The following testimony was originally posted in 2007. I have done some minor editing and changed the title.
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The following testimony was originally posted in 2007. I have done some minor editing and changed the title.
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Believers are the church.
The word church is also used when referring to the place where believers gather. In our day of apostasy, or for other reasons, believers may not have the opportunity to attend church and worship with other believers. This can be a source of great pain, but the Lord always brings comfort to His children! What a Mighty God we serve!
Psalm 84:1 How lovely are Your dwelling places, O LORD of hosts!
Psalm 84:2 My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.
Psalm 84:3 The bird also has found a house, And the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, Even Your altars, O LORD of hosts, My King and my God.
Even thine altars … – The altars where thou art worshipped. The idea here is, that the sparrows and the swallows seemed to have a happy lot; to be in a condition to be envied. Even they might come freely to the place where God was worshipped – to the very altars – and make their home there undisturbed. How strongly in contrast with this was the condition of the wandering – the exiled – author of the psalm!
He was shut out by some unknown circumstances from external participation in the Temple rites, and longs to be even as one of the swallows or sparrows that twitter and flit round the sacred courts.
No doubt to him faith was much more inseparably attached to form than it should be for us.
No doubt place and ritual were more to him than they can permissibly be to those who have heard and understood the great charter of spiritual worship spoken first to an outcast Samaritan of questionable character: ‘Neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem shall men worship the Father.’
But equally it is true that what he wanted was what the outward worship brought him, rather than the worship itself. And the psalm, which begins with ‘longing’ and ‘fainting’ for the courts of the Lord, and pronouncing benedictions on ‘those that dwell in Thy house,’ works itself clear, if I might so say, and ends with ‘O Lord of Hosts! Blessed is the man that trusteth in Thee’ – for he shall ‘dwell in Thy house,’ wherever he is…
Do you remember who it was that said – and on what occasion He said it – ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have roosting-places, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head’? (Matthew 8:20)
These words not only may hearten us with confidence that our desires will be satisfied if they are set upon Him, but they point us to the one way by which they are so. Say ‘My King and my God!’ in the deepest recesses of a spirit conscious of His presence, of a will submitting to His authority, of emptiness expectant of His fulness; say that, and you are in the house of the Lord.
For it is not a question of place, it is a question of disposition and desire. This Psalmist, though, when he began his song, he was far away from the Temple, and though he finished it sitting on the same hillside on which he began it, when he had ended it was within the curtains of the sanctuary and wrapt about with the presence of his God.
He had regained as he sang what for a moment he had lost the consciousness of when he began – viz. the presence of God with him on the lone, dreary expanse of alien soil as truly as amidst the sanctities of what was called His House.
So, brethren! if we want rest, let us clasp God as ours; if we desire a home warm, safe, sheltered from every wind that blows, and inaccessible to enemies, let us, like the swallows, nestle under the eaves of the Temple. Let us take God for our Hope.
They that hold communion with Him – and we can all do that wherever we are and whatever we may be doing – these, and only these, ‘dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of their lives.’
For everywhere, to the eye that sees the things that are, and not only the things that seem – and to the heart that feels the unseen presence of the One Reality, God Himself – all places are temples, and all work may be beholding His beauty and inquiring in His sanctuary;…
though our heads rest upon a stone,
and there be night and solitude around us,
and doubt and darkness in front of us,
and danger and terror behind us,
and weakness within us, as was the case with Jacob,
there will be the ladder with its foot at our side and its top in the heavens; and above the top of it His face, which when we see it look down upon us, makes all places and circumstances good and sweet.
From Streams In The Desert…
Fearing to launch on “full surrender’s” tide,
I asked the Lord where would its waters glide
My little bark, “To troubled seas I dread?”
“Unto Myself,” He said.
Weeping beside an open grave I stood,
In bitterness of soul I cried to God:
“Where leads this path of sorrow that I tread?”
“Unto Myself,” He said.
Striving for souls, I loved the work too well;
Then disappointments came; I could not tell
The reason, till He said, “I am thine all;
Unto Myself I call.”
Watching my heroes—those I loved the best—
I saw them fail; they could not stand the test,
Even by this the Lord, through tears not few,
Unto Himself me drew.
Unto Himself! No earthly tongue can tell
The bliss I find, since in His heart I dwell;
The things that charmed me once seem all as naught;
Unto Himself I’m brought.”
