If you have ever trusted a precious interest in the hands of any
earthly friend, I conjure you, trust yourself now and all your spiritual
interests in the hands of your Heavenly Friend, and never, never, NEVER
allow yourself to doubt again.
And remember, there are two things which are more utterly incompatible
than even oil and water, and these two are trust and worry. Would you call
it trust, if you should give something into the hands of a friend to attend
to for you, and then should spend your nights and days in anxious thought
and worry as to whether it would be rightly and successfully done? And can
you call it trust, when you have given the saving and keeping of your soul
into the hands of the Lord, if day after day and night after night you are
spending hours of anxious thought and questionings about the matter? When a
believer really trusts anything, he ceases to worry about that thing which
he has trusted. And when he worries, it is a plain proof that he does not
trust. Tested by this rule how little real trust there is in the Church of
Christ! No wonder our Lord asked the pathetic question, "When the Son of Man
cometh shall he find faith on the earth?" He will find plenty of activity, a
great deal of earnestness, and doubtless many consecrated hearts; but shall
he find faith, the one thing He values more than all the rest? It is a
solemn question, and I would that every Christian heart would ponder it
well. But may the time past of our lives suffice us to have shared in the
unbelief of the world; and let us every one, who know our blessed Lord and
His unspeakable trustworthiness, set to our seal that He is true, by our
generous abandonment of trust in Him.
I remember, very early in my Christian life, having every tender and
loyal impulse within me stirred to its depths by an appeal I met with in a
volume of old sermons to all who loved the Lord Jesus, that they should show
to others how worthy He was of being trusted, by the steadfastness of their
own faith in Him. And I remember my soul cried out with an eager longing
that I might be called to walk in paths so dark, that an utter abandonment
of trust might be my blessed and glorious privilege.
"Ye have not passed this way heretofore," it may be; but today it is
your happy privilege to prove, as never before, your loyal confidence in the
Lord by starting out with Him on a life and walk of faith, lived moment by
moment in absolute and childlike trust in Him.
You have trusted Him in a few things, and He has not failed you. Trust
Him now for everything, and see if He does not do for you exceeding
abundantly above all that you could ever have asked or thought; not
according to your power or capacity, but according to His own mighty power,
that will work in you all the good pleasure of His most blessed will.
You find no difficulty in trusting the Lord with the management of the
universe and all the outward creation, and can your case be any more complex
or difficult than these, that you need to be anxious or troubled about his
management of it. Away with such unworthy doubtings! Take your stand on the
power and trustworthiness of your God, and see how quickly all difficulties
will vanish before a steadfast determination to believe. Trust in the dark,
trust in the light, trust at night, and trust in the morning, and you will
find that the faith, which may begin by a mighty effort, will end sooner or
later by becoming the easy and natural habit of the soul.
All things are possible to God, and "all things are possible to him
that believeth." Faith has, in times past, "subdued kingdoms, wrought
righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the
violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, waxed valiant in fight,
turned to flight the armies of the aliens"; and faith can do it again. For
our Lord Himself says unto us, "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed,
ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place, and it shall
remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you."
If you are a child of God at all, you must have at least as much faith
as a grain of mustard seed, and therefore you dare not say again that you
cannot trust because you have no faith. Say rather, "I can trust my Lord,
and I will trust Him, and not all the powers of earth or hell shall be able
to make me doubt my wonderful, glorious, faithful Redeemer!"
In that greatest event of this century, the emancipation of our slaves,
there is a wonderful illustration of the way of faith. The slaves received
their freedom by faith, just as we must receive ours. The good news was
carried to them that the government had proclaimed their freedom. As a
matter of fact they were free the moment the Proclamation was issued, but as
a matter of experience they did not come into actual possession of their
freedom until they had heard the good news and had believed it. The fact had
to come first, but the believing was necessary before the fact became
available, and the feeling would follow last of all. This is the divine
order always, and the order of common-sense as well. I. The fact. II. The
faith. III. The feeling. But man reverses this order and says, I. The
feeling. II. The faith. III. The fact.
Had the slaves followed man's order in regard to their emancipation,
and refused to believe in it until they had first felt it, they might have
remained in slavery a long while. I have heard of one instance where this
was the case. In a little out-of-the-way Southern town a Northern lady
found, about two or three years after the war was over, some slaves who had
not yet taken possession of their freedom. An assertion of hers, that the
North had set them free, aroused the attention of an old colored auntie, who
interrupted her with the eager question, --
"O missus, is we free?"
"Of course you are," replied the lady.
"O missus, is you sure?" urged the woman, with intensest eagerness.
"Certainly, I am sure," answered the lady. "Why, is it possible you did
not know it?"
"Well," said the woman, "we heered tell as how we was free, and we
asked master, and he `lowed we wasn't, and so we was afraid to go. And then
we heered tell again, and we went to the cunnel, and he `lowed we'd better
stay with ole massa. And so we's just been off and on. Sometimes we'd hope
we was free, and then again we'd think we wasn't. But now, missus, if you is
sure we is free, won't you tell me all about it?"
Seeing that this was a case of real need, the lady took the pains to
explain the whole thing to the poor woman; all about the war, and the
Northern army, and Abraham Lincoln, and his Proclamation of Emancipation,
and the present freedom.
The poor slave listened with the most intense eagerness. She heard the
good news. She believed it. And when the story was ended, she walked out of
the room with an air of the utmost independence, saying as she went, -- "I's
free! I's ain't agoing to stay with ol massa any longer!"
She had at last received her freedom, and she had received it by faith.
The government had declared her to be free long before, but this had not
availed her, because she had never yet believed in this declaration. The
good news had not profited her, not being "mixed with faith" in the one who
heard it. But now she believed, and believing, she dared to reckon herself
to be free. And this, not because of any change in herself or her
surroundings, not because of any feelings of emotions of her own heart, but
because she had confidence in the word of another, who had come to her
proclaiming the good news of her freedom.
Need I make the application? In a hundred different messages God has
declared to us our freedom, and over and over He urges us to reckon
ourselves free. Let your faith then lay hold of His proclamation, and assert
it to be true. Declare to yourself, to your friends, and in the secret of
your soul to God, that you are free. Refuse to listen for a moment to the
lying assertions of your old master, that you are still his slave. Let
nothing discourage you, no inward feelings nor outward signs. Hold on to
your reckoning in the face of all opposition, and I can promise you, on the
authority of our Lord, that according to your faith it shall be unto you.
Of all the worships we can bring our God, none is so sweet to Him as
this utter self-abandoning trust, and none brings Him so much glory.
Therefore in every dark hour remember that "though now for a season, if need
be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations," it is in order that
"the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that
perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise, and
honor, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ."
DIFFICULTIES CONCERNING THE WILL
When the child of God has, by the way of entire abandonment and absolute
trust, stepped out of himself into Christ, and has begun to know something
of the blessedness of the life hid with Christ in God, there is one form of
difficulty which is very likely to start up in his path. After the first
emotions of peace and rest have somewhat subsided, or if, as is sometimes
the case, they have never seemed to come at all, he begins to feel such an
utter unreality in the things he has been passing through, that he seems to
himself like a hypocrite, when he says or even thinks they are real. It
seems to him that his belief does not go below the surface, that it is a
mere lip-belief, and therefore of no account, and that his surrender is not
a surrender of the heart, and therefore cannot be acceptable to God. He is
afraid to say he is altogether the Lord's, for fear he will be telling an
untruth, and yet he cannot bring himself to say he is not, because he longs
for it so intensely. The difficulty is real and very disheartening.
But there is nothing here which will not be very easily overcome, when
the Christian once thoroughly understands the principles of the new life,
and has learned how to live in it. The common thought is, that this life hid
with Christ in God is to be lived in the emotions, and consequently all the
attention of the soul is directed towards them, and as they are satisfactory
or otherwise, the soul rests or is troubled. Now the truth is that this life
is not to be lived in the emotions at all, but in the will, and therefore
the varying states of emotion do not in the least disturb or affect the
reality of the life, if only the will is kept steadfastly abiding in its
centre, God's will.
To make this plain, I must enlarge a little. Fenelon says somewhere,
that "pure religion resides in the will alone." By this he means that as the
will is the governing power in the man's nature, if the will is set
straight, all the rest of the nature must come into harmony. By the will I
do not mean the wish of the man, nor even his purpose, but the choice, the
deciding power, the king, to which all that is in the man must yield
obedience. It is the man, in short, the "Ego," that which we feel to be
It is sometimes thought that the emotions are the governing power in
our nature. But, as a matter of practical experience, I think we all of us
know that there is something within us, behind our emotions, and behind our
wishes, -- an independent self, -- that after all decides everything and
controls everything. Our emotions belong to us, and are suffered and enjoyed
by us, but they are not ourselves; and if God is to take possession of us,
it must be into this central will or personality that He shall enter. If,
then, He is reigning there by the power of His Spirit, all the rest of our
nature must come under His sway; and as the will is, so is the man.
The practical bearing of this truth upon the difficulty I am
considering is very great. For the decisions of our will are often so
directly opposed to the decisions of our emotions, that, if we are in the
habit of considering our emotions as the test, we shall be very apt to feel
like hypocrites in declaring those things to be real which our will alone
has decided. But the moment we see that the will is king, we shall utterly
disregard anything that clamors against it, and shall claim as real its
decisions, let the emotions rebel as they may.
I am aware that this is a difficult subject to deal with, but it is so
exceedingly practical in its bearing upon the life of faith, that I beg of
you, dear reader, not to turn from it until you have mastered it.
Perhaps an illustration will help you. A young man of great
intelligence, seeking to enter into this new life, was utterly discouraged
at finding himself the slave to an inveterate habit of doubting. To his
emotions nothing seemed true, nothing seemed real; and the more he struggled
the more unreal did it all become. He was told this secret concerning the
will, that if he would only put his will over on to the believing side; if
he would choose to believe; if, in short, he would, in the Ego of his
nature, say, "I will believe! I do believe!" he need not trouble about his
emotions, for they would find themselves compelled, sooner or later, to come
into harmony. "What!" he said," do you mean to tell me that I can choose to
believe in that way, when nothing seems true to me; and will that kind of
believing be real?" "Yes," was the answer, "your part is only this, -- to
put your will over on God's side in this matter of believing; and when you
do this, God immediately takes possession of it, and works in you to will of
His good pleasure, and you will soon find that He has brought all the rest
of your nature into subjection to Himself." "Well," was the answer, "I can
do this. I cannot control my emotions, but I can control my will, and the
new life begins to look possible to me, if it is only my will that needs to
be set straight in the matter. I can give my will to God, and I do!"
From that moment, disregarding all the pitiful clamoring of his
emotions, which continually accused him of being a wretched hypocrite, this
young man held on steadily to the decision of his will, answering every
accusation with the continued assertion that he chose to believe, he meant
to believe, he did believe; until at the end of a few days he found himself
triumphant, with every emotion and every thought brought into captivity to
the mighty power of the blessed Spirit of God, who had taken possession of
the will thus put into His hands. He had held fast the profession of his
faith without wavering, although it had seemed to him that, as to real faith
itself, he had none to hold fast. At times it had drained all the will power
he possessed to his lips, to say that he believed, so contrary was it to all
the evidence of his senses or of his emotions. But he had caught the idea
that his will was, after all, himself, and that if he kept that on God's
side, he was doing all he could do, and that God alone could change his
emotions or control his being. The result has been one of the grandest
Christian lives I know of, in its marvellous simplicity, directness, and
power over sin.
The secret lies just here. That our will, which is the spring of all
our actions, is in our natural state under the control of self, and self has
been working it in us to our utter ruin and misery. Now God says, "Yield
yourselves up unto Me, as those that are alive from the dead, and I will
work in you to will and to do of my good pleasure." And the moment we yield
ourselves, He of course takes possession of us, and does work in us "that
which is well pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ," giving us the
mind that was in Christ, and transforming us into His image. (See Rom. 12:1,
Let us take another illustration. A lady, who had entered into this
life hid with Christ, was confronted by a great prospective trial. Every
emotion she had within her rose up in rebellion against it, and had she
considered her emotions to be her king, she would have been in utter
despair. But she had learned this secret of the will, and knowing that, at
the bottom, she herself did really choose the will of God for her portion,
she did not pay the slightest attention to her emotions, but persisted in
meeting every thought concerning the trial, with the words, repeated over
and over, "Thy will be done! Thy will be done!" asserting in the face of all
her rebelling feelings, that she did submit her will to God's, that she
chose to submit, and that His will should be and was her delight! The result
was, that in an incredibly short space of time every thought was brought
into captivity; and she began to find even her very emotions rejoicing in
the will of God.
Again, there was a lady who had a besetting sin, which in her emotions
she dearly loved, but which in her will she hated. Having believed herself
to be necessarily under the control of her emotions, she had therefore
thought she was unable to conquer it, unless her emotions should first be
changed. But she learned this secret concerning the will, and going to her
knees she said, "Lord, Thou seest that with one part of my nature I love
this sin, but in my real central self I hate it. And now I put my will over
on thy side in the matter. I will not do it any more. Do thou deliver me."
Immediately God took possession of the will thus surrendered to Himself, and
began to work in her, so that His will in the matter gained the mastery over
her emotions, and she found herself delivered, not by the power of an
outward commandment, but by the inward power of the Spirit of God working in
her that which was well pleasing in His sight.
And now, dear Christian, let me show you how to apply this principle to
your difficulties. Cease to consider your emotions, for they are only the
servants; and regard simply your will, which is the real king in your being.
Is that given up to God? Is that put into His hands? Does your will decide
to believe? Does your will choose to obey? If this is the case, then you are
in the Lord's hands, and you decide to believe, and you choose to obey; for
your will is yourself. And the thing is done. The transaction with God is as
real, where only your will acts, as when every emotion coincides. It does
not seem as real to you; but in God's sight it is as real. And when you have
got hold of this secret, and have discovered that you need not attend to
your emotions, but simply to the state of your will, all the Scripture
commands, to yield yourself to God, to present yourself a living sacrifice
to Him, to abide in Christ, to walk in the light, to die to self, become
possible to you; for you are conscious that, in all these, your will can
act, and can take God's side: whereas, if it had been your emotions that
must do it, you would sink down in despair, knowing them to be utterly
When, then, this feeling of unreality or hypocrisy comes, do not be
troubled by it. It is only in your emotions, and is not worth a moment's
thought. Only see to it that your will is in God's hands; that your inward
self is abandoned to His working; that your choice, your decision, is on His
side; and there leave it. Your surging emotions, like a tossing vessel,
which, by degrees, yields to the steady pull of the cable, finding
themselves attached to the mighty power of God by the choice of your will,
must inevitably come into captivity, and give in their allegiance to Him;
and you will verify the truth of the saying that, "If any man will do His
will, he shall know of the doctrine."
The will is like a wise mother in a nursery; the feelings are like a
set of clamoring, crying children. The mother decides upon a certain course
of action, which she believes to be right and best. The children clamor
against it, and declare it shall not be. But the mother, knowing that she is
mistress and not they, pursues her course calmly, unmoved by their clamors,
and takes no notice of them except in trying to soothe and quiet them. The
result is that the children are sooner or later compelled to yield, and fall
in with the decision of the mother. Thus order and harmony are preserved.
But if that mother should for a moment let in the thought that the children
were the mistresses instead of herself, confusion would reign unchecked.
Such instances have been known in family life! And in how many souls at this
very moment is there nothing but confusion, simply because the feelings are
allowed to govern, instead of the will!
Remember, then, that the real thing in your experience is what your
will decides, and not the verdict of your emotions; and that you are far
more in danger of hypocrisy and untruth in yielding to the assertions of
your feelings, than in holding fast to the decision of your will. So that,
if your will is on God's side, you are no hypocrite at this moment in
claiming as your own the blessed reality of belonging altogether to Him,
even though your emotions may all declare the contrary.
I am convinced that, throughout the Bible, the expressions concerning
the "heart" do not mean the emotions, that which we now understand by the
word "heart"; but they mean the will, the personality of the man, the man's
own central self; and that the object of God's dealings with man is, that
this "I" may be yielded up to Him, and this central life abandoned to His
entire control. It is not the feelings of the man God wants, but the man
Have you given Him yourself, dear reader? Have you abandoned your will
to His working? Do you consent to surrender the very centre of your being
into His hands? Then, let the outposts of your nature clamor as they may, it
is your right to say, even now, with the apostle, "I am crucified with
Christ; nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the
life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God,
who loved me, and gave Himself for me."
After this chapter had been enclosed to the printer, the following
remarkable practical illustration of its teaching was presented by Pasteur
T. Monod, of Paris. It is the experience of a Presbyterian minister, which
this pasteur had carefully kept for many years.
NEWBURGH, Sept. 26, 1842.
Dear Brother, -- I take a few moments of that time which I have devoted
to the Lord, in writing a short epistle to you, His servant. It is sweet to
feel we are wholly the Lord's, that He has received us and called us His.
This is religion, -- a relinquishment of the principle of self-ownership,
and the adoption in full of the abiding sentiment, "I am not my own, I am
bought with a price." Since I last saw you, I have been pressing forward,
and yet there has been nothing remarkable in my experience of which I can
speak; indeed I do not know that it is best to look for remarkable things;
but strive to be holy, as God is holy, pressing right on toward the mark of
I do not feel myself qualified to instruct you; I can only tell you the
way in which I was led. The Lord deals differently with different souls, and
we ought not to attempt to copy the experience of others, yet there are
certain things which must be attended to by every one who is seeking after a
There must be a personal consecration of all to God, a covenant made
with God, that we will be wholly and forever His. This I made intellectually
without any change in my feeling, with a heart full of hardness and
darkness, unbelief and sin and insensibility.
I covenanted to be the Lord's, and laid all upon the altar, a living
sacrifice, to the best of my ability. And after I rose from my knees, I was
conscious of no change in my feeling. I was painfully conscious that there
was no change. But yet I was sure that I did, with all the sincerity and
honesty of purpose of which I was capable, make an entire and eternal
consecration of myself to God. I did not then consider the work done by any
means, but I engaged to abide in a state of entire devotion to God, a living
perpetual sacrifice. And now came the effort to do this.
I knew that I must believe that God did accept me, and had come in to
dwell in my heart. I was conscious I did not believe this, and yet I desired
to do so. I read with much prayer John's First Epistle, and endeavored to
assure my heart of God's love to me as an individual. I was sensible that my
heart was full of evil. I seemed to have no power to overcome pride, or to
repel evil thoughts, which I abhorred. But Christ was manifested to destroy
the works of the devil, and it was clear that the sin in my heart was the
work of the devil. I was enabled, therefore, to believe that God was working
in me, to will and to do, while I was working out my own salvation with fear
I was convinced of unbelief, that it was voluntary and criminal. I
clearly saw that unbelief was an awful sin, it made the faithful God a liar.
The Lord brought before me my besetting sins which had dominion over me,
especially preaching myself instead of Christ, and indulging self-complacent
thoughts after preaching. I was enabled to make myself of no reputation, and
to seek the honor which cometh from God only. Satan struggled hard to beat
me back from the Rock of Ages but thanks to God I finally hit upon the
method of living by the moment, and then I found rest.
I trusted in the blood of Jesus already shed, as a sufficient atonement
for all my past sins, and the future I committed wholly to the Lord,
agreeing to do His will under all circumstances as He should make it known,
and I saw that all I had to do was to look to Jesus for a present supply of
grace, and to trust Him to cleanse my heart and keep me from sin at the
I felt shut up to a momentary dependence upon the grace of Christ. I
would not permit the adversary to trouble me about the past or future, for I
each moment looked for the supply for that moment. I agreed that I would be
a child of Abraham, and walk by naked faith in the Word of God, and not by
inward feelings and emotions: I would seek to be a Bible Christian. Since
that time the Lord has given me a steady victory over sins which before
enslaved me. I delight in the Lord, and in His Word. I delight in my work as
a minister: my fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
I am a babe in Christ; I know my progress has been small compared with that
made by many. My feelings vary, but when I have feelings, I praise God, and
I trust in His word; and when I am empty and my feelings are gone, I do the
same. I have covenanted to walk by faith and not by feelings.
The Lord, I think, is beginning to revive His work among my people.
"Praise the Lord." May the Lord fill you with all His fulness and give you
all the mind of Christ. Oh, be faithful! Walk before God and be perfect.
Preach the Word. Be instant in season and out of season. The Lord loves you.
He works with you. Rest your soul fully upon that promise, "Lo, I am with
you alway, even unto the end of the world."
Your fellow soldier,
There may be some who will object to this teaching, that it ignores the
work of the blessed Holy Spirit. But I must refer such to the introductory
chapter of this book, in which I have fully explained myself. I am not
writing upon that side of the subject; I am considering man's part in the
matter, and not the part of the Spirit. I realize intensely that all a man
can do or try to do would be utterly useless, if the Holy Spirit did not
work in that man continually. And it is only because I believe in the Spirit
as a mighty power, ever present and always ready to do his work, that I can
write as I do. But, like the wind that bloweth where it listeth, and thou
hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither
it goeth, the operations of the Spirit are beyond our control, and also
beyond our comprehension.
The results we know, and the steps on our part which lead to those
results, but we know nothing more. And yet, like a workman in a great
manufactory, who does not question the commands of his employer, and is not
afraid to undertake apparent impossibilities, because he knows there is a
mighty unseen power, called steam, behind his machinery, which can
accomplish it all, so we dare to urge upon men that they shall simply and
courageously set themselves to do that which they are commanded to do,
because we know that the mighty Spirit will never fail to supply at each
moment the necessary power for that moment's act. And we boldly claim that
we who thus write can say from our very hearts, as earnestly and as solemnly
as any other Christians, We believe in the Holy Ghost.
IS GOD IN EVERYTHING?
One of the greatest obstacles to living unwaveringly this life of entire
surrender is the difficulty of seeing God in everything. People say, "I can
easily submit to things which come from God; but I cannot submit to man, and
most of my trials and crosses come through human instrumentality." Or they
say, "It is all well enough to talk of trusting; but when I commit a matter
to God, man is sure to come in and disarrange it all; and while I have no
difficulty in trusting God, I do see serious difficulties in the way of
This is no imaginary trouble, but it is of vital importance, and if it
cannot be met, does really make the life of faith an impossible and
visionary theory. For nearly everything in life comes to us through human
instrumentalities, and most of our trials are the result of somebody's
failure, or ignorance, or carelessness, or sin. We know God cannot be the
author of these things, and yet unless He is the agent in the matter, how
can we say to Him about it, "Thy will be done"?
Besides, what good is there in trusting our affairs to God, if, after
all, man is to be allowed to come in and disarrange them; and how is it
possible to live by faith, if human agencies, in whom it would be wrong and
foolish to trust, are to have a predominant influence in moulding our lives?
Moreover, things in which we can see God's hand always have a sweetness
in them which consoles while it wounds. But the trials inflicted by man are
full of bitterness.
What is needed, then, is to see God in everything, and to receive
everything directly from His hands, with no intervention of second causes.
And it is just to this that we must be brought, before we can know an
abiding experience of entire abandonment and perfect trust. Our abandonment
must be to God, not to man, and our trust must be in Him, not in any arm of
flesh, or we shall fail at the first trial.
The question here confronts us at once, "But is God in everything, and
have we any warrant from the Scripture for receiving everything from His
hands, without regarding the second causes which may have been instrumental
in bringing it about?" I answer to this, unhesitatingly, Yes. To the
children of God everything comes directly from their Father's hand, no
matter who or what may have been the apparent agents. There are no "second
causes" for them.
The whole teaching of the Bible asserts and implies this. "Not a
sparrow falls to the ground without our Father." The very hairs of our head
are all numbered. We are not to be careful about anything, because our
Father cares for us. We are not to avenge ourselves, because our Father has
charged Himself with our defence. We are not to fear, for the Lord is on our
side. No one can be against us, because He is for us. We shall not want, for
He is our Shepherd. When we pass through the rivers they shall not overflow
us, and when we walk through the fire we shall not be burned, because He
will be with us. He shuts the mouths of lions, that they cannot hurt us. "He
delivereth and rescueth." "He changeth the times and the seasons; He
removeth kings and setteth up kings." A man's heart is in His hand, and, "as
the river of water, He turneth it whithersoever He will." He ruleth over all
the kingdoms of the heathen; and in His hand there is power and might," so
that none is able to withstand" Him. "He ruleth the raging of the sea; when
the waves thereof arise, He stilleth them." He "bringeth the counsel of the
heathen to nought; He maketh the devices of the people of none effect."
"Whatsoever the Lord pleaseth, that does He in heaven, and in earth, in the
seas, and all deep places."
"If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of
judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter; for He that is
higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they."
"Lo, these are a part of His ways; but how little a portion is heard of
Him? But the thunder of His power who can understand?" "Hast thou not known,
hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the
ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of
And this "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in
trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though
the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters
thereof roar and be troubled; though the mountains shake with the swelling
thereof." "I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God,
in Him will I trust. Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the
fowler, and from the noisesome pestilence. He shall cover thee with His
feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust. His truth shall be thy
shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night, nor
for the arrow that flieth by day, nor for the pestilence that walketh in
darkness, nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall
fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come
nigh thee." "Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the
Most High, thy habitation, there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall
any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For He shall give His angels charge over
thee, to keep thee in all thy ways."
To my own mind, these Scriptures, and many others like them, settle
forever the question as to the power of second causes in the life of the
children of God. They are all under the control of our Father, and nothing
can touch us except with His knowledge and by His permission. It may be the
sin of man that originates the action, and therefore the thing itself cannot
be said to be the will of God but by the time it reaches us, it has become
God's will for us, and must be accepted as directly from His hands. No man
or company of men, no power in earth or heaven, can touch that soul which is
abiding in Christ, without first passing through Him, and receiving the seal
of His permission. If God be for us, it matters not who may be against us;
nothing can disturb or harm us, except He shall see that it is best for us,
and shall stand aside to let it pass.
An earthly parent's care for his helpless child is a feeble
illustration of this. If the child is in its father's arms, nothing can
touch it without that father's consent, unless he is too weak to prevent it.
And even if this should be the case, he suffers the harm first in his own
person, before he allows it to reach his child. And if an earthly parent
would thus care for his little helpless one, how much more will our Heavenly
Father, whose love is infinitely greater, and whose strength and wisdom can
never be baffled! I am afraid there are some, even of God's own children,
who scarcely think that He is equal to themselves in tenderness, and love,
and thoughtful care; and who in their secret thoughts, charge Him with a
neglect and indifference of which they would feel themselves incapable. The
truth really is, that His care is infinitely superior to any possibilities
of human care; and that He who counts the very hairs of our head, and
suffers not a sparrow to fall without Him, takes note of the minutest
matters that can affect the lives of His children, and regulates them all
according to His own sweet will, let their origin be what they may.
The instances of this are numberless. Take Joseph. What could have
seemed more apparently on the face of it to be the result of sin, and
utterly contrary to the will of God, than his being sold into slavery? And
yet Joseph, in speaking of it, said, "As for you, ye thought evil against
me: but God meant it unto good." "Now, therefore, be not grieved nor angry
with yourselves, that ye sold me hither, for God did send me before you to
preserve life." To the eye of sense it was surely Joseph's wicked brethren
who had sent him into Egypt; and yet Joseph, looking at it with the eye of
faith, could say, "God sent me." It had been undoubtedly a grievous sin in
his brethren, but, by the time it had reached Joseph, it had become God's
will for him, and was in truth, though at first it did not look so, the
greatest blessing of his whole life. And thus we see how the Lord can make
even the wrath of man to praise Him, and how all things, even the sins of
others, shall work together for good to them that love Him.
I learned this lesson practically and experimentally long years before
I knew the scriptural truth concerning it. I was attending a prayer-meeting
held for the promotion of scriptural holiness, when a strange lady rose to
speak, and I looked at her, wondering who she could be, little thinking she
was to bring a message to my soul which would teach me such a grand lesson.
She said she had had great difficulty in living the life of faith, on
account of the second causes that seemed to her to control nearly everything
that concerned her. Her perplexity became so great, that at last she began
to ask God to teach her the truth about it, whether He really was in
everything or not. After praying this for a few days, she had what she
described as a vision. She thought she was in a perfectly dark place, and
that there advanced towards her from a distance a body of light, which
gradually surrounded and enveloped her and everything around her. As it
approached, a voice seemed to say, "This is the presence of God; this is the
presence of God." While surrounded with this presence, all the great and
awful things in life seemed to pass before her, -- fighting armies, wicked
men, raging beasts, storms and pestilences, sin and suffering of every kind.
She shrank back at first in terror, but she soon saw that the presence
of God so surrounded and enveloped each one of these, that not a lion could
reach out its paw, nor a bullet fly through the air, except as His presence
moved out of the way to permit it. And she saw that, let there be ever so
thin a sheet, as it were, of this glorious presence between herself and the
most terrible violence, not a hair of her head could be ruffled, nor
anything touch her, unless the presence divided to let the evil through.
Then all the small and annoying things of life passed before her, and
equally she saw that these all were so enveloped in this presence of God
that not a cross look, not a harsh word, nor petty trial of any kind, could
reach her unless His presence moved out of the way to let them through.
Her difficulty vanished. Her question was answered forever. God was in
everything; and to her henceforth there were no second causes. She saw that
her life came to her day by day and hour by hour directly from His hand, let
the agencies which should seem to control it be what they might. And never
again had she found any difficulty in an abiding consent to His will and an
unwavering trust in His care.
If we look at the seen things, we shall not be able to understand the
secret of this. But the children of God are called to look, "not at the
things which are seen: for the things which are seen are temporal, but the
things which are not seen are eternal." Could we but see with our bodily
eyes His unseen forces surrounding us on every side, we would walk through
this world in an impregnable fortress, which nothing could ever overthrow or
penetrate, for "the angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear
Him, and delivereth them."
We have a striking illustration of this in the history of Elisha. The
king of Syria was warring against Israel, but his evil designs were
continually frustrated by the prophet; and at last he sent his army to the
prophet's own city for the express purpose of taking him captive. We read,
"He sent thither horses and chariots and a great host; and they came by
night and compassed the city about." This was the seen thing. And the
servant of the prophet, whose eyes had not yet been opened to see the unseen
things, was alarmed. And we read, "And when the servant of the man of God
was risen early and gone forth, behold an host compassed the city, both with
horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master, how
shall we do?" But his master could see the unseen things, and he replied,
"Fear not; for they that be with us are more than they that be with them."
And then he prayed, saying, "Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes that he may
see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw; and behold,
the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha."
The presence of God is the fortress of His people. Nothing can
withstand it. At His presence the wicked perish; the earth trembles; the
hills melt like wax; the cities are broken down; "the heavens also dropped,
and Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God." And in the secret of
this presence He has promised to hide His people from the pride of man, and
from the strife of tongues. "My presence shall go with thee," He says, "and
I will give thee rest."
I wish it were only possible to make every Christian see this truth as
plainly as I see it; for I am convinced it is the only clue to a completely
restful life. Nothing else will enable a soul to live only in the present
moment, as we are commanded to do, and to take no thought for the morrow.
Nothing else will take all the risks and "supposes" out of a Christian's
heart, and enable him to say, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all
the days of my life." Abiding in God's presence, we run no risks; and such a
soul can triumphantly say, --
"I know not what it is to doubt,
My heart is alway gay;
I run no risks, for, come what will,
God alway has His way."
