Fellowship with True Christians
There is a necessity disclosed in the Scriptures, of believers continuing in "the daily practice of all things commanded by Christ." The worldly churches, which has gone astray from the doctrines, has also forsaken the commandments of Christ, if ever it made them a rule of life. It has probably left the commandments as the result of losing the doctrines; for the force of the commandments can only be felt by those who recognise that salvation is dependent on their obedience. Popular theology has reduced them to a practical nullity. It has totally obscured the principle of obedience as the basis of our acceptance with God in Christ, by its doctrine of "justification by faith alone."
It is part of the modern restitution of primitive apostolic ways, to recognise distinctly, that while faith turns a sinner into a saint, obedience only will secure a saint's acceptance at the judgment seat of Christ; and that a disobedient saint will be rejected more decisively than even an unjustified sinner.
The rule or standard of obedience is to be found in the commandments of Christ. Christ speaks very plainly on this subject:-
"Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants but I have called you friends" (John xv, 14).
"Teach them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded" (Matt. xxviii, 20).
"If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them " John xiii, 17).
"Not every one that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom, but he that doeth the will of my Father" (Matt. vu, 21).
"Be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves" (James i, 22).
"He that saith 'I know him,' and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar" (1 John ii, 4).
These statements are summed up in the saying of Christ, "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love" (John xv, 10).
We shall look at these commandments with the result of seeing that they are neutralised by the traditions and practices of socalled Christians of the modern era. But let us first realise that the commandments of the Apostles are included in the commandments of Christ. It is common to make a distinction. You will hear it said sometimes that while the commandments of Christ are all that is estimable and binding, the commandments of the apostles are marred by the weaknesses of the men who communicated them, and are by no means to be placed on a level with the precepts of their Master, who was without flaw. This plausible distinction is not founded on truth. The commandments delivered by the apostles were not of their authorship. They were as definitely divine as those that came from the mouth of the Lord. Paul distinctly claims this:-
"If any man think himself to be a prophet or spiritual let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you ARE THE COMMANDMENTS OF THE LORD" (1 Cor. xiv, 37).
This claim is only in harmony with what the Lord Jesus himself said on the subject. In sending his apostles forth to teach his doctrine after he should have departed from the earth, he did not leave them to their own resources as natural men for the execution of the work. He made specific promise of supernatural wisdom and guidance. This promise occurs in various forms, e.g.:-
"I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist" (Luke xxi, 15).
"If I depart, I will send him the comforter, . . . which is the HOLY SPIRIT, 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" John xvi, 7: xiv 26).
"When they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak, for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you" (Matt. x, 19, 20).
The promise of Christ that he should send the Spirit to the apostles was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost. Jesus told them not to begin their apostolic labours until the Spirit should come (Luke xxiv, 49; Acts i, 4). They were to "tarry at Jerusalem" till the promised "power from on high" came, by which they were enabled to give an effective testimony to the word. They had not long to wait. In ten days, while they were all assembled (the apostles and disciples to the number of 120), the Spirit came with sound of a rushing mighty wind, and filled all the place where they were, crowning each apostle with a visible wreath of flame, and manifesting its intelligent power in imparting to the apostles the power of extemporising the word in all the spoken languages of the day (Acts ii, 1-13).
When the commotion caused by this wonderful occurrence had come to a head, Peter explained the nature of it to the bewildered spectators. He reminded the assembled multitude of the recent crucifixion of Jesus, which they were aware of. He then declared his resurrection as a fact within the personal eyewitness of the apostles, and added, "Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, HE HATH SHED FORTH THIS WHICH YE NOW SEE AND HEAR" (Acts ii, 33).
The spirit which was thus bestowed upon them remained with them as a guiding teaching presence to the end. It was this that justified Paul's claim to divine authority for the things he wrote, as above quoted; for although Paul was not among the apostles at that time, he was added to their number shortly afterwards, and in every way supernaturally endowed as the other apostles were. It was this that enabled John the apostle to take the same strong ground in his first epistle: "We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us: he that is not of God, heareth not us. HEREBY KNOW WE THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH AND THE SPIRIT OF ERROR" (1 John iv, 6). When John said this he said no more in substance than Jesus said himself concerning John and his fellow apostles: "As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you" (John xx, 21). "He that heareth you heareth me, and he that despiseth you despiseth me" (Luke x, 16).
Here is Christ's own authority for placing the word of his apostles on a level with his own. He said concerning his own teaching, "The word which ye hear is not mine but the Father's which sent me" (John xiv, 24). On the same principle, the apostles could say with Paul, "The things which we write (and speak) are (not ours but) Christ's who sent us." The principle is this: the Holy Spirit was upon the Lord from the Father without measure, making him one with the Father, who is the eternal and universefilling Spirit, through which he was enabled to give commandments that were as truly divine as if proclaimed direct from heaven in the hearing of all the world. (Luke iii, 22; John iii, 35; Acts i, 2). So the Holy Spirit was upon the Apostles from Christ, who is one with the Father, imparting to their words a divine authority equal to that which attached to his own words. Hence, it is a perfectly natural relation of things that Christ exhibits when he says, "He that despiseth you, despiseth me, and he that despiseth me despiseth Him that sent me."
It must be evident in the light of these considerations how grievously mistaken is the view which would treat with small respect the apostolic precepts, while according a high sentimental regard for those which come out of the actual mouth of Christ. The commandments of the apostles are the commandments of Christ, and the commandments of Christ are the commandments of God. And the keeping of the commandments of God is of an importance that cannot be represented in too extreme a light, in view of what is written in the Apocalypse: "Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city" (Rev. xxii, 14).