“This Psalmist, though, when he began his song, he was far away from the Temple, and though he finished it sitting on the same hillside on which he began it, when he had ended it was within the curtains of the sanctuary and wrapt about with the presence of his God. He had regained as he sang what for a moment he had lost the consciousness of when he began-viz. the presence of God with him on the lone, dreary expanse of alien soil as truly as amidst the sanctities of what was called His House.”
“SPARROWS AND ALTARS
The well-known saying of the saintly Rutherford, when he was silenced and exiled from his parish, echoes and expounds these words. ‘When I think,’ said he, ‘upon the sparrows and swallows that build their nests in the kirk of Anwoth, and of my dumb Sabbaths, my sorrowful, bleared eyes look asquint upon Christ, and present Him as angry.’ So sighed the Presbyterian minister in his compelled idleness in a prosaic seventeenth-century Scotch town, answering his heart’s-brother away back in the far-off time, and in such different circumstances.
The Psalmist was probably a member of the Levitical family of the Sons of Korah, who were ‘doorkeepers in the house of the Lord.’ He knew what he was saying when he preferred his humble office to all honours among the godless. He was shut out by some unknown circumstances from external participation in the Temple rites, and longs to be even as one of the swallows or sparrows that twitter and flit round the sacred courts.
No doubt to him faith was much more inseparably attached to form than it should be for us. No doubt place and ritual were more to him than they can permissibly be to those who have heard and understood the great charter of spiritual worship spoken first to an outcast Samaritan of questionable character: ‘Neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem shall men worship the Father.’ But equally it is true that what he wanted was what the outward worship brought him, rather than the worship itself. And the psalm, which begins with ‘longing’ and ‘fainting’ for the courts of the Lord, and pronouncing benedictions on ‘those that dwell in Thy house,’ works itself clear, if I might so say, and ends with ‘O Lord of Hosts! Blessed is the man that trusteth in Thee’-for he shall ‘dwell in Thy house,’ wherever he is. So this flight of imagination in the words of my text may suggest to us two or three lessons.
I. I take it first as pointing a bitter and significant contrast.
‘The sparrow hath found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself,’ while I! We do not know what the Psalmist’s circumstances were, but if we accept the conjecture that he may have accompanied David in his flight during Absalom’s rebellion, we may fancy him as wandering on the uplands across Jordan, and sharing the agitations, fears, and sorrows of those dark hours, and in the midst of all, as the little company hurried hither and thither for safety, thinking, with a touch of bitter envy, of the calm restfulness and serene services of the peaceful Temple.
But, pathetic as is the complaint, when regarded as the sigh of a minister of the sanctuary exiled from the shrine which was as his home, and from the worship which was his occupation and delight, it sounds a deeper note and one which awakens echoes in our hearts, when we hear in it, as we may, the complaint of humanity contrasting its unrest with the happier lot of lower creatures.
Do you remember who it was that said-and on what occasion He said it-’Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have roosting-places, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head’?
That saying, like our text, has a narrower and a wider application. In the former it pathetically paints the homeless Christ, a wanderer in a land peculiarly ‘His own,’ and warns His enthusiastic would-be follower of the lot which he was so light-heartedly undertaking to share. But when Jesus calls Himself ‘Son of Man,’ He claims to be the realised ideal of humanity, and when, as in that saying, He contrasts the condition of ‘the Son of Man’ with that of the animal creation, we can scarcely avoid giving to the words their wider application to the same contrast between man’s homelessness and the creatures’ repose which we have found in the Psalmist’s sigh.
Yes! There is only one being in this world that does not fit the world that he is in, and that is man, chief and foremost of all. Other beings perfectly correspond to what we now call their ‘environment.’ Just as the soft mollusc fits every convolution of its shell, and the hard shell fits every curve of the soft mollusc, so every living thing corresponds to its place and its place to it, and with them all things go smoothly.
But man, the crown of creation, is an exception to this else universal complete adaptation. ‘The earth, O Lord! is full of Thy mercy,’ but the only creature who sees and says that is the only one who has further to say, ‘I am a stranger on the earth.’ He and he alone is stung with restlessness and conscious of longings and needs which find no satisfaction here.
That sense of homelessness may be an agony or a joy, a curse or a blessing, according to our interpretation of its meaning, and our way of stilling it. It is not a sign of inferiority, but of a higher destiny, that we alone should bear in our spirits the ‘blank misgivings’ of those who, amid unsatisfying surroundings, have blind feelings after ‘worlds not realised,’ which elude our grasp. It is no advantage over us that every fly dancing in the treacherous gleams of an April sun, and every other creature on the earth except ourselves, on whom the crown is set, is perfectly proportioned to its place, and has desire and possessions absolutely conterminous.