I once heard of a colored woman who earned a precarious living by daily
labor, but who was a joyous, triumphant Christian. "Ah! Nancy," said a
gloomy Christian lady to her one day, who almost disapproved of her constant
cheerfulness, and yet envied it, -- "ah! Nancy, it is all well enough to be
happy now; but I should think the thoughts of your future would sober you.
Only suppose, for instance, that you should have a spell of sickness and be
unable to work; or suppose your present employers should move away, and no
one else should give you anything to do; or suppose -- " "Stop!" cried
Nancy, "I never supposes. De Lord is my shepherd, and I knows I shall not
want. And, honey," she added to her gloomy friend, "it's all dem supposes as
is makin' you so misable. You'd better give dem all up, and just trust de
There is one text that will take all the "suppose" out of a believer's
life, if only it is received and acted out in a childlike faith; it is in
Heb. 3:5, 6: "Be content, therefore, with such things as ye have; for He
hath said I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee"; so that we may boldly
say, "THE LORD IS MY HELPER, AND I WILL NOT FEAR WHAT MAN SHALL DO
What if dangers of all sorts shall threaten you from every side, and the
malice or foolishness or ignorance of men shall combine to do you harm? You
may face every possible contingency with these triumphant words, "The Lord
is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me." If the Lord is
your helper, how can you fear what man may do unto you? There is no man in
this world, nor company of men, that can touch you, unless your God, in whom
you trust, shall please to let them. "He will not suffer thy foot to be
moved: He that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, He that keepeth Israel
shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is thy keeper; the Lord is thy
shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day nor the moon
by night. The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: He shall preserve thy
soul. The Lord shall preserve thy going out, and thy coming in, from this
time forth, and even for evermore."
Nothing else but this seeing God in everything will make us loving and
patient with those who annoy and trouble us. They will be to us then only
the instruments for accomplishing His tender and wise purposes towards us,
and we shall even find ourselves at last inwardly thanking them for the
blessings they bring us.
Nothing else will completely put an end to all murmuring or rebelling
thoughts. Christians often feel a liberty to murmur against man, when they
would not dare to murmur against God. But this way of receiving things would
make it impossible ever to murmur. If our Father permits a trial to come, it
must be because that trial is the sweetest and best thing that could happen
to us, and we must accept it with thanks from His dear hand. The trial
itself may be hard to flesh and blood, and I do not mean that we can like or
enjoy the suffering of it. But we can and must love the will of God in the
trial, for His will is always sweet, whether it be in joy or in sorrow.
Our trials may be our chariots. We long for some victory over sin and
self, and we ask God to grant it to us. His answer comes in the form of a
trial which He means shall be the chariot to bear us to the longed-for
triumph. We may either let it roll over us and crush us as a Juggernaut car,
or we may mount into it and ride triumphantly onward. Joseph's chariots,
which bore him on to the place of his exaltation, were the trials of being
sold into slavery, and being cast unjustly into prison. Our chariots may be
much more insignificant things than these; they may be nothing but
irritating people or uncomfortable circumstances. But whatever they are, God
means them to be our cars of triumph, which shall bear us onward to the
victories we have prayed for. If we are impatient in our dispositions and
long to be made patient, our chariot will probably be a trying person to
live in the house with us, whose ways or words will rasp our very souls. If
we accept the trial as from God, and bow our necks to the yoke, we shall
find it just the discipline that will most effectually produce in us the
very grace of patience for which we have asked.
God does not order the wrong thing, but He uses it for our blessing;
just as He used the cruelty of Joseph's wicked brethren, and the false
accusations of Pharaoh's wife. In short, this way of seeing our Father in
everything makes life one long thanksgiving, and gives a rest of heart, and
more than that, a gayety of spirit, that is unspeakable. Someone says,
"God's will on earth is always joy, always tranquillity." And since He must
have His own way concerning His children, into what wonderful green pastures
of inward rest, and beside what blessedly still waters of inward
refreshment, is the soul led that learns this secret.
If the will of God is our will, and if He always has His way, then we
always have our way also, and we reign in a perpetual kingdom. He who sides
with God cannot fail to win in every encounter; and whether the result shall
be joy or sorrow, failure or success, death or life, we may, under all
circumstances, join in the apostle's shout of victory, "Thanks be unto God,
which always causeth us to triumph in Christ!"
When the believer has been brought to the point of entire surrender and
perfect trust, and finds himself dwelling and walking in a life of happy
communion and perfect peace, the question naturally arises, "Is this the
end?" I answer emphatically "No, it is only the beginning."
And yet this is so little understood, that one of the greatest
objections made against the advocates of this life of faith, is, that they
do not believe in growth in grace. They are supposed to teach that the soul
arrives at a state of perfection beyond which there is no advance, and that
all the exhortations in the Scripture which point towards growth and
development are rendered void by this teaching.
As exactly the opposite of this is true, I have thought it important
next to consider this subject carefully, that I may, if possible, fully
answer such objections, and may also show what is the scriptural place to
grow in, and how the soul is to grow.
The text which is most frequently quoted is 2 Pet, 3:18, "But grow in
grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." Now this
text exactly expresses what we believe to be God's will for us, and what
also we believe He has made it possible for us to experience. We accept, in
their very fullest meaning, all the commands and promises concerning our
being no more children, and our growing up into Christ in all things, until
we come unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness
of Christ. We rejoice that we need not continue always to be babes, needing
milk; but that we may, by reason of use and development become such as have
need of strong meat, skilful in the word of righteousness, and able to
discern both good and evil. And none would grieve more than we at the
thought of any finality in the Christian life beyond which there could be no
But then we believe in a growing that does really produce maturity, and
in a development that, as a fact, does bring forth ripe fruit. We expect to
reach the aim set before us, and if we do not, we feel sure there must be
some fault in our growing. No parent would be satisfied with the growth of
his child, if, day after day, and year after year, it remained the same
helpless babe it was in the first months of its life; and no farmer would
feel comfortable under such growing of his grain as should stop short at the
blade, and never produce the ear, nor the full corn in the ear. Growth, to
be real, must be progressive, and the days and weeks and months must see a
development and increase of maturity in the thing growing. But is this the
case with a large part of that which is called growth in grace? Does not the
very Christian who is the most strenuous in his longings and in his efforts
after it, too often find that at the end of the year he is not as far on in
his Christian experience as at the beginning, and that his zeal, and his
devotedness, and his separation from the world are not as whole-souled or
complete as when his Christian life first began?
I was once urging upon a company of Christians the privileges and rest
of an immediate and definite step into the land of promise, when a lady of
great intelligence interrupted me, with what she evidently felt to be a
complete rebuttal of all I had been saying, exclaiming, "Ah! but, my dear
friend, I believe in growing in grace." "How long have you been growing?" I
asked. "About twenty-five years," was her answer. "And how much more
unworldly and devoted to the Lord are you now than when you began your
Christian life?" I continued. "Alas!" was the answer, "I fear I am not
nearly so much so"; and with this answer her eyes were opened to see that at
all events her way of growing had not been successful, but quite the
The trouble with her, and every other such case, is simply this, they
are trying to grow into grace, instead of in it. They are like a rosebush
which the gardener should plant in the hard, stony path, with a view to its
growing into the flower-bed, and which would of course dwindle and wither in
consequence, instead of flourishing and maturing. The children of Israel
wandering in the wilderness are a perfect picture of this sort of growing.
They were travelling about for forty years, taking many weary steps, and
finding but little rest from their wanderings, and yet, at the end of it
all, were no nearer the promised land than they were at the beginning. When
they started on their wanderings at Kadesh Barnea, they were at the borders
of the land, and a few steps would have taken them into it.
When they ended their wanderings in the plains of Moab, they were also
at its borders; only with this great difference, that now there was a river
to cross, which at first there would not have been. All their wanderings and
fightings in the wilderness had not put them in possession of one inch of
the promised land. In order to get possession of this land it was necessary
first to be in it; and in order to grow in grace, it is necessary first to
be planted in grace. But when once in the land, their conquest was very
rapid; and when once planted in grace, the growth of the soul in one month
will exceed that of years in any other soil. For grace is a most fruitful
soil, and the plants that grow therein are plants of a marvellous growth.
They are tended by a Divine Husbandman, and are warmed by the Sun of
Righteousness, and watered by the dew from Heaven. Surely it is no wonder
that they bring forth fruit, "some an hundred-fold, some sixty-fold, some
But, it will be asked, what is meant by growing in grace? It is
difficult to answer this question because so few people have any conception
of what the grace of God really is. To say that it is free, unmerited favor,
only expresses a little of its meaning. It is the wondrous, boundless love
of God, poured out upon us without stint or measure, not according to our
deserving, but according to His infinite heart of love, which passeth
knowledge, so unfathomable are its heights and depths. I sometimes think we
give a totally different meaning to the word "love" when it is associated
with God, from that we so well understand in its human application. But if
ever human love was tender and self-sacrificing and devoted; if ever it
could bear and forbear; if ever it could suffer gladly for its loved ones;
if ever it was willing to pour itself out in a lavish abandonment for the
comfort or pleasure of its objects, -- then infinitely more is Divine love
tender and self-sacrificing and devoted, and glad to bear and forbear, and
to suffer, and to lavish its best of gifts and blessings upon the objects of
its love. Put together all the tenderest love you know of, dear reader, the
deepest you have ever felt, and the strongest that has ever been poured out
upon you, and heap upon it all the love of all the loving human hearts in
the world, and then multiply it by infinity, and you will begin perhaps to
have some faint glimpses of what the love of God in Christ Jesus is. And
this is grace. And to be planted in grace is to live in the very heart of
this love, to be enveloped by it, to be steeped in it, to revel in it, to
know nothing else but love only and love always, to grow day by day in the
knowledge of it, and in faith in it, to intrust everything to its care, and
to have no shadow of a doubt but that it will surely order all things well.
To grow in grace is opposed to all self-dependence, to all self-effort,
to all legality of every kind. It is to put our growing, as well as
everything else, into the hands of the Lord, and leave it with Him. It is to
be so satisfied with our Husbandman, and with His skill and wisdom, that not
a question will cross our minds as to His modes of treatment or His plan of
cultivation. It is to grow as the lilies grow, or as the babes grow, without
a care and without anxiety; to grow by the power of an inward life principle
that cannot help but grow; to grow because we live and therefore must grow;
to grow because He who has planted us has planted a growing thing, and has
made us to grow.
Surely this is what our Lord meant when He said "Consider the lilies,
how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you,
that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." Or,
when He says again, "Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto
his stature?" There is no effort in the growing of a child or of a lily.
They do not toil nor spin, they do not stretch nor strain, they do not make
any effort of any kind to grow; they are not conscious even that they are
growing; but by an inward life principle, and through the nurturing care of
God's providence, and the fostering of caretaker or gardener, by the heat of
the sun and the falling of the rain, they grow and grow.
And the result is sure. Even Solomon, our Lord says, in all his glory,
was not arrayed like one of these. Solomon's array cost much toiling and
spinning, and gold and silver in abundance, but the lily's array costs none
of these. And though we may toil and spin to make for ourselves beautiful
spiritual garments, and may strain and stretch in our efforts after
spiritual growth, we shall accomplish nothing; for no man by taking thought
can add one cubit to his stature; and no array of ours can ever equal the
beautiful dress with which the great Husbandman clothes the plants that grow
in His garden of grace and under His fostering care.
If I could but make each one of my readers realize how utterly helpless
we are in this matter of growing, I am convinced a large part of the strain
would be taken out of many lives at once. Imagine a child possessed of the
monomania that he would not grow unless he made some personal effort after
it, and who should insist upon a combination of rope and pulleys whereby to
stretch himself up to the desired height. He might, it is true, spend his
days and years in a weary strain, but after all there would be no change in
the inexorable fact, "No man by taking thought can add one cubit unto his
stature"; and his years of labor would be only wasted, if they did not
really hinder the longed-for end.
Imagine a lily trying to clothe itself in beautiful colors and graceful
lines, stretching its leaves and stems to make them grow, and seeking to
manage the clouds and the sunshine, that its needs might be all judiciously
And yet in these two pictures we have, I conceive, only too true a
picture of what many Christians are trying to do; who, knowing they ought to
grow, and feeling within them an instinct that longs for growth, yet think
to accomplish it by toiling, and spinning, and stretching, and straining,
and pass their lives in such a round of self-effort as is a weariness to
Grow, dear friends, but grow, I beseech you, in God's way, which is the
only effectual way. See to it that you are planted in grace, and then let
the Divine Husbandman cultivate you in His own way and by His own means. Put
yourselves out in the sunshine of His presence, and let the dew of heaven
come down upon you, and see what will come of it. Leaves and flowers and
fruit must surely come in their season, for your Husbandman is a skilful
one, and He never fails in His harvesting. Only see to it that you interpose
no hindrance to the shining of the Sun of Righteousness or the falling of
the dew from Heaven. A very thin covering may serve to keep off the heat or
the moisture, and the plant may wither even in their midst; and the
slightest barrier between your soul and Christ may cause you to dwindle and
fade as a plant in a cellar or under a bushel. Keep the sky clear. Open wide
every avenue of your being to receive the blessed influences our Divine
Husbandman may bring to bear upon you. Bask in the sunshine of His love.
Drink in of the waters of His goodness. Keep your face up-turned to Him.
Look, and your soul shall live.
You need make no efforts to grow; but let your efforts instead be all
concentrated on this, that you abide in the Vine. The Husbandman who has the
care of the vine, will care for its branches also, and will so prune and
purge and water and tend them that they will grow and bring forth fruit, and
their fruit shall remain; and, like the lily, they shall find themselves
arrayed in apparel so glorious that that of Solomon will be as nothing to
What if you seem to yourselves to be planted at this moment in a desert
soil where nothing can grow! Put yourself absolutely into the hands of the
great Husbandman, and He will at once make that desert blossom as the rose,
and will cause springs and fountains of water to start up out of its sandy
wastes; for the promise is sure, that the man who trusts in the Lord "shall
be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the
river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and
shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from
yielding fruit." It is the great prerogative of our Divine Husbandman that
He is able to turn any soil, whatever it may be like, into the soil of
grace, the moment we put our growing into His hands. He does not need to
transplant us into a different field, but right where we are, with just the
circumstances that surround us, He makes His sun to shine and His dew to
fall upon us, and transforms the very things that were before our greatest
hindrances into the chiefest and most blessed means of our growth. I care
not what the circumstances may be, His wonder-working power can accomplish
this. And we must trust Him with it all. Surely He is a Husbandman we can
trust. And if He sends storms, or winds, or rains, or sunshine, all must be
accepted at His hands with the most unwavering confidence that He who has
undertaken to cultivate us, and to bring us to maturity, knows the very best
way of accomplishing His end, and regulates the elements, which are all at
His disposal, expressly with a view to our most rapid growth.
Let me entreat of you, then, to give up all your efforts after growing,
and simply to let yourselves grow. Leave it all to the Husbandman, whose
care it is, and who alone is able to manage it. No difficulties in your case
can baffle Him. No dwarfing of your growth in years that are past, no
apparent dryness of your inward springs of life, no crookedness or deformity
in any of your past development, can in the least mar the perfect work that
He will accomplish, if you will only put yourselves absolutely into His
hands, and let Him have His own way with you. His own gracious promise to
His backsliding children assures you of this. "I will heal their
backslidings," He says: "I will love them freely, for mine anger is turned
away from him. I will be as the dew unto Israel; he shall grow as the lily,
and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his
beauty shall be as the olive-tree, and his smell as Lebanon. They that dwell
under His shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as
the vine; the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon." And again He
says, "Be not afraid, for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the
tree beareth her fruit, the fig-tree and the vine do yield their strength.
And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the fats shall overflow with wine
and oil. And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten; and
ye shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord
your God, who hath dealt wondrously with you; and my people shall never be
Oh! that you could but know just what your Lord meant when He said,
"Consider the lilies, how they grow; for they toil not, neither do they
spin." Surely these words give us a picture of a life and of a growth far
different from the ordinary life and growth of Christians; a life of rest,
and a growth without effort; and yet a life and a growth crowned with
glorious results. And to every soul that will thus become a lily in the
garden of the Lord, and will grow as the lilies grow, the same glorious
array will be surely given as is given them; and they will know the
fulfilment of that wonderful mystical passage concerning their Beloved, that
"He feedeth among the lilies."
This is the sort of growth in grace in which we who have entered into
the life of full trust believe: a growth which brings the desired results,
which blossoms out into flower and fruit, and becomes a tree planted by the
rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; whose leaf
also does not wither, and who prospers in whatsoever he doeth. And we
rejoice to know that there are growing up now in the Lord's heritage many
such plants, who, as the lilies behold the face of the sun and grow thereby,
are, by beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, being changed into
the same image from glory to glory, even as by the spirit of the Lord.
Should you ask such, how it is that they grow so rapidly and with such
success, their answer would be that they are not concerned about their
growing, and are hardly conscious that they do grow; that their Lord has
told them to abide in Him, and has promised that if they do thus abide, they
shall certainly bring forth much fruit; and that they are concerned only
about the abiding, which is their part, and leave the cultivating and the
growing and the training and pruning to their good Husbandman, who alone is
able to manage these things or bring them about. You will find that such
souls are not engaged in watching self, but in looking unto Jesus. They do
not toil nor spin for their spiritual garments, but leave themselves in the
hands of the Lord to be arrayed as it may please Him. Self-effort and
self-dependence are at an end with them. Their interest in self is gone,
transferred over into the hands of another. Self has become really nothing,
and Christ alone is all in all to such as these. And the blessed result is,
that not even Solomon, in all his glory, was arrayed like these shall be.
Let us look at this subject practically. We all know that growing is
not a thing of effort, but is the result of an inward life, a principle of
growth. All the stretching and pulling in the world could not make a dead
oak grow. But a live oak grows without stretching. It is plain, therefore,
that the essential thing is to get within you the growing life, and then you
cannot help but grow. And this life is the life hid with Christ in God, the
wonderful divine life of an indwelling Holy Ghost. Be filled with this, dear
believer, and, whether you are conscious of it or not, you must grow, you
cannot help growing. Do not trouble about your growing, but see to it that
you have the growing life. Abide in the Vine. Let the life from Him flow
through all your spiritual veins. Interpose no barrier to His mighty
life-giving power, working in you all the good pleasure of His will. Yield
yourself up utterly to His sweet control. Put your growing into His hands,
as completely as you have put all your other affairs. Suffer Him to manage
it as He will. Do not concern yourself about it, nor even think of it. Trust
Him absolutely, and always. Accept each moment's dispensation as it comes to
you, from His dear hands, as being the needed sunshine or dew for that
moment's growth. Say a continual "Yes" to your Father's will.
Heretofore you have perhaps tried, as so many do, to be both the lily
and the gardener, both the vineyard and the husbandman. You have taken upon
your shoulders the burdens and responsibilities that belong only to the
Divine Husbandman, and which He alone is able to bear. Henceforth consent to
take your rightful place and to be only what you really are. Say to
yourself, If I am the garden only, and not the gardener, if I am the vine
only, and not the husbandman, it is surely essential to my right growth and
well being that I should keep the place and act the part of the garden, and
should not usurp the gardener's place, nor try to act the gardener's part.
Do not seek then to choose your own soil, nor the laying out of your
borders; do not plant your own seeds, nor dig about, nor prune, nor watch
over your own vines. Be content with what the Divine Husbandman arranges for
you, and with the care He gives. Let Him choose the sort of plants and
fruits He sees best to cultivate, and grow a potato as gladly as a rose, if
such be His will, and homely everyday virtues as willingly as exalted
fervors. Be satisfied with the seasons He sends, with the sunshine and rain
He gives, with the rapidity or slowness of your growth, in short, with all
His dealings and processes, no matter how little we may comprehend them.
There is infinite repose in this. As the viole rests in its little
nook, receiving contentedly its daily portion satisfied to let rains fall,
and suns rise, and the earth to whirl, without one anxious pang, so must we
repose in the present as God gives it to us, accepting contentedly our daily
portion, and with no anxiety as to all that may be whirling around us, in
His great creative and redemptive plan.
The wind that blows can never kill
The tree God plants;
It bloweth east, it bloweth west,
The tender leaves have little rest,
But any wind that blows is best.
The tree God plants
Strikes deeper root, grows higher still,
Spreads wider boughs, for God's good-will
Meets all its wants.
There is no frost hath power to blight
The tree God shields;
The roots are warm beneath soft snows,
And when spring comes it surely knows,
And every bud to blossom grows.
The tree God shields
Grows on apace by day and night,
Till, sweet to taste and fair to sight,
Its fruit it yields.
There is no storm hath power to blast
The tree God knows;
No thunder-bolt, nor beating rain,
Nor lightning flash, nor hurricane;
When they are spent it doth remain.
The tree God knows
Through every tempest standeth fast,
And, from its first day to its last,
Still fairer grows.
If in the soul's still garden-place
A seed God sows --
A little seed -- it soon will grow,
And far and near all men will know
For heavenly land He bids it blow.
A seed God sows,
And up it springs by day and night;
Through life, through death, it groweth right,
There is, perhaps, no part of Christian experience where a greater change is
known upon entering into the life hid with Christ in God, than in the matter
of service. In all the lower forms of Christian life, service is apt to have
more or less of bondage in it; that is, it is one purely as a matter of
duty, and often as a trial and a cross. Certain things, which at the first
may have been a joy and delight, become weary tasks, performed faithfully,
perhaps, but with much secret disinclination, and many confessed or
unconfessed wishes that they need not be done at all, or at least that they
need not be done so often. The soul finds itself saying, instead of the "May
I" of love, the "Must I" of duty. The yoke, which was at first easy, begins
to gall, and the burden feels heavy instead of light.
One dear Christian expressed it once to me in this way. "When I was
first converted," she said, "I was so full of joy and love that I was only
too glad and thankful to be allowed to do anything for my Lord, and I
eagerly entered every open door. But after a while, as my early joy faded
away, and my love burned less fervently, I began to wish I had not been
quite so eager; for I found myself involved in lines of service which were
gradually becoming very distasteful and burdensome to me. I could not very
well give them up, since I had begun them, without exciting great remark,
and yet I longed to do so increasingly. I was expected to visit the sick,
and pray beside their beds. I was expected to attend prayer-meetings, and
speak at them. I was expected to be always ready for every effort in
Christian work, and the sense of these expectations bowed me down
continually. At last it became so unspeakably burdensome to me to live the
sort of Christian life I had entered upon, and was expected by all around me
to live, that I felt as if any kind of manual labor would have been easier,
and I would have preferred, infinitely, scrubbing all day on my hands and
knees, to being compelled to go through the treadmill of my daily Christian
work. I envied," she said, "the servants in the kitchen, and the women at
This may seem to some like a strong statement: but does it not present
a vivid picture of some of your own experiences, dear Christian? Have you
never gone to your work as a slave to his daily task, knowing it to be your
duty, and that therefore you must do it, but rebounding like an india-rubber
ball back into your real interests and pleasures the moment your work was
Of course you have known this was the wrong way to feel, and have been
ashamed of it from the bottom of your heart, but still you have seen no way
to help it. You have not loved your work, and, could you have done so with
an easy conscience, you would have been glad to have given it up altogether.
Or, if this does not describe your case, perhaps another picture will.
You do love your work in the abstract; but, in the doing of it, you find so
many cares and responsibilities connected with it, so many misgivings and
doubts as to your own capacity or fitness, that it becomes a very heavy
burden, and you go to it bowed down and weary, before the labor has even
begun. Then also you are continually distressing yourself about the results
of your work, and greatly troubled if they are not just what you would like,
and this of itself is a constant burden.
Now from all these forms of bondage the soul is entirely delivered that
enters fully into the blessed life of faith. In the first place, service of
any sort becomes delightful to it, because, having surrendered its will into
the keeping of the Lord, He works in it to will and to do of His good
pleasure, and the soul finds itself really wanting to do the things God
wants it to do. It is always very pleasant to do the things we want to do,
let them be ever so difficult of accomplishment, or involve ever so much of
bodily weariness. If a man's will is really set on a thing, he regards with
a sublime indifference the obstacles that lie in the way of his reaching it,
and laughs to himself at the idea of any opposition or difficulties
hindering him. How many men have gone gladly and thankfully to the ends of
the world in search of worldly fortunes, or to fulfil worldly ambitions, and
have scorned the thoughts of any cross connected with it! How many mothers
have congratulated themselves and rejoiced over the honor done their sons in
being promoted to some place of power and usefulness in their country's
service, although it has involved perhaps years of separation, and a life of
hardship for their dear ones? And yet these same men and these very mothers
would have felt and said that they were taking up crosses too heavy almost
to be borne, had the service of Christ required the same sacrifice of home,
and friends, and worldly ease. It is altogether the way we look at things,
whether we think they are crosses or not. And I am ashamed to think that any
Christian should ever put on a long face and shed tears over doing a thing
for Christ, which a worldly man would be only too glad to do for money.
What we need in the Christian life is to get believers to want to do
God's will, as much as other people want to do their own will. And this is
the idea of the Gospel. It is what God intended for us; and it is what He
has promised. In describing the new covenant in Heb. 8:6-13, He says it
shall no more be the old covenant made on Sinai, that is, a law given from
the outside, controlling a man by force, but it shall be a law written
within constraining a man by love. "I will put my laws," He says, "in their
mind, and write them in their hearts." This can mean nothing but that we
shall love His law, for anything written on our hearts we must love. And
putting it into our minds is surely the same as God working in us to "will
and to do of His good pleasure," and means that we shall will what God
wills, and shall obey His sweet commands, not because it is our duty to do
so, but because we ourselves want to do what He wants us to do. Nothing
could possibly be conceived more effectual than this. How often have we
thought when dealing with our children, "Oh, if I could only get inside of
them and make them want to do just what I want, how easy it would be to
manage them then!" And how often practically in experience we have found
that, to deal with cross-grained people, we must carefully avoid suggesting
our wishes to them, but must in some way induce them to suggest them
themselves, sure that then there will be no opposition to contend with. And
we, who are by nature a stiff-necked people, always rebel more or less
against a law from outside of us, while we joyfully embrace the same law
springing up within.
God's plan for us therefore is to get possession of the inside of a
man, to take the control and management of his will, and to work it for him;
and then obedience is easy and a delight, and service becomes perfect
freedom, until the Christian is forced to exclaim, "This happy service! Who
could dream earth had such liberty?"
What you need to do then, dear Christian, if you are in bondage, is to
put your will over completely into the hands of your Lord, surrendering to
Him the entire control of it. Say, "Yes, Lord, YES!" to everything; and
trust Him so to work in you to will, as to bring your whole wishes and
affections into conformity with His own sweet and lovable and most lovely
will. I have seen this done over and over, in cases where it looked
beforehand an utterly impossible thing. In one case, where a lady had been
for years rebelling fearfully against a thing which she knew was right, but
which she hated, I saw her, out of the depths of despair and without any
feeling, give her will in that matter up into the hands of her Lord, and
begin to say to Him, "Thy will be done; thy will be done!" And in one short
hour that very thing began to look sweet and precious to her. It is
wonderful what miracles God works in wills that are utterly surrendered to
Him. He turns hard things into easy, and bitter things into sweet. It is not
that He puts easy things in the place of the hard, but He actually changes
the hard thing into an easy one. And this is salvation. It is grand. Do try
it, you who are going about your daily Christian living as to a hard and
weary task, and see if your divine Master will not transform the very life
you live now as a bondage, into the most delicious liberty!
Or again, if you do love His will in the abstract, but find the doing
of it hard and burdensome, from this also there is deliverance in the
wonderful life of faith. For in this life no burdens are carried, nor
anxieties felt. The Lord is our burden-bearer, and upon Him we must lay off
every care. He says, in effect, Be careful for nothing, but just make your
requests known to Me, and I will attend to them all. Be careful for nothing,
He says, not even your service. Above all, I should think, our service,
because we know ourselves to be so utterly helpless in this, that even if we
were careful, it would not amount to anything. What have we to do with
thinking whether we are fit or not! The Master-workman surely has a right to
use any tool He pleases for His own work, and it is plainly not the business
of the tool to decide whether it is the right one to be used or not. He
knows; and if He chooses to use us, of course we must be fit. And in truth,
if we only knew it, our chiefest fitness is in our utter helplessness. His
strength can only be made perfect in our weakness. I can give you a
convincing illustration of this.
I was once visiting an idiot asylum and looking at the children going
through dumb-bell exercises. Now we all know that it is a very difficult
thing for idiots to manage their movements. They have strength enough,
generally, but no skill to use this strength, and as a consequence cannot do
much. And in these dumb-bell exercises this deficiency was very apparent.
They made all sorts of awkward movements. Now and then, by a happy chance,
they would make a movement in harmony with the music and the teacher's
directions, but for the most part all was out of harmony. One little girl,
however, I noticed, who made perfect movements. Not a jar nor a break
disturbed the harmony of her exercises. And the reason was, not that she had
more strength than the others, but that she had no strength at all. She
could not so much as close her hands over the dumb-bells, nor lift her arms,
and the master had to stand behind her and do it all. She yielded up her
members as instruments to him, and his strength was made perfect in her
weakness. He knew how to go through those exercises, for he himself had
planned them, and therefore when he did it, it was done right. She did
nothing but yield herself up utterly into his hands, and he did it all. The
yielding was her part, the responsibility was all his. It was not her skill
that was needed to make harmonious movements, but only his. The question was
not of her capacity, but of his. Her utter weakness was her greatest
strength. And if this is a picture of our Christian life, it is no wonder
that Paul could say, "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my
infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." Who would not glory
in being so utterly weak and helpless, that the Lord Jesus Christ should
find no hindrance to the perfect working of His mighty power through us and
Then, too, if the work is His, the responsibility is His, and we have
no room left for worrying about it. Everything in reference to it is known
to Him, and He can manage it all. Why not leave it all with Him then, and
consent to be treated like a child and guided where to go. It is a fact that
the most effectual workers I know are those who do not feel the least care
or anxiety about their work, but who commit it all to their dear Master,
and, asking Him to guide them moment by moment in reference to it, trust Him
implicitly for each moment's needed supplies of wisdom and of strength. To
see such, you would almost think perhaps that they were too free from care,
where such mighty interests are at stake. But when you have learned God's
secret of trusting, and see the beauty and the power of that life which is
yielded up to His working, you will cease to condemn, and will begin to
wonder how any of God's workers can dare to carry burdens, or assume
responsibilities which He alone is able to bear.