When Jesus sent forth his apostles, he not only commanded them to preach the gospel, but he said, "Teach them to observe all things whatsover I have commanded you" (Matt. xxviii, 20). It must be obvious that this extends the obligatoriness of the commandments delivered to the apostles, to all believers as well and this not merely in the sense of seemliness or suitability, but in the sense of imperative obligation. That is, the obedience of these commandments is essential to the believers. Christ said this plainly in concluding what is called his "sermon on the mount," which is nothing else than a long series of these very commandments - in fact, the most methodical and extensive collection of them to be found in the whole course of his recorded teaching. He said, "Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them, I will liken him unto A WISE MAN which built his house upon a rock; and every one that heareth these sayings of mine and DOETH THEM NOT, shall be likened unto A FOOLISH MAN which built his house upon the sand, and the rain descended and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it" (Matt. viii, 24-26).
In no plainer way could Christ tell us that our ultimate acceptance with him will depend upon our doing of the things he has commanded. If he did say it more plainly, it was when he said, "Not everyone 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 (Matt. vii, 21).
The idea thus explicitly enunciated is of very frequent occurrence in the Lord's teaching. It comes out in various connections and forms, but always with the same pointedness and vigour. There is never room for misconception. Once as he stood in the midst of a listening crowd, one said, "Thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee." His rejoinder was, "Who is my mother and who are my brethren? . . . WHOSOEVER SHALL DO THE WILL OF MY FATHER which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother" Matt. xii, 47, 50). On another occasion, a woman in the crowd exclaimed, "Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked." His response was, "Yea, rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and KEEP IT" (Luke xi, 27, 28). On another occasion he said, "Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke vi, 46); and on another, "Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. v, 20); and, again, "Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you" (John xv, 14).
Now, as to the relation of the churches to these commandments, it is well described in the words which Jesus applied to the religious leaders of the Jewish nation: "Ye have made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition" (Matt. xv, 6). There is scarcely a commandment of Christ but what is systematically disregarded in the practice of the Christian world socalled. It is not merely that the commandments are not obeyed; they are not recognised. They have been explained away and nullified through the influence of human opinion and precept, traditionally received. We have seen how entirely the command to believe the gospel has been set aside; to what a nonentity the command to be baptised has been reduced; and into what neglect has fallen the command to break bread from week to week in remembrance of him. It is not of these we would now speak.
Our illusion is to a class of commandments that run much more directly counter to human bias and inclination. By reason of their very aim to try, and purify, and chasten and discipline the mind into subjection to the divine will, there is a universal predilection in favour of that way of understanding these commandments that takes away their inconvenience for men called to serve Christ in the present world, and inclined perhaps to do so, though with no great amount of faith, or its resultant enthusiasm. Because of this "consensus of opinion," as it is the modern fashion to phrase it, the common run of men are afraid to think as the commandments, without sophistication, would lead men to think. But the commandments are not altered by the "consensus" They remain as the expression of Christ's will, however successfully they may be nullified by tradition: and it will be a poor apology for disobedience, in the day of judgment to say that we did not dare to comply with them because they were not currently understood to have any practical bearing in modern times. The inclinations and traditions of the multitude have always been in antagonism to the will of God. The divinely recorded history of the world is proof of this. It is, therefore, the part of men who believe in God, to hearken to the voice of His word, and not to the opinions of the people and their leaders.
Of those commandments that are recognised though not acted on, it will not be in place here to speak. That God should be loved and served; that men should be true, just and kind; that our neighbour's interests should have as high a consideration at our hands as our own, no man considering himself a member of the churches would deny, however little able he might be to give practical effect to these commandments in his life. These commandments are such as are beautiful in themselves, and commend themselves to the moral instincts of all men (not degraded to the very level of the brute) as the dictates of the highest wisdom.
It is of the commandments whose excellence is not so selfevident that there is need to speak; commandments whose aim is not to make the present life agreeable, but to subject obedient believers to a discipline that will subdue and mould them to the divine pattern in preparation for the perfectly agreeable state of existence to be established by Christ upon the earth in the day of His coming.
1. Be not conformed to this world (Rom. xii, 2). There is not much danger of mistaking the meaning of this. The world is the people, as distinguished from the earth which they inhabit. Peter puts this beyond doubt in calling it "the world OF THE UNGODLY" (2 Peter ii, 5). Jesus also makes it plain in speaking of the world as a lover and a hater, "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own" (John xv, 18). This could only apply to the people. The command is to be not conformed to the world of people upon the earth as it now is. Jesus plainly laid it down that he did not belong to such a world, and commanded his disciples to accept a similar position in relation to it. "The world to come" is the world of their citizenship. Of their position in the present world, Jesus said in prayer, "They are not of the world even as I am not of the world" (John xvii, 16). By John he commanded them, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; is not of the Father, but of the world" (1 John ii, 15). By Peter, he indicates their position in the world as that of "strangers and pilgrims" (1 Peter ii, 11), and their life in it as a "time of sojourning" (i, 17), to be passed in holiness and fear (verses 14 and 17).
The world that hated Jesus was the Jewish world. Consequently, we are saved from the mistake of supposing that by the world is meant the extremely vile and immoral of mankind. The Jews were far from being such: they were a very religious and ostentatiously professing and ceremonially punctilious people, among whom the standard of respectability was high in a religious sense. All their conversations with Christ shew this. That which led to the complete separation indicated in Christ's words and precepts, is indicated by Jesus himself, in his prayer to the Father, so wonderfully recorded in John xvi: "O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee" (verse 25). It is the world's relation to God that cuts off the friends of God from the world (if the friends of God are faithful). The world neither loves, nor knows, nor considers God. They care for Him in no sense. His expressed will - His declared purpose - His intrinsically sovereign claims, are either expressly rejected or treated with entire indifference. His great and dreadful and eternal reality is ignored. Daniel's indictment against Belshazzar is chargeable against them all. "The God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified" (Dan. v, 23).
This is an allsufficient explanation of the matter we are considering. If the world is God's enemy, how can the friends of God be friends with it? It is not without the profoundest reason in the nature of things, that it is written, "The friendship of the world is enmity with God. Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world, is the enemy of God" (James iv, 4). "NO MAN CAN SERVE TWO MASTERS.... YE CANNOT SERVE GOD AND MAMMON" (Matt. vi, 24).