‘The son of man hath not where to lay his head.’ Why must he alone wander homeless on the bleak moorland, whilst the sparrows and the swallows have their nests and their houses? Why? Because they are sparrows and swallows, and he is man, and ‘better than many sparrows.’ So let us lay to heart the sure promises, the blessed hopes, the stimulating exhortations, which come from that which, at first sight, seems to be a mystery and half an arraignment of the divine wisdom, in the contrast between the restlessness of humanity and the reposeful contentment of those whom we call the lower creatures. Be true to the unrest, brother! and do not mistake its meaning, nor seek to still it, until it drives you to God.
II. These words bring to us a plea which we may use, and a pledge on which we may rest.
‘Thine altars, O Lord of hosts! my King and my God.’ The Psalmist pleads with God, and lays hold for his own confidence upon the fact that creatures which do not understand what the altar means, may build beside it, and those which have no notion of who the God is to whom the house is sacred, are yet cared for by Him. And he thinks to himself, ‘If I can say “My King and my God,” surely He that takes care of them will not leave me uncared for.’ The unrest of the soul that is capable of appropriating God is an unrest which has in it, if we understand it aright, the assurance that it shall be stilled and satisfied. He that is capable of entering into the close personal relationship with God which is expressed by that eloquent little pronoun and its reduplication with the two words, ‘King’ and ‘God’-such a creature cannot cry for rest in vain, nor in vain grope, as a homeless wanderer, for the door of the Father’s house.
‘Doth God care for oxen; or saith He it altogether for our sakes?’ ‘Consider the fowls of the air; your heavenly Father feedeth them.’ And the same argument which the Apostle used in the one of these sayings, and our Lord in the other, is valid and full of encouragement when applied to this matter. He that ‘satisfies the desires of every living thing,’ and fills full the maw of the lowest creature; and puts the worms into the gaping beak of the young ravens when they cry, is not the King to turn a deaf ear, or the back of His hand, to the man who can appeal to Him with this word on his lips, ‘My King and my God!’ We grasp God when we say that; and all that we see of provident recognition and supply of wants in dealings with these lower creatures should encourage us to cherish calm unshakable confidence that every true desire of our souls after Him is as certain to be satisfied.
And so the glancing swallows around the eaves of the Temple and the twittering sparrows on its pinnacles may proclaim to us, not only a contrast which is bitter, but a confidence which is sweet. We may be sure that we shall not be left uncared for amongst the many pensioners at His table, and that the deeper our wants the surer we are of their supply. Our bodies may hunger in vain-bodily hunger has no tendency to bring meat; but our spirits cannot hunger in vain if they hunger after God; for that hunger is the sure precursor and infallible prophet of the coming satisfaction.
These words not only may hearten us with confidence that our desires will be satisfied if they are set upon Him, but they point us to the one way by which they are so. Say ‘My King and my God!’ in the deepest recesses of a spirit conscious of His presence, of a will submitting to His authority, of emptiness expectant of His fulness; say that, and you are in the house of the Lord. For it is not a question of place, it is a question of disposition and desire. This Psalmist, though, when he began his song, he was far away from the Temple, and though he finished it sitting on the same hillside on which he began it, when he had ended it was within the curtains of the sanctuary and wrapt about with the presence of his God. He had regained as he sang what for a moment he had lost the consciousness of when he began-viz. the presence of God with him on the lone, dreary expanse of alien soil as truly as amidst the sanctities of what was called His House.
So, brethren! if we want rest, let us clasp God as ours; if we desire a home warm, safe, sheltered from every wind that blows, and inaccessible to enemies, let us, like the swallows, nestle under the eaves of the Temple. Let us take God for our Hope. They that hold communion with Him-and we can all do that wherever we are and whatever we may be doing-these, and only these, ‘dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of their lives.’ Therefore, with deepest simplicity of expression, our psalm goes on to describe, as equally recipients of blessedness, ‘those that dwell in the house of the Lord,’ and those in ‘whose heart are the ways’ that lead to it, and to explain at last, as I have already pointed out, that both the dwellers in, and the pilgrims towards, that intimacy of abiding with God are included in the benediction showered on those who cling to Him, ‘Blessed is the man that trusteth in Thee!’
III. Lastly, we may take this picture of the Psalmist’s as a warning.
Sparrows and swallows have very small brains. They build their nests, and they do not know whose altars they are flitting around. They pursue the insects on the wing, and they twitter their little songs; and they do not understand how all their busy, glancing, brief, trivial life is being lived beneath the shadow of the cherubim, and all but in the presence of the veiled God of the Shekinah.