There are one or two other bonds of service from which this life of
trust delivers us. We find out that we are not responsible for all the work
in the world. The commands cease to be general, and become personal and
individual. The Master does not map out a general course of action for us
and leave us to get along through it by our own wisdom and skill as best we
may, but He leads us step by step, giving us each hour the special guidance
needed for that hour. His blessed Spirit dwelling in us, brings to our
remembrance at the time the necessary command; so that we do not need to
take any thought ahead but simply to take each step as it is made known to
us, following our Lord whithersoever He leads us. "The steps of a good man
are ordered of the Lord" not his way only, but each separate step in that
way. Many Christians make the mistake of expecting to receive God's commands
all in a lump, as it were. They think because He tells them to give a tract
to one person in a railway train, for instance, that He means them always to
give tracts to everybody, and they burden themselves with an impossible
There was a young Christian once, who, because the Lord had sent her to
speak a message to one soul whom she met in a walk, took it as a general
command for always, and thought she must speak to every one she met about
their souls. This was, of course, impossible, and as a consequence she was
soon in hopeless bondage about it. She became absolutely afraid to go
outside of her own door, and lived in perpetual condemnation. At last she
disclosed her distress to a friend who was instructed in the ways of God
with His servants, and this friend told her she was making a great mistake;
that the Lord had His own especial work for each especial workman, and that
the servants in a well-regulated household might as well each one take it
upon himself to try and do the work of all the rest, as for the Lord's
servants to think they were each one under obligation to do everything. He
told her just to put herself under the Lord's personal guidance as to her
work, and trust Him to point out to her each particular person to whom He
would have her speak, assuring her that He never puts forth His own sheep
without going before them, and making a way for them Himself. She followed
this advice, and laid the burden of her work on the Lord, and the result was
a happy pathway of daily guidance, in which she was led into much blessed
work for her Master, but was able to do it all without a care or a burden,
because He led her out and prepared the way before her.
Putting ourselves into God's hands in this way, seems to me just like
making the junction between the machinery and the steam engine. The power is
not in the machinery, but in the steam; disconnected from the engine, the
machinery is perfectly useless; but let the connection be made, and the
machinery goes easily and without effort, because of the mighty power there
is behind it. Thus the Christian life becomes an easy, natural life when it
is the development of the divine working within. Most Christians live on a
strain, because their wills are not fully in harmony with the will of God,
the connection is not perfectly made at every point, and it requires an
effort to move the machinery. But when once the connection is fully made,
and the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus can work in us with all
its mighty power, we are then indeed made free from the law of sin and
death, and shall know the glorious liberty of the children of God. We shall
lead frictionless lives.
Another form of bondage as to service, from which the life of faith
delivers the soul, is in reference to the after-reflections which always
follow any Christian work. These self-reflections are of two sorts. Either
the soul congratulates itself upon its success, and is lifted up; or it is
distressed over its failure, and is utterly cast down. One of these is sure
to come, and of the two I think the first is the more to be dreaded,
although the last causes at the time the greater suffering. But in the life
of trust, neither will trouble us; for, having committed ourselves and our
work to the Lord, we will be satisfied to leave it to Him, and will not
think about ourselves in the matter at all.
Years ago I came across this sentence in an old book: "Never indulge,
at the close of an action, in any self-reflective acts of any kind, whether
of self-congratulation or of self-despair. Forget the things that are
behind, the moment they are past, leaving them with God." It has been of
unspeakable value to me. When the temptation comes, as it always does, to
indulge in these reflections, either of one sort or the other, I turn from
them at once, and positively refuse to think about my work at all, leaving
it with the Lord to overrule the mistakes, and to, bless it as He chooses.
To sum it all up then, what is needed for happy and effectual service
is simply to put your work into the Lord's hands, and leave it there. Do not
take it to Him in prayer, saying, "Lord, guide me; Lord, give me wisdom;
Lord, arrange for me," and then arise from your knees, and take the burden
all back, and try to guide and arrange for yourself. Leave it with the Lord,
and remember that what you trust to Him, you must not worry over nor feel
anxious about. Trust and worry cannot go together. If your work is a burden,
it is because you are not trusting it to Him. But if you do trust it to Him,
you will surely find that the yoke He puts upon you is easy, and the burden
He gives you to carry is light, and even in the midst of a life of ceaseless
activity you shall find rest to your soul.
But some may say that this teaching would make us into mere puppets. I
answer, No, it would simply make us into servants. It is required of a
servant, not that he shall plan, or arrange, or decide, or supply the
necessary material, but simply and only that he shall obey. It is for the
Master to do all the rest. The servant is not responsible, either, for
results. The Master alone knows what results he wished to have produced, and
therefore he alone can judge of them. Intelligent service will, of course,
include some degree of intelligent sympathy with the thoughts and plans of
the Master, but after all there cannot be a full comprehension, and the
responsibility cannot be transferred from the Master's shoulders to the
servant's. And in our case, where our outlook is so limited and our
ignorance so great, we can do very little more than be in harmony with the
will of our Divine Master, without expecting to comprehend it very fully,
and we must leave all the results with Him. What looks to us like failure on
the seen side, is often, on the unseen side, the most glorious success; and
if we allow ourselves to lament and worry, we shall often be doing the
foolish and useless thing of weeping where we ought to be singing and
Far better is it to refuse utterly to indulge in any self-reflective
acts at all; to refuse, in fact, to think about self in any way, whether for
good or evil. We are not our own property, nor our own business. We belong
to God, and are His instruments and His business; and since He always
attends to His own business, He will of course attend to us.
I heard once of a slave who was on board a vessel in a violent storm,
and who was whistling contentedly while every one else was in an agony of
terror. At last someone asked him if he was not afraid he would be drowned.
He replied with a broad grin, "Well, missus, s'pose I is. I don't b'long to
myself, and it will only be massa's loss any how."
Something of this spirit would deliver us from many of our perplexities
and sufferings in service. And with a band of servants thus abandoned to our
Master's use and to His care, what might He not accomplish? Truly one such
would "chase a thousand, and two would put ten thousand to flight"; and
nothing would be impossible to them. For it is nothing with the Lord "to
help, whether with many or with them that have no power."
May God raise up such an army speedily!
And may you, my dear reader enroll your name in this army today and,
yielding yourself unto God as one who is alive from the dead, may every one
of your members be also yielded unto Him as instruments of righteousness, to
be used by Him as He pleases.
DIFFICULTIES CONCERNING GUIDANCE
You have now begun, dear reader, the life of faith. You have given yourself
to the Lord to be His wholly and altogether, and He has taken you and has
begun to mould and fashion you into a vessel unto His honor. Your one most
earnest desire is to be very pliable in His hands, and to follow Him
whithersoever He may lead you, and you are trusting Him to work in you to
will and to do of His good pleasure. But you find a great difficulty here.
You have not learned yet to know the voice of the Good Shepherd, and are
therefore in great doubt and perplexity as to what really is His will
Perhaps there are certain paths into which God seems to be calling you,
of which your friends utterly disapprove. And these friends, it may be, are
older than yourself in the Christian life, and seem to you also to be much
further advanced. You can scarcely bear to differ from them or distress
them; and you feel also very diffident of yielding to any seeming
impressions of duty of which they do not approve. And yet you cannot get rid
of these impressions, and you are plunged into great doubt and uneasiness.
There is a way out of all these difficulties, to the fully surrendered
soul. I would repeat, fully surrendered, because if there is any reserve of
will upon any point, it becomes almost impossible to find out the mind of
God in reference to that point; and therefore the first thing is to be sure
that you really do purpose to obey the Lord in every respect. If however
this is the case, and your soul only needs to know the will of God in order
to consent to it, then you surely cannot doubt His willingness to make His
will known, and to guide you in the right paths. There are many very clear
promises in reference to this. Take, for instance, John 10:3, 4: "He calleth
His own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when He putteth forth His
own sheep He goeth before them, and the sheep follow Him, for they know His
voice." Or, John 14:26: "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom
the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring
all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." Or, James
1:5, 6: "If any of you lack wisdom, let Him ask of God, that giveth to all
men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." With such
passages as these, and many more like them, we must believe that Divine
guidance is promised to us, and our faith must confidently look for and
expect it. This is essential; for in James 1:6, 7, we are told, "Let him ask
in faith nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea,
driven with the wind and tossed. For let not such a man think that he shall
receive anything of the Lord."
Settle this point then first of all, that Divine guidance has been
promised, and that you are sure to have it, if you ask for it; and let no
suggestion of doubt turn you from this.
Next, you must remember that our God has all knowledge and all wisdom,
and that therefore it is very possible He may guide you into paths wherein
He knows great blessings are awaiting you, but which to the short-sighted
human eyes around you seem sure to result in confusion and loss. You must
recognize the fact that God's thoughts are not as man's thoughts, nor His
ways as man's ways; and that He who knows the end of things from the
beginning, alone can judge of what the results of any course of action may
be. You must therefore realize that His very love for you may perhaps lead
you to run counter to the loving wishes of even your dearest friends. You
must learn from Luke 14:26-33, and similar passages, that in order, not to
be saved only, but to be a disciple or follower of your Lord, you may
perhaps be called upon to forsake all that you have, and to turn your backs
on even father or mother, or brother or sister, or husband or wife, or it
may be your own life also. Unless the possibility of this is clearly
recognized, the soul would be very likely to get into difficulty, because it
often happens that the child of God who enters upon this life of obedience
is sooner or later led into paths which meet with the disapproval of those
he best loves; and unless he is prepared for this, and can trust the Lord
through it all, he will scarcely know what to do.
All this, it will of course be understood, is perfectly in harmony with
those duties of honor and love which we owe to one another in the various
relations of life. The nearer we are to Christ, the more shall we be enabled
to exemplify the meekness and gentleness of our Lord, and the more tender
will be our consideration for those who are our natural guardians and
counsellors. The Master's guidance will always manifest itself by the
Master's Spirit, and where, in obedience to Him, we are led to act contrary
to the advice or wishes of our friends, we shall prove that this is our
motive, by the love and patience which will mark our conduct.
But this point having been settled, we come now to the question as to
how God's guidance is to come to us, and how we shall be able to know His
There are four especial ways in which God speaks: by the voice of
Scripture, the voice of the inward impressions of the Holy Spirit, the voice
of our own higher judgment, and the voice of providential circumstances.
Where these four harmonize, it is safe to say that God speaks. For I
lay it down as a foundation principle, which no one can gainsay, that of
course His voice will always be in harmony with itself, no matter in how
many different ways He may speak. The voices may be many, the message can be
but one. If God tells me in one voice to do or to leave undone anything, He
cannot possibly tell me the opposite in another voice. If there is a
contradiction in the voices, the speaker cannot be the same. Therefore, my
rule for distinguishing the voice of God would be to bring it to the test of
If I have an impression, therefore, I must see if it is in accordance
with Scripture, and whether it commends itself to my own higher judgment,
and also whether, as we Quakers say, "way opens" for its carrying out. If
either one of these tests fail, it is not safe to proceed; but I must wait
in quiet trust until the Lord shows me the point of harmony, which He surely
will, sooner or later, if it is His voice that has spoken.
For we must not overlook the fact that there are other voices that
speak to the soul. There is the loud and clamoring voice of self, that is
always seeking to be heard. And there are the voices, too, of evil and
deceiving spirits, who lie in wait to entrap every traveller entering these
higher regions of the spiritual life. In the same epistle which tells us
that we are seated in "heavenly places in Christ" (Eph. 2:6), we are also
told that we shall have to fight there with spiritual enemies (Eph. 6:12).
These spiritual enemies, whoever or whatever they may be, must necessarily
communicate with us by means of our spiritual faculties, and their voices,
therefore, will be, as the voice of God is, an inward impression made upon
Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit may tell us, by impressions, what is
the will of God concerning us, so also will these spiritual enemies tell us,
by impressions, what is their will concerning us, though not of course
giving it their name. It is very plain, therefore, that we must have some
test or standard by which to try these inward impressions, in order that we
may know whose voice it is that is speaking. And that test will always be
the harmony to which I have referred. Sometimes, under a mistaken idea of
exalting the Divine Spirit, earnest and honest Christians have ignored and
even violated the teachings of Scripture, have disregarded the plain
pointings of Providence, and have outraged their own higher judgment. God,
who sees the sincerity of their hearts, can and does pity and forgive, but
the consequences as to this life are often very sad.
Our first test, therefore, of the Divine authority of any voice which
may seem to speak to us, must be its harmony in moral character with the
mind and will of God, as revealed to us in the Gospel of Christ. Whatever is
contrary to this, cannot be Divine, because God cannot contradict Himself.
Until we have found and obeyed God's will in reference to any subject,
as it is revealed in the Bible, we cannot expect a separate direct personal
revelation. A great many fatal mistakes are made in this matter of guidance,
by the overlooking of this simple rule. Where our Father has written out for
us plain directions about anything, He will not, of course, make an especial
revelation to us concerning it. No man, for instance, needs or could expect
any direct revelation to tell him not to steal, because God has already in
the Scriptures plainly declared His will about it. This seems such an
obvious thing that I would not speak of it, but that I have frequently met
with Christians who have altogether overlooked it, and have gone off into
fanaticism as the result. For the Scriptures are far more explicit even
about details than most people think. And there are not many important
affairs in life for which a clear direction may not be found in God's book.
Take the matter of dress, and we have 1 Pet. 3:3, 4 , and 1 Tim. 2:9, 10.
Take the matter of conversation, and we have Eph. 4:29, and 5:4. Take the
matter of avenging injuries and standing up for your rights, and we have
Rom. 12:19, 20, 21, and Matt. 5:38-48, and 1 Pet. 2:19-21. Take the matter
of forgiving one another, and we have Eph. 4:32 and Mark 11:25, 26. Take the
matter of conformity to the world, and we have Rom. 12:2, and 1 John
2:15-17, and James 4:4. Take the matter of anxieties of all kind, and we
have Matt. 6:25-34, and Phil. 4:6, 7.
I only give these as examples to show how very full and practical the
Bible guidance is. If, therefore, you find yourself in perplexity, first of
all search and see whether the Bible speaks on the point in question, asking
God to make plain to you by the power of His Spirit, through the Scripture,
what is His mind. And whatever shall seem to you to be plainly taught there,
that you must obey.
When we read and meditate upon this record of God's mind and will, with
our understandings thus illuminated by the inspiring Spirit, our obedience
will be as truly an obedience to a present, living word, as though it were
afresh spoken to us today by our Lord from Heaven. The Bible is not only an
ancient message from God sent to us many ages ago, but it is a present
message sent to us now each time we read it. "The words that I speak unto
you, they are spirit, and they are life," and obedience to these words now
is a living obedience to a present and personal command.
But it is essential in this connection to remember that the Bible is a
book of principles, and not a book of disjointed aphorisms. Isolated texts
may often be made to sanction things, to which the principles of Scripture
are totally opposed. I heard not long ago of a Christian woman in a Western
meeting, who, having had the text, "For we walk by faith, and not by sight,"
brought very vividly before her mind, felt a strong impression that it was a
command to be literally obeyed in the outward; and, blindfolding her eyes,
insisted on walking up and down the aisle of the meeting-house, as an
illustration of the walk of faith. She very soon stumbled and fell against
the stove, burning herself seriously, and then wondered at the mysterious
dispensation. The principles of Scripture, and her own sanctified
common-sense, if applied to this case, would have saved her from the
The second test, therefore, to which our impressions must be brought,
is that of our own higher judgment, or common-sense.
It is as true now as in the days when Solomon wrote, that a "man of
understanding shall attain unto wise counsels"; and his exhortation still
continues binding upon us: "Wisdom is the principal thing, therefore get
wisdom; and with all thy getting, get understanding."
As far as I can see, the Scriptures everywhere make it an essential
thing for the children of God to use all the faculties which have been given
them, in their journey through this world. They are to use their outward
faculties for their outward walk, and their inward faculties for their
inward walk. And they might as well expect to be "kept" from dashing their
feet against a stone in the outward, if they walk blindfold, as to be "kept"
from spiritual stumbling, if they put aside their judgment and common-sense
in their interior life.
I asked a Christian of "sound mind" lately how she distinguished
between the voice of false spirits and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and
she replied promptly, "I rap them over the head, and see if they have any
Some, however, may say here, "But I thought we were not to depend on
our human understanding in Divine things." I answer to this, that we are not
to depend on our unenlightened human understanding, but upon our human
judgment and common-sense, enlightened by the Spirit of God. That is, God
will speak to us through the faculties He has Himself given us, and not
independently of them. That is, just as we are to use our eyes when we walk,
no matter how full of faith we may be, so also we are to use our mental
faculties in our inward life.
The third and last test to which our impressions must be brought is
that of providential circumstances. If a "leading" is of God, way will
always open for it. Our Lord assures us of this when He says in John 10:4,
"And when He putteth forth His own sheep he goeth before them, and the sheep
follow Him, for they know his voice." Notice here the expression "goeth
before," and "follow." He goes before to open a way, and we are to follow in
the way thus opened. It is never a sign of a Divine leading when the
Christian insists on opening his own way, and riding rough-shod over all
opposing things. If the Lord "goes before" us, He will open all doors for
us, and we shall not need ourselves to hammer them down.
The fourth point I would make is this: that, just as our impressions
must be tested, as I have shown, by the other three voices, so must these
other voices be tested by our inward impressions; and if we feel a "stop in
our minds" about anything, we must wait until that is removed before acting.
A Christian who had advanced with unusual rapidity in the Divine life, gave
me as her secret this simple receipt: "I always mind the checks." We must
not ignore the voice of our inward impressions, nor ride rough-shod over
them, any more than we must the other three voices of which I have spoken.
These four voices, then, will always be found to agree in any truly
Divine leading, i.e., the voice of our impressions, the voice of Scripture,
the voice of our own sanctified judgment, and the voice of providential
circumstances; and where these four do not all agree at first, we must wait
until they do.
A divine sense of "oughtness," derived from the harmony of all God's
various voices, is the only safe foundation for any action.
And now I have guarded the points of danger, do permit me to let myself
out for a little to the blessedness and joy of this direct communication of
God's will to us. It seems to me to be the grandest of privileges. In the
first place, that God should love me enough to care about the details of my
life is perfectly wonderful. And then that He should be willing to tell me
all about it, and to let me know just now to live and walk so as to
perfectly please Him, seems almost too good to be true. We never care about
the little details of people's lives unless we love them. It is a matter of
indifference to us with the majority of people we meet, as to what they do
or how they spend their time; but as soon as we begin to love any one, we
begin at once to care. That God cares, therefore, is just a precious proof
of His love; and it is most blessed to have Him speak to us about everything
in our lives, about our duties, about our pleasures, about our friendships,
about our occupations, about all that we do, or think, or say. You must know
this in your own experience, dear reader, if you would come into the full
joy and privilege of this life hid with Christ in God, for it is one of it
most precious gifts!
God's promise is, that He will work in us to will as well as to do of
His good pleasure. This, of course, means that He will take possession of
our will, and work it for us, and that His suggestions will come to us, not
so much commands from the outside, as desires springing up within. They will
originate in our will; we shall feel as though we wanted to do so and so,
not as though we must. And this makes it a service of perfect liberty; for
it is always easy to do what we desire to do, let the accompanying
circumstances be as difficult as they may. Every mother knows that she could
secure perfect and easy obedience in her child, if she could only get into
that child's will and work it for him, making him want himself to do the
things she willed he should. And this is what our Father does for His
children in the new dispensation; He writes His laws on our hearts and on
our minds, and we love them, and are drawn to our obedience by our
affections and judgment, not driven by our fears.
The way in which the Holy Spirit, therefore, usually works in His
direct guidance is to impress upon the mind a wish or desire to do or leave
undone certain things.
The soul when engaged, perhaps, in prayer, feels a sudden suggestion
made to its inmost consciousness in reference to a certain point of duty. "I
would like to do this or the other," it thinks, "I wish I could." Or perhaps
the suggestion may come as question, "I wonder whether I had not better do
so and so?" Or it may be only at first in the way of a conviction that such
is the right and best thing to be done.
At once the matter should be committed to the Lord, with an instant
consent of the will to obey Him; and if the suggestion is in accordance with
the Scriptures, and a sanctified judgment, and with Providential
circumstances, an immediate obedience is the safest and easiest course. At
the moment when the Spirit speaks, it is always easy to obey; if the soul
hesitates and begins to reason, it becomes more and more difficult
continually. As a general rule, the first convictions are the right ones in
a fully surrendered heart; for God is faithful in His dealings with us, and
will cause His voice to be heard before any other voices. Such convictions,
therefore, should never be met by reasoning. Prayer and trust are the only
safe attitudes of the soul; and even these should be but momentary, as it
were, lest the time for action should pass and the blessing be missed.
If, however, the suggestion does not seem quite clear enough to act
upon, and doubt and perplexity ensue, especially if it is something about
which one's friends hold a different opinion, then we shall need to wait for
further light. The Scripture rule is, "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin";
which means plainly that we must never act in doubt. A clear conviction of
right is the only safe guide. But we must wait in faith, and in an attitude
of entire surrender, saying, "Yes," continually to the will of our Lord,
whatever it may be. I believe the lack of a will thus surrendered lies at
the root of many of our difficulties; and next to this lies the want of
faith in any real Divine guidance. God's children are amazingly skeptical
here. They read the promises and they feel the need, but somehow they cannot
seem to believe the guidance will be given to them; as if God should want us
to obey His voice, but did not know how to make us hear and understand Him.
It is, therefore, very possible for God to speak, but for the soul not to
hear, because it does not believe He is speaking. No earthly parent or
master could possibly guide his children or servants, if they should refuse
to believe he was speaking, and should not accept his voice as being really
the expression of his will.
God, who at sundry times and in manners many,
Spake to the fathers and is speaking still,
Eager to see if ever or if any
Souls will obey and hearken to His will.
Every moment of our lives our Father is seeking to reveal Himself to
us. "I that speak unto thee am He. I that speak in thy heart, I that speak
in thy outward circumstances, I that speak in thy losses, I that speak in
thy gains, I that speak in thy sorrows or in thy joys, I that speak
everywhere and in everything, am He."
We must, therefore, have perfect confidence that the Lord's voice is
speaking to us to teach and lead us, and that He will give us the wisdom
needed for our right guidance; and when we have asked for light, we must
accept our strongest conviction of "oughtness" as being the guidance we have
A few rules will help us here.
I. We must believe that God will guide us.
II. We must surrender our own will to His guidance.
III. We must hearken for the Divine voice.
IV. We must wait for the divine harmony.
V. When we are sure of the guidance, we must obey without question.
God only is the creature's home;
Though rough and strait the rod,
Yet nothing less can satisfy
The love that longs, for God.
How little of that road, my soul!
How little hast thou gone!
Take heart, and let the thought of God
Allure thee further on.
The perfect way is hard to flesh;
It is not hard to love;
If thou wert sick for want of God,
How swiftly wouldst thou move.
Dole not thy duties out to God,
But let thy hand be free;
Look long at Jesus, His sweet love,
How was it dealt to thee?
And only this perfection needs
A heart kept calm all day,
To catch the words the Spirit there,
From hour to hour may say.
Then keep thy conscience sensitive,
No inward token miss:
And go where grace entices thee --
Perfection lies in this.
Be docile to thine unseen Guide,
Love Him as He loves thee;
Time and obedience are enough,
And thou a saint shalt be.
Certain very great mistakes are made concerning this matter of temptation,
in the practical working out of this life of faith.
First of all, people seem to expect that, after the soul has entered
into its rest in God, temptations will cease; and to think that the promised
deliverance is not only to be from yielding to temptation, but even also
from being tempted. Consequently, when they find the Canaanite still in the
land, and see the cities great and walled up to Heaven, they are utterly
discouraged, and think they must have gone wrong in some way, and that this
cannot be the true land after all.
Then, next they make the mistake of looking upon temptation as sin, and
of blaming themselves for what in reality is the fault of the enemy only.
This brings them into condemnation and discouragement; and discouragement,
if continued in, always ends at last in actual sin. The enemy makes an easy
prey of a discouraged soul; so that we fall often from the very fear of
To meet the first of these difficulties it is only necessary to refer
to the Scripture declarations, that the Christian life is to be throughout a
warfare; and that, especially when seated in heavenly places in Christ
Jesus, we are to wrestle against spiritual enemies there, whose power and
skill to tempt us must doubtless be far superior to any we have ever
heretofore encountered. As a fact, temptations generally increase in
strength tenfold after we have entered into the interior life, rather than
decrease; and no amount or sort of them must ever for a moment lead us to
suppose we have not really found the true abiding place. Strong temptations
are generally a sign of great grace, rather than of little grace. When the
children of Israel had first left Egypt, the Lord did not lead them through
the country of the Philistines, although that was the nearest way; for God
said, "lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they
return to Egypt." But afterwards, when they learned better how to trust Him,
He permitted their enemies to attack them. Then also in their wilderness
journey they met with but few enemies and fought but few battles, compared
to those in the land, where they found seven great nations and thirty-one
kings to be conquered, besides walled cities to be taken, and giants to be
They could not have fought with the Canaanites, or the Hittites, and
the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, until
they had gone into the land where these enemies were. And the very power of
your temptations, dear Christian, therefore, may perhaps be one of the
strongest proofs that you really are in the land you have been seeking to
enter, because they are temptations peculiar to that land. You must never
allow your temptations to cause you to question the fact of your having
entered the promised "heavenly places."
The second mistake is not quite so easy to deal with. It seems hardly
worth while to say that temptation is not sin, and yet most of the distress
about it arises from not understanding this fact. The very suggestion of
wrong seems to bring pollution with it, and the evil agency not being
recognized, the poor tempted soul begins to feel as if it must be very bad
indeed, and very far off from God to have had such thoughts and suggestions.
It is as though a burglar should break into a man's house to steal, and,
when the master of the house began to resist him and to drive him out,
should turn round and accuse the owner of being himself the thief. It is the
enemy's grand ruse for entrapping us. He comes and whispers suggestions of
evil to us, doubts, blasphemies, jealousies, envyings, and pride; and then
turns round and says, "Oh, how wicked you must be to think of such things!
It is very plain that you are not trusting the Lord; for if you were, it
would have been impossible for these things to have entered your heart."
This reasoning sounds so very plausible that the soul often accepts it as
true, and at once comes under condemnation, and is filled with
discouragement; then it is easy for it to be led on into actual sin. One of
the most fatal things in the life of faith is discouragement. One of the
most helpful is cheerfulness. A very wise man once said that in overcoming
temptations, cheerfulness was the first thing, cheerfulness the second, and
cheerfulness the third. We must expect to conquer. That is why the Lord said
so often to Joshua, "Be strong and of a good courage"; "Be not afraid,
neither be thou dismayed"; "Only be thou strong and very courageous." And it
is also the reason He says to us, "Let not your heart he troubled neither
let it be afraid." The power of temptation is in the fainting of our own
hearts. The enemy knows this well, and always begins his assaults by
discouraging us, if it can in any way be accomplished.
Sometimes this discouragement arises from what we think is a righteous
grief and disgust at ourselves that such things could be any temptation to
us; but which is really a mortification arising from the fact that we have
been indulging in a secret self-congratulation that our tastes were too
pure, or our separation from the world was too complete for such things to
tempt us. We have expected something from ourselves, and have been sorely
disappointed not to find that something there, and are discouraged in
consequence. This mortification and discouragement are really a far worse
condition than the temptation itself, though they present an appearance of
true humility, for they are nothing but the results of wounded self-love.
True humility can bear to see its own utter weakness and foolishness
revealed, because it never expected anything from itself, and knows that its
only hope and expectation must be in God. Therefore, instead of discouraging
the soul from trusting, it drives it to a deeper and more utter trust. But
the counterfeit humility which springs from self, plunges the soul into the
depths of a faithless discouragement, and drives it into the very sin at
which it is so distressed.
I remember once hearing an allegory that illustrated this to me
wonderfully. Satan called together a council of his servants to consult how
they might make a good man sin. One evil spirit started up and said, "I will
make him sin." "How will you do it?" asked Satan. "I will set before him the
pleasures of sin," was the reply; "I will tell him of its delights and the
rich rewards it brings." "Ah," said Satan, "that will not do; he has tried,
it, and knows better than that." Then another spirit started up and said, "I
will make him sin." "What will you do?" asked Satan. "I will tell him of the
pains and sorrows of virtue. I will show him that virtue has no delights,
and brings no rewards." "Ah, no!" exclaimed Satan, "that will not do at all;
for he has tried it, and knows that `wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness
and all her paths are peace.'" "Well," said another imp, starting up, "I
will undertake to make him sin." "And what will you do?" asked Satan, again.
"I will discourage his soul," was the short reply. "Ah, that will do," cried
Satan, -- "that will do! We shall conquer him now." And they did.
An old writer says, "All discouragement is from the devil"; and I wish
every Christian would just take this as a pocket-piece, and never forget it.
We must fly from discouragement as we would from sin.
But this is impossible if we fail to recognize the true agency in
temptation. For if the temptations are our own fault, we cannot help being
discouraged. But they are not. The Bible says, "Blessed is the man that
endureth temptation"; and we are exhorted to "count it all joy when we fall
into divers temptations." Temptation, therefore, cannot be sin; and the
truth is, it is no more a sin to hear these whispers and suggestions of evil
in our souls, than it is for us to hear the swearing or wicked talk of bad
men as we pass along the street. The sin only comes in either case by our
stopping and joining in with them. If, when the wicked suggestions come, we
turn from them at once, as we would from wicked talk, and pay no more
attention to them, we do not sin. But if we carry them on in our minds, and
roll them under our tongues, and dwell on them with a half-consent of our
will to them as true, then we sin. We may be enticed by evil a thousand
times a day without sin, and we cannot help these enticings. But if the
enemy can succeed in making us think that his enticings are our sin, he has
accomplished half the battle, and can hardly fail to gain a complete
A dear lady once came to me under great darkness, simply from not
understanding this. She had been living very happily in the life of faith
for some time, and had been so free from temptation as almost to begin to
think she would never be tempted any more. But suddenly a very peculiar form
of temptation had assailed her, which had horrified her. She found that the
moment she began to pray, dreadful thoughts of all kinds would rush into her
mind. She had lived a very sheltered, innocent life, and these thoughts
seemed so awful to her, that she felt she must be one of the most wicked of
sinners to be capable of having them. She began by thinking she could not
possibly have entered into the rest of faith, and ended by concluding that
she had never even been born again. Her soul was in an agony of distress. I
told her that these dreadful thoughts were altogether the suggestions of the
enemy, who came to her the moment she kneeled in prayer, and poured them
into her mind, and that she herself was not to blame for them at all; that
she could not help them any more than she could help hearing if a wicked man
should pour out his blasphemies in her presence. And I urged her to
recognize and treat them as from the enemy; not to blame herself or be
discouraged, but to turn at once to Jesus and commit them to Him. I showed
her how great an advantage the enemy had gained by making her think these
thoughts were originated by herself, and plunging her into condemnation and
discouragement on account of them. And I assured her she would find a speedy
victory if she would pay no attention to them; but, ignoring their presence,
would simply turn her back on them and look to the Lord.
She grasped the truth, and the next time these thoughts came she said
to the enemy, "I have found you out now. It is you who are suggesting these
dreadful thoughts to me, and I hate them, and will have nothing to do with
them. The Lord is my Saviour; take them to Him, and settle them in His
presence." Immediately the baffled enemy, finding himself discovered, fled
in confusion, and her soul was perfectly delivered.
Another thing also. The enemy knows that if a Christian recognizes a
suggestion of evil as coming from him, he will recoil from it far more
quickly than if it seems to be the suggestion of his own mind. If Satan
prefaced each temptation with the words, "I am Satan, your relentless enemy;
I have come to make you sin," I suppose we would hardly feel any desire at
all to yield to his suggestions. He has to hide himself in order to make his
baits attractive. And our victory will be far more easily gained if we are
not ignorant of his devices, but recognize him at his very first approach.