The force of this reasoning increases tenfold when we contemplate the present situation in the light of its divine explanation and the divine purpose concerning it. We must seek for this explanation in the beginning of things - the beginning as Mosaically exhibited (an exhibition endorsed by Christ, and therefore to be trusted in the face of all modern theories and speculations). This beginning shows us man in harmony with God, and things "very good." Then it shews us disobedience (the setting aside of the divine will as the rule of human action - alias, sin), and as the result of this, the divine fellowship withdrawn, and men driven off to exile and to death, permitted only, thereafter, to approach in sacrifice, in token of the final way of return. The present world is the continuance and enlargement of the evil state of man, resulting from man's alienation from God in the beginning. It is enlarged and aggravated. "The whole world lieth in wickedness" (1 John v, 19), "dead in trespasses and sins . . . by nature children of wrath" (Eph. ii, 13), "without Christ, having no hope, and without God." (Eph. ii, 12).
Now, what is the purpose concerning this state of things? We have seen it in previous lectures. It is briefly summarised in 2 Thes. i, 7, and Rev. xix, 11-16, "The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, with his mighty angels in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." "In righteousness doth he judge and make war . . . treading the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God." When this work of judgment and destruction is done, the kingdom of God prevails on earth for a thousand years, leading the nations in ways of righteousness and peace; and after a brief renewal of conflict with the diabolism of human nature, there comes at last the day of complete restoration, the ungodly consumed off the earth; the servants of God saved. "No more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him; and they shall see his face, and his name shall be in their foreheads" (Rev. xxii 3).
Here, then, we have harmony with God at the beginning of things, and harmony with Him at the end of things, and the dark and dreadful interval of "the present evil world" between, in which God is not obeyed nor recognised, but the pleasures, gratifications, and interests of mere natural existence made the objects of universal pursuit. In this dark interval, however, the divine work goes on of separating a family from the evil, in preparation for the day of recovery and blessing. It is not easy, in view of these things, to realise the reasonableness of the divine command to His servants meanwhile, not to be conformed to an evil world, in which God is disowned, and to which they do not belong?
Now, how do the churches look in this light? Is it not evident at a glance that this elementary axiom of the law of Christ is totally disregarded? The idea of a Christian of the ordinary type being "not of the world" is an anomaly only calculated to excite the sarcastic smile of the cynic. If the ordinary "Christian" is not "of the world," where are we to find the people that are? To call a man "a man of the world," has, in fact, become one of the highest compliments that can be paid to a man's judgement and culture: as a man at home everywhere, who sees good in everything; and nothing very wrong in anything. In the ears of such a man, the distinctions and scrupulosities enjoined by Christ and his apostles have an antiquated sound: and worse - a sound of uncharity, of harshness, of narrow-minded and bigoted sectarianism. The earnest recognition and observance of right and wrong, as arising out of the law of Christ, are in his eyes the symptoms of an odious fanaticism, disqualifying the subject of them for society or the commonest good fellowship.
Yet "the man of the world," with his kindly unconcern about all things, is a good Christian by the popular standard. He is "of the world" essentially; and though Christ proclaimed himself as "not of the world" and commanded his disciples to accept a similar position, this man's being of the world, is held to be no drawback to his Christian standing in the eyes of the churches. No wonder! The church is the world. What is there in and of the world that the church does not mix with? (and by "the church" we may understand the dissenting bodies as well as the State establishment).
Take the political sphere. If there is anything characteristically "of the world," it is politics, whether in the exercise or the discussion of temporal power, and its forms. It is written: "The KINGDOMS of this world are to become (at Christ's return) the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ." Consequently, the kingdoms are meanwhile "of this world." In modern usage "kingdom" has become "State," because the political form of the State varies. Where is the church in relation to the State? The alliance of the church with the State is of itself a sufficient illustration of the departure of the churches from the commandments of Christ. It is a proof that the modem church is "of this world," even if the private practice of its members were in harmony with the mind of Christ.
The common private practice of those who consider themselves "Christians," removes any doubt that the public form of things might leave. That common private practice may be summed up as an earnest discharge of all the parts and functions that belong, or could possibly belong, to citizens of the present world. There is no point, part or feature of the present evil world, in which they are not found incorporate. The bishops are part of the world-system in Britain, as they sit in their lawn sleeves in the House of Lords, to supervise the laws made for this world by the much jangling that goes on in "the lower house." The clergy are "gentlemen," eligible for the society of the world, and welcome in the drawing-rooms of the aristocracy and on the huntingfield with the squires. Her churchwardens and minor officials have the management of the world in hand in their several departments, whether exacting the tithes with the sword of the law in hand, or refusing a resting place in the parish churchyard to dead heretics. Her laity look on riches, place, and power as legitimate objects - with all of them - the most successful in attaining which, are the most honourable. In minuter details, they are voters (the secerning blood vessels of the political system); they are patriots and political spouters at public meetings (the thew and muscle of the system); they burn gunpowder on the battlefield, or compete for the civic or Parliamentary honours of the State in the boroughs (and become the organs of the system). They run in crowds to the public amusements, or in private indulge their liking without the least restraint or reference to the New Testament injunctions of sobriety, self-denial and holiness.
What is to be done in such a state of things by the man earnestly seeking to be the servant of Christ, and desiring to be found of him at his coming, in the attitude of a chaste and loyal bride, preparing for marriage? Common sense would supply the answer if it were not plainly given to us by God Himself: "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty" (2 Cor. vi, 17-18). The questions with which Paul prefaces this quotation strike home the reasonableness of this command at a blow: "What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial: or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?"
The believer of the gospel has no alternative but to step aside from the world. He cannot otherwise carry out the will of Christ concerning those whom he asks for his own. What this stepping aside from the world means, there need be no difficulty in the earnest man determining for himself. Christ and the apostles have in themselves furnished an example which we are invited to imitate (1 Peter ii, 21; John xiii, 15; xv, 18-20; 1 Cor. xi, 1: iv, 17).