There are too many people who live like that. We are all tempted to build our nests where we may lay our young, or dispose of ourselves or our treasures in the very sanctuary of God, with blind, crass indifference to the Presence in which we move. The Father’s house has many mansions, and wherever we go we are in God’s Temple. Alas! some of us have no more sense of the sanctities around us, and no more consciousness of the divine Eye that looks down upon us, than if we were so many feathered sparrows flitting about the altar.
Let us take care, brethren! that we give our hearts to be influenced, and awed, and ennobled, and tranquillised by the sense of ever more being in the house of the Lord. Let us see to it that we keep in that house by continual aspiration, cherishing in our hearts the ways that lead to it; and so making all life worship, and every place what the pilgrim found the stone of Bethel to be, a house of God and a gate of heaven.
For everywhere, to the eye that sees the things that are, and not only the things that seem-and to the heart that feels the unseen presence of the One Reality, God Himself-all places are temples, and all work may be beholding His beauty and inquiring in His sanctuary; and everywhere, though our heads rest upon a stone, and there be night and solitude around us, and doubt and darkness in front of us, and danger and terror behind us, and weakness within us, as was the case with Jacob, there will be the ladder with its foot at our side and its top in the heavens; and above the top of it His face, which when we see it look down upon us, makes all places and circumstances good and sweet.”
I don’t usually duplicate something I’ve posted elsewhere, but this particular teaching is so “meaty” and so needed in today’s church, that I posted it twice. I believe it is a word for the church today.
John 15:18-20 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: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
SHEEP AMONG WOLVES
These words strike a discord in the midst of the sweet music to which we have been listening. The key-note of all that has preceded has been love – the love of Christ’s friends to one another, and of all to Him, as an answer to His love to all. That love, which is one, whether it rise to Him or is diffused on the level of earth, is the result of that unity of life between the Vine and the branches, of which our Lord has been speaking such great and wonderful things. But that unity of life between Christians and Christ has another consequence than the spread of love.
Just because it binds them to Him in a sacred community, it separates them from those who do not share in His life, and hence the “hate” of our context is the shadow of “love”; and there result two communities – to use the much-abused words that designate them – the Church and ‘the World’; and the antagonism between these is deep, fundamental, and perpetual.
Unquestionably, our Lord is here speaking with special reference to the Apostles, who, in a very tragic sense, were “sent forth as sheep in the midst of wolves.” If we may trust tradition, every one of that little company, Speaker as well as hearers, died a martyr’s death, with the exception of John himself, who was preserved from it by a miracle.
But, be that as it may, our Lord is here laying down a universal statement of the permanent condition of things; and there is no more reason for restricting the force of these words to the original hearers of them than there is for restricting the force of any of the rest of this wonderful discourse.
“The world” will be in antagonism to the Church until the world ceases to be a world, because it obeys the King; and then, and not till then, will it cease to be hostile to His subjects.
What makes this hostility inevitable?
Jesus points to two things, as you will observe, which make this hostility inevitable. “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you.” And again, “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.”
The very language carries with it the implication of necessary and continual antagonism. For what is ”the world,” in this context, but the aggregate of men, who have no share in the love and life that flow from Jesus Christ?
Necessarily they constitute a unity, whatever diversities there may be amongst them, and necessarily, that unity in its banded phalanx is in antagonism, in some measure, to those who constitute the other unity, which holds by Christ, and has been drawn by Him from “out of the world.”
If we share Christ’s life, we must, necessarily, in some measure, share His fate. It is the typical example of what the world thinks of, and does to, goodness. And all who have “the Spirit of life which was in Jesus Christ” for the animating principle of their lives, will, just in the measure in which they possess it, come under the same influences which carried Him to the Cross.
In a world like this, it is impossible for a man to “love righteousness and hate iniquity,” and to order his life accordingly, without treading on somebody’s corns; being a rebuke to the opposite course of conduct, either interfering with men’s self-complacency or with their interests. From the beginning the blind world has repaid goodness by antagonism and contempt.
And then our Lord touches another, and yet closely-connected, cause when He speaks of His selecting the Apostles, and drawing them out of the world, as a reason for the world’s hostility.
There are two groups, and the fundamental principles that underlie each are in deadly antagonism.
In the measure in which you and I are Christians we are in direct opposition to all the maxims which rule the world and make it a world.
What we believe to be precious it regards as of no account.