We also make another great mistake about temptations in thinking that
all time spent in combating them is lost. Hours pass, and we seem to have
made no progress, because we have been so beset with temptations. But it
often happens that we have been serving God far more truly during these
hours, than in our times of comparative freedom from temptation. Temptation
is really more the devil's wrath against God, than against us. He cannot
touch our Saviour, but he can wound our Saviour by conquering us, and our
ruin is important to him only as it accomplishes this. We are, therefore,
really fighting our Lord's battles when we are fighting temptation, and
hours are often worth days to us under these circumstances. We read,
"Blessed is the man that endureth temptation"; and I am sure this means
enduring the continuance of it and its frequent recurrence. Nothing so
cultivates the grace of patience as the endurance of temptation, and nothing
so drives the soul to an utter dependence upon the Lord Jesus as its
continuance. And finally, nothing brings more praise and honor and glory to
our dearest Lord Himself, than the trial of our faith which comes through
manifold temptations. We are told that it is more precious than gold, though
it be tried with fire, and that we, who patiently endure the trial, shall
receive for our reward "the crown of life which the Lord hath promised to
them that love Him."
We cannot wonder, therefore, any longer at the exhortation with which
the Holy Ghost opens the Book of James: "Count it all joy when ye fall into
divers temptations, knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh
patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and
entire, wanting nothing."
Temptation is plainly to be the blessed instrument used by God to
complete our perfection, and thus the enemy's own weapons are turned against
himself, and we see how it is that all things, even temptations, can work
together for good to them that love God.
As to the way of victory over temptations, it seems hardly necessary to
say to those whom I am at this time especially addressing, that it is to be
by faith. For this is, of course, the foundation upon which the whole
interior life rests. Our one great motto is throughout, "We are nothing,
Christ is all." And always and everywhere we have started out to stand, and
walk, and overcome, and live by faith. We have discovered our own utter
helplessness, and know that we cannot do anything for ourselves. Our only
way, therefore, is to hand the temptation over to our Lord, and trust Him to
conquer it for us. But when we put it into His hands we must leave it there.
It must be as real a committing of ourselves to Him for victory, as it was
at first a committing of ourselves to Him for salvation. He must do all for
us in the one case, as completely as in the other. It was faith only then,
and it must be faith only now.
And the victories which the Lord works in conquering the temptations of
those who thus trust Him are nothing short of miracles, as thousands can
But into this part of the subject I cannot go at present, as my object
has been rather to present temptation in its true light, than to develop the
way of victory over it. I want to deliver conscientious, faithful souls from
the bondage into which they are sure to be brought, if they fail to
understand the true nature and use of temptation, and confound it with sin.
I want that they should not be ignorant of the fact that temptations are,
after all, an invaluable part of our soul's development; and that, whatever
may be their original source, they are used by God to work out in us many
blessed graces of character which would otherwise be lacking. Wherever
temptation is, there is God also, superintending and controlling its power.
"Where wert thou, Lord I while I was being tempted?" cried the saint of the
desert. "Close beside thee, my son, all the while," was the tender reply.
Temptations try us; and we are worth nothing if we are not tried. They
develop our spiritual strength and courage and knowledge; and our
development is the one thing God cries for. How shallow would all our
spirituality be if it were not for temptations. "Blessed is the man that
endureth temptation: for when he is tried he shall receive the crown of
life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him." This "crown of
life" will be worth all that it has cost of trial and endurance to obtain
it; and without these it could not be attained.
An invalid lady procured once the cocoon of a very beautiful butterfly
with unusually magnificent wings hoping to have the pleasure of seeing it
emerge from its cocoon in her sick-chamber. She watched it eagerly as spring
drew on, and finally was delighted to see the butterfly beginning to emerge.
But it seemed to have great difficulty. It pushed, and strained, and
struggled, and seemed to make so little headway, that she concluded it must
need some help, and with a pair of delicate scissors she finally clipped the
tight cord that seemed to bind in the opening of the cocoon. Immediately the
cocoon opened wide, and the butterfly escaped without any further struggle.
She congratulated herself on the success of her experiment, but found in a
moment that something was the matter with the butterfly. It was all out of
the cocoon it is true, but its great wings were lifeless and colorless, and
dragged after it as a useless burden. For a few days it lived a miserable
sickly life, and then died, without having once lifted its powerless wings.
The lady was sorely disappointed and could not understand it. But when she
related the circumstance to a naturalist, he told her that it had all been
her own fault. That it required just that pushing and struggling to send the
life fluid into the veins of the wings, and that her mistaken kindness in
shortening the struggle, had left the wings lifeless and colorless.
Just so do our spiritual wings need the struggle and effort of our
conflict with temptation and trial; and to grant us an escape from it would
be to weaken the power of our soul to "mount up with wings as eagles," and
would deprive us of the "crown of life" which is promised to those who
The very title of this chapter may perhaps startle some. "Failures," they
will say; "we thought there were no failures in this life of faith!"
To this I would answer that there ought not to be, and need not be;
but, as a fact, there sometimes are. And we have got to deal with facts, and
not with theories. No teacher of this interior life ever says that it
becomes impossible to sin; they only insist that sin ceases to be a
necessity, and that a possibility of uniform victory is opened before us.
And there are very few who do not confess that, as to their own actual
experience, they have at times been overcome by momentary temptation.
Of course, in speaking of sin here, I mean conscious, known sin. I do
not touch on the subject of sins of ignorance, or what is called the
inevitable sin of our nature, which are all covered by the atonement, and do
not disturb our fellowship with God. I have no desire nor ability to treat
of the doctrines concerning sin; these I will leave with the theologians to
discuss and settle, while I speak only of the believer's experience in the
matter. And I wish it to be fully understood that in all I shall say, I have
reference simply to that which comes within the range of our consciousness.
Misunderstanding, then, on this point of known or conscious sin, opens
the way for great dangers in the higher Christian life. When a believer, who
has, as he trusts, entered upon the highway of holiness, finds himself
surprised into sin, he is tempted either to be utterly discouraged, and to
give everything up as lost; or else, in order to preserve the doctrine
untouched, he feels it necessary to cover his sin up, calling it infirmity,
and refusing to be honest and above-board about it. Either of these courses
is equally fatal to any real growth and progress in the life of holiness.
The only way is to face the sad fact at once, call the thing by its right
name, and discover, if possible, the reason and the remedy. This life of
union with God requires the utmost honesty with Him and with ourselves. The
communion which the sin itself would only momentarily disturb, is sure to be
lost by any dishonest dealing with it. A sudden failure is no reason for
being discouraged and giving up all as lost. Neither is the integrity of our
doctrine touched by it. We are not preaching a state, but a walk. The
highway of holiness is not a place, but a way. Sanctification is not a thing
to be picked up at a certain stage of our experience, and forever after
possessed, but it is a life to be lived day by day, and hour by hour. We may
for a moment turn aside from a path, but the path is not obliterated by our
wandering, and can be instantly regained. And in this life and walk of
faith, there may be momentary failures, which, although very sad and greatly
to be deplored, need not, if rightly met, disturb the attitude of the soul
as to entire consecration and perfect trust, nor interrupt, for more than
the passing moment, its happy communion with its Lord.
The great point is an instant return to God. Our sin is no reason for
ceasing to trust, but only an unanswerable argument why we must trust more
fully than ever. From whatever cause we have been betrayed into failure, it
is very certain that there is no remedy to be found for it in
discouragement. As well might a child who is learning to walk, lie down in
despair when he has fallen, and refuse to take another step; as a believer,
who is seeking to learn how to live and walk by faith, give up in despair
because of having fallen into sin. The only way in both cases is to get
right up and try again. When the children of Israel had met with that
disastrous defeat, soon after their entrance into the land, before the
little city of Ai, they were all so utterly discouraged that we read:
"Wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water. And
Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark
of the Lord until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust
upon their heads. And Joshua said, Alas! O Lord God, wherefore hast Thou at
all brought this people over Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the
Amorites to destroy us? Would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the
other side Jordan! O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs
before their enemies? For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land
shall hear of it, and shall environ us round and cut off our name from the
earth: and what wilt Thou do unto Thy great name?"
What a wail of despair this was! And how exactly it is repeated by many
a child of God in the present day, whose heart, because of a defeat, melts
and becomes as water, and who cries out, "Would to God we had been content
and dwelt on the other side Jordan!" and predicts for itself further
failures and even utter discomfiture before its enemies. No doubt Joshua
thought then, as we are apt to think now, that discouragement and despair
were the only proper and safe condition after such a failure. But God
thought otherwise. "And the Lord said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore
liest thou upon thy face?"
The proper thing to do was not to abandon themselves thus to utter
discouragement, humble as it might look, but at once to face the evil and
get rid of it, and afresh and immediately to "sanctify themselves." "Up,
sanctify the people," is always God's command. "Lie down and be
discouraged," is always the enemy's temptation. Our feeling is that it is
presumptuous, and even almost impertinent, to go at once to the Lord, after
having sinned against Him. It seems as if we ought to suffer the
consequences our sin first for a little while, and endure the accusings of
our conscience. And we can hardly believe that the Lord can be willing at
once to receive us back into loving fellowship with Himself.
A little girl once expressed the feeling to me, with a child's
outspoken candor. She had asked whether the Lord Jesus always forgave us for
our sins as soon as we asked Him, and I had said, "Yes, of course He does."
"Just as soon" she repeated, doubtingly. "Yes," I replied, "the very minute
we ask, He forgives us." "Well," she said deliberately, "I cannot believe
that. I should think He would make us feel sorry for two or three days
first. And then I should think He would make us ask Him a great many times,
and in a very pretty way too, not just in common talk. And I believe that is
the way He does, and you need not try to make me think He forgives me right
at once, no matter what the Bible says." She only said what most Christians
think, and, what is worse, what most Christians act on, making their
discouragement and their very remorse separate them infinitely further off
from God than their sin would have done. Yet it is so totally contrary to
the way we like our children to act towards us, that I wonder how we ever
could have conceived such an idea of God. How a mother grieves when a
naughty child goes off alone in despairing remorse, and doubts her
willingness to forgive; and how, on the other hand, her whole heart goes out
in welcoming love to the darling who runs to her at once and begs her
forgiveness! Surely our God knew this yearning love when He said to us,
"Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings."
The fact is, that the same moment which brings the consciousness of
having sinned, ought to bring also the consciousness of being forgiven. This
is especially essential to an unwavering walk in the highway of holiness,
for no separation from God can be tolerated here for an instant.
We can only walk in this path by looking continually unto Jesus, moment
by moment; and if our eyes are taken off of Him to look upon our own sin and
our own weakness, we shall leave the path at once. The believer, therefore,
who has, as he trusts, entered upon this highway, if he finds himself
overcome by sin, must flee with it instantly to the Lord. He must act on 1
John 1:9: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our
sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." He must not hide his sin
and seek to salve it over with excuses, or to push it out of his memory by
the lapse of time. But he must do as the children of Israel did, rise up
"early in the morning," and "run" to the place where the evil thing is
hidden, and take it out of its hiding-place, and lay it "out before the
Lord." He must confess his sin. And then he must stone it with stones, and
burn it with fire, and utterly put it away from him, and raise over it a
great heap of stones, that it may be forever hidden from his sight. And he
must believe, then and there, that God is, according to His word, faithful
and just to forgive him his sin, and that He does do it; and further, that
He also cleanses him from all unrighteousness. He must claim an immediate
forgiveness and an immediate cleansing by faith, and must go on trusting
harder and more absolutely than ever.
As soon as Israel's sin had been brought to light and put away, at once
God's word came again in a message of glorious encouragement, "Fear not,
neither be thou dismayed . . . See, I have given into thy hand the king of
Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land." Our courage must rise
higher than ever, and we must abandon ourselves more completely to the Lord,
that His mighty power may the more perfectly work in us all the good
pleasure of His will. Moreover, we must forget our sin as soon as it is thus
confessed and forgiven. We must not dwell on it, and examine it, and indulge
in a luxury of distress and remorse. We must not put it on a pedestal, and
then walk around it and view it on every side, and so magnify it into a
mountain that hides our God from our eyes. We must follow the example of
Paul, and "forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto
those things which are before," we must "press toward the mark for the prize
of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
I would like to bring up two contrastive illustrations of these things.
One was an earnest Christian man, an active worker in the Church, who had
been living for several months in the enjoyment of full salvation. He was
suddenly overcome by a temptation to treat a brother unkindly. Not having
supposed it possible that he could ever sin again, he was at once plunged
into the deepest discouragement, and concluded he had been altogether
mistaken, and had never entered into the life of full trust at all. Day by
day his discouragement increased, until it became despair, and he concluded
he had never even been born again, and gave himself up for lost. He spent
three years of utter misery, going further and further away from God, and
being gradually drawn off into one sin after another, until his life was a
curse to himself and to all around him. His health failed under the terrible
burden, and fears were entertained for his reason.
At the end of three years he met a Christian lady, who understood the
truth about sin that I have been trying to explain. In a few moments'
conversation she found out his trouble, and at once said, "You sinned in
that act, there is no doubt about it, and I do not want you to try and
excuse it. But have you never confessed it to the Lord and asked Him to
forgive you?" "Confessed it!" he exclaimed, "why it seems to me I have done
nothing but confess it, and entreat God to forgive me night and day for all
these three dreadful years." "And you have never believed He did forgive
you?" asked the lady. "No," said the poor man, "how could I, for I never
felt as if He did?" "But suppose He had said He forgave you, would not that
have done as well as for you to feel it?" "Oh, yes," replied the man, "if
God said it, of course I would believe it." "Very well, He does say so," was
the lady's answer, and she turned to the verse we have taken above 1 John
1:9) and read it aloud. "Now," she continued, "you have been all these three
years confessing and confessing your sin, and all the while God's record has
been declaring that He was faithful and just to forgive it and to cleanse
you, and yet you have never once believed it. You have been `making God a
liar' all this while by refusing to believe His record."
The poor man saw the whole thing, and was dumb with amazement and
consternation; and when the lady proposed they should kneel down, and that
he should confess his past unbelief and sin, and should claim, then and
there, a present forgiveness and a present cleansing, he obeyed like one in
a maze. But the result was glorious. In a few moments the light broke in,
and he burst out into praise at the wonderful deliverance. In three minutes
his soul was enabled to traverse back by faith the whole long weary journey
that he had been three years in making, and he found himself once more
resting in Jesus, and rejoicing in the fulness of His salvation.
The other illustration was the case of a Christian lady who had been
living in the land of promise about two weeks, and who had had a very bright
and victorious experience. Suddenly, at the end of that time, she was
overcome by a violent burst of anger. For a moment a flood of discouragement
swept over her soul. The enemy said, "There, now, that shows it was all a
mistake. Of course you have been deceived about the whole thing, and have
never entered into the life of full trust at all. And now you may as well
give up altogether, for you never can consecrate yourself any more entirely,
nor trust any more fully, than you did this time; so it is very plain this
life of holiness is not for you!" These thoughts flashed through her mind in
a moment, but she was well taught in the ways of God, and she said at once,
"Yes, I have sinned, and it is very sad. But the Bible says that if we
confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to
cleanse us from all unrighteousness, and I believe He will do it."
She did not delay a moment, but while still boiling over with anger,
she ran, she could not walk, into a room where she could be alone, and
kneeling down beside the bed, she said, "Lord, I confess my sin. I have
sinned, I am even at this very moment sinning. I hate it, but I cannot get
rid of it. I confess it with shame and confusion of face to Thee. And now I
believe that, according to Thy word, Thou dost forgive and Thou dost
cleanse." She said it out loud, for the inward turmoil was too great for it
to be said inside. As the words "Thou dost forgive and Thou dost cleanse"
passed her lips, the deliverance came. The Lord said, "Peace, be still," and
there was a great calm. A flood of light and joy burst on her soul, the
enemy fled, and she was more than conqueror through Him that loved her. The
whole thing, the sin and the recovery from it, had occupied not five
minutes, and her feet trod on more firmly than ever in the blessed highway
of holiness. Thus the valley of Achor became to her a door of hope, and she
sang afresh and with deeper meaning her song of deliverance, "I will sing
unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously."
The truth is, the only remedy, after all in every emergency, is to
trust in the Lord. And if this is all we ought to do, and all we can do, is
it not better to do it at once? I have often been brought up short by the
question, "Well, what can I do but trust?" And I have realized at once the
folly of seeking for deliverance in any other way, by saying to myself, "I
shall have to come to simple trusting in the end, and why not come to it at
once now in the beginning?" It is a life and walk of faith we have entered
upon, and if we fail in it our only recovery must lie in an increase of
faith, not in a lessening of it.
Let every failure, then, if any occur, drive you instantly to the Lord,
with a more complete abandonment and a more perfect trust; and you will find
that, sad as they are, they will not take you out of the land of rest, nor
permanently interrupt your sweet communion with Him.
And now, having shown the way of deliverance from failure, I want to
say a little as to the causes of failure in this life of full salvation. The
causes do not lie in the strength of the temptation nor in our own weakness,
nor, above all, in any lack in the power or willingness of our Saviour to
save us. The promise to Israel was positive, "There shall not any man be
able to stand before thee all the days of thy life." And the promise to us
is equally positive. "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted
above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way of
escape that ye may be able to bear it."
The men of Ai were "but few," and yet the people who had conquered the
mighty Jericho "fled before the men of Ai." It was not the strength of their
enemy, neither had God failed them. The cause of their defeat lay somewhere
else, and the Lord Himself declares it, "Israel hath sinned, and they have
also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them; for they have even
taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen and dissembled also, and
they have put it even among their own stuff. Therefore the children of
Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs upon
their enemies." It was a hidden evil that conquered them. Deep down under
the earth, in an obscure tent in that vast army, was hidden something
against which God had a controversy, and this little hidden thing made the
whole army helpless before their enemies. "There is an accursed thing in the
midst of thee, O Israel; thou canst not stand before thine enemies until ye
take away the accursed thing from among you."
The teaching here is simply this, that anything allowed in the heart
which is contrary to the will of God, let it seem ever so insignificant, or
be ever so deeply hidden, will cause us to fall before our enemies. Any root
of bitterness cherished towards another, any self-seeking and harsh
judgments indulged in, any slackness in obeying the voice of the Lord, any
doubtful habits or surroundings, any one of these things will effectually
cripple and paralyze our spiritual life. We may have hidden the evil in the
most remote corner of our hearts, and may have covered it over from our
sight, refusing even to recognize its existence, of which, however, we
cannot help being all the time secretly aware. We may steadily ignore it,
and persist in declarations of consecration and full trust, we may be more
earnest than ever in our religious duties, and have the eyes of our
understanding opened more and more to the truth and the beauty of the life
and walk of faith. We may seem to ourselves and to others to have reached an
almost impregnable position of victory, and yet we may find ourselves
suffering bitter defeats. We may wonder, and question, and despair, and
pray; nothing will do any good until the accursed thing is dug up from its
hiding-place, brought out to the light, and laid before God. And the moment
a believer who is walking in this interior life meets with a defeat, he must
at once seek for the cause not in the strength of that particular enemy, but
in something behind, some hidden want of consecration lying at the very
centre of his being. Just as a headache is not the disease itself, but only
a symptom of a disease situated in some other part of the body, so the sin
in such a Christian is only the symptom of an evil hidden probably in a very
different part of his being.
Sometimes the evil may be hidden even in that, which at a cursory
glance, would look like good. Beneath apparent zeal for the truth, may be
hidden a judging spirit, or a subtle leaning to our own understanding.
Beneath apparent Christian faithfulness, may be hidden an absence of
Christian love. Beneath an apparently rightful care for our affairs, may be
hidden a great want of trust in God. I believe our blessed Guide, the
indwelling Holy Spirit, is always secretly discovering these things to us by
continual little twinges and pangs of conscience, so that we are left
without excuse. But it is very easy to disregard His gentle voice, and
insist upon it to ourselves that all is right; and thus the fatal evil will
continue hidden in our midst causing defeat in most unexpected quarters.
A capital illustration of this occurred to me once in my housekeeping.
I had moved into a new house and, in looking over it to see if it was all
ready for occupancy, I noticed in the cellar a very clean-looking cider-cask
headed up at both ends. I debated with myself whether I should have it taken
out of the cellar and opened to see what was in it, but concluded, as it
seemed empty and looked nice, to leave it undisturbed, especially as it
would have been quite a piece of work to get it up the stairs. I did not
feel quite easy, but reasoned away my scruples and left it. Every spring and
fall, when house-cleaning time came on, I would remember that cask, with a
little twinge of my housewifely conscience, feeling that I could not quite
rest in the thought of a perfectly cleaned house, while it remained
unopened, for how did I know but under its fair exterior it contained some
hidden evil. Still I managed to quiet my scruples on the subject, thinking
always of the trouble it would involve to investigate it; and for two or
three years the innocent-looking cask stood quietly in my cellar.
Then, most unaccountably, moths began to fill my house. I used every
possible precaution against them, and made every effort to eradicate them,
but in vain. They increased rapidly and threatened to ruin everything I had.
I suspected my carpets as being the cause, and subjected them to a thorough
cleaning. I suspected my furniture, and had it newly upholstered. I
suspected all sorts of impossible things. At last the thought of the cask
flashed on me. At once I had it brought up out of the cellar and the head
knocked in, and I think it is safe to say that thousands of moths poured
out. The previous occupant of the house must have headed it up with
something in it which bred moths, and this was the cause of all my trouble.
Now I believe that, in the same way, some innocent-looking habit or
indulgence, some apparently unimportant and safe thing, about which we yet
have now and then little twinges of conscience, something which is not
brought out fairly into the light, and investigated under the searching eye
of God, lies at the root of most of the failure in this higher life. All is
not given up. Some secret corner is kept locked against the entrance of the
Lord. And therefore we cannot stand before our enemies, but find ourselves
smitten down in their presence.
In order to prevent failure, or to discover its cause if we have
failed, it is necessary that we should keep continually before us this
prayer, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts;
and see if there be any evil way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
There may be something very deceptive in our sufferings over our
failures. We may seem to ourselves to be wholly occupied with the glory of
God, and yet in our inmost souls it may be self alone that occasions all our
trouble. Our self-love is touched in a tender spot by the discovery that we
are not so saintly as we thought we were; and this chagrin is often a
greater sin than the original fault itself.
The only safe way to treat our failures is neither to justify nor
condemn ourselves on account of them, but to lay them quietly and in
simplicity before the Lord, looking at them in peace and in the spirit of
All the old mystic writers tell us that our progress is aided far more
by a simple, peaceful turning to God, than by all our chagrin and remorse
over our lapses from Him. Only be faithful, they say, in turning quietly to
Him alone, the moment you perceive what you have done, and His presence will
deliver you from the snares which have entrapped you. To look at self
plunges you deeper into the slough, for this very slough is after all
nothing but self; while the gentlest look towards God will calm and deliver
Finally, let us never forget for one moment, no matter how often we may
fail, that the Lord Jesus able, according to the declaration concerning Him,
to deliver us out of the hands of our enemies, that we may "serve Him
without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our
Let us then pray, every one of us, day and night, "Lord, keep us from
sinning, and make us living witnesses of Thy mighty power to save to the
uttermost"; and let us never be satisfied until we are so pliable in His
hands, and have learned so to trust Him, that He will be able to "make us
perfect, in every good work to do His will, working in us that which is
well-pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever
and ever. Amen."
A great many Christians are slaves to the habit of doubting. No drunkard was
ever more utterly bound by the chains of his fatal habit than they are by
theirs. Every step of their whole Christian life is taken against the
fearful odds of an army of doubts, that are forever lying in wait to assail
them at each favorable moment. Their lives are made wretched, their
usefulness is effectually hindered, and their communion with God is
continually broken by their doubts. And although the entrance of the soul
upon the life of faith, of which this book treats, does in many cases take
it altogether out of the region where these doubts live and flourish; yet
even here it sometimes happens that the old tyrant will rise up and reassert
his sway, and will cause the feet to stumble and the heart to fail, even
when he cannot succeed in utterly turning the believer back into the dreary
We all of us remember, doubtless, the childish fascination, and yet
horror, of that story of Christian's imprisonment in Doubting Castle by the
wicked giant Despair, and our exultant sympathy in his escape through those
massive gates and from that cruel tyrant. Little did we suspect then that we
should ever find ourselves taken prisoner by the same giant, and imprisoned
in the same castle. And yet I fear to every member of the Church of Christ
there has been at least one such experience. Turn to the account again, if
it is not fresh in your minds, and see if you do not see pictured there
experiences of your own that have been very grievous to bear at the time,
and very sorrowful to look back upon afterwards.
It seems strange that people, whose very name of Believers implies that
their one chiefest characteristic is that they believe, should have to
confess to such experiences. And yet it is such a universal habit that I
feel if the majority of the Church were to be named over again, the only
fitting and descriptive name that could be given them would be that of
Doubters. In fact, most Christians have settled down under their doubts, as
to a sort of inevitable malady, from which they suffer acutely, but to which
they must try to be resigned as a part of the necessary discipline of this
earthly life. And they lament over their doubts as a man might lament over
his rheumatism, making themselves out as an "interesting case" of especial
and peculiar trial, which requires the tenderest sympathy and the utmost
And this is too often true of believers, who are earnestly longing to
enter upon the life and walk of faith, and who have made perhaps many steps
towards it. They have got rid, it may be, of the old doubts that once
tormented them, as to whether their sins are really forgiven, and whether
they shall, after all, get safe to Heaven; but they have not got rid of
doubting. They have simply shifted the habit to a higher platform. They are
saying, perhaps, "Yes, I believe my sins are forgiven, and I am a child of
God through faith in Jesus Christ. I dare not doubt this any more. But
then--" And this "but then" includes an interminable array of doubts
concerning every declaration and every promise our Father has made to His
children. One after another they fight with them and refuse to believe them,
until they can have some more reliable proof of their being true, than the
simple word of their God. And then they wonder why they are permitted to
walk in such darkness, and look upon themselves almost in the light of
martyrs, and groan under the peculiar spiritual conflicts they are compelled
Spiritual conflicts! Far better would they be named did we call them
spiritual rebellions! Our fight is to be a fight of faith, and the moment we
doubt, our fight ceases and our rebellion begins.
I desire to put forth, if possible, one vigorous protest against this
whole thing. Just as well might I join in with the lament of a drunkard and
unite with him in prayer for grace to endure the discipline of his fatal
indulgence, as to give way for one instant to the weak complaints of these
enslaved souls, and try to console them under their slavery. To one and to
the other I would dare to do nothing else but proclaim the perfect
deliverance the Lord Jesus Christ has in store or them, and beseech,
entreat, command them, with all the force of my whole nature, to avail
themselves of it and be free. Not for one moment would I listen to their
despairing excuses. You ought to be free, you can be free, you MUST be free!
Will you undertake to tell me that it is an inevitable necessity for
God to be doubted by His children? Is it an inevitable necessity for your
children to doubt you? Would you tolerate their doubts a single hour? Would
you pity your son and condole with him, and feel that he was an interesting
case, if he should come to you and say, "Father, I cannot believe your word,
I cannot trust your love"?
I remember once seeing the indignation of a mother I knew, stirred to
its very depths by a little doubting on the part of one of her children. She
had brought two little girls to my house to leave them while she did some
errands. One of them, with the happy confidence of childhood, abandoned
herself to all the pleasures she could find in my nursery, and sang and
played until her mother's return. The other one, with the wretched caution
and mistrust of maturity, sat down alone in a corner to wonder whether her
mother would remember to come back for her, and to fear she would be
forgotten, and to imagine her mother would be glad of the chance to get rid
of her anyhow, because she was such a naughty girl, and ended with working
herself up into a perfect frenzy of despair. The look on that mother's face,
when upon her return the weeping little girl told what was the matter with
her, I shall not easily forget. Grief, wounded love, indignation, and pity,
all strove together for mastery. But indignation gained the day, and I doubt
if that little girl was ever so vigorously dealt with before. A hundred
times in my life since has that scene come up before me with deepest
teaching, and has compelled me, peremptorily, to refuse admittance to the
doubts about my Heavenly Father's love, and care, and remembrance of me,
that have clamored at the door of my heart for entrance.
I am convinced that to many people doubting is a real luxury, and to
deny themselves from indulging in it would be to exercise the hardest piece
of self-denial they have ever known. It is a luxury that, like the
indulgence in all other luxuries, brings very sorrowful results; and,
perhaps, looking at the sadness and misery it has brought into your own
Christian experience, you may be tempted to say, "Alas! This is no luxury to
me, but only a fearful trial." But pause for a moment. Try giving it up, and
you will soon find out whether it is a luxury or not. Do not your doubts
come trooping to your door as a company of sympathizing friends, who
appreciate your hard case, and have come to condole with you? And is it no
luxury to sit down with them and entertain them, and listen to their
arguments, and join in with their condolences? Would it be no self-denial to
turn resolutely from them, and refuse to hear a word they have to say? If
you do not know, try it and see.
Have you never tasted the luxury of indulging in hard thoughts against
those who have, as you think, injured you? Have you never known what a
positive fascination it is to brood over their unkindnesses, and to pry into
their malice, and to imagine all sorts of wrong and uncomfortable things
about them? It has made you wretched, of course, but it has been a
fascinating sort of wretchedness that you could not easily give up.
And just like this is the luxury of doubting. Things have gone wrong
with you in your experience. Dispensations have been mysterious, temptations
have been peculiar, your case has seemed different from that of any one's
around you. What more natural than to conclude that for some reason God has
forsaken you, and does not love you, and is indifferent to your welfare? And
how irresistible is the conviction that you are too wicked for Him to care
for, or too difficult for Him to manage.
You do not mean to blame Him, or accuse Him of injustice, for you feel
that His indifference and rejection of you are fully deserved because of
your unworthiness. And this very subterfuge leaves you at liberty to indulge
in your doubts under the guise of a just and true appreciation of your own
shortcomings. But all the while you are as really indulging in hard and
wrong thoughts of your Lord as ever you did of a human enemy; for He says He
came not to save the righteous, but sinners; and your very sinfulness and
unworthiness is your chiefest claim upon His love and His care.
As well might the poor little lamb that has wandered from the flock and
got lost in the wilderness say, "The shepherd does not love me, nor care for
me, nor remember me, because I am lost. He only loves and cares for the
lambs that never wander." As well might the ill man say, "The doctor will
not come to see me, nor give me any medicines, because I am ill. He only
cares for and visits well people." Jesus says, "They that are whole need not
a physician, but they that are sick." And again He says, "What man of you,
having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety
and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find
it?" Any thoughts of Him, therefore, which are different from what He says
of Himself, are hard thoughts; and to indulge in them is far worse than to
indulge in hard thoughts of any earthly friend or foe. From the beginning to
the end of your Christian life it is always sinful to indulge in doubts.
Doubts are all from the devil, and are always untrue. And the only way to
meet them is by a direct and emphatic denial.
And this brings me to the practical part of the whole subject, as to
how to get deliverance from this fatal habit. My answer would be that the
deliverance from this can be by no other means than the deliverance from any
other sin. It is to be found in the Lord and in Him only. You must hand your
doubting over to Him, as you have learned to hand your other temptations.
You must do just what you do with your temper, or your pride. You must give
it up to the Lord. I believe myself the only effectual remedy is to take a
pledge against it as you would urge a drunkard to do against drink, trusting
in the Lord alone to keep you steadfast.