It does not mean seclusion: for they lived an open daily public life. It does not mean isolation: for they are always seen among men. It means abstinence from the aims and principles of the world, and from the movements and enterprises in which these find expression. The activities of Christ and the apostles were all in connection with and on behalf of, the work of God among men. They never appear in connection with the enterprises of the world. Their temporal avocations are all private. Christ was a carpenter; Paul a tent maker; but at these, both worked as the sons of God. Disciples of Christ may follow any occupation of good repute; (they are expressly prohibited from having to do with anything of an evil appearance or giving occasion of reproach to the adversary - Rom. xii. 9; 1 Thess. v, 22). But in all they do, they are to remember they are the Lord's servants, and to act as if the matter they have in hand were performed directly to him (Col. iii, 23-24). Even servants are to do their part to a bad master faithfully as "to the Lord" (1 Peter, ii, 18-20).
The sense in which they stand apart from the world is in the objects for which they work, and in the use to which they put the time and means which they call "their own." They are to "follow after (works of) righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart" (2 Tim. ii, 22). They are to "deny ungodliness and worldly lusts," and "live soberly and righteously and godly" (Tit. ii, 12). They are not to live in pleasure (Tit. iii, 3; 1 Tim. v, 6). They are to live to give God pleasure, in which, as they grow, they will find their own highest pleasure. They are to be "holy in all manner of conversation," cleansing themselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, and walking as those who are the temple of God among men (1 Pet. i, 15; 2 Cor. xiii, 7; 2 Cor. vi, 16).
Guided by these apostolic principles, they will abstain from the defiling habits that are common to ungodly churches, amongst which smoking and drinking stand prominent. And as men waiting and preparing for the kingdom of God (whose citizenship is in heaven, and not upon the earth) they accept the position of "strangers and pilgrims" among men. They are not at home; they are passing on. They take no part with Caesar. They pay his taxes and obey his laws where they do not conflict with the laws of Christ; but they take no part in his affairs.
They do not vote; they do not ask the suffrages of his supporters; they do not aspire to Caesar's honours or emoluments; they do not bear arms. They are sojourners in Caesar's realms during the short time God may appoint for their probation; and as such, they sustain a passive and non-resisting attitude, bent only upon earning Christ's approbation at his coming, by their obedience to his commandments during his absence. They are not of the world, even as he was not of the world; and therefore they refuse to be conformed to it. The way is narrow and full of self-denial - too much so for those who would like to perform the impossible feat of "making the best of both worlds." But the destination is so attractive, and the results of the cross-bearing so glorious, that the enlightened pilgrim deliberately chooses the journey, and resolutely endures its hardships.
2. "They that are great (among the Gentiles) exercise authority upon them. BUT IT SHALL NOT BE SO AMONG YOU. But whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister, and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant" (Matt. xx, 25-27). "BE NOT YE CALLED RABBI, for one is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren." Nothing is more natural than for men to seek honour and deference among their fellow men. It is the universal habit, of society "to receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only" (John v, 44). Men everywhere "love the praise of men more than the praise of God" (John xii, 43). It is considered the right thing to nurse "ambition" - to indulge the desire for "fame" - which is the same thing in modern times. Jesus condemns it without qualification. He forbids men to aim at human approbation. It is his express commandment in almsgiving, for example, to "let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth" (Matt. vi, 3); and in prayer, to "pray to thy Father which is in secret" (verse 6), and in the exercises of divine sorrow, "to appear not unto men to fast" (verse 18). The object is that "thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." For the same reason, he forbids us to accept honourable titles and honourable places, and enjoins us to take a low and serving place. In illustration of his meaning, he himself washed the feet of his disciples, remarking, "I have given you an example that ye should do as I have done to you" (John xiii, 15). He expressly said, "Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased" (Luke xiv, 11). His command by the apostles is, "All of you be clothed with humility "; put away pride: "mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate" (Rom. xii, 3, 16; Phil. ii, 3; 1 Pet. v, 56).
The object of these commandments must be apparent to every reflecting mind that realises Christ's object in the preaching of the gospel. It is to "purify unto himself a peculiar people" (Tit. ii, 14), to show forth "the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light" (1 Pet. ii, 9). The celebration of this praise is not finally and effectually rendered until the summons comes forth from the throne, to the immortal multitude of the saints in the day of His appearing: "praise our God all ye His servants" (Rev. xix, 5); who respond to the thrilling mandate in a tempest of enthusiastic acclamation, "as the voice of many waters and as the voice of mighty thunderings" (verse 6). How could a people be prepared for such a part except by the command to crucify the propensity that seeks the honour of men in this evil age?
The acceptance of that honour necessarily engenders self-absorption, and unfits the heart for that self-abasement which is the first ingredient of true glory to God. We can see what the cultivation of ambition does for its poor worshippers. Take the elegant crowd at a levee - the haughty, quick-glancing, susceptible sons and daughters of fashion: how would they be qualified to praise God in the heart-felt way required? It is the praise of men that fills and controls them - visible in their arrogance, and impatience and pride. They are eaten up with it as with a fever. The commandments of Christ have no acceptability to them. Their motto is "Who is Lord over us?" When the commandments of Christ obtain an entrance, they allay this fever, and bring the mind into a frame in harmony with true reason in the ennobling recognition that all things are derived, and that the glory and credit of everything is ultimately due to God alone, and not safe to be accepted, in however small a measure, at the hands of man in the present age of godlessness.
How is it with the churches? Are names of honour repudiated? Are good deeds done in private? Is the praise of men deprecated? Is it not notoriously the reverse in all particulars? Have we not "Rev.", "Right Rev." , "Most Rev.", "Very Rev.", and "Fathers in God," and a legion of plain revs.? - a stupendous lying title in its plainest form. Have we not "Masters " and "Doctors " of all sorts - M.A's and B.A's and D.D's, and the M.P's and T.C's, of Parliamentary and municipal dignities, impressing the crowd all the more as an abstraction reduced to what are to them mysterious monograms? And in more private ways, do we not see the same aping after greatness, the same fawning to greatness, in all sorts of complimentary titles exacted and accorded by the millions who call themselves "Christian"?