What we believe to be fundamental truth it passes by as of little importance.
Much which we feel to be wrong it regards as good.
Our jewels are its tinsel, and its jewels are our tinsel.
We and it stand in diametrical opposition of thought about God, about self, about duty, about life, about death, about the future; and that opposition goes right down to the bottom of things.
However it may be covered over, there is a gulf, as in some of those American canyons: the towering cliffs may be very near-only a yard or two seems to separate them; but they go down for thousands and thousands of feet, and never are any nearer each other, and between them at the bottom a black, sullen river flows.
“If ye were of the world, the world would love its own.” If it loves you, it is because ye are of it.
II. And so note, secondly, how this hostility is masked and modified.
There are a great many other bonds that unite men together besides the bonds of religious life or their absence.
There are the domestic ties, there are the associations of commerce and neighborhood, there are surface identities of opinion about many important things.
The greater portion of our lives moves on this surface, where all men are alike. “If you tickle us, do we not laugh; if you wound us, do we not bleed?’
We have all the same affections and needs, pursue the same avocations, do the same sort of things, and a large portion of every one’s life is under the dominion of habit and custom, and determined by external circumstances.
So there is a film of roofing thrown over the gulf. You can make up a crack in a wall with plaster after a fashion, and it will hide the solution of continuity that lies beneath. But let bad weather come, and soon the bricks gape apart as before. And so, as soon as we get down below the surface of things and grapple with the real, deep-lying, and formative principles of a life, we come to antagonism, just as they used to come to it long ago, though the form of it has become quite different.
Then there are other causes modifying this hostility.
The world has got a dash of Christianity into it since Jesus Christ spoke. We cannot say that it is half Christianized, but some of the issues and remoter consequences of Christianity have permeated the general conscience, and the ethics of the Gospel are largely diffused in such a land as this.
Thus Christian men and others have, to a large extent, a common code of morality, as long as they keep on the surface; and they not only do a good many things exactly alike, but do a great many things from substantially the same motives, and have the same way of looking at much.
Thus the gulf is partly bridged over; and the hostility takes another form.
We do not wrap Christians in pitch and stick them up for candles in the Emperor’s garden nowadays, but the same thing can be done in different ways.
Newspaper articles, the light laugh of scorn, the whoop of exultation over the failures or faults of any prominent man that has stood out boldly on Christ’s side; all these indicate what lies below the surface, and sometimes not so very far below.
Many a young man in a Manchester warehouse, trying to live a godly life, many a workman at his bench, many a commercial traveller in the inn or on the road, many a student on the college benches, has to find out that there is a great gulf between him and the man who sits next to him, and that he cannot be faithful to his Lord, and at the same time, down to the depths of his being, a friend of one who has no friendship to his Master.
Still another fact masks the antagonism, and that is, that after all, the world, meaning thereby the aggregate of godless men, has a conscience that responds to goodness, though grumblingly and reluctantly. After all, men do know that it is better to be good, that it is better and wiser to be like Christ, that it is nobler to live for Him than for self, and that consciousness cannot but modify to some extent the manifestations of the hostility, but it is there all the same, and whosoever will be a Christian after Christ’s pattern will find out that it is there.
Let a man for Christ’s sake avow unpopular beliefs,
let him try honestly to act out the New Testament,
let him boldly seek to apply Christian principles to the fashionable and popular sins of his class or of his country,
let him in any way be ahead of the conscience of the majority, and what a chorus will be yelping at his heels!
Dear brethren, the law still remains, “If any man will be a friend of the world he is at enmity with God.”
III. Thirdly, note how you may escape the hostility.
A half-Christianized world and a more than half-secularized Church get on well together. “When they do agree, their agreement is wonderful.” And it is a miserable thing to reflect that about the average Christianity of this generation there is so very little that does deserve the antagonism of the world.
Why should the world care to hate or trouble itself about a professing Church, large parts of which are only a bit of the world under another name?
There is no need whatever that there should be any antagonism at all between a godless world and hosts of professing Christians.
If you want to escape the hostility drop your flag, button your coat over the badge that shows that you belong to Christ, and do the things that the people round about you do, and you will have a perfectly easy and undisturbed life.
Of course, in the bad old slavery days, a Christianity that had not a word to say about the sin of slave-holding ran no risk of being tarred and feathered.
Of course a Christianity in Manchester that winks hard at commercial immoralities is very welcome on the Exchange.
Of course a Christianity that lets beer barrels alone may reckon upon having publicans for its adherents.