Like any other sin, the stronghold is in the will and the will to doubt
must be surrendered exactly as you surrender the will to yield to any other
temptation. God always takes possession of a surrendered will. And if we
come to the point of saying that we will not doubt, and surrender this
central fortress of our nature to Him, His blessed Spirit will begin at once
to work in us all the good pleasure of His will, and we shall find ourselves
kept from doubting by His mighty and overcoming power.
The trouble is that in this matter of doubting the soul does not always
make a full surrender, but is apt to reserve to itself a little secret
liberty to doubt, looking upon it as being sometimes a necessity. "I do not
want to doubt any more," we will say, or, "I hope I shall not"; but it is
hard to come to the point of saying, "I will not doubt again." But no
surrender is effectual until it reaches the point of saying, "I will not".
The liberty to doubt must be given up forever. And the soul must consent to
a continuous life of inevitable trust. It is often necessary, I think, to
make a definite transaction of this surrender of doubting, and to come to a
point about it. I believe it is quite as necessary in the case of a doubter
as in the case of a drunkard. It will not do to give it up by degrees. The
total abstinence principle is the only effectual one here.
Then, the surrender once made, the soul must rest absolutely upon the
Lord for deliverance in each time of temptation. It must lift up the shield
of faith the moment the assault comes. It must hand the very first
suggestion of doubt over to the Lord, and must tell the enemy to settle the
matter with Him. It must refuse to listen to the doubt a single moment. Let
it come ever so plausibly, or under whatever guise of humility, the soul
must simply say, "I dare not doubt; I must trust. The Lord is good, and HE
DOES love me. Jesus saves me; He saves me now." Those three little words,
repeated over and over, -- "Jesus saves me, Jesus saves me," -- will put to
flight the greatest army of doubts that ever assaulted any soul. I have
tried it times without number, and have never known it to fail. Do not stop
to argue the matter out with your doubts, nor try to prove that they are
wrong. Pay no attention to them whatever; treat them with the utmost
contempt. Shut your door in their faces, and emphatically deny every word
they say to you. Bring up some "It is written," and hurl it after them. Look
right at Jesus, and tell Him you trust Him, and you mean to trust Him. Let
the doubts clamor as they may, they cannot hurt you if you will not let them
I know it will look to you sometimes as though you were shutting the
door against your best friends, and your heart will long after your doubts
more than ever the Israelites longed after the flesh-pots of Egypt. But deny
yourself; take up your cross in this matter, and unmercifully refuse ever to
listen to a single word.
This very day a perfect army of doubts stood awaiting my awaking, and
clamored at my door for admittance. Nothing seemed real, nothing seemed
true; and least of all did it seem possible that I -- miserable, wretched --
could be the object of the Lord's love, or care, or notice. If I only had
been at liberty to let these doubts in, and invite them to take seats and
make themselves at home, what a luxury I should have felt it to be! But
years ago I made a pledge against doubting; and I would as soon think of
violating my pledge against intoxicating liquor as to violate this one. I
DARED not admit the first doubt. I therefore lifted up my shield of faith
the moment I was conscious of these suggestions, and handing the whole army
over to my Lord to conquer, I began to say, over and over, "The Lord does
love me. He is my present and my perfect Saviour; Jesus saves me, Jesus
saves me now!" The victory was complete. The enemy had come in like a flood,
but the Lord lifted up a standard against him, and he was routed and put to
flight; and my soul is singing the song of Moses and the children of Israel,
saying, "I will sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously: the
horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea. The Lord is my strength and
my song, and He is become my salvation. The Lord is a man of war; the Lord
is His name."
It will help you to resist the assaults of this temptation to doubt, to
see clearly that doubting is sin. It is certainly a direct disobedience to
our Lord, who commands us, "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it
be afraid." And all through the Bible everywhere the commands to trust are
imperative, and admit of no exceptions. Time and room would fail me to refer
to one hundredth part of these, but no one can read the Psalms without being
convinced that the man who trusts without a question, is the only man who
pleases God and is accepted of Him. The "provocation" of Israel was that
they did not trust; "anger also came up against Israel, because they
believed not in God, and trusted not in His salvation." (Psalms 78:17-22.)
And in contrast, we read in Isaiah concerning those who trust, "Thou wilt
keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth
in Thee." Nothing grieves or wounds our hearts like doubting on the part of
a friend, and nothing, I am convinced, grieves the heart of God more than
doubting from us.
One of my children, who is now with the Lord, said to me one evening as
I was tucking her up in bed, "Well, mother, I have had my first doubt." "Oh,
Ray," I said, "what was it?" "Why," she replied, "Satan came to me and told
me not to believe the Bible, for it was not a word of it true." "And what
did thee say to him?" I asked. "Oh," she replied, triumphantly, "I just said
to him, Satan, I will believe it. So there!" I was delighted with the
child's spiritual intelligence in knowing so well how to meet doubts, and
encouraged her with all my heart, explaining to her how all doubts and
discouragements are from the enemy, and how he is always a liar and must not
be listened to for a moment. The next night, I had forgotten all about it,
however, and was surprised and startled when she said, as I was tucking her
in bed, "Well, mother, Satan has been at it again." "Oh, Ray darling!" I
exclaimed in dismay, "what did he say this time?" "Well," she replied, "he
just told me that I was such a naughty little girl that Jesus could not love
me, and I was foolish to think He did." "And what did thee say this time?" I
asked. "Oh!" she replied, "I just looked at him cross and said, Satan, shut
thy mouth!" And then she added, with a smile, "He can't make me unhappy one
bit." A grander battle no soul ever fought than this little child had done,
and no greater victory was ever won!
Dear, doubting soul, go and do likewise; and a similar victory shall be
thine. As you lay down this book take up your pen and write out your
determination never to doubt again. Make it a real transaction between your
soul and the Lord. Give up your liberty to doubt forever. Put your will in
this matter over on the Lord's side, and trust Him to keep you from falling.
Tell him all about your utter weakness and your long-encouraged habits of
doubt, and how helpless you are before your enemy, and commit the whole
battle to Him. Tell Him you will not doubt again; and then henceforward keep
your face steadfastly looking unto Jesus, away from yourself and away from
your doubts, holding fast the profession of your faith without wavering,
because He is faithful who has promised. And as surely as you do thus hold
the beginning of your confidence steadfast unto the end, just so surely
shall you find yourself in this matter made more than conqueror, through Him
who loves you.
PRACTICAL RESULTS IN THE DAILY WALK AND CONVERSATION
If all that has been said concerning the life hid with Christ in God be
true, its results in the practical daily walk and conversation ought to be
very marked, and the people who have entered into the enjoyment of it ought
to be, in very truth, a "peculiar people, zealous of good works."
My son at college once wrote to a friend to this effect: that
Christians are God's witnesses necessarily, because the world will not read
the Bible, but they will read our lives; and that upon the report these give
will very much depend their belief in the Divine nature of the religion we
profess. As we all know, this is an age of facts, and inquiries are being
increasingly turned from theories to realities. If our religion is to make
any headway now, it must be proved to be more than a theory, and we must
present, to the investigation of the critical minds of our age, the grand
facts of lives which have been actually and manifestly transformed by the
mighty power of God working in us all the good pleasure of His will. Give us
"forms of life," say the scientists, and we will be convinced. And when the
Church is able to present to them in all its members, the form of a holy
life, their last stronghold will be conquered.
I desire, therefore, before closing my book, to speak very solemnly of
what I conceive to be the necessary fruits of a life of faith, such as I
have been describing, and to press home to the hearts of every one of my
readers their responsibility to walk worthy of the high calling wherewith
they have been called.
And I would speak to some of you, at least, as personal friends, for I
feel sure we have not gone this far together through this book without there
having grown in your hearts, as there has in mine, a tender personal
interest and longing for one another, that we may in everything show forth
the praises of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvellous
light. As a friend, then, to friends, I am sure I may speak very plainly,
and will be pardoned if I go into some particulars of life and character
which are vital to all true Christian development.
The standard of practical holy living has been so low among Christians
that any good degree of real devotedness of life and walk is looked upon
with surprise, and even often with disapprobation, by a large portion of the
Church. And, for the most part, the professed followers of the Lord Jesus
Christ are so little like Him in character or in action, that to an outside
observer there would not seem to be much harmony between them.
But we, who have heard the call of our God to a life of entire
consecration and perfect trust, must do differently from all this. We must
come out from the world and be separate, and must not be conformed to it in
our characters nor in our purposes. We must no longer share in its spirit or
its ways. Our conversation must be in Heaven, and we must seek those things
that are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. We must walk
through the world as Christ walked. We must have the mind that was in Him.
As pilgrims and strangers we must abstain from fleshly lusts that war
against the soul. As good soldiers of Jesus Christ, we must disentangle
ourselves from the affairs of this life as far as possible, that we may
please Him who hath chosen us to be soldiers. We must abstain from all
appearance of evil. We must be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving
one another, even as God, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven us. We must not
resent injuries or unkindness, but must return good for evil, and turn the
other cheek to the hand that smites us. We must take always the lowest place
among our fellowmen; and seek not our own honor, but the honor of others. We
must be gentle, and meek, and yielding; not standing up for our own rights,
but for the rights of others. All that we do must be done for the glory of
God. And, to sum it all up, since He which hath called us is holy, so we
must be holy in a manner of conversation; because it is written, "Be ye
holy, for I am holy."
Now, dear friends, this is all exceedingly practical and means, surely,
a life very different from the lives of most professors around us. It means
that we do really and absolutely turn our backs on self, and on self's
motives and self's aims. It means that we are a peculiar people, not only in
the eyes of God, but in the eyes of the world around us; and that, wherever
we go, it will be known from our Christlike lives and conversation that we
are followers of the Lord Jesus Christ; and are not of the world, even as He
was not of the world. We shall no longer feel that our money is our own, but
the Lord's, to be used in His service. We shall not feel at liberty to use
our energies exclusively in the pursuit of worldly means, but, seeking first
the kingdom of God and His righteousness, shall have all needful things
added unto us. We shall find ourselves forbidden to seek the highest places,
or to strain after worldly advantages. We shall not be permitted to be
conformed to the world in our ways of thinking or of living. We shall feel
no desire to indulge in the world's frivolous pursuits. We shall find our
affections set upon heavenly things, rather than upon earthly things. Our
days will be spent not in serving ourselves, but in serving our Lord; and
all our rightful duties will be more perfectly performed than ever, because
whatever we do will be done "not with eye-service as men-pleasers, but as
the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart."
Into all these things we shall undoubtedly be led by the blessed Spirit
of God, if we give ourselves up to His guidance. But unless we have the
right standard of Christian life set before us, we shall be hindered by our
ignorance from recognizing His voice; and it is for this reason I desire to
be very plain and definite in my statements.
I have noticed that wherever there has been a faithful following of the
Lord in a consecrated soul, several things have inevitably followed, sooner
Meekness and quietness of spirit become in time the characteristics of
the daily life; a submissive acceptance of the will of God, as it comes in
the hourly events of each day; pliability in the hands of God to do or to
suffer all the good pleasure of His will; sweetness under provocation;
calmness in the midst of turmoil and bustle; yieldingness to the wishes of
others, and an insensibility to slights and affronts, absence of worry or
anxiety; deliverance from care and fear: all these, and many other similar
graces are invariably found to be the natural outward development of that
inward life which is hid with Christ in God. Then as to the habits of life:
we always see such Christians sooner or later giving themselves up to some
work for God and their fellowmen, willing to spend and be spent in the
Master's service. They become indifferent to outward show in the furniture
of their houses and the style of their living, and make all personal
adornment secondary to the things of God. The voice is dedicated to God, to
talk and sing for Him. The purse is placed at His disposal. The pen is
dedicated to write for Him, the lips to speak for Him, the hands and the
feet to do His bidding. Year after year such Christians are seen to grow
more unworldly, more heavenly-minded, more transformed, more like Christ,
until even their very faces express so much of the beautiful inward Divine
life, that all who look at them cannot but take knowledge of them that they
live with God, and are abiding in Him.
I feel sure that to each one of you have come at least some Divine
intimations or foreshadowings of the life I here describe. Have you not
begun to feel dimly conscious of the voice of God speaking to you in the
depths of your soul about these things? Has it not been a pain and a
distress to you of late to discover how much there is wrong in your life?
Has not your soul been plunged into inward trouble and doubt about certain
dispositions and ways, in which you have been formerly accustomed to
indulge? Have you not begun to feel uneasy with some of your habits of life,
and to wish that you could do differently in these respects? Have not paths
of devotedness and of service begun to open out before you, with the longing
thought, "Oh, that I could walk in them"?
All these longings and doubts, and this inward distress, are the voice
of the Good Shepherd in your heart seeking to call you out of all that is
contrary to His will. Oh! let me entreat of you not to turn away from His
gentle pleadings. You little know the secret paths into which He means to
lead you by these very steps, nor the wonderful stores of blessedness that
lie at their end, or you would spring forward with an eager joy to yield to
every one of His requirements. The heights of Christian perfection can only
be reached by faithfully following the Guide who is to lead you there, and
He reveals your way to you one step at a time in the teachings and
providences of your daily lives, asking only on your part that you yield
yourselves up to His guidance. If, then, in anything you are convinced of
sin, be sure that it is the voice of your Lord, and surrender it at once to
His bidding, rejoicing with a great joy that He has begun thus to lead and
guide you. Be perfectly pliable in His wise hands, go where He entices you,
turn away from all from which He makes you shrink, obey Him perfectly; and
He will lead you out swiftly and easily into a wonderful life of conformity
to Himself, that will be a testimony to all around you, beyond what you
yourself will ever know.
I knew a soul thus given up to follow the Lord whithersoever He might
lead her, who in three short months travelled from the depths of darkness
and despair into the realization and conscious experience of the most
blessed union with the Lord Jesus Christ. Out of the midst of her darkness,
she consecrated herself to the Lord, surrendering her will up altogether to
Him, that He might work in her to will and to do of His own good pleasure.
Immediately He began to speak to her by His Spirit in her heart, suggesting
to her some little acts of service for Him, and calling her out of all
un-Christlike dispositions and ways. She recognized His voice, and yielded
to Him each thing He asked for, following Him whithersoever He might lead
her, with no fear but the one fear of disobeying Him. He led her rapidly on,
day by day conforming her more and more to His will, and making her life
such a testimony to those around her, that even some who had begun by
opposing and disbelieving, were forced to acknowledge that it was of God,
and were won to a similar surrender. And, finally, after three short months
of this faithful following, it came to pass, so swiftly had she gone, that
her Lord was able to reveal to her wondering soul some of the deepest
secrets of His love, and to fulfil to her the marvellous promise of Acts
1:5, baptizing her with the Holy Ghost. Think you she has ever regretted her
wholehearted following of Him? Or that aught but thankfulness and joy can
ever fill her soul when she reviews the steps by which her feet had been led
to this place of wondrous blessedness, even though some of them may have
seemed at the time hard to take? Ah! dear soul, if thou wouldst know a like
blessing, abandon thyself, like her, to the guidance of the Divine Master,
and shrink from no surrender for which He may call.
"The perfect way is hard to flesh,
It is not hard to love;
If thou wert sick for want of God,
How swiftly wouldst thou move."
Surely thou canst trust Him! And if some things may be called for which
look to thee of but little moment, and not worthy thy Lord's attention,
remember that He sees not as man seeth, and that things small to thee may be
in His eyes the key and the clue to the deepest springs of thy being. In
order to mould thee into entire conformity to His will, He must have thee
pliable in his hands, and this pliability is more quickly reached by
yielding in the little things than even by the greater. Thy one great desire
is to follow Him fully; canst thou not say then a continual "Yes, Lord!" to
all His sweet commands, whether small or great, and trust Him to lead thee
by the shortest road to thy fullest blessedness?
My dear friend, this, and nothing less than this, is what thy
consecration meant, whether thou knew it or not. It meant inevitable
obedience. It meant that the will of thy God was henceforth to be thy will
under all circumstances and at all times. It meant that from that moment
thou surrendered thy liberty of choice, and gave thyself up utterly into the
control of thy Lord. It meant an hourly following of Him whithersoever He
might lead thee, without any dream of turning back.
And now I appeal to thee to make good thy word. Let everything else go,
that thou mayest live out, in a practical daily walk and conversation, the
Divine life thou hast dwelling within thee. Thou art united to thy Lord by a
wondrous tie; walk, then, as He walked, and show to the unbelieving world
the blessed reality of His mighty power to save, by letting Him save thee to
the very uttermost. Thou needst not fear to consent to this, for He is thy
Saviour; and His power is to do it all. He is not asking thee, in thy poor
weakness, to do it thyself; He only asks thee to yield thyself to Him, that
He may work in thee to will and to do by His own mighty power. Thy part is
to yield thyself, His part is to work; and never, never will He give thee
any command which is not accompanied by ample power to obey it. Take no
thought for the morrow in this matter; but abandon thyself with a generous
trust to thy loving Lord, who has promised never to call His own sheep out
into any path, without Himself going before them to make the way easy and
safe. Take each onward step as He makes it plain to thee. Bring all thy life
in each of its details to Him to regulate and guide. Follow gladly and
quickly the sweet suggestions of His Spirit in thy soul. And day by day thou
wilt find Him bringing thee more and more into conformity with His will in
all things; moulding thee and fashioning thee, as thou art able to bear it,
into a vessel unto His honor, sanctified and meet for His use, and fitted to
every good work. So shall be given to thee the sweet joy of being an epistle
of Christ known and read of all men; and thy light shall shine so brightly
that men seeing, not thee, but thy good works, shall glorify, not thee, but
thy Father which is in Heaven.
We are predestined to be "conformed to the image" of God's Son. This
means, of course, not a likeness of bodily presence, but a likeness of
character and nature. It means a similarity of thought, of feeling, of
desire, of loves, of hates. It means, that we are to think and act,
according to our measure, as Christ would have thought and acted under our
A little girl was once questioned what it meant to be a Christian. She
replied, "It means to be just what Christ would be, if He was a little girl
and lived in my house."
The secret of Christ's life was the pouring out of Himself for others;
and if we are like Him, this will be the secret of our lives also. He saved
others, but Himself He could not save. He "pleased not Himself," and
therefore we are "not to please ourselves," but rather our neighbor, when it
is for his good.
A thoughtful Hindoo religionist, who visited England and America lately
to examine into Christianity, said, as the result of his observations, "What
Christians need is a little more of Christ's Christianity, and a little less
Man's Christianity teaches sacrifice to save ourselves; Christ's
Christianity teaches sacrifice to save others. Man's Christianity produces
the fruitless selfishness of too much of our religion. Christ's Christianity
produces the blessed unselfishness of lives that are poured out for others,
as was His.
In short, then, the one practical outcome of all that our book has been
teaching us, is simply this, that we are to be Christlike Christians. And
all our experiences amount to nothing if they do not produce this result.
For "not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the
kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in
THE JOY OF OBEDIENCE
I remember reading once somewhere this sentence, "Perfect obedience would be
perfect happiness, if only we had perfect confidence in the power we were
obeying." I remember being struck with the saying, as the revelation of a
possible, although hitherto undreamed-of way of happiness; and often
afterwards, through all the lawlessness and wilfulness of my life, did that
saying recur to me as the vision of a rest, and yet of a possible
development, that would soothe and at the same time satisfy all my
yearnings. Need I say that this rest has been revealed to me now, not as a
vision, but as a reality; and that I have seen in the Lord Jesus, the Master
to whom we may all yield up our implicit obedience, and, taking His yoke
upon us, may find our perfect rest?
You little know, dear hesitating soul, of the joy you are missing. The
Master has revealed Himself to you, and is calling for your complete
surrender, and you shrink and hesitate. A measure of surrender you are
willing to make, and think indeed it is fit and proper you should. But an
utter abandonment, without any reserves, seems to you too much to be asked
for. You are afraid of it. It involves too much, you think, and is too great
a task. To be measurably obedient you desire; to be perfectly obedient
And then, too, you see other souls who seem able to walk with easy
consciences, in a far wider path than that which appears to be marked out
for you, and you ask yourself why this need be. It seems strange, and
perhaps hard to you, that you must do what they need not, and must leave
undone what they have liberty to do.
Ah! dear Christian, this very difference between you is your privilege,
though you do not yet know it. Your Lord says, "He that hath my
commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me; and he that loveth
Me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest
Myself to him." You have His commandments; those you envy, have them not.
You know the mind of your Lord about many things, in which, as yet, they are
walking in darkness. Is not this a privilege? Is it a cause for regret that
your soul is brought into such near and intimate relations with your Master,
that He is able to tell you things which those who are further off may not
know? Do you not realize what a tender degree of intimacy is implied in
There are many relations in life which require from the different
parties only very moderate degrees of devotion. We may have really pleasant
friendships with one another, and yet spend a large part of our lives in
separate interests, and widely differing pursuits. When together, we may
greatly enjoy one another's society, and find many congenial points; but
separation is not any especial distress to us, and other and more intimate
friendships do not interfere. There is not enough love between us, to give
us either the right or the desire to enter into and share one another's most
private affairs. A certain degree of reserve and distance is the suitable
thing, we feel. But there are other relations in life where all this is
changed. The friendship becomes love. The two hearts give themselves to one
another, to be no longer two but one. A union of souls takes place, which
makes all that belongs to one the property of the other. Separate interests
and separate paths in life are no longer possible. Things which were lawful
before become unlawful now, because of the nearness of the tie that binds.
The reserve and distance suitable to mere friendship becomes fatal in love.
Love gives all, and must have all in return. The wishes of one become
binding obligations to the other, and the deepest desire of each heart is,
that it may know every secret wish or longing of the other, in order that it
may fly on the wings of the wind to gratify it.
Do such as these chafe under this yoke which love imposes? Do they envy
the cool, calm, reasonable friendships they see around them, and regret the
nearness into which their souls are brought to their beloved one, because of
the obligations it creates? Do they not rather glory in these very
obligations, and inwardly pity, with a tender yet exulting joy, the poor
far-off ones who dare not come so near? Is not every fresh revelation of the
mind of one another a fresh delight and privilege, and is any path found
hard which their love compels them to travel?
Ah! dear souls, if you have ever known this even for a few hours in any
earthly relation; if you have ever loved a fellow human being enough to find
sacrifice and service on their behalf a joy; if a whole-souled abandonment
of your will to the will of another has ever gleamed across you as a blessed
and longed-for privilege, or as a sweet and precious reality, then, by all
the tender longing love of your heavenly Master, would I entreat you to let
it be so towards God!
He loves you with more than the love of friendship. As a bridegroom
rejoices over his bride, so does He rejoice over you, and nothing but a full
surrender will satisfy Him. He has given you all, and He asks for all in
return. The slightest reserve will grieve Him to the heart. He spared not
Himself, and how can you spare yourself? For your sake He poured out in a
lavish abandonment all that He had, and for His sake you must pour out all
that you have without stint or measure.
Oh, be generous in your self-surrender! Meet His measureless devotion
for you, with a measureless devotion to Him. Be glad and eager to throw
yourself headlong into His dear arms, and to hand over the reins of
government to Him. Whatever there is of you, let Him have it all. Give up
forever everything that is separate from Him. Consent to resign from this
time forward all liberty of choice; and glory in the blessed nearness of
union which makes this enthusiasm of devotedness not only possible but
necessary. Have you never longed to lavish your love and attentions upon
someone far off from you in position or circumstances, with whom you were
not intimate enough for any closer approach? Have you not felt a capacity
for self-surrender and devotedness, that has seemed to burn within you like
a fire, and yet had no object upon which it dared to lavish itself? Have not
your hands been full of alabaster boxes of ointment, very precious, which
you have never been near enough to any heart to pour out? If, then, you are
hearing the sweet voice of your Lord calling you into a place of nearness to
Himself, which will require a separation from all else, and which will make
this enthusiasm of devotedness not only possible, but necessary will you
shrink or hesitate? Will you think it hard that He reveals to you more of
His mind than He does to others, and that He will not allow you to be happy
in anything which separates you from Himself? Do you want to go where He
cannot go with you, or to have pursuits which He cannot share?
No! no, a thousand times, no! You will spring out to meet His dear will
with an eager joy. Even His slightest wish will become a binding law to you,
which it would fairly break your heart to disobey. You will glory in the
very narrowness of the path He marks out for you, and will pity with an
infinite pity the poor far-off ones who have missed this precious joy. The
obligations of love will be to you its sweetest privileges; and the right
you have acquired to lavish the uttermost abandonment of all that you have
upon your Lord, will seem to lift you into a region of unspeakable glory.
The perfect happiness of perfect obedience will dawn upon your soul, and you
will begin to know something of what Jesus meant when He said, "I delight to
do thy will, O my God."
And do you think the joy in this will be all on your side? Has the Lord
no joy in those who have thus surrendered themselves to Him, and who love to
obey Him? Ah, my friends, we are not fit to speak of this but surely the
Scriptures reveal to us glimpses of the delight, the satisfaction, the joy
our Lord has in us, that ravish the soul with their marvellous suggestions
of blessedness. That we should need Him, is easy to comprehend; that He
should need us, seems incomprehensible. That our desire should be towards
Him, is a matter of course; but that His desire should be towards us, passes
the bounds of human belief. And yet, over and over He says it, and what can
we do but believe Him? He has made our hearts capable of this supreme,
overmastering affection, and has offered Himself as the object of it. It is
infinitely precious to Him, and He says, "He that loveth me shall be loved
of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him."
Continually at every heart He is knocking, and asking to be taken in as the
supreme object of love. "Wilt thou have me," He says to the believer, "to be
thy Beloved? Wilt thou follow me into suffering and loneliness, and endure
hardness for my sake, and ask for no reward but my smile of approval, and my
word of praise? Wilt thou throw thyself with an utter abandonment into my
will? Wilt thou give up to me the absolute control of thyself and all that
thou art? Wilt thou be content with pleasing me and me only? May I have my
way with thee in all things? Wilt thou come into so close a union with me as
to make a separation from the world necessary? Wilt thou accept me for thy
only Lord, and leave all others, to cleave only unto Me?"
In a thousand ways He makes this offer of oneness with Himself to every
believer. But all do not say "Yes," to Him. Other loves and other interests
seem to them too precious to be cast aside. They do not miss of Heaven
because of this. But they miss an unspeakable joy.
You, however, are not one of these. From the very first your soul has
cried out eagerly and gladly to all His offers, "Yes, Lord; yes!" You are
more than ready to pour out upon Him all your richest treasures of love and
devotedness. You have brought to Him an enthusiasm of self-surrender that
perhaps may disturb and distress the more prudent and moderate Christians
around you. Your love makes necessary a separation from the world, which a
lower love cannot even conceive of. Sacrifices and services are possible and
sweet to you, which could not come into the grasp of a more half-hearted
devotedness. The life upon which you have entered gives you the right to a
lavish outpouring of your all upon your beloved One. Services, of which more
distant souls know nothing, become now your sweetest privilege. Your Lord
claims from you, because of your union with Him, far more than He claims of
them. What to them is lawful, love has made unlawful for you. To you He can
make known His secrets, and to you He looks for an instant response to every
requirement of His love.
Oh, it is wonderful! the glorious, unspeakable privilege upon which you
have entered! How little it will matter to you if men shall hate you, or
shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you and cast out
your name as evil for His dear sake! You may well "rejoice in that day and
leap for joy"; for behold your reward is great in Heaven, and if you are a
partaker of His suffering, you shall be also of His glory.
In you He is seeing of the travail of His soul, and is satisfied. Your
love and devotedness are His precious reward for all He has done for you. It
is unspeakably sweet to Him. Do not be afraid then to let yourself go in a
heart-whole devotedness to your Lord, that can brook no reserves. Others may
not approve, but He will, and that is enough. Do not stint or measure your
obedience or your service. Let your heart and your hand be as free to serve
Him, as His heart and His hand were to serve you. Let Him have all there is
of you, body, soul, and spirit, time, talents, voice, everything. Lay your
whole life open before Him that He may control it. Say to Him each day,
"Lord, how shall I regulate this day so as to please Thee? Where shall I go?
what shall I do? whom shall I visit? what shall I say?" Give your intellect
up into His control and say, "Lord, tell me how to think so as to please
Thee?" Give Him your reading, your pursuits, your friendships, and say,
"Lord, give me the insight to judge concerning all these things with Thy
wisdom." Do not let there be a day nor an hour in which you are not
intelligently doing His will, and following Him wholly. And this personal
service to Him will give a halo to your life, and gild the most monotonous
existence with a heavenly glow.
Have you ever grieved that the romance of youth is so soon lost in the
hard realities of the world? Bring God thus into your life and into all its
details, and a far grander enthusiasm will thrill your soul than the
brightest days of youth could ever know, and nothing will seem hard or stern
again. The meanest life will be glorified by this. Often, as I have watched
a poor woman at her wash-tub, and have thought of all the disheartening
accessories of such a life, and have been tempted to wonder why such lives
need to be, there has come over me, with a thrill of joy, the recollection
of this possible glorification of it, and I have said to myself, Even this
life, lived in Christ, and with Christ, following Him whithersoever He may
lead, would be filled with an enthusiasm that would make every hour of it
glorious. And I have gone on my way comforted to know that God's most
wondrous blessings thus lie in the way of the poorest and the meanest lives.
"For," says our Lord Himself, "whosoever," whether they be rich or poor, old
or young, bond or free, "whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my
brother, and my sister, and my mother."
Pause a moment over these simple yet amazing words. His brother, and
sister, and mother! What would we not have given to have been one of these!
Oh, let me entreat of you, beloved Christian, to come, taste and see for
yourself how good the Lord is, and what wonderful things He has in store for
those who "keep His commandments, and who do those things that are pleasing
in His sight."
"And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the
voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all His commandments which I
command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high, above
all nations of the earth; and all these blessings shall come on thee, and
overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God.
"Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the
"Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground,
and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy
"Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store.
"Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and blessed shalt thou be
when thou goest out.
"The Lord shall cause thine enemies that shall rise up against thee to
be smitten before thy face; they shall come out against thee one way, and
flee before thee seven ways.
"The Lord shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses, and
in all that thou settest thine hand unto; and He shall bless thee in the
land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
"The Lord shall establish thee an holy people unto Himself, as He hath
sworn unto thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of the Lord thy God,
and walk in His ways.
"And all people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name
of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of thee.
"And the Lord shall make thee plenteous in goods, in the fruit of thy
body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, in the fruit of thy ground, in the
land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers to give thee.
"And the Lord shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou
shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken
unto the commandments of the Lord thy God, which I command thee this day, to
observe and to do them."
For the Israelites this was outward and temporal, for us it is inward
and spiritual; and, as such, infinitely more glorious. May our surrendered
wills leap out to embrace it in all its fulness!
ONENESS WITH CHRIST
All the dealings of God with the soul of the believer are in order to bring
him into oneness with Himself, that the prayer of our Lord may be fulfilled:
"That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me and I in thee, that
they also may be one in us." . . . "I in them, and thou in me, that they may
be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that thou hast sent me,
and hast loved them as thou hast loved me."
This soul-union was the glorious purpose in the heart of God for His
people before the foundation of the world. It was the mystery hid from ages
and generations. It was accomplished in the incarnation of Christ. It has
been made known by the Scriptures. And it is realized as an actual
experience by many of God's dear children.