And are the leaders better than the people? Are not the leaders first in the offence? Who so quick as they to resent the omission of conventional honours, which they call "courtesies," and who so irresponsive to the claims of benevolence and right when out of human sight? There may be, and doubtless are, exceptions; but as a rule, it is now, as Jesus said it was with the Scribes and Pharisees of his day, "All their works they do to be seen of men. They make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments. And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men 'Rabbi, Rabbi' " (Matt. xxiii, 57).
Look at the public subscription lists: where would the contributions be if the names and amounts were not published? Is it not a fact that the contributors of the churches as a class, aim to get their contributions advertised, and that those who ask them, pander to the popular weakness, in the certain knowledge that, if they do not soothe the unholy ambitions with public acknowledgements, the donations would stay in the pockets of the donors?
And as for the "praise of men," it is the inspiration of all public life, the incense of public worship, and the peculiar fragrance of all public proceedings. Who can read the report of a public meeting without having his senses sickened with fulsome eulogy, uncalled for presentations and testimonials, and the cheap, but indispensable vote of thanks? The motives of men are corrupted by breathing such an atmosphere. There is no remedy but the remedy of destruction and of reconstruction which is waiting to be applied at the coming of Christ. The individual remedy lies in "coming out," and doing the will of God in privacy and obscurity, in patient waiting for the glorious day of rectification and recompense which God will assuredly bring at the time of His purpose in fulfilment of His promise.
3. " Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth " (Matt. vi, 19). This is plainly expressed in another part of the word of wisdom thus: "Labour not to be rich" (Prov. xxiii, 4). Nothing in the whole range of language could be plainer than this. Christ, who surely knew better than all, states a fact which constitutes a powerful reason for the commandment not to aim at riches. "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God" (Luke xviii, 24). Riches he calls "the mammon of unrighteousness." He does not say their possession is absolutely inconsistent with divine favour and inheritance of life eternal. But He gives us to understand that the danger of their "choking the word" is extreme (Matt. xiii, 22), and that the only safety of those who have them, lies in turning them by use into friends and safeguards. His advice is: "Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness" (Luke xvi, 9). How this is to be done, he indicates: "Give alms: provide yourselves bags that wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not" (Luke xii, 33). This advice is repeated by the apostles "Charge them that are rich in this world . . . that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate, laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come" (1 Tim. vi, 17). "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God" (1 Peter iv, 10).
The rich in the churches do not conform to these divine prescriptions. On the contrary, they lavish their superabundance on themselves in a thousand ways that minister to "the lust of the eye, and the pride of life." If they get more, their plan is to enlarge the basis of their own individual aggrandisement. They would be considered fools if they did otherwise. How Christ regards the matter (that, in fact, he considers them fools for doing that which the world considers them wise for doing), they may learn beforehand from Luke xii, 16:-
"The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do; I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years: take thine ease; eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, THOU FOOL, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then, whose shall those things be which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself and is not rich towards God."
Here we have the law of Christ forbidding the poor to labour to be rich, and commanding the rich to use their abundance in the alleviation of the want around them. What is the practice of the churches with regard to these institutes? Is not "laying up treasure upon earth" the one thing aimed at, the one thing commended, the one thing needful and respectable on all hands? and do not the rich resent the suggestion of liberality to the poor as an impertinence, entitling them to fling the suggestor into the gutters? These things are true. But the commandment calmly remains, and we shall have to face it one day, as Jesus says: "The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge you at the last day." We may prosper in our diligent laying by, or pleasantly enjoy ourselves inside the ring-fence we set up for our unrighteous mammon - justifying our course on the social economic theories yielded by the experience of a sinful generation; but where will both be in the day when we emerge empty-handed from the grave, to appear before Him who will "judge the living and the dead," and who will open our eyes to the fact that what we had in the day of our probation, was His? He will decide the issue on His own principles alone, and not on the principle that sinners have rendered popular among themselves.
4. Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. Of him that taketh thy goods ask them not again. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain (Matt. v, 39-41; Luke vi, 30). Of all the commandments of Christ, this of unresisting submission to legal and personal wrong is the one that most severely tests the allegiance of his disciples, and which accordingly is most decisively neglected in all the churches. It would not be too much to say that it is deliberately refused and formally set aside by the mass of professing Christians, as an impracticable rule of life. That it stands there as the plainest of Christ's commandments, cannot be denied; and that it was re-echoed by the apostles and carried out in the practice of the early Christians, is equally beyond contradiction. Yet, by all classes, it is ignored as much as if it had never been written. To what are we to attribute this deliberate disobedience of all ranks and classes of men, nominally professing subjection to Christ?
Something of it is doubtless due to a wrong conception of the object of the commandments. It is commonly imagined that the commandments of Christ apply, and are intended to supply, the best modes of life among men - that is, those modes that are best adapted to secure a beneficial adaptation of man to man in the present state of life upon earth. Doubtless they would prove such if all men acted on them. But in a world where the majority ignore them and act out their selfish instincts without scruple, it is otherwise. They expose the obedient to personal disadvantage. They were never intended to have any other effect. They were intended to develop "a peculiar people," whose peculiarity should consist in the restraint of natural impulse in submission to the will of God. They were designed to chasten and discipline and purify such a people by the exercise of patient submission to wrong in preparation for another time when such commandments will be no longer in force, but when it will be given to the developed and obedient saints to "execute judgment" upon the ungodly, and "break in pieces the oppressor" as a preliminary to the blessing of all people (Rev. ii, 26; Dan. vii, 22; Psa. cxlix, 9).