Of course a Christianity that blesses flags and sings Te Deums over victories will get its share of the spoil.
Why should the world hate, or persecute, or despise a Christianity like that, any more than a man need to care for a tame tiger that has had its claws pared?
If the world can put a hook in the nostrils of leviathan, and make him play with its maidens, it will substitute good-nature, half contemptuous, for the hostility which our Master here predicts.
It was out-and-out Christians that He said the world would hate; the world likes Christians that are like itself.
Christian men and women! be you sure that you deserve the hostility which my text predicts.
IV. And now, lastly, note how to meet this antagonism.
Reckon it as a sign and test of true union with Jesus Christ. And so, if ever, by reason of our passing at the call of duty or benevolence outside the circle of those who sympathise with our faith and fundamental ideas, we encounter it more manifestly than when we “dwell among our own people,” let us count the “reproach of Christ” as a treasure to be proud of, and to be guarded.
Be sure that it is your goodness and not your evils or your weakness, that men dislike. The world has a very keen eye for the inconsistencies and the faults of professing Christians, and it is a good thing that it has. The loftier your profession the sharper the judgment that is applied to you. Many well-meaning Christian people, by an injudicious use of Christian phraseology in the wrong place, and by the glaring contradiction between their prayers and their talks and their daily life, bring down a great deal of deserved hostility upon themselves and of discredit upon Christianity; and then they comfort themselves and say they are bearing the “reproach of the Cross.” Not a bit of it! They are bearing the natural results of their own failings and faults. And it is for us to see to it that what provokes, if it does provoke, hostile judgments and uncharitable criticisms, insulting speeches and sarcasms, and the sense of our belonging to another regiment and having other objects, is our cleaving to Jesus Christ, and not the imperfections and the sins with which we so often spoil that cleaving. Be you careful for this, that it is Christ in you that men turn from, and not you yourself and your weakness and sin.
Meet this antagonism by not dropping your standard one inch.
Keep the flag right at the masthead.
If you begin to haul it down, where are you going to stop? Nowhere, until you have got it draggling in the mud at the foot. It is of no use to try to conciliate by compromise.
All that we shall gain by that will be, as I have said, indifference and contempt;
all that we shall gain will be a loss to the cause.
A great deal is said in this day, and many efforts are being made – I cannot but think mistaken efforts – by Christian people to bridge over this gulf in the wrong way – that is, by trying to make out that Christianity in its fundamental principles does approximate a great deal more closely to the things that the world goes by than it really does.
It is all vain, and the only issue of it will be that we shall have a decaying Christianity and a dying spiritual life.
Keep the flag up;
emphasize and accentuate the things that the world disbelieves and denies, not pushing them to the “falsehood of extremes,” but not by one jot diminishing the clearness of our testimony by reason of the world’s unwillingness to receive it.
Our victory is to be won only through absolute faithfulness to Christ’s ideal.
And, lastly, meet hostility with unmoved, patient, Christlike, and Christ-derived love and sympathy.
The patient sunshine pours upon the glaciers and melts the thick-ribbed ice at last into sweet water.
The patient sunshine beats upon the mist-cloud and breaks up its edges and scatters it at the last.
And our Lord here tells us that our experience, if we are faithful to Him, will be like His experience, in that some will hearken to our word though others will persecute, and to some our testimony will come as a message from God that draws them to the Lord Himself.
These are our only weapons, brethren!
The only conqueror of the world is the love that was in Christ breathed through us;
the only victory over suspicion, contempt, alienation, is pleading, persistent, long-suffering, self-denying love.
The only way to overcome the world’s hostility is by turning the world into a church, and that can only be done when Christ’s servants oppose pity to wrath, love to hate, and in the strength of His life who has won us all by the same process, seek to win the world for Him by the manifestation of His victorious love in our patient love.
Dear brethren, to which army do you belong?
Which community is yours?
Are you in Christ’s ranks, or are you in the world’s?
Do you love Him back again, or do you meet His open heart with a closed one, and His hand, laden with blessings, with hands clenched in refusal?
To which class do I belong? – it is the question of questions for us all;
and I pray that you and I, won from our hatred by His love, and wooed out of our death by His life, and made partakers of His life by His death, may yield our hearts to Him, and so pass from out of the hostility and mistrust of a godless world into the friendships and peace of the sheltering Vine. And then we “shall esteem the reproach of Christ” if it fall upon our heads, in however modified and mild a form, “greater riches than the treasures of Egypt,” and ‘have respect unto the recompense of the reward.’
May it be so with us all!