But not by all. It is true of all, and God has not hidden it or made it
hard, but the eyes of many are too dim and their hearts too unbelieving, and
they fail to grasp it. And it is for the very purpose of bringing them into
the personal and actual realization of this, that the Lord is stirring up
believers everywhere at the present time to abandon themselves to Him, that
He may work in them all the good pleasure of His will.
All the previous steps in the Christian life lead up to this. The Lord
has made us for it; and until we have intelligently apprehended it, and have
voluntarily consented to embrace it, the travail of His soul for us is not
satisfied, nor have our hearts found their destined and final rest.
The usual course of Christian experience is pictured in the history of
the disciples. First they were awakened to see their condition and their
need, and they came to Christ and gave in their allegiance to Him. Then they
followed Him, worked for Him, believed in Him; and yet, how unlike Him!
seeking to be set up one above the other; running away from the cross;
misunderstanding His mission and His words; forsaking their Lord in time of
danger; but still sent out to preach, recognized by Him as His disciples,
possessing power to work for Him. They knew Christ only "after the flesh,"
as outside of them, their Lord and Master, but not yet their Life.
Then came Pentecost, and these disciples came to know Him as inwardly
revealed; as one with them in actual union, their very indwelling Life.
Henceforth He was to them Christ within, working in them to will and to do
of His good pleasure; delivering them by the law of the Spirit of His life
from the bondage to the law of sin and death, under which they had been
held. No longer was it between themselves and Him, a war of wills and a
clashing of interest. One will alone animated them, and that was His will.
One interest alone was dear to them, and that was His. They were made ONE
And surely all can recognize this picture, though perhaps as yet the
final stage of it has not been fully reached. You may have left much to
follow Christ, dear reader; you may have believed on him, and worked for
Him, and loved Him, and yet may not be like Him. Allegiance you know, and
confidence you know, but not yet union. There are two wills, two interests,
two lives. You have not yet lost your own life that you may live only in
His. Once it was I and not Christ; then it was I and Christ; perhaps now it
is even Christ and I. But has it come yet to be Christ only, and not I at
Perhaps you do not understand what this oneness means. Some people
think it consists in a great emotion or a wonderful feeling of oneness, and
they turn inward to examine their emotions, thinking to decide by the state
of these, what is the state of their interior union with God. But nowhere is
the mistake of trusting to feelings greater than here.
Oneness with Christ must, in the very nature of things, consists in a
Christ-like life and character. It is not what we feel, but what we are that
settles the question. No matter how exalted or intense our emotions on the
subject may be, if there is not a likeness of character with Christ, a unity
of aim and purpose, a similarity of thought and of action, there can be no
This is plain common-sense, and it is Scriptural as well.
We speak of two people being one, and we mean that their purposes, and
actions, and thoughts, and desires are alike. A friend may pour out upon us
enthusiastic expressions of love, and unity and oneness, but if that
friend's aims, and actions, and ways of looking at things are exactly
opposite to ours, we cannot feel there is any real oneness between us,
notwithstanding all our affection for one another. To be truly one with
another, we must have the same likes and dislikes, the same joys and
sorrows, the same hopes and fears. As someone says, we must look through one
another's eyes, and think with one another's brains. This is, as I said
above, only plain common-sense.
And oneness with Christ can be judged by no other rule. It is out of
the question to be one with Him in any other way than in the way of nature,
and character, and life. Unless we are Christ-like in our thoughts and our
ways, we are not one with Him, no matter how we feel.
I have seen Christians, with hardly one Christ-like attribute in their
whole characters, who yet were so emotional and had such ecstatic feelings
of love for Christ, as to think themselves justified in claiming the closest
oneness with Him. I scarcely know a sadder sight. Surely our Lord meant to
reach such cases when He said in Matt. 7:21, "Not every one that saith unto
me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth
the will of my Father which is in heaven." He was not making here any
arbitrary statement of God's will, but a simple announcement of the nature
of things. Of course it must be so. It is like saying, "No man can enter the
ranks of astronomers who is not an astronomer." Emotions will not make a man
an astronomer, but life and action. He must be one, not merely feel that he
There is no escape from this inexorable nature of things, and
especially here. Unless we are one with Christ as to character and life and
action, we cannot be one with Him in any other way, for there is no other
way. We must be "partakers of His nature" or we cannot be partakers of His
life, for His life and His nature are one.
But emotional souls do not always recognize this. They feel so near
Christ and so united to Him, that they think it must be real; and
overlooking the absolute necessity of Christ-likeness of character and walk,
they are building their hopes and their confidence on their delightful
emotions and exalted feelings, and think they must be one with Him, or they
could not have such rich and holy experiences.
Now it is a psychological fact that these or similar emotions can be
produced by other causes than a purely divine influence, and that they are
largely dependent upon temperament and physical conditions. It is most
dangerous, therefore, to make them a test of our spiritual union with
Christ. It may result in just such a grievous self-deception as our Lord
warns against in Luke 6:46-49, "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not
the things which I say?" Our soul delights perhaps in calling Him, Lord,
Lord, but are we doing the things which He said; for this, He tells us, is
the important point, after all.
If, therefore, led by our feelings, we are saying in meetings, or among
our friends, or even in our own heart before the Lord, that we are abiding
in Him, let us take home to ourselves in solemn consideration these words of
the Holy Ghost, "He that saith he abideth in Him, ought himself so to walk,
even as He walked."
Unless we are thus walking, we cannot possibly be abiding in Him, no
matter how much we may feel as if we were.
If you are really one with Christ you will be sweet to those who are
cross to you; you will bear everything and make no complaints; when you are
reviled you will not revile again; you will consent to be trampled on, as
Christ was, and feel nothing but love in return; you will seek the honor of
others rather than your own; you will take the lowest place, and be the
servant of all, as Christ was; you will literally and truly love your
enemies and do good to them that despitefully use you; you will, in short,
live a Christ-like life, and manifest outwardly as well as feel inwardly a
Christ-like spirit, and will walk among men as He walked among them. This,
dear friends, is what it is to be one with Christ. And if all this is not
your life according to your measure, then you are not one with Him, no
matter how ecstatic or exalted your feelings may be.
To be one with Christ is too wonderful and solemn and mighty an
experience to be reached by any overflow or exaltation of mere feeling. He
was holy, and those who are one with Him will be holy also. There is no
escape from this simple and obvious fact.
When our Lord tried to make us understand His oneness with God, He
expressed it in such words as these, "I do always the things that please
Him." "Whatsoever He saith unto me that I do." "The Son can do nothing of
Himself, but what He seeth the Father do; for what things soever He doeth,
these also doeth the Son likewise." "I can of mine own self do nothing; as I
hear I judge, and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but
the will of Him that sent me." "If I do not the works of my Father, believe
me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works; that ye
may know and believe that the Father is in me and I in Him."
The test of oneness then, was the doing of the same works, and it is
the test of oneness now. And if our Lord could say of Himself that if He did
not the works of his Father, He did not ask to be believed, no matter what
professions or claims He might make, surely His disciples must do no less.
It is forever true in the nature of things that "a good tree cannot
bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit."
It is not that they will not, but they cannot. And a soul that is one with
Christ will just as surely bring forth a Christ-like life, as a grapevine
will bring forth grapes and not thistles.
Not that I would be understood to object to emotions. On the contrary,
I believe they are very precious gifts, when they are from God, and are to
be greatly rejoiced in. But what I do object to is the making them a test or
proof of spiritual states, either in ourselves or others, and depending on
them as the foundation of our faith. Let them come or let them go, just as
God pleases, and make no account of them either way. But always see to it
that the really vital marks of oneness with Christ, the marks of likeness in
character, and life, and walk, are ours, and all will be well. For "he that
saith I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth
is not in Him. But whoso keepeth His word, in him verily is the love of God
perfected: hereby know we that we are in Him."
It may be, my dear reader, that the grief of your life has been the
fact that you have so few good feelings. You try your hardest to get up the
feelings which you hear others talking about, but they will not come. You
pray for them fervently, and are often tempted to upbraid God because He
does not grant them to you. And you are filled with an almost unbearable
anguish because you think your want of emotion is a sign that there is not
any interior union of your soul with Christ. You judge altogether by your
feelings, and think there is no other way to judge.
Now my advice to you is to let your feelings go, and pay no regard to
them whatever. They really have nothing to do with the matter. They are not
the indicators of your spiritual state, but are merely the indicators of
your temperament, or of your present physical condition. People in very low
states of grace are often the subjects of very powerful emotional
experiences. We all know this from the scenes we have heard of or witnessed
at camp-meetings and revivals. I myself had a colored servant once who would
become unconscious under the power of her wonderful experiences, whenever
there was a revival meeting at their church, who yet had hardly a token of
any spiritual life about her at other times, and who was, in fact, not even
moral. Now surely, if the Bible teaches nothing else, it does teach this,
that a Christ-like life and walk must accompany any experience which is
really born of His spirit. It could not be otherwise in the very nature of
things. But I fear some Christians have separated the two things so entirely
in their conceptions, as to have exalted their experiences at the expense of
their walk, and have come to care far more about their emotions than about
A certain colored congregation in one of the Southern States was a
plague to the whole neighborhood by their open disregard of even the
ordinary rules of morality; stealing, and lying, and cheating, without
apparently a single prick of conscience on the subject. And yet their
nightly meetings were times of the greatest emotion and "power." Someone
finally spoke to the preacher about it, and begged him to preach a sermon on
morality, which would lead his people to see their sins. "Ah, missus," he
replied, "I knows dey's bad, but den it always brings a coldness like over
de meetings when I preaches about dem things."
You are helpless as to your emotions, but character you can have if you
will. You can be so filled with Christ as to be Christ-like, and if you are
Christ-like, then you are one with Him in the only vital and essential way,
even though your feelings may tell you that it is an impossibility.
Having thus settled what oneness with Christ really is, the next point
for us to consider is how to reach it for ourselves.
We must first of all find out what are the facts in the case, and what
is our own relation to these facts.
If you read such passages as 1 Cor. 3:16, "Know ye not that ye are the
temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" and then look at
the opening of the chapter to see to whom these wonderful words are spoken,
even to "babes in Christ," who were "yet carnal," and walked according to
man, you will see that this soul-union of which I speak, this unspeakably
glorious mystery of an indwelling God is the possession of even the weakest
and most failing believer in Christ. So that it is not a new thing you are
to ask for, but only to realize that which you already have. Of every
believer in the Lord Jesus it is absolutely true, that his "body is the
temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in him, which he has of God."
It seems to me just in this way; as though Christ were living in a
house, shut up in a far-off closet, unknown and unnoticed by the dwellers in
the house, longing to make Himself known to them and be one with them in all
their daily lives, and share in all their interests, but unwilling to force
Himself upon their notice; as nothing but a voluntary companionship could
meet or satisfy the needs of His love. The days pass by over that favored
household, and they remain in ignorance of their marvellous privilege. They
come and go about all their daily affairs with no thought of their wonderful
Guest. Their plans are laid without reference to Him. His wisdom to guide,
and His strength to protect, are all lost to them. Lonely days and weeks are
spent in sadness, which might have been full of the sweetness of His
But suddenly the announcement is made, "The Lord is in the house!"
How will its owner receive the intelligence? Will he call out an eager
thanksgiving, and throw wide open every door for the entrance of his
glorious Guest; Or will he shrink and hesitate, afraid of His presence and
seek to reserve some private corner for a refuge from His all-seeing eye?
Dear friend, I make the glad announcement to thee that the Lord is in
thy heart. Since the day of thy conversion He has been dwelling there, but
thou hast lived on in ignorance of it. Every moment during all that time
might have been passed in the sunshine of His sweet presence, and every step
have been taken under His advice. But because thou knew it not, and hast
never looked for Him there, thy life has been lonely and full of failure.
But now that I make the announcement to thee, how wilt thou receive it? Art
thou glad to have Him? Wilt thou throw wide open every door to welcome Him
in? Wilt thou joyfully and thankfully give up the government of thy life
into His hands? Wilt thou consult Him about everything, and let Him decide
each step for thee, and mark out every path? Wilt thou invite Him to thy
innermost chambers, and make Him the sharer in thy most hidden life? Wilt
thou say, "YES!" to all His longing for union with thee, and with a glad and
eager abandonment, hand thyself and all that concerns thee over into His
hands? If thou wilt, then shall thy soul begin to know something of the joy
of union with Christ.
And yet, after all, this is but a faint picture of the blessed reality.
For far more glorious than it would be to have Christ a dweller in the house
or in the heart, is it to be brought into such a real and actual union with
Him as to be one with Him, one will, one purpose, one interest, one life.
Human words cannot express such glory as this. And yet I want to express it.
I want to make your souls so unutterably hungry to realize it, that day or
night you cannot rest without it. Do you understand the words, one with
Christ? Do you catch the slightest glimpse of their marvellous meaning? Does
not your whole soul begin to exult over such a wondrous destiny? For it is a
reality. It means to have no life but His life, to have no will but His
will, to have no interests but His interests, to share His riches, to enter
into His joys, to partake of His sorrows, to manifest His life, to have the
same mind as He had, to think, and feel, and act, and walk as He did. Oh,
who could have dreamed that such a destiny could have been ours!
Wilt thou have it, dear soul? Thy Lord will not force it on thee, for
He wants thee as His companion and His friend, and a forced union would be
incompatible with this. It must be voluntary on thy part.
The bride must say a willing "Yes," to her bridegroom, or the joy of
their union is utterly wanting. Canst thou say a willing "Yes," to thy Lord?
It is such a simple transaction, and yet so real! The steps are but
three. First, be convinced that the Scriptures teach this glorious
indwelling of thy God; then surrender thy whole being to Him to be possessed
by Him; and finally believe that He has taken possession, and is dwelling in
thee. Begin to reckon thyself dead, and to reckon Christ as thy only life.
Maintain this attitude of soul unwaveringly. Say, "I am crucified with
Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me," over and
over day and night, until it becomes the habitual breathing of thy soul. Put
off thy self-life by faith and in fact continually, and put on practically
the life of Christ. Let this act become, by its constant repetition, the
attitude of thy whole being. And as surely as thou dost this day by day,
thou shalt find thyself continually bearing about in thy body the dying of
the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in thy
mortal flesh. Thou shalt learn to know what salvation means; and shalt have
opened out to thy astonished gaze secrets of the Lord, of which thou hast
hitherto hardly dreamed.
How have I erred! God is my home
And God Himself is here.
Why have I looked so far for Him,
Who is nowhere but near?
Yet God is never so far off
As even to be near;
He is within, our spirit is
The home He holds most dear.
So all the while I thought myself
Homeless, forlorn, and weary;
Missing my joy, I walked the earth,
Myself God's sanctuary.
"ALTHOUGH" AND "YET," A LESSON IN THE INTERIOR LIFE
In many of our store windows at Christmas time there stands a most
significant picture. It is a dreary, desolate winter scene. There is a dark,
stormy, wintry sky, bare trees, and brown grass and dead weeds, with patches
of snow over them. On a leafless tree at one side of the picture is an empty
and snow-covered nest, and on a branch near sits a little bird. All is cold,
and dark, and desolate enough to daunt any bird, and drive it to some fairer
clime, but this bird is sitting there in an attitude of perfect contentment,
and has its little head bravely lifted up towards the sky, while a winter
song is evidently about to burst forth from its tiny throat.
This picture, which always stands on my shelf, has preached me many a
sermon. And the test is always the same, and finds its expression in the two
words that stand at the head of this article, "Although" and "Yet."
"ALTHOUGH the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the
vines: the labor of the olive shall fail, and the field shall yield no meat;
the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the
stall: YET I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my
There come times in many lives, when, like this bird in the winter, the
soul finds itself bereft of every comfort both outward and inward; when all
seems dark, and all seems wrong, even; when everything in which we have
trusted seems to fail us; when the promises are apparently unfulfilled, and
our prayers gain no response; when there seems nothing left to rest on in
earth or Heaven. And it is at such times as these that the brave little bird
with its message is needed. "Although" all is wrong everywhere, "yet" there
is still one thing left to rejoice in, and that is God; the "God of our
salvation," who changes not, but is the same good, loving, tender God
yesterday, today, and forever. We can joy in Him always, whether we have
anything else to rejoice in or not.
By rejoicing in Him, however, I do not mean rejoicing in ourselves,
although I fear most people think this is really what is meant. It is their
feelings or their revelations or their experiences that constitute the
groundwork of their joy, and if none of these are satisfactory, they see no
possibility of joy at all.
But the lesson the Lord is trying to teach us all the time is the
lesson of self-effacement. He commands us to look away from self and all
self's experiences, to crucify self and count it dead, to cease to be
interested in self, and to know nothing and be interested in nothing but
The reason for this is that God has destined us for a higher life than
the self-life. That just as He has destined the caterpillar to become the
butterfly, and therefore has appointed the caterpillar life to die, in order
that the butterfly life may take its place, so He has appointed our
self-life to die in order that the divine life may become ours instead. The
caterpillar effaces itself in its grub form, that it may evolve or develop
into its butterfly form. It dies that it may live. And just so must we.
Therefore, the one most essential thing in this stage of our existence
must be the death to self and the resurrection to a life only in God. And it
is for this reason that the lesson of joy in the Lord, and not in self, must
be learned. Every advancing soul must come sooner or later to the place
where it can trust God, the bare God, if I may be allowed the expression,
simply and only because of what He is in Himself, and not because of His
promises or His gifts. It must learn to have its joy in Him alone, and to
rejoice in Him when all else in Heaven and earth shall seem to fail.
The only way in which this place can be reached I believe, is by the
soul being compelled to face in its own experience the loss of all things
both inward and outward. I do not mean necessarily that all one's friends
must die, or all one's money be lost: but I do mean that the soul shall find
itself, from either inward or outward causes, desolate, and bereft, and
empty of all consolation. It must come to the end of everything that is not
God; and must have nothing else left to rest on within or without. It must
experience just what the prophet meant when he wrote that "Although."
It must wade through the slough, and fall off of the precipice, and be
swamped by the ocean, and at last find in the midst of them, and at the
bottom of them, and behind them, the present, living, loving, omnipotent
God! And then, and not until then, will it understand the prophet's exulting
shout of triumph, and be able to join it: "YET I will rejoice in the Lord; I
will joy in the God of my salvation."
And then, also, and not until then, will it know the full meaning of
the verse that follows: "The Lord God is my strength, and He will make my
feet like hind's feet, and He will make me to walk upon mine high places."
The soul often walks on what seem high places, which are, however,
largely self-evolved and emotional, and have but little of God in them; and
in moments of loss and failure and darkness, these high places become
precipices of failure. But the high places to which the Lord brings the soul
that rejoices only in Him, can be touched by no darkness or loss, for their
very foundations are laid in the midst of an utter loss and death of all
that is not God.
If we want an unwavering experience, therefore, we can find it only in
the Lord, apart from all else; apart from His gifts, apart from His
blessings, apart from all that can change or be affected by the changing
conditions of our earthly life.
The prayer which is answered today, may seem to be unanswered tomorrow;
the promises once so gloriously fulfilled, may cease to be a reality to us;
the spiritual blessing which was at one time such a joy, may be utterly
lost; and nothing of all we once trusted to and rested on may be left us,
but the hungry and longing memory of it all. But when all else is gone, God
is still left. Nothing changes Him. He is the same yesterday, today, and
forever, and in Him is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. And the
soul that finds its joy in Him alone, can suffer no wavering.
It is grand to trust in the promises, but it is grander still to trust
in the Promiser. The promises may be misunderstood or misapplied, and at the
moment when we are leaning all our weight upon them, they may seem utterly
to fail us. But no one ever trusted in the Promiser and was confounded.
The God who is behind His promises and is infinitely greater than His
promises, can never fail us in any emergency, and the soul that is stayed on
Him cannot know anything but perfect peace.
The little child does not always understand its mother's promises, but
it knows its mother, and its childlike trust is founded not on her word, but
upon herself. And just so it is with those of us who have learned the lesson
of this "Although" and "Yet." There may not be a prayer answered or a
promise fulfilled to our own consciousness, but what of that? Behind the
prayers and behind the promises, there is God, and He is enough. And to such
a soul the simple words, GOD IS, answer every question and solve every
To the little trusting child the simple fact of the mother's existence
is the answer to all its need. The mother may not make one single promise,
or detail any plan, but she is, and that is enough for the child. The child
rejoices in the mother; not in her promises, but in herself. And to the
child, as to us, there is behind all that changes and can change, the one
unchangeable joy of the mother's existence. While the mother lives, the
child must be cared for, and the child knows this, instinctively if not
intelligently, and rejoices in knowing it. And while God lives, His children
must be cared for as well, and His children ought to know this, and rejoice
in it as instinctively and far more intelligently than the child of human
parents. For what else can God do, being what He is? Neglect, indifference,
forgetfulness, ignorance, are all impossible to Him. He knows everything, He
cares about everything, He can manage everything; and He loves us; and what
more could we ask? Therefore, come what may, we will lift our faces to our
God, like our brave little bird teacher, and, in the midst of our darkest
"Althoughs," will sing our glad and triumphant "Yet."
All of God's saints in all ages have done this. Job said, out of the
depths of sorrow and trial which few can equal, "Though He slay me yet will
I trust in Him."
David could say in the moment of his keenest anguish, "Yea, though I
walk through the valley of the shadow of death," yet "I will fear no evil;
for Thou art with me." And again he could say, "God is our refuge and
strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, will not we fear,
though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the
midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled; though the
mountains shake with the swelling thereof . . . God is in the midst of her;
she shall not be moved; God shall help her, and that right early."
Paul could say in the midst of his sorrows, "We are troubled on every
side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted,
but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed . . . for which cause we
faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed
day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for
us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look, not at
the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the
things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are
All this and more can the soul say that learned this lesson of
rejoicing in God alone.
Spiritual joy is not a thing, not a lump of joy, so to speak, stored
away in one's heart to be looked at and rejoiced over. Joy is only the
gladness that comes from the possession of something good, or the knowledge
of something pleasant. And the Christian's joy is simply his gladness in
knowing Christ, and in his possession of such a God and Saviour. We do not
on an earthly plane rejoice in our joy, but in the thing that causes our
joy. And on the heavenly plane it is the same. We are to "rejoice in the
Lord, and joy in the God of our salvation"; and this joy no man nor devil
can take from us, and no earthly sorrows can touch.
A writer on the interior life says, in effect, that our spiritual
pathway is divided into three regions, very different from one another, and
yet each one a necessary stage in the onward progress. First, there is the
region of beginnings, which is a time full of sensible joys and delights, of
fervent aspirations, of emotional experiences, and of many secret
manifestations of God. Then comes a vast extent of wilderness, full of
temptation, and trial, and conflict, of the loss of sensible manifestations,
of dryness, and of inward and outward darkness and distress. And then,
finally, if this desert period is faithfully traversed, there comes on the
further side of it a region of mountain heights of uninterrupted union and
communion with God, of superhuman detachment from everything earthly, of
infinite contentment with the Divine will, and of marvellous transformation
into the image of Christ.
Whether this order is true or not, I cannot here discuss, but of one
thing I am very sure, that to many souls who have tasted the joy of the
"region of beginnings" here set forth, there has come afterwards a period of
desert experience at which they have been sorely amazed and perplexed. And I
cannot but think such might, perhaps, in this explanation, find the answer
to their trouble. They are being taught the lesson of detachment from all
that is not God, in order that their souls may at last be brought into that
interior union and oneness with Him which is set forth in the picture given
of the third and last region of mountain heights of blessedness.
The soul's pathway is always through death to life. The caterpillar
cannot in the nature of things become the butterfly in any other way than by
dying to the one life in order to live in the other. And neither can we.
Therefore, it may well be that this region of death and desolation must
needs be passed through, if we would reach the calm mountain heights beyond.
And if we know this, we can walk triumphantly through the darkest
experience, sure that all is well, since God is God.
In the lives of many who read this paper there is, I feel sure, at
least one of these desert "Althoughs," and in some lives there are many.
Dear friends, is the "Yet" there also? Have you learned the prophet's
lesson? Is God enough for you? Can you sing and mean it,
"Thou, O Christ, art all I want,
More than all in thee I find"?
If not, you need the little bird to speak to you.
And the song that he sings, as he sits on that bare and leafless tree,
with the winter storm howling around him, must become your song also.
"Though the rain may fall and the wind be blowing,
And cold and chill is the wintry blast;
Though the cloudier sky is still cloudier growing,
And the dead leaves tell that summer is passed;
Yet my face I hold to the stormy heaven,
My heart is as calm as a summer sea;
Glad to receive what my God hath given,
Whate'er it be.
"When I feel the cold, I can say, `He sends it,'
And His wind blows blessing I surely know;
For I've never a want but that He attends it;
And my heart beats warm, though the winds may blow
The soft sweet summer was warm and glowing,
Bright were the blossoms on every bough;
I trusted Him when the roses were blowing,
I trust Him now.
"Small were my faith should it weakly falter,
Now that the roses have ceased to blow;
Frail were the trust that now should alter,
Doubting His love when the storm-clouds grow.
If I trust Him once I must trust Him ever,
And His way is best, though I stand or fall,
Through wind or storm He will leave me never,
For He sends all."
KINGS AND THEIR KINGDOMS; OR, HOW TO REIGN IN THE INTERIOR LIFE
"And when he was demanded of the Pharisees when the kingdom of God should
come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with
observation: neither shall they say, lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the
kingdom of God is within you."
The expressions "kingdom of God" and "kingdom of Heaven" are used in
Scripture concerning the divine life in the soul. They mean simply the place
or condition where God rules, and where His will is done. It is an interior
kingdom, not an exterior one. Its thrones are not outward thrones of human
pomp and glory, but inward thrones of dominion and supremacy over the things
of time and sense. Its kings are not clothed in royal robes of purple and
fine linen, but with the interior garments of purity and truth. And its
reign is not in outward show, but in inward power. Neither is it in one
place rather than another, nor in one form of things above another. It is
not, lo here, nor lo there, not in this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem, that
we are to find Christ, and enter into His kingdom. It is not a matter of
place at all, but one of condition. And in every place and under every name,
and through every form, all who seek God and work righteousness shall find
His kingdom within them.
But this is very little understood. In our childish fashion of
literalism we have too much imbibed the idea that a kingdom must necessarily
be in a particular place and with outward observation; and have therefore
expected that the kingdom of heaven would mean for us an outward victory of
heaven over earth in some particular place, or under some especial form; and
that to sit on a throne with Christ, would be to have an outward uplifting
in power and glory before the face of all around us.
But as the inner sense of Scripture unfolds to us, we see that this
would be but a poor and superficial fulfilling of the real meaning of these
wonderful symbols. And the vision of their true significance grows and
strengthens before the "eyes that see," until at last we know that our
Lord's words were truer than ever we had dreamed before, that the "kingdom
of God cometh not with observation; neither shall they say, lo here! or, lo
there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you."
In Daniel 2:44, we have the announcement of the kingdom, and in Isaiah
9:6, 7, the announcement of the King: --
"The God of heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall never be
destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall
break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever."
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the
government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called
Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of
Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end,
upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to
establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this."
This kingdom is to break in pieces and consume all other kingdoms by
right of the law by which the inward always rules the outward. If there is
peace within, no outward turmoil can affect the soul; but outward peace can
never quiet an inward tempest. A happy heart can walk in triumphant
indifference through a sea of external trouble; while internal anguish
cannot find happiness in the most favorable surroundings. What a man is
within himself, makes or unmakes his joy, and not what he possesses outside
Someone said to Diogenes, "The king has degraded you." "Yes" replied
Diogenes, triumphantly, "but I am not degraded!" No act of kings or emperors
can degrade a soul that retains its own dignity; no tyrant can enslave a man
who is inwardly free.
Therefore to have this divine kingdom set up within, means that all
other powers to conquer or enslave are broken, and the soul reigns
triumphant over them all. Men and devils may try to hold such a one in
bondage, but they are powerless before the might of this interior kingdom.
No longer will fashion, or conventionality, or the fear of man, or the love
of ease, or any other of the many tyrants to which Christians cringe and
bow, rule a soul that has been raised to a throne in this inward kingdom. No
sin or temptation can overcome, no sorrow can crush, no discouragement can
hinder. Let a man or woman have been bound in ever so tyrannical chains of
sinful habits, this kingdom will set them free. Circumstances make men kings
in the outward life, but in this hidden life men become kings over
circumstances. And the soul that has aforetime been the slave of a thousand
outward things, finds itself here utterly independent of them, every one.
For the King in this kingdom is One whom no circumstances can affect or
baffle. He it is indeed who makes circumstances. And since the government is
upon His shoulders, we cannot doubt that He will order the kingdom with a
judgment and justice that will leave nothing for any subject in His kingdom
In the expression "the government shall be upon His shoulder," we have
the whole secret of this wonderful kingdom. Upon His shoulder, not upon
ours. The care is His, the burdens are His, the responsibility belongs to
Him, the protection rests upon Him, the planning, and providing, and
controlling, and guiding, all are in His hands. No one can question as to
His perfect fulfilment of every requirement of His kingship. Therefore those
who are in His kingdom, are utterly delivered from any need to be anxious,
or burdened, or perplexed, or troubled. And by this deliverance they become
kings. The government is not upon their shoulders, and they have no business
to interfere with it. Their King has assumed the whole responsibility, and
if He can but see His subjects happy and prosperous, He is content Himself
to bear all the weight and care of kingship. How often we speak of the
responsibilities of earthly kings, and pity them for the burdens that
kingship imposes. We recognize, even on an earthly plane, that to be a king
means, or ought to mean, the bearing of the burdens of even the meanest of
his subject. And even now, as I write, many hearts are aching with sympathy
for the new Czar, who has assumed the grievous burden of the mighty Russian
From this instinctive sense of every human heart as to the rightful
duties and responsibilities of kingship, we may learn what it means to be in
a kingdom over which God is King, and where He has himself declared all
things shall be ordered with judgment and justice from henceforth and even
forever. Surely no care or anxiety can ever enter here, if the heart but
knows its kingdom and its King!
In John 18:36, our King tells us the tactics of His kingdom: "Jesus
answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world
then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews;
but now is my kingdom not from hence."
Earthly kings and earthly kingdoms gain and keep their supremacy by
outward conflict; God's kingdom conquers by inward power. Earthly kings
subdue enemies; God subdues enmity. His victories must be interior before
they can be exterior. He does not subjugate, but he conquers. Even we, on
our earthly plane, know something of this principle, and do not value any
victory over another which only reaches the body and has not subdued the
heart. No true mother cares for an outward obedience merely; nothing will
satisfy her but the inward surrender. Unless the citadel of the heart is
conquered, the conquest seem worthless. And with God how much more will this
be the case, since we are told that "He seeth not as man seeth; for man
looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." We
speak of "subduing hearts," and we mean, not that they are overpowered or
forced into an unwilling and compulsory surrender, but that they are
conquered by being won, and are willingly yielded up to another's control.
And it is after this fashion and no other that God subdues. So that to read
that "His kingdom ruleth over all," means that all hearts are won to His
service in a glad and willing surrender.
For again I repeat, His reign must be inward before it can be outward.