Men say society could not be carried on if these principles were acted on. Such a speech is not the speech of a disciple. Christ is not aiming at carrying on society on its present footing, but at "taking out a people" to carry it on rightly - that is, on divine principles - in the age to come. His own case illustrates the position. The people wanted to take him by force and make him a king, but he withdrew (John vi, 15). A man wanted him to interfere in a will dispute. He declined, saying, "Who made me a judge and a divider?" (Luke xii, 14). His part was to testify the truth, to do the will of the Father, to do all the good he could on divine grounds, and as for the world, to "testify of it that the works thereof are evil" (John vii, 7). In this course he created hatred for himself, which finally took the form of personal violence. This violence he did not resist. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, his life was taken from the earth. And he said with regard to his whole experience. "The servant is not greater than his Lord. If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you" (John xv, 18, 20).
the churches resists evil; sues at law; resents injury, brandishes the constable's truncheon, and fights in the army, even if the men it is called upon to shoot are fellow Christians. If pointed to the law of Christ, it shakes its head. It speaks of "duty to society," the "protection of life and property," and the certain chaos that would set in if the law of Christ were in force. In this, the churches speaks as the world, and not as "the church," because it is not the church, but the world. The true church is composed of the brethren of Christ, and he tells us that his brethren are those who obey his commandments, and do the will of the Father, as expressed by his mouth (Matt. xii, 50; John xii, 49, 50). The question for such has no difficulties. The question is: "Does the law of Christ allow them to employ violence under any circumstances?" If not, the loss of life itself would not be a consequence to be considered by them. Thoughts of expediency or philanthropy are out of place when urged in defence of doing that which the law of Christ forbids. If riots must rage unless we disobey Christ, let riots rage. If life and property must be exposed to the ravages of wicked men, unless we do that which Christ tells us we are not to do, let all houses and all lives be unprotected. If we must incur and pay heavy penalties, unless we choose to break the law of God, let the penalties be paid. If we must be killed, and all our families with us, unless we forfeit the approbation of the Lord and Master, and lose eternal life at his coming, let us die at once.
It is a mistake to hamper the question of duty with any secondary consideration whatever. The time has not come for the saints to keep the world right. It has to be made right before even keeping it right can be in question. The position of the saints is that of sojourners on trial for eternal life. God will take care that their probation is not interfered with by murder and violence before the time. The matter is His. We are in His hands: so is all the world. We need not therefore be distressed by thoughts of what will be the effect of any course required by Christ. He will take care that His work comes out right at last. The simple and only question for us, is that which Paul put near Damascus: "Lord, what wouldst Thou have me do?" We may not do what involves disobedience to Him.
A special constable, for example, is required if need be, to break a man's head with a truncheon. The question in such a case is, therefore, best put thus: "Does Christ allow his servants to break people's heads with truncheons?" It is not a proper answer to this question to say that being commanded to obey magistrates (Titus iii, 1), we are bound to act as special constables if the magistrates order us; because no one will deny that this exhortation is governed by the larger precept, that we are to "obey God rather than man" (Acts iv, 19). No candid person will contend that Paul meant we were to obey magistrates when their order might be to disobey God. If any such contention is made, it is a sufficient answer to cite the practice of the apostles, who must be allowed to be reliable interpreters of their own exhortations.
They were constantly disobeying magistrates in the particular matter of preaching the gospel, and brought themselves to prison and death by this disobedience. There was no inconsistency between this course of theirs, and their exhortation to "obey magistrates"; for in the matters referred to in this exhortation, they were themselves obedient to magistrates. They paid tribute, honoured the ruling powers, and recognised the authority of the law, in all matters not affecting their allegiance to the law of God. This is a duty required of all saints, and cheerfully rendered by them, notwithstanding that they expect all such orders and institutions to be abolished in due time. That time is the Lord's time; and for this they patiently wait. The work is the Lord's work, and for Him they wait.
But are they to be induced or coerced by human law to do what Christ has expressly forbidden? The only question is, has he forbidden what is in question in this case? Has he forbidden violence? As to this, nothing is clearer, "He hath left us an example that we should follow his steps" (1 Pet. ii, 21). This is what Christ himself said to his disciples: "I have given you an example that ye should do as I have done to you" (John xiii 15). Now what is the example of Christ as to the matter in hand? The testimony is that he did no violence, neither was deceit found in his mouth (Isaiah liii, 9). As Peter tells us. "When he was reviled, he reviled not again; when he suffered he threatened not, but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously" (1 Peter ii, 23).
But some say, this refers only to circumstances of persecution: that when he said: "Resist not evil," he meant that his friends were not to fight against those who persecuted them for their faith, but patiently and unresistingly allow them to do their will. It will be found, upon investigation, that this is a mistake. Christ was not speaking of persecution at all. He was speaking of the legal maxims and practices of the Jewish nation. He says: "Ye have heard that it hath been said, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." By whom - to whom, for what purpose had this been said? It was said by Moses to Israel, as the principle that was to regulate proceedings at law. This will be apparent by referring to Exodus xxi, 22-24. " He (the offender) shall pay as THE JUDGES determine, and if any mischief follow, thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth," etc. When, therefore, Jesus enjoins non-resistance of evil, it is not with reference to persecutors, but with reference to legal proceedings, and the ordinary relations of man with man.
This is perhaps more evident in the next verse (Matt. v, 40). "If any man will sue thee at law and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also." Here is no persecutor but a man who simply wants your property and tries to dispossess you by legal process. "Whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain." A persecutor would not be likely to want your company on the road. It is the case of a wayfarer who wants your comfort and protection on a lonely road, and to whom you are commanded to be liberal beyond his desires. "Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away." Surely this is no persecutor, who would take without your leave.
The suggestion that these precepts apply only to circumstances of persecution, is the thought of a combative nature which rebels against Christ's flesh-crucifying precepts, but is not prepared to go the length of openly denying Christ. It is a suggestion that is absurd in itself; for why should we be allowed to fight for ourselves, and be forbidden to fight for the Lord? One would imagine that the distinction, if it existed, would lie in the other direction, viz., that we would be allowed to repel and retaliate when it was the authority of the Lord that was in question, but that we should be submissive when it was a mere question of taking our purse. But the fact is, no such distinction is made. The suggestion that it exists is gratuitous. It is a distinction that cannot, in fact, be made; for how are you to know when a man hurts you for your faith, and when from his own cupidity?
The command of the Lord is absolute, that we are to act the part of sheep in the midst of wolves; wise as serpents, but unharmful as doves. The faithful of the first century recognised this as involving non-resistance. This is evident from James's incidental remark to the wanton rich men of the twelve tribes: "Ye have condemned and killed the just, and he doth not resist you" (James v, 6). It is also distinctly evident from Paul's claim in 2nd Epistle Corinthians xi, 20, to be heard on this ground: "For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face."
As much as to say, "It is a usual thing with you to submit without resistance, to personal injury; how much more may you endure my words." He had expressly enjoined: "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath, for it is written: Vengeance is mine. I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore, if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for in so doing, thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rom. xii, 19-21). Again, he says, "See that none render evil for evil" (1 Thess. v, 15). Again, "Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?" (1 Cor. vi, 7).
These principles exclude a resort to law on the part of those who obey the commandments of Christ. Going to law is inconsistent with submission to precepts requiring us to accept evil, and to refrain from vindicating ourselves. What is going to law but resorting to the utmost extremity of personal violence and coercion? Those who look on the surface may not see this, but they feel it readily enough when directed against themselves. They may imagine it is doing a very gentle deed to pay a visit to a quiet lawyer's office, and ask him to set the law in motion in a "legitimate " way, protesting you want only justice, etc., etc.
But follow the matter to its upshot; see what it means, and then judge whether, as a friend of Christ, you are at liberty to do such a bloody and forbidden thing. You get the judgment of the law in your favour: and let us suppose the debtor is unable to pay. What happens? Your servants (for the agents of the law are your servants, for the time being, and would not act a moment after your authority was withdrawn) enter his house and sell his bed, and cast him homeless on the street. But suppose he is able to pay and won't, and takes it into his head to resist, enlisting, let us suppose, a band of bold spirits to his aid. The myrmidons of the law arrive at the house; the door is locked, admission demanded in vain. Your agents knock the door down, but they find the passage barricaded. They demolish the barricades, but find the occupants of the house in an attitude of defiance. Your servants of the law push them; the debtor's friends smite your servants of the law. Your servants smite in return, but seeing they are over-matched, they withdraw.
The debtor exults and fearing a return of the myrmidons, he sends for and obtains a reinforcement of roughs. The bailiffs return with assistance. A melee ensues: heads are broken and property destroyed, and the bailiffs are repulsed. What next? A riot. Part of the people take sides with the debtor and part with the bailiffs. What next? The soldiers are sent for. The soldiers are now your servants. If the men in the house don't give in brains will be blown out and lives taken, and all this will be done because you have set the law in motion. In fact, this is the law in motion. What is commonly called " the law," is but the smooth end of the bludgeon. It is the fear of the other end that makes people cower at the sight of the handle. A bailiff goes and shews the handle, and this is generally sufficient, but the fact remains, that what is called the law is a terrible instrument of destruction, which will break skulls if there is any resistance. A battered house and blood-covered corpses, are elements in the picture to be considered. The fact that it is rarely needful to push matters to this length does not alter the nature of the transaction, or weaken the conclusion that saints are not at liberty to employ such an engine of offence.
The fact that a man does not personally employ the violence only makes the matter worse, so far as the nature of his act is concerned; for which is worse: to do the deed honestly and bravely yourself, or to stand behind a curtain and whisper the words that set a lot of heartless ruffians to do it? If you were the personal actor, your debtor might have some chance of mercy by personal appeal; but when you set the law in motion you hand him over to the tender mercies of men with hearts of stone, and without the power to be merciful even if they had the mind.
It is generally conceded that a brother has no right to resort to law against a brother, because of Paul's express words in 1 Cor. vi, 1-4; but some conceive they may do so against a stranger. The first thought upon such a proposition is, that it is contrary to the entire spirit of Christ's teaching to suppose we are at liberty to apply any process of hurt to strangers which we are not to apply to brethren. His command to be absolutely harmless, extends even to any enemy, still more to a debtor, who may not necessarily be an enemy. The supposed distinction in favour of brethren in this matter would be a return to the spirit of things which said "Thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy," which Christ expressly superseded.
How comes it that Paul mentions a "brother," in connection with law-going at all in 1 Cor vi.? Is it to intimate that a brother may go to law with a stranger, while not at liberty to do so with, a brother? There is no such hint in the context. It is rather to illustrate the great extent to which the Corinthians had gone in their disobedience. "Brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers." He commands the brethren to judge if there is anything wrong between brother and brother; but does he recommend a resort to even this judicature? On the contrary, he says, "Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?"
The command to be passive in relation to evil, is an ordinance for the present probation merely. In due time, the saints will trample the wicked as ashes under the soles of their feet, if they prove themselves worthy of the honour by a faithful submission to what God requires of them now. "He that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations." (Rev. ii, 26). In this view, it is of paramount importance that the saints remain true to the commandments of Christ; and do not suffer themselves to be led into the path of disobedience by glosses on his word, which while making the way smoother to the flesh will have the effect of depriving us of the crown in the day of glory to be revealed.
5. There are other commands to which the everyday practice of the churches is totally opposed, but to which, after the great length to which this lecture has already gone, we cannot do more than merely refer. Christ:-
- a. Forbids all manner of oaths (Matt. v, 34; James v, 12).
- b. Prohibits the taking of the sword (Matt. xxvi, 52; Rev. xiii, 10).
- c. Condemns retaliation and rough speech, and all evil speaking (Matt. v, 44; 1 Pet. iii, 9; Rom. xii, 14).
- d. Insists on peace-making and personal private communication with the offended with this view (Matt. v, 24: xviii, 15; Col. iii, 13)
- e. Commands kindness to even the undeserving and the evil (Matt. v, 44; Luke vi, 35).