And in truth it is no reign at all, unless it is within. If we think of it a
moment we shall see that this must be so in the very nature of things, and
that it is impossible to conceive of God reigning in a kingdom where the
subduing reaches no further than the outside actions of His subjects. His
kingdom is not of this world, but is in a spiritual sphere, where its power
is over the souls and not the bodies of men; and therefore only when the
soul is conquered, can it be set up.
Understood in this light, how full of love and blessing do all those
declarations and prophecies become, which tell us that God is to subdue His
enemies under His feet, and is to rule them in righteousness and power! And
how glorious with hope does the voice of that great multitude heard by John
sound out, saying, "Alleluia! for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!"
In confirmation of all this we have two passages descriptive of this
kingdom, in Rom. 14:17, and 1 Cor. 4:20: "For the kingdom of God is not meat
and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost." "For the
kingdom of God is not in word, but in power."
Not outward things, but inward. Not what a man eats and drinks, not
where he lives, nor what is his nationality, nor the customs of his race,
not even what he thinks nor what he says; but what are the inward
characteristics of his nature, and the inward power of his spiritual life.
For these alone constitute this kingdom of God. Not what I do, but what I
am, is to decide whether I belong to it or not. And only as inward
righteousness, and inward peace, and inward joy, and inward power are
bestowed and experienced, can this kingdom be set up. Therefore no outward
subjugation can accomplish results like these, but only the interior work of
the all-subduing spirit of God.
I have been greatly instructed by the story of Ulysses, when he was
sailing past the islands of the sirens. These sirens had the power of
charming by their songs all who listened to them, and of inducing them to
leap into the sea. To avert this danger, Ulysses filled the ears of his crew
with wax, that they might not hear the fatal music, and bound himself to the
mast with knotted cords; and thus they passed the isle in safety. But when
Orpheus was obliged to sail by the same island, he gained a better victory,
for he himself made sweeter music than that of the sirens, and enchanted his
crew with more alluring songs; so that they passed the dangerous charmers
not only with safety, but with disdain. Wax and knotted cords kept Ulysses
and his crew from making the fatal leap; but inward delights enabled Orpheus
and his crew to reign triumphant over the very source of temptation itself.
And just so is it with the kingdom of which we speak. It needs no outward
law to bind it, but reigns by right of its inward life. So that it is said
of those who have entered it, "Against such there is no law."
For it is a kingdom of kings. The song we shall one day sing, nay, that
we ought to be singing even now and here in this life, declare this: "Unto
Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath
made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and
dominion for ever and ever. Amen." (Rev. 1:5, 6.)
We who have entered this kingdom, or, rather, in whom this kingdom is
set up, sit upon the throne with our King and share His dominion. The world
was His footstool, and it becomes our footstool also. Over the things of
time and sense He reigned triumphant by the power of a life lived in a plane
above them and superior to them, and so may we. We are all of us familiar
with the expression that such or such a person "rises superior to his
surroundings," and we mean that there is in that soul a hidden power that
controls its surroundings, instead of being controlled by them. Our King
essentially rose superior to His surroundings; and it is given to us who are
reigning with Him to do the same.
But, just as He was not a king in outward appearance, but only in
inward power, so shall we be. He reigned, not in this, that He had all the
treasures and riches of the world at His command, but that He had none of
them, and could do without them. And so shall our reigning be. We shall not
have all men bowing down to us, and all things bending to our will; but with
all men opposing and all things adverse, we shall walk in a royal triumph of
soul through the midst of them. We shall suffer the loss of all things, and
by that loss be set forever free from their power to bind. We shall hide
ourselves in the impregnable fortress of the will of our King, and shall
reign there in a perpetual kingdom.
All this is contrary to man's thought of kingship. The only idea the
human heart can compass, is, that outward circumstances must bend and bow to
the soul that is seated on a throne with Christ. Friends must approve,
enemies must be silenced, obstacles must be overcome, affairs must prosper,
or there can be no reigning. If man had had the ordering of Daniel's
business, or of that matter of the three Hebrew children in the burning
fiery furnace, he would have said the only way of victory would be for the
minds of the kings to have been so changed that Daniel should not have been
cast into the den of lions, and the Hebrew children should have been kept
out of the furnace. But God's way was infinitely grander. He suffered Daniel
to be cast among the lions, in order that he might reign triumphant over
them when in their very midst, and He allowed Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abednego to be cast into the burning, fiery furnace, in order that they
might walk through it without so much as the smell of fire upon them. He
tells us, not that we shall walk in paths where there are no dragons and
adders, but that we shall walk through the midst of dragons and adders, and
shall "tread them under our feet."
And how much more glorious a kingdom is this than any outward rule or
control could be! To be inwardly a king, while outwardly a slave, is one of
the grandest heights of triumph of which our hearts can conceive. To be
destitute, afflicted, tormented, to be stoned and torn asunder, and slain
with the sword; to wander in sheepskins and goatskins, and in deserts and
mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth, and yet to be through it all,
kings in interior kingdoms of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy
Ghost, is surely a kingdom that none but God could give, and none but
God-like souls receive.
A few such kings we have at some time or other seen or heard of in this
world of ours, and all hearts have acknowledged their unconscious sway. One
I read of among the brethren of the monastery of St. Cyr. Because of their
piety, these brethren incurred the hatred of the monasteries around them,
and the anger of their superiors, and were cast out as evil from their
community. One of them was sent as prisoner to a monastery where his chief
enemies dwelt, and was there subjected to the most cruel and degrading
treatment. Although he was of gentle birth, and had been an abbot in the
community he had left, he was compelled to do the most menial work, was
forced to carry a noisome burden on his back, and was driven out to beg with
a placard on his bosom declaring him to be the vilest of the vile. But
through it all the spirit of the saint reigned triumphant, and nothing
disturbed his calm, or soured for a moment his Christ-like sweetness. For
his persecutors he never had anything but words of kindness and smiles of
love. And at last by the mighty power of the divine kingdom in which he
lived, he subdued all hearts around him to himself, and became the trusted
friend and adviser, and the beloved ruler over the very enemies who had once
so delighted to persecute and revile him. "Blessed are the meek, for they
shall inherit the earth." By his meekness he conquered and became king.
At one time a dangerous criminal was sent to the monastery for
imprisonment. He was so violent that no bonds sufficed to bind him, and no
strength could control him. At last he was taken to the cell of this brother
from St. Cyr, and they were shut up together; even the stolid monks
themselves recognizing in that divine meekness a power to conquer that
surpassed all the powers with which they were acquainted. The saint received
the violent man as a beloved brother, and smiled upon him with heavenly
kindness. But the criminal returned it with abuse and violence. He broke the
monk's furniture and destroyed his bed, he kicked him, and beat him, and
tore his hair, and spat upon him. He exhausted himself in his violence
against him. Through it all the monk made no resistance, and said no word
but words of love; and when at length the criminal, worn out with his fury,
paused to take breath, the beaten and outraged man looked upon his
persecutor with a smile of ineffable love and tender compassion, as though
he would gather him to his bosom and comfort him for his misery. It was more
than the criminal could bear. Hatred, and revenge, and anger he could repay
in kind, but against love and meekness like this he had no weapons, and his
heart was conquered. He fell at the feet of the saint and washed them with
his tears, as he entreated forgiveness for his cruelty, and vowed a lifelong
loyalty to his service. And from that moment all trouble with that criminal
was over. He followed the saint about like a loving and faithful dog, eager
to do or to be anything the other might desire. And when the time of his
imprisonment was over, and the gates of his prison were opened for his
release, he could not be induced to go, because he could not bear to leave
the man who had saved him by love.
Of such a nature is kingship in this kingdom of heaven.
Each soul can make the application for itself, without need of comment
In Matt. 5, 6, and 7, we have the King of this kingdom describing the
characteristics of His kingdom and giving the laws for His subjects.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit," He says, "for theirs is the kingdom of
heaven." Not the rich, or great, or wise, or learned, but the poor in
spirit, the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart, those who mourn, and
those who hunger and thirst, those who are persecuted, and reviled, and
spoken evil against, all such belong to this kingdom. Gentleness,
yieldingness, meekness, charity, are the characteristics of these kings, and
they reign in the power of them.
One Christian asked another, "How can I make people respect me?" "I
would command their respect," was the reply. And this meant, not that he
should stand up and say in tones of authority, "Now I command you all to
respect me," but that he should so act, and live, and be, that no one could
help respecting him. Men sometimes win an outward show of respect and
submission by an over-bearing tyranny, but he who would rule the heart of
his subjects must try other methods.
Our Lord developed this thought to some who wished to share His throne.
He called them to Him, and said, "Ye know that they which are accounted to
rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones
exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but
whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: and whosoever of
you will be the chiefest shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man
came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a
ransom for many."
From the human standpoint, that man alone reigns who is able to
exercise lordship over those around him. From the divine standpoint the soul
that serves is the soul that reigns. Not he who demands most, receives this
inward crowning, but he who gives up most.
What grander kingship can be conceived of than that which Christ sets
forth in the sermon on the mount, "But I say unto you, that ye resist not
evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the
other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law and take away thy coat,
let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile,
go with him twain"?
Surely only a soul that is in harmony with God can mount such a throne
of dominion as this!
But this is our destiny. We are made for this purpose. We are born of a
kingly race, and are heirs to this ineffable kingdom; "heirs of God and
joint heirs with Christ."
Would that we could realize this; and could see in every act of service
or surrender to which we might find ourselves called, an upward step in the
pathway that leads us to our kingdom and our throne!
I mean this in a very practical sense. I mean that the homely services
of our daily lives, and the little sacrifices which each day demands, will
be, if faithfully fulfilled, actual rounds in the ladder by which we are
mounting to our thrones. I mean that if we are faithful over the "few
things" of our earthly kingdom, we shall be made ruler over the "many
things" of the heavenly kingdom.
He that follows Christ in this ministry of service and of suffering,
will reign with Him in the glory of supreme self-sacrifice, and will be the
"chiefest" in His divine kingdom of love. Knowing this, who would hesitate
to "turn the other cheek," since by the turning a kingdom is to be won and a
throne is to be gained?
Joseph was a type of all this. In slavery and in prison he reigned a
king, as truly as when seated on Pharaoh's throne or riding in Pharaoh's
chariot. (See Gen. 39:6, 22, 23.) He became the greatest by being the least,
the chiefest by being servant of all.
Dear reader, art thou reigning after this fashion, and in this sort of
a kingdom? Art thou the greatest in thy little world of home, or church, or
social circle by being the least, and chiefest by being the servant of all?
If not, thy kingdom is not Christ's kingdom, and thy throne is not one
shared by Him.
To enter into the secrets of this interior kingdom and to partake of
its heavenly power, is no notional victory, no fancied supremacy. It is a
real and actual reigning, which will cause thee as a matter of fact to "rise
superior" to the world and the things of it, and to walk through it
independent of its smiles or frowns, dwelling in a region of heavenly peace
and heavenly triumph which earth can neither give nor take away. "For the
kingdom of God is not in word but in power." It is not a talk but a fact;
and those who are in it recognize their kingship and prove it by reigning.
But perhaps thou wilt say, "How can I enter into this kingdom, if I am
not already in?" Let our Lord himself answer thee: "At the same time came
the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of
heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst
of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become
as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever
therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in
the kingdom of heaven."
It is a kingdom of childlike hearts, and only such can enter it.
To be a "little child" means simply to be one. I cannot describe it
better than this. We all have known little children in our lives, and have
delighted ourselves in their simplicity and their trustfulness, their
light-hearted carelessness, and their unquestioning obedience to those in
authority over them. And to be the greatest in this divine kingdom means to
have the most of this guileless, tender, trustful, self-forgetting, obedient
heart of the child.
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the
kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in
It is not saying, but doing, that will avail us here. We must be a
child, or we cannot sit on the child's throne. And to be a child means to do
the Father's will, since the very essence of true childhood is the spirit of
obedience united to the spirit of trust.
Become a little child, then, by laying aside all thy greatness, all thy
self-assertion, all thy self-dependence, all thy wisdom, and all thy
strength, and consenting to die to thy own self-life, be born again into the
kingdom of God. The only way out of one life into another is by a death to
one and a new birth into the other. It is the old story, therefore,
reiterated so often and in so many different ways, of through death to life.
Die, then, that you my live. Lose your own life that you may find Christ's
life. The caterpillar can only enter into the butterfly's kingdom by dying
to its caterpillar life, and emerging into the resurrection life of the
butterfly; and just so can we also only enter into the kingdom of God by the
way of a death out of the kingdom of self, and an emergence into the
resurrection life of Christ. Let everything go, then, that belongs to the
natural; all your own notions, and plans, and ways, and thoughts; and accept
in their stead God's plans, and ways, and thoughts. Do this faithfully and
do it persistently, and you shall come at last to sit on His throne, and to
reign with Him in an interior kingdom which shall break in pieces and
consume all other kingdoms, and shall stand for ever and ever.
There is no other way. This kingdom cannot be entered by pomp, and
show, and greatness, and strength; but by littleness, and helplessness, and
childlikeness, and babyhood, and death. He that humbleth himself, and he
only, shall be exalted here; and to mount the throne with Christ requires
that we shall first have followed Him in the suffering, and loss, and
crucifixion. If we suffer with him, we shall also reign with Him. Not as an
arbitrary reward for our suffering, but as the result that will follow in
the very nature of things. Christ's loss must necessarily bring Christ's
gain, Christ's death must bring Christ's resurrection, and to follow Him in
the regeneration, will surely and inevitably bring the soul that follows to
His crown and His throne.
In a volume of sermons for children I have found a vivid illustration
of this royal kingdom: --
"A little fellow from one of the Refuges in England had risked his life
to save one of his comrades, and England's Queen had sent him a medal by the
hand of one of England's earls. The little fellow was held forward by his
comrades to receive it, for he was shy and nervous and tried to sidle away.
"Look at the noble chairman; he had driven down from his proper place
in the House of Lords, where were gathered earls and dukes, and the men who
had done well as lawyers, and judges, and statesmen, and warriors, and the
Princes of the royal blood. Yet, all peer though he was, he was moved to the
sincerest depths of his being as he murmured, `I have the honor,' and pinned
the life-saving medal on the child's jacket. His heart was full. He paused
to swallow down something that would rise in his throat before he could go
"There is the `glory and honor' of successful statesmen, and warriors,
and lawyers, but the glory of self-forgetful saving of life is a glory that
excelleth, and that was the wondrous glory won by this boy. He had plunged
into the stream and shared a drowning boy's risk, and that little hand, look
at it there, steadying him by holding the table, had come out holding the
"Why has self-forgetfulness such mighty power? How was it that a
twelve-year-old boy could bow down an audience of grown men before him? What
gave to that brow, that its stubby crown of carroty hair, a glory and honor
more than the lustre of gold and jewels? Why was it that that small body in
its little breeches and jacket, wiping its tears on the rough little sleeve,
could grip thousands of hearts and hold them all, and make them for the time
loyal members of his kingdom?
"Why was all this so?
"It was so because that little boy in his measure had been like Christ,
in the self-forgetful spirit of sacrifice for others. He had a bit of the
same beauty we are all made on purpose to worship; the glory before which
angels give a great shout, and all the company of heaven fall down and
adore, saying with a loud voice, `Worthy is the Lamb that was slain!'"
The "Lamb that was slain" is the mightiest King the world has ever
known, and all who partake of His spirit share in His kingdom.
And since this kingdom is not a place, but is character, those who have
not the character cannot by any possibility be in it.
We pray daily, "Thy kingdom come." Do we know what we are praying for?
Do we comprehend the change it will make in us if it comes in us? Are we
willing to be so changed?
What is the kingdom of God but the rule of God? And what is the rule of
God but the will of God? Therefore when we pray, "Thy will be done on earth
as it is in heaven," we have touched the secret of it all.
A horde of savages might conquer a civilized kingdom by sheer brute
force; but if they would conquer the civilization of that kingdom, they
could only do so by submitting to its control. And just so is it with the
kingdom of heaven. It yields its sceptre to none but those who render
obedience to its laws.
"To him that overcometh will I give to sit with me in my throne, even
as I also overcame and am set down with my Father in his throne."
"He always reigns who sides with God," says an old writer. And again,
"He who perfectly accepts the will of God, dwells in a perpetual kingdom."
Art thou reigning after this fashion and in this sort of a kingdom?
Art thou the "chiefest" by being the "servant of all"?
Art thou a king over thy circumstances, or do thy circumstances reign
Dost thou triumph over thy temptations, or do they triumph over thee?
Canst thou sit on an inward throne in the midst of outward defeat and
Canst thou conquer by yielding, and become the greatest by being the
If thou canst answer Yes to all these questions, then thou art come
into thy kingdom; and whatever thy outward lot may be, or the estimation in
which men may hold thee, thou art in very truth among the number of those
concerning whom our Lord declares "the same shall be called greatest in the
kingdom of heaven."
THE CHARIOTS OF GOD
FOUNDATION TEXT. -- Psalm 68:17.
Chariots are for conveyance and progress. Earthly chariots carry the bodies
of those who ride in them over all intervening distances or obstacles to the
place of their destination, and God's chariots carry their souls. No words
can express the glorious places to which that soul shall arrive who travels
in the chariots of God. And our verse tells us they are "very many." All
around us on every side they wait for us; but we, alas! we do not always see
them. Earth's chariots are always visible, but God's chariots are invisible.
2 Kings 6:14-17.
The king of Syria came up against the man of God with horses and
chariots that were visible to every one, but God had chariots that could be
seen by none save the eye of faith. The servant of the prophet could only
see the outward and visible, and he cried, as so many have done since,
"Alas, my Master! how shall we do?" But the prophet himself sat calmly
within his house without fear, because his eyes were opened to see the
invisible. And all that he asked for his servant was, "Lord, I pray thee
open his eyes that he may see."
This is the prayer we need to pray for ourselves and for one another,
"Lord, open our eyes that we may see." For the world all around us is full
of God's horses and chariots, waiting to carry us to places of glorious
But they do not look like chariots. They look instead like enemies,
sufferings, trials, defeats, misunderstandings, disappointments,
unkindnesses. They look like Juggernaut cars of misery and wretchedness,
that are only waiting to roll over us and crush us into the earth; but they
really are chariots of triumph in which we may ride to those very heights of
victory for which our souls have been longing and praying.
Deut. 32:12, 13.
If we would "ride on the high places of the earth" we must get into the
chariots that can take us there; and only the "chariots of God" are equal to
such lofty riding as this.
We may make out of each event in our lives either a Juggernaut car to
crush us, or a chariot in which to ride to heights of victory. It all
depends upon how we take them; whether we lie down under our trials and let
them roll over and crush us, or whether we climb up into them as into a
chariot, and make them carry us triumphantly onward and upward.
2 Kings 2:11, 12.
Whenever we mount into God's chariots the same thing happens to us
spiritually that happened to Elisha. We shall have a translation. Not into
the heavens above us, as Elisha did, but into the heaven within us, which
after all is almost a grander translation than his. We shall be carried up
away from the low earthly groveling plane of life, where everything hurts
and everything is unhappy, up into the "heavenly places in Christ Jesus,"
where we shall ride in triumph over all below.
These "heavenly places" are interior, not exterior, and the road that
leads to them is interior also. But the chariot that carries the soul over
this road is generally some outward loss, or trial or disappointment; some
chastening that does not indeed seem for the present to be joyous, but
grievous; but that nevertheless afterward yieldeth the peaceable fruits of
righteousness to them that are exercised thereby.
Look upon these chastenings, no matter how grievous they may be for the
present, as God's chariots sent to carry your souls into the "high places"
of spiritual achievement and uplifting, and you will find that they are
after all "paved with love."
Canticles 3:9, 10.
Your own individual chariot may look very unlovely. It maybe a
cross-grained relative or friend; it may be the result of human malice, or
cruelty, or neglect; but every chariot sent by God must necessarily be paved
with love, since God is love, and God's love is the sweetest, softest,
tenderest thing to rest one's self upon that was ever found by any soul
anywhere. It is His love indeed that sends the chariot.
Hab. 3:8, 12, 13.
Here the prophet tells us that it was God's displeasure against the
obstacles which beset the path of His people that made Him come to their
rescue, riding in His "chariots of salvation." Everything becomes a "chariot
of salvation" when God rides upon it.
The "clouds" that darken our skies and seem to shut out the shining of
the sun of righteousness are, after all, if we only knew it, His chariots,
into which we may mount with Him, and "ride prosperously" over all the
Ps. 45:3, 4; Ps. 18:10; Deut. 33:26.
A late writer has said that we cannot, by even the most vigorous and
toilsome efforts, sweep away the clouds, but we can climb so high above them
as to reach the clear atmosphere overhead; and he who rides with God rides
upon the heavens far above all earth-born clouds.
This may sound fanciful, but it is really exceedingly practical when we
begin to act it out in our daily lives.
I knew a lady who had a very slow servant. She was an excellent girl in
every other respect, and very valuable in the household, but her slowness
was a constant source of irritation to her mistress, who was naturally
quick, and who always chafed at slowness. The lady would consequently get
out of temper with the girl twenty times a day, and twenty times a day would
repent of her anger, and resolve to conquer it, but in vain. Her life was
made miserable by the conflict. One day it occurred to her that she had for
a long while been praying for patience, and that perhaps this slow servant
was the very chariot the Lord had sent to carry her soul over into patience.
She immediately accepted it as such, and from that time used the slowness of
her servant as a chariot for her soul. And the result was a victory of
patience that no slowness of anybody was ever after able to disturb.
Another instance: I knew a sister at one of our conventions who was put
to sleep in a room with two others on account of the crowd. She wanted to
sleep, but they wanted to talk, and the first night she was greatly
disturbed, and lay there fretting and fuming long after the others had
hushed and she might have slept. But the next day she heard something about
God's chariots, and that night she accepted these talking sisters as her
chariots to carry her over into sweetness and patience, and she lay there
feeling peaceful and at rest. When, however, it grew very late, and she knew
they all ought to be sleeping, she ventured to say slyly, "Sisters, I am
lying here riding in a chariot," and the effect was instantaneous in
producing perfect quiet. Her chariot had carried her over to victory, not
only inwardly, but at last outwardly as well.
If we would ride in God's chariots, instead of in our own, we should
find this to be the case continually.
Isa. 31:1-3; Ps. 20:7, 8.
Our constant temptation is to trust in the "chariots of Egypt." We can
see them; they are tangible and real, and they look so substantial; while
God's chariots are invisible and intangible, and it is hard to believe they
are there. Our eyes are not opened to see them.
2 Kings 19:23.
We try to reach the high places with the "multitude of our chariots."
We depend first on one thing, and then on another, to advance our spiritual
condition and to gain our spiritual victories. We "go down to Egypt for
help." And God is obliged often to destroy all our own chariots before he
can bring us to the point of mounting into His.
Micah 5:10; Hag. 2:22.
We lean too much upon a dear friend to help us onward in the spiritual
life, and the Lord is obliged to separate us from that friend. We feel that
all our spiritual prosperity depends on our continuance under the ministry
of a favorite preacher, and we are mysteriously removed. We look upon our
prayer-meeting or our Bible-class as the chief source of our spiritual
strength, and we are shut up from attending it. And the "chariot of God,"
which alone can carry us to the places where we hoped to be taken by the
instrumentalities upon which we have been depending, is to be found in the
very deprivations we have so mourned over. God must burn up with the fire of
His love every chariot of our own that stands in the way of our mounting
Isa. 66:15, 16.
Let us be thankful, then, for every trial that will help to destroy our
chariots, and will compel us to take refuge in the chariot of God, which
stands ready and waiting beside us.
We have to be brought to the place where all other refuges fail us,
before we can say, "He only." We say, "He and -- something else." "He, and
my experience," or "He, and my church relationships," or "He, and my
Christian work"; and all that comes after the "and" must be taken away from
us, or must be proved useless before we can come to the "He only." As long
as visible chariots are at hand, the soul will not mount into the invisible
If we want to ride with God "upon the heavens," we have to be brought
to an end of all riding upon the earth.
To see God's "goings," we must get into the "sanctuary" of his
presence; and to share in His "goings" and "go" with Him, we must abandon
all earthly "goings."
Prov. 20:24; Ps. 17:5; Ps. 40:1, 2.
When we mount into God's chariot our goings are "established," for no
obstacles can hinder its triumphal course. All losses therefore are gains
that bring us to this.
Paul understood this, and he gloried in the losses which brought him
such unspeakable gain.
2 Cor. 12:7-10.
Even the "thorn in the flesh," the messenger of Satan sent to buffet
him, became only a chariot to his willing soul, that carried him to heights
of triumph which he could have reached in no other way. To "take pleasure"
in one's trials, what is this but turning them into the grandest of
Joseph had a revelation of his future triumphs and reigning, but the
chariots that carried him there looked to the eye of sense like the
bitterest failures and defeats. It was a strange road to a kingdom, through
slavery and a prison, and yet by no other road could Joseph have reached his
triumph. His dream, Gen. 37:5-10; His chariots, Gen. 37:19, 20, 27, 28;
39:19, 20; How he rode in his chariots, Gen. 39:1-6, 21-23; His triumph,
And now a word as to how one is to mount into these chariots.
My answer would be simply this: Find out where God is in each one of
them, and hide yourself in Him. Or, in other words, do what the little child
does when trouble comest, who finds its mother and hides in her arms. The
real chariot after all that takes us through triumphantly is the carrying of
The baby carried in the chariot of its mother's arms rides triumphantly
through the hardest places, and does not even know they are hard.
And how much more we, who are carried in the chariot of the "arms of
Get into your chariot, then. Take each thing that is wrong in your
lives as God's chariot for you. No matter who the builder of the wrong may
be, whether men or devils, by the time it reaches your side it is God's
chariot for you, and is meant to carry you to a heavenly place of triumph.
Shut out all the second causes, and find the Lord in it. Say, "Lord, open my
eyes that I may see, not the visible enemy, but thy unseen chariots of
Accept His will in the trial, whatever it may be, and hide yourself in
His arms of love. Say, "Thy will be done; Thy will be done!" over and over.
Shut out every other thought but the one thought of submission to His will
and of trust in His love. Make your trial thus your chariot, and you will
find your soul "riding upon the heavens" with God in a way you never dreamed
I have not a shadow of doubt that if all our eyes were opened today we
would see our homes, and our places of business, and the streets we
traverse, filled with the "chariots of God." There is no need for any one of
us to walk for lack of chariots. That cross inmate of your household, who
has hitherto made life a burden to you, and who has been the Juggernaut car
to crush your soul into the dust, may henceforth be a glorious chariot to
carry you to the heights of heavenly patience and longsuffering. That
misunderstanding, that mortification, that unkindness, that disappointment,
that loss, that defeat, all these are chariots waiting to carry you to the
very heights of victory you have so longed to reach.
Mount into them, then, with thankful hearts, and lose sight of all
second causes in the shining of His love who will "carry you in His arms"
safely and triumphantly over it all.
"WITHOUT ME YE CAN DO NOTHING"
CONCERNING THE LIFE OF DIVINE UNION IN ITS PRACTICAL ASPECTS.
Not long ago I was driving with a Quaker preacher through our beautiful
Philadelphia Park, when our conversation turned on the apparent
fruitlessness of a great deal of the preaching in the church at the present
time. We had spoken, of course, of the foundation cause in the absence of
the power of the Holy Ghost, but we still felt that this could not account
for it all, as we both of us knew many preachers really baptized with the
Spirit, who yet seemed to have no fruit to their ministry. And then I
suggested that one reason might be in the fact that so many ministers, when
preaching or talking on religious subjects, put on a different tone and
manner from the one they ordinarily use, and by this very manner remove
religion so far from the range of ordinary life, as to fail of gaining any
real hold on the hearts of the men and women whose whole lives are lived on
the plane of ordinary and homely pleasures and duties. "Now, for instance,"
I said, "if in thy preaching from the Friends' gallery thee could use the
same tone and manner as thy present one, how much more effectual and
convincing thy preaching would be." "Oh, but I could not do that," was the
reply, "because the preacher's gallery is so much more solemn a place than
"But why is it more solemn?" I asked. "Is it not the presence of God
only that makes the gallery or the pulpit solemn, and have we not the
presence of God equally here? Is it not just as solemn to live in our
everyday life as it is to preach, and ought we not to do the one to His
glory just as much as the other?" And then I added, as the subject seemed to
open out before me, "I verily believe a large part of the difficulty lies in
the unscriptural and unnatural divorce that has been brought about between
our so-called religious life and our so-called temporal life; as if our
religion were something apart from ourselves, a sort of outside garment that
was to be put on and off according to our circumstances and purposes. On
Sundays, for instance, and in church, our purpose is to seek God, and
worship and serve Him, and therefore on Sundays we bring out our religious
life and put it on in a suitably solemn manner, and live it with a strained
gravity and decorum which deprives it of half its power. But on Mondays our
purpose is to seek our own interests and serve them, and so we bring out our
temporal life and put it on with a sense of relief, as from an unnatural
bondage, and live it with ease and naturalness, and consequently with far
The thoughts thus started remained with me and gathered strength. Not
long afterward I was present at a meeting where the leader opened with
reading John 15, and the words, "Without me ye can do nothing," struck me
with amazement. Hundreds of times before I had read those words, and had
thought that I understood them thoroughly. But now it seemed almost as
though they must have been newly inserted in the Bible, so ablaze were they
with wondrous meaning.
"There it is," I said to myself, "Jesus himself said so, that apart
from Him we have no real life of any kind, whether we call it temporal or
spiritual, and that, therefore, all living or doing that is without Him is
of such a nature that God, who sees into the realities of things, calls it
`nothing.'" And then the question forced itself upon me as to whether any
soul really believed this statement to be true; or, if believing it
theoretically, whether any one made it practical in their daily walk and
life. And I saw, as in a flash almost, that the real secret of divine union
lay quite as much in this practical aspect of it as in any interior
revealings or experiences. For if I do nothing, literally nothing, apart
from Christ, I am of course united to Him in a continual oneness that cannot
be questioned or gainsaid; while if I live a large part of my daily life and
perform a large part of my daily work apart from Him, I have no real union,
no matter how exalted and delightful my emotions concerning it may be.
It is to consider this aspect of the subject, therefore, that the
present paper is written. For I am very sure that the wide divorce made
between things spiritual and things temporal, of which I have spoken, has
done more than almost anything else to hinder a realized interior union with
God, and to put all religion so outside of the pale of common life as to
make it an almost unattainable thing to the ordinary mass of mankind.
Moreover it has introduced an unnatural constraint and stiltedness into the
experience of Christians that seems to shut them out from much of the free,
happy, childlike ease that belongs of right to the children of God.
I feel, therefore, that it is of vital importance for us to understand
the truth of this matter.
And the thought that makes it clearest to me is this, that the fact of
our oneness with Christ contains the whole thing in a nutshell. If we are
one with Him, then of course in the very nature of things we can do nothing
without Him. For that which is one cannot act as being two. And if I
therefore do anything without Christ, then I am not one with Him in that
thing, and like a branch severed from the vine I am withered and worthless.
It is as if the branch should recognize its connection with and dependence
upon the vine for most of its growth, and fruit-bearing, and climbing, but
should feel a capacity in itself to grow and climb over a certain fence or
around the trunk of a certain tree, and should therefore sever its
connection with the vine for this part of its living. Of course that which
thus sought an independent life would wither and die in the very nature of
things. And just so is it with us who are branches of Christ the true vine.