- f. Allows marriage with believers only (1 Cor. vii, 39).
- g. Enjoins modesty of dress and deportment even to shamefacedness and sobriety (1 Tim. ii, 9; 1 Pet. iii, 34).
It is notorious that the churches habitually violates all these commandments, without the violation of them being supposed to unchristianise the violators in the least degree, although Christ has plainly declared that it is vain for men to call him Lord who do not obey his commandments.
Oaths are regularly administered in public courts (not to speak of the profanities of private intercourse).
The military profession is cultivated as a fitting sphere for the Christian sons of Christian men. The countenance of the "church "is extended to the army in the appointment of chaplains, involving this fearful anomaly that when two so-called Christian nations go to war, Christians on one side cut the throats of Christians on the other side, as a perfectly legitimate business, and Christian "chaplains"on one side pray to the God of all Christians so considered, to prosper the deadly measures of one set of Christians against the prayer of Christian chaplains and the deadly efforts of another set of Christians, that the latter set may strew the field of strife with their corpses while the others march victoriously over their dead bodies, singing Te Deums to God for enabling them to butcher their Christian brethren!
Retaliation is both preached and practised among the masses of the churches as the right and the noble and manly thing to do; and arrogant and resentful speech is excused on the score of necessity, while speaking evil and gloating on the frailties of your neighbours, is the daintiest luxury of common life.
Peace-loving and peace-making are looked upon as signs of effeminacy, and the man who should advocate and practice the duty of seeking a private interview with an enemy, with a view to reconciliation, would be regarded as a demented nuisance.
Kindness to the evil is almost unheard of. Ingratitude and unworthiness are invariably seized on as a reason for not helping anyone in distress. It is the rule to consider yourself justified in withholding help in such a case. It is only excellence (and that too, carried to the heroic point) that propitiates the grace of the churches in favour of private distress.
The idea of restricting matrimony to discipleship is scouted as the prejudice of fanaticism.
And as for dress, so far is the churches astray from the apostolic standard that the mass of so-called Christian women (especially in the upper walks of society), consider it an honourable thing to enter into mutual rivalry in the style and magnificence of their attire. "Fashion" is a goddess whose sway is undisputed. No one owns to be a worshipper, but everyone acts the part of one. Ambition, the love of display, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, are not acknowledged as the ruling motives, though there is scarcely another at work. All is justified on the score of "taste."
This state of things is grievous to every mind in sympathy with divine aims in human life, as revealed in the Scriptures. There is no alternative but to fight the prevailing corruption. It is for earnest men, in private practice and in public inculcation, so far as there may be opportunity, to uphold the ideal exhibited in the apostolic writings. By no other course can we save ourselves from a generation which is as "untoward" as the one that listened to a similar exhortation from Peter. The fight may be hard, but the objects are supreme.
We can afford to shut our ears to cavils of the adversary. It is not true that the commandments of Christ enfeeble and deteriorate the character. What is considered enfeeblement and deterioration is only the discipline and restraint of the lower propensities, which re-act in the invigoration of all that is noble and pure. While excluding the animal energies and activities that go to make up what is popularly considered "manliness," the commandments of Christ draw us into the channel of higher and ennobling obligations in the direction of goodness and duty, activities unknown to the mere man of natural feelings. They give us the fear of God for deference to public-opinion; the enterprise of benevolence for the energy of self-assertion, the enlightening stimulus of a clear philosophy for the muddy impulse of self-gratification; the guidance of rectitude for the slavish and uncertain law of expediency, the virtue of self restraint for the action of resentment, the power of motive for the caprice of feeling; principle for whim; knowledge for feeling; godliness for manliness; life for death.
The unpopularity of the commandments of Christ is due to their opposition to natural impulse; and their opposition to natural impulse constitutes their very power to educate men in obedience of God, that they may be disciplined and prepared for the great glory He has in store for those who please Him. Let us not make the great mistake of following popular doctrines. If we are to continue in the disobedience which the world practices - (though called the churches) - we had better hold on to their superstitious and theological monstrosities; for the abandonment of the latter, while holding on to the former, will only expose us to all the inconveniences of the faith of Christ, while securing for us none of its glorious benefits.
These lectures must now be brought to a close. Where they may be instrumental in shewing the truth in contrast to prevalent error, the merit lies not with him who has delivered them, but with another -(John Thomas, M.D., of America; died, 1871) - who, under God, has been the means of opening the Scriptures in our generation, and removing from them the veil thrown over them by popular theology.
These lectures constitute a feeble attempt on the part of the author to render the service to others which has been rendered to himself; and if any mind be exorcised of error - if any taste attracted to the study of the Word of God - any judgment matured to the comprehension, belief, and obedience of the truth, the effort will have received a perfect recompense in that which shall have been accompished for THE AGES BEYOND.
The only thing deserving a man's earnest attention in this state of existence, is the truth revealed in the Bible. It makes him free for the present, and safe for the future. Time devoted to anything else in preference, is wasted. The truth does that for a man which no other study can do: it sets him at ease with reference to the many questions which perplex the unenlightened; it gives a key for all the problems of life; it inspires him with confidence amid the uncertainties which distract other mortals; it guides him into a simple, one-hearted, peaceful direction of his affairs; it fills his mind with comforting assurance concerning the future, illuminating his prospect with a well-founded expectation of attaining the perfection which the yearning heart finds not in all the present; it subdues his propensities, corrects his natural tendency to moral obliquity, awakes his holiest affections, develops lagging interest, and improves and elevates and sanctifies his whole nature, while giving him a guarantee of, and making him meet for "the inheritance of the saints in light."
"It hath promise of the life that now is, and also of that which is to come." Its pursuit is more worthy than that of any secular object. Labour spent in its acquirement, or put forth in its dissemination, will develop results that will gloriously flourish when the fruits of mere worldly effort will have perished in irrecoverable oblivion. "All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth and the flower thereof falleth away; but the WORD OF THE LORD ENDURETH FOR EVER; and this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you" (1 Peter i, 24, 25).