No independent action, whether small or great, is possible to us without
withering and death, any more than to the branch of the natural vine.
This will show us at once how fatal to the realized oneness with
Christ, for which our souls hunger, is the divorce I have spoken of. We have
all realized, more or less, that without Him we cannot live our religious
life, but when it comes to living our so-called temporal life, to keeping
house or transacting business, or making calls, or darning stockings, or
sweeping a room, or trimming a bonnet, or entertaining company, who is there
that even theoretically thinks such things as these are to be done for
Christ, and can only be rightly done as we abide in Him and do them in His
But if it is Christ working in the Christian who is to lead the
prayer-meeting, then, since Christ and the Christian are one, it must be
also Christ working in and through the Christian who is to keep the house
and make the bargain; and one duty is therefore in the very essence of
things as religious as the other. It is the man that makes the action, not
the action the man. And as much solemnity and sweetness will thus be brought
into our everyday domestic and social affairs as into the so-called
religious occasions of life, if we will only "acknowledge God in all our
ways," and do whatever we do, even if it be only eating and drinking, to His
If our religion is really our life, and not merely something extraneous
tacked on to our life, it must necessarily go into everything in which we
live; and no act, however human or natural it may be, can be taken out of
its control and guidance.
If God is with us always, then He is just as much with us in our
business times and our social times as in our religious times, and one
moment is as solemn with His presence as another.
If it is a fact that in Him we "live and move and have our being," then
it is also a fact, whether we know it or not, that without Him we cannot do
anything. And facts are stubborn things, thank God, and do not alter for all
In Psalm 127:1, 2, we have a very striking illustration of this truth.
The Psalmist says, "Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that
build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. It
is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of
sorrows; for so He giveth His beloved sleep." The two things here spoken of
as being done in vain, unless the Lord is in the doing of them, are purely
secular things, so called; simple business matters on the human plane of
life. And whatever spiritual lesson they were intended to teach gains its
impressiveness only from this, that these statements concerning God's
presence in temporal things were statements of patent and incontrovertible
In truth the Bible is full of this fact, and the only wonder is how any
believer in the Bible could have overlooked it. From the building of cities
down to the numbering of the hairs of our head and the noting of a sparrow's
fall, throughout the whole range of homely daily living, God is declared to
be present and to be the mainspring of it all. Whatever we do, even if it be
such a purely physical thing as eating and drinking, we are to do for Him
and to His glory, and we are exhorted to so live and so walk in the light in
everything, as to have it made manifest of our works, temporal as well as
spiritual, that "they are wrought in God."
There is unspeakable comfort in this for every loving Christian heart,
in that it turns all of life into a sacrament, and makes the kitchen, or the
workshop, or the nursery, or the parlor, as sweet and solemn a place of
service to the Lord, and as real a means of union with Him, as the
prayer-meeting, or the mission board, or the charitable visitation.
A dear young Christian mother and housekeeper came to me once with a
sorely grieved heart, because of her engrossing temporal life. "There
seems," she said, "to be nothing spiritual about my life from one week's end
to the other. My large family of little children are so engrossing that day
after day passes without my having a single moment for anything but simply
attendance on them and on my necessary household duties, and I go to bed
night after night sick at heart because I have felt separated from my Lord
all day long, and have not been able to do anything for Him." I told her of
what I have written above, and assured her that all would be changed if she
would only see and acknowledge God in all these homely duties, and would
recognize her utter dependence upon Him for the doing of them. Her heart
received the good news with gladness, and months afterward she told me that
from that moment life had become a transformed and glorified thing, with the
abiding presence of the Lord, and with the sweetness of continual service to
Another Christian, a young lady in a fashionable family, came to me
also in similar grief that in so much of her life she was separated from God
and had no sense of His presence. I told her she ought never to do anything
that could cause such a separation; but she assured me that it was
impossible to avoid it, as the things she meant were none of them wrong
things. "For instance," she said, "it is plainly my duty to pay calls with
my mother, and yet nothing seems to separate me so much from God as paying
calls." "But how would it be," I asked, "if you paid the calls as service to
the Lord and for His glory?" "What!" she exclaimed, "pay calls for God! I
never heard of such a thing." "But why not?" I asked; "if it is right to pay
calls at all it ought to be done for God, for we are commanded whatsoever we
do to do it for His glory, and if it is not right you ought not to do it. As
a Christian," I continued, "you must not do anything that you cannot do for
Him." "I see! I see!" she exclaimed, after a little pause, "and it makes all
life look so different! Nothing can separate me from Him that is not sin,
but each act done to His glory, whatever it may be, will only draw me closer
and make His presence more real."
These two instances will illustrate my meaning. And I feel sure there
are thousands of other burdened and weary lives that would be similarly
transformed if these truths were but realized and acted on.
An old spiritual writer says something to this effect, that in order to
become a saint it is not always necessary to change our works, but only to
put an interior purpose towards God in them all; that we must begin to do
for His glory and in His strength that which before we did for self and in
self's capacity; which means, after all, just what our Lord meant when He
said, "Without me ye can do nothing."
There is another side of this truth also which is full of comfort, and
which the Psalmist develops in the verses I have quoted. "It is vain," he
says, "to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows." Or,
in other words, "What is the use of all this worry and strain? For the work
will after all amount to nothing unless God is in it, and if He is in it,
what folly to fret or be burdened, since He of course, by the very fact of
His presence, assumes the care and responsibility of it all."
Ah, it is vain indeed, and I would that all God's children knew it!
We mothers at least ought to know it, for our own ways with our
children would teach us something of it every day we live, if we had but the
"eyes to see."
How many mothers have risen early, and sat up, late, and eaten the
bread of sorrows, just that they might give sleep to their beloved children.
And how grieved their hearts would have been if, after all their pains, the
children had refused to rest. I can appeal to some mother hearts, I am sure,
as thoroughly understanding my meaning. Memories will arise of the flushed
and rosy boy coming in at night, tired with his play or his work, with knees
out and coat torn, and of the patient, loving toil to patch and mend it all,
sitting up late and rising early, that the dearly loved cause of all the
mischief might rest undisturbed in childhood's happy sleep. How "vain," and
worse than vain, would it have been for that loved and cared-for darling to
have himself also sat up late, and risen early, and eaten the bread of
sorrows, when all the while his mother was doing it for him just that he
might not have it to do.
And if this is true of mothers, how much more true must it be of Him
who made the mothers, and who came among us in bodily form to bear our
burdens, and carry our sorrows, and do our work, just that we might "enter
into His rest."
Beloved, have we entered into this rest?
"For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own
works as God did from His." That is, he has learned at last the lesson that
without Christ or apart from Him he can do nothing, but that he can do all
things through Christ strengthening him; and therefore he has laid aside all
self-effort, and has abandoned himself to God that He may work in him both
to will and to do of His good pleasure. This and this only is the rest that
remaineth for the people of God.
Scientific men are seeking to resolve all forces in nature into one
primal force. Unity of origin is the present cry of science. Light, heat,
sound are all said to be the products of one force differently applied, and
that force is motion. All things, say the scientists, can be resolved back
to this. Whether they are right or wrong I cannot say; but the Bible reveals
to us one grand primal force which is behind motion itself, and that is
God-force. God is at the source of everything, God is the origin of
everything, God is the explanation of everything. Without Him was not
anything made that was made, and without Him is not anything done that is
Surely, then, it is not the announcement of any mystery, but the simple
statement of a simple fact, when our Lord says, "Without me ye can do
Even of Himself He said, "I can of mine own self do nothing," and He
meant that He and His Father were so one that any independent action was
impossible. Surely it is the revelation of a glorious necessity existing
between our souls and Christ that He should say we could do nothing without
Him; for it means that He has made us so one with Himself that independent
action is as impossible with us as towards Him, as it was with Him as
towards His Father.
Dear Christian, dost thou not catch a glimpse here of a region of
Let us believe, then, that without Him we can literally do nothing. We
must believe it, for it is true. But let us recognize its truth, and act on
it from this time forward. Let us make a hearty renunciation of all living
apart from Christ, and let us begin from this moment to acknowledge Him in
all our ways, and do everything, whatsoever we do, as service to Him and for
His glory, depending upon Him alone for wisdom, and strength, and sweetness,
and patience, and everything else that is necessary for the right
accomplishing of all our living.
As I said before, it is not so much a change of acts that will be
necessary, as a change of motive and of dependence. The house will be kept,
or the children cared for, or the business transacted, perhaps, just the
same as before as to the outward, but inwardly God will be acknowledged, and
depended on, and served; and there will be all the difference between a life
lived at ease in the glory of His presence, and a life lived painfully and
with effort apart from Him. There will result also from this bringing of God
into our affairs a wonderful accession of divine wisdom in the conduct of
them, and a far greater quickness and dispatch in their accomplishment, a
surprising increase in the fertility of resource, an ease in apprehending
the true nature and bearing of things, and an enlargement on every side that
will amaze the hitherto cramped and cabined soul.
I mean this literally. I mean that the house will be kept more nicely
and with greater ease, the children will be trained more swiftly, the
stockings will be darned more swiftly, the guest will be entertained more
comfortably, the servants will be managed more easily, the bargain will be
made more satisfactorily, and all life will move with far more sweetness and
harmony. For God will be in every moment of it, and where He is all must go
Moreover the soul itself, in this natural and simple way, will acquire
such a holy habit of "abiding in Christ" that at last His presence will
become the most real thing in life to our consciousness, and an habitual,
silent, and secret conversation with Him will be carried on that will yield
a continual joy.
Sometimes the child of God asks eagerly and hungrily, "What is the
shortest and quickest way by which I can reach the highest degree of union
and communion with God, possible to human beings in this life?" No shorter
or quicker way can be found than the one I have been declaring. By the
homely path of everyday duties done thus in God and for God, the sublimest
heights are reached. Not as a reward, however, but as an inevitable and
natural result, for if we thus abide in Him and refuse to leave Him, where
He is there shall we also be, and all that He is will be ours.
If, then, thou wouldst know, beloved reader, the interior divine union
realized in thy soul, begin from this very day to put it outwardly in
practice as I have suggested. Offer each moment of thy living and each act
of thy doing to God, and say to Him continually, "Lord, I am doing this in
Thee and for Thy glory. Thou art my strength, and my wisdom, and my
all-sufficient supply for every need. I depend only upon Thee." Refuse
utterly to live for a single moment or to perform a single act apart from
Him. Persist in this until it becomes the established habit of thy soul. And
sooner or later thou shalt surely know the longings of thy soul satisfied in
the abiding presence of Christ, thy indwelling Life.
"GOD WITH US"; OR, THE ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-NINTH PSALM
"Thus doth thy hospitable greatness lie
Around us like a boundless sea;
We cannot lose ourselves where all is home,
Nor drift away from Thee."
Very few of us understand the full meaning of the words in Matt. 1:23, "They
shall call His name Emmanuel; which being interpreted is, God with us." In
this short sentence is revealed to us the grandest fact the world can ever
know; that God, the Almighty God, the Creator of Heaven and earth, is not a
far-off Deity, dwelling in a Heaven of unapproachable glory, but is living
with us right here in this world, in the midst of our poor, ignorant,
helpless lives, as close to us as we are to ourselves. This seems so
incredible to the human heart that we are very slow to believe it; but that
the Bible teaches it as a fact, from cover to cover, cannot be denied by any
honest mind. In the very beginning of Genesis we read of the "presence of
the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden." And from that time on He is
revealed to us always as in the most familiar and daily intercourse with His
In Exodus we find Him asking them to make Him a "sanctuary, that He
might dwell among them." He is recorded as having "walked" with them in the
wilderness, and as "taking up His abode" with them in the promised land. He
taught them to rely on Him as an ever-present Friend and Helper, to consult
Him about all their affairs, and to abandon the whole management of their
lives to Him. And finally He came in Christ in bodily form and dwelt in the
world as a man among men, making Himself bone of our bone and flesh of our
flesh, taking upon Him our nature, and revealing to us, in the most tangible
and real way possible, the grand, and blessed, and incomprehensible fact
that He intended to be with us always, even unto the end of the world.
Whoever will believe this fact with all their hearts will find in it
the solution of every difficulty of their lives.
I remember when I was a little girl and found myself in any trouble or
perplexity, the coming in of my father or mother on the scene would always
bring me immediate relief. The moment I heard the voice of one of them
saying, "Daughter, I am here," that moment every burden dropped off and
every anxiety was stilled. It was their simple presence that did it. They
did not need to promise to relieve me, they did not need to tell me their
plans of relief; the simple fact of their presence was all the assurance I
required that everything now would be set straight and all would go well for
me, and my only interest after their arrival was simply to see how they
would do it all. Perhaps they were exceptional parents, to have created such
confidence in their children's hearts. I think myself they were. But as our
God is certainly an exceptional God, the application has absolute force, and
His presence is literally all we need. It would be enough for us, even if we
had not a single promise nor a single revelation of His plans. How often in
the Bible He has stilled all questions and all fears by the simple
announcement, "I will be with thee"; and who can doubt that in these words
He meant to assure us that all His wisdom, and love, and omnipotent power
would therefore, of course, be engaged on our side? Over and over again in
my childhood have the magic words, "Oh, there is mother!" brought me
immediate relief and comfort; and over and over again in my later years have
almost the same words reverently spoken, "Oh, there is God!" brought me a
far more blessed deliverance. With Him present, what could I have to fear?
Since He has said, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee," surely I may
boldly say, "The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do
unto me." I remember to this day the inspiring sense of utter security that
used to come to me with my earthly father's presence. I never feared
anything when he was by. And surely with my Heavenly Father by, there can be
no possible room for fear.
It is because of its practical help and comfort, therefore, that I
desire to make this wonderful fact of "Emmanuel, God with us," clear and
definite, for I am very sure but few, even of God's own children, really
believe it. They may say they do, they may repeat a thousand times in the
conventional, pious tone considered suitable to such a sentiment, "Oh, yes,
we know that God is always present with us, but -- " And in this "but" the
whole story is told. There are no "buts" in the vocabulary of the soul that
accepts His presence as a literal fact. Such a soul is joyously triumphant
over every suggestion of fear or of doubt. It has God, and that is enough
for it. His presence is its certain security and supply, always, and for
Let me, then, beg my readers to turn with me for a while to the 139th
Psalm, where we shall find a most blessed revelation of this truth.
The central thought of the Psalm is to be found in verses 7 to 12,
"Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy
presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in
hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell
in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and
thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me;
even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from
thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both
alike to thee. For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my
I cannot conceive of a more definite or sweeping declaration of His
continual presence with us, wherever we may be or whatever we may do, than
is contained in this passage. People talk about seeking to get into the
presence of the Lord, but here we see that they cannot get out of it; that
there is no place in the whole universe where He is not present; neither
heaven, nor hell, nor the uttermost parts of the sea; and no darkness so
great as to hide for one moment from Him. And the reason of this is, that He
"has possessed our reins," which means that He is not only with us, but
within us, and consequently must accompany us wherever we ourselves go.
We must accept it as true, therefore, that the words of our Lord, "Lo,
I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world," were the expression,
not of a beautiful sentiment merely, but of an incontrovertible fact. He is
with us, and we cannot get away from Him.
We may be in such thick darkness as to be utterly unable to see Him,
and may think, probably often have thought, that, therefore, He does not see
us. But our Psalm assures us that the darkness hideth not from Him, and
that, in fact, darkness and light are both alike to Him. We are as present
to His view and as plainly seen when our own souls are in the depths of
spiritual darkness, as when they are basking in the brightest light. The
darkness may hide Him from us, but it does not hide us from Him. Neither
does any apparent spiritual distance or wandering take us out of His
presence; not even if we go into the depths of sin in our wandering. In the
uttermost parts of the sea, or wherever we may be, He is ever present to
hold and to lead us. There is not a moment nor a place where we can be left
without His care.
There are times in our lives when delirium makes us utterly unaware of
the presence of our most careful and tender nurses. A child in delirium will
cry out in anguish for its mother, and will harrow her heart by its piteous
lamentations and appeals, when all the while she is holding its fevered
hand, and bathing its aching head, and caring for it with all the untold
tenderness of a mother's love. The darkness of disease has hidden the mother
from the child, but has not hidden the child from the mother.
And just so it is with our God and us. The darkness of our doubts or
our fears, of our sorrows or our despair, or even of our sins, cannot hide
us from Him, although it may, and often does, hide Him from us. He has told
us that the darkness and the light are both alike to Him; and if our faith
will only lay hold of this as a fact, we will be enabled to pass through the
darkest seasons in quiet trust, sure that all the while, though we cannot
see nor feel Him, our God is caring for us, and will never leave nor forsake
Whether, however, this abiding presence of our God will be a joy to us
or a sorrow, will depend upon what we know about Him. If we think of Him as
a stern tyrant, intent only on His own glory, we shall be afraid of His
continual presence. If we think of Him as a tender, loving Father, intent
only on our blessing and happiness, we shall be glad and thankful to have
Him thus ever with us. For the presence and the care of love can never mean
anything but good to the one beloved.
The Psalm we are considering shows us that the presence of our God is
the presence of love, and that it brings us an infinitude of comfort and
rest. He says in verses 1 to 5, "O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known
me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising; thou understandest my
thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art
acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but lo, O
Lord, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and
laid thine hand upon me."
Our God knows us and understands us, and is acquainted with all our
ways. No one else in all the world understands us. Our actions are
misinterpreted, it may be, and our motives misjudged. Our natural
characteristics are not taken into account, nor our inherited tendencies
considered. No one makes allowances for our ill health; no one realizes how
much we have to contend with. But our Father knows it all. He understands
us, and His judgment of us takes into account every element, conscious or
unconscious, that goes to make up our character and to control our actions.
Only an all-comprehending love can be just, and our God is just. No wonder
Faber can say: --
"There is no place where earth's sorrows
Are more felt than up in Heaven;
There is no place where earth's failings
Have such kindly judgment given."
Some of you have been afraid of His justice, perhaps, because you
thought it would be against you. But do you not see now that it is all on
your side, just as a mother's justice is, because "He knoweth our frame and
remembereth that we are dust"? No human judge can ever do this; and to me
this comprehension of God is one of my most blessed comforts. Often I do not
understand myself; all within looks confused and hopelessly tangled. But
then I remember that He has searched me, and that He knows me and
understands the thoughts which so perplex me, and that, therefore, I may
just leave the whole miserable tangle to Him to unravel. And my soul sinks
down at once, as on downy pillows, into a place of the most blissful rest.
Then further, because of this complete knowledge and understanding of
our needs, what comfort it is to be told that He knows our downsitting and
our uprising; that He compasses our path, and takes note of our lying down.
Just what a mother does for her foolish, careless, ignorant, but dearly
loved little ones, this very thing does our God for us. When a mother is
with her children she thinks of their comfort and well-being always before
her own. They must have comfortable seats where no draught can reach them,
no matter what amount of discomfort she may herself be compelled to endure.
Their beds must be soft and their blankets warm, let hers be what they may.
Their paths must be smooth and safe, even though she is obliged herself to
walk in rough and dangerous ways. Her own comfort, as compared with that of
her children, is of no account in a loving mother's eyes. And surely our God
has not made the mothers in this world more capable of a self-sacrificing
love than He is Himself. He must be better and greater on the line of love
and self-sacrifice than any mother He ever made.
Then, since He has assured us that He knows our downsitting and our
uprising, that He compasses our path and our lying down, we may be perfectly
and blessedly sure that in even these little details of our lives we get the
very best that His love, and wisdom, and power can compass. I mean this in a
very literal sense. I mean that He cares for our literal seats and our
literal beds, and sees that we, each one, have just that sort of a seat or
that sort of a bed which is best for us and for our highest development. And
just on this last point is where He is so much better than any mother can
be. His love is a wise love, that sees the outcome of things, and cares more
for our highest good than for that which is lower. So that, while a mother's
weak love cannot see beyond the child's present comfort, and cannot bear to
inflict or allow any discomfort, the strong, wise love of our God can bear
to permit the present discomfort, for the sake of the future glory that is
to result therefrom.
At home and abroad, therefore, let us commit the choosing of our seats,
and of our beds, and of all the other little homely circumstances of our
daily lives and surroundings, to the God who has thus assured us that He
knows all about every one of them.
For we are told in our Psalm that He "besets" our path. We have some of
us known what it was to be "beset" by unwelcome and unpleasant people or
things. But we never have thought, perhaps, that we were beset by God, that
He loves us so that He cannot leave us alone, and that no coldness nor
rebuffs on our parts can drive Him away. Yet it is gloriously true! And,
moreover, He besets us "behind" as well as before. Just as a mother does.
She goes after her children and picks up all they have dropped, and clears
away all the rubbish they have left behind them. We mothers begin this in
the nursery with the blocks and playthings, and we go on with it all our
lives long; seeking continually to set straight that which our children have
left crooked behind them; often at the cost of much toil and trouble, but
always with a love that makes the toil and trouble nothing in comparison to
caring for the children we love. What good mother ever turned away the poor
little tearful darling who came with a tangled knot for her unraveling, or
refused to help the eager rosy boy to unwind his kite-strings? Suppose it
has been their own fault that the knots and tangles have come, still her
love can sympathize with and pity the very faults themselves, and all the
more does she seek to atone for them.
All this and more does our God do for us from our earliest infancy,
long even before we know enough to be conscious of it, until the very end of
our earthly lives. We have seen Him before us perhaps, but we have never
thought of Him as behind us as well. Yet it is a blessed fact that He is
behind us all the time, longing to make crooked things straight, to untangle
our tangled skeins, and to atone continually for the wrong we have done and
the mistakes we have made. If any of us, therefore, have that in our past
which has caused us anxiety or remorse, let us lift up our heads in a happy
confidence from henceforth, that the God who is behind us will set it all
straight somehow, if we will but commit it to Him, and can even make our
very mistakes and misdoings work together for good. Ah! it is a grand thing
to be "beset" by God.
Then again what depths of comfort there are in verses 14 to 16: "I will
praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are Thy
works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from
thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts
of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in
thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned,
when as yet there was none of them."
One of the things which often troubles us more than we care to confess,
is our dislike of the way we have been put together. Our mental or moral
"make-up" does not suit us. We think if we had only been created with less
of this or more of that, if we were less impulsive or more enthusiastic, if
we had been made more like someone else whom we admire, that then our
chances of success would have been far greater; that we could have served
God far more acceptably; and could have been more satisfactory in every way
to ourselves and to Him. And we are tempted sometimes to think that with our
miserable make-up, it is hopeless to expect to please Him.
If we really realized that God Himself had made us, we should see the
folly of all this at once, but we secretly feel as if somehow He had not had
much hand in the matter, but as if we had been put together in a haphazard
sort of way, that had left our characters very much to chance. We believe in
creation in the general, but not in the particular, when it comes to
ourselves. But in this Psalm we see that God has presided over the creation
of each one of us, superintending the smallest details; even, to speak
figuratively, writing down what each "member" was to be, when as yet there
was none of them. Therefore we, just as we are naturally, with just the
characteristics that inhere in us by birth, are precisely what God would
have us to be, and were planned out by His own hand to do the especial work
that He has prepared for our doing. I mean, of course, our natural
characteristics, not the perversion of them by sin on our parts.
There is something very glorifying to the Creator in this way of
looking at it. Genius always seeks expression, and seeks, too, to express
itself in as great a variety of forms and ways as possible. No true artist
repeats himself, but each picture he paints, or statue he carves, is a new
expression of his creative power. When we go to an exhibition of pictures,
we should feel it a lowering of art if two were exactly alike; and just so
is it with us who are "God's workmanship." His creative power is expressed
differently in each one of us. And in the individual "make-up" which
sometimes so troubles us, there is a manifestation of this power different
from every other, and without which the day of exhibition, when we are, each
one, to be to the praise of His glory, would be incomplete. All He asks of
us is that, as He has had the making of us, so He may also have the
managing, since He alone understands us, and is, therefore, the only one who
can do it.
The man who makes an intricate machine is the best one to manage it and
repair it; any one else who meddles with it is apt to spoil it. And when we
think of the intricacy of our inward machinery and the continual failure of
our own management of it, we may well be thankful to hand it all over to the
One who created it, and to leave it in His hands. We may be sure He will
then make the best out of us that can be made, and that we, even we, with
our "peculiar temperaments," and our apparently unfortunate characteristics,
will be made vessels unto honor, sanctified and meet for the Master's use,
and fitted to every good work.
I met once with a saying in an old Quaker writer which I have never
forgotten: "Be content to be just what thy God has made thee." It has helped
me to understand the point upon which I am dwelling; and I feel sure
contentment with our own "make-up" is as essential a part of our submission
to God as contentment with any other of the circumstances of our daily life.
If we did not each one of us exist just as we are by nature, then one
expression of God's creative power would be missing, and one part of His
work would be left undone. And besides, to complain of ourselves is to
complain of the One who has made us, and cannot but grieve Him. Let us be
content, then, and only see to it that we let the Divine Potter make out of
us the very best He can, and use us according to His own good pleasure.
Verses 17 and 18 bring out another view of God's continual presence
with us, and that is, that He is always thinking about us, and that His
thoughts are kind and loving thoughts, for the Psalmist calls them precious.
"How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of
them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I
awake, I am still with thee."
So many people are tempted to think that God is not paying any
attention to them. They think that their interests and their affairs are
altogether beneath His notice, and that they are too unworthy to hope for
His attention. But they wrong Him grievously by such thoughts. A mother pays
as much attention to her smallest infant as to her oldest children, and is
as much interested in its little needs and pleasures as in theirs. I am not
sure but she is more. Her thoughts dwell around the one who needs them most;
and He who made the mother's heart will not Himself be less attentive to the
needs and pleasures of the meanest and most helpless of His creatures. He
even hears the young lions when they cry, and not a sparrow can fall to the
ground without Him; therefore, we, who are of more value than many sparrows,
need not be afraid of a moment's neglect.
In fact, the responsibilities of creating anything require an
unintermitting care of it on the part of the Creator; and it is the glory of
omnipotence that it can attend at once to the smallest details and to the
grandest operations as well.
"For greatness which is infinite makes room
For all things in its lap to lie;
We should be crushed by a magnificence
Short of infinity."
I do not know why it is that we consider a man or woman weak who
attends to large affairs to the neglect of little details, and then turn
around and accuse our God of doing this very thing. But if any of my readers
have hitherto been guilty of this folly, let it end now and here, and let
each one from henceforth believe, without any questioning, that always and
everywhere the "Lord thinketh upon me."
The remainder of the Psalm develops the perfect accord of thought
between the soul and God, where this life of simple faith has been entered
upon. Having learned the transforming fact of God's continual presence and
unceasing care, the soul is brought into so profound a union with Him as to
love what He loves, and hate what He hates; and eagerly appeals to Him to
search it, and try it, that there may be no spot left anywhere in all its
being which is out of harmony with Him.
In the sunlight of His presence darkness must flee, and the heart will
soon feel that it cannot endure to have any corner shut away from His
shining; for in His presence is "fulness of joy," and at His right hand
"there are pleasures forevermore."
An old woman, living in a rather desolate part of England, made
considerable money by selling ale and beer to chance travelers who passed
her lonely cottage. But her conscience troubled her about it. She wanted to
be a Christian and to go to Heaven when she died, but she had an inward
feeling that if she did become a Christian she would have to give up her
profitable business, and this she thought would be more than she could do;
so that between the two things she was brought into great conflict.
But one night, at the meeting she attended, a preacher from a distance
told about the sweet and blessed fact of God's continual presence with us,
and of the joy this was sure to bring when it was known. Her soul was
enraptured at the thought of such a possibility for her, and forgetting all
about the beer, she began at once with a very simple faith to claim it as a
blessed reality. Over and over again she exclaimed in her heart, as the
preacher went on with his sermon, "Why, Lord Jesus, I didn't know as thee
wast always with me! Why, Lord, how good it is to know that I have got thee
all the time to live with me and take care of me! Why, Lord, I sha'n't never
be lonely no more!" And when the meeting closed and she took her way home
across the moors, all the time the happy refrain went on, "Ah, Lord Jesus,
thee art going home with me tonight. Never mind, Lord Jesus, old Betty won't
never let thee go again now, I knows I have got thee!"
As her faith thus laid hold of the fact of His presence she began to
rejoice in it more and more, until finally, when she had reached her cottage
door, her soul was full of delight. As she opened the door, the first object
her eyes rested upon was a great pot of ale on the table ready for selling.
At once it flashed into her mind, "The Lord will not like to have that ale
in the house where He lives," and her whole heart responded eagerly, "That
ale shall go." She knew the pot was heavy, and she kneeled beside it saying,
"Lord, thee hast come home with me, and thee art going to live with me
always in this cottage, and I know thee don't like this ale. Please give me
strength to tip it over into the road." Strength was given, and the ale was
soon running down the lane. Then the old woman came back into her cottage,
and kneeling down again thanked the Lord for the strength given, and added,
"Now, Lord, if there is anything else in this cottage that thee does not
like, show it to me, and it shall be tipped out too."
Is not this a perfect illustration of the close of our Psalm? "Do not I
hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise
up against thee? I hate them with a perfect hatred; I count them mine
enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts;
and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way
Just as light drives out darkness, so does the realized presence of God
drive out sin, and the soul that by faith abides in His presence knows a
very real and wonderful deliverance.
And now I trust that some will ask, "How can I find this presence to be
real to myself?" I will close, therefore, with a few practical directions.
First, convince yourself from the Scriptures that it is a fact. Facts
must always be the foundation of our experiences, or the experiences are
worthless. It is not the feeling that causes the fact, but the fact that
produces the feeling. And what every soul needs in this case first of all,
is to be convinced beyond question, from God's own words about it, that His
continual presence with us is an unalterable fact.
Then, this point having been settled, the next thing to do is to make
it real to ourselves by "practising His presence," as an old writer
expresses it, always and everywhere, and in everything. This means simply
that you are to obey the Scripture command, and "in all your ways
acknowledge Him," by saying over each hour and moment, "The Lord is here,"
and by doing everything you do, even if only eating and drinking, in His
presence and for Him. Literally, "whether, therefore, ye eat or drink, or
whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."
By this continual "practice of His presence," the soul at last acquires
a habit of faith; and it becomes, finally, as difficult to doubt His
presence as it was at first to believe it.
No great effort is required for this, but simply an unwavering faith.
It is not studied reasonings or elaborate meditations that will help you
here. The soul must recognize, by an act of simple faith, that God is
present, and must then accustom itself to a continual conversation with Him
about all its affairs, in freedom and simplicity. He does not require great
things of us. A little remembrance of His presence, a few words of love and
confidence, a momentary lifting of the heart to Him from time to time as we
go about our daily affairs, a constant appeal to Him in everything as to a
present and loving friend and helper, an endeavor to live in a continual
sense of His presence, and a letting of our hearts "dwell at ease" because
of it, -- this is all He asks; the least little remembrance is welcome to
Him, and helps to make His presence real to us.
Whoever will be faithful in this exercise will soon be led into a
blessed realization of all I have been trying to tell in this book, and of
far more that I cannot tell; and will understand in a way beyond telling,
those wonderful words concerning our Lord, "They shall call His name
Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us."
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